The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
How we cite our quotes:
"Surely, Madam, a friendship between the two sexes may subsist, and be supported without---Fy! Mr. Shandy:--Without any thing, Madam, but that tender and delicious sentiment which ever mixes in friendship, where there is a difference of sex" (1.18.12)
Sure, men and women can be friends—they can share a "tender and delicious sentiment" that seems even more attractive than sex, at least as it's represented in the novel. Notice that it's the woman, Tristram's imaginary companion, who expects him to say something dirty.
How do the slight touches of the chisel, the pencil, the pen, the fiddle-stick, et cetera,—give the true swell, which gives the true pleasure! (2.6.7)
It's hard to keep our minds out of the gutter when Tristram is writing lines that combine "slight touch" with "swell" and "pleasure." Tristram links writing (or any kind of art) to sex and says that both acts give the same kind of pleasure. Um, okay, Tristram.
"My total ignorance of the sex … has given me just cause to say, That I neither know, nor do pretend to know, anything about 'em, or their concerns either" (2.7.3)
Toby's lack of interest in sex means that he has no interest in women, either. Women seem to be important only for sex in Tristram Shandy. They're rarely mentioned in any other context except when they're giving birth, sneaking around, or, in Mrs. Shandy's case, sitting at home knitting a pair of breeches, which, let's face it, are kind of a sexy piece of clothing.