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New York Hustlers: Masculinity and Sex in Modern America (Encounters) [Illustrated] [Paperback]

Barry Reay
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

22 July 2010
This important new book, which focuses on the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, but which looks back to the earlier decades of the century and has a conclusion dealing with the 1970s to 1990s, maps the world of those known as 'trade' - ostensibly straight men who would engage in homosexual sex - and hustlers - those who were paid for it. It was a milieu that was central to the sexual histories of several generations of twentieth-century American men and also influenced American literary and visual culture; the 'trade aesthetic' informed the work of a variety of artists, filmmakers, and writers. This sexual culture, though compelling in itself, also allows us to explore some key aspects of modern sexual history. For the hustlers and trade exhibit a remarkably flexible sexuality, traversing the worlds of male homosexuality and heterosexuality in ways that challenge many assumptions about sexual identity. The history of the sexuality (and masculinity) of the hustlers and their associates in postwar New York rethinks notions both of heterosexuality and homosexuality. This pioneering work, which draws on a wide range of visual and literary sources, including previously unpublished material from the Kinsey archives, appears in a series devoted to new ways of writing history. Its subject matter and style will appeal to a wide range of readers, especially those interested in the histories of sex, the city, masculinity, and American culture.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 279 pages
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press (22 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719080088
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719080081
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 14 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,923,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Provides fresh information and insight about the occupation of male sex work...(Barry Reay) makes an intriguing case study in midcentury manhood. John Ibson, American Historical Review, 01/04/2012 -- John Ibson. American Historical Review 20120401 In this path-breaking book, Barry Reay makes significant advances towards our understanding of human sexuality and behaviour ... Reay's work really does offer us a new angle on "gay" history ... Reay has indeed produced a compelling account of a little researched area of American life. Kevin White, Journal of Social History, June 18, 2012 -- Kevin White. Journal of Social History 20120618

About the Author

Barry Reay is Professor of History at the University of Auckland, New Zealand

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Searching, but problematic ethnology 21 Oct 2010
Format:Paperback
This fascinating but problematic book deals with the relationships of hustlers, usually straight-identified though bisexual in practice, and their paying johns, focusing on the middle decades of the 20th century. As primary sources Reay uses archival material obtained at the Kinsey Institute and other such repositories. He fleshes out these finds with nuggets gleaned from Tennessee Williams, Mart Crowley's "The Boys and the Band," and other high-culture products. Of necessity the result is one-sided, since there is relatively little that is available from the hustler's point of view. The books of John Rechy, who worked as a hustler in NYC and elsewhere, are a seeming exception. Yet Rechy is a sophisticated literary artist and intellectual--scarcely a typical male sex worker.

On the plus side, the author has been diligent and his book is very readable. Yet he is too quick to reject the interpretation of C. A. Tripp and others, namely that the johns' quest for relationships with young toughs who were emotionally unresponsive and sometimes abusive reflected internalized homophobia. In all likelihood the abuse served to confirm the johns' belief that they were in fact the inferior creature that the society told them they were. This phenomenon has been studied in a number of contexts under the rubric of abjection.

In fact Reay has a larger goal in mind. He seeks to challenge the accepted historical narrative that "modern homosexuality," in which the two partners have an egalitarian relationship, arose in the late nineteenth century out of a more fluid situation.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Problematic study of male sex workers 18 Oct 2010
By Wayne Dynes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This fascinating but problematic book deals with the relationship of hustlers, usually straight identified though bisexual in practice, and their paying johns, focusing on the middle decades of the 20th century. As primary sources Reay uses archival material gleaned at the Kinsey Institute and other institutions. He fleshes out these finds with material gleaned from Tennessee Williams, Mart Crowley's "The Boys and the Band," and other high-culture products. Of necessity the result is one-sided, since there is relatively little that is available from the hustler's point of view. The books of John Rechy, who worked as a hustler in NYC and elsewhere, are a seeming exception. Yet Rechy is a sophisticated literary artist and intellectual--scarcely a typical male sex worker.

On the plus side, the author has been diligent and his book is very readable. Yet he is too quick to reject the interpretation of C. A. Tripp and others that the johns' quest for relationships with young toughs who were emotionally unresponsive and sometimes abusive reflected internalized homophobia. In all likelihood the abuse served to confirm the johns' belief that they were in fact the inferior creature that the society told them they were. This phenomenon has been studied in a number of contexts under the rubric of abjection.

In fact Reay has a larger goal in mind. He wants to challenge the accepted historical narrative that "modern homosexuality," in which the two partners have an egalitarian relationship, arose in the late nineteenth century out of a more fluid situation. He seems to wants to argue that the modern homosexual was not simply a late comer to the great fresco of world history: that iconic figure is simply a phantom, the illusory offspring of the ideology of gay liberation. In good postmodern fashion he scoffs at the "hetero/homo sexual binary." Yet his evidence for this skepticism comes mainly from the hustler-john nexus, and thus he commits the error of synecdoche, taking a part for the whole. That is not the way most of us were in those days.

A personal reminiscence may be helpful. I first came to New York City in 1956 at the age of 22 to enroll as a graduate student at NYU to live on a fellowship that paid one-hundred dollars a month. For me there was no question of seeking out hustlers: I couldn't afford it. I saved my pennies and met other gay guys at the bars where I would nurse one beer for the night. By present-day standards most people were poor in those days. Hardly any of the people I met paid for sex. In those days, hustlers were an indulgence for the prosperous and well-healed.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantasticly Insightful 5 Aug 2013
By Nicolas W. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was quite a fascinating read about the history of male prostitution primaily between the 1940's - 1960's, and it's also an insightful speculation into male sexuality itself. Much of the material comes directly from the Kinsey archives, including a variety of revealing and well chosen photographs of NYC hustlers in their element from the 1930's to the 1980's. Other supporting information details how the male hustler has been a cultural icon through literature, film, or art. It's a really thought provoking, well researched dissection of the norms of male heterosexuality and homosexuality from the last 100 years. Highly recommended.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eminently readable social study 25 Nov 2011
By Ronald V. Mershart - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is in like-new condition. Delivered promptly. The photo illustrations gave a bite of reality to the direct text. NEW YORK HUSTLERS Gives a true sense of the twentieth century.
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