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Hard to Imagine: Gay Male Eroticism in Photography and Film From Their Beginnings to Stonewall.

Paranoid models, reluctant collectors, frightened publishers, wary lawyers, and as many as 30 prudish printers kept Hard to Imagine from being published for more than ten years. Ironically, author Thomas Waugh's battles against censorship and erotophobia eerily echo those of his subjects: gay men who, in their time, had to construct their own erotica amid near-total repression.

In Waugh's attempt to explain the evolution of gay sexual fantasy, less attention is paid to commercial films and physique magazines--well-documented. elsewhere--and more to archival documents, not to mention some remarkable personal collections. More fascinating than the pictures themselves are the stories they tell: photographers experimenting with new technology, models testing taboos, collectors creating homemade pornographic scrapbooks, producers passing off erotica as art or exercise instruction,

Despite the impressive visual array, Hard to Imagine is a scholarly text that does not often aim to titillate. Some pictures have a sexual charge that far exceeds that of current mass-produced pornography, but most are more intellectually curious than arousing.

In this context, however, Hard to Imagine is a welcome antidote to academic theory that too often deconstructs sexuality without ever exploring sex. Waugh injects carnality and desire into this intellectual realm without sacrificing integrity or credibility, and this alone makes the long wait worthwhile.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Hoffman, Wayne
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 4, 1997
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