“Once you’ve seen one woman naked…you wanna see the rest of ’em naked.” —Ron White, They Call Me Tater Salad

On April 4, The Federalist published a satirical piece by Hans Fiene, a Lutheran pastor, about how men and women can never be just friends. Fiene also posited that women, for the sake of America’s declining birth rate, should destroy the so-called Friend Zone and marry those nice men hoping for their amorous attentions. The premise holds a significant grain of truth, a characteristic of all good satire, even if it’s not quite on the level of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal.

As satire often does, it elicited strong reactions, even on The Federalist. Three days later, Gracy Olmstead posted a piece that disagreed with Fiene’s premises. A day after that, Jazz Shaw posted a piece on Hot Air that, in typical Hot Air fashion, argued both sides in the same article.

It’s time for some straight talk about the Friend Zone and male/female friendships. I don’t pretend to be an expert on relationships of any kind, but what I can do is give you the unvarnished truth in unequivocal terms. Also, the first draft of my current novel is proving to be a massive grind and I’m eager to find any excuse to write anything but it.

First, the Friend Zone is a deliberate technique used by women to keep men they don’t find attractive in their orbit so those men will do platonic favors for them. It also reminds these women that men still find them attractive.

Second, straight men and straight women can’t be friends unless they’re intimate or married. There are no exceptions to this rule, despite frequent claims to the contrary.

It’s stupid that this is even an argument.

When it comes to the Friend Zone, that pathetic, sexless limbo that certain men allow themselves to be caught up in, of course it’s deliberate. It’s the hovering hand above the shoulder in the photo, the favors performed in exchange for a moment of faux-intimacy, the carefully-chosen words in a text convo that one desperately hopes turns in the right direction. I, of course, have never experienced this personally; I saw it happen to guys decades ago and swore that I would never put myself in that position. So yes, it’s a thing, but it’s a deliberate thing. Women know when they’re doing it, and they do it to get stuff. Men who are in the Friend Zone know they’re in it, and despite their embarrassing, puppy-dog eyes, are perfectly happy there: it beats the icky, frightening nature of true intimacy. Despite the give-and-take nature of such relationships, it’s not a friendship. It’s a transaction: the hope of future intimacy in exchange for rides to work. So if you’re a woman with men in your Friend Zone orbit, you’re kind of a shit and you need to break it off with these guys. If you’re a man in the Friend Zone, cut off contact with your lady friend (because she’s not a friend), develop some pride in yourself, and find a single woman who won’t use you. There are lots of them out there. Most conservative women are really nice.

Let’s be honest about male/female friendships, too. Obviously I’m not talking about marriages, people you’re dating, or people you’re engaged to. Nor does this apply to work colleagues, cyber-buddies, and combinations of the two. Other than those specialized relationships, heterosexual men and women can’t be friends. When the idea of physical intimacy between friends is entertained, even in the deepest, darkest crevices of the imagination, it alters the nature of that friendship forever. Given enough alone time between a man and a woman, eventually the man is going to wonder what the woman looks like under her yoga pants. It’s not that all men are hypersexualized pigs or can’t control themselves or whatever: it just is what it is. Men know this, which is why honorable, decent men in stable relationships don’t go sniffing around other women to be friends with.

It doesn’t matter that you both like Star Wars movies or the Miami Dolphins or something and hence have shared interests and can talk about that. Men and women spending alone time together is either a date or an incipient date, and dates are different from friends getting together to see a movie or watch the Big Game. Once one friend entertains the idea of physical intimacy with the other, it’s not a guy-guy/girl-girl type of friendship any more. So no, men and women can’t be friends. Not anywhere near the same way men and men or women and women can be friends. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just how the sexes naturally complement each other.

Even if you don’t agree, Mike Pence does. Are you really going to argue with the Vice President of the United States of America? Of course not.