Male-Male Prostitution in 1950s–70s Italian Fiction

Saturday, January 7, 2017: 8:50 AM
Mile High Ballroom 1A (Colorado Convention Center)
Alessio Ponzio, University of Michigan
Male-Male Prostitution in 1950s-1970s Italian Fiction

In this paper I analyze the ways in which male prostitution was represented by Italian and foreign fiction authors, focusing my attention in particular on the following works: Tennessee Williams, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1950); Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Ragazzi di vita (1955) and Una vita violenta (1959); Giuseppe Patroni Griffi’s Ragazzo di Trastevere (1955); Giò Stajano’s Roma capovolta (1959) and Meglio l’uovo oggi (1959); Enzo Siciliano’s Friederich Holt e il suo ventritrè giugno, (1963); Donald Windham’s Two People (1965); Dario Bellezza’s L’Innocenza (1970) and Il Carnefice (1973). My readings of these novels and short stories will pay attention to the affective associations built between clients and prostitutes; the roles that class, age, and geographic origins of the people involved played on the relationships; male prostitutes’ declared and practiced sexualities; and the dynamics of the relationships between marchettari (a word we can render as the Anglo-American trade) and other female characters portrayed in my sources (wives, girlfriends, and female prostitutes). Discourses about male prostitution reflected transformations in the conceptualization of homosexuality over time. In turn, new, emerging notions about same-sex sexuality have transformed conceptualizations of heterosexuality and gender. Thus, by focusing my attention to one phenomenon – male prostitution – I will be able to test whether the late 1960s and early 1970s were a breakthrough epoch in the history of post-Fascist Italian sexualities.