Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface: My Own Effeminacy, A Brief History

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pp. ix-xiv

This book argues that United States culture since the Second World War has had a paradoxical relationship to effeminate men and boys that we—as a nation—have both intensely hated and intensely loved them. While always acknowledging that American hatred of effeminacy is real and widespread, I attempt to shine light upon the other side of the paradox, revealing the less-often-acknowledged ways in which America has viewed effeminate men and boys as alluring, empowered, and empowering to others. It was only after writing this book that I...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xviii

I am listed as the sole author of this book, but this book has been made possible only because of the support—intellectual, emotional, and financial—that I have received from a great many people. I would like to thank Trudier Harris, Fred Hobson, John Kasson, Joy Kasson, Tim Marr, and Ruth Salvaggio for their insightful feedback on this project; John Howard for his intellectual generosity and help in seeing this book to print; Minrose Gwin for being the best mentor anyone could ask for, lending me her tremendous expertise as a thinker...

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Introduction. Saying “Oh Yeah!” to Sissies: Fascinating Effeminacy Defined

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pp. 1-32

The nightclub is small, but it is packed with people wanting to see and celebrate sissies. Some fans are standing in front of the stage recording the show on their phones, while others, standing between the pool table and the arcade games, dance with such joyous, frenetic abandon that their bodies seem almost liquid. At the back of the stage, DJs spin the emphatic backbeat that has come to be associated with New Orleans bounce music,1 the city’s local mutation of rap music that is perhaps best described, by a musician who performs it, as “up-tempo, heavy...

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Chapter One. The Sympathetic Sissy: Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, and Fascinating Effeminacy in Postwar US Literature

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pp. 33-68

In a 1901 newspaper article titled “The Boyhood of Sissie,” Adam Beaseley expresses affection for “the beautiful barbarism of little boys,” but admits that he himself fell short of this ideal and was, instead, a “sissie,” a “Sunday School monstrosity” (qtd. in Grant 835). Physically weak, timid, and often sickly, Beaseley condemns his own “mysterious mania for revery and for books” and suggests that his childhood was flawed because he was not more physically active and combative (qtd. in Grant 835). A 1902 article in Cosmopolitan magazine by a writer...

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Chapter Two. The Straight-Acting Gay Man versus the Truth-Telling Queen: Gore Vidal, James Baldwin, and Gay Men’s Debates about Effeminacy

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pp. 69-102

Eight years separate the publication of Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar (1948) and James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room (1956), but the novels have a great deal in common. Both tell the story of a white American man who serves in the Army, travels widely, and comes to realize that he is sexually attracted to men. In both novels, the protagonist experiences a deep and lasting attraction to another man, and in both cases this attraction ends disastrously. In the original 1948 edition of The City and the Pillar, Jim Willard murders Bob Ford, the man he has...

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Chapter Three. “I [Heart] Boys Who Sparkle”: Straight Female Fandom and Fascinating Effeminacy

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pp. 103-134

Famed for his high voice, boyish attitude, theatrical costumes and gilded candelabras, the pianist and television personality Liberace (1919–1987) has come to be virtually synonymous with effeminacy in US popular culture. And while Liberace made millions and commanded a devoted audience over the course of a career that lasted from the mid- 1940s until his death, he was also a deeply divisive figure, a man who inspired both passionate hatred and intense adoration.

Typically, these reactions split along gendered lines. “Men look at Liberace and what they see makes them uneasy,” wrote...

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Chapter Four. Amplifying the Paradox: Effeminacy in the Age of HIV/AIDS

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pp. 135-163

While the effeminate paradox greatly predates the onset of the global AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, it has nevertheless been indelibly transformed and intensified by HIV/AIDS. In the stark shadow of HIV/ AIDS, effeminate men emerged, in US literary and cultural discourse, as more grotesque than ever, in both senses of the word. In major US literary works dealing with HIV/AIDS, effeminate men have alternately been portrayed as both more threatening and more fascinating than they had been before. To begin to prove this point, I want to highlight two...

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Chapter Five. “The Sissy Triumphant”: Fascinating Effeminacy Goes Mainstream

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pp. 164-196

The picture is of a mother and her five-year-old son. They sit facing one another, their heads at the same level. The mother holds the son’s small feet in her hands and is tickling them. Both mother and son are grinning hugely. “Lucky for me,” the caption reads, “I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon” (Donaldson James). And indeed, on closer inspection, we can see that, yes, the son’s toenails are indeed painted neon pink. The picture is an advertisement, one for the upscale clothing company J. Crew....

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Conclusion. “Our Makeup Is Terrible, but I Love You Anyway”: Why Fascinating Effeminacy Matters in the Twenty-first Century

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pp. 197-210

Why does fascinating effeminacy matter? It matters because it reminds us all of one extremely important truth: our makeup is terrible.

Let me be more specific. Throughout this book, I have argued that some—although not all—modes of fascinating effeminacy are useful/ valuable from a queer feminist political point of view precisely because when and where they appear, some modes of fascinating effeminacy grant effeminate men and boys the ability to present readers and/or viewers with a vision of a different world, a different arrangement of...

Notes

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pp. 211-222

Works Cited

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pp. 223-232

Index

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pp. 233-240