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Take the Young Stranger by the Hand Same-Sex Relations and the Ymca

by John Donald Gustav-Wrathall

  • ISBN: 9780226907840
  • ISBN10: 0226907848

Take the Young Stranger by the Hand Same-Sex Relations and the Ymca

by John Donald Gustav-Wrathall

  • List Price: $25.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
  • Publish date: 10/01/1998
  • ISBN: 9780226907840
  • ISBN10: 0226907848
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Description: Now associated with family health clubs, the YMCA's bland image is the result of relentless outreach and the studied avoidance of controversy. But, as John Gustav-Wrathall shows in his fascinating social history of the organization, the life of the YMCA has been filled with strife, tragedy, and irony. Its history has reflected the struggle and shifting societal mores about masculine friendship and intimacy.

Gustav-Wrathall traces the history of American gender and sexuality through a case study of this organization devoted to young men. In the nineteenth century, the YMCA was built on intense male friendships that involved economic as well as emotional interdependence. Some men found in the YMCA an alternative to mainstream patterns of heterosexual marriage and family life, choosing to live their lives as bachelors in community with other men. But with the turn of the century, social perceptions of gender and sexuality began to change, and as new paradigms of masculinity evolved, certain forms of male intimacy were regarded as deviant. After 1900, Gustav-Wrathall argues, the YMCA grew more hostile to masculine love, and, through programs in physical training, sought to expand its control over the emotional and sexual lives of its members. Ironically, while the YMCA's emphasis on physical culture served outwardly to reinforce new images of masculinity, its gymnasiums and dormitories became primary sites for illicit male sexual encounters.

Gustav-Wrathall presents the YMCA as an institution of profound contradictions, reflective of the broader society's views of same-sex love and sexuality.

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