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Cross-Class Escape and the Erotics of “Proletarian” Masculinity in Thomas Painter’s Sexual Record and Visual Archive


Cross-Class Escape and the Erotics of “Proletarian” Masculinity in Thomas Painter’s Sexual Record and Visual Archive

Zikratyy, Yuriy (2013) Cross-Class Escape and the Erotics of “Proletarian” Masculinity in Thomas Painter’s Sexual Record and Visual Archive. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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This dissertation examines the sexual journal and visual archive of Thomas N. Painter (1905-1978), an informal collaborator of Alfred C. Kinsey’s Institute for Sex Research, who since the 1930s documented in writing and photography his commercially-based homosexual relations. One of the largest sexual records ever produced, it focuses on Painter’s lifelong erotic interest in lower-class men whom he idealized as paragons of masculinity and sexual uninhibitedness. It chronicles Painter’s history of sexual contacts with these men, driven by his philanthropic ideal of socially beneficial cross-class friendship, and his attempts to reform his often delinquent lovers and rescue them from the life of poverty and crime.

Analyzing Painter’s autobiographical and auto-ethnographic writing as well as his erotically-themed collection of drawings and photographs, this dissertation explores the practice of sexually motivated cross-class escape, evident in the personal histories of many upper- and middle-class homosexual men living in the mid-twentieth-century Europe and North America. One such man, Painter eschewed the cultural demands of marriage and bourgeois domesticity and, relinquishing his upper-middle-class background, sought to spend his life among the hyper-virile and sexually open “urban proletariat.” Tracing the influence that philanthropic discourses of “social brotherhood” and subcultural eroticization of “proletarian” masculinity had on Painter’s understanding of his same-sex desires and his vision of sexual and romantic relationships with his lower-class partners, the dissertation poses critical questions about the complex power dynamic in these relations, the changing notions of masculinity in the period, the role of commercial sex in early male homosexual communities and the alternative forms of intimacy and kinship fostered by their members.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Humanities: Interdisciplinary Studies
Concordia University > Research Units > Centre for Human Relations and Community Studies
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Zikratyy, Yuriy
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Date:August 2013
Thesis Supervisor(s):Waugh, Thomas
ID Code:977809
Deposited On:13 Jan 2014 15:11
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:45
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