Does "LOVE" mean different things to strt women, strt men, lesbians, gay men?

…and not only those four classifications, but–“etc.”

Now, this is about the common understanding of a common term. I am not asking about various “specialized” religious or metaphysical usages; not asking about Love of God, Brotherly Love, “Agape” at its most esoteric, and so on. No one is invited to declaim on how the universe is based on Love–that’s not what this thread is about.

I’m asking this. When someone says “I love him/her,” or “I’ve fallen in love,” or “I can’t seem to find love”–the word as used commonly and casually–is there a characteristic, systematic difference between what the various genders and orientations HAVE IN MIND? (For example, popular myth says that women “tend” to think of Love as nurturing and cherishing, whereas men “tend” to think of it as sexual attraction and excitement.)

Are there such systematic differences? Or is this illusory? Is it possible that some of our human difficulties in this area stem from one group of people not realizing that another group is utterly misunderstanding their use of a key word?


Love means different things to each and every individual person, but there are enough similarities in our concepts that we can apply the term, and its Greek subsets where needed for clarity, mutually.

I flatly refute the concept that there are systematic differences based on sexual orientation.

I don’t accept the whole “agape” “eros” stuff to begin with, so maybe we shoudl start there: “Does erl see love differently than others?” :stuck_out_tongue:

But seriously folks…

We can start here: were we all taught to use the word the same?

Eris wrote:

You don’t “accept” them? :smiley: Do you also not accept the whole “connaitre” “savoir” stuff in French?

American Heritage gives thirteen definitions for “love”, and they include both of those two Greek equivalents. Merely because a language uses a word for a manifold of contexts does not mean that the word has only one meaning.

In this thread, Scott means love as eros, or erotic love. And I agree with Poly that there is no essential difference based on sexual orientation. It is merely an electrochemical discharge from a synaptic spasm.

Of course there are many kinds of love out there, but from what I’ve seem from the few gay friends I’ve had, they exhibit all the charactersitcs that my straight friends and I do when we’re in love. So I’d be inclined to say that romanitc love betwen gays or straights is pretty much the same thing.

Of course not! Man, that’s the last thing I’d ever say.

Well, I don’t know what that means. It seems to be making a distinction I’m not sure what to do with. Like “needle pain” versus “head pain”.

Anyway, I am not sure that a person’s sexual orientation has no affect. When the child learns the word love, as it relates to sexual contact, does it learn it deviod of specific preferential lines?

I’ve got to agree with Polycarp here. I’ve seen no evidence that love means something different to straight people then it does to homosexuals.


Eris wrote:

When I say that I love Shakespeare and that I love my wife, do you see no distinction between them?

Right, Lib. Or unless you’re Alexander Portnoy, you don’t mean the same thing by saying, “I love liver!” :smiley: (If you don’t get it, I strongly recommend not asking! ;))

Although the Earl of Oxford in Shakespearean times might well have meant the same thing by the two remarks! :wink:

Sure I see a difference. I don’t think that difference is simply summed up by modifying the word “love”. This is a hijack, damn it. :smiley:

On second thought, let’s run with that. When an English major and a Math major both say, “I love Shakespeare” do they necessarily mean the same thing?

And I want to say: I say this because I don’t see why (unless we were 5) we would equate “loving” literature with “loving” a person.

When you say you love a book to your wife, do you qualify it with, “Of course I don’t love it like I love you.”

But anyway, what I think is getting to me is this:

Now, on one hand, I haven’t either… if I already assume that it is the same to love a man as it is to love a woman. But that’s something I really don’t know… I’ve never loved a man. I’ve been attracted to a man, that is true, but still, I’ve never been in a situation where I would say, “I love him” in the way the OP is concerned with. So now what would make me say a man loves another man like I love a woman? Or for that matter my [hypothetical] wife loves me the same way I love my wife?

I mean, yeah, we behave similarly, if we ignore physiological aspects of loving a spouse (that is, er, the sensations associated with copulation) (that also is differences in brain composition).

What do we count as sameness here?

I don’t know how to react to such a materialistic assertion from you! :smiley:

I am in a relationship that some people would classify as “straight” and others would classify as “gay”. Therefore, I say that love is love no matter who it is directed at.

I have had an unrequited crush on both a male and a female before this and the feelings in both of those cases were similar too.

You also have to consider that “love” means different things not only for people, but also for different cultures. Love as we would define it was unheard of in Asia before the missionaries arrived.

But the problem, ava, is that the OP is also asking if love from a bi is the same as the love from a straight… and note that, in fact, if we include straight, gay, bi, and the various genders therein, no one can answer this question by saying, “It feels the same.” See what I mean?

Unless we are not talking about the feeling, but the OP said, “is there a characteristic, systematic difference between what the various genders and orientations HAVE IN MIND?”

