Men can have long-lasting and rewarding intimate friendships with females beyond just being "friends with benefits," but it does come with a set of challenges. These relationships generally face particular internal and external issues which include the preconditioned notions of society and those outside of the friendship, physical attraction to the friend, and the desire for sexual connection. However, once these issues are correctly dealt with, men can experience great emotional and social benefits from platonic closeness to a member of the opposite sex.
Physical and Sexual Attraction
Men tend to initiate relationships with women to whom they have some level of physical attraction. However, this does not mean that they will try to force intimacy onto the female friend or even attempt to change the nature of the relationship. In a study of 156 professional men and women by researcher and psychologist Linda A. Sapadin, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 65 percent of participants admitted to experiencing sexual tension in their opposite-sex friendships. The men in this group actually confessed that they were more likely to initiate friendships with women that they were attracted to.
Not About Sex
Although cross-sex relationships are generally high in sexual tension, sex does not take precedence. This is due in part to several factors, including the possibility of opposing sexual orientation of the friends or the fact that one or both individuals may be in a committed relationship. A study by department chair of Communication Studies, Walid Afifi, Ph.D., at the University of Iowa, showed that of the 67 percent of a group of over 300 college students who reported having had sex with a cross-sex friend, 56 percent did not change the nature of the friendship into a romantic relationship. These respondents admitted to preferring the friendship over sex.
More Popular With Younger Men
Younger men are more apt to engage in cross-sex friendships than their older counterparts. Older adults were socialized to accept the restriction of male-female to courtship and marriage; any interaction outside of that was considered taboo. Psychologist Rosemary Blieszner, Ph.D., author of "Adult Friendships," found that among elderly women, only about 2 percent of relationships were with men. In this more modern age, males and females have had to interact in more non-romantic ways in school, at the workplace, at training sessions, in sporting events, at the playground and the list goes on. Therefore among a younger cohort, men are more likely to form and maintain cross-sex friendships.
More Benefits Than Costs
Men get far more benefit from friendships with females than they do from their same-sex interactions. Instead of the activity-oriented interaction that men play out each time they are together, they can instead open up and share their feelings and reflections with women in ways that are impossible with other males. According to Linda A. Sapadin, men rate these friendships as being of greater quality than male-male friendships. Psychologist Kathy Werking, Ph.D., in "We're Just Good Friends," notes that these male-female relationships are more emotionally rewarding than same-sex friendships.