Science Says You Can’t Be “Just Friends” [Sex in the News]

People have been debating whether or not men and women can be “just friends” for years. It’s a subject that drives many movies, from¬†When Harry Met Sally to, well,¬†Just Friends. Hollywood has had it figured out. In the movies when you have a best friend of the opposite sex (that is hetrosexual) your story line can only end two ways: in eternal love or in heartbreak.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin found that though many opposite-sex friends believe that they can be just friends, it’s not really the case. Eighty-eight pairs of undergraduate opposite sex were surveyed individually for the study – with a verbal agreement saying they would not talk about the survey.

What they found is that how men and women experience opposite-sex friendships is pretty different. Males more often are attracted to their female friends, and are more likely to think that their female friends are attracted to them. Basically the guys surveyed saw that their attraction to their friends was mutual, overestimating the level of attraction felt within the friendship. On the other side of the friendship, the women participants were more likely to underestimate the level of attraction felt by their friend.

Because the survey was done between specific pairs of friends, it shows that two people can approach a relationship in entirely different ways. And it proves that men are more likely to struggle with the idea of being just friends.

How does this relate to your opposite-sex friendships? Are you oblivious to your guy friends attraction to you?

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  1. Katie Garrity - North Central College says:

    Oh lord. Well there goes trying to be friends with my ex. haha

  2. Lisa says:

    were this study based on 88 pairs … that's a too small sample

  3. Slw says:

    So why does this mean they can’t be just friends? Just because your male friends think you are attractive does not mean a relationship is going to happen. Sure guys would love to have sex with their attractive female friends, but that does not mean they are going to.

    1. Ceener says:

      Finding someone attractive and being attracted are different…. Or it is for me at least.

    2. cindy says:

      You are 100% right but your husband or wife will not belive that

  4. […] Science Says You Can’t Be “Just Friends” [Sex in the News] ( […]

  5. […] Science Says You Can’t Be “Just Friends” [Sex in the News] ( […]

  6. Name says:

    Oh, we'll of science says it, I have to behave that way then. No, no, a thousand times no. Attraction and acting on that attraction are different. Of course people are attracted to members of the opposite gender, God gave us libidos. If we are attracted to someone and do nothing about it, it doesn't mean we aren't just friends.

    1. Ray says:

      Sooner or later, you cave. Trust me. Think what you want, but seriously, look around and observe your fellow man. Eventually we All cave in to our biological urges.

    2. MsGenX says:

      Hah. What if your female friend's ''biological urges" don't include you because you're NOT HER TYPE. Or she's a lesbian. You seem to have quite a high opinion of yourself, thinking any woman you make friends with will inevitably find you irresistible.

  7. Liza says:

    Just because you think someone is an attractive or good looking person does not at all mean that you are attracted to them in a sexual way. Just how women can say another women is beautiful with out actually be attracted to her. As such, just because you are attracted to someone does not mean that you have to act on it or that it has to get in the way of a strictly friend relationship. And to say that it’s impossible is just to be primitive and small minded. Stories like this are why so many innocent people are accused of cheating

    1. Ray says:

      I don't think the issue here is sexual attraction. That happens after an emotional bridge forms. One sort of love leads to another and the evolution continues until you find yourself in bed with him. You can try to fight nature, but you'll lose.

    2. MsGenX says:

      My personal experience contradicts what you've just said many times over, Mr. Omniscient One.

    3. bernard says:

      yes it is impossible for everyone to be "just friends" scientifically and mathematically speaking it is impossible. SOME people will pull it off, but others will not be so lucky. And no, to say this does not make me nor any other person who took the time to critically think, test, and draw conclusions about this "small minded or primitive"

    4. MsGenX says:

      Guess my friends and I are the lucky ones. Also — "mathematically speaking"? Really? Write me out a mathematical proof that women and men can't be friends. Or find one. Come on, let's have it.

  8. Roni S. says:

    I am an older woman 45, divorced now for 3 years. I have always stated that we cant be friends. Now that I am single it's CONFIRMED. Each man that I sincerely/truly thought was my Platonic friend….. Had alterior motives/ or wanted to take the relationship to another level. Roni

    1. bernard says:

      it's in our nature as humans, women do it too. it truly can't be helped, only fought.

    2. MsGenX says:

      Not in my nature! People's experiences are their own. Don't tell me how my relationships work. I've had platonic relationships that are still working just fine after many years, thanks to things like shared interests. The presence of attraction doesn't mean people can't be friends. If you think that, you haven't been around enough. Maybe some people can't deal with it like adults. Like for instance the college kids interviewed in this study.

  9. julie says:

    One word: DUH!!!

  10. Aalim says:

    People need to reread this study. It does not matter if someone is attracted or not. If a woman is not interested there is nothing a man can do. The opposite is wjat I am concerned about the opposite females who are attracted to men and their reaction.This article is baised and based on the author’s opinion. It does not say men ceat. I wonder what is the name of the study os so I could find the results. The name of the article is not even listed This article is bogus because there are no source listed so the information can be verified.

