Buying Gay: How Physique Entrepreneurs Sparked a Movement

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Here at, we’re staunch believers in the potential of wielding queer economic power to force social and cultural change. This holiday season, a time of consumerism, there could be no better Queer History 101 selection than a book about the LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs who helped catalyze the early gay rights movement. Professor David K. Johnson’s riveting exploration of the physique magazine industry combines archival materials (including from a 1950s gay book-of-the-month club!) with original oral histories from the major players of early male physical fitness publications to produce an unforgettable account of their contributions to gay cultural autonomy and to legal battles against homophobic censorship.

About the Author

David K. Johnson is professor of history at the University of South Florida. He is the author of The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (2004), which was made into an award-winning documentary.

This deeply researched book expands our understanding of pre-Stonewall gay male activism by describing a bold group of physique photographers, magazine publishers, and booksellers who were more militant than the Mattachine Society and built a far larger constituency through their explicit portrayal and defense of homoerotic desire. A revelatory and compelling history.--George Chauncey, author of Gay New York

Publisher: Columbia University Press
Pub date:
328 pages
Format: Paperback