Can men and women be platonic friends? My comments on the ladder theory

For those of you not familiar with the ladder theory, it’s an explanation of how men and women are attracted to each other, and provides an answer to the question of whether or not men and women can be platonic friends.

I acknowledge that the 1-2 ladder scheme illustrates the “fundamental difference in outlook between men and women.” I understand that having one ladder means he’ll be thinking, “how much do I want to fuck her?” and rank the woman he just saw according to that. The answer can sometimes be “not much” or more likely “not as much as I want to fuck [another person].” However, by only having one ladder, it presents men as only wanting sexual relationships with women, and from my observations, that does not seem to be the case. Although the author acknowledges that there are women clinging to the bottom of the man’s ladder that make a guy want to “chew [his] own arm off to get away [from] rather than fuck them,” the man’s ladder is presented as a continuum between “would actively like to fuck” and “would fuck drunk and not admit to it.” I can see how it would make sense if the guy was very desperate for sex, but all the guys I know aren’t desperate.

The conclusion of the ladder theory is that a man can only be friends with a woman if 1) he’s gay, 2) he’s not attracted to her, and 3) he already has someone else who is higher on his ladder. Now, I agree with this, but I think that men do have a friends ladder for the women they don’t find sexually appealing. I’ve had male friends who weren’t attracted to me, and I know this because I don’t match their preferences. (For example, the superficial boob guy is not satisfied with breasts smaller than a C cup.) You can usually tell if a guy is attracted to a lady if he approached her. In all my experiences, when a guy (who wasn’t already in a relationship) approached me, he later revealed his attraction to me. The male friends who weren’t attracted to me were the ones that I initiated friendships with.

Even a guy wrote “I have other very close female friends with whom I have never pursued any kind of physical relationship—because I’m not physically attracted to them.” Regarding his relationship with his friend Juliet: “we weren’t physically attracted to each other in any significant way, and as a result, we were able to explore a different kind of relationship.”

Actually, it appears that the man doesn’t even need to be in a relationship with someone higher on his ladder. He just needs to have his rankings: “It’s not that I found her unattractive, but both times we kissed, I would rather have been with someone else.” This is additional evidence as to why I don’t think guys are so desperate as to want to have sex with, to different extents, every girl they know. All the guys I know tend to be choosier. Perhaps there should be a cutoff point on the man’s ladder for women he’s not interested in sexually? (If that actually exists.)

So my conclusion is, men and women can be platonic friends as long as no one is physically attracted enough to the other. It doesn’t mean that he can only be friends with her if he thinks she’s unattractive. After all, the superficial boob guy said he wouldn’t hang out with a girl who is ugly; as long as she’s “cute” in some way, even if not romantic potential, he’d be friends with her—but then he’s extremely superficial, so I’d stay away from guys like him.

I still doubt that it’s that simple. After all, having something that both people can relate to is important for friendships. As a male friend once said, “It seems like when friendships start sexually, it appears impossible to have a meaningful non-sexual relationship if the spark dies. When relationships start as friends, then the friendship seems to be able to continue even if the relationship becomes (and then stops being) sexual.”

I am still a bit confused, so I’m curious as to what men have to say about the ladder theory. Ladies are also welcome to share their insights.


Original post 6/8/11

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7 thoughts on “Can men and women be platonic friends? My comments on the ladder theory

  1. You know, this makes sense to me but I don’t think it’s all-encompasing. I’ve read articles about how men will rarely be friends with women if they see only friendship as a result, but often enough men would always be willing to explore an intimate relationship with a female friend. The same is not true for women, and women seem to be able to be friends with a man and not be willing to explore an intimate relationship. Of course, not all fit this all the time.

  2. I don’t recall ever puting much thought to this ladder theory. I get along with all women the same. I still try to be cautious when I can’t read their body language; which is most of the time. Sexual tension does have an effect and when it gets tight between clashing personalities or where either is already in a physical relationship with someone else, those people should avoid each other at all costs.

  3. I am curious as I am now reading the ladder theory. What is your take on the plural female ladders section?

  4. I lean more to your reason than to this ladder theory. 1. I am not gay. 2. I can be attracted to her on some level. and 3. Even if I have an SO, that does not mean I can’t be attracted to other women.
    I think we are attracted in some way to our “friends” and to those we want to be more than friends. I may not be fully sexually attracted to a woman that is a friend, but that does not mean we could not be friends. Maybe deep in my mind I would want to be sexual with her, but there are women I am very comfortable being friends and have no desire to have sex. They are really not my “type”. I can truly say I have more women friends than male friends. I really do not consider myself a typical male.

  5. I have more female friends than male. I believe that the platonic relationship is not only possible regardless of position on the “ladder”, but actually quite necessary for a males growth. Women have much more to offer men than just sex. A mans relationship with his mother says a lot about his psychology. Having all male friends and only considering women as sex objects is narrow minded and disgusting.

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