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The New Bromanticism: Male Friendship Gets a Makeover

Just over half of British and American men are currently in or have had a ‘bromance’ in the past according to a survey, not by Dr Kinsey, but by Badoo (‘the world’s largest social network for meeting new people’).

The Badoo press release – issued on Valentine’s Day last week – claims that the survey of 2000 men ‘reveals the extent to which British men have embraced the “bromance” phenomenon’. We’ll get to that bit later.

What’s immediately and gratifyingly clear is that the Badoo survey doesn’t insist, as many would and have done, very loudly, that a bromance is a close friendship between two STRAIGHT men – no gayers or gayness allowed, thank you very much.

Instead, Badoo defines bromance as ‘a close platonic relationship with someone of the same sex’. And we all know about that Plato guy and those Greeks….

Badoo’s British respondents listed these famous male friendships in their ‘top ten’:

  1. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson
  2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  3. Ant and Dec
  4. Buzz and Woody (Toy Story)
  5. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley
  6. George Clooney and Brad Pitt (Ocean’s Eleven)
  7. Gavin and Smithy (Gavin and Stacey)
  8. Joey and Chandler (Friends)
  9. Frodo and Sam (Lord of the Rings)
  10. Simon and Will (The Inbetweeners)

Some of these male friendships are more platonic than others. You don’t have to be a slash fiction writer to see something slightly erotic in, for example, Frodo and Sam’s smouldering on-screen relationship – or Newman and Redford’s. I have to say I was pleased but a little surprised that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid made it into second place (that movie was released 43 years ago) – I suppose there must have been a lot of respondents as middle-aged as me.

It’s a crying shame that Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin didn’t make the list – but then the era that they reigned supreme as the world’s favourite ‘platonic’ male lovers was well over half a century ago. And they were probably too explicit for today’s tastes.

It’s also a shame also that the great, passionate early twentieth century psychology male double act of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung was ignored. But I suppose that the recently-released A Dangerous Method didn’t pull in quite as many punters as Sherlock Holmes 2. And besides, it has an unhappy ending: Freud and Jung have a very messy divorce.

But Freud and Jung personify in an oddly neurotic fashion the way no ‘bromance’ is ever quite ‘pure’ of libidinal impulses: Freud famously fainted more than once in the presence of his anointed successor the young Jung, blaming it on some ‘unresolved homosexual attachment’ – the cigar aficionado considered homoerotic attraction the basis of all male bonding. And although the split occurred because Jung rejected Freud’s all-embracing libido-theory, emphasising instead ‘spirituality’, it was Jung who had the major nervous breakdown after they parted.

It was the non-Freudian Michel Foucault who, as I recall, attributed the emergence of ‘the homosexual’ to the decline in the institution of male friendship. Foucault was immensely interested in friendship:

‘As far back as I remember, to want guys was to want relations with guys. That has always been important for me. Not necessarily in the form of a couple but as a matter of existence: how is it possible for men to be together? To live together, to share their time, their meals, their room, their leisure, their grief, their knowledge, their confidences? What is it to be “naked” among men, outside of institutional relations, family, profession, and obligatory camaraderie?’

(Michel Foucault, ‘Friendship as a Way of Life’)

For Foucault, experimental friendship and ‘new relations’ was what male homosexuality was for. Or at least the bit of it that he was interested in that wasn’t about leather and whips.

The arrival of companionate marriage in the early twentieth century left increasingly little room for close male friendships – friendships which, along with greater physical affection such as kissing and holding hands, occasional passionate declarations of love, and also the custom of chums sharing bed (see Abe Lincoln), had meant that the difference between a sexual relationship and a non-sexual one was largely invisible to the world. Close male friendships cover the pre-gay past with a blanket of discretion.

Perhaps the popularity of ‘bromance’ even just as a buzzword represents a resurgence of interest in close male friendship, as the medical, legal and social force of ‘the homosexual’ and for that matter ‘the heterosexual’ declines. A quarter of the Badoo respondents admit to having ‘the most fun they have with anyone’ with their bromance partner, and ‘just like Holmes and Watson’ over one in ten are ‘often mistaken to be more than friends’, while 10% of them claim to get stick from their partner for it.

