Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Sex Museums: The Politics and Performance of Display” by Jennifer Tycurczy— The Role of Museums in Sexuality”

Tyburczy, Jennifer. “Sex Museums: The Politics and Performance of Display”, University of Chicago Press, 2016.

The Role of Museums in Sexuality

Amos Lassen

Writer Jennifer Tyburczy tells us that “all museums are sex museums” and she explores the formation of Western sexuality—particularly how categories of sexual normalcy and perversity are formed—and asks what role museums have played in using display as a technique for disciplining sexuality. She argues that most museum exhibits assume that white, patriarchal heterosexuality and traditional structures of intimacy, gender, and race represent national sexual culture for their visitors. In “Sex Museums, we see the history of such heteronormativity at most museums and she proposes alternative approaches for the future of public display projects, while also offering the reader curatorial tactics—what she calls queer curatorship—for exhibiting diverse sexualities in the twenty-first century. If we indeed live in a world of diversity, we must also be able to see diversity in our museums.

Tyburczy shows that museums are sites of culture-war theatrics. Dramatic civic struggles over how sex relates to public space, genealogies of taste and beauty, and performances of sexual identity are staged in the hope that these will provide better understanding. As we look deeply into the history of erotic artifacts, we see how museums have historically approached the collection and display of the material culture of sex, which poses complex moral, political, and logistical dilemmas for the Western museum. The author unpacks the history of the museum and its intersections with the history of sexuality and argues that the Western museum context (from its inception to the present) marks a pivotal site in the construction of modern sexual subjectivity. We get new interpretations of what we see in museums along with case histories that are compelling in every aspect. Tyburczy’s selections are “a diverse array of incidents that beautifully index period ideas about sex and its structures of visibility and invisibility. Ultimately, in weighing these discreet histories within a new category of displaying sex, Sex Museums manages to make them speak to one another.” This is an original, and timely account of the rhetoric and material practices of the display of erotic materials. Tyburczy uses her own experience as a curator and interviews, observation, and archival research to give us deep looks at these often-precarious institutions. She brings together queer studies and museum studies to show what works in terns of exhibiting and archiving sex.

She urges museums and museumgoers to think more carefully, creatively, and queerly about how diverse sex and sexualities are displayed and navigated in the museum. This is a very smart analysis of the politics of the erotic in the public sphere. Representation has the power to change how we understand the world, and care about sexual and gender minorities in “civic space.”

Tyburczy brings us a genealogy of the recent culture wars as she examines transnational circuits of capital, sex, and tourism. She reorients the history of exhibition in new ways and I am quite sure that whoever reads this will never look at an exhibition in the same way again.

Here we are reminded of how important performative display of images and objects are to the world outside the museum walls. We become immediately aware of Tyburczy’s consistent attention to the complex interplay between race, sex, gender, and the politics of display. We see how history and theory come together and how museums studies can come together with sexuality studies as well as how performance can join the archive thus producing thought and innovation in method. Tyburczy creates her own museum that is “a rich transnational-transdisciplinary space” and she leads us in an exploration of it. She also suggests that museums might be more open to sexual displays than we might have thought.

“Ghost Faces: Hollywood and Post-Millennial Masculinity” by David Greven— Contemporary Manhood on Film

Greven, David. “Ghost Faces: Hollywood and Post-Millennial Masculinity”, (SUNY series, Horizons of Cinema), SUNY Press, 2017.

Contemporary Manhood on Film

Amos Lassen

 David Greven brings together psychoanalysis, queer theory, masculinity studies, and cultural studies to explore contemporary manhood in film in “Ghost Faces”. We see clearly the terrible nature of homophobia even in contemporary Hollywood films that promote their own homo-tolerance and appear to destabilize hegemonic masculinity. Focusing on several key films, Greven frames his study on key films made in the 1990s David Greven examines several key films from the late 1990s forward. These include slasher film like “Scream” to bromances and beta male comedies such as “I Love You, Man” and dramas such as “Donnie Darko”. Greven also traces the disturbing connections between torture porn found in such films as Hostel and gay male Internet pornography. Below is the Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Disrecognitions

 

  1. Ghost Faces, Genre Bodies

 

  1. The Murderous Origins of Bromance: Genre, Queer Killers, and Scream

 

  1. “I Love You, Brom Bones”: Beta Male Comedies, Bromances, and American Culture

 

  1. Apparitional Men: Masculinity and the Psychoanalytic Scene

 

  1. Trick-or-Treating Alone: Rob Zombie’s Halloween

 

  1. Torture/Porn: Hostel, Homophobia, and Gay Male Internet

 

Coda

Notes

Bibliography

Index Pornography

“Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America” by Nathaniel Frank— How Opinions Change

Frank, Nathaniel. “Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America”, Harvard University Press, 2017.

