In 1989, a little movie called "When Harry Met Sally" came out. I didn't care, because I was, like, 9 years old and deeply, profoundly disgusted by anything that reeked of romance.
Plus that fake orgasm scene just sounded EMBARRASSING.
Not that I thought orgasms were themselves embarrassing. I mean, I'd had some pretty comprehensive sex ed already at that point. They sounded great. In point of oversharing information, they WERE great.
Hey, I told you my sex ed was comprehensive.
But sex wasn't something my family talked about, and any hint that people were having sex was pretty well and truly covered up by awkward silences and, in some cases, flat out denials.
The point is that 20+ years ago, we were receiving the message that men and women could never JUST be friends and we are still receiving it today. Scientific American is announcing that men are attracted to their female friends like this is new news.
The comments (there are only two as of this writing) on that post, by the way, make me want to barf I am choking so hard on essentialism.
Color me not surprised that men think their female friends all want to bone them. Keep that crayon close at hand -- because I'm also not surprised men don't actually care if their female friend is in a relationship.
This is, like, the social effects of sexism paint by numbers.
The abstract of the study in question actually kind of addresses this: We propose that, because cross-sex friendships are a historically recent phenomenon, men’s and women’s evolved mating strategies impinge on their friendship experiences.
Basically, we have a hard time being friends because of heteronormative dating rituals and expectations.
That's not parking this in sexism's garage quite as cleanly as I think it belongs but, eh, it's the same block party. This study and sexism are trading recipes for potato salad, that's how friendly they are. Which isn't to say the study itself is sexist -- just that we live in a sexist society and we are swimming in this sort of thing. We're up to our necks in it because every interaction is shaded with it; that's what cultural construction does.
I'd like to see further studies looking into how this plays out in different communities: across race lines and across socio-economic boundaries and in queer communities. And I'd like some discussion of just how often this seems to come down to dudes feeling like they are entitled to women -- to women they find attractive because, oh noes, it must be awful to be friends with people you don't want to fuck.
My friends are, by and large, good-looking people. But I can acknowledge that without feeling any particular desire to get in their pants. That includes my male friends.
Honestly, I'm a little creeped out that they might only be friends with me because they'd like to do it. I mean, I'm friends with people because they are interesting and intelligent and because we have intense conversations about things we think are important.
Especially because I've had some friends that I got busy with -- and then once we were no longer pretending to be each other's orgasm fairy, we stopped being friends. Not in any sort of big dramatic way -- it's just that once the relationship became about sex, that became all it was about.
And that sucks. Which is why I stopped doing that in the first place.
I like dudes (among other genders). And I really do think this is an example of sexism hurting us all. It seems sad to me that some people place so much stock in physical attraction that they basically only have opportunistic friendships.
It also kind of explains why so many men defend sexual assault (especially gray rape) with "she wanted it" -- they really are convinced that their female friends want them, regardless of anything that comes out of that person's mouth.
Ultimately, I think studies like this (though not necessarily reporting like that post) are useful. I'm glad someone is looking at these things. But it depresses the hell out of me that we're still basically asking the same question Nora Ephron did, and coming up with the same answer.