It amuses me when girls refer to their male pals as their “guy friends.” Sometimes the distinction is necessary, when a relationship falls in the gray area that encompasses best friends, friends with benefits, and boyfriends. Still, it seems to me that a separate designation for a friend based on gender promotes the gray area instead of clearing it up. He’s definitely not my boyfriend, but he’s not my friend either; he’s my guy friend. The lengths to which students go to make clear that “so-and-so is just a friend” make me wonder what the underlying insecurity is behind male/female friendships. It makes me wonder if a platonic friendship between a guy and a girl is even possible at Stanford.
Let me make this clear from the outset: neither gender is solely to blame. Rather, the structure set up for male/female interactions is to blame, in my opinion. There is something unsettling about a hookup culture where every time you meet someone, there is a possibility that you could sleep together that same night. Physical criteria often upstage character criteria in a first encounter, so that thinking back on it later, the nature of the interaction is ambiguous. When you were focused primarily on sizing up someone’s appearance, it can be difficult to tell if the person you met was friendly, flirty or both.
Moreover, when the climate in a room is sexually charged, it’s easy to misconstrue friendliness and enthusiasm for aggressive flirtation. I hear a lot of jibes to the extent of “Dude, she’s tryna,” or less subtle, “She’s definitely on the nuts.” I don’t know if platonic relationships are realistic, but I’m tired of putting on a show to make it clear that I’m not “tryna.” There is a common cliché that strangers are just friends you have yet to meet. I urge you to treat your friends of the opposite sex as such — friends, not prospects for sex. As for what happens past friends, your guess is as good as mine.
Amused? Confused? Outraged? Share your thoughts with Renée at firstname.lastname@example.org.