This post is part of the February Synchroblog “Cross Gender Friendships”. I will list the links to all the contributions at the end of this post as soon as they are available.
For those of you who may not know, there is controversy in the Christian (particularly Evangelical) community about the appropriateness of platonic cross-gender friendships. Many Christians believe such friendships are dangerous. There is a feeling that “men are so sex-crazed and women are so vulnerable” that a sexual relationship is almost guaranteed to occur. The way to prevent such “dangerous” relationships is to follow rules such as “a married man should never allow a woman other than his wife to ride in his car when it is just the two of them” or “a woman should never be friends with a married man who is not married to her.”
Because, you know, men just can’t HELP themselves from, well, “helping themselves” and women are so vulnerable that they are unable to fend off inappropriate sexual contact (such as sex with a married man or with a man who is not her husband). (Perhaps even worse, this paradigm makes it appear women are not capable of high sex drives or needs for sexual satisfaction and that men are unable to be vulnerable.)
Many of my readers are no doubt laughing right now. I can almost see the collective shaking of heads and hear the comments about “those Christians” or “those silly heterosexuals.” It’s really not funny though, because these mindsets hurt everyone, not just those who attend churches where this mindset is deeply embedded. This belief system naturally extends into non-church environments; for example, the workplace. How can men and women work together as equals if men are afraid they cannot control themselves and women are afraid all men are only after “one thing”?
Perhaps the “straights” could learn something about platonic friendships from Gay and Lesbian Christians? Is the question really whether individuals are capable of simultaneous emotionally and spiritually intimate relationships with others while involved in a physical, emotional, and spiritually intimate relationship with one’s spouse? Does emotional intimacy have a limit? Does emotional intimacy with another automatically mean emotional adultery with one’s spouse?
Imagine if this same fear of heterosexual, cross-gender Christian friendships was found among Gay and Lesbian (not to mention Bisexual) Christians? Lesbians would not have any deep friendships with other Lesbians and Gays would not have any deep friendships with other Gays? Huh? That just does not make sense, does it?
Maybe it is not an issue in the GLB community for the very reasons it IS an issue for some heterosexuals. GLB people do not tend to conform to heterosexual gender roles. Gays, for example, tend to be able to show vulnerability and intimacies that are not physical more than straight men. Lesbians do not tend to minimize their need for sexual satisfaction the way that many straight women do (after all, “good” girls do not have those desires, right?).
The thought that a friendship of any sort is going to go somewhere that one party does not want it to go makes it seem like we are not individuals with freedom of choice and the ability to control our own lives. When presented with a path that is not one we personally are comfortable with, we have to trust we are each mature enough to recognize any danger signs and turn back. Our walk with the Holy is filled with bumps and detours and lessons. All of our intimate relationships should contain well-defined and agreed to boundaries, as well as shared prayers for guidance. It is only in this way that initial feelings of discomfort will be aired and not left to fester or be acted upon in any inappropriate ways.
Here is the Link List for the February Synchroblog: Cross Gender Friendships.
Chris Jefferies – Best of both
Jeremy Myers – Are Cross-Gender Friendships Possible
Lynne Tait – Little Boxes
Dan Brennan – Cross-Gender Friendship: Jesus and the Post-Romantic Age
Glenn Hager – Sluts and Horndogs
Jennifer Ellen – A Different Kind of Valentine
Alise Wright – What I get from my cross-gender friend
Liz Dyer – Cross-Gender Friendships and the Church
Jonalyn Fincher – Why I Don’t Give out Sex like Gold Star Stickers
Maria Kettleson Anderson – Myth and Reality: Cross-Gender Friendships
Bram Cools – Nothing More Natural Than Cross-Gender Friendships?
Marta Layton – True Friendship: Two Bodies, One Soul
Kathy Escobar – The Road To Equality Is Paved With Friendship
Karl Wheeler – Friends at First Sight
Jim Henderson – Jesus Had A Thing for Women and So Do I
Elizabeth Chapin – 50 Shades of Friendship
D. L. Webster – Expressing Love Outside of Romance