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At the turn of the century, smashes and crushes were considered an essential part of the women's college experience, and students who wrote home spoke openly about their involvement in romantic friendships.Several small groups of advocates and researchers have advocated for the renewed use of the term, or the related term Boston marriage, today.As the American suffrage movement succeeded in gaining rights for white, middle- and upper-class women heterosexual marriage became less of a necessity, and many more women went to college and continued to life in female-centric communities after graduation.The all-women peer culture formed at women's colleges allowed students to create their own social rules and hierarchies, to become each other's leaders and heroes, and to idolize each other.Romantic friendship between women in Europe and North America became especially prevalent in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, with the simultaneous emergence of female education and a new rhetoric of sexual difference.The study of historical romantic friendship is difficult because the primary source material consists of writing about love relationships, which typically took the form of love letters, poems, or philosophical essays rather than objective studies.
The content of Shakespeare's works has raised the question of whether he may have been bisexual.Giovanni Tomassia in the 1880s and Paul Koschaker in the 1930s, whose works Boswell knows and cites, had already reached this conclusion.Historian Robert Brain has also traced these ceremonies from Pagan "blood brotherhood" ceremonies through medieval Catholic ceremonies called "gossipry" or "siblings before God," on to modern ceremonies in some Latin American countries referred to as "compadrazgo"; Brain considers the ceremonies to refer to romantic friendship.There is no indication in the texts themselves that these are marriages in any sense that the word would mean to readers now, nor in any sense that the word would have meant to persons then: the formation of a common household, the sharing of everything in a permanent co-residential unit, the formation of a family unit wherein the two partners were committed, ideally, to each other, with the intent to raise children, and so on.Although it is difficult to state precisely what these ritualised relationships were, most historians who have studied them are fairly certain that they deal with a species of "ritualised kinship" that is covered by the term "brotherhood." (This type of "brotherhood" is similar to the ritualised agreements struck between members of the Mafia or other "men of honour" in our own society.) That explains why the texts on adelphopoiesis in the prayerbooks are embedded within sections dealing with other kinship-forming rituals, such as marriage and adoption.
Although twenty-six of Shakespeare's sonnets are love poems addressed to a married woman (the "Dark Lady"), one hundred and twenty-six are addressed to an adolescent boy (known as the "Fair Youth").