Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, most friendships are between members of the same gender — males or females. Cross-gender friendships, those between a woman and a man, are comparatively rarer and becomes even rarer as people move from childhood to adulthood. Why is this the case? Can men and women ever truly be friends? The rarity of the male-female friendship has been a subject of discussion and research throughout time.
Several theories have been made as to why men and women can never just be friends. Some researchers contend that it all comes down to biology: both men and women are made to seek out partners and sexual relationships. Unless other factors intervene, a man and a woman will always initially see each other as potential partners.
Other interpersonal relationship researchers believe that the most important factor is not biology, but gender role expectations. When a man and a woman of similar demographic meet for the first time, their first perceptions of each other is in terms of attraction. Because they are aware of their gender and their relation to the opposite sex, their initial response and interaction is concerned with their attraction to the other person and the other person’s attraction to them.
According to this view, people largely learn how to react to the opposite sex, and in most societies men and women tend to be seen as (potential) romantic partners. So in meeting each other, gender awareness and cultural expectations don’t allow men and women to forget the potential for romantic involvement. As a result they either pursue each other romantically, or not at all.
One type of male-female friendship is more common than others, and that is one where one member shows traits of the opposite gender — the effeminate man or the tomboy. Interpersonal researchers claim that the gender-bending of the woman or man in the friendship allows their friend to view them not a romantic partner, but more like themselves. Thus this friendship is either more like a friendship between two women or two men.
Besides the main theories, there are many other factors that keep men and women from forming friendships. Current relationships, activities, and work prevent men and women from meeting in a platonic setting.
If either a man or woman is currently involved with someone else, they are more hesitant to take up a friend of the opposite sex for fear that their partner will disapprove. In addition, men and women still take part in different activities and career which cut down on the potential meetings.
Do you have a close friend of the opposite gender? Do you believe men and women can or can not be friends and why?