Queer Migrations, Part 5: Rent Boys, Prostitutes, Hustlers: Anxieties and Economies of Male Same-Sex Sexual Commerce in Britain, Ireland, and Canada

AHA Session 221
North American Conference on British Studies 5
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History 8
Saturday, January 9, 2016: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Crystal Ballroom B (Hilton Atlanta, First Floor)
Charles J. Upchurch, Florida State University
Charles J. Upchurch, Florida State University

Session Abstract

For the seller of same-sex sex, movement is survival. For the boys and young men who migrate to the city in search of work and find none, turning a trick with a lonely man in a public lavatory can mean the difference between eating and not eating on any given day. For the sex workers who double as messengers and newspaper sellers, knowing the lay of the urban landscape and the best places to avoid detection when hocking their sexual wares can mean the difference between a close-call and prison time for gross indecency offences. For the rent boys implicated in a political-sexual scandal, self-presentation in court could mean the difference between being seen as either the corruptor or the corrupted. The papers in this panel explore the abstract and physical movement of male sex workers and same-sex desire in Britain, Ireland, and Canada in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

This panel offers complimentary examinations of the same-sex sexual-economic markets in transnational and transtemporal perspectives with some of the newest historical work being done on the buying and selling of male same-sex sex. Dr. Jonathan Coleman considers the politicization of male prostitutes in Anglo-Irish relations through the 1884 Dublin Castle Scandal. Dr. Katie Hindmarch-Watson focuses on the movements and marginalized spaces of the telegraph/rent boys of Victorian London. Averill Earls discusses the legal and economic conditions surrounding the “rent boys” of Dublin in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Finally Dr. Richard McKay examines the anxiety surrounding the transmission of venereal diseases in the steam bath of Vancouver between same-sex desiring men, both those who sold their favors and those who offered them freely in the 1960s and 70s. This panel will find wide appeal among historians and social scientists in its addressing of issues of political scandal, anxieties around youth and deviance, public health concerns, and most importantly the movement of same-sex desiring boys and men in and out of the sexual markets of Britain, Ireland, and Canada.

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