The Pink Elephant: America's Postwar Masculinity Issues towards Homosexual Men, 1950-1980

  • rafiki87

    Posts: 331

    Jun 25, 2012 3:22 AM GMT
    I am writing a research paper on masculinity issues surrounding male homosexuality between the late 1940s and the early 1980s. What I'm seeking to uncover is how has the gay male identity post-Kinsey research affected America's masculinity anxieties during the post-War and Cold War era and how this has exacerbated the events around the gay liberation movement (e.g. decriminalization of sodomy, murder of Harvey Milk, Stone Wall riots, NYC Pride March, etc).

    My thesis is built around the rise of hyper-masculinity or machismo in both homo- and heterosexual men some time during the 60s.

    The only evidence I can think of for gay men are Tom of Finland cartoons and the Village People songs and music videos as proof of this expression of hyper-masculinity.

    So far I'm going through Chauncey George's "Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940" as my basis of Pre-WWII America which leads into the post-WWII. I'm arguing that the post-War gender identities was built around the pre-War gender identities because that was what the masses knew and felt was "natural" at that point in time.

    For the Cold War era, I'm looking at Robert Corber's "Homosexuality in Cold War America: Resistance and the Crisis of Masculinity". I haven't read this book yet, but I suspect it may have some reference to hyper-masculinity.

    What I need are primary or secondary sources that support my thesis as well as feedback on the direction of my analysis.



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    Jun 25, 2012 3:24 AM GMT
    Very similar to my thesis that gay men are actually women in men's body.
  • rafiki87

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    Jun 25, 2012 3:53 AM GMT
    dontknowwhy saidVery similar to my thesis that gay men are actually women in men's body.


    How so, why so, citations where applicable...
  • rafiki87

    Posts: 331

    Jun 26, 2012 4:14 AM GMT
    So after day 1 of research, I've found...

    (1) The First-Wave Feminist Movement to blame for all this mess of gay paranoia starting the 1930s, pretty much when heterosexuality was policed at a much higher intensity since the turn of the century. This particularly caused middle-class men to be hostile towards gay men during the 1930s; however, the lower classes were surprisingly tolerant.

    (2) Pre-Kinsey models of homosexuality existed in America. Pre-Kinsey homosexuality is a model based on what role one plays in the sexual encounter. If one plays the receptive partner then he is considered "female" while the penetrative partner is considered "male". Despite one's involvement in homosexual sex, the "male" partner does not loose the "male" identity that he has; however, the "female" partner forfeits his "male" identity and thus his privileges of being a male.

    (3) There were multiple shades of gay (e.g. fairies, queers, husbands, wolves, punks, jockers) , before everything was lumped into one post-Kinsey. This also explains why post-Kinsey, homosexuality included transexuality, cross-dressing, paedophilia, and a host of other ideas stemming from the pre-Kinsey model as the definition of "homosexual".

    (4) Masculinity is a gendered act and working-class men were the epitome of being "rough" and thus manly. One's behaviour dictated one's masculinity or femininity, thus one's speech demeanor and physicality were seen as emblems of their manliness. Class played into this as middle and upper class men were seen as "sissies" by their more polished decorum. Working-class men became the models of masculinity because they had little regard to whom they were having sexual encounters with provided they were the "man".

    (5) Middle class men took on the title of "queer" to distance oneself from the identity of "fairy" which endangered their class and gender status.

    (6) The descriptors used during the turn of the 21st century to define gay men were "degenerates" and "[sexual] inverts" based on the gender roles that people performed, this led to the medical community to perceive homosexuality as a disease.

    Predictions...

    (1) If the First Wave Feminist Movement along with Reform attempts led by middle-class women were the source of this "gay vilification" during the 1930s, then the Second Wave Feminist Movement during the 1950s/1960s along with the Cold War nuclear fallout paranoia, both would play an even bigger role of making the Gay Liberation Movement during the late 1960s as turbulent as it was.

    (2) Tighter prohibition of homosexual acts under the McCarthy government would lead to gay men taking new gender definitions, and different means of identifying oneself and other gay men.

    (3) Gay men would take on a hyper-masculine definition to distance oneself from the previous concepts that were attached to gay men pre-WWII.

    What do you guys think? Anybody...
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    Jun 26, 2012 4:27 AM GMT
    First... What makes a masculinity "hyper"?

