Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:
Latest Posts

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, March 11

Jim Burroway

March 11th, 2014

TODAY’S AGENDA is brought to you by:

From ONE magazine, April 1957, page 2.

 
It was virtually impossible to find books on homosexuality in the 1950s. These just weren’t the kind of books one would have found at the book shop on Main Street. And if the local library had them, they would have likely been kept locked away and only the stern school-marmish librarian had the key. A few unconventional bookstores, like this one catering to the Greenwich Village arts crowd, found that they could fill the void and augment their business by advertising in alternative newspapers and magazines like ONE. I can’t find any information about the Village Theater Center Bookshop, except to note that it was located two blocks down from where the seminal Stonewall Rebellion would take place just twelve years later.

Dr. Ignatz Leo Nascher (1863-1944)

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
95 YEARS AGO: “Some Queer Folk” in Greenwich Village: 1919. Esthesiomania was defined as “a form of insanity marked by perverted moral feeling and by purposeless eccentricities.” If you’ve never heard the term, you can be forgiven. The Austrian-born New York physician Ignatz Leo Nascher was something of a wordsmith, having coined the word “geriatrics” to describe the particular branch of medicine he pioneered. He didn’t coin “Esthesiomania” though, but he apparently thought it was a handy word when he began his article in the March 1919 edition of the American Journal of Urology and Sexology with this definition and a complaint that while the condition was “quite prevalent little has been written about it, many textbooks omitting it altogether.” A lot of people were eccentric — “the artist, the poet, the novelist, the composer” — but some took those eccentricities a bit farther than he considered healthy. Admitting that there was no set demarcation between eccentrics and esthesiomaniacs, he felt that a “close number of the erratic, unconventional class called bohemians, in the Latin quarter of New York City” might help to provide an illustration. The Latin Quarter, which then was also known as Greenwich Village, was home to

…many men and women presenting marked peculiarities and eccentricities, departures from the customs, styles or ethics of the day, yet they possessed an idealistic sense of morality. Others possessed an inherent sense of justice but they cannot adapt themselves to the restrictions upon behavior imposed by society. Some deliberately adopt eccentricities in a spirit of bravado, others in a spirit of egotism to attract attention and secure notoriety, some for a commercial or mercenary purpose. It was possible in some cases to determine an aberrant, perverted moral feeling and trace from this the obvious eccentricities.

Polly’s Restaurant (Click to enlarge)

Nascher recognized that there was a very relative quality to morality: “We must remember that what is considered moral in one place or at one time may be considered unmoral in another place or at another time, that the styles, customs and ethics of one community or in one stratum of society will be looked upon as queer and abnormal in another community or in another stratum of society.” By way of example, he pointed out that wearing sandals, common attire in the neighborhood, was highly unorthodox but healthier than “the high-heeled, narrow-pointed shoe.” In this case, one convention was merely sacrificed for another ideal, with no real moral lines crossed. Nascher also recognized that some of the eccentricities for which the Village was known were little more than affectations by poseurs:

Many of the so-called bohemians are merely shamboes, sham bohemians, who imitate and exaggerate the eccentricities of well known characters to attract attention to themselves. They are egotists, extravagant in their eccentricities, loud in talk, radical in their expressed views but shallow and weak when pinned down to discussion. They are readily swayed by argument or threat, are not inherently vicious or immoral, but, like the high-grade moron, they lack a sense of responsibility and obligation to society. They are studiously negligent in their appearance, talk art, music, literature apparently erudite to the uninformed but banal to the person familiar with the subject. They fit up their rooms in a bizarre fashion and make a display of them as they do of themselves to secure notoriety. Their whole life is a sham.

It is hardly necessary to speak of those who deliberately affect eccentricities in dress and surroundings for commercial purposes, to attract visitors to their shops. Most of them lead at home quiet, regular, conventional lives. Others affect eccentricities in dress and conduct in a spirit of bravado, women especially adopting them to show that they are “emancipated” and can do anything a man can do. Greenwich village has received an unenviable reputation through its exploitation for commercial purposes, by a few tradespeople who play upon the morbid curiosity of sightseers.

No, those aren’t the ethesiomaniacs he wanted to study. The subjects Nascher sought were the “true bohemians” who “do not advertise the fact that they are bohemians, nor do they deliberately violate the dictates of society. They ignore them as though unconscious of any social restrictions.” They were often artists, writers, musicians or actors:

They lack ambition and if they seek fame at all, it is only as an aid in securing a livelihood or for a momentary gratification. They are usually improvident, unpractical, indolent and lack the sense of responsibility and obligation. Wanderlust, procrastination and a lack of neatness and order are common failings and the pursuit of pleasure is a more important factor in their lives than their future welfare. While most of the men belong to the intellectual class and many are college graduates, and many of the women are college or convent bred, the belief in palmistry, phrenology, clairvoyance, astrology, fortune telling by cards and other methods, is very prevalent and they readily adopt peculiar cults and fads especially such as have something of the mystic or mysterious about them.

