June, 2016 Archive

Stonewall Riots

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By Another Believer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Another Believer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The 60s were a turbulent time. We exited the era of the conservative nuclear family where you fit in at all costs into a decade where people were done with being something other than their authentic selves. Rights movements brought out firebrands for several marginalized communities. There was an overall feeling among groups that had been oppressed and abused that they were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Soon after the Stonewall riot, we would see the rise of the gay rights movement.

In 1969, The Stonewall Inn was a well-known gay bar on Christopher Street in New York City’s Greenwich Village. It was a haven for the poor and extremely marginalized transgender and transvestite community, as well as prostitutes and the homeless. The gay community didn’t have many public places they could go to socialize much less be out about their sexuality. At the time it was illegal, as was serving gay patrons. It was also illegal to dress in clothing not assigned to your gender. You couldn’t even dance without getting arrested. A few bars catered to the community but the police raided them often.

These bars operated without a liquor license, they were denied due to the illegal proclivities of their patrons. The mafia was often involved and a dance of scratching each other’s back would involve payoffs to police to prevent the business from being closed down. Cops would raid the bars, line up patrons to check IDs, send some on their way or others to the waiting police wagon. The cycle would repeat when the bars would reopen the following night. They sent anyone without proper identification or dressed in clothing of the opposite sex to jail. The rule was men couldn’t look like women and women needed at least three pieces of feminine clothing. If rich and influential patrons were found during the raid they were often blackmailed so their little secret didn’t get leaked to the public. Fear kept the community from fighting back but that would not last.

At 1:20am on June 28th, eight police officers lead a surprise raid at The Stonewall Inn. The police would find this raid was not business as usual. Instead of dispersing, people started to gather outside. Inside, the patrons had had enough of the injustice and harassment so they fight back. Tensions rose, as did anger and frustration. Stonewall wasn’t just a gay bar but a safe place for the drag community to gather. Queens and crossdressers weren’t accepted even among the queer community at this time so the raid was a threat to one of their few safe havens. It was also a place that homeless youth under the drinking age, then 18 instead of the modern 21, could hang out for the price of a modest $3 admission. When the Stonewall was raided, they would lose one of the few places they could go to stay warm and safe rather than sleeping out on the streets.

During a raid, usually bar patrons would be line up by the police then either go home or go to jail. This time instead of a few smart mouths and some back talk, the police started getting more resistance. The police decided to arrest most of the 200 people in the bar but there was a glitch. The police wagons had not arrived yet. During the wait, the group got more violent. Outside more people had gathered along with some of the patrons who had been released to go home. Instead of going home they stayed. By the time the arrested bar patrons were being put into police wagons and police cruisers, the crowd had grown tenfold. When a woman was roughed up and hit with a billy club the crowd surged in anger. The crowd pelted the cops with coins, then bottles, even used a broken parking meter as a battering ram. Soon a small-scale riot had started and the Tactical Patrol Force was called in. They would pin the police down as they continued to push forward; efforts to quell the fray were met with even more resistance. The crowd even tried to flip the police wagon and firebomb the Stonewall Inn.

Even after everyone was violently dispersed, people returned from all over the city the next day. One raid turned into a week of protests. For six days there were chants, kicklines, leaflets handed out, and smashed windows. In true 60s protest fashion fire hoses would be used to disperse the crowd. The protests were a call for freedom and “Gay Power.” While things calmed down eventually, a need to take action had begun. A need had been brewing since the beginning of the 60s and was ignited at this West Village bar. The coming year would see big steps forward in the fight for gay rights, the Gay Liberation Front would be formed which would lead to the Gay Activist Alliance. The battle for gay rights had been around before the events at Stonewall. What could have been just another raid at this unlicensed bar turned makeshift community center for the marginalized among the marginalized became a turning point for gay activism. The gay right movement would no longer fight in the shadows but become a loud voice that demanded to be heard.

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History of the Pride Flag

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By РадужныйФлагКопия2.png: *Rainbow_flag_breeze.jpg: Benson Kua from Toronto, Canada derivative work: Ligth Mehanist (talk) derivative work: Hotshot977 (РадужныйФлагКопия2.png) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By РадужныйФлагКопия2.png via Wikimedia Commons

I remember getting ready to join my friends for my first Pride parade viewing. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never seemed to get around to. This time I was invited by a group of friends, which is so much more fun than just going by myself. Everyone was going to dress up in bright rainbow inspired outfits; tutus, striped stockings, t-shirts, wigs, sunglasses, et al. Gothy me took one look in my wardrobe and made a dreadful discovery… I hadn’t a stitch of bright colored clothing and the idea of wearing anything bright and cheerful was downright terrifying.

