Why Do Scientists Want Us to Sex Our Friends So Badly?

Can men and women ever really stop doing studies about whether men and women can be friends? Enough, you sex freaks.

May 8, 2012 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

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This is a dusty VHS of 'When Harry Met Sally,' because this WHOLE ARGUMENTis a dusty VHS of 'When Harry Met Sally.'


Scientists are so horny. Seriously, never ask a rhetorical question around a scientist, because there's nothing they won't make about seed-spreading or cave people sex. "Oh my God, why is this meatball sandwich so delicious?" "Because cavemen had a biological imperative to spread their genetic material to as many females as possible. "

What? 1) That doesn't make much sense and 2) Please don't ruin my sandwich's mystery.

I think that's why we see so many studies of whether or not men and women can be friends without wanting to tap eachother senseless. Scientists are in their labs all day, bunsen burning things, being bummed that there's probably no real way to summon Kelly LeBrock by electrocuting a barbie. Eventually they probably just start picturing all of their platonic friends nude out of boredom. I remember AP Biology. Blah blah Krebs cycle blah blah carbon, where are the boobs, this terrible. 

Take this new reasearch from the ol' horndogs at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (please note that it was not conducted on the main campus, and branch schools are full of crazy nymphos). It's yet another "If One Person Has a Hoo Hoo and Another Has a Winkie, Can They Watch a Bunch of DVR'd Episodes of 'The Soup' Without One of Them Dying in a Sex Accident?" study. Can they? CAN THEY? I need to know, I do this a lot, and I don't want to die in a sex accident (before I'm thirty).

This study is sort of unique: it concedes that male and female friendships can exist without somebody exploding, but it also says that they probably shouldn't exist, period. Because it'll probably end in heartbreak. Hm. Thanks, Professor Harry Reems, but that sounds less like science and more like advice.

The study asked opposite-sex friend pairs to anonymously rate how attractive they found their opposite-sex friend, whether they wanted to date the opposite-sex friend, and if they thought their opposite-sex friend was into them. It already sounds kinda mean, right? Who wants to know this? (Also, I'm assuming that these were all heterosexual couples, because my best friend is a dude but he is not really into having sex with me, because I don't look like Tom Hardy or have a penis.)

When we were discussing the story this morning, Emily said that it might be fun to ask our straight guy friends if they've ever wanted to sleep with us.

I declined to do this because first off, I'm in a fragile place emotionally and I couldn't deal with my friend Andy, who is a total goober without the sense to lie, saying I'm not his "type."

Secondly, don't you sort of know which of your friends would have sex with you? I don't think people -- male or female -- are generally very slick about who they'd do in a pinch or a drunk Christmas party closet. We don't do as much quiet, Topher Gracian harboring of feelings as we'd like to think.

I admit, there have been cases in which I've had feelings for somebody but the thought of acting on them turned me into some kind of repressed English butler, scurrying off to a drawing room to arrange tea roses. There are these kinds of grey areas, sure, but I can pretty much scroll through the non-relative heterosexual men on my G-chat list or my Facebook and go, Would do me, wouldn't do me, total stranger, guy who would probably do me based on my Facebook pictures but would be slightly disappointed by IRL me but might do me anyway, did me, did me, did me. I briefly considered, a la the study, how much I wanted to do these guys, but I'm a bad control, because I have a crush on every boy. It was a bit like, Sure, sure, sure, sure, sure, no, no, no, no, no hahahaha NO, sure, eh why not. (Except a lot longer, because I have like, a thousand friends.)

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Literally SURROUNDED by platonic dude friends. I look sad because none of them want to make love to me.



But the more scientific study than mine had grimmer results. Men usually were hotter for their platonic friends than the women were for theirs. (Why? Because men are programmed to want to bone all the time, every day, or their man fluids will back up and start bubbling gooily out of their ears like an obscene human baked brie. - Science.) Additionally, people who were sexually interested in their platonic friends tended to be dissatisfied with their current romantic partners. Wait, wait. What?

Listen, I haven't dated anybody for a bit, because I'm too busy and important. But I don't feel like being attracted to a guy friend (or, okay, everybody) has ever been the reason I felt unhappy in a relationship. So maybe it's a causation and correlation issue. The fact that I'd potentially do my buddy in some kind of desert island scenario doesn't mean anything other than that I have something entertaining to think about when he's telling a boring story and I'm just watching his pretty mouth move.

If you're so overwhelmed with sexual longing for a friend that it's making you dissatisfied with your current partner, you can't pin that on some idea that "hardwired mating instincts" make boy-girl friendships impossible. I think that means you're in a dissatisfying relationship and/or you want to bone your friend.

This may also be a case where simply participating in a study contaminates the results. How did the conversation go that got these "opposite-sex friends" into the science lab?  Oh, hey, you up to anything on Saturday? I thought we might participate in a free research study about whether or not men and women who are friends secretly want to do each other at the University of Wisconsin. No, not the main campus. Eau-Claire.

The implication again and again seems to be that we ultimately don't have control over our sexual impulses. That a girl in a relationship shouldn't have a guy friend, because she'll ultimately want to have sex with him and cheat on her boyfriend, or that a guy shouldn't be friends with a woman who doesn't want to have sex with him, because he will allow himself to be taken advantage of for hugs and free rides to the mall and late night shoulder crying, because he wants to have sex with her so bad that he can't extricate himself.

I tend to dislike science that seeks to exonerate people for being shitty. I tend to really dislike the studies that suggest that there are scores of lovelorn men out there, being "friend-zoned" by women who like the attention but are unwilling to remunerate for it with sex. There is no such thing as "a friend zone." That's called "knowing somebody who doesn't want to fuck you."

I doubt that these studies will go away, or that some weirdo with a clipboard will stop insisting that my guy friends all are being secretly driven mad by thoughts of railing me when we're hanging out together. I know it's positively erotic when I do that thing where I complain that his house smells like socks, make fun of his beard, and constantly ask for romantic advice that I refuse to listen to. Any friend of mine, male or female, has probably heard my boner-wilting Nico impression or seen me eat a mozzarella stick, and I don't think you can be attracted to somebody after that.

Still, I really resent this nascent implication in these friend studies that women continue to be like this and men continue to be like this so we should stop expecting all people to be decent to one another. It's mean spirited and pointless. It doesn't serve anybody to suggest that we're slaves to our impulses to hump eachother -- in addition to being borderline rapey, it is science by Steve Harvey, and it is dumb.

Besides, if I do have a friend who I secretly want to meatball sub, that's private. I can control both my impulse to rip his clothes off or do that thing where my tongue rolls out of my head and makes a little staircaise. That's what's separates civilized society from those pervy-ass scientists.