The lack of the sense of responsibility and obligation extends to their social relations. There is a spirit of good fellowship not found in conventional society and entirely different from the spirit of friendship. At social gatherings there is no thought of sex differences, women smoking, drinking and often paying their own bills, taking part in discussions and unabashed if the conversation takes a turn which would exclude them in conventional gatherings. There is no deep or lasting affection in this good fellowship and the “hail fellow, well met” feeling disappear at the parting. There are seldom deep, lasting friendships except in the “pal” relations between couples of opposite sex. In some of these cases there is true platonic love, couples sometimes living together as though they were of the same sex. In other cases marital relations are maintained without civil or religious bonds, in some the relations are frankly those of man and mistress, and sometimes couples live together as pals and occasional sex mates. but each retains absolute independence. I have reason to believe that in some of the “pal” relations, between individuals of the same sex as well as between individuals of opposite sex, the couples are perverts.

…I found in the village a number of sex perverts, male and female, including sadists and masochists, and a few inverts, masculine women with female perverts as mates and effeminate men with male perverts as mates.

All in all, it looks as though very little has changed in the Village after nearly a century.

[Source: I.L. Nascher. "Esthesiomania: A study of some queer folk of New York's Latin Quarter." American Journal of Urology and Sexology 15, 3 (March 1919): 121-132. Available online via Google Books here.]

The Delivery of “Safe” Electric Shock for Psychological Treatments: 1935. Two years earlier in April 1933, the New York Branch of the American Psychological Association decided to form the Committee on the Use of Electric Shock in Psychological Experimentation. The committee was formed to “exchange views regarding some of the difficulties involved in electrical stimulation,” namely the delivery of powerful electric shock in aversion therapy as part of the popular new therapeutic craze known as Behavioral Therapy. The electric shock had to be powerful enough to serve as a negative reinforcement against undesired thoughts, feelings or behaviors, but not so strong that it would prove lethal. That was not a small issue in the 1930s. Electrical executions had been by then well on their way to replacing the hangman’s noose and the firing squad as more “humane” ways of imposing the death penalty on criminals. To avoid the same fate for psychiatric patients, research was needed to invent “safer” devices and institute safety standards so that clinicians could begin shocking their patients into conformity.

In a paper published in the March 1935 edition of Psychological Bulletin, New York University’s Louis William Max came to the rescue with a nine page thesis, describing his research into the problem. He had experimented with three types of protective devises: fuses, mechanical relays, and vacuum tube-based devices:

The ideal protective device must meet three requirements: (1) it must operate smoothly and unfailingly at the pre-determined cut-off current; (2) this operation must be sufficiently rapid, since the duration factor is an important one in lethal shock; and (3) the cut-off action must never occur below the prearranged maximum, as this would interfere with experimentation. Since the quantitative evidence thus far available is of a more or less anecdotal nature, and the physiologically safe limits both as to time and intensity have not yet been satisfactorily determined, we recommend as provisional maxima 12 m.a. and 8 sigma (½ cycle of 60 cycle A.C), these values being subject to subsequent increase when justified by further experimentation. This means that an adequate safety device must eliminate all currents above 12 m.a., and that this elimination must take place within 8 sigma after the onset of the stimulus. The 8 sigma limit is but a small fraction of the threshold shock-duration reported by Duchosal as producing ventricular fibrillation in the animal heart, and thus affords a good margin of safety; as ½ cycle A.C. it also provides a convenient electrical parameter for specifying and checking the speed of A.C. protective devices.

While his study of the three types of devices was still ongoing, his investigation into the use of fuses and mechanical relays didn’t appear promising. Instead, he recommended a “vacuum-tube protective device for A.C. shock with adjustable cut-off,” complete with crude hand-drawn schematics. He had been using a version of his device using D.C. electric shocks on human subjects for the previous two years, but D.C. shocks were unsatisfying; A.C. was what delivered the best jolt (electric chairs, for this reason, used A.C., not D.C.):

Schematic diagram of Louis William Max’s device for inducing a powerful electric shock. (Click to enlarge.)

Of the vacuum-tube devices investigated, the one which best meets our requirements is that of Fig. 2. As regards expense, a complete stimulator circuit built around this device would cost less than present electrostimulators. Its chief disadvantage is that its underlying circuit is more complicated than a fuse or relay circuit would be. But the manipulative adjustments required are rather simple, and could easily be made even by a non-electrically minded experimenter, by following a set of operating instructions.

