Romance is dead, as they say. Bromance, however, is thriving. New research published in Men and Masculinities has found men benefit more emotionally from male friendship than they do from heterosexual relationships. Researchers predict this trend will endure and reduce the likelihood of men and women pairing up at all in the future.
Dr. Kat Van Kirk, sex and relationships expert at Adam & Eve, agrees that the closeness of male friends can have an impact on how men and women interact. “I believe there has and will be a shift in the ways men and women in relationships will relate as a result of bromances,” she tells Playboy. “But it could actually play a larger, more positive role in communicating with a female partner.”
Essentially, the research indicates that the modern straight man has evolved. Instead of avoiding emotions at all costs, he chooses to embrace them and kick machismo to the curb. As men have gradually decided to embrace their emotional side, they’ve found sharing things with male friends is more beneficial than with a partner, as subjects said they were judged less and won’t be nagged. These men claim they feel they’re better able to express themselves with other men and note women often retort with “sexist” and “disdainful” language. This social evolution of the male psyche is a big deal. It offers a new social space for emotional disclosure, outside of traditional heterosexual relationships.
The study surveyed 30 male heterosexual college students in a sports-related major and found that every man had at least one bromantic pal with whom they’ve engaged in “no boundaries behavior.” These include sharing secrets, expressing love and sleeping in the same bed. “There was a conclusive determination from the men we interviewed,” researchers wrote. “On balance, they argued that bromantic relationships were more satisfying in their emotional intimacy, compared to their heterosexual romances.” In the words of one participant, “Tim knows I love listening to Taylor Swift and Beyonce, but I keep that quiet [around my girlfriend] because she would judge me. I feel like I have to be more manly around her.”
But what is a bromance, and what are its parameters? Research published in Sex Roles earlier this year proves there’s a discernible varience in how we perceive a bromance. This particular research, also comprising 30 straight-identifying male participants, articulated that men in bromances cuddle, spoon and even kiss their male friend. And that’s where you lose me. Sure, I’ll have deep conversations and sleep next to my best friend–in fact we’re rather vocal of our bromance–but cuddling, spooning and kissing is way, way too intimate and registers more like a relationship than a friendship. Thankfully, a participant offered a clear distinction between the two. “There are three factors to consider: sexual attraction, emotional connection, and personality,” the young man explained. “A bromance needs the last two, while a romance needs two including sex.”
But who knows anymore. Hell, the very idea of “being straight” has become a gray area. Mel Magazine recently spoke on the topic, calling out a particular subset of straight men who participate in an activity known as “buddy bating,” which is when straight-identifying men are turned on by other straight men having sex with a woman. “They don’t identify as gay, perhaps not even bisexual; they may prefer terms like ‘heteroflexible’ or ‘straightish’ interchangeably,” writer Tracey Moore described.
So instead of insinuating women are horrible creatures we have to live with, let’s instead be positive and agree men are currently having a moment of sorts. They feel they’re no longer trapped by gender norms and are exploring this newfound freedom. If that’s too profound for you, then let’s just agree a man being able to express his feelings is a good thing.