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Ever since the 1969 Stonewall Riots, "gay pride" has been the rallying cry of the gay rights movement and the political force behind the emergence of the field of lesbian and gay studies. But has something been lost, forgotten, or buried beneath the drive to transform homosexuality from a perversion to a proud social identity? Have the political requirements of gay pride repressed discussion of the more uncomfortable or undignified aspects of homosexuality? Gay Shame seeks to lift this unofficial ban on the investigation of homosexuality and shame by presenting critical work from the most vibrant frontier in contemporary queer studies. An esteemed list of contributors tackles a range of issues--questions of emotion, disreputable sexual histories, dissident gender identities, and embarrassing figures and moments in gay history--as they explore the possibility of reclaiming shame as a new, even productive, way to examine lesbian and gay culture. Gay Shame constitutes nothing less than a major redefinition and revitalization of the field.
No one raises an eyebrow if you suggest that a guy who arranges his furniture just so, rolls his eyes in exaggerated disbelief, likes techno music or show tunes, and knows all of Bette Davis's best lines by heart might, just possibly, be gay. But if you assert that male homosexuality is a cultural practice, expressive of a unique subjectivity and a distinctive relation to mainstream society, people will immediately protest. Such an idea, they will say, is just a stereotype-ridiculously simplistic, politically irresponsible, and morally suspect. The world acknowledges gay male culture as a fact but denies it as a truth. David Halperin, a pioneer of LGBTQ studies, dares to suggest that gayness is a specific way of being that gay men must learn from one another in order to become who they are. Inspired by the notorious undergraduate course of the same title that Halperin taught at the University of Michigan, provoking cries of outrage from both the right-wing media and the gay press, How To Be Gay traces gay men's cultural difference to the social meaning of style. Far from being deterred by stereotypes, Halperin concludes that the genius of gay culture resides in some of its most despised features: its aestheticism, snobbery, melodrama, adoration of glamour, caricatures of women, and obsession with mothers. The insights, impertinence, and unfazed critical intelligence displayed by gay culture, Halperin argues, have much to offer the heterosexual mainstream.
"Compelling, timely, and provocative. The writing is sleek and exhilarating. It doesn't waste time telling us what it will do or what it has just done--it just does it. " --Don Kulick, Professor of Anthropology, New York University How we can talk about sex and risk in the age of barebacking--or condomless sex--without invoking the usual bogus and punitive clichés about gay men's alleged low self-esteem, lack of self-control, and other psychological "deficits"? Are there queer alternatives to psychology for thinking about the inner life of homosexuality? What Do Gay Men Want? explores some of the possibilities. Unlike most writers on the topic of gay men and risky sex, David Halperin liberates gay male subjectivity from psychology, demonstrating the insidious ways in which psychology's defining opposition between the normal and the pathological subjects homosexuality to medical reasoning and revives a whole set of unexamined moral assumptions about "good" sex and "bad" sex. In particular, Halperin champions neglected traditions of queer thought, including both literary and popular discourses, by drawing on the work of well-known figures like Jean Genet and neglected ones like Marcel Jouhandeau. He shows how the long history of of gay men's uses of "abjection" can offer an alternative, nonmoralistic model for thinking about gay male subjectivity, something which is urgently needed in the age of barebacking. Anyone searching for nondisciplinary ways to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS among gay men--or interested in new modes of thinking about gay male subjectivity--should read this book. David M. Halperin is W. H. Auden Collegiate Professor of the History and Theory of Sexuality, Professor of English, Professor of Women's Studies, Professor of Comparative Literature, and Adjunct Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Michigan.
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