    I'd look for resources that describe masculinity away from homosexuality... That is to say, find something not written by a feminist or a queer theorist. Feminist writers have a very peculiar binaristic thinking when it comes to masculinity (trapped as they tend to be by a late 20th century idea of Marxist political economy), and to queer theorists everything is queer (so nothing, ironically, is queer). Sociologists and cultural critics who discuss masculinity on its own terms would probably be best. It'll be hard to find for your specific project - I had difficulties finding similar masculinity research for my dissertation - but it's there if you search.

    Be careful when discussing the McCarthy business. There is a tendency in some scholarship - for various political reasons - to blow that one man's influence way out of proportion. Because he was attacking the organs of culture, those organs of culture tend to remember his power as much greater and more menacing than it really was. If it were me I'd find cultural contexts that enabled McCarthy's behavior instead.

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    Jun 26, 2012 4:39 AM GMT
    revolutionsperminute saidWhich feminist writers are you referring to? Because contemporary feminists (post-structuralists) employ anything BUT binary models of sexuality.

    I'm referring to peeps like Hélène Cixous, Julia Kristeva and, of course, Judith Butler...

    And you leave Marxist political economy alone! Those thinkers have progressed much as well!


    Mulvey and Harraway are particularly egregious examples with their obvious heterosexism and their essentializing of what "males do". (Mulvey's entire discussion of the gaze is incredibly sexist and completely obscures homosexuality)

    Cixous, Kristeva, Butler... they appear to reject the binary, but they still fight against "Patriarchy" as though it were on the bottom of the Female/Male binary... As though masculinity appeared as an oppressive weapon ex nihilo with no redeeming qualities to be found.

    Unless you want to be stuck forever talking about masculinity as though it were a naked power grab - instead of a useful and historically beneficial expression of socio-biological conditions - I'd recommend reading feminist discussions of masculinity with a jaundiced eye.
  • rafiki87

    Posts: 331

    Jun 26, 2012 5:38 AM GMT
    revolutionsperminute saidI would generally stay away from cause-and-effect language when talking about social relations. Too many factors are involved, and cause-and-effect often leads to simplistic descriptions of agency (or faults) - like saying "The First-Wave Feminist movement to blame for all this mess."

    Also, how do you already have a thesis if you're on day one of your research? Shouldn't you let the data you collect speak for itself?

    In case you haven't read this trilogy, I'd highly suggest it. Foucault would definitely be helpful with your third point.



    Well, here's my reasoning behind a cause-effect relationship. Turn of the 21st century America, middle-class women challenged and to some degree emasculated the middle-class man. The WCTU and other anti-vice reform organizations prescribed the social norms of the period. The suffrage movement attempted to put women on equal footing as men in the eyes of the law. Women also began to assert themselves in "helping professions" like medicine and education and using their experience as wives and mothers as their basis of their eligibility for these professions. By dictating all these "social rules" which prior to the 21st century was the man's role, traditionally. I would argue, as a means of retaliating through traditionally violent means of asserting one's manhood (which wasn't an option if you're going against women, as it wasn't considered chivalrous to duel with a woman), men asserted themselves on gay people, by being particularly hostile towards them and thus "policed heterosexuality" since homosexuality was intrinsically feminine.

    Also, I fibbed saying it is day 1 of research focusing on this topic, but I've already looked into the Pre-WWI and the inter-war period in terms of gender norms and roles. Also I've done a bit of watching era-documentaries during the period to develop that question.

    Mmm, about already developing a thesis, let's just say it's a loose prediction. What I'd like to raise really is, why was it during the 50s/60s that in gay porn, one observed this increase in more muscular men. So that's why I posed the question - why was this phenomenon occurring and was this a means of distancing oneself from the pre-Kinsey paradigms, and was this a means to go back to the working-class "rough" ideology of "normal" men?

    Yeah, I was looking to get Focault's trilogy, but for some reason someone has all 3 of them borrowed, and I doubt they'll give it back in time for me to finish writing this paper. Though Chauncey references a lot of Focault, don't think I'm missing much.
  • rafiki87

    Posts: 331

    Jun 26, 2012 5:41 AM GMT
    Larkin saidI'd recommend reading feminist discussions of masculinity with a jaundiced eye.


    That just made my night!
  • rafiki87

    Posts: 331

    Jun 26, 2012 5:54 AM GMT
    Larkin saidFirst... What makes a masculinity "hyper"?

