Gay and Lesbian

Seeing Males Together: Brokeback Mountain and Picturing Men

March 1, 2006
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Seeing Males Together: Brokeback Mountain and Picturing Men

An essay by John Ibson, author of Picturing Men. History’s fundamental lesson warns those who are comfortable with contemporary social arrangements, as it reassures those who are oppressed by current practices: It hasn’t always been like this, and isn’t likely to stay this way forever. This lesson is certainly true when it comes to the way that American men today are inclined and allowed to express their affection for each other—whether that affection involves romance, sexual longing, or just profound fondness. Ang Lee’s magnificent film Brokeback Mountain is the sad story of two Wyoming ranch hands whose society severely inhibits their twenty-year-long affectionate and sexual relationship. They express their mutual attraction only when utterly alone in the wilderness, at huge expense to their emotional lives and also their relationships with women. Yet Brokeback Mountain may also be instructively seen as a movie that raises disturbing issues about the ways that all American men feel about the appropriate ways to express their fondness for each other, whether or not that fondness is accompanied by sexual desire. Our culture still so scorns sexual desire between two men that there is a common fear that such desire just might accompany any fondness, as . . .

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Review: Matt Houlbrook, Queer London

February 22, 2006
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Review: Matt Houlbrook, Queer London

Matt Houlbrook’s Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957 has received the Longman-History Today Book of the Year 2006 award. History Today Editor Peter Furtado described it as "not a story of persecution, but a lucid, sane and fascinating account of how gay people negotiated space for themselves within a hostile cultural environment, dealing with policing, housing, geography, identity and politics." The current edition of the Times Higher Education Supplement features a review of Queer London by Matt Cook: "A ground-breaking work. While middle-class lives and writing have tended to compel the attention of most historians of homosexuality, Matt Houlbrook has looked more widely and found a rich seam of new evidence. It has allowed him to construct a complex, compelling account of interwar sexualities and to map a new, intimate geography of London.… There is a nostalgia here for a world lost. This brings a rare warmth to the book: Houlbrook has a genuine affection for the men and places he describes. Occasionally his spectacles feel just a little too rose (or lilac) tinted. He is right to suggest that some of our understandings of queer life have narrowed since the war, but I find it . . .

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