Marriage is also now in steep decline, of course. Fewer and fewer people are getting hitched and if and when they do it’s usually much later than their parents or grandparents. (According to Badoo, 28% of single British men are currently in a bromance, with this figure dropping to 10% for marrieds and 15% for co-habiters.)

Before the Second World War, when working class men tended to get married in their late twenties and early thirties, the now-defunct institution of ‘trade’ gloriously filled the gap between adolescence and domesticity. And despite the name, the traffic between ‘normal’ working class lads and queer gentlemen was not always commercial or hedonistic – surprisingly often it developed into a long term and emotionally close friendship.

After being initially rather sceptical, I’ve begun to re-evaluate my attitude towards ‘bromance’. Over time it seems that the ‘romance’ part of ‘bromance’ is becoming less irritatingly ironic – and the ‘bro’ part less annoyingly fratty. And also less insistently hetty. In this Badoo survey at least, ‘bromance’ cuts right across ‘sexuality’.

Like that other annoying word ‘metrosexual’, ‘bromance’ seems to be potentially acting as a solvent of gay/straight boundaries, giving men whatever their sexuality permission to express stuff that they otherwise might not. Facilitating and encouraging close, emotional friendships between two straight men. Or between gay and straight men. Or straight and bi men. Or maybe even between – one day, in the far distant Utopian future – gay men.

The recently launched ‘Bromance’ app, a location-based network ‘that helps you organize activities with friends and nearby people with shared interests’ was mocked by many (including me until I found out more about it). The people behind the app, like Badoo, don’t insist on the heterosexuality of their ‘bros’ – and go one step further in suggesting that ‘bros’ don’t have to be male, either.

Many commenters on gay blogs seemed to think the Bromance app would be only used by ‘closeted gay men’ seeking sex on the ‘downlow’ – while the Brobible agreed, ‘aggressively opposing’ this ‘men seeking men’ app for polluting the heterosexual purity of their bro-ness.

I’ve no idea whether it will be popular or not, but the gayist and bro-ist scorn which greeted the Bromance app seems to be precisely down to the way it might facilitate new kinds of platonic friendships. And new kinds of sexual relationships. Under a blanket of smart-phone discretion. And we won’t know which is which.

Despite all the name-calling, it’s precisely the inability to define what’s going on or the people taking part that is the ‘problem’. I suspect Foucault would have been one of the first to download the Bromance app, in his fervid search for ‘experimental friendships’. I get the feeling Michel was quite a lonely guy. (Or ‘FUCKING LOSER’ as the Brobible would put it.)

The new technology of information and communication and the new social networks it has spawned seem to be enabling new kinds of relations and experimentation away from judging eyes – and exploiting it, of course. At the same time as perhaps making us all lonelier.

A Badoo spokesperson explained why they commissioned their survey:

‘Everyone always talks about relationships and dating – but actually a bromance buddy is also really important to men. For the 44% of British men that have never had a bromance – offers them the chance to meet someone that’s like minded – whether that’s for bromance or romance.’

It’s not clear where Badoo found their respondents from, and I’m not sure their findings are terribly scientific. I’m not even sure what Badoo is, to be honest. But something is definitely afoot with male friendship.

Another survey published this week should certainly be taken very seriously indeed for what it says about the yearning of British men for close, intimate friendship. According to Travelodge, half of the men they asked admitted they still have a teddy bear from their childhood. A quarter admitted to sleeping with their teddy bear when ‘on business trips’. While 15% confessed they ‘treat their teddy as their best friend’ and ‘share their intimate secrets with their bear’.

Does bearmance stand in for bromance with British men? Or t’other way round?

 Tip: Lee Kynaston & Topak

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26 thoughts on “The New Bromanticism: Male Friendship Gets a Makeover”

  1. Jason: I have to say that it all sounds absolutely delightful. Especially the painful stuff.

    But that’s why I should never work as an agony aunt.

