What’s Wrong with the World

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Whither friendship?

Anthony Esolen has an eloquent and painful requiem for male friendship here. It would be gilding lilies for me to try to reproduce it or indeed comment on it in detail at all.

Esolen is obviously quite right about the effects of the sexualization of male relationships on the possibility of intense, completely non-sexual male friendship.

I would note, too, that too many young people have been brought up without really being familiar with literature that both assumes and extols strong male friendship. I was lucky enough to have that literature and have tried to pass it on to my children. From the wonderfully productive male bonding in the Lord of the Rings to the less lofty adventures of Alan Quatermain (written by Rider Haggard), literature shows us this aspect of human nature. I always scorned people who fussed over there being "not enough women" in LOTR. That was because I got it. It had to be the way that it was. The women were brought in where they fit. And they certainly did not fit in the Company of the Ring.

But I would prefer to do something non-depressing. I'm hoping that the requiem for male friendship is a little premature. So I would like to ask readers: Where have you experienced or seen unabashed, intense, and completely non-sexual male friendship and male bonding still flourishing? I don't just mean light friendships but really close friendships.

I think they are still out there. One area that I like to write about a bit at my other blog is Southern Gospel music. There's a very strong masculine ethos in Southern Gospel. That's not to say that there aren't female singers in the genre; of course there are. There are also family groups. But there are lots of all-male groups who travel together, and their members are unashamed to say that they love one another. Nor are such statements misinterpreted. Yes, there is always malicious gossip concerning any area of human endeavor. But in general a statement like, "I really love these guys" from an SG singer is not met with titters or raised eyebrows. It's understood quite well.

Readers, where have you encountered what I will call for want of a better phrase "traditional" strong male friendship? If you are comfortable doing so and if it seems relevant, please indicate your approximate generation. For example, I saw that there were young men at the Christian college I went to who had very close friendships with one another. That was in the 1980's. Hopefully, that is still the case.

Comments (47)

Lydia, I've seen it at Bryan some. I don't know that many students that well, but it's clear within our major (the students I get to know pretty well) that some of the young men have formed these close friendships and that they last beyond college.

Totally off-topic but perhaps apropos -- will recent comments no longer be shown on the site page? Because I won't subscribe to comments just to have my inbox filled up with them, and I don't usually have the motivation to keep clicking on the posts and scrolling the comments on the chance there might be new ones. It's one of the features I've really appreciated about this site. :(

Beth - The front page is having some technical difficulties, or as I like to think of it 'pitching a major hizzy'. I have designs on fixing it, but it will be a while. The alternative is to not have the front page show up at all, so I hope I'm choosing the lesser of two weevils.

That being said, I turned back on the dynamic publishing. It appears the back end issues I was dealing with yesterday have improved, though we still may get an error now and again. The Recent Comments is back. (The recent comments PAGE itself is a whole 'nother tizzy I haven't quelled yet.)

Thanks, Todd. I don't know how y'all do web work, but I appreciate the work that goes into it!

I've seen that Esolen essay before. It is depressingly accurate about just about everything.

Yes, it is depressing, Titus, and true to a great extent. But do you not have any close male friends? How about your children, if you have children? How about when you were young and single? IMO it's usually easier for single men to have intensely close male friends, because of sheer considerations of time and energy. This issue even comes up in LOTR, because Sam feels a little worried that marrying Rosie will separate him from Frodo. And in the end, it does, because Frodo goes over the sea while Sam stays behind in his domestic life. Sam doesn't get married at all until he has completed the adventure of the One Ring. The same issue comes up in Rider Haggard's book _Alan Quatermain_ when Sir Henry marries Nyleptha.

So: Didn't you have any close male friends in college, any who shared the same vision, who stayed up late debating or discussing how you would change the world or what you were deeply interested in? Do you not know of any men who do now?

Yeah, the attitudes about this sort of thing have really become rotten. Maybe it's not everywhere, but definitely in the fiction I read and see there's this attitude among the fans (and seeping into the world) that 'if these two male figures are real close, they're gay'. Your best male friend is supposed to, at best, be a guy who you can speak frankly with, behind closed doors, drinking a beer or eating a taco. And even then, it better be about a woman. Otherwise, the characters are obviously gay and more than that they probably want to get married and have children but they just aren't allowed because FORBIDDEN LOVE and SOCIETY and so on.

I think the worst part of this kind of thing is how invisible it is on a certain level, and how insidious it is. It has the potential to literally reach back in time and warp fiction and stories and non-fiction that obviously had none of the undertones people project on it, but now they're culturally fortified to see exactly those things. There has to be some way to reverse it.

I don't read contemporary fiction and find it difficult to imagine a new fiction author I would go out and read without some very strong recommendations and research. I'm sure what you are saying is true. In real life, though, I think there have to be subcultures that are exceptions.

As far as going back in time, that is just unspeakably bad--the misinterpretation of the older works. As far as reversing the process of warping older works, I think it has to start by teaching children to read the older works when they are quite young, in their innocence, and to be presented with the notion of close and intense male friendship very matter-of-factly as a *thing in itself*, without homosexuality entering into the interpretation at all or even being mentioned in connection with the book. They should be take the non-sexual nature of the friendships as simply a given. I think that, by and large, that is how young Christian home schooled kids do read older works and interpret male friendships in them. Then they can learn what that kind of friendship is like, and if later they encounter messed-up people making crazy claims about the work, they will absolutely know that that's a distortion.

This is also a pretty good reason to keep young people away from the English literature classes at most secular schools, by the way. It always makes me shake my head when people say that some university's program must be okay if they are "teaching" this or that author. They never inquire into _what_ they are teaching about the author. Throwing mud at the author and reinterpreting him with a leer is actually _worse_ than not teaching him at all.

I know this is on a bit of a tangent now, so I'll make it short and sweet. One thing I really hate, sometimes, about English classes is the idea that you're more or less encouraged to interpret things however you want to. The important thing is that you give a strong argument. Which seems to me to be entirely backward, naturally.

So if somebody wants to read Romeo and Juliet and try and argue that Benvolio and Mercutio have homosexual undertones, instead of being told by the teacher "This makes no sense, and doesn't fit with the context of the time period besides", they're encouraged to go for it instead. This makes for really convoluted arguments that get A's because they're complicated and original.

Sometimes, Freud, a cigar is just a cigar.

At any rate I went to school a half hour away in a different state and didn't, and don't, see any of my friends enough for there to be a REAL camaraderie. My closest friend right now helps run a charity with me. We barely see each other and talk almost entirely online. He's a good person and a very good friend, but I wouldn't say it's the type of camaraderie you're talking about. I wish I had those types of friendships, though.