How Opinions Change

Amos Lassen

I often find myself staring blankly ahead and thinking about how gay marriage has changed who we are in this country. Before the 1915 Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex couples to marry, there were periods of intense conflict and some of the most divisive of all contests took place within the LGBT community itself. Nathaniel Frank gives us the very dramatic story of how the idea of gay marriage was an unthinkable and undesirable idea for many gays and lesbians. Nonetheless it became a legal and moral right in just fifty years.

Frank begins the story in the 1950s when millions of gays and lesbians were afraid to come out and were certainly not ready to fight for equality. Then a gay rights movement came into being along side of the rising awareness of the equal dignity of same-sex love. A group of LGBTQ lawyers soon began to focus on legal recognition for same-sex couples and this time, marriage was not considered. It took being pushed by a small set of committed lawyers and grassroots activists that established movement groups to create and develop a successful strategy to win marriage in the courts.

Marriage equality proponents first had to win over members of their own LGBT community who were not ready to make marriage a priority and at the same time had to contain the others who has moved ahead with the idea of gay marriage. They also had to fight against antigay opponents and gain and maintain the American center by spreading the simple message that love is love with the idea that this would move the community further towards justice.

Frank traces the dramatic struggles that finally resulted in same-sex couples winning one of the most important rights of citizenship: the right to marry and have their marriage recognized by state and federal governments. This is quite an inspiring read and with our government in the condition that it is now, really need inspiration. It is fascinating to read how every state prohibited homosexual activity in 1961 and then allowed marriage equality for gays and lesbians in 2015. It was something that most of us never dreamed of seeing in our lifetime and I was mesmerized by what I read here. Just as we waited for the SCOTUS decision to come down, I have waited for someone to write the definitive account of how this happened. This is a story of courage, determination, and strategies. Just as details were important during the fight, so are they important now and Frank shares those details with us. His prose is impressive yet easy to read and it is our story.

 

“Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray” by Rosalind Rosenberg— Pauli Murray: Activist and Lawyer

Rosenberg, Rosalind. “Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray”, Oxford University Press, 2017.

Pauli Murray: Activist and Lawyer

Amos Lassen

Activist and lawyer Pauli Murray fought against a lot in her life. She was opposed to discrimination of any kind and felt it blocked America from becoming the democracy that it was supposed to be. She played important roles in both the civil rights and women’s movements. Murray was an orphan, a child of biracial parents who grew up in North Carolina during segregation. She managed to get to New York and study at Hunter College and she became a labor activist in the 1930s. She applied to graduate school at the University of North Carolina, where her white great-great-grandfather had been a trustee, but was rejected because of her race. She then went on to graduate first in her class at Howard Law School but was again rejected for graduate study at Harvard University because of her sex this time. Instead of breaking, she made a career for herself in law and her expertise in legal matters was valuable to Thurgood Marshall when he challenge segregation in Brown v. Board of Education in 1950.

Murray was appointed to the President’s Commission on the Status of Women by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1962 and formulated and advanced the idea of Jane Crow in which she argued that same reasons used to condemn race discrimination could be used to battle gender discrimination. In 1965, she became the first African American to earn a JSD from Yale Law School and the following year she persuaded Betty Friedan to found an equal rights organization for women that later became the National Organization of Women or NOW. In the early 1970s, Murray gave Ruth Bader Ginsburg the argument Ginsburg used to persuade the Supreme Court that the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution protects not only blacks but also women as well as other minority groups from discrimination. By then Murray was a tenured history professor at Brandeis but eventually left that position to become the first black woman ordained priest by the Episcopal Church in 1976. As if that was not enough, she left her mark on so many people, organizations and ideas.

Murray was able to do all of this at the same time she was struggling with her own identity issues. She actually had thought of herself as male and tried to get doctors to give her testosterone. She would be considered transgender today but back then there as nothing to support this. Murray publicly contended that identities are not fixed or permanent and she used this an idea to fuel campaigns

Murray accomplished all this while struggling with issues of identity. She believed from childhood she was male and tried unsuccessfully to persuade doctors to give her testosterone. While she would today be identified as transgender, during her lifetime no social movement existed to support this identity. She ultimately used her private feelings of being “in-between” to publicly contend that identities are not fixed, an idea that has powered campaigns for equal rights in the United States. Murray was one of the “most interesting, accomplished, and controversial figures in 20th-century America” yet we really do not know much about her (or did not until this book was published).

