Babes and boundaries: Do female friendships need a bro-code?


I subscribe to Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner’s newsletter “Lenny” and this week the theme was female friendships. They wrote:

Friendships between women are as complex and ephemeral and necessary as any romance, and when you find a really good one you hold on for dear life.

So I’ve been thinking about friendships a bit because of this issue. I think we sometimes take friendships too lightly. If we are to have meaningful, committed long-term friendships then shouldn’t we be prepared to work on these as much as romantic ones? When it comes to commitment in friendships, what are the rules?

Like what about the case of a best friend who starts dating your ex? I don’t wish to entrench the rules of patriarchy that state that men are the prizes for women to compete with each other for. I’m better than that. But on some level I really do think it sucks when people go after their friends’ exes.

I happen to have a rule against this myself. I have never, nor do I ever want to hook up with a friend’s ex or an ex’s friend. A huge part of why I have this rule is because I’m a guilt person and would drown in my own guilty conscience if I ever hurt someone I cared about because of my own carnal desires. But I’ve also based this decision on personal experiences and common sense. It feels like this is a serious boundary for me.

Evidently this is not the case for everybody. So what do you think really matters in the end? We seem to accept (well that’s changing too I guess) that fidelity should be a given in long-term romantic relationships. But is fidelity a thing in friendships? A lot of the “rules” in friendships are developed through a kind of a unspoken, sisterly bond that develops over time via countless verbal sharing sessions. We don’t necessarily tell our bestie that we expect her not to hook up with our ex but might get super sad when someone we know hooks up with him and cry on her shoulder during this time. In that way, the “rule” is shared in a subtle way, requiring the other to have empathy, a capacity for reading social cues and a desire to be pro-social.

So, should friendships contain these unspoken rules or should we be sitting down and speaking about our expectations? If you know your friend is sensitive in certain ways (trust issues, competitiveness, loss, etc.) then surely you don’t need to be told to tread lightly in these areas? But when it comes to love (and lust) are we vulnerable to throw out the rule-book?

Is the power of attraction and the hope of romance more important than honouring a female friendship? Surely it isn’t only women who struggle with these issues in friendships? I mean there is that whole “bros before hoes” adage, which despite being offensive to women, is practically the same thing we’re talking about here. And in the show “How I Met Your Mother” there is a lot of talk of the “Bro code” and how hooking up with a best friend’s ex is definitely not something that is taken lightly.

So, is this an individual thing that needs to be negotiated between mates or are there some universal pacts that are made when girls engage in deep and profound friendships? Can the most awkward and painful of boundary violations be recovered from or does it do irreparable damage to the bond between babes?

When it comes to your besties, where is the line?


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