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Picturing Boys

Found Photographs and the Transformation of Boyhood in 1950s America

John Ibson

Systematic scrutiny of everyday photographs of American boys together suggests that, as never before, homophobia became a barrier for boys in 1950s America. In a time of high anxiety regarding the possible implications of male togetherness in the United States, boys’ relationships in the 1950s, with fresh physical inhibitions, came to resemble relationships typical of older American males. Although cultural concern over homosexuality was decades-old in the 1950s and had long inhibited the various associations of older males, that anxiety may not have exacted its toll on boys together until the postwar period, establishing restrictions that continue to severely limit closeness among boys.