The New Bromanticism

bromance The New Bromanticism

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 a 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, occas­sional 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 – Badoo.com 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

26 thoughts on “The New Bromanticism

  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 cliché, 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.

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