Male Romantic Friendships in Historical Photography and Literature


Cover photograph of Jonathan Ned Katz's Love Stories, showing two working-class friends holding hands.

Some of the articles linked below are located at sites that address topics of sexuality. Parental guidance is suggested.

This directory is maintained by Dusk Peterson. Fiction by Dusk Peterson are available, including fiction on male friendship and male romantic friendship.

Sections below:

* Introduction
* Books and Sites on Historical Photography of Male Romantic Friendships
* Anthologies of Historical Writings About Male Romantic Friendships
* Sites on the History of Friendship
* Related Sites at This Domain
* E-Mail


The most practical definition for romantic friendship is a friendship in which the participants engage in behavior that modern society associates with romantic love, such as impassioned declarations of love, emotional weeping over the other person, and intimate touching.

For most of Western history, such behavior was not considered to be reserved solely for people who were sexually attracted to one another. Instead, it was assumed that any two people who held strong feelings of affection for one another such as a father and his son, a lord and his liegemen, and a man and his male friend might act in such a manner.

Recently, photographs of men demonstrating affection for each other in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have excited the interest of people studying the history of friendship, the history of romantic friendship, and the history of homosexuality. As historians have been quick to point out, we cannot be sure in most cases what the relationship was between the men in the photographs we do not know whether the men were brothers, friends, or lovers. We do know that they were engaging in behavior which was so socially acceptable that many men felt comfortable acting in such a manner in the presence of a commercial photographer.

Below is a small list of works (both online and in print) that are available on the subject. The last few links on the page lead to information on the literature of male romantic friendship.


Bachner, Evan. At Ease: Navy Men of World War II.

Review at The Boston Phoenix.

Review at Metro Weekly. Illustrated.

Review at the Washington Blade. Illustrated.

Bush, Russell, and Ron Lieberman. Affectionate Men: A Photographic History of a Century of Male Couples (1850's to 1950's).

Deitcher, David. Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together, 1840-1918.

Ibson, John. Picturing Men: A Century of Male Relationships in Everyday American Photography.

Male Couples and Friends. Quotations on the subect by a fan of historical photographs of affectionate men.


Fone, Byrne R. S. The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature: Readings from Western Antiquity to the Present Day. Includes a section devoted to male romantic friendship in medieval times.

Nissen, Alex. The Romantic Friendship Reader: Love Stories Between Men in Victorian America.


Celebrate Friendship. Includes information on male and female romantic friendships around the world and throughout history.

Friendship and Romantic Friendship: Stories and History. Related sites at this domain.

Romantic Friendship: Male. A historical article at the glbtq encyclopedia. The site includes ads.

William Deresiewicz on Classical Friendship.


History of Friendship and Romantic Friendship. Essays by Dusk Peterson.

The Literature and History of Friendship, Romantic Friendship, Romance, and Sexuality. Includes GLBT resources.


Comments and questions may be sent by e-mail to Dusk Peterson.

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