Deconstruction has destroyed the teaching of literature, even where it isn't actively or explicitly practiced. You are right, MarcAnthony, that the teacher should take control of discussions that veer from what the text says and point out why they are failed interpretations. And Lydia is right that this has to begin when the child first encounters literature (before even reading!). But I have found that many of my Intro to Lit students are very open to learning how to do close reading, as they have merely been taught the teachers' biases and not how to actually approach a literary text; they don't know that literature is really accessible to them with a little effort. (Many thank me for helping them learn to read the Bible better, even though I rarely use any Scriptural text in the class. But I teach them to read the text itself and not themselves into the text.)

In our majors courses, we also are quick to derail the false contemporary interpretations, of any sort, but many come up that are about seeing male-male friendship as homosexual (or female-female -- did you know Jane Eyre is a lesbian? she slept in the same bed with Helen! and the sisters in "Goblin Market"? definitely!). But our corrections are always through means of the text itself, instructing them how to read it and why the "liberal" interpretation can't fit with the whole, as well as helping them to see just how much they have bought into contemporary culture themselves. We hope it helps them, beyond learning to read well, to open up to close friendship without so much fear.

Lydia, like you I never read contemporary mainstream fiction. But I will read modern science fiction, especially if it space war shoot-em-up. But even there, it is impossible not to see the hand of cultural degeneration of the imagination coming out. Women are usually, if not uniformly, cast as just-as-tough-as-the-guys heroine types who can captain a space cruiser or lead a charge, even when the very same author puts in a plug for not cutting girls any slack in boot camp or something. Often the author is good at developing evil male characters, but never evil female ones. Often the author can see that male soldiers can bond over fighting together without any least overtones of homosexuality, but THEN will include scenes where men have contretemps of various sorts for male-male ambiguous situations, even if just a bit of teasing. C'mon, science fiction is supposed to be about extrapolating the outpourings of existing trends, mistakes, ideas, etc. Can't they extrapolate freakish nonsense in behavior from trying (at the same time) to live 2 incompatible world views about relationships of sexual beings?

This week I will be travelling to spend a few days with one of my dearest friends, one of several friendships which exemplify the qualities the cultural demise of which Esolen laments. The nearly thirty years of friendship with these men were founded and sustained in the way all friendships qua friendships are sustained: our focus is on something other than the relata in the relation of friendship. In my case our focus is on three things: a love of Jesus, a love for His kingdom coming, and a love of ideas. The experiences we have shared because of these other loves, these things in common, have bound us as friends in our common passions and goals. Were those commonalities to cease, so would the friendships. Intense male friendships are only possible when friendship itself is not a goal of the relationship. Only very young children and users of facebook say things like "Will you be my friend?" Friendship as with all loves, as CS Lewis has written ceases to be a demon when it ceases to be a god.
So with each of my best and old friends we will fish, hike, shoot, surf and enjoy our Master's glorious world, but mostly we will talk. It is in these counsels and convocations that we will continue to converse about what is wrong with the world and how our own souls and actions can fix it.

I'm a 32 year-old (cusping the GenX/Millenial Split), father of three (rare enough in my circles) and an artist. I had a friend like this in middle and high-school. Share your darkest dreams/inner-everything types. He ended up choosing life paths that didn't mesh with mine, shall we say, but we were very much of the Sam/Frodo variety until a couple of years after HS.

I've a friend at church now who is a couple of years younger than me and soon to enter the challenges and joys of fatherhood. We certainly have aspects of this, now, but I've only known him for a little over two years, so it's still a bit shy. This sort of thing must be much easier for younger guys. I also have a hard time sharing my profound "conservatism" (for lack of a better word) with folks...

I have two brothers, and we've been quite close though we live in different cities.

In media I've found this in the oddest place, actually; two running cartoons (in neighboring time-slots if I'm not mistaken) on Cartoon Network. Adventure Time and The Amazing World of Gumball both deal with the lives and adventures of (not-necessarily-genetically-related) brothers. They often, amidst the crude humor and adventures, take time out to develop the male relationships with poignant situations. There is real warmth and love between Finn & Jake and Gumball & Darwin in what are the otherwise incredibly zany worlds/stories of these tweenagers.

Tony, that is probably the ONLY issue I have with "Firefly", one of the best TV shows ever made. Joss Whedon is a virulent feminist (and atheist), and it showed in some episodes ("Heart of Gold" specifically). The character of Zoe is also one of those tough female warrior types, though I must confess to loving the character regardless.

River is a "tough female warrior" too, but hers is, if you see the show, definitely a unique case.

I'll tell you the worst I've ever heard about interpreting past literature in a modern light: the idea, becoming more widespread, that Grantaire and Enjolras were gay for each other in Les Miserables. I just got through seeing an outstanding stage production, and the idea that Victor Hugo would do that is just completely against everything Les Miserables was about. Les Miserables was written for a very specific purpose, and the relationship between Enjolras and Grantaire is supposed to show the type of male camaraderie talked about here. But, Grantaire admires Enjolras, and they're both male. So that means they're gay.

Another reason, too, that people often interpret past literature in this way is because being for gay marriage and gay rights is considered "enlightened", and people look at the great authors as visionaries. There is a reason that writers, nowadays at least, are notoriously liberal.

I can't say that I enjoy any such classical friendships today, but I enjoy something close: the friendship of four or five men I could call on at any time, men whom I truly consider brothers - even closer than family. If I needed a novena or a barn raising or a loan, they would be there for me, and I for them, in a heartbeat. I never knew this before becoming a Catholic.

Ms. McGrew, Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey-Maturin novels are an example of contemporary fiction that beautifully
depicts a deep friendship between two men. The series of 21 novels begins with their chance meeting, and
where it ends... well, you must read for yourself. Mr. O'Brien's writing is superb, and I've re-read the novels
several times (they total of over 6500 pages!). I cannot think of a better treatment of friendship between two
men in contemporary literature. They are a brilliant example of that peculiarly British genre-- naval fiction,
being set in the British Navy during the Napoleonic War. You won't regret giving the books a try.

I think one of the reasons Mr. O'Brien was so successful is that he strove to enter the world of 200 years ago,
and not merely create modern characters and put them in fancy-dress. The men and women in his work inhabit
a world that is different from ours in more than mere accidentals-- their assumptions, their thoughts, their
speech and behavior are emphatically not like ours today.

Other than O'Brien's novels, no worthwhile depiction of friendship between two men in contemporary fiction
springs to mind. As for real life, I think that deep and lasting friendship between men is common among
those military in active duty together even today.

Tony, interesting that you should think of a lack of female villains as a sign of feminism. I've actually seen the opposite---female villains who are smart and creepy and wield power over men in a kind of feminist wish-fulfillment fantasy. I know you might think "Hey, doesn't that play right into the stereotype of women who just want power over men," but if you think about it, it follows the familiar liberal behavior pattern of simultaneously decrying stereotypes while daring us to criticize them for embracing those same stereotypes. People might actually praise a TV show as "enlightened" or "progressive" for having "a fair balance" of male and female villains. Liberals' thinking is so warped that they want "balance" everywhere, even among bad guys! Nowadays, saying you prefer male villains might be considered just as sexist in its own way as saying you prefer male heroes.

