Public Sex/Gay Space

Edited by William L. Leap

Columbia University Press

Public Sex/Gay Space

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Pub Date: December 1998

ISBN: 9780231106917

304 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $32.00£25.00

Public Sex/Gay Space

Edited by William L. Leap

Columbia University Press

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."
Introduction, by William L. Leap
1. Reclaiming the Importance of Laud Humphreys's "Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places", by Peter M. Nardi
2. Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places, by Laud Humphreys
3. A Highway Rest Area as a Socially Reproducible Site, by John Hollister
4. Speaking to the Gay Bathhouse: Communicating in Sexually Charged Spaces, by Ira Tattelman
5. Beauty and the Beach: Representing Fire Island, by David Bergman
6. Sex in "Private" Places: Gender Erotics, and Detachment in Two Urban Locales, by William L. Leap
7. Ethnographic Observations of Men Who Have Sex with Men in Public, by Michael C. Clatts
8. Self Size and Observable Sex, by Stephen O. Murray
9. Baths, Bushes, and Belonging: Public Sex and Gay Community in Pre-Stonewall Montreal, by Ross Higgins
10. Homo Sex in Hanoi? Sex the Public Sphere, and Public Sex, by Jacob Aronson
11. Private Acts Public Space: Defining the Boundaries in Nineteenth-Century Holland, by Theo van der Meer
12. "Living Well Is the Best Revenge": Outing Privacy, and Psychoanalysis, by Christopher Lane

About the Author

William L. Leap is professor of anthropology at The American University. He is the author of books including American Indian English and Word Is Out: Gay Men's English, and the editor of such works as Beyond the Lavender Lexicon: Authenticity, Representation, and Imagination in Lesbian and Gay Discourse.