In the movie When Harry Met Sally (it's from the 80's for the younger readers amongst you), Harry contended that men and women can't be just friends because sex always gets in the way. Is Hollywood right or are we living in a more grown up age now where guys and gals can happily rub along together as friends without giving in to their sexual urges?
New research claims to have the answer. They rounded up a bunch of people that were in friendships with the opposite sex. Perhaps not surprisingly, they found that the men in these relationships felt more attracted to their female friends than the other way round, and also that the guys tended to significantly overestimate how attracted to them their female friends were.
What's more, the mens bungling continued. They also thought that their chances of a romantic encounter with their friend was not at all influenced by their current status, ie whether they already had a girlfriend or not. Not surprisingly women were quite a bit less interested in dating the guy if he was already dating someone. Men of course had no such scruples and weren't bothered if their friend had a boyfriend or not.
Of course none of this should really come as a surprise, because from an evolutionary sense men have much to gain from short-term sexual encounters, whereas women don't.
So much, so obvious. Lets say you do fancy your friend though, how do you deal with those feelings? A second study asked a selection of youngsters (around half of whom were dating) and also a group of older people (most of whom were married). The lack of surprising results continued though unfortunately. The older married folks showed little interest in their opposite-sex friends. The single folks of either age on the other hand both showed a healthy desire to get jiggy with their buddies.
The general consensus however seemed to suggest that people found it a major pain in the arse when they started to feel attracted to a friend, or a friend started hitting on them. Five times as many people regarded it as a burden as opposed to a benefit.
"Our findings offer preliminary support for the proposal that men's and women's experiences in cross-sex friendship reflect their evolved mating strategies," Bleske-Rechek and her team concluded. "Attraction between cross-sex friends is common, and it is perceived more often as a burden than as a benefit."
So after all that, it turns out Harry was right, at least from a mans perspective.