Friendships and Sex
In our textbook we have learned that friendships are different depending on our sex and the sex of the person we have that friendship with. We also know through our own experiences that there are rules we all follow, although they may not be written out and signed like some sort of legal friendship contract, and if we cross these invisible lines the consequence could be a loss of a friend.
These rules are merely general cultural interactions in our society; they depict how we go about our friendships, be them with a same-sex friend, or a friend of the opposite sex. If we understand our own society's rules that govern friendships we may be able to lead happy and satisfying lives with people around us, whom we know we can rely on through thick and thin.
Same-Sex Friendships: Women
As a woman I know how I talk, and I know how most of my female friends also talk. We express our feelings, our emotions, and we just plain talk! In my own experience it doesn't matter what we do, or where we are at, the main interaction between my female friends and I is the discussion itself. Just the mere act of conversation and self-disclosure is what makes women feel close to one another. You value a person and their friendship when you know that no matter what happens you can go to them and talk.
My best friend is Donna. We have known each other for over five years and are closer than anyone else I know. Not only do we share similar interests and activities, no matter what we are always talking. Through this talking we have learned the in's and out's of one another creating a bond that I don't even think my own boyfriend will ever reach with me.
Through research it has been found that many women actually believe their friendships with each other to be closer and show “a greater general interest in and attention to transitions in the lives of other individuals.” (Roy, Benenson, & Lilly, 2000) In a study on teenage friendships it was found that females feel more positive when interacting with each other. They remain in a state of playfulness for a longer period, as do males when dealing with a female friend (McBride, & Field, 1997).
Same-Sex Friendships: Men
With men it is commonly about shared activities: working out, playing a game, or playing some sport. Through physical action men become close, it's all about doing, not talking! Words do not always need to be expressed in male-male friendships, just merely hanging out brings men close together. In the movie “Step Brothers,” Brennan and Dale began as mortal enemies, but, after realizing the vast amount of shared interests, that is when their friendship is forged! They both find themselves to be jobless, 40-year olds, still living at home, and loving every minute of it. Through bunk-building, karaoke, pumpkin karate, and shark week they find themselves the best of buds, sharing their lives together and enjoying each other's company, but they don't always talk.
Research on competition in friendships has found that “women seldom acknowledged competition with their friends, but that competition was a “theme” that ran through men's relationships with one another” (Singleton, & Vacca, 2007). It was also found that in cross-sex friendships the individuals found a sort of release from these competitive natures, free to just be themselves rather than fulfill a need to constantly one-up their friend (Singleton, & Vacca, 2007).
Many times in male relationships, during physical activities may be the only time men really do talk about their feelings. Men may feel as though, because they are also being active, it is all right to open up. They are not sitting side by side at the dinner table, but in fact they just got done with a two hour jamming out session in the man cave, so when they're all sweaty, tired, and full of testosterone, it's ok for one man to get another man to talk about his sex life, or lack of blowsies, or even why he even wants to marry his fiancé in the first place. “I Love You Man” is a clear depiction of all of those interactions between classic American male examples Peter Klaven and Sydney Fife, while they may not talk about their feelings in general or with their fiancé, anything in the man cave is sacred, because it is indeed estrogen free.
When it comes to opposite-sex friendships our textbook says that men and women approach it for very different reasons. For men they see it as an opportunity for an emotional outlet, and for women they finally have a chance to share activities that their same-sex counterparts may not engage in. But research shows that the friendship between a man and a woman is almost inevitably going to lead to a possibility of more than just a simple friendship, or maybe even a thought that one might be attracted to the other (Callahan, & Weathers, 2007).
If anyone has ever seen a single episode of the TV show “The Office” they cannot deny that it is not only the most hilarious and brilliant show, but the friendship between Pam Beesley and Jim Halpert is true through and through. These two individuals start out as co-conspirators to Dwight's demise, but through all their joking we come to see subtle hand touches, gazes, and chuckles lead them both thinking of a possibility of more. But of course Pam has a fiancé and she uses him to block out any thought of something more with Jim, consistently denying it all in her head, but we all know the truth. Eventually Jim confesses to her and things become real awkward, real fast. Not only does Jim transfer to another branch, he leaves the state entirely.
This was bound to happen in their relationship, as opposite-sex friendships go, there's always the possibility of something more seemingly lingering in the air, which is proven by Pam and Jim because they eventually get married and even have a child, convincingly showing us a glimpse at fictional soul mates.
An article in Ebony magazine touches on this subject a bit, trying to find if it is right for married people to have friends of the opposite sex. They found that if you rely too heavily on your friend of the opposite sex, you may actually find yourself discontinue relying on your own husband/wife. You may not be acting on sexual cheating, but emotional infidelity may be in the works (Callahan, & Weathers, 2007).
In my own life, I have a friend, Brett whom I am very close to. We have almost everything in common and enjoy each other's company over many other people. When I had several female friends tell me that he actually had developed feelings for me I became to feel a little awkward when we hung out. I have never thought about anything more with Brett, I have a boy friend, and plan on never ever telling him about Brett's supposedly true feelings for me, my boy friend already has a hard enough time letting us hang out, and if he knew Brett wanted more than that I probably wouldn't really get to hang out with him much.
It may sound lame and unnecessary, but establishing clear and concise guidelines in our cross-sex friendships may be a needed tool for keeping things the way they are in our friendships. We may think we won't cross the line, but someday down the line, as we become closer and closer with a person, if we don't establish a general outline of our friendship these boundaries could be pushed, maybe not by us but possibly by the other person.
We all have many friendships; some of us diversify our group with male-male, female-female, and even male-female interactions. All of these friendships differ in how they spend their time; share their feelings, and the general way about them. But, when it comes down to it whether we prefer same-sex friendships, or cross-sex, we need these people in our lives to enrich ourselves and to motivate us toward a better understanding of our own culture and our own selves. Now we all hopefully know a little more about our own friendships, why we say what we say, and why we hang out with the people that we do. Friendships offer us more than sexual release; it offers us a much more important release of emotions, and feelings of being a part of something bigger than one's self.
Roy, Rosanne, Benenson, Joyce, & Lilly, Frank. (2000). Beyond intimacy: conceptualizing sex differences in same-sex friendships. The Journal of Psychology, Retrieved April 1, 2010, from ProQuest database.
Callahan, Michelle, & Weathers, Diane. (2007). Can Married men and women just be friends with the opposite sex? Ebony, Retrieved April 1, 2010, from ProQuest database.
McBride, Cami, & Field, Tiffany. (1997). Adolescent same-sex and opposite-sex best friend interactions. Adolescence, Retrieved April 1, 2010, from ProQuest database.
Singleton, Royce, & Vacca, Jessica. (2007). Interpersonal competition in friendships. Retrieved April 1, 2010, from ProQuest database.