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November 9, 2010 7:28 PM   Subscribe

This might not be the best named Tumblr blog ever, but the content, vintage photographs of gay and lesbian couples, makes up for it. Some photos mark the extraordinary events in life, such as these reunited WW2 sailors, while others present a slice of everyday life.
posted by girl scientist (38 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I like it, but I can't but help suspect that a lot of these are hetero folk doing the kinds of things that are now taboo for heteros because they'd be considered sexualized behavior, e.g. holding hands, embracing with lots of bodily contact, jacking each other off etc.
posted by Kattullus at 7:36 PM on November 9, 2010 [24 favorites]

here is reality (here)
ms clav... what the h is that and i scroll down, she laughs a bit, goes back to pianting the kitchen.

(i snaffle the Sheldon Lord cover hidden deep, ya know filed under humor)

there is more
posted by clavdivs at 7:38 PM on November 9, 2010

It's worth noting that we have no idea if the people photographed are gay or not.

I'm hoping someone more knowledgeable on the topic will chime in to say something about body language and personal space and how they were all different back then, how men could hug/hold other men without tumblr blogs people assuming they're homosexual.

Not that it matters, really. I think the photos are nice. Maybe I'll submit a couple of my grandfather...
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 7:41 PM on November 9, 2010

I agree with Kattullus, although I must point out that the art of jacking one another is inherently sexualized.

On the other hand, photos like this are just simply amazing photographic snapshots of history, regardless of context.
posted by mannequito at 7:42 PM on November 9, 2010

well for once kattullus one against, one catholic hetro female found it just fine. titles are grabbing but this is perfect for whats that word for a front page news thingie
led in, lead on, im booting up gigi and going to crpytome then make some nachos and shut the fuck up
posted by clavdivs at 7:46 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by CitrusFreak12 at 7:52 PM on November 9, 2010

clavdivs, pass that J over here ya bogart
posted by mannequito at 7:53 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, most of those photos might be better filed under "dudes were more touchy-feely with each other back in the day" rather than "ZOMG VINTAGE GAY!".
posted by Avenger at 7:54 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some of these just depict people sitting next to each other or holding hands, but others are unmistakably sexual or romantic. Some of them could be posed or theatrical as well; we can't be sure that the photos affirm the couples as real-life couples. In any case this is one of my favorites.

I loved this-- thanks so much for posting it.
posted by ms.codex at 8:04 PM on November 9, 2010

jeez im sorry, yes, we are concerned (here) of the ramifications that indeed some of the photos may be hetrosexual men caught in "pose" yes, yes indeed. shocking.
I have a rather nice collection of paper back books dealing with historical "erotic pulp" its a niche. my father told alot of this books did not survive because when bought the covers would be torn off. why? WGAF there rare and worth money.
pictures worth a thousand words. nachos almost done.

how did you know my vaporizer is busted

whats more important, there 'gay' authenticity or life, making someone laugh or smile. heavens forbid if it is anything but what it is.
i get a little wiggly when gems come along.

posted by clavdivs at 8:12 PM on November 9, 2010

Huh I remember seeing a site devoted in pre-1950s gay porn, lots of very interesting like 1890s stuff, both obviously porn and obviously couples so no question of taboo or anything (which is something I think is a big factor) ....... but it's been lost in the sticky mess of tumblr.
posted by The Whelk at 8:36 PM on November 9, 2010

is this about the twenty clams i owe you?
posted by clavdivs at 8:46 PM on November 9, 2010

For the French Postcards yes.
posted by The Whelk at 8:50 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some of the nineteenth-century images looked conventionally "sentimental" to me, sure, but we shouldn't overestimate just how much leeway two people of the same sex actually had to be demonstrative with each other. Or, to approach the "they did it differently back then" problem from another angle, read what Edmond Malone had to say about Shakespeare's sonnets. In the eighteenth century.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:55 PM on November 9, 2010

