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Gay Japanese erotica from the 17th-19th centuries (NSFW)
06.14.2017
10:22 am
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Miyagawa Chōshun (1683-1753) - scenes from ‘A Rare and Important Nanshoku Shunga Handscroll.’
 
Not all Japanese art is cherry blossoms, surging waves, and exotic birds, there is a whole world of shunga or erotica filed away among Japan’s beautiful canvases, silks, and scrolls kept by museums and in private collections.

Shunga’s popularity really started during the Edo Period 1603-1868 when the country was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate. This rise in popularity stemmed largely from the dominant male population which had massively increased as a result of the high number of samurai/retainers required to guard provincial lords and their estates and maintain law and order, and through the surge in agricultural laborers required to produce the food to feed this large population. To get an idea of what we’re talking about, the city of Edo—the former name for Tokyo—had a population of one million by 1721. This made Edo the largest city on the planet. But what’s more staggering is that seventy percent (70%) of the city’s population were male. This meant a lot of horny blokes looking for good wank material.

Apparently, the word shunga means “pictures of spring”—spring being a euphemism for erotica probably as in the English equivalent “the joys of spring.” (If you can’t figure that out, I’m not going to explain it for you.) Though shunga was predominantly used by men, it was very popular with the ladies, too. It was also considered very lucky or at least a bringer of good fortune to those who carried a shunga scroll on their person.

When it came to sex, the Japanese have always been far more liberated than most other countries. Indeed, homosexuality and lesbianism have a long history in Japan going way back to ancient times—long before people started documenting such pleasures. In fact, gay sex was AOK in Japan up until 1872 when sodomy was briefly outlawed. This was quickly repealed in 1880. However, as of 2000, sexual orientation is not protected by national civil rights laws which means the LGBT community do not have any recourse to legal protection against discriminations—so much for progress… I guess it’s a mixed bag there.

While most shunga is heterosexually oriented, there is a wealth of gay shunga featuring samurais and old Buddhist masters indulging in sex with young males—often dressed as geishas. These illustrations were called nanshoku or “male colors” a term used to describe the man-on-man action which depicted (usually) idealized pin-ups from the worlds of ancient myth, the military, religion, theater, class, and last but not least, prostitution.
 
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Miyagawa Chōshun - scenes from ‘A Rare and Important Nanshoku Shunga Handscroll.’
 
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Miyagawa Chōshun.
 
More gay Japanese erotica, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.14.2017
10:22 am
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Love and Affection: Vintage photos of gay and lesbian couples
02.09.2016
11:39 am
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A couple’s photographic portrait is an affirmation of their relationship. It states for all to see: “We love each other. We care for each other. We are proud of who we are together.”

During the Victorian era many gay and lesbian couples proudly expressed their love for each other in studio portraits. Unlike the common belief that such relationships were “the love that dare not speak its name,” as Oscar Wilde so famously described same sex attraction in his poem “Two Loves,” gays and lesbians often dared to show their love. Indeed, many gay and lesbian couples more or less lived openly together throughout their lives. This was far easier for women than for men as women were expected to live together if they were not married, or to live with the euphemistically termed “female companion.”

Men, no historical surprises here, had their own haunts for meeting like-minded souls. In London these could be found in the “Molly houses” and gentlemen’s clubs or pick-ups haunts at Lincoln’s Inn, or St. James Park or the path on the City’s Moorfields, which was charmingly referred to as “Sodomites Walk.”

Theaters and circuses were also well-known dens of homosexual activity—this can be traced all the way back to Elizabethan England, when male prostitutes plied their trade at theaters.

The armed forces, in particular the Royal Navy was notorious for gay relationships—understandable with all the horny seamen looking for any port in a storm. Apparently word got around.

It is a moot point that the change in public attitude towards homosexuality commenced with the Labouchere Amendment to the Sexual Offences Act in 1885, which “prohibited gross indecency between males.” This was the law under which Wilde was infamously prosecuted and the law that heightened discrimination against gays.

Before that there had been the Buggery Act—against anal penetration and bestiality—which was introduced during the reign of Henry VIII. This led to numerous executions (hangings) and imprisonments. It was briefly repealed, then reinstated by Elizabeth I. However, there were few prosecutions under the act and it was repealed again in 1828—though “buggery” remained a capital offense. James Pratt and John Smith became the last two men to be executed for buggery, in 1835.

The Labouchere Amendment outlawed homosexuality and made it more difficult for gay men to live the lives they desired. Labouchere did not include lesbians in the act as he believed drawing attention to lesbianism would only encourage sapphic desires amongst most Victorian women.

So even when gay relationships were outlawed in England, they still thrived in open secret. In America, the sodomy laws varied from state to state. What one state tolerated or had no opinion about, another state punished. However, as with England in the Victorian era, America gay and lesbian couples would often openly express their love for each other in portrait photographs.

This collection of beautiful, brave people gives us a small visual history of LGBT relationships from the 1860s-1960s. Many of the couples are unidentifiable, but where possible their names have been given. (Editor writes: Mild disclaimer: Of course it’s difficult to say that in all cases these photos are of gay couples.)
 
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Anna Moor and Elsie Dale, 1900.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.09.2016
11:39 am
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Gay pulp paperbacks of the early 1970s
11.21.2013
12:14 pm
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Chamber of Homos
 
These paperbacks from the days of Stonewall are simply incredible. They elicit phrases that increasingly seem dead to us now—“the closet,” “homosexual panic”—and for that reason they make me sad. They straddle the categories of alarmism and regular ol’ enjoyment—expressing the inherently coded nature of gay life during that era. In that sense their true meaning is confusion and pain. I hope they gave their readers pleasure. One can hope, at least, that this particular facet of sexual life is dying off.