    I'd look for resources that describe masculinity away from homosexuality... That is to say, find something not written by a feminist or a queer theorist. Feminist writers have a very peculiar binaristic thinking when it comes to masculinity (trapped as they tend to be by a late 20th century idea of Marxist political economy), and to queer theorists everything is queer (so nothing, ironically, is queer). Sociologists and cultural critics who discuss masculinity on its own terms would probably be best. It'll be hard to find for your specific project - I had difficulties finding similar masculinity research for my dissertation - but it's there if you search.

    Be careful when discussing the McCarthy business. There is a tendency in some scholarship - for various political reasons - to blow that one man's influence way out of proportion. Because he was attacking the organs of culture, those organs of culture tend to remember his power as much greater and more menacing than it really was. If it were me I'd find cultural contexts that enabled McCarthy's behavior instead.



    So if I should look at definitions of masculinity based neither on feminist theorists nor queer theorists, then who should I look to for this sort of question? Michael Kimmel asserted that men have no history (this was after the Sangster/Dubinsky catfight in the Left History Exchanges).

    Let's just say McCarthy's nothing but a temporal marker at best in my paper...

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    Jun 26, 2012 6:03 AM GMT
    dontknowwhy saidVery similar to my thesis that gay men are actually women in men's body.


    One can assure you there is no women in me wanting to come out. Also if I come back to this earth, it will be as a man, as I just don't identify with women, or ever want to be one; yuk....
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    Jun 26, 2012 6:09 AM GMT
    Feminists need to be thrown back into the kitchen so they can cook and eat each other's snatches and cry about men and whatever else they do
  • LaxJock16

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    Jun 26, 2012 6:16 AM GMT
    Some of the most iconic homoerotic artwork was a result of post-war gay masculinity i.e. Tom of Finland... many gay men post war were men in uniform so many took their sexuality and infused their fantasies and career into traditional forms of masculine sexuality. Also chew on this the gay man's ideal body type and masculine man is what straight men will adhere to on average six years later....

    313163-25.jpg
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    Jun 26, 2012 12:21 PM GMT
    revolutionsperminute saidAre we talking about the same post-structuralism? Relational epistemologies don't believe in the "ex nihilo." And PS feminists give as much attention to biology as they do to history.


    "Ex nihilo" was meant to be illustrative, not literal. If feminism thinks masculinity is a power form wielded against the subaltern, then it might as well be ex nihilo because it ignores any positivist reading of the masculine.

    And feminists give as much attention to female biology as they do to a Marxist materialist view of history. I.e. "gender" as a construct for maintaining power over female reproduction.

    What feminists never - as far as I've read - seem to consider is that women are half the population and at some point participated in the definition of genders. That is to say, masculinity, for all its flaws, serves a real, beneficial, and socially defensible purpose that women, at some point, helped construct.
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    Jun 26, 2012 12:32 PM GMT
    rafiki87 saidSo if I should look at definitions of masculinity based neither on feminist theorists nor queer theorists, then who should I look to for this sort of question? Michael Kimmel asserted that men have no history (this was after the Sangster/Dubinsky catfight in the Left History Exchanges).

    Let's just say McCarthy's nothing but a temporal marker at best in my paper...


    I'm just cautioning against relying on a theory of masculinity based on someone who is hostile to the idea of masculinity. It's a little like relying on a theory of African American experience from an Alabama Republican.

    Hmm... looking back through my papers, most of my resources relate specifically to boys and literacy and the achievement gap caused by ideas of masculinity/femininity... Few things that would be helpful to your project. But, this one book may help obliquely:

    Newkirk, Thomas. Misreading Masculinity: Boys, Literacy, and Popular Culture.
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    Jun 26, 2012 1:03 PM GMT
    rafiki87 saidThis particularly caused middle-class men to be hostile towards gay men during the 1930s; however, the lower and middle classes were surprisingly tolerant.
    icon_question.gif

    My brothers here clearly have much more knowledge of these terms and concepts of sexuality than I do. But I'll make some simple (but hopefully not simplistic) observations, and see where they fall within these rarefied theories.

    World War II saw an unprecedented number of men drafted into US uniform. From 1940 to 1947 the number of inductees under wartime conscription authority reached 11 million. The Korean Conflict in the early 50s brought another draft. It is unavoidable that among those numbers swept into the draft were gay men, perhaps as many as a million. Could this have had an influence on post war gay behaviors, with a shift to a more masculine ideal, that included a greater focus on uniforms and discipline?

