Saturday, September 14, 2013

''staged'' sexology

A Queer History of the United states, continued. So, sexology was having an impact on public discourse about sex and sexuality and it's ideas had reached popular culture largely by way of the stage. Mae West had a play in 1927 called The Drag in which two characters are openly discussing the ideas of Karl Ulrichs, who coined the word ''Urning'' or ''Uranian'' to describe same-sex desire, in the opening scene! Then, later in the play, it relates or connects Ulrichs' ideas to medical science. It sounds to me like West had a pro Gay agenda and/or knew that a hot topic would sell tickets.
    Drama critics were freely and regularly referencing sexologist by name in their reviews. In a 1928 review of Mae west's play Pleasure man critic Robert Benchley wrote: ''The cast includes cases 1 through 28 in  Volume two of Havelock Ellis.'' Havelock Ellis was a famous sexologist who wrote the first objective book on Homosexuality, called Sexual Inversion[1897], that did not characterize homosexuality as a disease, immoral or a crime. One interesting fact about ellis's life is that he was married to an out Lesbian named Edith lees.
    Broadway musicals were also filled with hidden references to sexology. The 1939 musical Stars in Your Eyes had a song called A Lady needs a Change. Ethel Merman sang it and here is one of it's verses:
       When Mr. Havelock Ellis tries to tell us
       Why were so complex
       I say "Mr. Ellis, what the hell is
       Scientific sex?''
    Keep in mind that by 1939 the Hays code, which heavily censored Hollywood movies, was well in force. Screen writers were able to find creative ways to get around it, though. Merman's song is but one example.

No comments:

Post a Comment