Awww! That picture you linked of the reunited soldiers totally made my evening. So charming! Thanks!
posted by ErikaB at 9:00 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don;t care what the facts may be, these two are lovers/lawyers who specialize in supernatural cases in the 1920s.
posted by The Whelk at 9:05 PM on November 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

While the pictures are interesting, the tumblr as a tumblr has an annoying picture-"OMG I love this tumblr" comment ratio.
posted by papayaninja at 9:06 PM on November 9, 2010 [7 favorites]

the one with the glasses is the outgoing, hardboiled detective type, the white-shirt guy is the more studious law nerd type. Get me Harlequin on the line I think I can pitch this
posted by The Whelk at 9:07 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

nonono, adriatic, I pulled you from Sterling Haydens Speedboat, then you bought me nylons in Lyon.
posted by clavdivs at 9:07 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree about the irritating comment/photo ratio. And it's tricky to categorize old photos like this -- some of them look more like jokes, while others scream "gay!" to the modern eye.
posted by Forktine at 3:07 AM on November 10, 2010

I'd like to submit this photo of some Michigan outdoorsmen. It's vintage (1952) and it has man touching. Just sayin'
posted by zzazazz at 3:12 AM on November 10, 2010

Forgive my tedious diversion of the topic into the realms of porn, but these remind me of why I find pornography made before the advent of Pornography™ electrically, hair-raisingly, lock-the-fucking-door-and-ignore-the-phone delectable while the contemporary variety is so hairless and juvenile it's more cutesy than engorging. There's just this modern stratification there, the whole notion that you're gay or you're not, the gathering of teams and tribes that makes everyone have to stake a position and stop being naturally handsy with each other.

I look to photos of men in poses of intimacy, from the adorable to the provocative, and I read them as representing my sort of feeling, regardless of what's actually in the photograph. It's my right, as a guy from a category that's been so meticulously rewritten out of history by the powers that be, and while I know that many of the men slouching luxuriantly against each other, hands clasped in what is clearly some form of intimacy, are principally dear, dear friends who've never stepped over the manufactured boundaries of sexual class, they are the loving couples I choose to celebrate.

It's my right, to read them as being like me, after centuries of being taught that Gilgamesh and Enkidu were just very good friends, or that Rock Hudson and Randolph Scott were just chums, sitting around their pool in matching monogrammed bathrobes, or that that thing we do is really a modern invention. It's not just a demise of intimacy between males, either--it's something worse, as we're all so cynical that we have to let everyone drop into precise little slots like falling pachinko balls.

Oh honey, that guy's clearly gay.

When the boundaries are less proscribed, and when they aren't enforced by our own obedient little policemen, relentlessly drilled in the tiresome regimentation of post-seventies acceptable roles, people drift in and out of those intimate roles as we're designed to, the raucous lot of us touching and holding and leaning into each other like bonobos, sometimes serious, sometimes playful, in a whirl of touch. I see all this in photographs of men and men and women and women, the stacks of what's real, what's a daydream, and what I see because it's my right to look at the world as if what I am, and who I love, and what I do is as true and real and worthy as what you do, whoever you happen to be.

"Joe, why do you assume that he had to be gay?" I'm asked when I make those suppositions about the late members of the family tree that show up in wrinkled black-and-white snapshots that just catch me a certain way, and invoke a familiar feeling.

"I think it's a little suspicious that he shared a bedroom with just one bed with another man when they were living in an empty five bedroom house."

"Things were different then," they say, but they weren't that different. People like me had to work harder for what we had, and we had to be impossibly subtle--masters of context, subterfuge, and the lush, illegal world tucked in neatly behind an ever so slightly raised eyebrow. I choose to see myself in the past, even if things were different, as we put up with the ten thousandth year of pulpit-fueled bullshit.