    As for the preceding 1930s, they were mostly defined by the Great Depression. It was a time of great social upheaval and tension. In such times social lines are more sharply drawn, as people are literally fighting to survive. People become more competitive and less tolerant of "deviance", especially since marginalizing minority groups may confer employment advantages to the "normal" majority.

    Another indication of shifting masculinity may be seen in the position of women in society. Women made great social gains in the 1930s, peaking during the war years of the 1940s, but then rapidly reverting to a subservient domestic role during the 1950s. Could male masculinity and confidence have suffered during the Depression, providing an opportunity for female advances, only to roar back to put women in their "place" in the post-war period, men now exerting a masculinity regained during the war, and reinforced with post-war prosperity that made women more dependent upon them?

    As you see, I tend to look for the historical context of many social issues. Were gays increasingly marginalized during the Depression, then caught in a surge of straight masculinity and conformity following the war, not to mention a national paranoia about anything defined as un-American? Did gays themselves move away from a feminine self-image to a more masculine one in the 1950s, but were unable to escape the popular stereotypes of previous decades?

    I don't envy you in trying to write this paper.
  • rafiki87

    Posts: 331

    Jun 26, 2012 1:54 PM GMT
    Art_Deco said
    rafiki87 saidThis particularly caused middle-class men to be hostile towards gay men during the 1930s; however, the lower and middle classes were surprisingly tolerant.
    icon_question.gif

    My brothers here clearly have much more knowledge of these terms and concepts of sexuality than I do. But I'll make some simple (but hopefully not simplistic) observations, and see where they fall within these rarefied theories.

    World War II saw an unprecedented number of men drafted into US uniform. From 1940 to 1947 the number of inductees under wartime conscription authority reached 11 million. The Korean Conflict in the early 50s brought another draft. It is unavoidable that among those numbers swept into the draft were gay men, perhaps as many as a million. Could this have had an influence on post war gay behaviors, with a shift to a more masculine ideal, that included a greater focus on uniforms and discipline?

    As for the preceding 1930s, they were mostly defined by the Great Depression. It was a time of great social upheaval and tension. In such times social lines are more sharply drawn, as people are literally fighting to survive. People become more competitive and less tolerant of "deviance", especially since marginalizing minority groups may confer employment advantages to the "normal" majority.

    Another indication of shifting masculinity may be seen in the position of women in society. Women made great social gains in the 1930s, peaking during the war years of the 1940s, but then rapidly reverting to a subservient domestic role during the 1950s. Could male masculinity and confidence have suffered during the Depression, providing an opportunity for female advances, only to roar back to put women in their "place" in the post-war period, men now exerting a masculinity regained during the war, and reinforced with post-war prosperity that made women more dependent upon them?

    As you see, I tend to look for the historical context of many social issues. Were gays increasingly marginalized during the Depression, then caught in a surge of straight masculinity and conformity following the war, not to mention a national paranoia about anything defined as un-American? Did gays themselves move away from a feminine self-image to a more masculine one in the 1950s, but were unable to escape the popular stereotypes of previous decades?

    I don't envy you in trying to write this paper.



    Wow, someone took a page out of my paper proposal! It was this or write the "Cunt Republic: How America would be like under radical feminist leadership". Knowing my prof's a black lesbian, doubt that would go down very well. Though it would be a hilarious paper to write - a touch farcical.

    Last night, I was thinking of writing this paper as an open letter to the feminist movement in a very tongue-in-cheek sort of way asking them, was this the end result that you wanted, where your "gay best friends" are to fight a lot harder to earn the right to equally put their lives at risk by signing a document called a marriage contract and reminding them as they prepare for their own weddings how many gay men worked behind the scenes disgruntled that they may not indulge the same thing for another quarter to a half-century. I decided not to do it that way as it could be rather inflammatory and could lose marks (marks are more important to me at this point), though it would be a fun academic exercise. Prof's really heavy on the feminism and race, every set of readings there's always at least one non-white feminist writer talking about a racialised, gendered experience
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    Jun 26, 2012 1:59 PM GMT
    Hmmm, very interesting.....
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    Jun 26, 2012 2:22 PM GMT
    Art_Deco said
    rafiki87 saidThis particularly caused middle-class men to be hostile towards gay men during the 1930s; however, the lower and middle classes were surprisingly tolerant.
    icon_question.gif

    My brothers here clearly have much more knowledge of these terms and concepts of sexuality than I do. But I'll make some simple (but hopefully not simplistic) observations, and see where they fall within these rarefied theories.

