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Sex, Backlash, and the Struggle for Gay Freedom
By Michael Bronski
From the subversive, coded, sexual antics of Pee-wee's Playhouse
to the explicitness of the Calvin Klein underwear ads to the pop drag
hits La Cage Aux Folles and Priscilla, Queen of the
Desert, gay culture has had an enormous impact on mainstream culture.
In spite of this, the political struggle to secure the most basic rights
of citizenship and equality for gay men and lesbians remains a pitched
In The Pleasure Principle, renowned cultural critic and
commentator Michael Bronski examines the complicated relationship between
gay and mainstream culture, illustrating that while most heterosexuals
need and love aspects of gay culture, it also causes them enormous anxiety
and fear. Drawing on a half-century of gay history -- post-World War II
fashions, the emergence of the "clone" and the "daddy," the rise of the
gay consumer, Bowers vs. Hardwick, the Mapplethorpe controversy,
and the right-wing, anti-gay referenda -- Bronski brilliantly maps the
fascinating and often ironic interplay between culture and politics.
Challenging most of the preconceived notions, The Pleasure Principle
offers a profound and disturbing analysis of the roots - and the damaging
results - of Western culture's inability to deal with both pleasure and
sexuality, especially as they are embodied for many by gay culture.
Michael Bronski is the author of Culture
Clash: The Making of Gay Sensibility (South End Press,
1984) and the editor of Flashpoint: Gay Male Sexual Writing
(Richard Kasak Books, 1996) and Taking Liberties:
Gay Men's Essays on Politics, Culture, and Sex (Richard
Kasak Books, 1996). His essays have appeared in numerous newspapers,
magazines, and journals, and he has lectured widely on art and
politics. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Visit his Web
site at members.aol.com/pleasprin
or drop him a note at email@example.com.
"The Pleasure Principle is an extraordinary piece of writing:
colorful, far-ranging, and deeply insightful in exploring the connection
between gay culture and the larger American scene. It is full of fascinating
glimpses of contemporary life and, altogether, a pleasure to read."
Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States
"One cannot be an integrated intellectual without engaging the ideas of
Michael Bronski. A huge contribution to the contemporary debate."
Schulman, author of Shimmer
"Michael Bronski is one of the great unnatural resources of gay and lesbian
letters. In The Pleasure Principle he uses his wide-ranging
command of history, ideas, and "pleasure" -- in all its guises, >from
sex to pop music to Pee-Wee Herman -- to uncover the complex dialogue
between gay and mainstream cultures, a conversation where one side pretends
not to be listening. The book is more than an informed look at gay lives;
it offers a whole new way of looking at American society."
Bram, author of Gossip
"The Pleasure Principle is lucid, compelling, and original. Michael Bronski's
sharp insights into current debates on sexuality are provocative and refreshing.
Essential and fascinating reading."
-- Urvashi Vaid, author of Virtual
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