There are signs that the younger generation understands this and is rebelling against it:


ME, I think it's got to do with male writers incorporating the "females can (and would) do anything heroic males would do in battle", and not attempting to carry through the thought process that females can and would do everything evil males would do in all walks of life. There aren't all that many good woman science fiction writers, but the ones I have come across are willing to have female villains. It's the male writers who don't seem to attempt that.

As far as turning back the stereotypes: as far as I know (which isn't very far since I don't watch current TV), there are essentially NO modern shows that show a housewife, who stays at home, in a wholly positive light. If this can be taken as a message, the message would be that a woman is "free to choose" as long as she chooses a career that takes her out of the home, because staying home is demeaning and oppressed. That is, the only women who stay at home are NOT FREE to choose. Of course, this mentality is and can only be the fruit of the whacked-out feminism that (un-noticed to itself) wants to re-make women into men while re-making men into androgynous nothings.

I am in my mid-twenties and have such a friendship, born out of our youthful life of crime and later military service. It is still going even though we have calmed down a bit these days. However, even though we grew up in a town in the conservative south, lots of people who barely knew us suspected us of that particular immorality. Even in the military the soldiers in other platoons in our company made such accusations and after avenging our honour upon them they would only say they thought this because we always hung out together. As though that were sufficient for said perversion. It also annoys me that people have come up with the word bromance, when all it describes is friendship, or when people assert of historical or literary figures that because of the strength of their emotional bond it had to be more than friendship. In the Romance of the Three Kingdoms Liu Bei, Guang Yu, and Zhang Fei swear "that though born apart, we will die as one." I fail to see what sort of emotional bond is beyond that or how sexual attraction would create such a higher bond. Although, I have the same problem with females as well. I can hardly have a casual conversation with a girl without someone assuming I am hitting on her and occasionally trying to come to the rescue. Anyway, sorry for the long post, the problem just annoys me so.

Skeggy,I almost included a comment in the main post about the horrible word "bromance." I'd never heard of it until recently. (I live in a cave.) The very existence of the word is a sign that something is gravely wrong in our present society.

It goes along with the idea that friendship is a minimal thing. "Oh, I see, those two guys are just friends." The "just friends" phrase makes some sense between a man and a woman, because (this is a whole 'nother topic) really intense friendship between a man and a woman that does not have any sexual element, friendship that includes wanting to "die as one" and so forth is rare, to say the least. Some would say impossible. But to use the "just friends" descriptor for a classical male friendship of blood brothers is to show that one just doesn't get it.

I second Clinton's endorsement of O'Brien's novels. But there are only 20 of them, really.

Lydia and all,

I was lucky I guess, that growing up in the 80s in the suburbs of Chicago turned out to be a good place to develop and nurture healthy male friendships. I was struck by this passage in Esolen's essay:

It is but more of the devastation wrought by the sexual revolution. That we fail to see it as such is no surprise: Naturally, when we think of that recrudescence of paganism, we think first of its damage to the family and to relations between men and women. We think of divorce, pornography, unwed motherhood, abortion, and suicidally falling birthrates. But the sexual revolution has also nearly killed male friendship as devoted to anything beyond drinking and watching sports; and the homosexual movement, a logically inevitable result of forty years of heterosexual promiscuity and feminist folly, bids fair to finish it off and nail the coffin shut.

I think part of what made the time and place successful for me is that I was surrounded by intact families, living in a safe neighborhood (so as boys we could ride our bikes around on our own to the playground and not worry our parents about getting in trouble), and for the most part gay people were still in the closet (or at least they were just coming out so mass media wasn't saturated with gay propaganda). As a result I formed strong male friendships with a couple of guys who I remain friends with to this day -- roughly 25 to 30 years later!

Some have moved away from the area (but they keep coming back to visit parents, so I see them regularly) and others are here; with three or four I would say I share a strong emotional bond to the point where I don't hesitate to tell them I love them or hug them when I see them. One of these men in particular became very close to me when he lost his father to cancer at 16 -- he was the youngest child and had older sisters, so that summer I became a sort of surrogate brother to him helping him cope with his grief. I became very close to him (and his mother, who is a wonderful person) ever since and was his best man at his wedding (he's now the proud father of five boys of his own!)

Most of us were in the marching band together and have shared a love of music ever since (we go to concerts together even today). Other than my friend who lost his father, none of this group is religious -- but they were raised in a neighborhood that was religious and/or their parents went to church or sent them to Sunday school. One might say they were running on the fumes of our Western civilization, which were still powerful enough back then to create a healthy and livable community for us boys -- but I fear that without Christ as a regular presence in young men's lives today, what Esolen suggests about friendship is all too true.


I can't believe someone on this blog mentioned Adventure Time; I think you might be right about Jake and Finn although I would also suggest that Patrick and SpongeBob Squarepants are another (somewhat silly) example of healthy male bonding in cartoon form!

And while we are talking about pop culture, while I generally despise the Disney channel shows for young kids, there is a show called "Good Luck Charlie" that actually depicts a large intact family with a dad that is only used occassionally for comic relief. In addition, the mom on the show plays a nurse who just had baby (their fifth kid!) and she realized that she didn't want to be at work and let someone else raise her baby boy so she quit her job even though it was suggested by the script that it would be a financial hardship. If they would just show the family praying before meals we'd practically have a homerun, but I guess I should be grateful for the little things...

And while we are talking about pop culture, while I generally despise the Disney channel shows for young kids...
Oh, come on. "Dog With a Blog" is a classic in the making.


I have diverse tastes!

I'd mostly agree with you on Spongebob, but I think they're different in an essential way from Finn & Jake. Spongebob & Patrick are, at least as far as I can tell, living in a more "asexual" world. Whereas Finn & Jake's brotherly love is thrown into sharp relief against their feelings for the various girlfriends in the universe.

I kind feel like I should defend "bromance" a little. At least amongst my circles it's an affectionate term... a sort of rediscovery of "philos" for circles where that word would get you blank stares 4 out of 5 times. I think for many of my non-christian acquaintances it's a maybe subconscious, dimly understood, or only shyly examined idea.

I know LOTR has been mentioned, but I wanted to bring up Boromir's dying words from the film, "I would have followed you... my brother, my captain, my king." One of the few changes that I didn't find completely tone deaf.

Nah, DmL, I'm not going to accept "bromance" under any circs. The rhyme with "romance" is a deliberate look in the direction of erotic affection. I agree that it may be self-deprecating in the sense that people using it are tacitly admitting that maybe the friendship isn't sexual or proto-sexual, but I'm strongly inclined to doubt that you can get back to a really healthy view that way. That is, I don't think it's like turning down the dial on a radio a bit: "We'll have a term that sort of suggests philos but also suggests romance, and then maybe people will want philos and will gradually tune the romance out." The term is too self-conscious, too embarrassed, too conscious of homosexual possibilities, and just not capable of letting friendship stand on its own as a full-fledged thing. (No need to use Greek. English "friendship" will do as it did fine for centuries. It just needs to be given back its stronger meanings.)

