So why does this matter?

A friend noted I sounded a bit annoyed here. I am. I don't know why, but for some reason our culture teaches men to assume women are always seductively inclined towards them — often long before the woman is more than just marginally friendly. Quite frankly, it's bloody annoying.

Lest you think I exaggerate for effect, I direct you to the following experiment (one of many on this subject): "Friendly? Flirting? Wrong?" related in the book The Nonverbal Communication Reader: Classic and Contemporary Readings. I quote from the article:

In 1982, the publication of Antonia Abbey's work raised the awareness that males generally construe the world in more sexual terms than do females, and indicated that as a group men were much more likely than females to judge "friendly" behavior as "seductive" or "promiscuous" behavior….

Abbey's (1982, 1987) research in particular suggests that misinterpretation of a female's friendly behavior seems to be fairly common. As we have seen in recent news headlines, these misperceptions of behavior can be extremely problematic for both males and females… in addition to the legal and moral implications of sexual harassment and date rape….

Why are we training people to behave like this? It may be the stuff of amusing movies, but it's seriously damaging in real life.

Here's another thought — as a person, would you really want to have a lover who thinks the only worthwhile thing about you is the sex? What happens if there's some accident and for a while you can't have sex — will that person just leave you for a better lay? Much wiser, I'd think, to find someone who likes sex, but who is first and foremost a friend.

Yes, but why do I hear this phrase so often?

Let's review why women use the phrase, "let's just be friends":

  1. To politely create or keep distance
  2. To defuse situations where the person feels pressured or scared
  3. Because that's what they've been taught to say in those circumstances
  4. When they have no idea how to say 'no,' or…
  5. Because they're just liars

Those likely to hear numbers one through four are those who push too much, appear too eager, scare the woman, or are too obvious in their sex-potential visual critique. Also, we should note there are those who have been taught to state number three as easily as they say "please" or "thank you." It doesn't really mean anything to them; it's just what you say.

Alternatively, it could well mean to them they've not "burned their bridges" with the guy. You might see this behavior if they're afraid of being alone, or don't feel it's their place to be so decisive. This sort of behavior could easily slide over into number four as well. It's simpler to say "let's just be friends" if you believe it's dangerous, or socially unacceptable, or useless to tell a guy no — and really mean it. Consistent, slandering emotional backlash from an angry person is nothing to sneeze at, after all.

Numbers one and four might also be used when the woman really isn't interested in intimacy at all, and due to inexperience the guy isn't picking up on that. This sort of guy is often sweet, innocent, eager to hang around and be helpful (or just in the way), and emotionally about 10 years old. You don't want to hurt him — but you aren't sexually interested in emotional children either.

As a good male friend noted while reading this, "Ah, he's a puppy!" ;-)

Number five is unfortunately something I think anyone could hear, for the simple reason it's used deceptively whenever the person is dodging honesty. A woman might use it because what she's really saying is she doesn't want anything to do with you. A guy might use it (or some variant thereof) to say if no sex is forthcoming, he's not got the time to waste on you.

So if you want to know why you're hearing the phrase a lot, consider your personality and how you portray yourself. Are you rather large, or do women sometimes flinch away from you? You may well be scaring them. Try toning yourself down by talking and laughing more quietly, wearing more muted or more tucked-in clothing, sitting down instead of looming over them, actually listening to what they have to say, and similar things like that. Emphatically do not stare at a woman's breasts when you're just meeting her, or give her a visual once-over before you talk to her — unless you want to be treated like a brainless moron.

The men who succeed are the efficient few… who have the ambition and will power to develop themselves.
Herbert N. Casson

Do women often tell you, almost regretfully, how cute you are, but… *sigh* ah, well. If so, you may be coming across as either desperate, or charmingly naïve, like a puppy. Try doing something which will teach you poise, concentration, and focus, like martial arts or theater.

Is sex always on your mind, and you can't think of anything else? Read up on other subjects you can talk about with folks. Are you often utterly flummoxed at how women react to you? You're probably not picking up on their body language — you might want to try studying some books on the subject.

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