But it’s Pride so I acquiesced. I went to the store and bought rainbow colored fishnet tights and wore my red Sex Geek t-shirt. That was an explosion of color for me.

I had a great time even though it was insanely crowded. There were fun floats, dazzling dancers, and significant supporters. It was great to see political figures; a few celebrities and proud parents along with the LGBT community celebrate with what seemed like the longest parade I had ever witnessed. I wonder how many of those Pride revelers knew the significance and history of the colors they were wearing. It’s not just about glitter eye shadow, rainbow tights, and tutus. The Pride flag has a history and there is meaning to the colors.

The original flag first flew in the Gay Freedom Day Parade in San Francisco on June 25th, 1978. Gay Pride parades had been around for 8 years at this point, starting with the parade on Christopher Street Liberation Day commemorating the Stonewall Riots of the previous year. Gilbert Baker wanted to create flags for the parade but found there really wasn’t a symbol for the movement yet. He came up with the idea of a rainbow to represent all the different gender, nationalities, and races as well as representing the beauty and magic of nature. Baker was influenced by the “Flag of the Human Race” that was popular during world peace demonstrations in the 60’s. It’s also been said he was inspired by the song “Over the Rainbow” Baker learned how to sew to make his own outfits for his drag performances. He brought together 30 volunteers who hand dyed and stitched together the first two flags in the attic of the Gay Community Center.

The first flag comprised of 8 colors, each imbued with a meaning. They are; hot pink – sexuality, red – life, orange – healing, yellow – sunlight, green – nature, turquoise – magic/art, indigo/blue – serenity/harmony, and violet – spirit. Baker then started working at the Paramount Flag Company where he convinced them to manufacture the new Pride flag. It became very popular, especially after the assassination of Harvey Milk in November of 1978. Paramount dropped the hot pink when fabric in the color was unavailable. In 1979, the turquoise strip was eliminated when the flag was hung from Market Street lampposts. They thought three colors on each side looked better than having the pole split the odd numbered stripe down the middle. The Indigo stripe was also changed to royal blue at this time. The flag has remained in this configuration ever since and is traditionally flown horizontally with the red stripe on top

Baker created two mile-long flags to commemorate the anniversaries of Stonewall and the original flag. On the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots the mile long, 30-foot wide flag consisting of the original eight colors stretched down Manhattan’s First Avenue. It was even confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records to be the largest flag in the world. That flag would be dismantled and given to sponsors and activists. In 2003, an 8,0000 foot flag, 15 feet wide, was unfurled in Key West at the “Rainbow 25 and PrideFest” for the 25th anniversary of the first pride flag.

Today the Pride flag is flown all over the world. I hope you remember all the thought that went into this icon when you don your rainbow top hat, knee socks, and booty shorts. A great deal of suffering and strife is behind those bright colors. What’s wonderful about the flag and the overall feeling at Pride parades is that for a day we joyously celebrate life and freedom of expression while remembering the sadness and pain that many have experienced in the history of the movement.

 

 

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Sexuality in Fashion: The Myth of Wet Dresses and the Muslin Disease

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James Gillray [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the late 17th to early 18th century, upper class women’s fashion changed dramatically. For centuries, they wore multilayered complicated dresses that often changed their silhouette to something not quite natural. Women were a mystery from the waist down with voluminous skirts and undercarriage that ranged from the tubular cartwheel farthingale to the basket like hips of panniers. It was a time of revolution both culturally and politically. The taking down of the extravagant monarchy in France during the March on Versailles in 1789 brought on a period of “austerity” in fashion. Gone are the grand gowns bedecked with ruching, ribbons, lace, and furs. The new era gowns were often made of muslin a type of cotton fabric. There are other influences that shaped this new silhouette and style. It’s said that the rise of the chemise style gown came about because it was what the women wore while imprisoned during the revolution. The classical style of ancient Greece and Rome becomes extremely popular and is seen in the rising waistline, draping fabric, and Grecian inspired dress trim, accessories, and hairstyles.

