An Article published in Scientific American this week demystified a commonly held colloquialism – Rachel and Ross knew it, Monica and Chandler certainly knew it (ok, Phoebe and Joey didn’t know it, but they were kinda clueless): men and women can’t be “just F•R•I•E•N•D•S“.
The article, according prolific feminist blogger Elizabeth Plank, was “hilariously accurate.” She quotes the study:
“Men were more likely than women to think that their opposite-sex friends were attracted to them—a clearly misguided belief. In fact, men’s estimates of how attractive they were to their female friends had virtually nothing to do with how these women actually felt, and almost everything to do with how the men themselves felt—basically, males assumed that any romantic attraction they experienced was mutual, and were blind to the actual level of romantic interest felt by their female friends. Women, too, were blind to the mindset of their opposite-sex friends; because females generally were not attracted to their male friends, they assumed that this lack of attraction was mutual. As a result, men consistently overestimated the level of attraction felt by their female friends and women consistently underestimated the level of attraction felt by their male friends.”
While the merits of the study have been questioned because of its small sample size, what’s interesting is what motivated the study in the first place – the need to ask the question at all. I think most of us intuitively feel that we can maintain platonic friendships with members of the opposite sex, even – gasp! – the attractive ones. But the need to ask if men and women can be “Just Friends” comes from a particular heteronormative discourse about male vs. female sexuality. It’s a discourse that’s conjured (or maybe revealed) by the reactions elicited by the study. What followed the Scientic American article initially were the suspected remarks by the usual suspects: men making evolutionary and biological arguments to justify their skewed sexual egoism. Read more