Jeff S., thanks very much for your examples from your own life. DmL, thanks for your comments as well about your friendships.

I believe that male friendship will not truly die. One of the few things about which I remain optimistic.


Yeah... I much prefer the correct terms, too, but you gotta meet people where they are sometimes. Maybe next time I'll just say politely, "I think the term you're looking for is 'friendship.' Your fixation on possible homosexual undertones is somewhat odd." : )

Yes, it is depressing, Titus, and true to a great extent. But do you not have any close male friends? How about your children, if you have children? How about when you were young and single? IMO it's usually easier for single men to have intensely close male friends, because of sheer considerations of time and energy.

Lydia, I apologize for not responding sooner. I have been running back and forth across the state for work.

I have one very close male friends, and a number of decent male friends. The close friend actually lives far away at the moment and we only get to see each other now and then. The decent friends are all fellow parishioners and dads.

The close friend is a friend from the boys' high school I attended, and I can definitely say that there the pathologies identified by Esolen were prevalent. Yes, guys had friends, but even at this excellent school filled by and large with boys from good families there was a perverse undercurrent. Perhaps male competitiveness would have yielded the same results even in a different era, but for just one example, the pressure to do something with a girl was very much there and really quite unhealthy in retrospect.

I don't think Esolen is right at all in his characterization of what ideal male friendships should be like–emotionally powerful. There is a loaded term. Emotionally powerful how? Men don't desire emotionally powerful relationships in women's terms. And setting it up as "Sparta ... or desexualization is misguided. That isn't at all the choice.

It is an interesting question to make sense of how to square the ancient accounts of it with reality, but I don't think it is accurate to call male friendships in question because they don't fit this ancient ideal. I think it is harmful. Read Joseph Epstein's "Friendship: An Expose" for an alternate to Esolen's account for how to square the ancient to modern expressions. Idealism is as dangerous as always. I find comfort in accounts such as Epstein because they describe the good male relationships I have, though Esolen would obviously find them deficient. Men in Lincoln's day shared beds because beds were rare, not because they liked to sleep so close. If beds become rare we'll do it again I'm sure.

-Was it the sexual revolution that caused the cognitive dissonance that Esolen has on this issue article, though he thinks he's diagnosing it? Or is it the effeminacy that was spoken of as a future societal danger since dirt, from various reasons good and bad?

-Are boys are failing in school or have schools rejected the nature of boys?

I think it is misguided to state it at "light friendships" as opposed to "really close friendships". I think this is a feminized understanding of it. Male relationships are of great subtlety. The problem isn't that men don't have good relationships, but that good male relationships are now regarded as deficient. What makes them strong hasn't changed, but it sounds archaic.

So boys have been failing at school for some time, and now men are failing at relationships. Men are so stupid these days. They can't do anything right. I guess I shouldn't be surprised by now that not a soul here challenged Esolen's account.

My first account with Christianity as a young man is instructive. An farm boy and independent worker on his own, at 19 years old I wanted to see what Christianity was all about so I joined a college bible study group of the church near me. For awhile it seemed alright and I became what seemed like pretty good friends with one guy but increasingly I found them striving for what I thought were forced emotional intensity and over personalization, and I found myself opting out of certain activities in obvious ways that caused some embarrassment. Eventually I quit going and went to a depression because in my mind these life-long Christians studying at a Christian college should know what Christianity was about, and I was failing the grade since I couldn't fit in and didn't even feel comfortable trying. After a year and a half I finally worked up the courage to make an appointment with the pastor and awkwardly brought up that I wasn't fitting into the group and I wasn't sure what to make of that. To my surprise the pastor explained to me that it was a highly insular group actually and he didn't agree with their way of trying to foster a family-like emotional intensity as an ideal. He said something like "they're really not my type of people either", and that he thought what they do can tend to mess with people head's a bit. He told me he lead a group of guys that were firefighters and other working men and he enjoyed their company, and didn't mind their course language, and basically said in so many words not to be concerned if I didn't fit in with them. It was like the world was lifted off my shoulders. Maybe there was hope for me yet. Looking back at what he said, I can now read between the lines and realize he said even more than I realized at the time. And I think he had to have taken some risk in saying it, since I have reason to think that word got back to the group about what he said and he probably knew it would.

The problem isn't that men are bad at relationships, but that what are normal relationships for healthy men aren't acceptable in many ways in the elite opinion now. I could tell quite a number of other personal stories of how our Christian culture has simply followed along with the wider culture, if not led it in this march towards rejection of previous masculine standards. And there is no shortage of academic works written on this topic since at least around the time I was born for anyone who wished to know.

Mark, you _seem_ to be saying that the phenomenon of emotionally highly expressive male friendships which Esolen describes is either historically unreal or undesirable. I can't tell which. As to the former, you are just simply wrong. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary, including King David's lament for Jonathan, whose friendship was to him greater than the love of women. It's utterly disgusting, of course, that the homosexuals try to imply that this was a homosexual relationship. In fact, the fact that homosexuals _do_ thus reinterpret old texts (a phenomenon others in this thread have noted) is further evidence that Esolen is right. Namely--there is a phenomenon of emotionally intense and expressive but non-sexual male friendship, but the current homosexual movement is making that phenomenon impossible to continue, because all such relationships are interpreted as homosexual.

By the way, I was reading a photo essay the other day on something like this same topic, though actually I don't think the author was as socially conservative as either I or Esolen. The author meticulously showed how the physical postures of men in paired and group photographs have changed in the past hundred years. Pictures of men holding hands and in other postures that would now be considered "gay" were not considered to have that connotation in other ages. This is further support that the expressive phenomenon Esolen describes is and has been a real one. Examples from literature (including the scene Esolen cites from LOTR) are further evidence.

So, as a sheer matter of human history and sociology, if you are denying the occurrence of this phenomenon, or its decline (almost certainly due to the idea that men who express themselves in that way must "be gay"), you're incorrect.

Now, whether that phenomenon was desirable or undesirable, healthy or unhealthy, is obviously a less open-and-shut case. It seems to me, as to many of my readers here (as you can see) that such intense but asexual "classical" friendships had much that was good and healthy and that it is a shame that they are declining so much in number and that young men should no longer have that possibility in their lives, that any such strong expressions should be suspect as "gay."

You can agree or disagree with that, but I repeat: On the sociological question of whether such things have existed in the past and whether they are on the decline now, Esolen is unquestionably correct.

I didn't dispute that Esolen's account was correct any more than I disputed that Lincoln shared a bed with umpteen men in his life as we all know and was very common. Of course I've seen the pictures too, and they show us that something has changed, but not what or why. So assumptions here won't work. I don't think that hand holding and closeness of the sort is bad, I just don't think it is part of the essence of masculine friendships. To think otherwise is almost pathological. If that is true, all the men I've ever known including my father and my grandfathers were repressed and deprived. I think this is silly.

