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Indecent Advances: The Hidden History of Murder and Masculinity Before Stonewall
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Indecent Advances: The Hidden History of Murder and Masculinity Before Stonewall

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  98 ratings  ·  19 reviews
A hybrid of true crime and social history that examines how popular culture, the media, and the psychological profession portrayed crimes against gay men in the years leading up to the Stonewall Riots.

In his skillful hybrid of true crime and cultural history, James Polchin provides an important look at how popular culture, the media, and the psychological profession
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by Counterpoint LLC
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Carol Dr. Polchin would probably call himself queer, that being the word he uses instead of gay in this book. He lives with his husband per the book's bio.

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Robert Sheard
Sep 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Covering the fifty years from the end of World War I to the Stonewall protests in 1969, this is a history of how the media, the medical profession (psychiatry specifically), and the legal system handled cases of violence against queer men. It's a hugely important topic, given the rise in recent years of violence against transgender people. Unfortunately, the book itself is deadly dull. It's written in a dry-as-dust academic tone and is mostly summary after summary of extremely similar newspaper ...more
Carley Moore
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must read for lovers of American history, teachers, print scholars, and anyone who is queer or cares about queer people!

Polchin uncovers a lost archive through a close-reading of newspaper accounts of violence against queer men in pre-Stonewall New York. The results are fascinating and disturbing.

I love this book and think everyone should read it. It's going to win big prizes because honestly there is nothing like it. It's historical, but a page-turner and makes you care deeply (if you already
Corey Ledin-Bristol
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audible
I am sorry to say it but this book was dull. You would think that such a topic would elicit some kind of emotions but the book us written in such a sterile, efficient style it comes across as someone just reading news articles.
One Sentence Reviews
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
With a surgeon’s precision, Polchin excises “ripped from the headlines” stories of violence against gay men between the 1920s and 1960s, focusing heavily on the "what" but rarely the "why."
Katie/Doing Dewey
Aug 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: interested enough to tolerate some dry writing
Summary: This included some interesting information, but was dry and disjointed.

This is a history of the way gay men were criminalized from the 1920s through the Stonewall Riots in 1968. It describes the many biases in the way crimes committed by or against gay men were portrayed in the media during this time frame. It also discusses how gay rights groups began to track and mobilize around these injustices.

Unfortunately, I could tell within twenty pages that I wasn't particularly going to enjoy
Bob Nadal
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable and disturbing look at the oppression of homosexuals from WWI through the 60s. James Polchin did an amazing job gathering together the psychiatry, journalism, entertainment and true crime stories from the era. He shows how they reinforced the rigid stereotypes, fears and hatred that continue through today.
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am Amazed in Polchin's dedication to telling queer history and including the crimes aganist gay men in a time where LGBTQ rights did not exist to right before stonewall. A must read for those who love history and true crime.
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
An engrossing, well-researched look at true crime and prejudicial treatment of gay men in the decades leading up to Stonewall. I found this book incredibly interesting but also very disturbing. The term "indecent advances" was often used in earlier decades as a defense in court by murderers of gay men; justification for why they acted out and killed as they did (by saying the victim made "indecent" or "improper advances" on them). All too often, the perpetrator/killer thus got off with a lighter ...more
Jan 12, 2020 added it
"Queer history has often focused on narratives of progress in which sexual minorities prosper despite the social injustices done to them. The progressive and affirmative narrative has made injury and violence historical realities we often write against, through an emphasis on community building, cultural expressions, and political activism. [...] But there is another story of queer experience, one that tries to recover encounters much deadlier than the ones Williams recorded in his journal. ...more
Vette M,
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really tried to read this book, but it was so dull. The writing wasn't engaging and it just felt like he was listing cases that could've been attacks on or by gay men but you have to read between the lines of the language at that particular time period. The author lists cases were no perpetrator was ever found and then just moves onto another investigation. The ones he does try to give full detail about aren't that interesting to be honest. I was really hoping to find out more about the ...more
Michael Ritchie
Sep 10, 2019 rated it liked it
(3-1/2 stars) The point the author makes here is interesting and important, about the way crimes against gay men were treated in the press, and how that accusation of "indecent advances" was used as an attempt to justify assault and murder. But much of the book is simply a presentation of case after case of these crimes. A little less of that and a little more context and/or theory, especially more coverage of the idea of "homosexual panic" as a defense--which continued at least into the ...more
Jan 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: project-research
A man in the park asks another man for a match. The two strike up a conversation and head to a hotel room, giving false names at the desk because it's the 1900s and they ask for names at the desk. Cards are played, pants are removed, and one or the other is beaten to death. Times infinity.

I like how Polchin compares salacious big city headlines with the headlines of the hometowns that these murderers and victims came from.
AJ Burgin
I really wanted to like this book, and I do, to a certain extent. The central claim is solid, but it feels like a journal article that got teased out into a full-length book. There’s a lot of repetition and some pretty shallow analysis that sometimes loses the through-line.
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Before this book, I had not been too familiar with this part of US history, and it was interesting to read about through analysis of related news articles. The tone is meticulously researched, but that also means it feels academic - more like reading a textbook. A worthwhile read.
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
Books like this make my heart hurt because these crimes are still being committed against the LBGTQIA+ community. Here’s the deal: God doesn’t make mistakes, so if someone is gay, that is how He intended them to live, the end.

Review to come.
Kenneth L Paddick
Formulaic and repetitive
Sep 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting topic, kind of dull reading. Would have preferred deeper dives into fewer cases
Gary Lukowski
Feb 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting, very matter of fact. I am not sure I learned anything new. Perhaps a bigger context might have been attempted?
Ron Turner
Aug 07, 2019 rated it liked it
It peters out towards the end, but otherwise it's an interesting look at a forgotten world when homosexuality was criminalized and sensationalized.
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John Behrens
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Jul 04, 2019
Joseph Williams
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Aug 21, 2019
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Nov 05, 2019
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Michael Bastedo
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Jan 06, 2020
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