Thanks to a decline in homophobia, straight men are now better able to embrace "bromances" with other men, according to a new study published in the journal Sex Roles.
In order to explore the evolution of these so-called bromances -- which the report describes as being "more emotionally intimate, physically demonstrative, and based upon unrivaled trust and cohesion compared to their other friendships" -- the study's authors interviewed 30 undergraduate heterosexual and "mostly heterosexual" men studying sport-degree programs at a British University.
The authors aimed to explore what the students understood bromances to be, to what extent they valued these relationships and how these friendships were carried out. The men were specifically asked about their willingness to share secrets with their "bromantic" friends, as well as their level of emotional and physical intimacy with them.
All 30 men who were interviewed said they had been in at least one bromance, and they all had similar definitions of a "bromance" -- a relationship with deep emotional disclosure. Some described their bromance as a romance without the physical intimacy, and others described it like a brotherhood. The subjects all agreed this type of relationship had a positive impact on their lives.
"They were clear that a bromance offers a deep sense of unburdened disclosure and emotionality based on trust and love," University of Winchester's Stefan Robinson, the study's lead author, said in a statement.
Robinson and his coauthors, Eric Anderson and Adam White, found the openness to bromances is highly contingent on cultural attitudes toward homosexuality.
"We find these heterosexual men to be less reliant on traditional homosocial boundaries, which have previously limited male same-sex friendships," they wrote in the study's abstract. "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."
The study's authors also believe these relationships can lead to a more emotive and healthy masculine culture. "For those dealing with depressive symptoms or social anxieties, bromances may offer a way forward and a coping strategy," Robinson said.
The term "bromance" has recently taken off in pop culture. For example, Barack Obama and Joe Biden bromance memes exploded toward the end of Obama's presidency, and the "bromance" between Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon is a media favorite.