Esolen says "For modern American men, friendship is no longer forged in the heat of battle, or in the dust of the plains as they drive their herds across half a continent, or in the choking air of a coalmine, or even in the cigar smoke of a debating club."

Well that's a rich statement and I don't have time, but things haven't changed as much as he thinks. Men have to earn respect from each other, and it still lives on much as it did, but it is unrecognized now. You see it in trades and engineers and tech geeks all over the world. They have honor codes as much as ever. Forthrightness. Don't screw up anything you can't fix, and you don't leave until the job is done. And in personal matters if you say you can do something you'd better be able to do it. Among men if you can't follow through it is far worse than telling a lie, and it was always this way.

And debating clubs? Oh we do have debating societies now but you see the tone of online debate these days is so bad and all that, or so the story goes. One of the reasons it is seen to be so bad is that it was always ritualized combat and the sexes see it differently.

Anyway, what I'm disputing is 1) that Esolen's characterization is a timeless ideal of masculine friendship, and 2) that it was subverted by the sexual revolution.

I thought it was common knowledge that the companionate ideal of marriage and the view of children as the focus of adult attention changed masculine friendships forever. The nature of the family itself changed, and to expect that not to have an effect on male friendships is not realistic. Now they'll send you to marriage counseling if you don't bleat out "my wife is my best friend" when you know it's expected.

What I'm saying about masculine friendships is that in the new environment, men have relationships with other men that preserve the essence of friendship for men in perfectly healthy ways without holding hands and sleeping together, and Esolen is full of malarky in his analysis. We don't all have to emulate King David outwardly. The idea that this new way is so fundamentally lacking that it "leaves [boys] more vulnerable to be preyed upon by older men" is patently absurd. The false implications about the nature and purpose of masculine love would shock me if I didn't see stuff like this all the time. I'm surprised that Christians buy into this stuff. It is misguided Freudian malarkey. Because these same folks will tell men that showing affection in certain other situations is inappropriate when it is the only thing that would help. It's pure manipulation. And if what Esolen says is true wouldn't we see men showing a disproportionate share of attention to their daughters? Wouldn't we see boys resent their sisters getting affection that they don't? Do you see that? I don't. I think Esolen is flat wrong, and he clearly is referring to the 60's when he mentions the "sexual revolution". It began much earlier than that and had little or nothing to do with homosexuality.

Men are the gang that can't shoot straight and they know it. They know they're damned if they do, and damned if they don't. They don't show emotion, and when they do they don't show it right. Being a provider and lifetime loyalty doesn't count for much anymore. The smarter ones aren't even listening to the judges of this rigged game anymore. They've probably gone on strike as the wife of Instapundit has it.

Oops. When I said "I didn't dispute that Esolen's account was correct" I meant that I wasn't disputing that the outward character of male friendships had changed. All things change, and that is certainly one. Obviously, I'm completely disputing what I think is the core of his argument and main point of his article, which are the conclusions he draws from this.

Oh and why is Esolen's title, carried onto the one here, use the term friendship when it clearly means "masculine friendship"? Women need no advice on the topic apparently. As I mentioned, I would really recommend Joseph Epstein's book on friendship. It really does wrestle with the issues and the classical tradition philosophically, and Epstein shares his personal experiences very honestly and forthrightly. I found it to be really helpful. And men will identify with it particularly I think. I hate to say it, but I think our churches so idealize relationships now that they aren't really a reliable source of advice anymore on any relationships other than "don't get divorced".

Mark, your conjecture about my title is ludicrous. Quite honestly, and based on memories (which we haven't left behind) of your behavior at this site previously, I think you need to back off. For crying out loud, I half expected some feminist to come in here and get annoyed at my title for treating friendship as exclusively male! If you really want to know, I worded the title the way I did because I think that male friendship may actually be more important to the survival of civilization than female friendship! So it was far from an implication that "women need no advice."

Your other implications are equally silly--e.g., that either Esolen or I am chiding men for "not doing it right." Esolen is positively agonized by the way that concerns about homosexuality are making expressiveness in male friendship impossible.

As for the idea that this change has had little or nothing to do with homosexuality, that's false on its face. You say you've seen the pictures. Ah, and why in the world would men _not_ have pictures of that sort taken today? Why in the world would they not use certain physical expressions of affection? Why would men say things about loving one another less often now or feel more uncomfortable about such expressions? It takes a real social tin ear, or perhaps just some kind of weird stubbornness, to deny that that has anything to do with concerns about looking homosexual. Of _course_ it has to do with such concerns. On that point Esolen is _obviously_ right.

Now, as to whether this means that the "essence" of male friendship has changed, that is obviously a more difficult thing to say. As you see in the main post, I myself was basically saying that perhaps Esolen is too pessimistic and that there is more left of strong masculine friendship than he thinks. Part of what I had in mind, on which I would agree with you, is that there can be real depth to such friendships even with less overt expression, though I also agree with Esolen back on the other hand that losing the _option_ for overt expression lest it be misinterpreted is a sad thing.

What I would say is that probably there are some young men, boys in particular, who really would find that option for expression and clear intensity without any hint of sexuality particularly helpful, and that they are missing out in not having that option.

I would also say that it is a crying shame that older texts are being taken from us by the dirty reinterpretations of homosexuality. That is a destruction of treasure, and you cannot deny that it is happening.

Mark, I wouldn't mind your saying some of what you have been saying--to the effect that strong male friendship remains a good and healthy reality in our time despite the changes in its expression--if it didn't have such a weird air of knowing better than everybody else. Not to mention the silly psychoanalysis of the title of this piece.

As usual, you need to get down off your high horse somewhat.

Mark, your conjecture about my title is ludicrous.

Geez I was only saying that Esolen's title would have been more accurate if it had used "male friendship" instead of "friendship."

As for the idea that this change has had little or nothing to do with homosexuality, that's false on its face. You say you've seen the pictures. Ah, and why in the world would men _not_ have pictures of that sort taken today?

False on its face? Its a pure assumption. I've trolled through old books and memoirs more than most and they tell a different story. Idealism is dangerous, and those who don't expend a good bit of effort probing the difference between the ideal and the real in their historical work will seldom arrive very close to accuracy.

Quite honestly, and based on memories (which we haven't left behind) of your behavior at this site previously, I think you need to back off.

Lydia, I'm attacking Esolen's view, but don't let that stop you from taking personal offense and making yourself into a victim. I'm sure it won't. Here's my last word on Esolen's piece.

We can't connect the boyhood friendship of King David, the classical ideal from Cicero taught in early-middle England 1500 years after the fact (and if that doesn't imply that achieving the theoretical ideal was problematic in practice I don't know what does), and pictures of circa 1900s factory workers and come to the conclusions that Esolen, and Evangelical culture now generally, does. It is highly unlikely that the humanists who used it in the curriculum as a theoretical framework for perfect friendship didn't know that. Cicero himself surely must have. Shakespeare and other dramatists satirized its elusive nature.

