Cross Sex Friendship Essay Example


Dr. Dylan Selterman writes, “there are unique aspects of cross-sex friendships that can be potentially problematic or rewarding depending on your perspective” (2011). Cross-sex friendships, those friendships held between men and women, are seen throughout the world every day. But the most heard concern about men and women being friends with one another is that love and sexual desire will maneuver into the relationship one way or another. This inherently leads to issues of being friends with benefits for the unsuspecting pairs' friendship to become asymmetrical with the new emotional toll. In the film, The Way, Way Back (2013), Trent and Joan display how cross-sex friendships are difficult to maintain especially when sex becomes involved. Trent and Joan not only represent a cross-sex friendship but also represent communal friendships. Communal Friendships refer to friendships that gather together often and emotionally support one another. But, both of these friendships are put on the line as they show that they are friends with benefits, “friends” who have a sexual and intimate relationship on the side, and begin to struggle with balancing their friendship and sex. How Joan and Trent display how communal friendships are designed, how cross-sex friendships can be destroyed by pressure, how being friends with benefits doesn’t work in reality, and how these relationships are torn apart will all be explained in this paper. 

Trent and Joan are a good example of communal relationships. Margaret S. Clark and Judson Mills’ study on relationships, they found that communal relationships are different from what they refer to as “exchange” relationships. They describe communal relationships as when giving a benefit when it is needed by the other person is expected without a receipt and response. But, exchange relationships are when giving a benefit is expected to be followed with a receipt and a response of another benefit. They write, “the receipt of a benefit after the person has been benefited leads to greater attraction when an exchange relationship is preferred and decreases attraction when a communal relationship is desired” (Clark & Mills, 1979). This is stating that the response to a benefit that is appropriate is appreciated by exchange relationships but that it can actually decrease the appreciation in communal friendships. Joan and Trent don’t have an exchange relationship due to the fact that their relationship is based on recreational use. They have their summer trip where they are allowed to be young and wild for a short period of time. Where this gets difficult to analyze is when their sexual relationship is revealed. But, their friendship is still factored into communal relationships because their friendship is controlled more by emotional support, benefiting each other when needed without the expectation of a response back. 

The film also uses Joan and Trent to show how cross-sex relationships can be destroyed by pressure of secual interactions. In a study conducted by Michael Monsour in 1992, Monsour used a self-report questionnaire to determine how college students define the term intimacy in both cross- and same-sex friendships. Monsour found that the most frequently mentioned from both same-sex and cross-sex friendships were about an emotional connection with the individual and the emotional benefits they gain from them. But, the only ones to define intimacy with sexual contact was those in cross-sex friendships. Michael Monsour states, “one of the remaining two meanings of intimacy, i.e. sexual contact was mentioned by cross- but not same-sex friends” (Monsour 1992). There is often a lot of internal and external pressure in cross-sex friendships to be “more than friends”. This is why most cross-sex friendship are difficult to maintain. It can be analyzed that this is one of the issues that happened in the friendship between Joan and Trent. Joan and Trent didn’t have any external pressure from what is shown in the movie, so they most likely experienced internal pressure to develop their relationship past a friendship level. So, when they begin their sexual relationship and change to a friends with benefits relationship is when we truly see why these friendships don’t usually work.

Joan and Trent are also a good example as to why being friends with benefits does not work as well as people originally think it will. Melissa A. Bisson and Timothy R. Levine explain friends with benefits, often referred to as FWB, and how they can become very unhealthy for the relationship. They found that 60 % of individuals surveyed have had a friends with benefits relationship and that many of these relationships were established because the involved individuals felt that they could have trust and comfort in a relationship without the romantic commitment. Bisson and Levine explain, “FWB relationships are often problematic for the same reasons that they are attractive” (Bisson & Levine, 2007). While FWB relationships sound great, theoretically, there is a much deeper meaning behind it all. While Joan and Trent found a way to take their sexual desire for one another out without creating a romantic relationship, those romantic feelings will always find a way to exist. So, when Trent comes with his girlfriend, Pam, it causes those romantic feelings to arise within Joan. She becomes jealous and begins to push for them to be together more often while Trent pulls back. Creating an unbalanced relationship that will ultimately fail.

Through Trent and Joan's relationship in The Way, Way Back (2013), we can see how communal friendships between cross-sex individuals can lead to a non-successful friends with benefits relationship. Before their sexual relationship is revealed, we see that Joan and Trent are communal friends. They get together with Betty and Kip every year so that they can partake in recreational fun while in each other's company. During this time they reminisce and support each other without the expectation of an exchange in return. But, Joan and Trent are also cross-sex friends. And while, hypothetically, there should be no reason for cross-sex friendships to last, there is usually that pressure of the fact that, when both individuals are single, they could always be together. But for Joan and Trent they aren’t both single and don’t want to create issues for their friendship if they begin to date. So instead they become friends with benefits and they may not even realize that their own minds are what is convincing them to begin their relationship. This relationship allows them to be in sexual contact with one another with the hope that there will be no emotional attachment and romantic commitments. But, as seen through Joan’s deeper feelings for Trent, one could see that this doesn’t normally work. This then causes a one sided relationship that can tear the FWB apart so that they are not even friends. All because one person expected more from the other than they were ready to give.

Through Joan and Trent’s relationship in The Way, Way Back (2013), one can see communal friendship, cross-sex friendship, a friends with benefits relationship, and how all of these play off each other to destroy a relationship. Joan and Trent are communal friends who use each other for emotional support and recreational fun. But they are also cross-sex friends which creates a lot of issues when they begin to desire each other sexually because of internal pressure. This causes a friends with benefits relationship that becomes one sided when Joan becomes attached to Trent after he has already entered a new romantic relationship. Inherently causing the friendship to be forever torn because they let sexual desire get in the way of a friendship. But, sadly this will not be Joan and Trent’s fault. No relationship can withstand the natural, sexual relationship they entered.

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