    You said your friendship is ‘completely unromantic’. But it sounds MUCH more romantic than most ‘proper’ hetero or homo relationships. In the true, courtly sense of the word. Your love for one another is unconsummated and unconsummable and so continues at a feverish pitch that will last forever! (Or for a while longer than most sexual relationships.)

    Whether or not your ‘bromance’ is ‘a good thing’ or ‘good for you’ I don’t know. But I do think you’re surfing the wave of the future here. I think more and more gay and straight men are going to have passionate, puzzling, palpitating friendships like yours.

  2. I’m deep into a gay/straight bromance – yes they exist. It’s beginning to feel like a sexless marriage, and I’m not entirely sure that it’s healthy for either of us.

    I met him at a mutual friend’s party, a couple of years ago. I was instantly attracted. I barely spoke with him during the course of the party, precisely because I was so attracted to him.

    At the end of the evening, we found ourselves in a corner of the dining room, making snarky comments about some of the other guests. We basically bonded over our bitchiness. I immediately felt like I’d known him years – it’s a cliche, but the truth.

    He then suggested we go to a club; it was like two in the morning. At this point, I thought he was gay, or at least identified as being “non-straight” in some fashion.

    When we entered the basement of the club, to check-in our coats, I instinctively held out my left arm due to it being so poorly-lit. He grabbed my left hand to guide me to the cloakroom and kept hold of my hand for the rest of the night.

    I should add that the club was a typical no-frills straight establishment, in North-West England; full of fake tans, counterfeit designer clothes and the constant hum of potential violence.

    I’d had exes whom refused to hold my hand in public, for fear of reprisals from the general heteronormative public; so this was refreshing.

    After an hour or so, I asked him if he was gay. His drunken answer set the tone for our resulting bromance: “Nah, not really. I’ve got a girlfriend.” This response was unexpected, and thus utterly confusing. He didn’t even flinch when I asked the question, as if it were a totally pointless query.

    The morning after, I resigned myself to losing someone I’d never had, but added photos from the night to Facebook. Incidentally, I don’t think the influence of social networking should be disregarded, when considering the whole bromance phenomenon. The internet doesn’t necessarily make things easier, but it sure as Hell makes things quicker.

    I “friended” him on Facebook, to tag him in the photos I’d uploaded, and he “friended” me back immediately.

    I didn’t have any intention of chasing him via the internet. He’d told me he had a girlfriend (at the time), and had shown no interest in me sexually. So, that was that.

    Except it wasn’t.

    Later that day, while doing laundry in my hungover state, I found his glasses in my coat pocket. I messaged my new acquaintance via Facebook, to tell him, and arranged for our mutual friend to deliver them to him. This was the beginning of our near-constant communication.

    Now, I don’t know how this happened, but over the next few months we started to chat online regularly.

    We each “Liked” one another’s posts on Facebook; the sillier, the better. We have far more in common than we don’t. We have the same hatred of sports; the same musical tastes; the same sense of humour; the same liberal politics. I just have no desire to sleep with women, and he’s shown no interest in sleeping with men.

    Over the last two years, it’s been a roller-coaster of emotions. I’ve been heartbroken by his relationships with a dizzying amount of women. It’s not the sex he has with women which upsets me, just that he’d choose another’s company over mine.

    Yes, I’m in love with him. And he knows this. I made my feelings clear to him, over a year ago. I’m unsure why in retrospect; I never imagined he’d reciprocate. I think I may have been subconsciously testing his friendship, trying to force some kind of conclusion, or even punishing myself masochistically – I really don’t know.

    But although our relationship is completely unromantic, it’s not entirely without mutual love. He’s usually the first person I speak with each day, and the last person at night. He regularly messages me via text or whatever, telling me he “loves” me. Each message is postmarked with an “X” or three. Since we first met, nearly two years ago, there’s only been four days that we haven’t contacted each other.

    I honestly believe that he loves me back in his own way, and that’s been enough. I know that my infatuation with him is stopping me from developing a possible relationship with a gay-identifying man whom may actually have sex with me, but sex isn’t everything. Masturbation and the odd one-night stand fills that void.

    His straight friends have made the odd derogatory remark about our relationship, but it’s always concealed within a passive-aggresive joke. Again, he never flinches. It’s me whom feels uncomfortable for him.

