Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall

James Polchin. Counterpoint, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-1-64009-189-4
In this insightful but somewhat gruesome debut work, cultural historian Polchin teases out details of the lives of urban, mostly white gay men from the 1920s through the 1960s via an analysis of newspapers’ high-profile, “moral outrage and fascination”–driven true crime reports. As he writes, these stories “reflected and amplified the era’s social prejudices and state-sanctioned discriminations” and showed the dangers, such as opportunistic thieves and police entrapment, that “queer men were forced to navigate... in their search for sexual adventure and social life.” He looks at cultural trends, such as the courtroom defense of “acute homosexual panic” in response to “indecent advances” from the victim, but also digs deeply into individual high-profile cases, often quoting the most lurid details from the original reporting, which will likely delight true crime fans and satisfy academics but deeply disturb other readers. Polchin finishes by recounting the beginnings of progress, as the 1948 Kinsey Report began to influence the understanding of sexuality, the Mattachine Society promoted the idea of homosexuals as a social minority, and ONE magazine looked critically at newspaper reports of crime and highlighted a “collective experience of injury and abuse.” Polchin’s investigation of several decades of queer American life is an intelligent but darkly voyeuristic experience. (June)
Reviewed on : 03/21/2019
Release date: 06/01/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-978684-76-8
MP3 CD - 978-1-978684-77-5
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-64009-387-4
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