The Daily Agenda for Saturday, November 9

Jim Burroway

November 9th, 2013

Physique Pictorial, vol 1, no. 2 (Winter, 1952), with a cover illustration by George Quaintance (see Jun 3).

ONE LGBT Archives Exhibit “Art & Physique Circa Bob & Tom”: West Hollywood, CA. If you’re looking for something informative and entertaining to do in the Los Angeles area, you might want to check out a couple of exhibits that opens tonight. From the press release:

Art & Physique Circa Bob & Tom explores the social and historical context surrounding erotic art and physique photography during the 1940s, 50s and 60s on the occasion of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s retrospective Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland. ONE’s exhibition looks at how producers and consumers of physique photography negotiated silence and censorship to carve out a space for homoerotic content on the sidelines of dominant culture. Using photographer Bob Mizer, founder of the American Model Guild (AMG), and Touko Laaksonen, aka “Tom of Finland,” as a fulcrum, the exhibition looks back to those who preceded the two, influential contemporaries, and more broadly examines how the circulation of underground erotic materials contributed to the rise to queer culture. The exhibition includes numerous bodybuilding and beefcake magazines from the period, as well as original artworks, collages, primary documents, and a range of related ephemera.

The exhibit begins this evening with a reception from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the ONE Gallery (626 North Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, CA, just down the street from the Abbey). Art & Physique Circa Bob & Tom will continue through January 26, 2014.  This reception will coincide with a MOCA members opening for Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland at MOCA Pacific Design Center (8687 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, CA, just around the corner from the Abbey). That exhibit will also continue through January 26. After these receptions, the City of West Hollywood will presenting a Tom of Finland themed Go-Go Dancer Appreciation Day event at Larrabee (8853 Santa Monica Blvd.)

Events This Weekend: Buenos Aires Pride, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Florence Queer Film Festival, Florence, Italy; Indianapolis LGBT Film Festival, Indianapolis, IN; Mazipatra Queer Film Festival, Prague/Brno, Czech Republic; Bear Pride, San Francisco, CA; Open Mind Fest, Santiago, Chile.

“They Cannot Whistle”: A European Overview of Sexual Inversion: 1894. Most original thought on homosexuality in the nineteenth century was being published in Germany and France, where obscenity laws declined to interfere with what was billed as “scientific” material. The same was not necessarily true in Britain or the U.S., where authorities were more strict about what could be published. But if a publication first appeared abroad in a foreign language, its translation into English and publication in journals and books sold exclusively to the medical professions was typically allowed. This had the effect of stifling the study of sexuality in Britain and the U.S. and giving the new science of sexology on the continent a multi-decade head start. Consequently, late nineteenth century American and British medical professionals were still dependent on French, German and Italian sources for information on sexuality. And so the November 1894 edition of the American journal Physician and Surgeon included this lecture by Dr. Paul Blocq from Paris on the topic of “sexual inversion”:

Dr. Paul Blocq

It is important, first of all, to explain what we mean by sexual inversion, and show how it differs from the other perversions of the genital instinct. We may arrange these aberrations in three classes: (1) Where the instinct is abolished, impotence and agenisis. (2) When it is exaggerated, satyriasis and nymphomania. (3) Perversions. This last class includes onanism, fetichism, masochism, and sadism. Then comes inversion, which may be defined as a sexual attraction between individuals of the same sex — homo-sexuality. In man we may, according to [Albert] MOLL, give it the name of uranism, keeping the expression, pederast (sodomist) for the group of persons who practice coitus in ano. In woman it is called tribadism, saphism or lesbism [sic], according to the method they may employ to produce the sexual orgasm. [All parentheticals and italics in the original, bracketed info added.]

Acknowledging that “the medical study of this state is quite modern,” homosexuality itself has existed in Biblical times “and in the ancient history of different nations.” He reviewed the European literature on homosexuality (Richard von Kraftt-Ebing, Heinrich Kaan, Albert Moll, Julien Chevalier, Karl Friedrich Otto Westphal, among others), and concluded — not by science but solely by way of analogy — that homosexuality was a pathological condition:

Take hunger, for instance: it recalls to the normal organism the want of food, but of course we know plenty of states where this instinct is wanting and yet the stomach is in a normal condition. It is probably the same in a man whose sexual organs are in a normal state and yet his instinct is perverted. That is to say, it is easy to understand that the genital instinct can present the same abnormalities that the other functions do. Nevertheless, the objection will be made that a person in good health is pushed by nature to perpetuate his species, and one cannot qualify as morbid the absence of sexual desire when its reproduction is possible, for it is known that some uranists have had wives and had children by them. But take up the comparison again. We can see also that there is no sufficient reason for denying the pathological nature of inversion in these facts, for no one, for instance, will deny that the absence of appetite is pathological whether the  organism receives the usual quantity of food or not, and the default of sexual propensity is likewise a pathological fact whether coition is possible or not.  The comparison is possible also with those persons who have a taste for indigestible substances, such as chalk, lead, et cetera. These are pathological tastes and yet the normal one for nutritive substances may and often does exist with this state.