    His family accept our friendship, to the point that I was invited to Christmas dinner as his plus-one.

    I feel totally guilty writing all this down, although I doubt he’ll ever see this. The last thing I’d ever want to do is hurt his feelings.

    But I really am in limbo, and it’s making me miserable. I feel like I’m almost enslaved to him. I definitely need him, more than he needs me – although he regularly protests otherwise.

    The only real platonic friendships I’ve had, have been with biological family members, or with women. This bromance is something else completely different. Even in the absence of romance, it’s the most loved I’ve ever felt.

  3. Love the Rad Bromance video . . . the rest of the discussion is just way over my head. I often think I am living the last taboo, which is to not have any need for love or sex at all. Call me a rebel, but why complicate your life with such taxing diversions? There is plenty of other stuff to keep you entertained and productive.

  4. Mark Walsh wrote: “Strangely enough, you pro­vided an argu­ment against your own posi­tion that it was not a mimic in your exam­ple of the cou­ple who tried some free­wheel­ing and dis­cov­ered that they could get good sex from a num­ber of peo­ple and that what they believed (falsely ) about their rela­tion­ship was not so spe­cial after all…”

    No, one of them, at best, felt they had found something meaningful in that darkroom. The other man was left traumatically disappointed by the experience. The moral of the story is that revolutions start to eat their own followers the minute they become fixed doctrine. You cannot mechanise liberation, sexual or otherwise. You cannot impose it on an other person as an external rule of conduct without risking hurting them.

    What Ian Young is trying to show in his book is that Gay Liberation instituted compulsory promiscuity as a requirement for gay empowerment. In so doing it not only paved the way for the AIDS epidemic but laid the groundwork for the cynical homophobia of postmodern queer theory, which is now inciting young gay men to denounce love, companionship, pretty much everything that makes our struggle humanly meaningful, as some kind of reactionary mimicry of heterosexuality.

    I’m not into assimilation. I don’t care about gay marriage. What I would like to see happening instead is gay men treating sex as a relationship and not isolating it from the realm of relationships into an objectified hedonistic pastime. This, I feel, is the tragedy of gay culture, the thing that gay culture got phenomenally wrong, that it treated sex as a non-relationship and an objectified mechanism of liberation.

  5. Great discussion, all.

    As my net-handle suggests, I’m married. So let me lead a rousing three cheers for total sell-out bourgeois assimilationism.

    Sex? That’s a big part of our relationship, but not the only part. It’s entirely possible to be “married” in whatever sense of the word you define it, and have the sex you choose.

    Like most couples, gay or straight, we actually choose to have sex with each other. A lot. We prefer it.

    (I’d question your assertion, Mark W., that heterosexual men find sex with their wives a chore after the first year. Sex, after all, is sex. An average married man, perhaps would like to have more sex with his wife after year one, not less. But as with all things, your mileage may vary.)

    Unlike the classic straight married couple, we don’t necessarily regard sex with others as—and I use this word unhappily, because I can’t think of a better one—infidelity.

    Many observers point out, both here and elsewhere, that the perfect monogamous heterosexual relationship is a myth. I suspect that gay men, when we partner each other, acknowledge our sexual natures. Or, at least, we don’t have to maintain any polite romantic or social fictions.

    “Sorry I’m late. I stopped off at the park for a blow-job on the way home from work.” “That’s nice, dear. Did you pick up the dry-cleaning?”

    It’s no biggie.

    Foucault’s point about the monogamous nuclear family as an instrument of sexual and economic coercion, which Mark W. expresses as “arrang­ing the work day so that a work­ing man would spend no more time than necessary to have enough sex to reproduce,” is a biggie, though.

    If I always prioritised sex over work, I should scarcely get through this month’s status reports in my refractory period, let alone answer email. I don’t let a raunchy online cam session make me miss the train. So yes, sometimes I prioritise work over sex. Call me a sellout if you must.

    You know what? I like it.

