"A Polluted Playground”: Gender, Sexuality, and the Consumption of Miami's Vice Culture, 1948–60

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 8:30 AM
Addison Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Julio Capů Jr., Yale University
Miami encourages a new understanding of the 1950s’ “gender conformity” narrative.  This work analyzes how changes in “gender” and “sex” ultimately affected perceptions of sexuality—including homosexuality—during the early Cold War.  It explores Miami’s social and cultural tug-of-war between legislating morality and promoting “degenerate” tourism.  This tension transformed Miami into a vital site for the reevaluation of what constituted a legitimate “male” and “female” in an era of rigid gender conformity.  The city represented a matrix of opposing and contradictory perspectives—from its political and social “elite,” the media, residents, and tourists—that left open a cultural space that queer individuals ultimately made their own.   Indeed, deviation from traditional gender, sex, and sexual norms carried the taint of perversion, and often, anti-Americanism.  In the context of this Cold War closet, Miami’s politicians and law enforcement sought to control deviations from gender and sexual norms.  The era’s reassertion of domestic conformity, however, required the sort of “degeneracy” and transgression represented by Miami.  Then, while appearing to thwart gender norms, Miami—as a commodified leisure destination—proved instrumental in upholding them.
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