That is what passed for science in the late nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. His descriptions  of gay men is equally based on impressions rather than rigorous scientific study:

The first thing noticed in such patients, as a rule, is effeminacy. This modifies the physiognomy, voice, attitude and walk. It must not be supposed, though, that all persons who act and walk like women are of this class, n0r that there are not any uranists who preserve the normal appearance of man. It is only to be remarked that many of them take the woman type, or at least they imitate it and make efforts to reproduce it artificially by shaving off the beard or moustache, some going so far as to have it pulled out (epilation). If they have not naturally a soprano or alto voice they will try to cultivate one. [Karl] ULRICHS states that they cannot whistle but this sign is not proven. …

They will adopt ladies’ silk stockings, high heeled boots and even wear corsets. The furniture of their rooms will show the same tendency, with a profusion of fans, toys, and perfumes. Some of them will even work at crochet and women’s needlework. GYURKOWECHSKY [?] says that they resemble women more than men by their caprices, changeableness, and facility for telling lies (not gallant) while they have an excessive prudery.

Their intellectual state is not, however, as a rule bad, as they have been known to direct large business enterprises with some ability. They possess a real aversion to women and never approach them if possible. …

As to their sexual feelings, they make ‘psysical manifestations of inversion by making the actual love they seem to feel to the person they have chosen and express their passion just as normal men do for the women of their choice. They seem to feel the same passion as men do for women and express it strongly in letters of which many hundreds are extant. … According to their own confessions they know one another by an oblique look of the eyes, but this sign is certainly very indefinite.

What caused this condition?

A large number of theories have been proposed to account for the genesis of this state. [Paulo] MANTEGAZZA thinks that it is anatomical in its origin. For instance, in passive sodomists, the nervous filaments which should be distributed to the genital organs are given off to the rectal mucous membrane, but there is no demonstration given of this idea. As the normal excitation of these nerves comes from the brain and cord it is more likely that [Valentin] MAGNAN and [Eugene] GLEY are in the right in thinking that it is a corticle trouble. KRAFT-EBING [sic] is also of this opinion, and while we have no confirmation of it by post-mortems, still, it is a possible explanation of the state. Personally, we share the ideas of MOLL, who thinks that there is an abnormal genital instinct in these cases simply because this instinct in degenerated subjects is their locus minoris resistentiæ.

Once a diagnosis is made, what should the physician do then?

About treatment:— Two indications present themselves. In some of these subjects there is a sort of hyperesthesia of the genital organs and this must be met by proper medication. Warm douches, bromides, and camphor combined with lupulin are useful drugs, and in the other cases one can insist on their returning to the normal as regards sexual life. Sometimes this is best carried out by suggestion without hypnotism. Surgical intervention by castration has been suggested.

[Source: Paul Blocq. “Sexual Inversion.” Physician and Surgeon 16, no. 11 (November 1894): 549-553. Available online via Google Books here.]

Kate Clinton: 1947. The Syracuse native was raised in a large Catholic family, got her degrees from a hometown Jesuit college and Colgate University in Hamilton, and worked as a high school teacher for eight years. She came out of her closet and began her standup comedy career in 1981, using all of that background, plus her lesbianism and liberal politics, as fodder. (She described her closet has having “a foyer, a turnstile and a few locks.”) It wasn’t easy at first finding mainstream clubs willing to hire a lesbian comedian, but she nevertheless was able to find a receptive audience in the LGBT community through her recordings, including Making Light! (1982), Making Waves! (1984), Live at the Great American Music Hall (1985), Babes in Joyland (1990), Comedy You Can Dance To (1998), Read These Lips (2001), The Marrying Kind (2004), and Climate Change (2008). She has also authored three books — Don’t Get Me Started, (2000), What the L (2005), and I Told You So (2010)– and she’s appeared on Broadway for The Rocky Horror Pictures Show (2001) and The Vaginal Monolagues (2002). She and her partner Urvashi Vaid have been together since 1988, and they currently live in New York City and Provincetown.

If you know of something that belongs on the Agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Gene in L.A.

November 9th, 2013

The press release relative to the “Bob and Tom” exhibition can perhaps be excused for getting it wrong, if it’s from the New York show. If it’s from the One exhibit it certainly cannot be excused. The AMG was not the American Model Guild, but the Athletic Model Guild. I was in my early teens in the 50s when Physique Pictorial was appearing on the newsstands, and used to walk a mile or so to the nearest one to pick up the newest issue of it or of Manual or Tomorrow’s Man. Those posing straps were the stuff of erotic imagination for a young kid who had no idea who he was or why such pictures made him feel a secret excitement he couldn’t mention to anyone in the world. We owe it to ourselves and to our youth to get our own history right.

Gene in L.A.

November 9th, 2013

Correction to the previous. I misunderstood where the larger exhibit is being shown. The MOCA is of course not in New York, but right here. So I would say there’s no excuse for the mistake I noted in the press release. The AMG was right here in L.A., and is a part not only of gay culture but of Los Angeles culture as a whole.

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