Far More Intimacy Before Sexuality
Remember how sexualities were defined in the nineteenth century? And homosexuality actually became a thing, and then a criminal thing, and then a controversial thing, and then a semi-accepted thing? Well, before it was a thing at all, friendships were apparently much richer and more varied than afterwards.1
I do not know what species of platonic relationships we lost, in first becoming aware of and then liberating our sexual drives and orientations, but we forgot. We’ve replaced them with history about uptight prudes and romance novels about grand forbidden passions, sexual love. As enjoyable, as those are, the Victorian era’s become the straw man to our sexual revolution and individualism.
Dare we imagine that they had friendships that satisfied them in ways only our sexual and romantic relationships do? Dare we imagine that they had family and community close enough to them that outside of sexual attraction, they were not unsatisfied? Dare we imagine that even today, we have such relationships, with best friends and close family and more? Relationships with people we cannot define because their existence and the words for them have been retconned?
1. “But Were They Gay? The Mystery of Same-Sex Love in the 19th Century” kept poking at me. Article in the Atlantic by Jennie Rothenberg Gritz.