The 25 Most Homoerotic Friendships in Literature

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2015. We’ve selected it as one of the posts we’re republishing for our 10th anniversary celebrations in May 2017.

Homoeroticism refers to same-sex desire, not necessarily consummated. Critics have long found evidence of that desire in some of the cherished close friendships in classic literature. Looking at books this way adds depth not only to our understanding of the original works, but to our understanding of how complex and layered human relationships can be. Here are 25 queer, or queer-seeming, friendships in classics from the 19th century through today. Some are up for debate, and some are obviously more than just friendships — but all share an element of friendship and ambiguity.


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Ishmael and Queequeg, Moby Dick

These two seamen share a bed in Melville’s epic, and many critics have found much to unpack: “in there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each other . . . . thus, then, in our hearts’ honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg — a cosy, loving pair.”