Kgomotso Matsunyane

Men and women can't be friends

2008-03-13 08:35

Kgomotso Matsunyane

Remember the part in When Harry Met Sally when Harry says: "You realise of course that we can never be friends... men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way."

Sally: "How do you know?" Harry: "Because no man can be friends with a woman he finds attractive, he always wants to have sex with her." Sally: "So you're saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?" Harry: "Nuh, you pretty much wanna nail 'em too."

In an un-audited informal poll of my friends, I was stunned that the overwhelming majority, male and female, agree with Harry. The only safe male friends, it would seem, are my gay friends.

Am I naïve to think otherwise? "Why is it that none of your friends are unattractive?" asks one smug friend. I don't have a good comeback, and in my mind I wonder if I pick my friends with an underlying sexual barometer as much as I pick them for their personalities. But still, fundamentally, I do believe that women and men can be friends.

I've got plenty of male friends to prove it, except a friend, who I shall call Zuluboy, says that every single one of them, not excluding him, would have sex with me given half a chance. Oh dear.

Another (male) friend, let's call him The General, confirms that he does have female friends that he does not want to have intimate relations with. I ask him if perhaps they are unusually unattractive, and he says no, some are quite lovely to look at, actually, but he just doesn't have the apparently automatic desire to seduce them.

Falling foul

The problem is that sex can foul up a perfectly good friendship. Okay, you've had sex, now what? You can't just sommer shake hands and say "thanks pal, let's have drinks on Friday", or can you? The friendship suffers, disappointments follow, and a tear or two may even be shed.

You see, sex can create an exceptionally false sense of intimacy, and inevitably one party starts getting more attached than the other. I know you're probably assuming that it's the woman who gets clingy don't you? But you'd be wrong. That's not always the case. The modern woman is quite capable of no-strings sex.

That's not to say women and men are the same. We may be equal, but we'll never be the same. We are species quite distinct from each other, genetically, anatomically, and emotionally, and that's before we start talking about our socialisation.

What I'm saying is we're struggling to understand each other as it is, so when you throw sex into the friendship mix, it's a Molotov cocktail waiting to be ignited.

I don't think there's anything wrong in finding your friends attractive, it's what you do with those feelings that counts. More than that, just because you find people attractive does not necessarily amount to a desire for sex, surely. That which distinguishes us from animals is our consciences and our ability to draw boundaries.

If we were to physically satisfy every single urge at the very moment it comes our way, then we might as well go back to the caves.

  • Kgomotso Matsunyane is a partner at T.O.M. Pictures, an award winning TV and Film Company based in Jo'burg.

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