    1. bernard says:

      but let me ask you, can you or will you disprove what has been said? regardless of whether or not this article makes sense think about the relationships you and people around you have had or are having and you will see some truth to this "article"

    2. MsGenX says:

      My LIFE disproves this article. That's all the proof I need, never mind the folks I hang with who all have similar relationships. You're using a pop psychology fluff article to validate your own feelings on the matter.

  11. whatever says:

    this is the stupidest article i've ever read. i've been best friends with a guy for YEARS, and even his girlfriend loves me. we get along so great, all know our place and theres never any bad feelings. I hate that the article didn't even point out that "yes, the majority can't be friends, but there's always that small percent that can". Stupid. Just, Stupid.

  12. slippers says:

    In my case it is the opposit, I am in love with a guy who chooses to refer to me as his "friend". Although he has sent mixed messages and in some cases "signals" that he likes me more then a friend, he maintains that he is not interested in more then that. In fact he told me he was once in the same predicament and was probably traumatized by that. So now I am definitely staying away from the "friends first" theory. In fact I'm totally gun shy of the oppostie sex in any relationship mode. I think girlfriends are easier, and I don't me (homosexually) I mean just stick to girlfriends.

    1. Ray says:

      sounds like a dissonance between his conscious mind and his nature. I can tell you that it is in a man's nature to want to take every woman he knows under his wing and into his house. BUT we're not animals. This is where the dissonance comes from. We try to control ourselves from the outside-in (because of the culture we live in) and we get confused about what we really want. If you stick around long enough, when he's single, he'll probably make a pass at you. For some reason, if he doesn't want a committed relationship, he may push you away… but he Will try to get in your pants. It's just biology and no amount of rationalization can stop that.

    2. MsGenX says:

      How old are you? I've got over 20 years of experiences that conflict with your claim. Maybe you're more comfortable with traditionally dictated social norms, but I can tell you once you've freed yourself from that, you'll be susceptible to experiences and relationships you've never imagined. Boiling down social dynamics between genders to inevitable mutual attraction is not only silly but demonstrably untrue. I speak for myself but I know plenty of others like me, in fact most of the people I run with. There's a wider range of inter-gender relationships than you're aware of but they aren't any less real.

  13. Nana says:

    i had a male friend and although i kept telling him that we can only be friends, he ended up falling for me and pushed me to date him, at the end, i couldn't keep up with it any longer and i told him that he is a friend to me and i cannot love him the way he wants, so now the friendship is completely broken and i think he hates me

    1. Holly says:

      The same thing happened to me. I told a guy that I wasn't available for anything but friendship. A year went by, with me thinking that he was OK just being friends. Turns out he thought that if he hung around me long enough we'd be more than friends. Over the year I learned more about him and realized that he is someone I would never date. I finally had to tell him bluntly. We're no longer friends and I think he hates me.

  14. Newguy mobo says:

    88 pairs is not too small…there is smth called simple random sampling…and finding a girl attractive and not being attracted to her may (or most likely) lead to rape…its happened to me (not rape but fallin for friends) and funny thing both of u may start off as friends even in ur minds but time changes alot of things….the seclusion with her, calm advices, feminine company,different feel of her skin e.t.c ….dnt get too close to the opposite sex except u ready for more…true, there are a few exceptions but hw do u knw them…try ur luck and break someones heart or get urs shatterred,,,

    1. MsGenX says:

      So, Newguy, what were the circumstances? Were you seeing any other women at the time? Were you just lonely for female company and she just happened to be there? Also, not only does your statement "finding a girl attractive and not being attracted to her may (or most likely) lead to rape" is not only one of the most offensive sentiments I've ever heard — bet you wouldn't have the rocks to tell that to your female friends, if you even have any with an attitude like that — it also makes no sense. What does ''finding a girl attractive and not being attracted to her" mean? It's self-contradictory. I'm sure that if these hack researchers had interviewed men and women 10, 20, 30 years older they would have gotten drastically different results.

    2. Ray says:

      Dude… out of almost 7 Billion people on earth, 88 pairs represents a tiny, almost plank-like portion of the population. So yes… 176/6,800,000,000 is not enough to give anything statistically relevant. I think they just mentionned this one study because actually very little study has been done on this subject. Most cultures around the world see this as a general principle not to be messed around with, and therefore not worthy of being proven.

  15. Raymond says:

    There is much better research out there showing men and women can't Just be friends. If you strip down the psyche to the hardware, then you can say it's all about the hormones and the neurology. For instance… have you ever noticed changes in group behaviour when a member of the opposite sex is present? That's hormones effecting our behaviour, even though we're not aware of it. Or, if you prefer… we can look at the sociology. Ever wonder why the oldest cultures around the world tend to be very strict on the separation of the sexes? That's because they know something we don't. Men and women can Not be just friends, no matter how much we would like to deny it.