Unless people want to reverse course and rollback marriage and family relations too (it was considered proper for fathers to be emotionally distant from their children), there is no reason to expect that men should seek this type of emotionalism within male friendships. Men are emotional in very different ways than women. Physical closeness grossly underdetermines the type of friendship and emotional bonds implied. No amount of pictures of men holding hands can show this Ciceronian ideal is being practiced.

But there is far more continuity to male friendships than Esolen can admit. They carry on out of sight and without societal approval. I think what is going on with this nostalgia and anachronism represented by Esolen is that he wants men to be more emotional without any other changes, and that is why I say it is a feminized view. Some of his remarks about boys being dangerously starved for their father's love even while present and caring for them to the best of their abilities don't have anything to do with the classic ideal and are pretty far into sitcom parody territory.

Emotional distance is required to do many of the necessary jobs that fall to men by nature and society. It was always that way. If women think they'd approve of what most of those guys seen holding hands did when they were off-camera to earn their buddies respect they're probably mistaken. Society is now very uncomfortable with many of the things men require to earn respect from each other, but nature doesn't change. But the idea that a certain type of emotionalism is the essence of male friendship flies in the face of reality.

I doubt very much that Esolen would say that emotionalism is the essence of male friendship. That is a caricature of what he is saying. It also seems quite a caricature to say that he wants men to be emotional without any other changes. Heck, Esolen criticizes a great deal about contemporary Western culture. He just happens to be focusing on one particular thing in this article, and that is the extent to which intense friendships between men and expressions of friendship are now tainted by the widespread acceptance of homosexuality which makes such expressions suspect. As a purely sociological claim, this seems impossible to deny, and if you're denying it, I can only think that it is because of some bee in your bonnet of your own. I'm not even sure I know what that bee in the bonnet is. Your bonnet bees are often so quirky as to be almost impossible to characterize or understand. But the very fact that older texts that portray intense male friendships are so slimily reinterpreted nowadays, as are older historical male friendships, ought in and of itself to put Esolen's bare sociological thesis pretty much beyond question. If people are incapable of even _comprehending_ the expressions and relationship between, say, Sam and Frodo because all they can think of is, "Are they gay?" then it's pretty obvious that these same people have been robbed of a whole set of concepts to apply to _real life_ male friendships. And it's obvious that the proximate cause of the robbery is the homosexual movement and the widespread presence "in the air" of homosexuality as a constant possibility.

As for idealization, sure, Esolen writes in a somewhat over-the-top way. Obviously that style of his really annoys you for some reason, but your own reaction is itself over-the-top, not to mention pedantic. Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees! It would help you to be more capable of recognizing allies when you find them instead of always being violently against everybody, even a fellow conservative like Esolen, who doesn't think _precisely_ as you do on every topic. I'm as capable of nit-picking my fellow conservatives as the next guy, but I try not always to do my nit-picking with a jackhammer.

Well anything could be a caricature, but one is forced to do some speculation if one feel justified in accepting what has not been argued for but assumed. Namely, that men's relationships changed due to a reaction to homosexuality. What reason has he given that I should accept this? None. So in light of the fact that he's "just happening to be focusing on" "intense friendships" (whatever that means) that takes no account of the clear evidence for other reasons for the changes in male friendships that are widely accepted, I'm caricaturing him? And don't even get me started on how intense male bonds really are that aren't outwardly "emotionally intense". Inward emotional intensity and outward emotional intensity are very different things.

That the class of beings assigned by God to the necessary roles requiring emotional distance should manifest that distance at different times in different ways, should be thought explanatory of any particular thing without argument is amazing. That this fact would be made the occasion of political wrangling as to how men should behave in an age confused about what men should be is not amazing at all, nor that it is cached out in terms of hot-button political issues like homophobia.

So men used to be distant from their wives and children, and closer in certain ways to their mates. But now they are now undeniably closer to their wives and children, and the relationship to their mates is stunted, or so the story goes. The question comes down to what is the essence of male friendship. The idea that men themselves would know this, and are acting it out in accord with their nature in classic ways as we speak all over the world, isn't seriously entertained. Or at least not every time it comes to light what men actually do to succeed in these necessary roles, even those that know it is normal and good can't say it and must publicly disapprove for fear of being publicly disapproved. That is the context for this whole discussion. I'm sorry if it can't be shoehorned into a limited thesis but it can't.

So now men are supposed to meet the currently popularly accepted pattern of emotionalism towards all three? So women can't have it all but men need to do it to be real men. We're supposed to believe that men must now meet all these goals simultaneously to protect their families properly (or their sons may be buggered ya know) and be satisfied with life, and if they don's accept this they're repressed and alienated from their real selves. It's a silly utopian fantasy, and whatever it is, it isn't a men's fantasy that's for sure.

Mark, it's just totally off-base for you to take the article as in any way a demand about what men "are supposed to do." The chip on your shoulder here is a mile high, and it's one of the weirdest ones I've ever seen. No one in this conversation, least of all Esolen, is making _demands_ of men as to what they are "supposed" to do nor any prescription towards them of the kind you envisage at all.

As for whether or not the change Esolen discusses has to do with homosexuality, it's so obvious that it does that that shouldn't even need to be stated. Take one of the examples Esolen gives:

“I am touched by your acknowledgment of my deep and sincere affection for you,” writes the elder chemist Jean-Jacque Biot to Pasteur,

"and I thank you for it. But whilst keeping your attachment for me as I preserve mine for you, let me for the future rejoice in it in the secret recesses of my heart and of yours. The world is jealous of friendships however disinterested, and my affection for you is such that I wish people to feel that they honor themselves by appreciating you, rather than that they should know that you love me and that I love you."

We ought to be able to take it as a given that most men would feel uncomfortable in 2013 writing "You love me and I love you" to another man.

Do you seriously claim that that discomfort has little or nothing to do with the prevalence of homosexuality in 2013 in our collective consciousness and hence with the concern that such an expression might sound odd in a distinctly homosexual way?

If you seriously claim that, then you are really totally blind. As I said above, the very fact that people do reinterpret such expressions in older works as implying homosexuality makes Esolen's point for him. Why you would deny that, if you would deny it, is just a strange and (truth to tell) rather boring mystery about your peculiar brand of stubbornness and the reaction you've had to this article of Esolen's.

Again, Mark, a more moderate statement could lead to interesting discussion (which so far isn't what we're having). Suppose that you had said something to the effect that _part_ of the change Esolen is noting in the appearance of greater distance between male friends is a result of the greater emotional expectations placed upon men now in their relationships with their wives and children. Now, as you may have noticed, I noted above that there was always a tacit or explicit potential for a competition for a man's energy and affection between his wife and his old male friends. This even comes up in older literature. It would be a perfectly defensible thesis to hold that men have fewer intense male friendships right now in part because the expectations from their families have soared, making that competition overwhelmingly slanted towards the wife and any children.

