Can Men and Women Really Just Be Friends?

I remember watching screenwriter Nora Ephron's classic rom-com, When Harry Met Sally, when I was younger, and there was one line that stuck with me over the years. At the beginning of the film, Harry and Sally are driving to New York together and Harry says to Sally why they can’t be friends: “Men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” Surprisingly, this line still plays a huge part in how many people view the friendships between men and women. The legacy of this line and mindset is toxic and demeaning to these friendships.

The older generations play a large role in this. I know for a fact that my parents are guilty of assuming romantic feelings when I have male friends. It's exhausting to have to explain that my male friends are just that: friends. It's exasperating to have people bother you about whether you're ever going to date someone when you view that person in a purely platonic way. The mentality that men and women can only see each other in a sexual or romantic wayis so archaic. By doing things like enforcing the taboo against leaving young boys and girls alone, adults teach us this mentality at a young age, leading to this destructive mindset trickling into our lives.

I find it is more men who can’t let these friendships with women blossom and reach their full potential. It is heavily ingrained in many men that if a girl offers kindness and friendship, she must want a romantic or sexual relationship with him. Many of my female friends have faced this difficulty because they will become friends with males, only to learn that these guys were just planning to play the long game- that is, sex. This therefore poisons the intention of getting into the friendship in the first place.

Also, this whole mindset is very reliant on heteronormativity, as the question itself assumes that everyone is sexually interested in someone of the opposite sex. That is not the case at all. No matter what sex someone is attracted to, that does not mean you can’t be friends with someone of that sex.

Friendships between men and women are vital to making a more united world. We should not view a person’s sex as a boundary to making bonds and platonic relationships. I really love and value my guy friends. Having friends of the opposite sex allows new perspectives and greater understanding of each other's experiences. Friendship needs to be valued more in our society, and men and women should be able to co-exist without worrying about sex. So can men and women be just friends? Yes, and it is time we start fighting against the archaic mindset because friendship should not be constrained by binaries.