This is not just the story of Murray’s life; it is also a look at America of that time at that Murray was an integral part of that history.

 

 

 

 

New in April from Bruno Gmunder

New from Bruno Gmunder

 

Underage is an award-winning photographic documentation aimed at understanding the minds of underage male prostitutes in Thailand in a most candid and visceral way. Photographer Ohm Phanphiroj uncovers the life, choice, and consequences that these young boys are experiencing. Underage prostitution results from several reasons, from being molested by family members and/or relatives, poverty, being a runaway, and drug addiction.

For many years, Ernest Montgomery has photographed men of the Dominican Republic. His first photo book, Dominicanos, is a best-seller. Now follows a second volume of his most erotic works: Hermoso.
The title of the book alludes to what awaits us inside: the most beautiful men of the Dominican Republic, photographed by an outstanding artist.

Sly features the adventures of a hyper-sexy, cat-suited super-spy … and the men he sleeps with when saving the world from threats to world peace! First, he goes on a “Smooth Extraction”, the rescue operation of a beardy scientist kidnapped by an evil international paramilitary criminal organization … The mission goes hot when the glasses come off, the zippers unzipped, and no asset’s left unstirred!

In this all-action-packed sequel to The Wrath of Seth young lovers Quintus and Rufio are plunged into the dangerously murky world of match-fixing when Quintus falls for the young gladiator they are both sponsoring. The boys will need all their wits about them to survive the corrupt machinations within the World Gladiator Federation. Blood in the arena, tested love, naked ambition—all fuse into a twisting, hot, illustrated tale of gay passion amid the splendor and squalor that is Rome at the apex of its power.

“The War on Sex” edited by David Halperin and Trevoe Hoppe— A Different Story

Halperin, David and Trevor Hoppe (editors). “The War on Sex”, Duke University Press, 2017.

A Different Story

Amos Lassen

In the past fifty years, this country has experienced a change regarding the expansion of sexual rights and liberties in the United States. As progress has been made in marriage equality, reproductive rights, access to birth control, and other areas, however government and civil society have been waging a war on stigmatized sex by means of law, surveillance, and social control. In this collection of essays, contributors document the history and operation of sex offender registries and the criminalization of HIV, as well as the punitive measures against sex work that do more to harm women than to combat human trafficking. We see that sex crimes are punished more harshly than other crimes and new legal and administrative regulations drastically restrict who is permitted to have sex. In examining how the ever-intensifying war on sex affects both privileged and marginalized communities, we see why sexual liberation is indispensable to social justice and human rights.
  Contributors include Alexis Agathocleous, Elizabeth Bernstein, J. Wallace Borchert, Mary Anne Case, Scott De Orio, David M. Halperin, Amber Hollibaugh, Trevor Hoppe, Hans Tao-Ming Huang, Regina Kunzel, Roger N. Lancaster, Judith Levine, Laura Mansnerus, Owen Daniel McCarter, Erica R. Meiners, R. Noll, Melissa Petro, Carol Queen and Penelope Saunders.

These scholars and activists who work on the front lines, give us an important and vital tool for understanding how the regulation and criminalization of sex relates to the struggles in racial, economic, gender, and disability justice.

“The Ethics of Opting Out: Queer Theory’s Defiant Subjects” by Mari Ruti— The Ideological Divisions of Queer Theory

Ruti, Mari. “The Ethics of Opting Out: Queer Theory’s Defiant Subjects”, Columbia University Press, 2017.

The Ideological Divisions of Queer Theory

Amos Lassen

Mari Ruti in “The Ethics of Opting Out” gives us an accessible and theoretically account of the ideological divisions that have been part of queer theory during the ten years, focusing on the rejection of “the dominant neoliberal narratives of success, cheerfulness, and self-actualization”. She examines the queer negativity in the work of Lee Edelman, Jack Halberstam, and Lynne Huffer, and on what is found in the works of Sara Ahmed, Lauren Berlant, David Eng, Heather Love, and José Muñoz. We see how queer theory wants “to opt out of normative society rewrites ethical theory and practice in genuinely innovative ways at the same time as she resists turning antinormativity into a new norm”. We become very aware of the parameters of contemporary queer theory so that we can reconsider and rethink the foundational assumptions of the field.

