A skillful hybrid of true crime and social history that examines how popular culture, the media, and the psychological profession portrayed crimes against gay men in the years leading up to the Stonewall Riots.In his skillful hybrid of true crime and cultural history, James Polchin provides an important look at how popular culture, the media, and the psychological profession forcefully portrayed gay men as the perpetrators of the same violence they suffered. He traces how the press depicted the murder of men by other men from the end of World War I to the Stonewall era, when gay men came to be seen as a class both historically victimized and increasingly visible.Indecent Advances tells the story of how homosexuals were criminalized in the popular imagination--from the sex panics of the 1930s, to Kinsey study of male homosexuality of the 1940s, and the Cold War panic of Communists and homosexuals in government. Polchin illustrates the vital role crime stories played in circulating ideas of normalcy and deviancy, and how those stories were used as tools to discriminate and harm the gay men who were observers and victims of crime. More importantly, Polchin shows how this discrimination was ultimately transformed by activists to help shape the burgeoning gay rights movement in the years leading up to Stonewall Riots of 1968.A cast of noted public figures--Leopold & Loeb, J Edgar Hoover, Alfred Kinsey, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Patricia Highsmith, James Baldwin, and Gore Vidal--is threaded through this complex subject. Politicians, law enforcement officials, and psychologists weigh in to explain the dangerous relationship between homosexuality and violence.And one needs to look no further than the recent TV series about Andrew Cunanan's murder spree leading up to his shooting of Gianni Versace to ascertain, perhaps, how little things have changed in the policing and reporting of these kinds of crimes against gay men. Polchin's vital history is as important today as it was then.
Indecent Advances Review
- January 1, 1970Carley MooreA must read for lovers of American history, teachers, print scholars, and anyone who is queer or cares about queer people!Polchin uncovers a lost archive through a close-reading of newspaper accounts of violence against queer men in pre-Stonewall New York. The results are fascinating and disturbing.I love this book and think everyone should read it. It's going to win big prizes because honestly there is nothing like it. It's historical, but a page-turner and makes you care deeply (if you already A must read for lovers of American history, teachers, print scholars, and anyone who is queer or cares about queer people!Polchin uncovers a lost archive through a close-reading of newspaper accounts of violence against queer men in pre-Stonewall New York. The results are fascinating and disturbing.I love this book and think everyone should read it. It's going to win big prizes because honestly there is nothing like it. It's historical, but a page-turner and makes you care deeply (if you already didn't) about the lives of queer men who dared to love, cruise, and try to find community, when there was very little. Polchin weaves research from the era about sexuality and the made-up "homosexual panic," newspaper accounts that turned murder into lurid stories designed to sell copies, and well-known queer literary figures like James Baldwin, Tennessee Williams, and the often problematic Carl Van Vechten. Lastly, this is a perfect read for the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. It helped me understand why so many queer people rose up at this moment. They were tired of being policed, killed, and having their stories taken from them in service of a homophobic narrative.more
- January 1, 1970Corey Ledin-BristolI am sorry to say it but this book was dull. You would think that such a topic would elicit some kind of emotions but the book us written in such a sterile, efficient style it comes across as someone just reading news articles.
- January 1, 1970AJ BurginI really wanted to like this book, and I do, to a certain extent. The central claim is solid, but it feels like a journal article that got teased out into a full-length book. There’s a lot of repetition and some pretty shallow analysis that sometimes loses the through-line.more
- January 1, 1970MartaBefore this book, I had not been too familiar with this part of US history, and it was interesting to read about through analysis of related news articles. The tone is meticulously researched, but that also means it feels academic - more like reading a textbook. A worthwhile read.more
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