Friends – ‘Platonic’

Now I confess I am not researching the term ‘Platonic’ before I write this bit. But I think lots of friends of the same sex, and maybe some of opposite sexes, feel quite comfortable with the lack of sexual tension between them, and such friends would benefit a lot from sleeping together from time to time.

This may seem a bit ridiculous to some people, because if you live with a monogamous sexual partner, you already have someone to sleep with every night. There are two responses to this. On the one hand, lots of people do not sleep with a monogamous sexual partner every night. Some couples don’t sleep together every night. Many people aren’t in a relationship of that kind, some because they don’t want to be.

On the other hand, people who are in a long-term relationship and live together are often under enormous pressure to keep being nice to each other every day and night, which can be extremely difficult, even if you are very much in love. A break is as good as a change, and does the world of good. Every partner who goes out with somebody else to the cinema or for dinner or for drinks, or meets up with groups of friends, or travels from time to time, knows that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Problems? Of course there are problems. A single person bedding down with a friend who is attached is at risk of suspicion of sexual motives – they both are – but this is also true of two single people or two who are attached (to others). This is not a frivolous action however. Sleeping together is not about getting drunk and giving the finger to possessive partners. This is serious science.

I once listened to an American man talking about a group of college boys he had taught. In his classes they must have discussed male homosexuality – his talk was about homosexuality in American history. Brave enough to discuss it again out of class, a group of the boys, being by social training strongly anti-homosexual, discovered that they shared a deep fear that if they were alone at night with another man they would have sexual feelings for them.

Some of his students came to him and told him they had got naked together and slept together but had not been aroused. They were jubilant. They had not discovered that they were latently homosexual, just that there was no reason to fear intimacy.

The core problem with Platonic friends sleeping together is not the reactions of others. It is the fear of becoming aroused, or of the other becoming aroused, and of being rejected, or having to reject the other, or not being able to reject the other … and losing or damaging the friendship. Someone who fancies you might well suggest sleeping together for scientific purposes so they can test your sexual boundaries from a much closer vantage point. Experiments must therefore be conducted with a great deal of honest communication up front.

Coming soon: Open relationships – a witness’ perpsective