Exploring the Bounds of Platonic Intimacy
When it comes to relationships, platonic intimacy tends to be undervalued. Friends come and go, we’re told. As we get older, it becomes difficult to maintain close friendships and many choose to put that energy towards finding romantic partners. Once we’ve settled down with life partners, we’re expected to prioritize family and platonic friendships are once again cast to the side.
Like everything else, we get out of our relationships what we put into them. Platonic intimacy can be just as deep and fulfilling as romantic love -- perhaps even more so depending on your preferences. When we remove expectations of what friendship is supposed to look like, it is free to evolve to meet our specific needs.
I used to place arbitrary limits of my friendships. I kept friends in a separate category from lovers and believed that mixing the two would only lead to complications. I was careful to only reveal certain sides of myself, believing that my tender, messy parts were best kept private.
My opinion began to evolve when I discovered non-traditional relationship models. As I delved into non-monogamy, kink, and group play, I wondered why friendships couldn’t also be molded according to one’s liking.
In its subtle way, my Chakrub was guiding me toward an answer, placing me in situations with others who had similar questions. Together we bucked tradition, braving embarrassment as we bonded over topics that we’d once considered “inappropriate” -- and our friendships grew as a result.
Chakrubs introduced me to the concept of subtle pleasure. It taught me that eroticism does not need to be confined to the bedroom, but that our lives become enriched when we invite that energy into our work, passions, play, and relationships.
My Xaga Curve, a smooth obsidian piece that bends like a beckoning finger, showed me the benefits of slowing down and tuning in, proved that small delights can be just as enjoyable as earth shattering orgasms. As I explored the depths of my pleasure, I began to perceive just how much was available to me in my friendships.
At first I was cautious, still believing that vulnerability would lead to my exile. Instead, the opposite occurred.
The more that I opened up in my friendships, the more acceptance I received. I’m sure I turned some people off, but those aren’t the interactions that stick out in my memory. I remember reaching for a friend’s hand and being met with a reassuring squeeze. I remember sharing my fears and instead of withdrawing, my friends creating a space capable of holding my worries.
We’ve laughed, kissed, fucked, cried, and held each other. Like all relationships there are ups and downs, but I find that this messiness -- this refusal to exist within stringent definitions of what friendship should be -- has not added complications or drama, but provided more netting for us to fall back on, a stronger foundation from which our friendships can grow.
Denying myself any type of intimacy only makes it more difficult for me to fully show up in this body, in this world. As a queer Black woman, I’m constantly reminded of my otherness, of what society has deemed my shortcomings. This subliminal messaging goes beyond politics and media consumption, infecting nearly every facet of my life. In the midst of this ever-present turmoil, my friendships have come to represent safe harbors where I can let my anchor fall. I owe it to myself to indulge in these spaces, to be curious about the healing and pleasures they might provide.
Here are a few simple exercises for disrupting your friendships in the best way possible:
- Make eye contact when you talk to each other
- Hold hands in public
- Give hugs that last for at least five seconds
- Combine intentions to create a stronger spell
- Trade massages
- Give each other random compliments
- Cook for and feed each other
- Call each other just to say goodnight and I love you
- Buy each other flowers
- Be honest about what kind of support you need from each other
Note: The importance of consent cannot be overemphasized. Make sure that you ask for and receive permission before attempting to take your friendships into new territories.
Photo by Anne Akua Barlinckhoff