    World War II saw an unprecedented number of men drafted into US uniform. From 1940 to 1947 the number of inductees under wartime conscription authority reached 11 million. The Korean Conflict in the early 50s brought another draft. It is unavoidable that among those numbers swept into the draft were gay men, perhaps as many as a million. Could this have had an influence on post war gay behaviors, with a shift to a more masculine ideal, that included a greater focus on uniforms and discipline?

    As for the preceding 1930s, they were mostly defined by the Great Depression. It was a time of great social upheaval and tension. In such times social lines are more sharply drawn, as people are literally fighting to survive. People become more competitive and less tolerant of "deviance", especially since marginalizing minority groups may confer employment advantages to the "normal" majority.

    Another indication of shifting masculinity may be seen in the position of women in society. Women made great social gains in the 1930s, peaking during the war years of the 1940s, but then rapidly reverting to a subservient domestic role during the 1950s. Could male masculinity and confidence have suffered during the Depression, providing an opportunity for female advances, only to roar back to put women in their "place" in the post-war period, men now exerting a masculinity regained during the war, and reinforced with post-war prosperity that made women more dependent upon them?

    As you see, I tend to look for the historical context of many social issues. Were gays increasingly marginalized during the Depression, then caught in a surge of straight masculinity and conformity following the war, not to mention a national paranoia about anything defined as un-American? Did gays themselves move away from a feminine self-image to a more masculine one in the 1950s, but were unable to escape the popular stereotypes of previous decades?

    I don't envy you in trying to write this paper.


    art deco is correct... and far from simplistic... masculinity is always going to be an interplay with femininity (and feminism) in a hetereo dominant world... the two cant be separated... any explanation of masculinity in the homosexual context (which historically has been seen as a threat to hetero masculinity) must be viewed in the context of the feminist movement..
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    Jun 26, 2012 2:59 PM GMT
    rafiki87 said
    dontknowwhy saidVery similar to my thesis that gay men are actually women in men's body.


    How so, why so, citations where applicable...



    Don't hold your breath for these citations you ask for. This guy is not only a troll but an idiot with a mean streak too. Most of us have him on ignore.
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    Jun 26, 2012 3:08 PM GMT
    Try this book maybe..

    Muscle Boys: Gay Gym Culture by Erick Alvarez

    Several chapters talk about the sociocultural evolution of the image of masculinity, muscle, and homosexuality throughout the ages. (including late 1940s - early 1980s.)

    Talks about media (print, photo, film,television, and the internet), Bob Mizer, Eugene Sandow, "physique magazines"...

    Hope it helps !~
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    Jun 26, 2012 3:10 PM GMT
    Sounds like your best source for material would be the movie industry.

    Classic example is Rock Hudson whose public persona was your hyper-masculine male but within the industry he was just one big ass queen.

    Just saying that of all industries this particular one influences culture and its perceived morals.
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    Jun 26, 2012 3:22 PM GMT
    I find it curious no one has mentioned religion and it's causative effect on masculinity. I personally feel it has an enormous impact.
  • rafiki87

    Posts: 331

    Jun 26, 2012 4:04 PM GMT
    goldenblue saidTry this book maybe..

    Muscle Boys: Gay Gym Culture by Erick Alvarez

    Several chapters talk about the sociocultural evolution of the image of masculinity, muscle, and homosexuality throughout the ages. (including late 1940s - early 1980s.)

    Talks about media (print, photo, film,television, and the internet), Bob Mizer, Eugene Sandow, "physique magazines"...

    Hope it helps !~


    I'll look into that, thanks!

    Pity it's not online as an ebook.
  • rafiki87

    Posts: 331

    Jun 26, 2012 4:08 PM GMT
    Scruffypup saidI find it curious no one has mentioned religion and it's causative effect on masculinity. I personally feel it has an enormous impact.


    Religion was part of the reformist movement during the pre-war and interwar period - Women's Christian Temperance Union was a big one for the longest time.
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    Jun 26, 2012 6:34 PM GMT
    rafiki87 said
    Scruffypup saidI find it curious no one has mentioned religion and it's causative effect on masculinity. I personally feel it has an enormous impact.


    Religion was part of the reformist movement during the pre-war and interwar period - Women's Christian Temperance Union was a big one for the longest time.



    Yes, and it's not like we're exactly immune to it's influence today.