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Life Outside - The Signorile Report on Gay Men: Sex, Drugs, Muscles, and the Passages of Life Paperback – May 6, 1998

3.9 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Michelangelo Signorile was an outspoken advocate of gay culture whose brush with mortality after engaging in risky sex changed his outlook on life. In Life Outside, Signorile, a columnist for Out magazine, explores the changing lifestyles and mores of gay men through interviewing and surveying hundreds of gays--in the cities, in the country, and everywhere in between. In addition, he provides a fascinating history of gay culture, from the closeted '50s, when most homosexuals found sexual release by "servicing" straight men, through the '70s and '80s, when physical beauty and promiscuity became the hallmarks of gay life. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

A columnist for Out magazine, Signorile (Queer in America, LJ 6/1/93) here urges gay men to shun what he calls the "cult of masculinity" that has been embraced by many gay men, particularly in the largest urban areas. In the first section?the best part of the book?Signorile describes the cult, traces its origins from shortly after Stonewall, describes the "circuit parties" firsthand, and documents the rampant use of steroids and other drugs among cultists. In Part 2, he posits recent trends toward the "deghettoization" and "deurbanization" of homosexuality, a move toward "postmodern monogamy," and a breakdown in the stereotype of the lonely old queen. Unfortunately, Signorile offers little reliable evidence for these trends and relies instead on data from an informal, unscientifically selected sample of several hundred men who are quoted or paraphrased at length. Also, many chapters read like expanded columns, good in themselves but not woven into an entirely cohesive argument. Overall, this is a good, readable book that could and should have been better. Recommended for larger collections.?Robert W. Melton, Univ. of Kansas Libs., Lawrence
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (May 6, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060929049
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060929046
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,685,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By P. Cello on September 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
....Of course this isn't dry and erudite social criticism; it doesn't pretend to be. What it does do is pose some very difficult questions and shed light on some behaviors that gay men (including myself) must address. I have to admit that there were certainly things I did not agree with in Signorile's book. And the repetitveness of terminology and thoughts ocassionally grated, but by and large this book made me pause and think. That, whether passing the muster of pretentious dialectic dogma or not, is a clear representation of the power of an author who is uncovering something that is worth considering. And the fact that many other gay men have responded to this book so powerfully means that it IS speaking to some underlying deep questioning that folks are doing about what we as gay men have become post-Stonewall. As an Ivy- educated young gay urban professional, I am more than capable of distinguishing between what I consider to be great writing or not. And Signorile is not my only choice in the panolpy of authors writing contemporary gay social critcism. However, he is one I will continue to read until the things he says no longer feel/seem relevant to me
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a gem. The words and ideas in it ring very true, at least from this writers perspective. The pressure to be "cut, ripped and pumped", and to escape "Life" with drugs and fun is REAL. It was well on its way to destroying me before I jumped off the merry go round in the early 90's. Signorile is not preaching, nor is he buying into the "Cult of the Circuit". He freely admits he works out. He wants to look good. But not at any cost. His dipiction of the flight over the desert and mountains to yet another "Circuit party" was oddly chilling and yet sad. Are we(gay men) so desperate to "blend" and yet be noticed that the cycle of attention seeking behavior will not end? I did find that the disparity between the two types of lives led (Parts One and Two) was a bit too stark, and difficult to relate to. Having been to NYC and Chelsea several times-that description was more than apt. The looks from the "Pumped" to the "Non-pumped" are amazing-very withering and pitying. Signorile hit this one on the head. I think he is saying it is time to wake up, smell the coffee, and work on ourselves from the inside out, and not the other way around.
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Format: Hardcover
As a gay man who has lived in NYC since the 50s I found Signorile's picture of gay male life in the Fifties and Sixties and the judgements he made about those years to be a mass of threadbare cliches. Good God! Who did he interview to get such a narrow and crippled portrait of those years? He clearly lacks a knowledge of the broad range and nuancing of the gay male subculture of that era. This very poor beginning makes it difficult to take the rest of the book as seriously as Signorile clearly wants the reader to.
The "post-AIDS" era of the gay male subculture has been marked by a terribly uneasy attitude toward the preceding pre-AIDS era, and has seen the male subculture become something of a caboose on the train of feminism, with ambiguous and sometimes bogus issues of political correctness and the emulation of mainstream - white, middle class - goals and lifestyles being promoted as desiderata. Signorile's book is evidence of this interesting turn of events, but it is not much in the way of an analysis.
The entire work would have come off better if the author had skipped the assertions of research and simply done it as an confessional essay entitled something on the order of "Afraid of Ourselves."
George Chauncey's "Gay New York" was a credible study of the history and sociology of pre-WW II gay New York. We need something as fine and well done on the later years of gay American history. This book isn't it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is imperfect, but is still interesting today, 15 years after its publication, even as urban gay culture is collapsing and the gay ghettos have been running empty of actual gay people due to gentrification. I find the author's critique of the oppressiveness of the cult of muscularity and masculinity (which continues to this day) on target, if at times a little over the top. The Chelsea Boy types were always a small minority, and were never as important or prevalent in urban gay culture as the author seems to imply, although they were and remain ubiquitous in the gay media. (The Chelsea Boys, however, were pretty harmless compared to the sinister way today's gay men have been coopted and manipulated by the masculinity cult into unquestioning acceptance of the military.) However, by focusing on the most glaring extremes, he makes a bit of a straw man out of urban gay culture, which is then compared, in a value judgment, to a somewhat idyllic picture of what gay life is like outside the ghettos.

What he completely misses, in my opinion, is the even greater oppressions of suburban, small city, and rural gay life. These include the limited intellectual and cultural outlets, the lack of sexual freedom and opportunity, the lack of eligible sexual and dating partners, the lack of support systems for gay people, the prevalent loneliness, depression, and drug abuse, and the claustrophobic oppression of the 50s-like Leave it to Beaver lifestyle that has since become the hallmark of the gay marriage movement. In the 15 years since, many of the urban ghettos he criticized have in fact squeezed out all but the very rich, including most of the gay residents, lost their diversity of people and lifestyle choices, and taken on many of these suburban oppressive and regressive attributes.
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