Last Fall, I was attempting to write a film treatment for a class led by filmmaker Jennie Livingston (who made Paris is Burning) that directly connected Charles Atlas, exercise extraordinaire, to the hypersexual gym culture that exists within the gay community. In my research, I found that a queer theorist, Michael Bronski, who is a professor in the Women and Gender studies department at Dartmouth, had already made the connection. This was revealed through his 1998 analytical literature, “The Pleasure Principle: Sex, Backlash and the Struggle for Gay Freedom.” The book seemed like an important read for the future, so I put the amazon book link in my bookmarks.
This summer, I decided I would order the book and read it before I arrived to school, thinking it may be useful for the queer research I was in the process of conducting in my compositions. Little did I know how much the analysis would make an impact on me. This literature in an unbelievable study of Western gay culture (especially American gay male culture) and its relationship to other subcultures and the mainstream. Bronski discusses the history of the fight for gay rights and safe visibility, providing theories and explanations for the many failures and successes of the movements that have occurred through questioning cultural associations to pleasure (i.e. the title’s reference to Freud’s famous text). The piece explores mainstream appropriations and rejections of subcultural ideas and practices and asks specifically how gay culture combats and compromises with a dominantly white, heterosexual, Anglo-Saxon patriarchy. The work also struck me as an artist because Bronski writes about the tradition of gay artists and how gay art figures are and always have been crucial to the growth of the “gay community” and society as a whole (The book opens with a reference to the 4 gay artists whose NEA grants were vetoed in 1990).
I HIGHLY recommend reading this book, as not only a source on gay culture and the construction of gender, but also to inform one’s understanding of the heterosexual, nuclear-family in relationship to viewing and making art. Here’s the link on Amazon:
Please let me know if you read this book at some point! This information I hold near and dear to my heart.