Perhaps you’re familiar with the endearing “bromance” of Scrubs co-stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison — the pair isn’t afraid to take shots of themselves hugging in bathtubs or riding on a motorcycle together.
Despite what may seem like “gay” behavior for straight men, Braff and Faison aren’t phased by their homosocial antics. Instead, their bromance appears to be the face of a deep, close, and rewarding friendship.
Now, researchers are looking into this idea of “bromance,” and are pinning it as a sign of our changing society and views on homosexuality. A new study, published in the journal of Men and Masculinities, showed that 98 percent of the white, college-age male athletes who participated in the study had shared a bed with another guy. Ninety-three percent of these participants also reported that they had spooned or cuddled with another male.
The study reveals that there are changing conceptions of masculinity, co-author and sociologist Mark McCormack of Durham University says. Straight men are behaving in “much softer” ways than in the past, he claims. “We knew they [straight males] were hugging and cuddling, and we wanted to understand this phenomenon in more detail,” McCormack told The Huffington Post. “How do men gain from rejecting the homophobia of previous generations?” Using the term homosocial — or having a same-sex relationship that is not sexual or romantic — the authors explain that their study is “evidence of an expansion of changing conceptions of masculinity in contemporary culture.”
The authors interviewed 40 young men who were also athletes, since athletes have a tendency to be in close physical contact (and they also tend to embody traditional manliness, or at least something of a “jock” or “bro” attitude). Interestingly, the authors found that plenty of these male athletes felt comfortable with cuddling their close friends. One of the participants of the study, Matt, described his relationship with his friend Connor: “I feel comfortable with Connor and we spend a lot of time together. I happily rest my head on Connor’s shoulder when lying on the couch or hold him in bed. But he’s not the only one. The way I see it, is that we are all very good and close mates. We have a bromance where we are very comfortable around each other.”
As contemporary culture embraces the idea of homosexuality — and as straight males become more in tune with feminism — they may be taking on more of these so-called “soft” features, playing out a new role where showing affection to both women or men (regardless of sexual orientation) isn’t that much of a taboo.
Even James Franco is doing it:
“The social taboo against cuddling has been because for two men to get close was traditionally seen as ‘gay,’” McCormack told HuffPost. “Men wanted to avoid being the target of homophobic abuse, so they would be macho to distance themselves from any perception of homosexuality. But there is a generational effect here: Older men who grew up in the 1980s may still feel the need to present a very straight version of themselves, but more positive attitudes toward homosexuality in contemporary culture mean that younger men are simply less concerned about how other people view their behaviors.”