Can Men and Women Be Friends Without ‘the Sex Part’ Getting in the Way?

April 9, 2012 | By | Comments (5)

A few of us at Real Simple were recently having a discussion about whether heterosexual men and women can ever be “just friends.”  Our conclusion?

We couldn’t reach one. Some editors thought it was perfectly normal in a modern, enlightened world for men and women to be pals. Others, perhaps more cynical, quoted the famous line from ”When  Harry Met Sally…” about how “the sex part always gets in the way.”

Yesterday, a contributor to the New York Times Sunday Review weighed in on the debate, with a history lesson on the topic:

“Friendship between the sexes was more or less unknown in traditional society,” wrote William Deresiewicz, who is also the author of A Jane Austen Education. For centuries, he added, “cross-sex friendship was as unthinkable in Western society as it still is in many cultures.”

No longer, he writes: “Friendships with members of the opposite sex have been an important part of my life since I went to high school in the late 1970s, and I hardly think I’m alone. Consult your own experience, but as I look around, I don’t see that platonic friendships are actually rare at all or worthy of a lot of winks and nudges. Which is why you don’t much hear the term anymore. Platonic friendships now are simply friendships.”

Are you “just friends” with any of the men in your life? If so, how do you keep “the sex part” from getting in the way?

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