I&I

porn theatres and other sites of pleasure: eros in action

[edit: Reread this post and realized it was too off topic so I’m going to try this again as per my note below, regarding writing about other sites of pleasure and interclass communication. In the meantime, enjoy the Delany quotes]

timessquarered

I’ve been quite enjoying the book Times Square Red, Times Square Blue by Samuel R. Delany which was recommended to me by Peter Birkemoe of The Beguiling. In its first part, Delany describes, in vivid detail, the (mostly gay) porn theatres, peep shows and street corners full of hustlers in NYC’s Times Square before the area transformed into a family friendly tourist destination. Far from a stereotyped portrait of seedy dens of vice and crime, he details how the theatres were sites that supported rich and complex social networks that transgressed class boundaries in the name of the pursuit of pleasure. He writes,

The population was incredibly heterogeneous – white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, Native American, and a variety of Pacific Islanders. In the Forty-second Street area’s sex theaters specifically, since I started frequenting them in the summer of 1975, I’ve met playwrights, carpenters, opera singers, telephone repair men, stockbroker, guys on welfare, guys with trust funds, guys on crutches, on walkers, in wheelchairs, teachers, warehouse workers, male nurses, fancy chefs, guys who worked at Dunkin Donuts, guys who gave out flyers on street corners, guys who drove garbage trucks, and guys who washed windows on the Empire State Building. As a gentile, I note that this is the only place in a lifetime’s New York residency I’ve had any extended conversation with some of the city’s Hasidim.

The second half of the book is theoretical and immediately articulated ideas that I have long held to be true, including these quotes:

… given the mode of capitalism under which we live, life is at its most rewarding, productive and pleasant when large numbers of people understand, appreciate, and seek out interclass contact and communication conducted in a mode of good will…

… the class war raging constantly and often silently in the comparatively stabilized societies of the developed world… perpetually works for the erosion of the social practices through which interclass communication takes place and of the institutions holding those practices stable, so that new institutions must always be conceived…

… in the name of “safety,” society dismantles the various institutions that promote interclass communication, attempts to critique the way such institutions functioned in the past to promote their happier sides are often seen as, at best, nostalgia for an outmoded past and, at worst, a pernicious glorification of everything dangerous: unsafe sex, neighborhoods filled with undesirables (read “unsafe characters”), promiscuity, an attack on the family and the stable social structure, and dangerous, noncommitted, “unsafe” relationships – that is, psychologically “dangerous” relations, though the danger is rarely specified in any way other than to suggest its failure to conform to the ideal bourgeois marriage.


I’m thinking about writing another post about other sites of pleasure and interclass communication in Toronto (e.g., sex clubs and suchlike) but, if you know of any such sites and are so inclined, please feel free to mention them in the comments.

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