Sunday, July 4, 2010

Business as usual.

Been away. Moved across the country. Most of my books are in storage, though I did pay a visit to Wild Iris Books, my local lesbian feminist Ye Olde Crystal Shoppe slash bookstore. I got a second copy of Lillian Faderman's famous Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America; That Furious Lesbian: The Story of Mercedes de Acosta by a Robert A. Schanke (what a wonderful name! when he writes nasty reviews, one can say they got Schanked! hee!); Re-orienting Western Feminisms: Women's Diversity in a Postcolonial World by Chilla Bulbeck; and finally Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People by Joan Roughgarden.

This last promises to tell me "why Darwin was wrong about sexual selection." I'm no geneticist, but do try to know a thing or two, so this should be interesting.

On a front that looks more like history, I'm currently doing research for my new SCA persona. I don't know her name yet, but she's a Bogomil woman living during the Second Bulgarian Empire in its capital city of Tarnovo. I picked the Bogomils because they're the same heresy family as the earlier Manicheans and the Cathars farther west. Bulgaria was infamous as a total rockin' hotbed of sodomy (say the word Bulgar quickly a few times and see what you get) and the Byzantines conquered and occupied it from 1018-1185 partially on the grounds of stomping it out. Persecution was officially fairly constant until they were conquered by the Ottomans, though it looks like the Bulgarians were also at war against other would-be conquerors the entire damn time so I don't know how much they could focus on internal troubles.

The other thing with this heresy, though, is that they thought women were entitled to equal rights legally and religiously. Way awesome, but of course everyone who heard about this contemporaneously had HUGE FITS. Women's Rights? In MY Middle Ages? It's more common than you think! There's no way I can't be all over this.

The book I'm currently reading to get a good handle on all the pieces is The Civilization of the Middle Ages by Norman E. Cantor. Textbook style, no post-chapter questions or anything but a good solid overview type thing. More specific books I have lined up are The Cathars by Sean Martin which looks like it has good coverage on the evolution and spread of the beliefs, Sex, Dissidence and Damnation: Minority Groups in the Middle Ages which I have not yet personally touched a copy of but Cantor recommends it, and some other ones on interlibrary loan that I can't remember which may or may not be useful. I'm hoping some cultural and social data shows up rather than just the theology, which is most of what I've got so far.

Cantor also recommends Boswell! I knew I liked him.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dirty jokes: The Pearl

Yeah, scraping the barrel. Been doing a lot of non-gay history reading lately.

The Pearl, a dirty Victorian magazine, ran between July 1879 and December 1880, when it was forced to shut down for obscenity. I found a 1968 edition that collected the issues, including all the poetry and jokes, and on my initial flip through I found a reference to Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park, two young men who enjoyed traipsing around London in drag in the 1860s and 70s, and who were arrested and tried for 'attempt to commit sodomy' in 1870. There's quite a bit of info about them on the web, including news pieces (go a little ways down the page, or ctrl-f), their letters, and even the complete trial record. Here is a blog post with a good summary, complete with pictures. Anyways, that's background. This limerick is another sign of mass media, popular culture, and the love of a dirty joke, all alive and well in Victorian England:

There was an old person of Sark,
Who buggered a pig in the dark;
The swine, in surprise,
Murmured "God blast your eyes,
Do you take me for Boulton or Park?"

It's also interesting that the author/submitter would expect people to remember a non-celebrity scandal that occured almost ten years before, and the names involved. I haven't studied the progression of our modern short attention spans and quick-aging references.

The other joke I found while searching through the book for that. (I eventually resorted to Google Books, our new evil overlord.) It's not related, except in its reference to sodomy.

"An old and favoured servant of two maiden ladies had been frequently reprimanded by him for his free behavior with the female servants. Caught one day in flagrante delicto, he was summoned to their presence, and while the girl was sacked, he was told that if he did not do better and turn over a new leaf, much as they valued him- his next escapade would be the last. He promised amendment and matters went on very well for a time. One evening, he was not to be found when wanted, and on a search being made, was discovered in the beer-cellar, buggering the page boy.
"How now," he was asked, "is this your amendment? You promised to turn over a new leaf." "So I have,", said he, "only I have begun at the bottom of the page!"
History does not give the conclusion of the matter."

Amazon, if you're interested; it's cute and full of the old staples of erotic stories like fake lesbians and men named Mr. Loveshaft. One reviewer says there are stories with male homosexuality, but I haven't read it through.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

History in the making: Perry vs. Schwarzenegger

Perry vs. Schwarzenegger is going on right now in California. The case is two same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses last year against Proposition 8 and its defenders (wikipedia). Schwarzenegger's name is on it technically- he and his legal counsel refused to support Prop. 8, and the defendant in the case is, which makes this case gloriously direct. The Good Guys vs. The Bad Guys.

Here is the Prop 8 Trial Tracker, hosted by some dedicated people at Courage Campaign to bring day-by-day coverage of the trial. I've been following along with wide eyes and bated breath- for this is, indeed, history in the making, and may result in gay marriage bans being ruled unconstitutional in the United States. There are a lot of prayers, emotions, and tears all over the country right now. Their site has all the in depth legal info about what makes this case historically interesting (besides the obvious) such as comparisons to the tactics of Brown vs. Board of Education. The issues at stake are not just marriage, but gay rights in general and federal recognition of the oppression of gays as a class of people. Three states have ruled gay folk a "suspect class"- people discriminated against as a group, including California.

Go there and read it, and possibly take a break to cry of joy. Read the comments to each post too, if you have the time; there are a lot of stories and memories there that people have shared.