How Same-Sex Marriage Will Affect Friendships

In a review of Anthony Esolen’s new book, Defending Marriage: Twelve Arguments for Sanity, Matthew Franck explains the unintended effect same-sex marriage will have on friendships in our society:

The fallout from the destruction and redefinition of marriage spreads still more widely, even beyond the immediate territory of the family. Deep friendship between members of the same sex is now in grave danger. To show us why, Esolen asks us to imagine a world in which the incest taboo is erased (and that is a world that may not be far off). In such a place, “You see a father hugging his teenage daughter as she leaves the car to go to school. The possibility flashes before your mind. The language has changed, and the individual can do nothing about it.”

So too, in the world that is rapidly embracing and recognizing homosexual relationships as normal and normative, the space for deep and meaningful male-male or female-female friendships among the young is rapidly shrinking to the vanishing point. “The stigma against sodomy,” Esolen rightly notes, “cleared away ample space for an emotionally powerful friendship that did not involve sexual intercourse, exactly as the stigma against incest allows for the physical and emotional freedom of a family.”

Add, then, the estrangement of boys from boys and girls from girls, in a world in which intimacy always raises the suspicion of sexual desire. This is a bleak horizon to contemplate: plenty of sex, mostly empty and unrewarding, with much less love and friendship.

Read the rest of Franck's review

I’ve already seen a change happening in interpretations of friendships, most recently in the discussion over Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s friendship with Eberhard Bethge, and it’s upsetting to me that people might shy away from close friendships for this reason. Here’s what Trevin Wax had to say about the “assumption [that] affectionate male friendships must be romantic in nature”:

History is replete with examples of robust male friendships that are full of affection and expressions of love and yet are not sexual.

Unfortunately, the sexual revolution has made it more difficult to imagine passionate philos apart from eros. That’s why revisionist historians read romantic notions into Teddy Roosevelt’s affectionate letters to his closest friends. People wonder out loud about Abraham Lincoln’s sharing a bed with his friend, Joshua Speed. It’s hard for our society to understand how King David could weep so terribly over the lost love of Jonathan unless there was some sort of romance between them. And now, Bonhoeffer’s relationship with Bethge is put under the microscope of 21st century assumptions.

In fairness to the biographer, it is certainly possible that Bonhoeffer was attracted to Bethge, even though acting on such a notion was always out of the question. But it’s also possible, even likely, that Bonhoeffer’s friendship was, like many male friendships of the time, strong and affectionate, with a passion that did not include sexual desire.

The speculation about Bonhoeffer’s sexuality distracts us from the greater loss of slowly disappearing same-sex friendships, the kind of love we see in literature between Sam and Frodo, relationships that many today can hardly conceive of, apart from some sort of sexual longing.

This is just one unintended consequence of the sexual revolution and subsequent redefinition of marriage, the most basic and foundational institution in our society. There will be many more. You can’t rip the foundation out of a house and then not expect every room to be affected in some way.

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Amy K. Hall

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