Staffers at talked to 13 men and women of all ages and backgrounds to get their take on whether guys can really have a relationship with a girl, that doesn’t involve sex.
Men who want truly close friends have to fight the instinct to protect their standing above all else.
This isn’t easy, as they’ve been told for a lifetime that their status as male, and their place in that hierarchy, is a significant part of why they’re important and valuable human beings.
Complicating things further, men can feel threatened by the initiation of intimacy and strike back to protect their own guise.
Another college-age interviewee explained, “If a guy starts opening up to another guy, he will joke around like, ‘You look like you are ready to make out with me.’” “I have done it,” he confessed.
Because Way interviewed young men across each year of high school, she was able to document this shift. Consider also slurs like “bitch” and “pussy,” which obviously reference women, but also “fag” (which on the face of it is about sexual orientation, but can also be a derogatory term for men who act feminine) and “cocksucker” (literally a term for people who sexually service men).
One boy, Justin, said this in his first year, when he was 15:[My best friend and I] love each other… you have this thing that is deep, so deep, it’s within you, you can’t explain it. This, by the way, is where the ubiquitous slur “you suck” comes from; it’s an insult that means you give men blow jobs. And it is part of why men have a hard time being friends.***To be close friends, men need to be willing to confess their insecurities, be kind to others, have empathy and sometimes sacrifice their own self-interest.In other words, maybe we’re measuring male friendships with a female yardstick.It’s possible that men don’t want as many or the same kinds of friendships as women. When asked about what they desire from their friendships, men are just as likely as women to say that they want intimacy.Men desire the same level and type of intimacy in their friendships as women, but they aren’t getting it.***In an effort to understand why men’s friendships are less intimate than women’s, psychologist Niobe Way interviewed boys about their friendships in each year of high school.She found that younger boys spoke eloquently about their love for and dependence on their male friends. During these years, young men are learning what it means to be a “real man.” The #1 rule: avoid everything feminine.It’s just a thing that you know that person is that person… So men are pressed — from the time they’re very young — to disassociate from everything feminine. Paradoxically, it makes men feel good because of a social agreement that masculine things are better than feminine things, but it’s not the same thing as freedom. “Real men,” though, are not supposed to do these things.