Opposite sex friendships

One thing that makes me insanely angry is the unspoken assumption that women are not supposed to be friends with men other than their husband. This makes me want to kill. The logic seems to be that a woman only needs a man for sex (children), for money, a house, and to keep other men at bay so she can get on with her work and looking after her family. After that, men are presumably useless to her.

Maybe I am a little oversensitive about this. (A similar logic applies to ‘married’ men having female friends.) Neither law is written anywhere that it can be challenged, as far as I know. I read it in people’s faces, in the assumptions people make about me and my friends, and in the assumptions I make about other people.

In my reality men are often very interesting, and occasionally, loving, caring, intelligent, affectionate and helpful, even without sex or family ties. I don’t think a man has to be a brother or cousin in order for a woman to be safe if she is left alone with him (not that she always is of course).

That much said, I spend much more time making friends with sexually attractive men than I do with men I find a bit creepy, or slimy, or weird, or nasty, aggressive, sexist, homophobic, racist, massively capitalist, smelly or unable to stand or speak properly due to intoxication. I spend very little energy getting to know men who demand my phone number because their friend has just introduced me to them and I am not married or being stood over by some other man.

My closest male friends are gorgeous men, many of whom I would have sex with in certain hypothetical circumstances. The same is true of some of my closest women friends, although the circumstances are probably a degree more hypothetical. Because some of my friends are so gorgeous I would probably not sleep with them, and they know why. But I have some gorgeous friends who I could sleep with (and have) without being sexual. That’s why I’m writing this blog.

Ideally, we base our decisions about who we do and don’t have sex with on an understanding of the risks and rewards of having sex, and the rewards of not having sex. I am very fortunate in only having had one night stands with gorgeous men (very fortunate indeed), but I really don’t mind not having made friends with them. On the other hand, I would be gutted if I lost a close friend through badly timed sex.

If there was ever a time when one man could provide all the interesting perspectives on life a woman might ever want to hear, that time has gone. Close friendship often involves conversations that simply can’t happen when someone else is listening. We cannot treat a sexual partner as an elevated representative of the whole of the opposite sex – no-one can bear such a burden.

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Jealousy

Jealousy can be mild and flattering and endearing, and sometimes it gets violent and murderous. None of us are immune to feelings of insecurity. When somebody loves us and makes us feel secure we are bound to want to avoid losing them. The more we doubt our own worth, the more likely we are to suspect that a lover will find somebody better than us and jump ship. Sadly, the more we mistrust somebody, the more likely they are to believe that they can never make us happy and leave anyway.

One strong possible reason for sexual jealousy in men is (bio)logical: doubt about the paternity of one’s offspring. If you are 100% certain that you are the only man your partner has slept with in a certain period of time, you will feel secure that you are the father if a baby comes along. Add to this thousands of years of habit. Men apparently being in control of their wives in public is one example – even if a woman is very clear that she is not interested in sex with anyone else, a man can still experience pressure from other people to show her ‘who’s in charge’.

Why do women get jealous? Women being ‘provided for’ is another example of habit – even though most women work very hard, it is still true that a lot of women have depended on men for material security – for money or protection from other men. More or less intentionally, we have created societies in which men control financial resources far more than women do. If another woman is attracted to her partner a woman might be afraid of losing her income, her home, her family, her survival, not just her lover. Sexual prestige can also be as important for many women as it is for many men.

Why do same-sex partners get jealous? As above, everybody has insecurities – while being in a loving relationship can help us feel valued, special, wanted, etc., it also gives us something really big which we can lose. People leave, people die, people disappear. Every pair bond is as vulnerable to death and decay as our own bodies. While the idea that the only way to be happy is to be paired off is a rather horrible one, when it works well coupledom has a lot of rewards and couples don’t want to give them up without a fight.

In theory, we should only be committed to one sexual partner if we genuinely don’t want more than one. Sometimes people vow to stick to one without meaning it, because they love and want that person and don’t see the possibility of living happily if they are honest. Oftentimes one can be a lot. Some people decide to have no sexual relationships. Sex can be an incredibly powerful form of communication (especially when it’s done well and with a good listener) – we don’t want to be doing it so much that we can’t hear ourselves think.

Even in relationships where partners agree that sex with other people is allowed, jealousy is common and understandable. Jealousy is always understandable. How we express jealousy is what matters. The Sleep Project is not a way to make somebody jealous, or to test your ability to overcome jealousy. It’s a way to free ourselves from the causes of jealousy.