Transnational Queer Markets of Pornography, 1947–77

AHA Session 58
Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History 3
Friday, January 7, 2022: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Grand Ballroom B (Sheraton New Orleans, 5th Floor)
David K. Johnson, University of South Florida
Andrew Shield, Leiden University
Please note: The presentations will include pornographic images to support the historical argument being made.
The Audience

Session Abstract

Scholars of LGBT history have too often neglected transnational dynamics. Related, historians have focused attention on national LGBT organizations, without taking into account the mobilizing forces of commercial initiatives, such as the forums provided by semi-erotic and pornographic publications.

Our panel presents new and ongoing research addressing the transnational networks forged through commercial erotic publications, and their importance in LGBT history. Five short presentations make unique arguments about the role of erotic/pornographic publications in 1950s-70s LGBT cultures, and simultaneously display visual material collected from various “straight” and “gay” publications of the period, including those from Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the U.S. These periodicals appeared in a context of important post-war transformations and the panel is of interest for a broad audience interested in social and moral change from the “normative” 1950s to the “revolutionary” 1970s. We invite audience commentary, and anticipate that our succinct presentations will provide ample time for group discussion of the ideas that spark the most audience-interest.

The five presentations tackle three overarching themes: transnational dynamics of a growing LGBT porn market; interactions between commercial initiatives and formal organizing; and inclusions/exclusions based on race, age and sexual expression. Our contributions cover different national contexts, languages, orientations, audiences, and imagery, but speak to each other through thematic lines. Together they chart the emergence of transnational communities of porn producers, retailers, consumers, and LGBT rights-activists, finding common ground in their resistance to norms of gender, sexuality, and decency. We ask:

What were the information channels across borders and how did the contents of periodicals and shops reflect a transnational dynamic? What were the interactions between commercial initiatives and formal organizations? And how did these emerging periodicals and organizations acknowledge the “minorities within the minority”?

Finally, although the presenters use different theoretical and methodological tools to analyze transnational connections and erotic imagery, their common denominator is social-movement theory. What counts as a social movement? What were the interactions and attitudes between the more “decent” but marginalized official organizations and the world of erotica?

Klara Arnberg (Stockholm University) explores the transnational influence and sexual diversity of Stockholm porn shops. Peter Edelberg (University of Copenhagen, Denmark) addresses inclusion and exclusion within the formalized Scandinavian movements and their interaction with state authorities. David K. Johnson (University of Southern Florida) discusses U.S. magazines procured abroad, as well as the introduction of European magazines to the American market. Jens Rydström (Lund University, Sweden) examines Swedish “straight” porn magazines as meeting-places for non-straight desires. Andrew D. J. Shield (Leiden University, the Netherlands) analyzes transnational influences and stereotypical representations of men of color in Danish and Dutch gay press.

PLEASE NOTE: The presentations will include pornographic images to support the historical argument being made.

See more of: AHA Sessions