Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Philip Harling

Abstract

Rent: Same-Sex Prostitution in Modern Britain, 1885-1957 chronicles the concept of “rent boys” and the men who purchased their services. This dissertation demonstrates how queer identity in Britain, until contemporary times, was largely regulated by class, in which middle-and-upper-class queer men often perceived of working-class bodies as fetishized consumer goods. The “rent boy” was an upper-class queer fantasy, and working-class men sometimes used this fantasy for their own agenda while others intentionally dismantled the “rent boy” trope, refusing to submit to upper-class expectations. This work also explains how the “rent boy” fantasy was eventually relegated to the periphery of queer life during the mid-century movement for decriminalization. The movement was controlled by queer elites who ostracized economic-based and public forms of sex and emphasized the bourgeois sexual mores of their heterosexual counterparts. Sex between adult men in private was decriminalized, but working-class men selling sex suffered harsher laws and more strictly enforced penalties under this new, ostensibly “progressive” legislation.

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