I love When Harry Met Sally so much. And this is a fascinating topic.
I think maybe relationships are like a continuum. Like different degrees of closeness to a person. If we're talking about romantic possibilities, then "stranger" would be zero and "spouse" would be ten, in terms of closeness.
So does sex "get in the way?" Well, if you have it with someone, you'd certainly skip a few numbers. If you don't, then your "closeness" to that person can still be somewhere on the continuum.
I think one question is: can we (single people) handle the idea that we're attracted to someone (another single) and still be his/her friend? I think yes, if s/he is worth being friends with and your friendship functions. Then if both parties want to take it up a few notches to a sexual/romantic relationship, then it runs its course there and you either break up or end up staying together. And if one party doesn’t want to take it to a sexual level, then it keeps going at the level that it is. If the “I’m in love with you” partner can’t handle a platonic friendship, then you end up broken up like you would after a failed romantic relationship. (I think friendships have “break ups” pretty often. I’ve had a few with some girls.)
Can we handle knowing that someone is attracted to us and still be friends if we don’t like them “that way”? Yes, if we aren't sending mixed signals. Anyone who is reading more into “friendship” than there is just requires a simple “this is what we are” conversation. (And shame on people who lead a person on to use his affections as an ego boost, on a side note.)
Can we handle the idea that someone we are attracted to doesn't like us back "that way," but we are still friends? If your ego can handle that, then why not be friends?
I guess my thesis is that hetero men and women who are both single CAN be friends with each other. Sure, there are some complications as with any relationship (platonic, romantic, family, etc.), but those complications only extend as far as how much people’s egos are wrapped up in what other people think of them.
If, for instance, you can’t handle the idea that someone would want to be friends with you but not want to sleep with you, then you might be setting yourself up for some difficulties in friendships with the opposite sex, since there are surely to be people in the world who like you but don’t want to get it on with you.
Similarly, if you are friends with someone who appreciates your friendship and ALSO wants to sleep with you even though you don’t want to sleep with him, then somebody’s going to just have to be disappointed in that situation. And then he gets over it, and he can either take your friendship for what it is, or leave it.
On a slightly different but still related topic:
It all comes down to acceptance—acceptance of people how they are right now, at face value, in all of their current behaviors, and acceptance of yourself and your role in your relationships.
And then once you accept the way a relationship is, then you make the choice of whether you want to stay or leave (friendship or sig. other). Since there’s (unfortunately) no such thing as convincing someone to be in love with you, or to be out of love with you, for that matter. And there’s for damn sure no way to make someone be a better person for you to date.
Too many people want to try to fenagle the relationships they are already in instead of taking them or leaving them for what they are--probably because it is really scary and awkward to break up with someone and cut them out of your life. It just is. I've made this very long and drawn-out fenagling mistake myself.
Similarly, some people are scared to start relationships at all because they could potentially lead to a scary and painful break-up or (even scarier to some) a life spent in partnership with only that one person.
But one thing's for sure, "putting yourself out there" will, at some point, lead to an ego bruise of some kind. It's a risk no matter how interested the person is. I think, however, that it is totally worth it, and that life hands out ego bruises all the time that we have to accept and grow from (and simultaneously not allow to crush our entire self-images).
But yeah, single guys and girls can be friends, I think. If both parties want to take it to a sexual level, then they do, and it moves into a relationship status that either runs its course smoothly or ends in firey tragedy. But if one party doesn't want it to be sexual, then it won't be, and both can be accepting of that and continue to be friends.
Now, fuck buddies, or "friends with benefits"...there's a topic that's more shaky.