The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Platonic pals can’t pretend any longer

Hey dude. You know that female friend of yours who you know is secretly in love with you? When you watch movies, she leans against you. When she can’t quite make it home from Water Street, you let her crash at your place. You would never go there but it’s obvious that she wants you. Newsflash: it’s all in your head.

I know what you are thinking. You are pretty sure you picked up on those social cues (pick-up tricks from my dad: a girl is flirting with him when she ‘flutters’ her lashes, a.k.a. blinks, and tosses her hair, a.k.a. moves her head). How in the world could this be true?

Psychology Professor April Bleske-Rechek has been studying cross-sex friendships since graduate school but with a new twist — from an evolutionary standpoint.

Her findings found that men are more attracted to their female friends than women are to their male friends. In addition, men have a tendency to overestimate how attracted their female friends are to them.

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Wait, this is the plot to half the movies you’ve seen. It always works out for them, right? But surprise, surprise, this is actually science.

Bleske-Rechek said cross-sex relationship have only been studied from a social behavior standpoint and this is the first time that biology has been proven to be a factor.

“There are a lot of benefits (to cross-sex friendships),” Bleske-Rechek said. “Men and women report lots and lots of benefits. A lot of people say, ‘well can you ever have true friendships?’ Of course! Sexual attraction doesn’t mean it can’t be a true friendship where two people care for each other.”

In the study conducted about college students, Bleske-Rechek and her colleagues questioned 88 cross-sex heterosexual friendship pairs. The length of friendship varied from two weeks to 17 years, the study said.

Other findings from the study included being attracted to an opposite sex friend or developing a friendship with someone could lead to negative results within a person’s current relationship, Bleske-Rechek said.

“It’s possible that people are engaged in friendships where they maybe have companionships but someone isn’t paying attention to them,” Bleske-Rechek said. “They are feeling desirable so this could change the dynamics of their romantic relationships or vise versa.”

Senior Josh Appel said he has had friendships with women for ten years that he considers to be purely friendships.
Appel did admit, though, that maybe once or twice there have been instances of attraction, but never anything that would be acted on. Bleske-Rechek’s research said men and women typically don’t consider those attractions to be enough to make it more than a friendship, but it is.

“I think people will say, ‘oh it shouldn’t be like that’,” Bleske-Rechek said. “Well of course it shouldn’t be like that but this is the reality of human relationships.”

The article, “Benefits or Burden? Attraction in Cross-sex Friendship,” said platonic friendships very commonly involve attraction and often make girlfriends and boyfriends very jealous.

“The findings implicate attraction in cross-sex friendship as both common and of potential negative consequence for individuals’ long-term mateships.” Bleske-Rechek said.

Alumn Erin Hirsch worked on the cross-sex friendship research with Bleske-Rechek for three and a half years while she attended UW-Eau Claire. Having platonic relationships is a biological desire and people shouldn’t resist them, she said.

“I think they are great to have. To get another opinion and perspective on life,” Hirsch said. “With the research it is interesting to see that there is jealousy and attraction that plays a role in cross-sex friendships regardless of age and relationship status.”

Both Bleske-Rechek and Somers agreed that this biological response doesn’t seem to be something that people will evolve out of. Humans have a natural desire to reproduce and they surround themselves with opportunities to do so.

So your “A Lot Like Love” fantasy of your bestie pal shamelessly throwing themselves at you in a very romantic display of affection might not be happening in the near future, but you never know. You surrounded yourself with them for a reason.

Don’t let Hollywood get to your head, your friendship just might develop into something more. But it’s OK if it doesn’t, too.

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Platonic pals can’t pretend any longer