This issue of gender forum is dedicated to the question of how friendships may encourage or discourage, obscure or validate established concepts of gendered power relations and self concepts. Are friendships spaces in which issues of gender and sexuality figure less or more, do they offer alternative, non-institutionalised ways of life or figure as relations shunning the “real thing”? The exclusion of physical desire traditionally appears to be one of the defining principles of friendship as a bond that rests on mutual trust and understanding undisturbed by sexual and opposing interests. Especially at a time of “postmodern, fragmented selves”, selves in perpetual crisis, where romance and the assumed shortlivedness of physical attraction becomes viewed more sceptically, cynically even, friendship allegedly grants a space of reassuring stability. What the articles assembled in Buddies that Matter foreground, however, are precisely the slippery boundaries which (do not) separate friendships from sexual relationships, intellectual/emotional from physical interaction and matches of equals from power struggles. Rather than being conceptualised as a retreat from “doomed romances”, from the war of the sexes and sexualities within an oversexed western culture as a whole the articles render friendships as fragile relations, subverting and stabilising institutions, undermining and validating the self.

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Buddies that Matter.

Gender and Friendship