Join us for a talk on “Obscene Resistance!”

Looking for something smart, queer and fabulous to do next week? Join us on Wednesday evening at 7pm at the William Way LGBT Community Center (1315 Spruce St., Philadelphia), as Professor Whitney Strub (from Rutgers University) gives us a powerpoint on the history of obscenity, pornography, and queer organizing. Check out the full description below:

Obscene Resistance
Beefcake photos in physique magazines; tawdry tales of “perverse” lesbian love; a symbolically-fraught firecracker shooting out of a man’s unzipped pants; and even a mildly raunchy poem about toilet-cruising in an otherwise serious magazine: all were deemed obscene by American authority figures at one point. How did the law of obscenity impact queer history? And what role did “obscene” imagery play in LGBT community formation, activism, and identity? The exhibit I propose for Pop-Up Philadelphia is a combination visual slideshow/lecture that seeks to address those issues, from an historical perspective. Essentially, the narrative is a dance between suppression and resistance, in which queer expression was repeatedly deemed obscene by homophobic authorities, but also in turn helped expand the freedoms of speech and expression so taken for granted in the 21st century. From lesbian pulp fiction to Kenneth Anger’s avant-garde films, from homophile publications through gay-liberationist pornography, I contend that this “obscene resistance” gives us a useful historical window into the workings of antigay policies as well as the sexual politics of queer self-expression. Further, its proud sense of visual and textual pleasure celebrates queer sexuality in a way few other historical sources did, and deserves inclusion in the public memory of the LGBT struggle for justice.

Whitney Strub is Assistant Professor of History at Rutgers University-Newark, where he also teaches American Studies and LGBT Studies. He is the author of Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right (Columbia University Press, 2011), and his work can also be found in the Journal of Social History, Journal of the History of Sexuality, American Quarterly, Journal of Women’s History, and Radical History Review. He’s currently finishing a book on the 1957 Roth v. U.S. obscenity case.

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