Debates about utopia and negativity that have become topics for queer critics for over ten years now. Ruti does not take sides but rather goes through the theoretical underpinnings of these positions by providing clear explanations and useful correctives along the way. She shows a new approach queer ethics that is “antinormative” while not being antisocial. She has based her thoughts in Lacanian and Foucaldian thought and criticizes

Judith Butler’s relational anti-Lacanian ethics and Edelman’s Lacanian anti-relationalism. Ruti maintains that we need “a new Lacanian relational ethics of, if not love for, then at least living with the inhuman awkwardness of your neighbor”. Below is the Table of Contents:

Author’s Note

Acknowledgments

Introduction

  1. Queer Theory and the Ethics of Opting Out
  2. From Butlerian Reiteration to Lacanian Defiance
  3. Why There Is Always a Future in the Future
  4. Beyond the Antisocial–Social Divide
  5. The Uses and Misuses of Bad Feelings

Conclusion: A Dialogue on Silence with Jordan Mulder

References

Index

“Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law from America’s Origins to the Twenty-First Century” by Geoffrey R. Stone— The Legalization of Sex in America

Stone, Geoffrey R. “Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law from America’s Origins to the Twenty-First Century”, Liveright, 2017.

The Legalization of Sex in America

Amos Lassen

Geoffrey R. Stone begins his book with a look at how the Founding Fathers who were deeply influenced by their philosophical ancestors, saw traditional Christianity as an impediment to the pursuit of happiness and to the quest for human progress. They were very aware of the need to separate politics from religion and its divisive forces and they crafted a constitution that expressed the fundamental values of the Enlightenment.

Even though the Second Great Awakening later came to define America through the lens of evangelical Christianity, nineteenth-century Americans continued to view sex as a matter of private concern, so much so that sexual expression and information about contraception circulated freely, abortions remained legal, and there was almost no prosecutions for sodomy.

This was all reversed in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as charismatic spiritual leaders and “hell and brimstone” politicians rejected the values of our nation’s founders. Anthony Comstock, America’s most feared enforcer of morality, spurred them onward and new laws were enacted banning pornography, contraception, and abortion. Comstock even proposing that the word “unclean” be branded on the foreheads of homosexuals. Women soon and quickly lost control of their bodies, and birth control advocates, like Margaret Sanger, were imprisoned for advocating their beliefs. It was then that abortions were for the first time took place in dangerous back rooms.

The twentieth century saw the emergence of bitter divisions over issues of sexual “morality” and sexual freedom. Organizations and individuals on both the right and the left entered and wrestled in the domains of politics, religion, public opinion, and the courts to win over the soul of the nation. “Sex and the Constitution” with the way it portrays Supreme Court justices, reads like a look the critical cases they decided from “Griswold v. Connecticut” (contraception), to “Roe v. Wade” (abortion), to “Obergefell v. Hodges” (gay marriage). Stone gives us the historical context to the decisions that have come to define America as a nation.

Today, after the 2016 presidential election, the country appears to have taken a tremendous step backward putting the progress of the last half-century in peril. We cannot predict the extent to which constitutional decisions that have safeguarded our personal freedoms might soon change making this volume very important.

It is hard for a work of nonfiction to be a book where pages are turned quickly so as to get a complete picture but this is one of those books. This is a book filled with wisdom and there are parts of it there indeed cause fear, especially as it looks to the future. But then, of course, the voters of America have allowed this to happen.

We become acutely aware of how sexual mores, religion, and law have intersected or collided throughout American history but there is something even more powerful here and is that this is really about the role of law in maintaining a civil society in this century and Stone’s book presents “a call to the Supreme Court to step up to the challenge.” In order to better understand the cultural transformations that continue to push society, this becomes both necessary and important reading and for those who think that the United States was born as a Christian nation will have to readjust that thinking.

We clearly see here how the law has regulated sexual behavior and sexual expression from ancient times to today and this is not a pretty picture. Sex regulation through the ages has been the focus of many constitutional controversies. Author Stone’s brilliant analysis is highly recommended for anyone who wants to know the history of American law and sexual expression and that should be every one of us.

“Samuel Steward and the Pursuit of the Erotic” edited by Debra A. Moddlemog and Martin Joseph Ponce— Criticism and Commentary

Moddlemog, Debra A. and Martin Joseph Ponce (editors). “Samuel Steward and the Pursuit of the Erotic”, Ohio State University Press, 2017.