Do you think about men the same way you think about women? The more I think about this topic the more it seems to be impossible to answer, or impossible to answer affirmatively…

Love? No. How people interact? Yes. How two men or two women interact as opposed to a man and a woman? DEFINITELY.


Eris wrote:

To refuse to differentiate among the kinds of love — my love of Shakespeare, my love of my wife, my love of you — is to equivocate, i.e., to use a word that means different things in different contexts as though it meant the same thing in every context.

I recognize that erotic love is a brain fart. It is not a materialistic assertion about love generally. I would be rightfully considered obtuse if I responded to a statement about the “force of law” by declaring that I don’t know how to react to an assertion made about mass and acceleration.

Sometimes one finds that one must clarify his OP, based upon the different ways the responding posters have understood it. No shame in that, I trust.

So here is the Revised Standard Version.

Actual scientists, wearing actual white coats, have studied how certain human populations have responded to certain kinds of situations. I’m not claiming to know the current state of the research, but I recall, for example, that the minority sexual orientations (ie, gay and lesbian) typically show “play styles and preferences” that are more similar to those of the other sex. (If you imagine gay toddlers playing with dolls and mounting living room operettas, and lesbian toddlers getting into woodworking and rough-and-tumble sports–the caricatures put you on the right road.) (Standard disclaimer #1: We’re talking about people who, in adolescence and adulthood, declare that they have always been aware of having a “different orientation” than others of their genders.)

It is also widely believed that men in general, and women in general, take the word “Love” and apply it to significantly different situations. It is thought that when a man seeks a “Love partner,” his FIRST priority is making the best possible “deal” to maximize his ongoing access to sexual excitement (plus various other things, important in themselves but not the top item). It is thought that when a woman seeks an LP, her FIRST priority is making the best possible “deal” in what we might term the “nesting” department–is he stable, reliable, solvent, level-headed, potentially a good father–and then all the rest (including sexual attraction per se). (Standard disclaimer #2: We’re talking about statistical tendencies that differ between the populations selected–not about anything that has to apply to all members.)

So these are some examples of systematic differences having to do with men and women, gays and straights.

It is said that gay men, describing themselves as “looking for Love,” approach one another, and conceptualize what they are doing, in the same way straight men do with respect to women.
It is said that lesbians, “looking for Love,” approach one another in the same way straight women approach men, and conceive of what Love “is” along that model.

But it could have been different. Gay men might have defined what they were doing more they way straight women do; lesbians, more the way straight men do.

So–what do others observe? I think I’d like more than blanket assertions that love is the same for everybody–given the credible belief that, in fact, it isn’t.

PS–There are people who swear that they changed orientations at some point in their lives. If any of you are reading this, perhaps you would care to make a comparison.

I see people who file love as wanting to form a long-term familial association with their partner or partners; I see those people and they are male, female, straight, gay, bi.

I see people who file love as being intimately related with sexual desire and/or expression; I see those people and they are male, female, straight, gay, bi.

I see people who file love as a gift given freely, offered up for acceptance by the other; I see those people and they are male, female, straight, gay, bi.

I see people who file love as entailing obligations and support upon acceptance; I see those people and they are male, female, straight, gay, bi.

I see these and many other forms of love. And the people who practice them are . . . male, female, straight, gay, bi. In some cases the frequency and distribution differ from demographic to demographic, but even in cases where there is skew, there are still people who are male, female, straight, gay, bi who pursue each sort.

And I see people who are male, female, straight, gay, bi who are frustrated and pained by being told that people who are male, female, straight, bi, gay want the thing which is culturally presumed and inflicted, which they do not, in fact, find appealing.

Like all things having to do with humans, there is a distribution, and categorical “People of this adjective want this variant on this thing” statements are going to be ignoring some significant portion of the population, often to that portion’s detriment.

There is only one kind of love, however, we humans use the word to describe many other things like: sexual attraction, sex, even in frivolity. All these common uses are misnomers.

Real love is giving while wanting/expecting nothing in return. If you can look at another, say I love him/her with no desire for sexual activity of any kind, or anything else, then it is probably love. Provided you have been honest with yourself.


“…Real love is giving while wanting/expecting nothing in return. If you can look at another, say I love him/her with no desire for sexual activity of any kind, or anything else, then it is probably love. Provided you have been honest with yourself…”


That’s an interesting definition, but I suspect many will disagree with it.

It sounds more like agape at its most agape-est.

I once believed as you; it is no coincidence that at that time I thought sex was icky, wasn’t sure how to do it, and doubted anybody would want to do it with me!

Now I know that sex IS icky, but I do it about as well as anyone (which isn’t saying much), and I still doubt that anybody would want to do it with me!