    Sex is a cornerstone of my reason to live—as probably, for every other animal. My sexual satisfaction, and where I choose to find it, affects every other aspect of my life. (Including the country I live in, by the way)

    But other aspects of life are important, too. Like most people of my age and means in the first-world, I balance stuff. Yes, I sacrifice freedom for stability, adventure for tranquility, animal pleasures for spiritual rewards, sometimes.

    The bourgeois comforts of a stable relationship and middle class home are incredibly satisfying. The comforts of sex with someone you know and love are satisfying, too. They aren’t the ONLY satisfactions in life, but I won’t eschew them.

    A marriage like mine meets many of my emotional needs. Can it meet all my emotional needs? Of course not. That’s why men, straight and gay alike, need bromance. No single partnership, however fulfilling, is the beginning and end of our emotional engagement with other human beings.

    As I hinted in my last comment, nobody gives it a second thought when straight women seek emotional succour through friendships with other women. But when men do it, it gets named, written about and apped up. Maybe women are allowed to have emotional needs, and men aren’t. Egregious sexism, if you ask me.

    One of the interesting features of my marriage is the relative ease with which we hammered out the sexual terms—scarcely a discussion. But we really had to work hard to decide what was reasonable to meet our emotional needs outside marriage—time alone and time together, what friends we shared, who were “his” friends and who were “my” friends, and if, indeed, that were a reasonable distinction to make.

    I’m intimate with some of my male friends in a non-sexual way. And not terribly intimate with some sex partners I chose to enjoy. I’ve sacked some bromantic buddies because they betrayed our intimacy. Unlocking sex and intimacy yields more diverse ways to look at humanity.

    Gone on for too long, already. But one more point—the idea that all gay male sex is inherently sadistic intrigues me. I only know of Foucault from secondary sources, but this thought will send me to the wellspring. I should read him anyway, just to keep up my creds as a gay male pseud.

  6. Jon, I don’t believe you read anything at all into my speculations about gay relationships being little more than an attempt to mimic the same sort of parental heterosexual relationship that they grew up with. Just in the way that any discerning person looks for the marks of other parental behaviors in the offspring, we would expect, given successful parental pairing, that “marriage’ to be repeated.. While that paradigm is certainly a clear aspect of assimilation behavior, it is more than just an attempt to be politically correct. In the case especially of persons with limited sexual adventuring, the subconscious belief that something “special’ and natural is happening with monogamy occurs as a subconscious need to mimic is being fulfilled. It occurs as well with people who have had unsuccessful experiences.
    Strangely enough, you provided an argument against your own position that it was not a mimic in your example of the couple who tried some freewheeling and discovered that they could get good sex from a number of people and that what they believed (falsely ) about their relationship was not so special after all, A big part of the Heterosexual myth is that two married people were especially sexually suited for one another. Talk honestly to any straight man who has been married a while and he will invariably admit that having continued sex past a year or so is a duty not so willingly fulfilled.. Women are generally not able to climax in a near majority of marriages. But the duty to bear children and the pretense of sexual& romantic joy persists.

    The rejection of monogamy is by no means a function of politics. I can very confidently assert that prior to AIDS, most urban people got their sexual pleasure from anonymous and frequent and adventuresome sex with a number of people. Couples were the exception, and thought of as being quaint. Now Most relationships that work for very long seem to be those which are open and in which a couple stay together out of friendship or convenience and often sexually experiment casually with a variety of people who advertise on the web.

    This is is not so disappointing really, as recent studies indicate that mankind is not monogamous naturally(” The Dawn Of Sex”). Society, as Foucault suggests, constructs certain roles for people depending on interactions of power and control. People fall into expected roles.

  7. I wonder if I’m reading too much into Mark Walsh’s words below but I do feel there is that old gay cynicism about homosexuality raising its head. I take particular issue with the notion that a monogamous union between two men is an imitation of heterosexuality, and the idea that this kind of arrangement presents emotional limitations to the partners’ relationships with other men. Again, I wonder if I’m just reading this into your words, Mark (Walsh), and please feel free to correct me if that is the case.

