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The Benefits of Men and Women Being Friends, Even if One Is Married - Hugo Schwyzer - The Atlantic

Stashed in: Young Americans, Relationships, Friends!

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NBCOne of the most famous examples of class distinctions in Vance Packard's hugely influential 1959 bestseller, The Status Seekers, focused on how two married couples would sit when traveling together in a car. Working-class couples would put the men in front and the women in back to emphasize male domination, Packard wrote, while middle-class couples would sit husbands and wives together in order to emphasize the centrality of the marriage bond. For affluent couples, however, the "right thing" would be to pair the husband from one couple with the wife from another in order to enable flirtation and a frisson of erotic excitement.Packard's explanation popped into my head more than once as I attended and took part in last month's Bold Boundaries conference in Chicago. Organized by evangelical Christians but featuring speakers and participants from many other backgrounds, Bold Boundaries challenged the assumption that Packard and many others make: that cross-sex friendships are always charged with sexual tension and danger. Men and women can be friends, every presenter at the conference argued, and not just with their spouses. In a gesture that indicates just how far evangelicalism has evolved, almost every presenter acknowledged the heteronormative framing of the whole discussion, with several pointing out that straights had much to learn from gays and lesbians about navigating friendship. The idea that lust makes platonic friendship impossible between straight men and women was, participants insisted, as antiquated as the cars in which Packard's subjects arranged themselves more than half a century ago.As Michael Kimmel, perhaps America's foremost sociologist of masculinity, pointed out last month, Millennials are far more likely than their older peers to see non-sexual friendship between men and women as normal. Kimmel notes that in 1989, the year that When Harry Met Sally—with its famous dismissal of the possibility of platonic intimacy between men and women—was released, only about 10 percent of his college students would admit to having a close friend of the other sex. Things are different in 2013: "Young people today have utterly and completely repudiated this idea,"

Millennials have this one right. People are people.

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