Gay erotica before Stonewall

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I've never bought queer erotica, not even a cheap Bel Ami paperback. I came close to keeping a Pierre et Gilles that came into my used bookshop but I knew it would soon cloy.

I've been wanting to take a look at Thomas Waugh's Out/Lines since I first heard of it. Last Gasp, a distributor we buy small press comics from, had it in stock so I let my shop buy me a copy.

Not having any queer theory axes to grind I'll have to say the book is pretty neat.

I treasure most the images of men together from the early part of the 20th century. Thankfully there's only a trifling sample of gay Tijuana Bibles. The small amusement of seeing an old comic strip like Harold Teen turned into pornography can't last past a few panels of really bad artwork (a pity since this was a golden age for American draughtmanship). More erotically engaging are the two pretty bellhops fondling each other in the elevator.

There are only a few of the fey guys that I like but that was to be expected. Gay men have always craved hard manly beauty, probably more so than heterosexual women. The drawings are mostly of powerfully endowed men, although with nicer faces than you see nowadays.

The images of men loving other men are more abandoned and cheering than I'd expected. Most of them are just having a randy good time. Later queer carnality seemed to suggest sex was more solemn than happy. (Think of John Rechy's and Edmund White's more morose passages as pictures.)

Many of the most famous gay artists had a broader sense of male beauty than they later would. It was a surprise to see Tom of Finland - the Jack Kirby of gay erotica - before he'd hardened into a parody of himself.

I most enjoyed the images of gay men simply being tender, loving.

If you have aesthetic curiosity about earlier gay sensuality or need something a little different for evenings alone with your hand you'll find both in the book.

Out/Lines: Underground Gay Graphics from Before Stonewall

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