    While I understand and identify with the critique of assimilation, I feel that in their effort to de-institutionalise homosexuality (distance it from perceived heterosexual cultural norms) gay men actually end up de-humanising themselves. I am particularly concerned about the ideological rejection of monogamy among some queer sex radicals. Why set up an arbitrary prohibition on this kind of sexual arrangement? What is so threatening about two men who are fully content in their relationship that it must be derided as some kind of mock-heterosexuality?

    The queer prohibition on monogamy always reminds me of a passage in Ian Young’s book The Stonewall Experiment, about a male couple in which the other partner gets it into his head that to be properly liberated they must go out and revel in random sexual encounters with other men. His partner doesn’t see how this would be an improvement to what already exists between them but decides to go along with it to please his love. The narrative then cuts to them two shagging some men in a darkroom. As the less enthusiastic of them noisily reaches orgasm and watches his partner do the same, he feels as though he were crying out not so much from pleasure as from a feeling of loss. The sacrament of sex that had previously been so satisfying had become violated and diluted into a meaningless exercise in masturbation.

    Young analyses the hyper-sexualisation and commodification of homosexuality in gay culture as the driving force behind the AIDS epidemic but also cites it as a source of emotional turmoil and alienation in urban gay life. Discussing Kramer’s famous novel, Faggots, he actually describes the culture of leather men as a “bleak brotherhood of fucking” based on a dysfunctional concept of sexual liberation.

  8. This is such an interesting and well written piece, Mark, that it easily has the makings of a book, if you feel enthusiastic. Because there is so much content and there are so many starting points for any comment to address, I’ll just start out by saying that I think your mention of Foucault’s touch points are fine precursers to the things you talk about and of the questions you ask..

    Since people with a variety of beliefs not always compatable with your have responded as well, so I’m going to just throw out
    In that regard, I think that Foucault’s sadomasochism sets a paradigm for gay sexual relations. Perhaps in all sexual relations- I’m a little removed from those of lesbians so I can only guess there.
    While that exacting format does not have to be present, where there is clear violence. some sort of distancing mechanism does, the most common and popular is anonymity which was more or less the rule until the onset of HIV infections and even moreso the clamore for assimilation: that gay relations should be like those that society has demanded of men and women; suggesting that humans are monogamous. I don’t think that this is any more in the nature of men and me than it is of men and women. As Foucault suggests in Sexual History, It became popular with the onset of arranging the work day so that a working man would spend no more time than necessary to have enough sex to reproduce.

    So I think that in reality gay men have just recently been trying to mimic straight men and women who were restricted to sex monogamously. Because of this distancing phenomenon, gay men tend to do very poorly, as you suggest in the bromance/friendship department. Because they want to stay at a distance. from potential sexual partners. Consequently one finds a lot of pretense in marriages in which sex and friendship are supposedly combined. Unless the people lead very separate lives there cannot be sex The same is true of M/F marriages. Sometimes there can be sexual content to relationships if the two people are distanced psychologically.

    Bromance occurres only with males where the sexual aspect is ruled out. Sex always involves using the other person. something which cannot occur with friendship. Since the onset of capitalistic competition,the Freudian Oedidal conflict can be set up. It can also be so if men are competing for the same women. When men are not in conflict for the same things and not afraid of being used sexually by their friend..

    I have always found that my best friends have been straight men unless there is some intellectual or emotional sameness which is stronger,. Women often percieve me as a sexual partner or else danger.

    Of course none of these generalizations are without rough edges. And I still wish that there were easier ways to make gay friends.

  9. HH: He could be. But I think the bro-ism can sometimes be a bit brobotic all by itself.

    ML: That’s very kind of you to say so, especially now that I’m increasingly soft and hard in all the *wrong* places.

  10. HH: I’m all up for doing stuff, especially since as the years draw on it won’t be too long before I can’t do much of anything. Except maybe bowls. But the internet does have a habit of encouraging us to make friends with people who live hundreds or thousands of miles away. Perhaps we should play some online multiverse type computer game together, wearing matching headsets. In different countries.

    ‘Bromance’ like late 20th Century Hollywood movie buddy love may be something else that capitalism is selling back to us, having alienated us from it in the first place.

    But ‘Stepford Bros’ would be a great movie title.

