Take the Young Stranger by the Hand: Same-Sex Relations and the YMCA (The Chicago Series on Sexuality, History, and Society)

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9780226907857: Take the Young Stranger by the Hand: Same-Sex Relations and the YMCA (The Chicago Series on Sexuality, History, and Society)

Now associated with family health clubs, the YMCA's bland image is the result of relentless outreach and the studied avoidance of controversy. But, as John Gustav-Wrathall shows in his revealing social history of the organization, the life of the YMCA has been filled with strife, tragedy, and irony, a life that itself reflects the struggle over the shifting societal mores regarding masculine friendship and intimacy. Take the Young Stranger by the Hand presents the YMCA as an institution of profound contradictions, reflective of society's views of same-sex love and sexuality.

"Gustav-Wrathall's book offers an in-depth history of the origins and purposes of the Young Men's Christian Association and how it evolved into—and out of—a gay playland."—Arnie Kantrowitz, Lambda Book Report

"The book's absorbing exploration of the sometimes schismatic, sometimes synergistic relationship between spirituality and sexuality is a fascinating addition to the growing body of social history."—Jim Van Buskirk, San Francisco Bay Guardian

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There are two decidedly different images of the YMCA and its contributions to the lives of young men alone in the city, set adrift from hearth and home. Although it positions itself as a stabilizing moral force, it also has a reputation for housing unregulated gay male sexual activity. In Take the Young Stranger by the Hand, John Donald Gustav-Wrathall performs a fascinating and entertaining analysis that reveals these contradictory traditions as so intertwined historically and socially as to be inevitable.

Founded in the mid-19th century, the YMCA fostered close, spiritually sustaining relationships between young men. By the century's end the "Y," as it became known, had implemented a wide-scale program of physical exercise and sex education, in part to combat the increasingly visible specter of physical intimacy between men. But this emphasis on the perfected male body only increased the institution's reputation as a haven for homosexuality. Drawing upon diverse sources, including YMCA records, social histories, urban and economic studies, "physical culture" physique magazines, and gay memoirs, Gustav-Wrathall explicates not only the hidden sexual subtexts of the Y's social history but examines how changing attitudes about sexuality, male friendship, gender, marriage, and privacy all contributed to shaping the nature and both the overt and covert purpose of the organization. Take the Young Stranger by the Hand is a highly readable addition to the ever-growing body of gay history and theory. --Michael Bronski

From Publishers Weekly:

The early history of a peculiarly American institutionAthe YMCAAhere serves as a paradigm of late 19th- and early 20th-century American culture at large, at least as far as sexuality and Protestantism are concerned. Scholar Gustav-Wrathhall's history of the pre-WWII Y confirms what Jonathan Dollimore and others have demonstratedAthat the homosocial and homosexual are unstable categories that are constantly being redefined and are inextricable from definitions of the heterosexual. From the beginning, the author reports, passion and piety at the Y were closely linked. Passion came in the form of intense male friendships that may or may not have included an erotic component; piety was expressed in Christian brotherhood. Soon, he contends, such close relations became suspect, and the Y hierarchy attempted to develop new, less intimate models for masculine relations and for masculine identity itself, which, he contends, ironically fostered the image (and documented the reality) of the Y as an easily accessible site for male-to-male sexual "cruising." Originally written as a doctoral dissertation, the book retains some of its Ph.D.-like feel but is thankfully free of the academic terminology that mars so much work in the field of gender and sexuality.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Book Description The University of Chicago Press, United States, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The history of American gender and sexuality is examined here through a case study of the YMCA, the organization devoted to young men. The social history of the YMCA has been filled with strife, tragedy and irony, reflecting the struggle and shifting societal mores about masculine friendship and intimacy. In the 19th-century the YMCA was built on intense male friendships that involved economic as well as emotional independence. Some men found in the YMCA an alternative to mainstream patterns of heterosexual marriage and family life, choosing to live their lives as bachelors in community with other men. But with the turn of the century, social perceptions of gender and sexuality began to change and certain forms of male intimacy were regarded as deviant. The text argues that the YMCA grew more hostile to masculine love and sought to expand its control over the emotional and sexual lives of its members through programs in physical training, reinforcing new images of masculinity. Pointing out, ironically, that the YMCA s gymnasiums and dormitories became primary sites for illicit male sexual encounters. Bookseller Inventory # AAH9780226907857

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Book Description The University of Chicago Press, United States, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The history of American gender and sexuality is examined here through a case study of the YMCA, the organization devoted to young men. The social history of the YMCA has been filled with strife, tragedy and irony, reflecting the struggle and shifting societal mores about masculine friendship and intimacy. In the 19th-century the YMCA was built on intense male friendships that involved economic as well as emotional independence. Some men found in the YMCA an alternative to mainstream patterns of heterosexual marriage and family life, choosing to live their lives as bachelors in community with other men. But with the turn of the century, social perceptions of gender and sexuality began to change and certain forms of male intimacy were regarded as deviant. The text argues that the YMCA grew more hostile to masculine love and sought to expand its control over the emotional and sexual lives of its members through programs in physical training, reinforcing new images of masculinity. Pointing out, ironically, that the YMCA s gymnasiums and dormitories became primary sites for illicit male sexual encounters. Bookseller Inventory # AAH9780226907857

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