In reply, I would say that Esolen is also talking about younger and unmarried men and is pointing out that they as well are much less likely now to forge expressed "blood brother" relationships with the kind of emotional intensity and openness of expression that used to characterize these, and that this is less explicable in terms of the greater expectations of energy poured into his family by a married man. Moreover, it takes only a small amount of thought experiment, together with a knowledge of what people *do actually say* (as I've now pointed out three times or so) to realize that such expressions are *obviously* now inhibited in unmarried as well as married men by the changes in linguistic and social vocabulary which would make such expressions sound odd--which is clearly because of our current attitudes toward homosexuality. Hence, the "greater amount of emotion and energy expected by family" is only a partial explanation.

But of course this hypothetical Moderate Mark was saying no more than that to begin with. He wasn't referring to the entire article as Freudian malarkey and what-not. He wasn't flatly denying the relevance to this issue of our current attitudes toward and widespread condoning of homosexuality. So Moderate Mark could accept that reply and continue the interesting discussion.

Immoderate Mark just isn't able or willing to do that, however.

Well Lydia, you've written a hypothetical article for Esolen. I have no problem with your last comment. I could have made that case for him, but I don't think it does justice to what he's actually saying, or now at least you are.

I have never argued what you're claiming, that men don't speak differently now. I've never said nor meant to imply that if men wished to express themselves now in certain ways that fear of sounding gay might not prevent them from doing it. It may. That was never my point and shows nothing remotely about why it changed to begin with. My point was that Esolen has ripped certain displays of affection out of their context, and drawn unwarranted and unlikely conclusions. And it isn't at all clear what was the norm.

That verbal expressions of a certain type are as important to men and women is just silly. It obviously isn't. Men simply do not hang very much on verbal expressions of love. It is most important to for women, and we learn to do it for their sakes. And to think they my taciturn great grandparents and grandparents and others of their generation, and the vast majority I've encountered in hundreds of letters I've personally read from regions across the nation simply do no bear out that this was the norm. People very close to the time of these photographs of men holding hands, the wellspring of grand conclusions other than the most likely and accepted causes. And they tell a very different tale from the thesis you're pushing. I just don't buy your narrative, and your asserting my blindness is just silly. The idea that this sort of change came about from reactions to homosexuality is absurd. It's anachronism. The fact is that the words exchanged between men and women isn't as it was either. So? The idea that the expression "I love you" is some paradigm test case is strange. Men and women in some places and times expressed themselves very differently than we do now too. This is now turned into some just-so story about men. We have "How the leopard got its spots", and now apparently "How men came to be as they are." Because of homosexuality and emotional repression. Really?

I know all too well the severe effects of the radical homosexual agenda, but reading it back into the past that far to explain changes that so long preceded it is a gross mistake. It is a mistake to confuse outward displays of affection in one era in some groups as some ideal norm. You say he isn't proposing an ideal. Well then what is he arguing for? To release more outwardly emotional men from the chains of the group? You see where this is going? Of course Esolen is commenting about the ideal. What he claims it is now, and what he thinks it should be. Not a uniform perfection of course to anticipate what will no doubt be an extreme literalist denial, but the common sense use of the term.

But to the point we were on generally, I'm saying that male friendships tend to be of an entirely different character than most women grasp, and "light friendships" from outward appearances as you say are frequently of a different character and power, and grounded in a different basis than many people are comfortable with now. And outward shows of physical closeness does not tell us very much about the character of the inward bonds, and I don't see a reason to believe that the basis of male friendship has changed that much. No matter how men express themselves, they'll ditch friendships that don't meet their standards that are decidedly on masculine terms that are of the essence of male friendship as it has always existed, unlike verbal expression which is much more important to women.

Moderate Mark may have issues, but ideal Lydia can't accept that public debates can't conform to her private ideal.

Mark, it's just totally off-base for you to take the article as in any way a demand about what men "are supposed to do." The chip on your shoulder here is a mile high, and it's one of the weirdest ones I've ever seen.

Oh stop. I've disputed that the pictures he shows of physical closeness implies very much at all about verbal intimacy among American men, which you want to back up with references to pictures and the conversation of a Frenchman. Yet I've trolled diaries and letters from civil-war era men to their fathers and brothers for years and never noticed anything but what we'd expect from Victorian-era men, and about what we see today adjusting slightly in terms of modes of expression and sentiment type. They weren't more expressive and emotional then, but less as far as I can tell.

And the reason is easy to see, and why the context matters. You can't say that Esolen's argument might work for "younger and unmarried men" when how children are raised is of immediate effect in their lives as well as long-term effects in their lives and through the next generations via their children. It is not in dispute that it was an era when it was NOT socially approved for fathers (and mothers to a lesser extent) to show too much emotional attention to their children of either sex. So I'm supposed to believe that the boys of fathers who held themselves intentionally emotionally distant from their children of both sexes suddenly starting hugging their same-sex mates, holding hands, and whispering their inner thoughts to each other? How does that work? Did they see examples of this in their families? Not typically no. Isn't the way a child is raised the strongest indicator of how he'll act as a young man among other young men that were raised the same way? That is the problem with this "moderate Mark" view of yours: The view is easily refutable.

Like I said, that this parental distance was a social norm is not in dispute, but if one were so disbelieving there are well-known examples of elite Victorian parents who self-edited their memoirs to hide the fact that they didn't conform to the norm of distance because it would invite charges that they were indulgent parents, which they knew would meet with public disapproval. You can actually see the author pencil cross-out self-edits in the galley proofs of some Victorian-era memoirs to change the meaning to feign the approved distance and reserve.

All I need to do for my purposes is show that the image Esolen presents of men wasn't the norm. You can deny he claims it was, or that he think it should be again all day long. Well he shouldn't have brought it up if he didn't think it was the norm, whatever his other claims. And if it wasn't why is it even significant? And if there isn't yet a decent argument to show the physical closeness was the norm, what can you offer showing that American men in the past commonly said "I love you" to each other? If it wasn't the norm in the past, why would we think men wish to verbalize it to each other now? As you know, I've not disputed that they might not be able to do it openly now because of the homosexual issue, though why they couldn't do it in private is somewhat mystifying if they wished to. Such is the power of the all-powerful homosexual issue over men. But it seems to me you'd need to show that they wish to and it would be better for them if they could. I can't do lots of things, but the only ones that matter are the ones that help me and society.

Mark's ill-mannered ranting leaves the distinct impression that he neglected to actually read Esolen's essay. He skimmed a bit, found some phrasing or imagery disagreeable, and promptly set down some tiresome polemics against it. The ranting also leaves the impression of someone who's lived in a cave for the past few decades. We live in a country where a conservative governor can sign legislation making it illegal to provide therapy designed to control homosexual urges, and no one much bats an eye about it. Meanwhile, it appears perfectly normal to provide therapy that mutilates the genitals and pumps the body full of foreign hormones. But sure, things haven't changed much when you're living in a van down by the river.