    1. MsGenX says:

      What's funny is that I've observed these same changes in group behavior you describe even when the member of the opposite sex who shows up is gay. Yeah, people respond this way, whether the person is available or not. So your point is null. I've got more example debunking what you've said if I cared to put the effort into it.

  16. MsGenX says:

    So some folks with lab coats and clipboards surveyed a handful of heterosexual college students, and now they're imposing their conclusions on all of humanity. People like that are a discredit to sociology. I don't care what your "research" says. I have had time-tested platonic opposite-sex friendships, with guys who were even candid enough to admit to me that there was a certain level of attraction on their part, that's just the way guys work, but it doesn't make the friendship untenable. The very fact that they were honest with me is conducive to trust, which builds solid, mutually beneficial friendships. They've remained loyal to me for decades despite the fact that some of them would be happy to sleep with me. The key is that they don't feel like they NEED to. Even if they did, what they're willing to tolerate is up to them, as long as they don't resent me for it. I've also had plenty of relationship styles that so-called researchers insist aren't ideal, healthy or even possible — non-monogamy, friends with benefits, on-and-off romances. If women are really concerned about sexual tension with friends in either or both directions, they shouldn't make friends with men they find attractive, or men whose female ''friends'' are consistently pretty (that's a pretty obvious sign of motive — although, like Billy Crystal said in the film this ''scientific'' article cited, "You pretty much want to nail the ugly ones too".) Don't forget you can always make friends with gay men.

  17. BILLY says:


  18. Guest says:

    This is what happens when ignorant people read science reports, or more likely, read the first paragraph. The report did NOT say that it was impossible. It did state that a bit more than HALF of younger men felt the attraction, not everyone. Apparently we have yet another child left behind.

  19. Alex says:

    There's this fancy thing called "Not sleeping with someone even if you're attracted to them." Just because one person wants to have sex does not invalidate the friendship any more than one person wanting to go kayaking invalidates the friendship. One person may think their friend would LOVE kayaking, but if the friend doesn't want to, you guys don't stop being friends, you just don't go kayaking together. If they stop being friends because you won't be their kayaking buddy, you weren't actually friends to begin with, just a potential second pair of hands to hold the paddle. Nor does it mean the first person can never go kayaking again, he just has to look elsewhere. And by bringing it up early and talking to each other honestly and respectfully (y'know, like you would you to a friend) there's no hidden agenda or weirdness or tension and you can still be friends. Because we are not animals or chemical robots but thinking, cognizant beings capable of analyzing and controlling our own behavior, and we can say "no" to the occasional hormonal surge.

  20. Patrick Sawyer says:

    Science saying nothing here! I have a small number of female friends that I fancy (ie think about in a sexual way) but I will never prejudice the friendship by going further. I have a larger number of female friends who I really, really like (and a few who I actually love) but who are never going to be more than friends because I just couldn't fancy them.

  21. Samantha says:

    I don't agree with this article. I'm a junior in high school, so maybe it doesn't apply to me. But most of my friends are guys (mostly because I cannot stand drama-filled talk and backstabbers). I've been friends with two guy friends since I was five and eight, both mean nothing to me besides older-brother-figures that I go to for guy trouble. Another I just recently became friends with me, but I still love him dearly like a brother.
    So, I do disagree with this article. But maybe it doesn't count because I'm still in high school and our brains aren't completely functioned enough to realise love, lust, and passion. kthxbaiiii

  22. Andre says:

    Absolutely true, i have been friends with a babe 4 the last two years, she takes me as her best ‘boy’ friend though she has galfriends, at first i thought we were just friends but then my feelings disapproved me, i started hitting on her though she has always stuck to the lets just be friend thing which i always wanted, but nature wont let me…….

  23. Moyra Freemantle says:

    I thinkbthiscstudybis absolute rubbish I have two platonic male friends one for 42 years and the other for 39 years and there has never been any suggestion of anything else I love them both to bits but we are just good friends and neither of them has ever made a pass at me and I am attractive so they have told me but never ever made a pass at me in all those years!

  24. jankantius says:

    I have a friend I bedded a long time ago. I still often think of her. Never sexually, and I am upset that I can't think of her that way. She is the greatest woman I have ever known . She has always lived on the edge, doing things I lacked the courage to do. Her life has always been an adventure. I adore her, but there is no sexual interest. Sne is just a woman i admire.

  25. Seriously. Two people can be friends without liking each other. A study might say no, but when did they perform this study on the entire world?

  26. Opinions of young men -too young to know any better I think.Try an older age group.Different answers.

  27. Guest says:

    One of my best friends is a guy I've known since I was 15 years old (27 years now). We've seen each other go through relationships, job changes, financial problems, …, pretty much everything a friend would be there for. We really are friends, so I don't know about this.

    1. Bruno says:

      that doesnt exist. Someone always feel something, even if it's repressed. Yeah he will be there, yeah u guys will be friends, but someone always want to at least screw around.

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