tagReviews & EssaysGay Themes in Pulp Fiction

Gay Themes in Pulp Fiction

byCal Y. Pygia©

A survey of the cover art and taglines of gay paperback novels published in the 1950's and the 1960's identifies the major themes and concerns of these stories and, presumably, of the readers who purchased them.

Some, such as A Different Drum, are concerned with being "different."

Others, including A Few of the Boys, suggest that, once a man tries sex with another man, there will be no going back to women.

Still authors caution readers that same-sex attraction can "happen to anyone."

Others suggest that gay men are confused about their sexual identity, preference, and orientation (Gaydreams; His Kind of Love; Homo in the Guesthouse; Homos Don't Cry; Hot Pants Homo; Lost on Twilight Road; Mansion of Men; The Bronze and the Wine; The Devil Is Gay; The Dungaree Jungle; The Fall of Valor; The Gay Game; The Gay Jailbird; The Gay Ones; The Gay Swap; The Greek Affair; The Man's Man; Roll Call in Sodom; The Self Lover; Weekend Homo).

These novels also depict the world of the hustling homosexual prostitute (Any Sex Will Do; Beach Boy; Callboy; Gay Whore; Kept Boy; Lights Out, Little Hustler; Male Madame; The Gay Jungle; Queer Hustler).

They feature "Greek," or anal sex (Bath Boy, wherein the characters, "in Rome," do "as the Greeks did").

Several show Nazi brutality of a definitely homophobic and sadistic sort (Go Down, Aaron).

These novels also portray the anguish of homosexual men who, having wed a woman, endure a "queer marriage" (Bitter Love).

Attractive young gay men are considered "angels."

Some of these paperbacks' titles involve puns or plays on words (Blow the Man Down).

Several feature incestuous love between brothers, twins and otherwise (Brothers In Love, Gay Brother, Gay Twins, His Brother Love).

A search for "the perfect mate" underlies characters' "quests" (Buffy and the Holy Quest, Darling Boy), and the former novel's sequel is set in "a fag fraternity" at the university in which Buffy enrolls as a freshman.

A few cast gay men as "lavender" lovers (Charlie Darling, Captain In Lavender, Deep Lavender, Lavender Cage, Lavender Lads, Little Boy Lavender, The Lavender Elves), who resist feminine wiles and charms in favor of same-sex bliss.

Others consider the status of pariah that homosexuality during this time period ensured those who dared to proclaim their sexual orientation publicly (Carry On, Charlie).

One or two of these novels are based upon the idea that young gay men seek their father's love in the arms of older same-sex lovers (Daddy's Boy; Like Father, Like Son; My Son, My Lover; Queer Daddy; To Want a Boy).

Some invert the heterosexual roles of a famous couple by having one of the homosexual pair assume the role of the woman in the heterosexual couple (Donnie and Clyde).

Group sex rears its head among gay men in Four-Way Gay, Fruit Punch, Gay Buddies, Gay Orgy, Gay Traders, The Gay Bunch).

Hollywood's gay community furnish characters and plots in a few of these paperbacks (Gay Boy, Hollywood Home, Home of the Gay, The Gay Trap, Show Biz Sucker; Hollywood Gay).

Manly vocations and avocations are themes (Gay on the Range, which features a Western gunfighter; Gay Vista, which includes a gay police officer; Half World, which features wrestlers; Locker Room Lovers, which features football players; The Killer Queens, The Lover-Boys, and Passion to Disaster, which feature soldiers; Mr. Muscle Boy, which features a bodybuilder; One to Share and Satin Chaps, which feature cowboys; Queen of the Road, which features truckers), as is the manly gay physique itself (Gay Paragon).

Voyeurism occurs in some of these early gay novels (The Peeper).

One is even of literary quality (James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room).

A couple are interracial in their interest (Good Night, Gentle Goy).

The gay man's closeted lifestyle is a topic (His Secret Life; His Sex, His Problem; The Latent Lovers, Queer St. U. S. A.).

A few pretend to be exposes or documentaries of the homosexual life (Homo Hill; Homo Laws; Male Bride; The Boys of Boise; The Heart In Exile; The Intruders; The White Paper; The Militant Homosexual; The Other Men; Portrait of a Homosexual; Sam; Tops, Bottoms, and Sidepockets; Twilight Men; The Twilight Sex).

Love between gay men is a theme (Idylls of the Queens).

A few of these books concern themselves with cross-dressing (In Drag, The Family Jewels, Mister Sister, Queen's Delight, Queens in Drag, Sin-Deep Lover, Three on a Broomstick; So Sweet, So Soft, So Queer; Transvestite; Unnatural Desires), or young gay men (Little Boy Gay; To Want a Boy).

Male models, actors, or dancers are the protagonists of a few of these books (male Model, The Beefcake Boys, The Fellows Backstage, Mr. Ballerina).

Several gay pulp fiction novels also concern themselves with all-male settings, including Buffy Rides Again (set in a "fag fraternity"), Lavender Lads (set in "a plush resort that catered to all male guests"), and Ship of Queers (set aboard a Navy P. T. boat during World War II).

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