They’re all from an imprint called French Line. I admire these books because they are so deadly intent about reaching their audience. The design of these covers is so potent—they are not kidding around. And hey—what’s Guy Fawkes doing writing Chamber of Homos, anyway? What’s up with that Nazi one? How long does it take to make a straight guy gay? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?

All of the covers but one use that circle-arrow male symbol—are those symbols themselves a relic of the sixties? you don’t see them very much anymore—and everything about these covers, every word and every image, is calculated to intrigue, alarm, and arouse.
 
Homo Horror
 
The Chocolate Speedway
 
The Reamers
 
More covers after the jump…...

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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11.21.2013
12:14 pm
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Walter & Sylvester: The Reverend & the Disco Queen

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If you’re like me, your atheism has been challenged by the sheer force of certain metaphysically oriented artforms. One of those forms for me is African-American gospel music. One of the greats of that genre, the Grammy-winning Rev. Walter Hawkins, died yesterday of pancreatic cancer. Hawkins had plenty of Billboard chart success leading his Love Center Choir. Significantly, he’ll also be remembered as head of an Oakland, CA church that wholly embraced and was supported by folks like disco singer, drag queen and gay icon Sylvester.

Hawkins’ initial success came as part of his brother’s group the Edwin Hawkins Singers, which had a crossover hit with 1967’s “Oh Happy Day.” According to Joshua Gamson’s The Fabulous Sylvester, the Legend, the Music, the Seventies in San Francisco:

Hawkins was one of those who left church, but as he grew older he started looking for a way to bring together “all those young people who I knew could not survive in a traditional church setting.”

One of those was the young Sylvester James, who was a well-known child gospel singer in his LA hometown before running away and eventually moving to San Francisco. By the time he’d arrived at Hawkins’ Bible study group-turned-church the Love Center, Sylvester had already done a short stint with local psychedelic drag performance group The Cockettes and performed with the then-unknown Pointer Sisters. When he tells the anecdote about Love Center members’ jaded acceptance of a prostitute into their ranks, Gamson notes: “They took the same attitude to Sylvester. His strangeness, when it was even noticed, was beloved.” In fact, the Love Center Choir would appear on numerous mid-‘80s Sylvester tunes, including “Call Me” and his cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City.”

When Sylvester died of complications from AIDS in 1988 at age 41, his memorial service was held at the Love Center. According to J. Matthew Cobb of Prayzehymm Online, the gospel industry and the black church in general has a lot of work to do with regards to its gay membership. 

Hats off to Reverend Hawkins. 
 

 
Get: Walter Hawkins and the Love Center Choir: Love Alive - 25th Anniversary Reunion, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 [CD]
 
Get: Sylvester - Mutual Attraction [CD]

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann
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07.12.2010
08:41 pm
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U.S.A. at 234, Leaves of Grass at 155, Alice in Wonderland at 145: Dangerous Minds of History

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A 36-second wax cylinder recording of what is thought to be Walt Whitman’s voice reading four lines from the poem “America.” [MP3]

As the sky lights up over Hometown U.S.A. tonight, let’s remember that today’s also the anniversary of two literary masterpieces of proto-freak culture. In 1855, Walt Whitman had 800 copies of his Leaves of Grass pressed by the Scottish-born Rome brothers at their Fulton St. shop in Brooklyn.

The Wikipedia oracle notes that Walt was definitely considered an original dangerous mind:

When the book was first published, Whitman was fired from his job at the Department of the Interior after Secretary of the Interior James Harlan read it and said he found it very offensive. Poet John Greenleaf Whittier was said to have thrown his 1855 edition into the fire. Thomas Wentworth Higginson wrote, “It is no discredit to Walt Whitman that he wrote ‘Leaves of Grass,’ only that he did not burn it afterwards.” Critic Rufus Wilmot Griswold reviewed Leaves of Grass in the November 10, 1855, issue of The Criterion, calling it “a mass of stupid filth” and categorized its author as a filthy free lover. Griswold also suggested, in Latin, that Whitman was guilty of “that horrible sin not to be mentioned among Christians”, one of the earliest public accusations of Whitman’s homosexuality. Griswold’s intensely negative review almost caused the publication of the second edition to be suspended.  Whitman included the full review, including the innuendo, in a later edition of Leaves of Grass.

Seven years later to the day, math teacher Charles Dodgson and a friend took the three young daughters of Henry Liddell (the Dean of the Christ Church College where Dodgson taught math) on a short rowboat trip. Dodgson published the surrealist story he aimed at Liddell’s middle daughter Alice as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland under the name Lewis Carroll on July 4 1865.

Without forgetting Robert Cauble’s fantastic depiction of Alice’s search for Guy Debord, below are some amazing film interpretations of Alice:

 

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Posted by Ron Nachmann
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07.04.2010
03:22 pm
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Diego Maradona loves his players but he’s so not gay. OK?

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Even if you’re a soccer layman who knows the name Pele, you’ve likely also heard the name Diego Maradona. The legendary 49-year-old Argentine player and coach, who captained his national team to win the 1986 World Cup is known as much for his off-field controversies (like his 20-year cocaine habit) as for those on-field, including his “Hand of God” goal.

During this week’s World Cup activity, Diego got handed a true moment when a journalist’s question about the current Argentine captain’s cuddly treatment of his excellent players got mistranslated into an intimation about the way El Diego swings.
 

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann
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06.23.2010
05:01 pm
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