Sunday, January 08, 2006

Archetypal social relations in history: The relation of girlfriend to best friend.

This relationship is the proverbial do-si-do in the universe of archetypal social relations. In the slim bandwidth available for personal life in today’s world, the relationship may be fraught (Johnson, 1994), it may be mutually rewarding (Kinsey, 1957), it may be sexually charged (Kinsey, 1958), it may be awkwardly earnest (Hobart and Hobart, 1987). The last is probably the most typical of the girlfriend/best friend relations. The nature of the girlfriend best-friend relation may be a function of region (Westlake 1990), of social status (Burns and Westlake, 1991), of culture (Burns, 1992), or of religion (Hobart and Hobart 1988). Hobart and Hobart (1986) have estimated that one in five girlfriend best-friend relationships culminates in a French kiss. Of these, only roughly four percent are revealed to the boyfriend, and of this slim fraction only ten percent are revealed by the best friend; nine percent are revealed by a third party. Hobart and Hobart’s path-breaking study (1992) showed the balance of French kisses are revealed by the girlfriend. Of these girlfriend-revealed French kisses, roughly one-third are revealed via coercion and suspicion. The remaining two-thirds are revealed drunkenly by the girlfriend. Hobart and Hobart (1988) estimated one in eight girlfriend best-friend relationships leads to sexual congress, and less than two percent of these encounters are revealed. (Regression or chi-squared to correct for overlap; margin of error not thought to be significant.)

Interestingly, the girlfriend best-friend relation is different in form, kind, and magnitude from the boyfriend best-friend relation, which is much more frequently sexually charged and rarely mutually rewarding (Vernon 2000). Fully thirty percent of boyfriend-best friend relations culminate in a French kiss, heavy petting, or sexual congress. (Vernon 1993) Divergent outcomes proved statistically impossible to parse, however, due to inconsistencies in subject input. (ibid.) Revelations to the girlfriend of transgressive sexual and quasi-sexual activity were significantly more common in the boyfriend-best friend context than were revelations to the boyfriend in the girlfriend-best friend context. (Vernon 1992, Wacker 1997, Burns 1998, Wacker and Wichnewski 1995). Wichneseki and Burns (1996) hypothesized that this difference shows a significant correlation with the qualities of “locker room”, “cruel”, and “pissing contest,” though the data are far from conclusive. Revelations of “transgressive” French-kissing are still rare (results have ranged from 5% to 9%), though perhaps surprisingly, revelations of sexual congress are more common (4% to 13%). Early research (infra) indicates boyfriend-revealed French-kissing is comparatively rare.

Recent studies have looked to longitudinal data over the life-span and comparative data within and among cohorts. Recent cohort studies have included same-sex pairings, though longitudinal analyses on girlfriend-best girlfriend, girlfriend-best male friend, boyfriend-best male friend, and boyfriend-best female friend are nascent.