Public intimacy: Dynamics of seduction in male homosocial interactions

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Male-to-male (homosocial) friendship bonds extend from the public to the private sphere. Relying on in-depth interviews from a sample of thirty Israeli men sharing a common background of military socialization, this article analyzes how male friends communicate intimacy in public spaces with diverse social and organizational settings. In contrast to the common depiction of men's joking-relationship as an attempt to maintain autonomy, the author suggests that the homosocial performance is a semi-arbitrary, ambivalent language of relatedness endorsing closeness. The men participate in humorous interactions involving idioms, nicknames, curses, nonsense talk, aggressive gestures, and embraces. These verbal and bodily expressions send an unclear message that teases the participants and draws them to engage deeper in the interaction, generating a dynamic of seduction. The men's expressive interactions are staged publicly under the guise of instrumental action. It is suggested that although this homosocial staging attempts to erase hints of homoeroticism, it is this very erasure that produces desire as its emergent outcome. Set against the backdrop of instrumental activity, this performance of pleasure serves to empower and privilege male social and organizational networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-595
Number of pages25
JournalSymbolic Interaction
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes


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