Public Sex/Gay Space

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Male homosexual activity in public and semipublic locations is a central but seldom explored dimension of gay culture around the world. The majority of existing research emphasizes the impersonality of such erotic interaction and underscores the element of danger involved. While never denying the danger of anonymous public sex in the age of AIDS, the contributors to Public Sex/Gay Space go beyond narrow moralisms about the need to regulate unsafe sexual practices to discuss the significance of sex in public. William Leap has brought together contributions from such fields as anthropology, sociology, literary criticism, and history to reinvigorate the discussion on this issue, with twelve essays providing a more nuanced portrait of why public sexual activity is such an integral part of gay culture. The authors present rich ethnographic snapshots of male sex in public places--many drawn from interviews with participants or, in some instances, the authors' personal experiences.Contributors investigate a broad cultural spectrum of gay sexual space and activity: in a public park in contemporary Hanoi, at the beachfront community of New York's Fire Island, and in nineteenth-century Amsterdam, for example. They explore issues such as visibility and secrecy, as well as economic status and social class, and interrogate the historical trajectories through which certain locations come to be favored sites for sexual encounters. Together, they offer insight into the ways in which public sex calls into question the very line that divides public from private.