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HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE 1960s


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Richard Hauser
The Homosexual Society
A new approach to the problem
Bodley Head, London, 1962
(price: ?; 168 pages)

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Lars Ullerstam, MD
The Erotic Minorities
A sexual bill of rights
Grove, New York, 1966
(price: $6.00; 172 pages)

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Bryan Magee
One In Twenty
A study of homosexuality in men and women
Secker & Warburg, London, 1966
(price: 21s; 192 pages)

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Jess Stearn
The Sixth Man
MacFadden, New York, 1962
first published by Doubleday, 1961
(price: 60c; 224 pages)


In 1957 the committee chaired by Lord Wolfenden produced its report into the legal position on prostitution and male homosexual activity in Britain. It was a curious combination of subjects, to start with, and Parliament chose to split the two when considering new legislation. The result was an amendment to the laws on prostitution in 1959 (which is when the cards started appearing in newsagents' windows), while the legalisation of gay sex had to wait for a decade to make any progress.

As part of the delaying process, the Home Office commissioned yet another report, this time by sociologist Richard Hauser, an expanded version of which was subsequently published as The Homosexual Society. It's interesting enough for the student of British attitudes to homosexuality, but probably not to be taken too seriously - mostly it seems to be anecdotal rather than analytical - and it's not much fun for a general reader. The approach is indicated by the notes on the fly-leaf:

He makes concrete proposals for preventive measures in the present breeding-places [sic] of homosexuality, and for the better handling of the problem [sic] when it occurs.

Despite the reservations, there are some interesting facts placed on record, including the price list of gay prostitutes in London: anywhere between 25 shillings and 3 for a blow job, for example. There's also a brief glossary of gay slang (polari), which has now been superseded by the Internet, but was a useful reference for a long while.

The philosopher/MP (and don't that date it?) Bryan Magee made his own contribution with One In Twenty, a book that has since been a target of mockery, but which again has some value. There is, for example, a table showing the pre-legalisation penalties for various offences: a maximum sentence of life for buggery, of 10 years for assault with intent to commit buggery &c. But mostly the book is Magee demonstrating his liberal attitudes - on the one hand: there but for the grace of God; on the other: we shouldn't make too much of a fuss.

His Lordship
Lord Wolfenden

Magee's figure of 5% of the population being homosexual is a massive understatement by the standards of the eralier US study in The Sixth Man. But even the title of that book is wonderfully put into the shade by the shock quote on the back: 'Someday we'll outnumber you and you'll be the abnormal ones, and we'll be the normal...' Hmmm.

British and American liberalism, of course, were as nothing compared to that of the Scandinavian trend-setters of the 1960s. Lars Ullerstam's book was first published in Sweden in 1964 and wanders far beyond homosexuality to cover incest, voyeurism, zoophilia and more. As a plea for a more tolerant understanding of other people's proclivities, it would be virtually unpublishable nowadays; you simply aren't supposed to ask questions like this anymore: 'is it reasonable to punish people who express their love for children simply because other individuals treat children brutally?'. Amongst his recommendations for legal reforms is a call to 'establish clubs where exhibitionists are allowed to expose themselves to a select audience.'

All of these have a period charm, but really Ullerstam is the pick of the bunch if you want to slip into a time-warp.


see also
Thorpe
Jeremy Thorpe,
victim of the old order

visit Bryan Magee's homepage
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