Bromance – WTF is it really????

By now, everyone’s heard the term and, perhaps even, seen one on TV.  Remember our former president and VP, Barack Obama and Joe Biden – you couldn’t miss that one.  Those two genuinely like each other – a lot.  Still, examples aside, who can say what a “bromance” really is? This (left) is what the dictionary says it is.  But this is hardly enlightening, nor is it explanatory – certainly in a predominantly heterosexual word. 


I mean, isn’t “a close nonsexual relationship between two men” … well… just a “friendship”???  What’s the difference between a male BFF and a male “Bro-mantic” friend?  It can’t be the “closeness,” since you can’t get much closer than a best friend forever.  And it can’t be the “nonsexual” nature of the relationship since, last I checked, most men are not having sex with other men. Otherwise, there are a lot of gay men needlessly complaining about a smaller dating pool.  Of course, bromance certainly isn’t about incest. So, the “blend of brother and romance” isn’t a particularly helpful explanation either; except, perhaps, to describe the word more than the relationship.  And that takes me right back to asking WTF is a “bromance,” really???  And, to another question, in a world already too full of labels, why are we adding yet another odd, difficult to explain and, perhaps, even more difficult to experience label like Bromance?  I’m not sure I can answer the latter in this post, but I damn sure gonna try to answer the former.


Since the dictionary isn’t much help, I suppose if we’re going to find out what a bromance actually is, we’ll have to ask some people who have had one.  But where do we find them?   Fortunately, the internet, as always, is full of resources, including some celebrity examples.


GQ published a piece by Chris Oshea in 2016, highlighting the hit-movie Top Gun as one of the earliest and best movies to depict some great Bromances.  In The 6 Types of Bromance, as Defined by Top Gun, the GQ article compares several of the 1986 film’s top characters – like Maverick and Cougar, Iceman and Slider, Maverick and Viper, and even a poly-bromantic-triad among, Maverick, Stinger and Goose –  to more recent bromances, like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, and Usher and Justin Beiber.  In making these comparisons, Oshea buckets bromances by analogy to ordinary relationship dynamics, like “Big Bro/Litte Bro,” “Tough Love,” “Father-figure” “Frenemy” and “BFFs.”  But, see above, right?   Again, we’re not talking about incest, here; and. if BFF equals bromance, then everyone is having one.  But they’re not!  Althought, maybe they should – but, I digress.


Back to the whole WTF is a bromance -- which is, the point of this article, and for which I beg your pardon in my transparent and perhaps intentionally provocative failure to quickly give you an answer.  But … if GQ doesn’t know, who else could we ask?   Instead of looking to fictional characters, perhaps, let’s look at some real ones. 


MSN released a cute piece – complete with selfies!!! – entitled, Bromance Alert: 21 famous celebrity besties.  This article features tThose you know and love, and some you might not have ever heard of or considered.  But most of them seem to be just good-ole friendships.  Except for this one:


Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen, who “… recently showed off their bromance to the world when they kissed at the 2017 Empire Awards.”


And this one:


Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, who, apparently “went skinny dipping together during a drunken night in Miami.”  Fun!


So, you’ve got to be wondering, like I am, whether it’s the sexual undercurrent that really distinguishes a real Bromance, from a blah-blah BFF or like-brothers relationship?


Fortunately, as is often the case I’ve found, Time Magazine has an answer.  In an October 2017 Time Health article, Amanda MacMillan suggests that “Men Are More Satisfied By ‘Bromances’ Than Their Romantic Relationships,” pointing to a small new study by Robinson et al., published in Men and Masculinities earlier that month.  Actually, she does more than suggest it – she says it straight out. Indeed, the foregoing quote is the article’s title and main point. 


Based on the Robinson study, which followed “30 heterosexual men who were second-year college students and had been in a relationship before, or were currently” in a relationship, a Bromance is much like a sexual relationship, except that it lacks the sex component.   Of course, I’m not sure if that’s an entirely accurate conclusion based upon the cited study, where MacMillan also reports:


that every one of them reported having at least one “bromantic” friend—with whom they engaged in “no-boundaries” behaviors like sharing secrets, expressing love or sleeping in the same bed—at some time or another. 29 out of 30 men said they had cuddled with their bromantic partner.


Cuddled?  Umm… OK.  Perhaps, this also explains why Time later published the November 2017 article, entitled “Why ‘Mostly Straight’ Men Are a Distinct Sexual Identity,” discussing the new stats showing that more men and women are self-identifying on the fringes of the Kinsey Scale as “mostly straight” (meaning they have considered or engaged in some same-sex behavior at some point) and that this group far outnumbers those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight.  But that’s a whole ‘nother article for another day.


Still, the Robinson study seems to present the best answer for what a Bromance is, and why it works.  Put simply, “bromantic relationships were more satisfying in their emotional intimacy, compared to their heterosexual romances.”  At least those men preferred being vulnerable with other men, rather than their women, because their bromances won’t “judge” them and they find it easier to “overcome conflicts” with other men.  So … it really is, bros before hoes, as they say???


For me, this easier intimacy has always been part of my attraction to other men.  While those relationships are also complicated, some of the complications with women don’t exist, like the judgment, need to explain and rationalize what is masculine and isn’t, and the ease with which most men can address conflict because men are often (though certainly not always) less emotional than women.  Add to that the higher likelihood of having common interests and perspectives about the world, and even the more casual attitude toward sex which many men share (“its only sex” is much easier to explain to another man than a women, trust me!!) it’s easy for me to see why some men might enjoy a Bromance or more – whether the cuddling leads to more or not.  Of course, any good bro wouldn’t tell anyway; now would he? 


So … We’re curious: have you had a Bromance?  What was it like?  And if you haven’t, why not or would you be willing to explore a closer relationship with a male friend – cuddling optional!


Go ahead and tell us.  We’ll be your bromances and we won’t kiss and tell!


  • Jamal