Despite the increased wave of liberalism going on today, we still find ourselves pondering the age-old question: can men and women just be friends? To show you just how much of a dilemma this seemingly polar question has posed, know that a number of scientific research has been done on the subject. Popular opinions include:
- Men and women can’t just be friends; sex is always on the menu
- Either one of or both parties aren’t straight
- Feelings always develop
Well, whatever conclusion we arrive at the end of this piece, here’s what every Nigerian parent believes: NO. Never, ever.
Let’s break it down
The main reason questions like these are still being posed and debated is because of heteronormativity and misogyny. Up until adolescence, both sexes are allowed, if not encouraged, to be friends. Many platonic relationships existed between boys and girls. By adolescence, girls are taught that boys always expect “something” from them. Meanwhile, boys are made to believe in their entitlement to that “something” and to see every girl as a viable option. In a system like this, it is impossible to believe that the two sexes can have a platonic relationship.
One of the reasons, why we have this issue, is heteronormativity, the societal assumption that heterosexuality is the default. Heteronormativity insists on the strict pairing of man and woman, and its rules of engagement include sexualizing every aspect of our daily lives. It is why you can’t thread a needle without senile comments about putting big things in small holes or why you can’t sit in front of a man on an okada without curious glances. The most innocent statements can become obscene innuendoes because we filter everything through the funnel of sex and sexuality.
Misogyny also plays an undeniable role in promoting the idea that platonic relationships cannot exist between men and women. First of all, the power dynamics favor the man, and he becomes both a prize and a hunter. Secondly, a patriarchal system exists that validates the idea that men [must] have large sexual appetites and that women exist for their pleasure. Therefore, in platonic relationships, women continue to hold their breaths, hoping the moment never comes when their male friend looks at them with lust.
Men and women CAN be friends
Sex and romance aren’t the only things that bring men and women into intimate relationships. Platonic friendships take away the pressure that often comes with relationships between the opposite sexes allowing the parties involved to relax and be their authentic self. Who doesn’t want that? It helps you gain a fresh perspective on the opposite sex, build healthy communication skills, and boundaries. One of the major problems is that we have turned sex and romance into synonyms for intimacy. Hence, the moment things get a little cozy, our socially programmed brains convince us that it’s sexy time. Hold those reigns. Think about it. Do you want to ruin a good friendship for some moments of pleasure?
Men and women can be just friends, as long as both parties get into the relationship without other motives. Plus, we need to move past the need to turn every relationship into an opportunity for casual sex and whatnot. This is where we reevaluate our stance on the subject of sex and sexuality as a society, as well as the misogynistic undertones of questions like this.