…Regardless of which protective device proves most adequate, the design of shock apparatus needs improvement. All live and exposed connections with which an operator may come in contact or which may be short-circuited by an accidentally dropped screwdriver or metal pencil should be eliminated. Experimenters, for example, have reported unpleasant shocks from exposed studs and tap switches…

Even the most ideal of protective devices cannot substitute for the exercise of care in the use of shock apparatus. For the operator’s protection, it is recommended that only one hand be employed in the manipulation of the controls in present high-voltage apparatus. In locating the shocking electrodes on the subject, avoid all contralateral leads {i.e., from one side of the body to the other), or ipselateral leads above and below the heart (such as right hand to right foot). Where possible, electrodes should be firmly fastened to the subject, especially when intense shocks are contemplated, as the subject’s “startle” responses may dislodge an electrode and throw it into contact with a body part to be avoided. The subject might well be insulated from the ground, by means of a rubber mat or glass casters, particularly where the floor is of cement or composition. Finally, every experimenter using shock apparatus on human subjects should learn the Shaefer method of resuscitation.

Six months later, Max would present a paper before the 43rd annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Ann Arbor, Michigan (See Sep 6) describing the use of his new invention in an attempt at “breaking up” a “homosexual neurosis in a young man.”

[Source: Louis W. Max. "Protective devices and precautions against lethal shock" Psychological Bulletin 32, no. 3 (March 1935): 203-211.]

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
David LaChapelle: 1963. When the kid from Connecticut move to New York City and started hanging out at Studio 54, he met Andy Warhol who hired the aspiring young photographer to work for Interview magazine. He would go on become a fashion photographer for Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone. GQ, Vogue, and Photo. He depicted David Duchovney in Lycra bondage pants, Chris Rock in a Blaxploitation fantasy, Kanye West as an African-American Jesus, Michael Jackson as an archangel, Jason Priestly as Elvis, Eminem naked, Elizabeth Taylor in a shocking pink turban, Lady Gaga as, well, Lady Gaga, and Dolly Parton’s breasts as a mountainous backdrop for Dollywood. His 1995 photo of the “kissing sailors” ad for Diesel was one of the first public ads showing a gay couple kissing. It was extremely controversial, landing in the glossy mags fresh off of the debate over Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He also branched out into videos, working for Elton John, Moby, Enrique Iglesias, Macy Gray, Amy Winehouse, and many others. In 2004, he produced a documentary about the South Central L.A. dance style know as “krumping.”

LaChapelle’s color-saturated, provocative and surreal images have been in high demand in the fashion and music world, both for his photography and his videos, and the workaholic put in grinding hours getting each painstaking detail just right. It took him fourteen years, he says, before he finally learned how to say no. That came when Madonna was haranguing him about a video the two were planning. LaChapelle had enough, pulled the cell phone away from his ear, and snapped it shut. That’s right. He hung up on Madonna. He’s still working, but at his own pace and on his own terms. He no longer feels he has to say yes to everyone, which now leaves artists scrambling for substitutes when he turns them down. In 2011, LaChapelle accused Rihanna of copying his imagery for her video “S&M.” The two settled out of court just as the case was about to go to trial.

John Barrowman: 1967. You’ve heard of bilingual. This Scottish-born actor is bidialectic, having learned to speak naturally with a non-descript American accent after his family moved to Illinois in 1975. Barrowman quickly picked up his Americanish after he was getting picked on by other kids in school because of his Scottish accent, although he still speaks with his brogue when talking to his parents. The accent isn’t the only thing Barrowman picked up while in Joliet. At the urging of his high school music and English teachers, he discovered a love of performing and won several parts in several musical productions.

After graduating from high school in 1985, he moved to San Diego to study performing arts, which opened the opportunity for him to move back to Britain in 1989 to study Shakespeare. That’s when he landed his first West End role as Billy Crocker in Cole Porter’s Anything Goes. For the next decade, he appeared in other West End productions: Matador, Phantom of the Opera, Hair, Rope (where he met his future husband, Scott Gill), Miss Saigon, Sunset Boulevard, Godspell, and Beauty and the Beast, just to name a few.

He broke into television in 1993 with the BBC’s children’s program Live & Kicking, and he became a regular presenter and guest for several other programs and prime-time soap operas. He was considered for the role of Will in Will & Grace, but was rejected for being “too straight.” Ironically, the role went to the straight Eric McCormack. Barrowman’s big television breakthrough would come with his role as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and its spin-off, Torchwood.

Barrowman and Gill entered a civil partnership in 2006, and married in the state of California in 2013, and they’ve been active in educating against homophobia in school. The couple shuttle between their homes in London and Cardiff.

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?

Comments

POST COMMENT | COMMENT RSS 2.0

Ben in Oakland
March 11th, 2014 | LINK

Dr. Nascher illustrates the idea that if you have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. In his case, as a psychiatrist from very straight and repressed Vienna, everything not like you begins to look like an illness.

Nathaniel
March 11th, 2014 | LINK

It is also worth noting that Barrowman’s Doctor Who/Torchwood character is a pansexual from the future who regularly hits on fellow characters, both male and female, in his many DW appearances. Torchwood made the character much edgier, but he still formed a same-sex relationship during the run of the series.

Steve
March 11th, 2014 | LINK

Women paying their own bills? What is the world coming to?!

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required)
(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.