Criticism and Commentary

Amos Lassen

“Samuel Steward and the Pursuit of the Erotic” is a collection of essays that offers criticism and commentary that engages about some of the most pressing theoretical problems of our time. These include the increasingly apparent inadequacy of the concept of ‘sexual identity’ itself and is a wonderful look at interdisciplinary collaboration. It examines issues such as erotics of racial difference, pornography, BDSM, and sexual fantasy as the essays refocus attention on erotic practice. It also looks at Samuel Steward, a neglected figure whose life and work have a great deal to offer queer studies scholars. Stewards was one of the most fascinating sexual renegades of the twentieth century and the dealt with social, cultural, pedagogical, and erotic projects. The essays contained here are daring and controversial as we read about Steward as a writer, literature professor, visual artist, tattoo artist, sexual archivist, unofficial sexologist, and vernacular pornographer. In doing so, voice is given to some of the central concerns of twentieth-century U.S. gay culture and politics. Steward was as an associate and/or a lover of well-known luminaries and was a significant cultural figure in his own right, a man who sensed some of the current aims and methods of queer studies. Below is a look at the Table of Contents:

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Martin Joseph Ponce and Debra A. Moddelmog

  1. Archives: Indexing, Saving, Hoarding

1     Sam Steward’s Pornography: Archive, Index, Trace

Tim Dean

2     Ungilting the Gold Star Gay

Aren Z. Aizura and Emmett Ramstad

3     On Late-Life Samuel Steward

Scott Herring

  1. Writings: Sexology, Mysteries, Essays

4     Samuel Steward’s Autoethnographic Sexology

Debra A. Moddelmog

5     The Mysteries of Samuel Steward and Gertrude Stein, Private Eyes

Karen Leick

6     “Foibles and Fripperies, Reminiscences and Tributes”: Reading Samuel Steward’s Lost Chicago Essays

Jeremy Mulderig

III. Desires: Masochism, Race, Pornography

7     “Queerest of the Queer: Why Samuel Steward’s Masochism Matters

Jennifer Burns Bright

8     “Revisiting Racial Fetishism: Interracial Desire, Revenge, and Atonement in Samuel Steward’s Stud

Martin Joseph Ponce

9     “The Law of Pornography: John Rechy and Samuel Steward

Steven Ruszczycky

  1. Recollections

10     “Remembering Sam

Michael Williams

Bibliography
Contributors
Index

“The First Amendment and LGBT Equality” by Carlos A. Ball— The Contentious History of Equal Rights

Ball, Carlos A. “The First Amendment and LGBT Equality”, Harvard University Press, 2017.

The Contentious History of Equal Rights

Amos Lassen

The conservative opponents of LGBT equality in the United States often base their opposition on the claims of free speech, free association, and religious liberty. Many LGBT supporters see the First Amendment arguments with resistance to their cause as an answer to this. Carlos Ball tells us another story in his “The First Amendment and LGBT Equality” focusing on the First Amendment’s crucial but often forgotten role in the first few decades of the gay rights movement.

Between the 1950s and 1980s, when many of our courts were still openly hostile to sexual minorities, they did recognize the freedom of gay and lesbian people to express themselves and associate with one another. Successful First Amendment cases protected LGBT publications and organizations, protests and parades, and individuals’ right to come out. The amendment was wielded by the other side only after it the groundwork for major LGBT equality victories had been set down.

We see here the full trajectory of this legal and cultural history. Ball argues that while accommodating those who dissent from LGBT equality on grounds of conscience, it is neither necessary nor appropriate to depart from the ways in which American antidiscrimination law has decades, accommodated equality dissenters for decades. He also argues that as progressives fight the First Amendment claims of the religious conservatives and other LGBT opponents today, it is important to take care not to destroy the very safeguards of liberty that have allowed LGBT rights to exist in the first place

Ball examined the history in light of its theoretical implications. Realizing the growing hostility toward First Amendment claims by some elements of the LGBT movement, this is a very important book.

Ball contends that First Amendment law, which once worked to protect LGBT citizens, now protects dissenting religious traditionalists. Settlements that were attained in previous times of conflict between equality law and religious freedom should guide constitutional actors today. Below is the Table of Contents:

  • From the First Amendment to LGBT Equality
    • Moral Displacement and Obscenity Law
    • Coming Together and Free Expression
    • Coming Out and Free Expression
    • Activism in and out of the Courts
  • From LGBT Equality to the First Amendment
    • The Race and Gender Precedents
    • LGBT Equality and the Right to Exclude
    • Marriage Equality and Religious Liberty
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index