Contrary to Mark's oddball characterization, the core of Esolen's argument is emphatically not that all or most male friendships must be emotionally expressive, much less that "hand holding and closeness" is "the essence of masculine friendship." (Yes, Mark seriously did summarize Esolen that way, in his second comment on this thread, which is pretty much all we need to know about Mark's capacity to render his opponents arguments with clarity and accuracy.)

There are numerous selections from the essay that could serve as a summary or abbreviation of his argument. I'll supply just a few:

Thus the Left proceed syllogistically. Language is utterly arbitrary. Social customs form a kind of language, and sexual customs form a very powerful language. Therefore social customs are arbitrary, and therefore sexual customs are equally arbitrary.
Imagine a world wherein the taboo has been broken and incest is loudly and defiantly celebrated. Your wife’s unmarried brother puts his hand on your daughter’s shoulder. That gesture, once innocent, must now mean something, or at least suggest something. If the uncle were wise and considerate, he would not make it in the first place. You see a father hugging his teenage daughter as she leaves the car to go to school. The possibility flits before your mind. The language has changed, and the individual can do nothing about it.
Our boys are failing in school. Has it occurred to no one that we have checked them at every turn, perversely insisting that they must not form brotherhoods, that they must not identify their manhood with practical and intellectual skills that transform the world, and that they must not ever have the opportunity, apart from girls, to attach themselves in friendship to men who could teach them?

For good reason boys used to build tree houses and hang signs barring girls. They know, if only instinctively, that the fire of the friendship cannot subsist otherwise. If the company of girls is made possible, then the company of girls becomes a necessity, if only to avoid having to explain to others and to oneself why one would ever prefer the company of one’s own sex. Thus what is perfectly natural and healthy, indeed very much needed, is cast as irrational and bigoted, or dubious and weak; and thus some boys will cobble together their own brotherhoods that eschew tenderness altogether—criminal brotherhoods that land them in prison. This is all right by us, it seems.

Something about Esolen's essay rubbed you the wrong way, Mark. We get it. We just don't care.

It's interesting how one wrings out of Mark a grudging, sullen admission of the obvious, while pretending that he never denied it

I've never said nor meant to imply that if men wished to express themselves now in certain ways that fear of sounding gay might not prevent them from doing it.

Only to have him turn around and deny it _again_:

It is most important to for women, and we learn to do it for their sakes.
The idea that this sort of change came about from reactions to homosexuality is absurd.

Yeah, I'm sure all of that in the past was done for the sake of women even though it was done between men. Biot wrote what he did to Pasteur because his wife taught him to say, "I love you." Otherwise he would have been emotionally distant from everyone, as God intended all men to be. That makes sense. Or maybe God just made Frenchmen different from everyone else. Except that the Englishman Tolkien seems to have thought that that sort of thing was normal, too...Huh.

As for why men don't use such expressions "in private" now, you continue to be incredibly dense: Because the vocabulary has changed. Just how hard is this to understand? It really likely *would sound on the edge of homosexual*, including to the person on the other end, whether in private or not. Both people involved would feel weird about it. Let's face it--an agenda really _can_ change perceptions and the way language is used and understood.

Well the irony in your point Pual, is that I'm always the one batting an eye on that very issue, and others here not so much. I've argued with Lydia in the past and she and at least one other contributor here always seem to agree with Christie that homosexuality is inborn or genetic if you like, and counseling is ineffective and a bad idea to try. She just thinks its a sin anyway, whereas Christie doesn't. I think that is incoherent.

So it isn't clear what good your point is to Lydia, but she's not going to volunteer what she thinks on this now. The truth is now suppressed, and last time I checked Lydia agreed with the central premise driving the speech suppressing, and now the law changes on therapy. The truth is something different, but Lydia is untroubled by this and gets extremely angry when I challenge her on this.


The idea that that sort of change could come about from reactions to homosexuality is absurd, whether it is true or not. There hasn't been any evidence given that it is true at all, and just about every letter and diary from the period shows otherwise. As I've said, men are much freer with their emotions now. Anyone observing the generational change in their lifetime can see this. It isn't necessarily better, and some think it is worse. If it seen as repression to be reserved, I'd say it is not at all better. But I find it nothing short of incredulous that some buy into the notion that from the Victorian era to now men have become less expressive in that way. The direction is different.

As for why men don't use such expressions "in private" now, you continue to be incredibly dense: Because the vocabulary has changed. Just how hard is this to understand? It really likely *would sound on the edge of homosexual*, including to the person on the other end, whether in private or not. Both people involved would feel weird about it. Let's face it--an agenda really _can_ change perceptions and the way language is used and understood.

I said "why they couldn't do it in private is somewhat mystifying if they wished to. Such is the power of the all-powerful homosexual issue over men." I took myself to be casting extreme doubt on the idea that men couldn't do so in private if they wished. I mentioned the expressed view here that men can't say "I love you" anymore to each other to a co-worker at work, and he laughed and said "We'll they've never been to our institution then, because guys here say it all the time." The language hasn't changed. Those men whose culture and upbringing tells them should do it do so, and those like myself of the old-school don't because we believe among men actions speak louder than words and that's the way we were raised.

And this whole bit seems to ignore the fact that men don't and are never going to respect a man that acts like a woman. It is never going to be good for a man to act like a woman, because a man's nature and purpose and different than a woman's. Acting like a woman and acting like a homosexual are entirely different things. We live in an age of gender confusion, and wildly tossing in theories about homophobia just adds to the confusion.

I should have repeated what I'd said earlier, but the debate has shifted back and forth between physical closeness and verbal or emotional expressions, and the one doesn't entail the other for men as any young woman should be advised by her parents to know. I've accepted that men may have been more physically close for the sake of argument because I don't know, but it would tell us little about any other sort of closeness and of the verbal sort it is clear the trend runs the other way.

But accepting that men generally may have been physically closer and believing it to be so are different things. I'm dubious even of such theories about physical closeness, because I just don't see any shortage of physical closeness. There is a church near us that we have visited occasionally that if a man prays for another man it is very common for the prayer to put his hand on the chest of the prayee. I don't like it because it is overly personal. I don't like it when strangers get verbally personal either. I have no idea if other men like it or not, but I don't. I don't see what that has to do with homosexuality. I was never a big hugger either for emotionally healthy people. With fatherless children I'm close to that thinking goes entirely the window.

I'm sure Paul doesn't care, but these are actually live issues, and people do talk, think, and act on advice about what is the right way to act, right or wrong. And I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the expressions there are about gayness really are comments about effeminacy. You won't offend a woman by saying that, and that is one area where speech has changed. Do we hear it anymore? Seems to me we don't. It used to be both sexes could and did say "that's mannish/womanish" as the case may have been and it was a meaningful comment, if an insult frequently. Since it mostly was offered by men about men to begin with, I'd wager a guess that the expression has now morphed into some form of "isn't that gay?". You won't get the retort or cold stare that says "What's wrong with acting like a woman?" from the ladyfolk. The former is a safer expression. Speculative, but no more than Esolen's theory.

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