So, last time we noted that while an awful lot of women need and want to imagine romantic male bonding or Bromances, hardly any men, apparently, need or want to imagine romantic female bonding or Womances. Womances simply do not figure in their scheme of things.

On the other hand, the Bromance thing is vitally alive and functioning at full throttle, even among the non-novel reading youngsters of today. There’s a galaxy of Bromantic YouTube stars performing to a new generation of adoring females, hopefully demonstrating that males are rounded people whose secret lives (separate from their relationships with women) are warm and playful.

Side note: Funny, isn’t it, that in gay Bromance written by females, the protagonists must be monogamous and faithful to each other? Not surprisingly, I’ve come across several online comments to the effect that this does not at all reflect the norm for gay men. (I will say nothing of my observations in this field except – well, duh.)

Meanwhile, among male authors, we get the oft-noted tendency to narrate female characters in sexual terms, to see them exclusively as relating to male needs, to have them appear in dark or light versions of that Triple-Aspected Muse, Damsel/Vixen, Destroying or Loving Mother, Sexual Playmate/Whore.

Boiling it down, then: females write male characters as sensitive, monogamous and a little bit wild (but actually predictable); males write female characters as genuinely interested in sex and more compliant. Ah, l’amour.

OK, sit down. Have a cup of tea. It’s not like it’s come as a shock to us, is it?

But now let me do what I promised, let me look at the broader meaning of Romance. What we now think of as ‘Romance’ is not how it all began. Nowadays, a romantic story involves the complications of relationships, emotional rumination, tenderness, heartbreak, happy endings. It is also a much-devalued genre, dismissed out of hand by literary snobs and all that lot (I’ll leave you to guess why). Anyway, not so long ago, Romance was written by males, highly regarded and involved Courtly Love, noble ideals, chivalry and shipwrecks.

And it is the Courtly Love aspect that still comes into play here. I find this old idea relevant to my less-than-rigorous study of Bromance: in the tales of the Troubadours, the longing for an unattainable lady by a knight of valour was an ennobling passion which led him to go off and do wonderful deeds. There’s a lot more to it than that, of course; and don’t go running away with the idea that the ‘lady’ was necessarily female (see Susan Schibanoff’s ‘Mohammed, Courtly Love and the Myth of Western Heterosexuality’)

Anyway, in this tradition, the lover is deeply afflicted by a love verging on monomania. It can never be fulfilled – his ‘lady’(q.v.) is usually married or unattainable in some way. To consummate the relationship is to invite death; but, as Love’s Law transcends those of society, the lover is bound to pursue it or hang suspended between happiness and despair. The result is usually disastrous.

Well, clearly, this fits the bill for any number of doomed narratives of the Bromantic tradition. See ‘The Flight of the Heron’ by D.K.Broster, for example. My little theory is simply that the noble ideal of Courtly Love has not been ignominiously thrown off its pedestal and dragged into the backroom of history.

The slow evolution of more mutually respectful, realistic relations between the sexes has not deleted the need that drives Romance. But it is an ideal which doesn’t fit in with proactive, self-determining, modern females. Therefore, the circumstances which evoke the archetype are not so much traditional heterosexual liaisons any more.

Is it too fanciful to say that a variation upon Troubadour tradition has morphed out of the Middle Ages to reappear in modern female writing? I’m not talking about a direct descendant from a literary past – I’m talking about a psychological driver expressing itself anew.

I think that women are providing a version of Courtly Love for themselves through a new Bromantic twist on a very old tradition. And in this age of Trump, we need Bromance to reassure ourselves that, however tainted masculinity may become, there have always been – and always will be – males who transcend its toxicity. It’s now up to men to reclaim their right to write their own romance again.