new essays: Supreme Court obscenity doctrine and physique magazine politics

Just in case anyone is keeping score, or is for any reason interested, I have a few new things out and thought I’d announce them here. Hot off the presses is the new issue of the Journal of Supreme Court History, in which I have an article called “Slouching towards Roth: Obscenity and the Supreme Court, 1945-1957.” It’s something of a preview to the upcoming book, charting the various ways the Court failed to deliver doctrine in the years (decades, really) leading up to Roth v. U.S. in 1957, but it also has material distinct from the book, including examination of a few really minor cases that I contend are nonetheless significant as windows into the Court’s protracted deadlock.

The other recent thing I have out is an essay in this great collection, Modern Print Activism in the United States:

Schreiber case

Rachel Schreiber edited it, and she brought together a great set of essays, dealing with everything from the Ku Klux Klan to Ladies Home Journal to lesbian separatist periodicals of the 1970s. My piece, “Challenging the Anti-Pleasure League: Physique Pictorial and the Cultivation of Gay Politics,” tries to take a new approach to the pioneering physique magazine; the magazine has usually been studied for its visual content, and understandably so–

z0044001 z0175007

–but my focus is on the editorial voice of Bob Mizer, which interacted with and supported the homophile movement in ways that were not always reciprocated.

So, hope anyone who checks them out enjoys them! The article is behind a paywall, and the book is priced for (I assume) libraries. But I’d be happy to help anyone without access find copies.


Radical Cats of the Cinematic Revolution

To my great chagrin, I’ve been too busy to post anything lately. I intend to rectify this soon, but in the meantime, I have collaborated on a tumblr about cats in radical film, with the esteemed Hannah Frank and Mary Rizzo.

We define radicalism pretty broadly, but no amount of semantic contortion could allow me in good conscience to include the crappy milquetoast 2011 comedy Butter (whose main political thesis seems to be, “har har, people in Iowa are fuuuuuuuuny, LOL!”)–which is a shame, because it does have one great cat image, in the form of a butter sculpture.

So, exclusive to this here blog, behold:


If anyone out there on the interwebz has radical cinematic cat suggestions, by all means please share!


book update


I’ve written two books and co-edited a third, and I suppose I’d be a damn fool not to promote them here, so:

Just released as of December 2016 is Porno Chic and the Sex Wars: American Sexual Representation in the 1970s, which I co-edited with Carolyn Bronstein. I’m really excited about this because it includes a bunch of essays from some of my favorite scholars, on topics including Desiree West (the first black female porn star), transfeminine and female-impersonator magazines, Peter Berlin and the gay porn archive, the magazine AVN and the adjustment to VHS, Bob Guccione’s failed women’s mag Viva, Shaun Costello’s wild hardcore Dickens adaption The Passions of Carol, the role of BDSM and fisting in the emergence of antiporn feminism, and a lot more! Plus an essay by Joe Rubin of the great Vinegar Syndromeand look at that cover!


Before that, I wrote these:

app strobs

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Willard Motley and the Black Queer Archive

This is not a blog of personal revelation, but I will confess this: I have a hard time shaking the Romance of the Archive. Postcolonial scholarship in particular has rightly highlighted the ways imperial archives (and they’re all imperial) shape historical knowledge and remove certain subjects and identities from memory—though even the fantastic essays in a collection like Archive Stories can’t help but reinscribe some of the very romance they seek to dismantle, in their engaging narratives of seeking access to restricted documents from India to Uzbekistan through charm, subterfuge, or any means necessary. Meanwhile, I’m so haunted by Derrida’s deconstruction of “archive fever” that I sometimes—and this is as far as the confessional goes—walk around the house humming its title to the tune of the amazing Angel Haze.

Yet I continue to dig in archives rather tenaciously, and can’t help feeling a thrill when I come across buried treasures, be they a letter from Bertrand Russell to gay activists in the early 1960s pledging his support in absentia or a letter from then-unknown literature professor Kurt Vonnegut offering to testify at an Iowa obscenity trial. Though the archive must always be viewed with suspicion toward the power formations that structured it and are in turn replicated through it, and always supplemented with other sources of knowledge, I do subscribe to the value of unearthing what remains hidden in its recesses.

Which brings me to Willard Motley. I confess, I know little of the black Chicago author, though upon reviewing Michael Bronski’s essay “Back to the Future: Recovering Our Literary Past” in the Drewey Wayne Gunn-edited collection The Golden Age of Gay Fiction yesterday, I re-read a passage I had underlined, about Motley . His 1947 novel Knock on Any Door had been purged of its queer content for the 1949 Bogart film, like so many other stories from the Production Code era, from Lost Weekend to all those hilariously sweaty heterosexual Charlton Heston epics. Bronski writes that Motley has been largely forgotten, “because he wrote only about white people and because his overt homosexuality and (what was called in the black press) ‘effeminacy’ made him and his books suspect as good role models for African Americans.”


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