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“Oh Hell, May, Why Don’t You People Have a Cookbook?”: Camp Humor and Gay Domesticity
Abstract

Abstract:

Domesticity has been underexamined in historical accounts of gay male culture in the United States. This essay analyzes The Gay Cookbook, by Chef Lou Rand Hogan, in order to reconsider the role of domestic space in shaping gay male identity, community, and politics in the post–World War II period. Published in 1965 and promoted in mainstream and gay media, Hogan’s cookbook presented a style of camp humor that challenged popular representations of gay life as lonely and “seedy,” as well as early gay rights activists’ emphasis on gender-normative self-presentation. The cookbook was also emblematic of an expanding gay print and consumer culture, which increasingly located the home as a site of consumption and social and sexual connection. The Gay Cookbook, I argue, reveals how domesticity blurred divides between “public” and “private” gay life, and provided a space to negotiate Cold War class, race, sexual, and gender conventions.