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Nudge nudge wink wink: Where could someone get gay porn in the 1930s?
September 4, 2014 2:43 PM   Subscribe

For fictional purposes, I need to know where someone could get porn (specifically photos, not necessarily films) for gay men in the 1930s/40s. This has been annoyingly difficult to find on an internet search, and I unfortunately don't have the time to get a lot of library books and sift through them to find this out.

I've heard various things such as the pharmacist's, the tobaccanist's, and then there are implications that there were "blue" shops around, though I'd think those would get raided. How would an average guy, not necessarily someone connected to other gay men, find it, or could he find it? (And if it's in New York/Brooklyn, even better.)
posted by emcat8 to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
This article on a gay ephemera display might interest you. Also more links at the bottom. Tho' that was last year (the display).

Gay ephemera yields a lot more valid links than other search terms. Maybe sideways of what you're looking for, but a place to start.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:51 PM on September 4


I think I remember from a documentary that there were magazines ostensibly about exercise... there was a euphamistic term used for them... that were used as a way to distribute images of scantily-clad, toned men around that time.

I found some information about this in "Foundlings: Lesbian and Gay Historical Emotion before Stonewall", but I haven't spent enough time reading to answer your question.
posted by onshi at 2:52 PM on September 4


"Physical Culture"?
posted by JimN2TAW at 2:57 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Physique / beefcake magazines really came into their own in the 1940s, but have forerunners in the 1930s (mostly photos that appeared in magazines not strictly dedicated to images of beautiful, scantily clad men.)
posted by ryanshepard at 3:02 PM on September 4


"Physique" photography / magazines is the term, I think, yes.
posted by onshi at 3:04 PM on September 4


A part of the storyline in Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep deals with a gay man running a rare/antique bookstore as a front for an adult lending library, which the police allow (likely due to unspoken, corrupt financial arrangements) and which surrounding businesses all know about (such as the neighboring pawn shop owner). Chandler often put in "throw-away" bits that referenced 1930s cultural and legal mores, which are easy to overlook; the Library of America edition of collected works has footnotes to discuss these little details where they show up.
posted by Mr. Six at 3:17 PM on September 4 [5 favorites]


Car Van Vechten's collection at the Beinecke's full of nude men. He was a photographer, but I think he collected others' work too.

Huh, there's a book about it, too.
posted by morganw at 4:36 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


I'd check with the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library.
posted by trip and a half at 4:39 PM on September 4


A lot of this is fascinating and I'm pleased to learn about the more useful terminology, thank you.

But most of this doesn't seem to address how someone would obtain this stuff, outside of the Chandler reference Mr. Six mentions. That's what I can't find out much about. (Especially how someone who might not be a privileged person connected to other men in the community could find it.)
posted by emcat8 at 4:50 PM on September 4


Bob Mizer is a good name to reference here. The physique magazines were distributed through the mail and would have ads in them for readers to directly order copies of the photos. But again, more 40s and 50s than 30s...
posted by lewedswiver at 5:49 PM on September 4


Historically accurate Steve Rogers might have answers if you ask them.

Tijuana bibles are the same era and were basically handed around and traded under the table I think.

Beefcake in body building and artistic male nudes would have been available, but sexual acts, not just nudity, would have been much harder to get without knowing someone who could vouch for you for an illegal purchase. You might have better luck with being lent pornographic materials by someone more socially connected or finding them discarded in a bath house setting as a narrative work around than figuring out how to purchase them without connections.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:05 PM on September 4


The Gay 30s in Chicago is a bit early but covers access to materials and is generally fascinating.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:10 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


The Comstock Act made it really hard for Porno to flourish, ANY kind of porno. Having it and/or distributing it had VERY stiff penalties.

Just some historical context.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:21 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


If he was able to get his hands on Victorian erotica like The Pearl magazine ( a male relative in the Navy or merchant marine?) he would be reading descriptions of gay sex.
posted by brujita at 7:30 PM on September 4


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