Friday 14 April 2023
16.30 - 18.30
Cruise Control: Imagining and Navigating Sexual Cityscapes
Andrés Brink Pinto :
Re-engaging with the Rent-boy in Queer History. Narratives of Transactional Sex in Stockholm c. 1951–1960
The so-called rent-boy, a youth that engaged in same-sex sexual acts for (often meagre) economical compensation, holds an important place in queer history. For large parts of the 19th and 20th centuries age and class were important differences in the structuring of same sex desire between men in Western Europe ... (Show more)
The so-called rent-boy, a youth that engaged in same-sex sexual acts for (often meagre) economical compensation, holds an important place in queer history. For large parts of the 19th and 20th centuries age and class were important differences in the structuring of same sex desire between men in Western Europe and North America.
At the same time fears of homosexual corruption of boys and young men has served as a nexus of moral panic and homophobia from the early 20th century well into our own time. During large parts of the 20th dominant scientific, political and moral discourses on rent-boys portrayed them as heterosexual victims of predatory homosexual men. This understanding of male youth who sold sex was closely connected to the policing of homosexuality, especially during the lavender scare in the post-war decades.
Queer history typically acknowledges the existence of sex for sale, describes how it happened and its place within an urban queer life in the first half of the 20th century. These histories tend to put the buyer of sex in focus and in a way relegates the youth and boys who sold sex to the background. To the extent that transactional sex is analysed, it tends to be portrayed as a willing exchange stressing the agency and/or the homosexuality of rent-boys. However, I would argue that this older tradition of queer history should be read within a wider context of a perceived need to defend won rights by disassociating gay identity from pederasty and by stressing the homosexual identity and agency of the rent-boys.
Historian Rachel Cleves argues that there is a wider tendency in queer historiography that have “treated the history of modern pederasty as only relevant to queer history insofar as it signified a bogeyman that haunted the social acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults” (2020, 48). In relation to Cleves, I would argue that the downplaying of difference between adult men who bought and minors who sold sex run the risk of strengthening a narrative of a homogenous gay historical subjectivity.
Thus, the purpose of this paper is to make an argument for an intersectional queer history of transactional sex by engaging analytically with asymmetrical power relations based on differences of age and social vulnerability. I will do so by bringing forward narratives of transactional sex in Stockholm during the 1950s, as told by youths who were suspected of selling sex. While these aren’t subaltern voices from the past (but rather printed papers in a police archive) the police reports are the closest thing available for a historian seeking to show how these youths navigated between victimhood and agency, the complexities of these lives and the daily living conditions of youths who traded sex for cash, a hot meal or a bed for the night. (Show less)
Colin Johnson :
Taking Off: European Sexual Adventurism and the Ascendence of Women’s Liberation in the United States
Although Betty Friedan’s 1963 volume The Feminine Mystique is often pointed to as the Ur-text of the second wave feminist movement in the United States, it was arguably Erica Jong’s massively successful 1973 novel Fear of Flying that truly popularized the notion that sexual freedom was an essential component of ... (Show more)
Although Betty Friedan’s 1963 volume The Feminine Mystique is often pointed to as the Ur-text of the second wave feminist movement in the United States, it was arguably Erica Jong’s massively successful 1973 novel Fear of Flying that truly popularized the notion that sexual freedom was an essential component of women’s liberation. Appropriately, given its title, Fear of Flying begins on an airplane headed from New York to Vienna, where the novel’s protagonist, Isadora Wing, plans to accompany her husband as he attends the first international congress of psychoanalysts since the end of World War Two. Eventually, Wing abandons Bennett, her Asian American husband, and sets off on a romantic, sexually liberating tour of Europe with the suggestively named Adrian Goodlove, one of Bennett’s British colleagues. Wing was not the first American woman, imagined or real, to experience a sense of feminist awakening by way of adventurism in postwar Europe. In fact, as this presentation argues, European adventurism, and especially sexual adventurism in Europe, played a crucial role in the development of liberationist consciousness among women in the United States during a crucial period in American feminism’s development. The presentation also tracks the shifting nature of American women’s feminist interest in Europe, from the mid-1960s, when women like Andrea Dworkin and Angela Davis decamped to Europe in search of more radical worldviews than they felt they could find in the United States, to the 1970s, when many American women headed oversees, following Isadora Wing’s example, in search of what Jong famously characterized as the sexually liberating “zipless fuck,” into the 1990s and 2000s, when the experience of living and working in Europe became synonymous in many American women’s minds with a general sense of “independence,” and only incidentally about the sex they might have, or romance they might discover, while abroad. Ultimately, the presentation argues, this deep embeddedness of the US women’s liberation movement in a transatlantic erotic imaginary helps to explain both the movement’s political priorities, or at least some of them, and, crucially, some of its failings, particularly its failing to adequately interrogate its own often disavowed but nonetheless historically persistent investment in whiteness. (Show less)
Tom Ward :
Cruising to Austerity: the Death of Public Toilets and their Spaces in an Age of Public Spending Cuts and Moral Panics
This paper examines the links between the heightening moral panics surrounding men cruising for sex with men in-and-around public toilets and public spaces, and the increasing loss of maintained public toilets and spaces. It suggests that it is likely little coincidence that there was increased attention paid to men cruising ... (Show more)
This paper examines the links between the heightening moral panics surrounding men cruising for sex with men in-and-around public toilets and public spaces, and the increasing loss of maintained public toilets and spaces. It suggests that it is likely little coincidence that there was increased attention paid to men cruising for sex in public facilities and the decline in the availability and maintenance of those facilities.
In the early- to mid-1990s there was a surge of interest in the British press, from national tabloids to regional and local papers, surrounding the number of men found to be frequenting public spaces, especially toilets, for sex. At the same time, following the passage of the 1995 Disability and Discrimination Act, there was a new cost to bringing existing public toilets up to accessible standards now outlined in legislation that many local authorities could not or did not want to meet. This resulted in closures of public toilets. Publicly funded and maintained local authority public toilets has continued to fall, and in 2021 there were only 2,500 of these facilities left in Britain.
A 2008 House of Commons blamed both the cost of making public toilets more accessible as well as ‘anti-social behaviour’ for the rising closure rates of public toilets. Listed alongside acts of ‘anti-social behaviour’ such as graffiti, were ‘homelessness and importuning’. The inclusion of importuning is of no coincidence. The 1956 Sexual Offences Act listed as a crime ‘soliciting and importuning’ and was used by the police over the following decades to convict thousands of men who sought out other men for sex and intimacy in public places.
I use a mixture of press reports, police material, and local government documents to develop a picture of how a landscape developed in which it was easier to point to the bogeymen of gay sex in public toilets, than it was to challenge cuts to local government expenditure which created a hostile public environment for those who relied on public toilets to give them dignity and shelter – and for those who still do.
What this paper seeks to explain, therefore, is the nature of the relationship between men having sexual encounters with one another in public spaces and public toilets, and public expenditure cuts to local authorities. More important still, however, is the need to develop a convincing history of a decimation of public spaces which pays most attention to those whose dignity to be seen, to live, and to be accepted in public has been severely affected by attacks on public infrastructure. This includes queer people, of course, but most urgently focuses on people with disabilities and those without safe and secure homes, who are subjected to state violence every day. (Show less)