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The Soul Beneath the Skin: The Unseen Hearts and Habits of Gay Men Hardcover – May 28, 2002

3.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Gay men are mindlessly hypersexual, unethically promiscuous and ceaselessly narcissistic or so the worst stereotypes would have it. Rather than refute these charges by painting a portrait of male homosexuals as just like heterosexuals (except for one small detail), Nimmons, president of New York's Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center, radically reinterprets gay sexuality, intimate relationships and self-image. Using a wide range of scientific surveys, anthropological studies, philosophical inquiries and personal observation and anecdotes, Nimmons argues that gay male culture is arranged around highly ethical behaviors that value the needs and health of both the individual and the community. These values, he argues, are enacted through a wide range of sexual practices and unconventional couplings (from one-hour tricks to open long-term relationships), and are manifested in the community-building that has accompanied the AIDS epidemic, as well as the broad range of mentoring relationships between gay men. Noting that "gay relationships are distinct from heterosexual relationships in that they are frequently based on expectations of equality, reciprocity, and autonomy," Nimmons also examines how gay men's relationships with women could present a model for heterosexual men as well. While "the bitchy queen and her cousin once removed, cynicism" are endemic to some realms of gay culture, Nimmons is careful to place these effects in a context of socially generated self-hating. The book is at its best, and most challenging, when Nimmons makes his case with statistical data his survey of the lack of violence in gay male public spaces and relationships (as opposed to heterosexual male spaces) is a model of social science but these segments dovetail nicely with his original and powerful sociological and philosophical arguments.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In this fascinating and provocative study of the gay male experience in America, Nimmons, a writer and past president of the New York Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center, boldly challenges the libidinous, body-conscious stereotype of the typical gay American male. With an irreverent, almost conversational tone that belies an embarrassment of statistical riches, Nimmons redefines gay men's contributions to a newly evolving public ethos revolving around the central theme of care and service to the community. Academic studies and the author's own research indicate that gays have the lowest crime rates of any demographic, that they most often choose occupations in the health and public service fields, and that they maintain higher levels of community volunteerism. More interesting, and perhaps more daring, is Nimmons's argument that gays, America's only openly polyandric tribe, may offer constructive new paradigms for the institution of heterosexual marriage now suffering from high divorce rates and the destructive breakup of the family in order to create a happier, more stable environment in which to raise children. This may well be one of the most important books on gay culture for the new millennium and certainly one of the most daring and original. For all gay studies collections. Jeff Ingram, Newport P.L., OR
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (May 28, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312269196
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312269197
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 10.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,987,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the kind of assumption-shattering book that we need in these times of passively-accepted hype and media-fed half truths. The author takes a clear-eyed look at the statistics that have been floated before us in dozens of newspaper and magazine articles, in television programs, and other popular venues. Nimmons rightly protests that the statistics have for the most part been interpeted with a preconceived conclusion by popular writers. He also digs up other statistics that have definitely not been presented, because they do not jibe with the prevailing attitudes about his subject-- the subculture of gay men. He offers his own take on what these statistics and patterns mean, refusing to accept the pronouncements of other people without being convinced by the data.
He presents information about several aspects of the behavior of gay men as a group. The police logs tell us that violence in gay bars, Pride parades, and other gatherings of celebrating and often intoxicated gays is far lower than in heterosexual gatherings such as pubs, sporting events, and parades. The incidence of gay domestic violence, distorted in the popular media, is in fact equivalent to the incidence amongst the straight community. In fact, conflation of lesbian and gay domestic violence rates may make gay men seem more prone to domestic violence than they actually are.
Nimmons examines the rates of volunteerism amongst gay and straight men and find both monetary and time donations to be significantly higher in the former group. He hypothesizes that an ethos of caring informs not only the frequency with which gay men volunteer for both gay-related and gay-unrelated causes, but also informs the higher representation of gay men in service-connected careers like healthcare, social service, etc.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a much needed and long awaited POSITIVE study of the contemporary gay male. This book should have been written years ago as it puts into proper perspective the many important contributions gay males have made to our society and how these contributions have been ignored, dismissed or overlooked. It exposes the myths and lies about gay male lives, and opens up to all who read this book the true accomplishments gay men have made in this world. It's an optimistic presentation and a valuable text for gay studies courses, or for anyone interested in the lives of gay men. It's intelligently written, yet an easily understandable book for anyone to read, learn from, and enjoy.

This book explains how gay men have developed a culture where violence is almost nonexistent; where new forms of friendship, intimacy, and relationships have been developed with less sexual jealousy; where gay men and straight women have forged lasting relationships; and where volunteerism for both straight and gay causes is much higher than other segments of the population.

THE SOUL BENEATH THE SKIN was a positive joy to read. It offers hope for those who are disappointed, and disillusioned with "the gay community" as it now stands. This book is surely "the light at the end of the tunnel". Hopefully, it will be read by all, gay and straight, so that a more appreciative understanding can be forged between all of us. All of the thanks goes to David Nimmons for taking the time and effort to do such an in-depth study of gay men's lives and the positive contributions they have made to society. A NEW BEGINNING!

Joe Hanssen
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Format: Hardcover
Rarely has a book written by a gay man for gay men reached such depth and inspired to such new heights in an easy to read and accessible story-line.

Can gay men become the healers of the world, showing straight men that violence and insane war-mongering are no longer necessary? Has the gift of the gay spirit evolved to such a point that we can be shamans of the world, teaching community living and loving? David Nimmons' book reveals the gay soul in a way never captured before.

You'll want to read this book if you want to understand how the "curse of homosexuality" has become "a gift to the world." Never before have the voices of so many millions of gay men been able to influence the future of society as it can now. Nimmons shows us, in many different areas, where overcoming the gay challenges makes our personal experiences an asset for the modern world.

A delightful book, written in the gay voice. Inspiring. A must read for gay leaders and the community minded.
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Format: Hardcover
David Nimmons' extraordinary new book about gay men and gay culture is refreshing, honest and meaningful in a way that most books about us are not. It is meaningful because it is about us, our lives as gay men. He has observed and researched the very things that make gay culture, gay culture. In the process he de-bunks some myths and creates new understandings about gay culture. It is significant that the focus of this book is about our lives, our love individually and communally and our ability to shape our and the world's future.
His understandings of the traits, habits and mores of gay men are newly stated realities of sometimes hidden understandings of who we are. What is most wonderful for me, someone who has written about, studied and worked in gay male cultures for the past 30 years is the central question that is presented in the book. While he talks of our commitment to non violence, our ability to deal with the HIV epidemic ( and safer sex) better than any people on the globe and our unsurpassed capability of for using love and compassion in our daily lives, he constantly asks, "Why is it that we don't know these good things about ourselves." This is the challenge and the opportunity that is presented in this book. He tells us about us and suggests ways that we can create the world we want as gay men. It is a first!
This is the best book about Gay Culture and Gay Men in almost fifteen years. It doesn't focus on the political but the personal which is where I believe we need to be. It is the successor to the work of Mark Thompson, et. al in Gay Spirit and Gay Soul, the real grandson of the writings of Harry Hay and the only book since Judy Grahn's Another Mother Tongue to talk about who we really are.
What a wonderful addition to the literature.
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