Can Men and Women Be Friends?

My last post on man’s battle for sexual purity provided some practical tips to help change our lustful behavior by learning to bounce our eyes, starving our mind, and protecting our hearts. I also suggested that what we really needed was a “heart transformation” in order to avoid sexual sin. 

Now, I want to follow-up with some biblical foundation about our sexual desires and provide a new starting point to help all of our relationships with women, whether sexually with our wife, or relationally with our co-workers, friends, and neighbors. 

First, it is important to understand that men and women are wired very differently. God did this on purpose—it’s part of His grand design and plan. 

God’s Design for Sexual Pleasure

Photo by Kyle Cottrell on Unsplash

Through the act of creating male and then female “in His own image”, God created human sexuality. The fact that we’re of the same species, but of different genders, required some unique physical differences to enable sexual engagement so that humanity can “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:28) 

God created sex by making Adam and Eve sexual beings. There was no sin in the world when the couple had sex for the first time. It was intimate. It was beautiful. God said that it was very good (Genesis 1:31). No doubt, Adam and Eve were quite happy to obey.

Sure, God could have chosen another way to populate His earth but He chose the sexual union between man and woman and made it a beautiful gift. He designed sex not just a physical act but as a spiritual joining together of two people. When this act of intimacy is kept pure, it brings Him great joy.

But God also designed sex to guard us against temptation.

Men are Visually Wired 

As I wrote in the last post, God wired men as stimulated visually so we must learn to bounce our eyes, starving our minds, and protect our hearts to beat the temptations.

Also, a man’s view of romance is often focused on sexual affirmation, whereas a woman’s view most often revolves around the emotional need and relationship.  Of course, both are generalizations that do not always play out in every person.

The Male Brain is Different

Neuroscience explains why a man’s brain acts so differently. 

According to the website for the book, Your Brain Explained, the male brain is wired to be extremely visual due in part to the nucleus accumbens found in the basal forebrain section.

The most widely recognized function of the nucleus accumbens is its role in the “reward circuit” of our brain that turns on or lights up.  Whenever we do anything considered rewarding (e.g. eat food, have sex, take drugs), dopamine and other neurons activate in our brain to store information about the positive or negative stimuli associated with these experiences. These memory stores are called upon later to help us remember how to realize the pleasurable experiences or to avoid the aversive experiences. 

For these reasons, men are quickly aroused visually and our brains activate quickly.

Men are like Microwaves

It’s been said that when it comes to romance, men are like microwaves and women are more like crockpots. For men, you push a button and we heat up quickly so we are ready in only about 20 seconds. For women, it takes time for them to cook.

For many men, just seeing an attractive female can trigger a sexual response in their brains very quickly.

Additionally, since the male brain is physically larger than a female’s, men have more sexual thoughts and less sexual self-control which is why visual attraction is typically more of a battle for us.

Sure, some females can be just as visually stimulated but their pathway to romance is more leisurely than a male’s sexual desire. When most women see an attractive male though, her nucleus accumbens typically stays dark longer so she doesn’t have the immediate sexual response like a man so she warms up to sexual desires like a slow cooking crockpot.

Can Men and Women be Friends?

The short answer is “Yes”.

But I would suggest only if he is a mature man of God and utilizes proper boundaries.

Many guys today have difficulty being friends with the women they are sexually attracted to because they are stuck in proverbial adolescence as emotionally immature men. 

Most guys are mature emotionally for opposite-sex relationships but male-female friendships can be dangerous territory without proper boundaries.

Psychologists and sociologists frequently study friendships between men and women. According to some studies, any sexual attraction between opposite-sex friends decreases the overall quality of a friendship.

Even movies that depict platonic friendships evolving into something more—like When Harry Met Sally, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Friends With Benefits, and Drinking Buddies, seem to suggest there’s always suspicion for the potential to act on their attraction to each other.

Research also shows that platonic friendships even after a break-up or divorce often result in more negative outcomes, feelings of sadness, challenges moving on romantically, and disapproval from other friends

Cultures Impact on Friendships

The hypersexualization of our culture today makes simple friendship an endangered practice. Today’s men are told that every interaction with women comes across as inherently sexual so it becomes increasingly difficult to foster any type of friendship with the opposite sex. Some even suggest the overall collapse of friendships actually hurts marriage.

As C.S. Lewis writes in “The Four Loves,”

To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it. We admit of course that besides a wife and family a man needs a few ‘friends.’ But the very tone of the admission, and the sort of acquaintanceships which those who make it would describe as ‘friendships,’ show clearly that what they are talking about has very little to do with that Philia which Aristotle classified among the virtues or that Amicitia on which Cicero wrote a book. It is something quite marginal; not a main course in life’s banquet; a diversion; something that fills up the chinks of one’s time.

Friendship used to transcend physicality to enrich the soul of all humankind. C.S. Lewis points out that friendship is so valuable and good that it is not worth limiting by sexual inclination but that we should seek it out wherever possible with members of the same sex, and with members of the opposite sex. 

Now, I would caution that –while some men and women can have legitimate friendships, work respectfully alongside each other, and hang out socially, men especially must proceed in opposite-sex friendships with caution and have proper boundaries.

So stay with me in the next couple of posts for more on how a godly man enjoys his relationships with members of the opposite sex.  


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