Cover image for Gay men's friendships : invincible communities
Gay men's friendships : invincible communities
Nardi, Peter M.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago, Ill : University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
x, 253 pages ; 24 cm.

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HQ76.2.U5 N37 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Based on surveys and interviews of two hundred gay men, Peter Nardi's new study presents the first book-length examination of contemporary urban gay men's friendships. Expertly weaving historical and sociological research on friendship with firsthand information, Nardi argues that friendship is the central organizing element of gay men's lives. Through friendship, gay identities and communities are created, transformed, maintained, and reproduced.

Nardi explores the meaning of friends to some gay men, how friends often become a surrogate family, how sexual behavior and attraction affects these friendships, and how, for many, friends mean more and last longer than romantic relationships. While looking at the psychological joys and sorrows of friendship, he also considers the cultural constraints limiting gay men in contemporary urban America--especially those that deal with dominant images of masculinity and heterosexuality--and how they relate to friendship.

By listening to gay men talk about their interactions, Nardi offers a rare glimpse into the mechanisms of gay life. We learn how gay men meet their friends, what they typically do and talk about, and how these strong relationships contain the roots of larger cultural forces such as social movements and gay identities and neighborhoods. Nardi also points out the political and social consequences when friendships fail to provide support against oppression.

An intimate and informative look at gay life in urban America, Gay Men's Friendships ultimately shows how these relationships challenge the gender order of our society by questioning how masculinity is constructed and by offering a model for a more creative blending of gay and heterosexual masculinity.

Author Notes

PETER M. NARDI is professor of sociology at Pitzer College/The Claremont Colleges and coeditor of four books, most recently Social Perspectives in Lesbian and Gay Studies. He is the special features coeditor of the journal Sexualities and a member of the editorial board of five other academic journals.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Exploring what Hannah Arendt called "the political relevance of friendship," Nardi, a professor of sociology at Claremont College, argues that a tremendous amount of gay political organizing emerges from the bonds between gay men. Although he contends that gay male friendships are "poorly understood" and "not easily explained," he claims that friendship is the primary community institution for urban gay men. In addition to a review of the existing literature of male friendship (from Aristotle and Cicero to current popular and scholarly work), Nardi offers his own research findings, based on 161 questionnaires and 30 face-to-face interviews. While many of his conclusions seem like obvious common sense (such as his claim that many gay men choose not to have sex with their friends for fear of losing the friendship), he also offers some provocative flashes of insight (for example, that gay men's social circles have become less diverse in terms of class and race as political groups and social venues have proliferated and become more specialized). While Nardi attempts a blend of sociology and cultural history, overall, the latter element is more successful; when he lets his subjects speak, the book vibrates with lived experience. In particular, his discussions of the legal ramifications of gay men creating "family" out of friendships (e.g., friends do not have the legal rights to visit the critically ill in a hospital) are important contributions to the growing literature of gay sociology. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Nardi, a sociologist, explores the theme of friendship among gay men. Interviews with 30 gay males provide basic data for this study, although the author also draws on the now substantial literature on gay life, as well as on friendship itself. For gay males friendships are especially important, not infrequently compensating for inadequate or nonexistent relations with natural family members and for a degree of exclusion from the predominantly heterosexual world. Adult male heterosexuals often have rather superficial friendships with other men. Gay men are able to achieve a degree of emotional intimacy with other gay males more comparable to female friendships. Of course, these relationships are sometimes intertwined with a sexual relationship, a theme addressed here in some detail. Relatively little comparison--perhaps surprisingly--is undertaken of gay male friendships with lesbians, lesbian friendships, and gay male friendships with heterosexuals. But altogether this book is a well-written, thorough exploration of gay male friendships by someone who has been studying this topic for many years. As such, it is a welcome addition to the literature on both friendship and gay lives. Methodological appendix; references. Upper-division undergraduates and above. D. O. Friedrichs; University of Scranton

Table of Contents

1 "Friends Take You Places You've Never Been": Gay Men, New Modes of Relations, and Heroic Friendships
2 "A Major Wall of Noninvolvement": Contemporary Men's Friendships and Cultural Limitations
3 "A Chance to Choose My Siblings": Friendship as Kinship
4 "And We Never Mentioned It Again. Ever": Friendship, Sex, and Masculinity
5 "The Magic of Sympathy and Identification": Profiles of Gay Men's Friends
6 "All the Gold and Gems of the World": The Meaning and Maintenance of Friendships
7 "Where I Go to Know I'm Not Crazy": Developing Social Support, Achieving Identity, and Confronting Conflicts
8 "A Vicarious Sense of Belonging": The Politics of Friendship and Gay Social Movements, Communities, and Neighborhoods
Appendix: Research Methodology