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Tearoom Trade: Impersonal sex in public places (Observations) Paperback – December 31, 1975
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* Recipient of the C. Wright Mills Award
“I found the book interesting and descriptively informative. I learned how the tearoom operates, and this is valuable for sociological understanding of urban America and potentially for sex-role analysis.”
—Ira L. Reiss, American Sociological Review
“For the anthropologist, and for other social scientists, Tearoom Trade is noteworthy for two reasons. First, it deals with a heretofore underdescribed aspect of American society. Second, it contains a candid discussion of the methodological problems of studying deviance.”
—E. B. Eiselein, American Anthropologist
“Few sociological books in recent years have received the attacks and accolades that Tearoom Trade has. In addition to being viewed extensively in both the professional and public media, it has received the 1969 C. Wright Mills award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems.”
—Lawrence Rosen, Journal of Marriage and the Family
“From 1985 to 1988, the arrests of large numbers of men involved in impersonal sex in public toilets became a major Canadian news story… The present study examines this deviant activity using information generated by police surveillance of seven public washrooms in five Canadian communities.”
—Frederick J. Desroches, Qualitative Sociology
"Tearoom Trade was Laud's most significant book...what emerged in this ground-breaking research was a sociological portrait of conservative and tormented lives: married men, family men, conservative men, whose personal proclivities and preferences were powerful enough, institutionally grounded enough, to break through the conventions of social life."
—Glenn A. Goodwin, Irving Louis Horowitz, and Peter M. Nardi, Sociological Inquiry
About the Author
Laud Humphreys received his divinity degree from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and spent fourteen years in the ministry of the Episcopal Church. After returning to graduate school, he received his Ph.D. in sociology from Washington University in 1968. Dr. Humphreys taught at SUNY Albany, Southern Illinois University, and until his death in 1988 was professor of sociology at Pitzer College in Claremont, California.
Lee Rainwater is professor emeritus of sociology at Harvard University and research director emeritus of the Luxembourg Income Study. He was an editor at Transaction, the associate editor of theJournal of Marriage and the Family, and a member of the review board of Sociological Quarterly. He has written various books and many professional journal articles, including Poor Kids in a Rich Country: America’s Children In Comparative Perspective; Income Packaging in the Welfare State: A Comparative Study of Family Income; and Social Policy and Public Policy: Inequality and Justice.
Top Customer Reviews
During the course of a year, Humphreys observed male-male sexual activity in certain public restrooms (known in gay slang as "tearooms") in an unidentified city in the US. A year later, after having identified many of the men he had observed, he arranged to interview them as part of a different, general sociological study, which allowed him to ask a number of questions about their backgrounds and personal lives without revealing their clandestine activities; he also approached about a dozen of the men in the tearooms themselves and was able to interview them openly.
Humphreys' findings contradict a number of previously held assumptions about male-male sexual activity, and carry some important recommendations. One is that the "seduction of teenagers" does not occur in these public places, and in fact teenage boys are actively excluded despite their frequent desire to participate.Read more ›
Such encounters were carried on with a secret language or code of gestures and looks so as to distinguish those who were looking for sex from those who were there to use the toilets for their ‘intended purposes’.
These encounters were illegal and police went to great lengths to catch them. Sometimes they employed ‘pretty police’ to entrap them. At other times, they hid in the roofs and snooped before making arrests. Many of those arrested committed suicide rather than face public shame in the courts and in the subsequent newspaper reports.
Others were subject to blackmail – indeed this is probably the main reason why the law changed, spurred on by Dirk Bogarde’s film ‘Witness’.
Laud Humphreys was a sociologist who also happened to be an Anglican priest. He made a study, for his PhD, of the men who engaged in these encounters and this book is the result of his findings.
The encounters usually involved three people: the two engaged in the sexual activity, and a look-out, called "watchqueen" in slang. By offering his services as the "watchqueen," Humphreys was able to observe the activities of other participants.
These encounters were great levellers of social class. A managing director could get off with a lorry driver – the former worked flexitime so had more opportunities.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Been looking for this book for SO LONG! Couldn't find any copy under $100!Published 21 months ago by PoisonAero
Although a bit dated, it is heavily researched primary source material.Published 23 months ago by tootruetobegood
I read this because I was curious about the study, this book was very interesting and I am glad to have read it.Published on May 11, 2014 by Darryl V.
This was a great read. A good story. Yay. Gr8. I just need this for my soc. class. Yes. Ok.Published on February 5, 2014 by August
If you are looking for sensationalism, this book will disappoint. This was originally required reading in a sociology class when Barack Obama attended Occidental College. Read morePublished on January 5, 2013 by Floyd Beatty
the deliver of the book was excellent got it on time to do my homework, wasnt quite a fan of the book.Published on November 10, 2012 by ninja
This is a great example of what can be done using ethnographic research. I cannot say whether this book represents a major innovation in gay studies. That is not what I study. Read morePublished on September 28, 2010 by Dr. Jones