A recent study published in the journal Men and Masculinities found that young heterosexual men consider their same-sex “bromances” with other dudes more emotionally satisfying than their romantic relationships with women.
Researchers from the University of Winchester in England interviewed 30 undergraduate men to examine the differences between their same-sex friendships and different-sex romantic relationships.
All of the men were cisgender sophomores with sports-related majors. All of them had either previously been in a heterosexual romantic relationship or were currently in one. Only one of them wasn’t white.
In their abstract, researchers wrote:
We find that the increasingly intimate, emotive, and trusting nature of bromances offers young men a new social space for emotional disclosure, outside of traditional heterosexual relationships. Participants state that the lack of boundaries and judgment in a bromance is expressed as emotionally rivaling the benefits of a heterosexual romance.
The “bromances” gave the men “elevated emotional stability, enhanced emotional disclosure, social fulfillment, and better conflict resolution” compared to their relationships with girlfriends.
All of the guys had at least one strong “bromantic” friend that allowed them a “no-boundaries” freedom for sharing secrets, expressing love or even sleeping in the same bed without shame. All but one man admitted to cuddling with close male friends; all but two said that they’d rather discuss emotional issues with their best male friends than with their female partners. Among the reasons why was a compulsive need to appear “manly” in front of their female partners.
It makes sense. After all, heterosexual male friendships are (ostensibly) formed around shared common interests and personalities rather than sexual attraction. Straight male friends are less threatening than hetero female partners because they risk no loss of romantic affection, complication of long-term mating plans or disruption of home lives together.
While increased same-sex affection sounds healthy for straight men, researchers found that bromances sometimes reinforce sexist or misogynist attitudes of the “bros before ‘hos” variety. They could also compel fewer men to marry and father children.
According to Time magazine, physically and emotionally intimate male friendships were more common before World War II, but such companionship “became more taboo in the second half of the 20th century due to a rise in homophobic sentiments and changing ideals of what masculinity should look like.”
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