So asks a study. Because we are looking at When Harry Met Sally to find out what to do our psychological research on now, apparently.
Ampersand over at Alas A Blog has a good breakdown of the problems with the study, so I don’t have to. It’s the usual sort of problems– once again, we are generalizing from 88 straight college students in an Introduction to Psychology class and the older people they can rope into participating to all of humanity ever. In addition, the difference that has been so hyped up is actually fairly small. On average, men are moderately attracted to a female friend, while women are a little less than moderately attracted. While men tend to overestimate how attractive they are to their female friend and women to underestimate, the difference is not huge (half a point on a nine-point scale) either way. And, you know, between 88% and 98% of respondents (depending on demographics) said they had friends of another gender, which you think would settle the “can men and women be friends?” question.
Here’s the thing: there are a lot of reasons why men might be slightly more likely to be attracted to their female friends than vice versa. Maybe men are more attracted to their female friends because Evolution! Maybe college-age men are more likely to try the Be Platonic Friends And Telepathy Their Way Into Dating Them dating strategy! Maybe men are more attracted to any given woman and they just happened to ask about friends and not random women that walked by on campus! My personal bet would be that the reason is that men tend to be the initiator: in my personal experience initiating, I’ve found that I tend to default to assuming people I get along with are attracted to me (after all, what do I have to lose?). The women would have some pretty good evidence that their male friends weren’t attracted to them; after all, he hadn’t asked her out. But that’s a personal bias based on fuckall. This is an interesting result, if overplayed, but it is waaaaaay too soon to come to any conclusions about anything.
I really think it’s too soon to come to the conclusion that men are Rampaging Fuckbeasts that think with their cocks and only befriend women that they get boners for and that any woman who befriends a man is in denial about the power of his raging cockmonster.
One result I find very interesting, however, is that women are substantially more likely to consider attraction a cost of the friendship, and men to consider it a benefit. This is either slight evidence for the College-Age Men Are Telepathying It Up theory (“if you have a female platonic friend they might date you!”), or evidence that college-age men are more likely to adopt the Ozy Approach to hot platonic friends, namely, that my life is improved by the presence of nice asses even if I am not having sex with the owner of said ass. (Speaking of me, I am always confused about whom I get to be friends with in these studies. Who even counts as my opposite gender? What if I’m attracted to everyone? Am I forever alone?)
I do not see why attraction is necessarily a sign that the friendship isn’t working. Maybe it’s a perfectly nice platonic friendship, and also you get to check out the other person’s chest sometimes. Inexplicably, this option has been ignored by all the coverage ever.
Photo– je@n/Flickr. A sign that says “SEX in progress.”