Can Men and Women “Just Be Friends”?

This is the fucking impact of queer theory on my life. Dead assed.

So after sitting at the table grading mid terms and trying to figure out how to write a “statement of work” I high tailed it over to Goldy’s house for some BBQ as she had a couple of folks over.

And this is where being a Black feminist gets real for me.

So, of course Black sexual politics come up, and I am having a conversation with a guy and a lady and Goldy is off turning over meats or something.

And the lady says, “Can Men and Women Just be Friends?” And I ask a clarifying question, like what does just being friends mean? I also tell them that I write A LOT about Black sexual politics, so be forewarned. #IcomeWITHaDisclaimerNow?

So, I asked the question and the lady responded that just being friends was “not having sex.”

I thought, hmm, well if two people desire each other, the issue, for me, is that the desire doesn’t leave BUT your willingness to act on it is what changes.

And then I thought, shit gina, this goes for same sex desires as well.

Let me clarify.

It reminded  me of a conversation that I had with Moya about queer, or same sex desire. The working assumption was that people HAVE those desires, but there is a distinction between choosing to act or not to act on those desires.

I do know that sexuality is both fluid, and subjective and I leave room for self identification. My point is that I am not saying that if you do not act, I will not see you AS what you want to be seen as. Because trust, I see you. I was just tripping last night off of how respectability politics permeates Black peoples lives. Meaning “just friends” = no sex, when the reality of our lives is that it is NEVER that neat and clear.

The question of Men and women “just” being friends confounds me because the question does not aknowledge the role the intimacy plays in sexual relationships and in non sexual intimate relationships (which can be hella dangerous by the way). Sometimes the intimacy voltron is more realer than the sexual one, because the intimacy entails someone BEING UP IN YOUR bone marrow. They know your pulse throughout the day.

Honestly, I think that capitalism (attempts to) rob us of the ability to see, name or claim intimacy. By this I think that the conditions of work toling away on a computer, or in a cube, or standing on your feet all day in a hospital or in a retail space doesn’t leave you any room to figure how to stay connected the basic human shit in other people.


Do you every think about sex and intimacy?

What about the distinction between having a desire and ACTING on it?

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  1. says

    As a guy who is also very much into relationships (either sexual or professional), it sounds like you BBQ friend was wondering more along the lines of whether men are constantly ‘looking for the hook-up’, despite what role a female plays in their life.

    Honestly, I believe there’s always a certain degree of sexual tension there.

    For your question though, desire and acting are quite close to the same thing. If you have a desire, your brain has already engaged i.e. acted upon it. I guess that also depends on what your definition of ‘sexual desire’ and ‘taking action, sexually’ means though.

    Care to elaborate on that, I’m interested to know your thoughts.

  2. Renina says

    Ummm. Desire and action are close but not one in the same.

    Just because I want to punch someone for using their cellphone on the train escalator doesn’t mean I am going to do it.

    Clarifying the distinction between sexual desire and taking action.
    As of this moment, it entails moving from thought to action.

    This isn’t to say thinking ISN’T an action, because it is.

    I guess taking action pivots on making your desires known to another party and letting them know, verbally, that you are interested and available, as opposed to keeping your thoughts to yourself.

  3. says

    Giiiiiirl, I think about intimacy a lot. Like a lot, a lot. I think this is due to the fact I am just now beginning to understand what intimacy is.

    What you said about desire, same sex and not, really struck a chord with me.

    I’ve been hanging out with queer men for the majority of my life but I am now beginning to keep more company with queer folk of both genders and I am slowly descending into the depths of Oakland’s brown queer feminist culture. I went to a poetry reading last night that was for members of the LBQT community and before I got my boy who I was meeting there informed me that the crowd was mostly queer women so I better come cute. I was curious as to why he said this because even though we never discussed my sexuality I thought he could tell I was straight. He thought I was bi, and I get that a lot. My sexual philosophy has always been kind of radical but I’ve realized it’s still kind of green and is still in the process of ripening, my exchanges with queer folk are aiding in that process. A lot of my poetry explores sexuality and my experience at the reading had me thinking so I wrote a little something earlier today. This is one of the lines from that poem.

    “There is a particular type of interest that is generated when two strangers interact for the first time

    and its core consists of little much more than simple attraction

    an attraction with its depth and intensity determined largely by variables both controlled and not by the parties involved.

    Gender is not a variable that we control.

    Desire is.”

    When desire is present it’s present, I really don’t think there is a distinction between having a desire and acting on it.

  4. Renina says

    Ummhmm gina. I see you. #Ummhmm. #Oakland. That’s all imma say about that.

    When desire is present it’s present, I really don’t think there is a distinction between having a desire and acting on it.
    So you mean to tell me that you don’t separate the two.
    How can desire and action be one and the same? I think a lot of people are fucked off in the game spiritually because they sit on those desires and turn around and act rageful towards the people who are willing to act on them.

    It is for this reason, that I see it as being two different things. I mean how many other urges do we have as human being throughout the day that we don’t act on because to do so wouldn’t be a good look.

    I don’t know Gina…I don’t believe you 🙂

  5. says

    you know what, you right, I though about it after I wrote it as I was rushing to get out the door to catch my bus and I knew my response was a little off. Having a desire and acting on a desire are not the same thing. When I said that I was thinking about instances when the desire is present in a “platonic” relationship to take that relationship into a physically intimate space, and not like “oh,I’m thinking bout it” but “damn, I want it”

    That is when the lines blur between desire and action for me because that desire has a direct impact on actions. It’s like people can’t even hide it, strangers can pick up on that energy. But I hear you on the urges we have everyday but don’t act on.

    There was this bartender, I think she would be classified as a boi, I don’t know the lingo, but I was more than shocked at how attracted I was to her and how automatic my response was to her masculinity. I was gettin all flustered, blushing and stuff. It kind of fucked my head up a lil bit! Sexuality is a mofo ain’t it? #Oakland#Ummhmm