  11. The idea of Bromance might actually be healthy for us poor, inarticulate, socially-isolated males.

    For whatever reason—social, cultural, biological, or just-damn-happened—women seem to drop into an easy intimacy with each other that men have long found hard to match. Maybe it’s our putative lack of verbal skills, or the spectre of being thought a gay sexual predator if one comes on too strong. Whatever.

    The problem is, men have paid a price. In laughs unlaughed, in ideas unshared, in horizons that remain narrow, in boredom, in loneliness. Does it affect our health? I have no doubt.

    Now, if we need an app to engineer what women do with a few words over a cup of tea—or beer and bowling did for our dads—then bring it on. If it works, it works.

    I find the Bromance slogan about “dudes who do” very telling. The assumption that men are not verbal is just as misleading as saying that girls aren’t good at maths. But let’s leave that aside for the moment.

    Maybe, just maybe, there’s an abiding difference in the way we like to conduct our friendships. In my experience, that’s in the proportion of talk to action.

    My best bromances (and romances, for that matter) involved two guys sharing more than just an intimate honesty, sexual or otherwise. We DO stuff.

    One of the problems, as you point out on your article from July 2006, is that such e-help for human relationships removes all the serendipity, surprise and the journey of emotional discovery, that leads to love. (platonic and otherwise)

    If you accept nothing but the perfect bro, you could end up with a bunch of Stepford Pals.

  12. Mary Lynn: That sketch with Dean Martin and his post-Jerry buddy Frank Sinatra on a computer date in tuxedos – just like Pitt and Clooney – is too perfect. It’s the Bromance app before bromance or apps were invented!

    DM: “They’re awfully blue, aren’t they?”

  13. Great piece Mark, and funny.

    An intriguing development to be sure.

    “And we won’t know which is which.” Somehow I do like the sound of that…

  14. There is a playful anarchy to young men and their relationships with one another that defies the heteronormative script of masculine camaraderie. Young men can develop deep emotional attachments that go far beyond anything they will ever experience with a woman, or finger each other for laughs after a few beers if the whim takes them.

    The ambiguous homosocial life of young men must be deeply upsetting for the gender puritans of the older generations, much more so than politicized homosexuality. It is free-floating, it cannot be located (unlike gay culture, which signals itself with neon lights) and cannot be contained by any means whatsoever.

  15. Elise: ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’ is a fine movie. But perhaps not an inspirational one in terms of what it says about friendship. That said, I know plenty of gay men who have taken it as a manual on how to conduct one….

    Perhaps the fact that female friendships are not being talked about as much or given media-friendly buzzwords to describe them isn’t all bad. Away from the spotlight and perpetually on the ‘downlow’ (‘Sex and the City’ re-runs excepted), maybe female friendships really are experimental in the way that Foucault wanted male friendships to be. (Though like me, Foucault wasn’t very interested in female friendships, so this is probably just self-serving twaddle.)

    GG: Given that a quarter of adult British men are taking a bear on business trips – and sleeping with him – I certainly wont knock it. But I’d take a clipper to my bear.

    Lainey: Ta for the tip. There certainly seems to be a lot of passion between Tom Hardy and Chris Pine, though I’m not sure what Reese Witherspoon has to do with it. Either way, Pine’s hair should get it’s own credit.

  16. With all this talk of bromance in the culture, I think passionate friendships between women are becoming society’s new best-kept secret. As teenagers my best friend and I were mistaken as more than friends (by her jealous boyfriend), though that’s partly because I sometimes identified as lesbian, but when we looked for reflections of our friendship in pop culture, we only had ‘Wayne’s World’ and ‘Bill and Ted.’ For two-gal movies there was only ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’! The male homosocial paradigm is a really old one (goes back to the Greeks, you could say) and one of the foundations of pop culture (the reason teenage girls responded to The Beatles, and Martin and Lewis before them), so it’s unlikely this will ever change. At least until women get involved in making pop culture on a large scale.

  17. Why would it be Utopian for gay men? All non-monogamous LTRs between gay men could be defined as the original bromances. I’ve been together with my same sex partner for 20+ years in exactly such a relationship from day 1.

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