Summary #2 Times Square Red/ Times Square Blue by Samuel Delany
Times Square seems to a history of how movie theaters in NYC from the 50s to 1990s had served as places where gay sex was personally private in a public place. Delaney seems to be an intellectual who also had participated in the sexual activities of his time. The book provides the reader with photos of theaters that were popular and the way they were reconstructed into different types of establishments when the cleaning up of gay activity became very prominent in the city.
The history of sexuality is perhaps hidden in the actions of society’s covering them in dark theaters. Delany uses different types of style of writing in his recollection of these times. He becomes at times a historian at times a reporter and times the creative non-fiction story teller. His representation of the men in the theaters and the sharing of sexual experiences though masturbation of other, seems to reflect on a time where sexuality and sexual acts were not criticized as perverse; instead, there seems to be the begging of the making of a new culture underground.
Even though NYC was promoting prostitution and porn in the 70s, homosexuality did not blend in the same category. Sex was not open in the streets as heterosexuality was. Homosexuals had a place to find support in their own desires and if that is indeed a way to find pleasure and power than that is how society controlled those actions; by stopping them. One can see that the support in those theatres were more than sexual; it was financial as well. Many of the young men there were homeless and uneducated. Those locales interconnected different classes and races that later faced the dehumanization of aids. But that fabric of gay sexuality was among a diverse social value system.
- Delany seems to want to influence the people he meets in theaters to pursue an education. He admits that some of them “operate outside an entire discourse of “normal” male/female relationships…do these people need a discourse to understand their actions? Or is it Delany who is collecting knowledge who needs it the most?
- Delany questions where these people have gone now since the destruction of Times Square. He argues that cities should “design to allow these multiple interactions to occur.” Are there other cultural venues that would allow for gay sexual, non committal interaction to happen? He does not really answer that.
I like your phrase “personally private in a public place” — though is the sex in Delany’s example of the Times Square porn theaters really “private” at all? How does this example connect to Berlant and Warner’s understanding of “public sex”?
I’d like to hear more about the way “NYC was promoting prostitution and porn in the 1970s” and how you understand that as relating to the forces behind the redevelopment of Times Square. The “cleaning up of gay activity,” in the Times Square Red segment of Delany’s book, becomes less the goal of the Times Square redevelopment than a side effect of big business takeover that is a desirable addition to the changes being made; after all, the culture Delany describes is taking place largely in the supposedly heterosexual spaces of the porn theatres.
“His representation of the men in the theaters and the sharing of sexual experiences though masturbation of other, seems to reflect on a time where sexuality and sexual acts were not criticized as perverse; instead, there seems to be the begging of the making of a new culture underground.”
– Not criticized by whom? There does seem to be plenty of homophobia floating around in the world Delany describes… It just doesn’t always make it in to the theatres themselves. I think the “underground” part of this description may be the most crucial; we can talk in class about whether everyone agrees.
Watch the spelling on Delany’s name! No “e”. 🙂