Public Sex/gay Space

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William Leap
Columbia University Press, 1999 - Political Science - 287 pages
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Male homosexual activity in public and semipublic locations is a central but seldom explored dimension of gay culture around the world. The majority of existing research emphasizes the impersonality of such erotic interaction and underscores the element of danger involved. While never denying the danger of anonymous public sex in the age of AIDS, the contributors to Public Sex/Gay Space go beyond narrow moralisms about the need to regulate unsafe sexual practices to discuss the significance of sex in public. William Leap has brought together contributions from such fields as anthropology, sociology, literary criticism, and history to reinvigorate the discussion on this issue, with twelve essays providing a more nuanced portrait of why public sexual activity is such an integral part of gay culture. The authors present rich ethnographic snapshots of male sex in public places--many drawn from interviews with participants or, in some instances, the authors' personal experiences.Contributors investigate a broad cultural spectrum of gay sexual space and activity: in a public park in contemporary Hanoi, at the beachfront community of New York's Fire Island, and in nineteenth-century Amsterdam, for example. They explore issues such as visibility and secrecy, as well as economic status and social class, and interrogate the historical trajectories through which certain locations come to be favored sites for sexual encounters. Together, they offer insight into the ways in which public sex calls into question the very line that divides "public" from "private."

  

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Contents

Reclaiming the Importance of Laud Humphreys Tearoom Trade Impersonal Sex in Public Places
23
Tearoom Trade Impersonal Sex in Public Places
29
A Highway Rest Area As a Socially Reproducible Site
55
Speaking to the Gay Bathhouse Communicating in Sexually Charged Spaces
71
Beauty and the Beach Representing Fire Island
95
Sex in Private Places Gender Erotics and Detachment in Two Urban Locales
115
Ethnographic Observations of Men Who Have Sex with Men in Public
141
Self Size and Observable Sex
157
Baths Bushes and Belonging Public Sex and Gay Community in PreStonewall Montreal
187
Homosex in Hanoi? Sex the Public Sphere and Public Sex
203
Private Acts Public Space Defining Boundaries in NineteenthCentury Holland
223
Living Well Is the Best Revenge Outing Privacy and Psychoanalysis
247
Index
285
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About the author (1999)

Edward D. berkowitz is professor of history and public policy and public administration at George Washington University. He is the author of eight books and the editor of three collections. During the seventies he served as a staff member of the President's Commission for a National Agenda, helping President Carter plan for a second term that never came to be.

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