One thing I never understood growing up was why people (especially kids) are expected to have mostly friends of the same gender as them. When I was in elementary school, most of my friends were girls. But there were some boys in my class I would have loved to play with and hang out with. Even at age seven or eight, I was painfully aware that if I attempted to get closer to any of the boys I found cool or interesting, I would be teased about wanting to have that boy be my boyfriend, wanting to kiss him on the playground, etc. etc. So I didn’t pursue any of those friendships, solely because of the social consequences that I knew would come of it.
Fast forward 10ish years – with about 3 exceptions, all of the people I call my close friends happen to have penises. And that damn expectation is STILL THERE. Since I am a woman and since some of my best friends are male, the assumption is often made that I am either sleeping with said men, want to sleep with said men, and/or will eventually sleep with said men. Here’s a surprising fact: not all people of opposite sexes and of straight or bi sexual orientation want to bang!!
On a broader scale, the hypersexualization (is that a word?) of human life through the mainstream media and pop culture is a gigantic problem. Have you EVER seen a TV show or movie where a woman wasn’t regarded as a sexual object at least in passing, or where a male/female friendship didn’t either end up in sex between them or love between them or at the very least, cause a problem in the individuals’ other relationships? The message this sends is so damaging to our perception of male/female interactions that men will go so far as to exclude women from their everyday lives for “fear” of a sexual interaction.
This article from NY Times goes deep into the root of the problem, which is seeing people of the opposite gender as sex objects rather than as other human beings. According to the study they cite, 53% of women and 45% of men see having dinner alone with someone of the opposite sex being inappropriate while married. Let that sink in for a second. HALF. Half of the people in the study thought it wasn’t okay to eat food with a member of the opposite sex.
For a society that’s supposedly come so far socially, we are ridiculously far behind in our ideas of intergender relationships. If I’m in a relationship with a man, and I go get some Thai food with my good friend who is also a man, that is not cheating. That’s me spending time with my friend and nurturing friendships outside of my relationship. It doesn’t make me unfaithful, it doesn’t make me dishonest
The point of this post is unclear, I know. I really just wanted to vent some frustration that I’ve dealt with frequently and that I feel is sexist and unfair. Gender shouldn’t have a say in who you are friends with. Gender shouldn’t have a say in who you feel like you can be yourself around. Gender shouldn’t dictate what you can and can’t do!
The moral of the story is be friends who you enjoy being around and who lifts you up. If that’s mostly people with your same gender, great! If it’s not, awesome! I tend to be able to bond quicker and more easily understand men, so that’s who I often end up befriending and forging close friendships with. It just doesn’t matter, and I hope that in time, more people will agree with that.
What do you think? Do you have friends of the opposite sex? Do you think I’m off my rocker? Let me know.
XOXO (platonically), Ella