“What They Had between Their Legs Was a Form of Cash”

Homosexuality, Male Prostitution, and Intergenerational Sex in 1950s Italy

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Alessio Ponzio University of Saskatchewan, Canada alessio.ponzio@usask.ca

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This article, showing how ubiquitous male youth prostitution was in 1950s Italy, exposes the pederastic and (homo)sexual vivacity of this decade. Moreover, this article also suggests that even if police, the media, and medical institutions were trying to crystallize a rigid chasm between homo- and heterosexuality, there were still forces in Italian society that resisted such strict categorization. The young hustlers described by contemporary observers bear witness to the sexual flexibility of the 1950s in Italy. These youths inhabited queer spaces lacking a clear-cut hetero–homo divide, spaces where “modern” sexological categories and identities had not yet entered. Prior to the mass circulation of rigid sexual labels, it was still possible for many Italian boys, youths, and young men to dwell in liminal queer spaces. The exchange of money purified their acts, guaranteed their maleness, and effaced potential stigmatization.

Contributor Notes

Alessio Ponzio received his PhD in history and politics from the Universitá Roma Tre and his second PhD in women's studies and history from the University of Michigan. Ponzio is the author of several articles and two books. His last monograph, Shaping the New Man: Youth Training Regimes in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 2015. He has held fellowships at the Newhouse Center for the Humanities at Wellesley College and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He is currently Assistant Professor in European History and History of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Saskatchewan. Email: alessio.ponzio@usask.ca

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