The Bromance: Undergraduate Male Friendships and the Expansion of Contemporary Homosocial Boundaries

Abstract

The present study provides the first known qualitative examination of heterosexual undergraduate men’s conceptualization and experiences of the bromance, outside research on cinematic representations. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 30 undergraduate men enrolled in one of four undergraduate sport-degree programs at one university in the United Kingdom, we find these heterosexual men to be less reliant on traditional homosocial boundaries, which have previously limited male same-sex friendships. Contrary to the repressive homosociality of the 1980s and 1990s, these men embrace a significantly more inclusive, tactile, and emotionally diverse approach to their homosocial relationships. All participants provided comparable definitions of what a bromance is and how it operates, all had at least one bromantic friend, and all suggested that bromances had more to offer than a standard friendship. Participants described a bromance as being more emotionally intimate, physically demonstrative, and based upon unrivalled trust and cohesion compared to their other friendships. Participants used their experiences with romances and familial relations as a reference point for considering the conditions of a bromance. Results support the view that declining homophobia and its internalization has had significantly positive implications for male expression and intimacy. Conclusions are made about the bromance’s potential to improve men’s mental health and social well-being because participants indicate these relationships provide a space for emotional disclosure and the discussion of potentially traumatic and sensitive issues.

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Correspondence to Adam White.

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This research included qualitative interviews with human subjects. As highlighted in the article, “The ethical procedures of the British Sociological Association have been followed. This includes participants’ right to view transcripts, the right to withdraw from the study, making anonymous the participants’ names and the name of their university. Participants were provided with an information sheet with the investigators’ contact information, aims of the study, consent forms and indication that there was no penalty for not participating.”

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Ethical approval was obtained from the University of Winchester, Research Ethics Committee.

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Robinson, S., Anderson, E. & White, A. The Bromance: Undergraduate Male Friendships and the Expansion of Contemporary Homosocial Boundaries. Sex Roles 78, 94–106 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0768-5

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Keywords

  • Bromance
  • Homosocial
  • Homohysteria
  • Masculinity
  • Men
  • Stoicism
  • Suicide