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Why men and women can’t be just friends

A recently published article titled “Benefit or burden? Attraction in cross-sex friendship” in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships confirms what many of us have known for a long time now, namely that it’s quite difficult for men and women to be just friends. Here’s some from the abstract:

We propose that, because cross-sex friendships are a historically recent phenomenon, men’s and women’s evolved mating strategies impinge on their friendship experiences. […] Our findings implicate attraction in cross-sex friendship as both common and of potential negative consequence for individuals’ long-term mateships.

And from here:

“Attraction in friendship is happening, and it’s persistent,” says lead author April Bleske-Rechek, associate professor of psychology. “I’d venture to say, based on all our data, that in the majority of (opposite-sex) friendships there’s at least a low level of attraction. And if it’s coming more from one friend than the other, it’s probably the guy.”

Because opposite-sex friendships are a novel concept, evolutionarily speaking, Bleske-Rechek believes people’s hardwired mating instincts impinge on them. Notably, this seems to occur even when both parties claim genuinely platonic intentions. To put it in When Harry Met Sally terms, “the sex part” gets in the way.

What clearly stands in the way between men and women in friendly relationships are our natural sexual desires. Normally our sexual desires wouldn’t be an issue here, but because of the fact that societies around the world have a lot of female sexual repression built into them, this causes an imbalance in relationships between men and women. I’ve written before about the female sexual repression that has been present for thousands of years in societies around the world. For all the details, read my article series on Understanding Women.

Because women get brainwashed by society from very early childhood to repress their sexual desires, they often withhold an important part of themselves in relationships with a man. So it’s no surprise to me that the research discussed in the above mentioned article shows that men reported more attraction to their friend than women:

In our first study involving pairs of friends, emerging adult males reported more attraction to their friend than emerging adult females did, regardless of their own or their friend’s current relationship status.

Female sexual repression has such a huge impact on women in societies around the world, to the point that all research on the female sex drive shows that women have a lower sex drive than men. I’ve discussed this in the fourth part of my article series on Understanding Women, and there I’ve also given an example (Iceland) of how women would normally behave if this female sexual repression wasn’t around in society. In fact, women would behave very similar to men in that case with regard to their sexuality. So if female sexual repression in society can have such a big impact on the female sex drive, then no wonder women report less attraction to their male friends in friendships. And the research in the above mentioned article clearly shows this.

In a normal society, our current society being abnormal, I think it would be possible for men and women to be friends because women would be more open about their sexual desires and more willing to satisfy them. In such a society our sexual desires would be treated as something totally normal and natural, and people would be encouraged to satisfy their desires whenever they feel like it. This would be very similar to the way in which we all acknowledge the fact that we get hungry every day and have to eat in order to survive. If we don’t eat enough and on time, we can grow weak and die. Similarly, to be a healthy human being also requires that our strong sexual desires get satisfied, or else we suffer the consequences. And we suffer the consequences not only as individuals, but also as a society. As I mentioned before in my article on Understanding Women, Dr. Sigmund Freud established our natural sexual desires as the primary motivating forces of human life. If we don’t adequately satisfy these desires it will lead to all kinds of problems in society. And in fact, Dr. Freud warned western societies about this:

What constitutes sexual repression is subjective and can vary greatly between cultures and moral systems. Sigmund Freud was the first to use the term widely, and argued that it was one of the roots of many problems in western society. Freud believed that people’s naturally strong instincts toward sexuality were repressed by people in order to meet the constraints imposed on them by civilized life.

So in a society without sexual repression, one that treats our natural sexual desires as something totally normal, women would be a lot more willing and free to satisfy their sexual desires and this would lead to more balance in relationships between men and women. As a result, friendships between men and women would have a greater chance to last (longer). Attraction to each other would certainly not be seen as a cost in this case. Just like people involved in a cross-sex friendship can go out and have lunch together without society objecting to it, so too would they be able to (casually) have sex with each other whenever they feel like it. It wouldn’t be such a big deal as is often the case right now in societies around the world.

But because women are currently brainwashed into repressing their natural sexual desires from very early childhood, they can’t easily satisfy these desires. They can’t allow themselves to be totally open and free, and can’t offer themselves completely in friendly relationships with men. As a result they can’t allow themselves to easily get attracted to men either and attraction is seen as a cost to the friendship. However, at the same time they continue to crave for male attention. And although they won’t admit it, and often don’t realize it, this craving for male attention is sexual in nature. If it wasn’t, they would be equally as satisfied having just female friends to talk to. Their natural sexual instincts drive them towards men. But since they can’t easily allow themselves to seek sexual attention from men because of the various rules in society and their own sexual repression, they have no choice but to stick mostly to emotional attention and use that as a substitute for satisfying their needs for sexual attention and intimacy with a man. Remember what Dr. Freud said:

The sexual instincts are remarkable for their plasticity, for the facility with which they can change their aim…for the ease with which they can substitute one form of gratification for another.

So guys often have to hear from their female friends that they want to be “just friends” (they get “friend zoned“) and in the worst case even that they’re seen as “a brother.” In reality what’s happening is that women use the emotional attention they get from “friend zoned” men and “brothers” to gratify their needs for male sexual attention and intimacy. They’re essentially abusing guys to satisfy their craving for male attention and intimacy, without actually having sex. They often do this even while knowing that they’re leading guys on. The video below clearly illustrates this:

Men don’t need women for friendships. Men can satisfy all their desires for friendships with other men. What men really need women for are for the things that men can’t normally get from other men, namely sex and intimacy. If we want to be brutally honest about it, relationships between men and women essentially all really boil down to satisfying our natural sexual desires. Nothing else. So ultimately, the primary reason why men would spend time with women is to get sexual satisfaction.

So here’s my advice to guys:

The best way for guys to deal with this issue is to never be just friends with a woman. Slight acquaintances, sure, but friends, never. Establish very early on in interactions with a woman what you can expect from her, especially if she starts to use more of your time. If you’re attracted to her, let her know in plain english exactly what you want right from the start, and if she’s not sure move on immediately and break contact. Don’t allow yourself to be abused. Don’t play Mr. Nice Guy being there for her when she needs you, or else you’ll only have yourself to blame in the end. Your time is valuable so don’t waste it on trying to convince anyone of anything. If she doesn’t want a relationship, at the very least make it clear that you’re looking for a “friends with benefits” kind of relationship (friendship including sex, but without attachments). If that’s not possible, break contact and move on immediately. If she ever changes her mind, she knows where to find you. 😉

Additional Notes


  1. Karel Donk's Blog » Understanding Women Part V (05/08/2012)
  2. Karel Donk's Blog » Why soul mates and perfect partners don’t exist (26/02/2013)
  3. Karel Donk's Blog » The true cause of Child Sexual Abuse (21/09/2013)
  4. Karel Donk's Blog » Why courtship and dating are a waste of time (08/08/2014)
  5. Karel Donk's Blog » What I look for in women (01/11/2015)
  6. What I look for in women — Karel Donk (11/08/2019)


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