Between 1795 and 1799 a new group of fashionistas take the simplicity of the classical style to extremes. With the revolution somewhat in the past, decadent fashion makes a return with the Incroyables and Merveilleuses of the Directoire period. The Merveilleuse wore lighter weight muslin, gauze or linen gowns that were sometimes quite sheer. They did away with the underpinnings and often just wore a pink bodysuit underneath to accentuate the appearance of being nude underneath. Necklines were low and skirts often slit up the side. They wore sandals or lightweight slippers with ties that crisscrossed up their calves to the knee. The dresses worn by the general public were already scandalous even though they were still worn with undergarments that included a corset, petticoat, and even underwear, as long pantaloons were necessary under the less structured dress. This was mostly because the dresses and lightweight petticoat revealed a woman’s figure more than it had in centuries. You could almost see the natural shape of a woman’s legs and posterior! The Merveilleuse would take this to the extreme showing more than a silhouette but the hint of skin.

Unfortunately, I read often about the wetting down of muslin dresses to further expose the body in all its glory. Stories of women coming down with pneumonia which could lead to death, otherwise known as the muslin disease, due to walking around in wet garments. Despite it being repeated on many websites, I could not find any evidence of this actually happening. It looks like many people have taken the words of harsh critics who thought the clingy dresses looked like they were wet down as truth. There are lots of scathing caricatures that exaggerate the style to make fun and criticize. Out of all the images I’ve seen none of them indicate that the dresses were wet in any way. And really, I wonder how long these dresses can stay wet, certainly not long enough to make it through an entire ball I would think. It’s more likely “muslin disease” was just the product of women going out on a cold wintery day with plunging necklines and semi sheer fabric to remain de rigueur.

The wet t-shirt style escapades of the Merveilleuse are decidedly unsubstantiated. It was a short time when women could celebrate their silhouette. This freedom of sexual expression in dress would be short lived. Napoleon would bring on the return of repression and take away the more egalitarian role women had during the revolution. It would be more than a century before the flapper would bring back a similar freedom of dress and sexuality we saw with the marvelous Merveilleuse.

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Early Sex Manuals: An Overview

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Masterpiece1692edition

I remember being a fairly young kid, lets’ say junior high school age, and seeing a copy of The Joy of Sex for the first time. I was over a friend’s house and her parents had a copy on their bookshelf. I found the hippieish couple featured in the book hard to identify with but I was still enthralled with all the things you could do with, or to, other people sexually. Well, licking a hairy underarm pit made Jr. high school me go “eeewww” (and in truth is not something I choose to do today but I won’t yuck anyone’s yum) but most of the stuff looked cool.

You may be surprised to know that sex manuals didn’t start in the free love 60s and 70s. Nor were they limited to the Kama Sutra. You can find them scattered around history, from ancient to Victorian. It not only took a village to raise a child but it often took a village to teach women how to have them, and often even how to enjoy practicing sex in general.

There’s actually too many for me to write in full about each one in one post. Here is a list of some of the more significant sex manuals, up to The Joy of Sex, just to give you an idea of how far back we’ve been writing about sex. I’ll go into depth on each on in future posts.

3BC or 4BC – Untitled manual written by Philaenis of Samos

3BC – The Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana Mallanaga

900AD – The Canons of Theodore by Theodore

2nd Century – Ars Amatoria (Art of Love) by Ovid

11th Century – Elephantis by Constantine the African

11th Century – Liber de Coitu by Constantine the African

15th Century – Speculum Al Foderi (Mirror of Coitus) by author unknown

15th century – The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight by Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad al-Nafzawi

16th Century – Ananga Ranga (Stage of Love) by Kalyana Malla

1680 – The School of Venus by Michel Millot

Late 19th century – The Wedding Night and Right Marital Living by Ida Craddock

1906 – Treatise on Cohabitation by Moses Maimonides

1917 – Private Sex Advice to Women by R.B. Armitage

1918 – Married Love by Marie Stopes (Considered groundbreaking at the time)

1926 – Het Volkomen Huwelijk (The Perfect Marriage) by Theodoor Hendrik Van De

Velde English Translation: Ideal Marriage: It’s Physiology and Technique 1930

1963 – An ABZ of Love by Inge and Sten Hegeler

1969 – Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask by David Reuben

1972 – The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort

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