If Guy Best Friends Acted Like Girl Best Friends

This video is so funny, but also, in my opinion, kind of sad. 

As a female, I feel completely comfortable in close friendships with my best girl friends. We can hug, hold hands in public, take pictures together, sleep in the same bed during sleepovers, help each other get dressed…etc. And society sees nothing wrong with that. 

But, guys are constantly judged and have their sexuality questioned when they dare do anything that society deems “not the norm.” 

Who said hugging or holding hands was “feminine” or “homoerotic?” (Also, why do some people still consider calling someone “gay” or “a girl” an insult?! But, that is a topic for another day…)

Why do guys have to be all bros and pats on the back and fist bumps?

It wasn’t always like this, though. Males use to have close friendships too.

Here’s a brief history of male friendships: 

The Heroic Friendship

In ancient times, men viewed man friendships as the most fulfilling relationship a person could have. Friendships were seen as more noble than marital love with a woman because women were seen as inferior. Aristotle and other philosophers extolled the virtues of platonic relationships- a relationship of emotional connection without sexual intimacy. Platonic relationships, according to Aristotle, were the ideal.

During this period of time, the idea of the heroic friendship developed. The heroic friendship was a friendship between two men that was intense on an emotional and intellectual level. Examples of heroic friendships exist in many ancient texts from the Bible (David and Jonathan) to ancient Greek writings. A man friendship that captures the essence of the heroic friendship is the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus.

Achilles and Patroclus fought together during the Trojan War and had a close relationship. A really close relationship. When Hector killed Patroclus, Achilles was beside himself for days. He smeared his body in ash and fasted in lamentation. After the funeral, Achilles, filled with a mighty rage, took to the battlefield to avenge the death of his best friend.

The image of Achilles and Patroclus was an important one in the ancient world. When Alexander the Great and his war pal, Hephaestion, passed through Troy, they stopped, with the whole army in tow, in front of the tomb of Achilles and Patroclus, thus demonstrating the veneration they had for these men and their friendship.

Male Friendships in 19th Century America

Man friendships during the 19th century were marked by an intense bond and filled with deeply held feeling and sentimentality. Man friendships in many instances had a similar intensity as romantic relationships between men and women. Essentially, it was a continuation of the heroic friendship of the ancient world, coupled with the emphasis on emotion common to the Romantic Age. A fervent bond did not necessarily imply a sexual relationship; the idea that these ardent friendships in some way compromised a man’s heterosexuality is largely a modern conception.

Men during this time freely used endearing language with each other in daily interaction and letters. For example, Daniel Webster, an American senator and one of this country’s greatest orators, often began his letters to male friends with “My lovely boy,” and ended them with “Very affectionately yours.” Even letters by manly man Theodore Roosevelt to his friends were filled with sentimental language that would make most men today rather uncomfortable.

In addition to using affectionate language with each other, men during the 19th century weren’t afraid to be physically affectionate. Many men would give no thought to draping their arms around their bud or even holding hands. And while it is quite foreign to our modern sensibilities, it was even common during this era for men to share a bed to save money. For example, The Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, shared a bed with a fellow named Joshua Speed for a number of years. Some scholars have concluded that this means Lincoln was gay. That’s where we get the term “Log Cabin Republican.” However most scholars conclude that there was no nookie going on between Abe and Joshua; they simply enjoyed a close and comfortable man friendship.

Take a look at photos of man friends from the late 19th and early 20th Century. These guys were pretty touchy with each other. Some men see these photographs and wrongly conclude that these men were expressing their closeted gay tendencies for the camera. But this is not so. Actually, when you start sifting through old photos, you find that the kinds of close poses were not aberrations, but were actually quite commonplace. The photos open up a window into a picture of manliness quiet foreign to us now.

There are several reasons why men were so damn affectionate with each other back in the day. First, men were free to have affectionate man relationships with each other without fear of being called a “queer” because the concept of homosexuality as we know it today didn’t exist then. America didn’t have the strict straight/gay dichotomy that currently exists. Affectionate feelings weren’t strictly labeled as sexual or platonic. There wasn’t even a name for homosexual sex; instead, it was referred to as “the crime that cannot be spoken.” It wasn’t until the turn of the 19th century that psychologists started analyzing homosexuality. When that happened, men in America started to become much more self-conscious about their relationships with their buds and traded the close embraces for a stiff pat on the back. The man hug was born.

Another reason for the nineteenth century’s intense man friendships was that the social structure of society during this time helped foster such intense bonds. Men and women basically lived in separate homosocial worlds until they got married. There wasn’t much interaction between the sexes at that time. (Interestingly, this is why amusement parks like those on Coney Island enjoyed such popularity in the early 1900′s; it was one of the few places men and women could mingle freely and even “accidentally” fall into each other’s arms on rides.). This separation led many young men to fulfill their needs for physical affection and emotional companionship with other dudes.

Additionally, fraternal organizations, ranging from the Freemasons to the Odd Fellows, were at their peak in membership in American history. Nearly 1/3 of all American men were members of some fraternal organization at the end of the 19th century. At their lodges, men would bond, connect, and help each other become better men.

Male Friendships in 20th Century America

The man friendship underwent some serious transformations during the 20th century. Men went from lavishing endearing words on each other and holding hands to avoiding too much emotional bonding or any sort of physical affections whatsoever. Fear of being called gay drove much of the transformation. Ministers and politicians decried homosexuality as being incompatible with true manhood. And like most deviant behavior in the 1950s, homosexuality was associated with Communism.

Additionally, market economics began to influence male friendships. The Industrial Revolution and ideas like Social Darwinism changed the way men viewed each other. Instead of being a potential friend, the man next to you was competition. The world was an urban jungle and the man who looked out for himself was the man who was going to eat. It’s hard to develop the cutthroat instinct needed to destroy the competition when the competition happens to be your bosom buddy.

Increased mobility during the 20th century also contributed the decline in man friendships. When you have to follow your work, it’s hard to set down roots and make true friends. And with the increased leisure time that came with industrialization, men began to play more sports and take part in outdoor activities. They naturally geared their relationships with other men around these sorts of pursuits. Suburbia created other places where men could establish man friendships- the golf course, the front yard, and work. Instead of basing friendships on an emotional bond, men in the 20th century based their friendship around activities.

The one area in modern man friendships where we still see strong emotional bonds is in the military. One of the reoccurring themes I read in stories about a man’s military life are the friendships that they established while in the service. Working in largely all-male teams in life and death situations creates intense bonds and a true brotherhood. Soldiers will never leave a man behind and are willing to die to protect their comrades. Interestingly, it would seem that the overt machismo of the military allows these strong bonds to exist without the fear of homophobia getting in the way.

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It’s a shame our culture prevents males from having close bonds with other males on emotional, physical, and intellectual levels. 

I challenge all you guys out there to stop caring what society thinks and get your bromance on!