Male-Female Friendships: Are They Myth or Reality?

Do men and women truly desire and pursue platonic friendships that they don’t hope will lead to romance? I’ll get there in just a moment.

I couldn’t agree more with Jamilah Lemieux’s argument against the growing number of male “relationship experts” and “romance coaches” who gear their services toward single Black women who are really, truly looking for love and companionship. I don’t like this new trend because it’s mean, simply put. It’s marketed as a sort of “tough love” approach to discussing romance; a quintessential “love boot camp” that usually blames the women it hopes to profit from for being who they are (which is never enough). But sometimes, although very rarely, these men inspire interesting conversations—even through their often misogynist lenses.

Recently, the idiocy of one “expert” found its way to my Twitter timeline through mocking retweets. This “coach” recently tweeted, essentially, that men can never be raped by women because they’d be happy getting sex without the usual “work.” I won’t even go into how awful that commentary is, but this is the kind of random, sometimes dangerous, musings that come from his Twitter feed. Imagine my surprise when I eventually found myself initiating a conversation with his tweets as the foundation. Who knew?

Anyway, he was tweeting us unmarried women folk about how we have to stop believing that men really want to be our friends. He went on to say that friendship takes investment, and no man will invest in a woman he’s not interested in getting something from, whether that “thing” be sex or marriage. He even said that if you look at the women men call friends, they’re going to always be women that those men find attractive, because their intentions are always romantic and never platonic.

You want more?

Couples who part ways should never be friends, even couples who have children. Men and women cannot play together unless there’s a plan for them to “play” together in the future.

Of course, I immediately dismissed this ridiculous claim that men can only engage in relationships with women that benefit their penises and the implication that women aren’t intelligent enough to decipher between a man who truly desires to be her friend and one whose goal is only to “put the satin on her panties.” But I think it’s an interesting question to address.

Discussing man/woman friendships with a male friend, this tweeter brought up the segment of Chris Rock’s Bigger and Blacker, where Rock jokes about men establishing friendships with women hoping to become a “d!¢k in the glass” for them. (Break in case of emergency.) In other words, a man often wants romance or sex with a woman and accepts friendship as a means of getting close and gaining trust, which he hopes will lead to a switch from awkward side hugs to boot knockin’.  

There may be a mix of all kinds of grays in friendships initiated by men towards women, when honesty and forthrightness is a guide, authentic platonic friendships can and do happen.

Of course, all men don’t practice this halfhearted approach to friendship. I’d like to think that I have great platonic relationships with some amazing men. I also understand that some of those friendships began as crushes and evolved into wonderful rapports. So although there may be a mix of all kinds of grays in friendships initiated by men towards women, when honesty and forthrightness is a guide, authentic platonic friendships can and do happen.

And we’re all guilty of, at some point, embarking on a friendship with ulterior motives.  Hoping to be the standby peen is really no different than accepting “friendship” because the person we want as a partner isn’t ready for a relationship with us. I could teach a course on the perils of this type of faulty friendship, trust. As with the above-mentioned example, we hope that by becoming friends with the person we want to be much more than friends with, we’ll be able to demonstrate how awesome we are and lure him or her into love. 

Our desire is that one day the “potential bf/gf who’s currently only a homie” boo will wake up and realize that we’re “the one.” S/He will have an aha moment as we discuss the samples on A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders or watch our favorite team get clobbered in the playoffs and decide it’s time to settle down and get married. 

Is it possible that being patient and waiting for someone to choose us can land us the relationships we want? Yes. Are the odds in our favor of this happening? No. We’d be better off being honest with ourselves about the possible outcomes of waiting and, as Rumi says, “seek what [or who] is seeking us.”

As with any human relationship, honest communication is the main ingredient for success. When we walk into relationships donning disingenuous intentions, we can’t expect anything positive or authentic to grow. Platonic relationships between men and women can be difficult if the parties involved aren’t mature enough