Maybe I'm just a guy with an esoteric fetish for the notion of a sexuality existing before Sexuality™ became the fever dream of Absolut Vodka, Subaru, and MAC Cosmetics. My absurdly detailed five thousand word online sex personal ad used to wax romantic about my twitchy, obsessive interest in the amateur pornographic snapshots of the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps. That's the place for me, in that sepia-toned masturbatory dreamland where guys bent and sucked and pulled and twisted and displayed the untold realm of the joyous possibilities inherent in bodies with protuberances, sensitive surfaces, and a variety of holes, where they're almost always smiling, posed in states of captured wonder as they fucked each other in front of enormous Kodak box cameras, as if to say "this is something we can do, and it's fucking AMAZING!"

There's this moment caught in the lens, the gleam in the eye when they realize what can happen, and how you can feel, and how you can love and desire and touch and enjoy and fuck the living daylights out of each other under showers of sizzling fireworks making persistent trails in the rich medium of history.

"Nice balls. What's the 'Civilian Conservation Corps'?" they say, when they can say something beyond "DUDE I WANT YOU TO WRECK MY FILTHY HOLE," or "LOL I DIDN'T READ IT ALL TELL ME WHAT YOU REALLY THINK!"

With a little snip of the cursor, I finally trimmed out the bit in my absurdly extravagant online sex personal about my love of porn from the thirties and my love of 1950s snapshots combining cars and blowjobs, and my love of bisexual Turkish acrobat porn from the 1890s, because it's just hardly worth the effort, sometimes.

"Yeah, it was a public works project from the Depression, and the all-male environment produced a lot of amazing porn."

"Ah, that's cool. Your hot."

"What about my hot?"


"Never mind. You wanna fuck or what?"

"Do you have a harness?"


So I drag the time machine out of the closet, carefully dusting off the wiring and the tarnished crowns of the old-style rheostats, fire it up, and bear myself ceaselessly back into the past.
posted by sonascope at 3:49 AM on November 10, 2010 [19 favorites]

GayTwogether's Vintage Photo Memories is the source for some of these photos.
posted by magstheaxe at 4:51 AM on November 10, 2010

Porn these days is worse than fast-food: it's the protein pill; all that is required for reptilian satisfaction and nothing more. Even the high budget parodies in their sex devolve into fifteen-minute long circus tent exhibitions of the stamina of toned thigh muscles and high performance lubricants. It's a sport, nothing more, and I suppose it won't be much longer before there are tattoos from edgy beverage and fragrance manufacturers. One thing it isn't, is intimate.

I like fumbling. I like uncertainty. I like laughing at odd moments and having to explain what it was, and getting a laugh or a raised eyebrow in return. I like sometimes just getting too tired to continue and falling asleep, spent yet unspent, in the embrace of my lover. I like the confidence and strength of a relationship that means there's no defined beginning or end to a sex act, it is simply something that comes and goes at its own pace, and that one can be in the moment without pretending anything and without a goal in mind.

Intimacy isn't an two-column list of holes and protuberances, and it isn't a tickybox list of secretions. Intimacy is a raised eyebrow or a little smile where there doesn't need to be one. It's a lingering glance and holding hands and friendship.

These are intimate portraits of real people.
Thank you for sharing.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:52 AM on November 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

What is this from? Looks 50s era and content could be a pulp but the illustration doesn't look like it. Maybe a modern retro thing?
posted by DU at 5:18 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

In re: the name, "fuck yeah" is something of a tumblr convention with the following format: fuckyeah⊗.tumblr.com is a tumblr website entirely devoted to ⊗.

A random few of very many examples:




Want more? Try the directory: http://fuckyeahdirectory.tumblr.com/.
posted by tractorfeed at 5:27 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I really recommend watching the video linked from the blog of the 1977 Chicago Gay Pride Parade. It's joyful and heartwarming, even though at one point somebody throws something that looks like a baseball. Partly it's heartwarming because we know how things turned out. We know that today gay rights is triumphant. Sure, there are still plenty of backwards people, and some regions and countries are better than others, but on the whole things are light-years better today than they were back in 1977 and it's thanks to the people in that video and people like them who stood up and were counted and didn't back down. They fought for what no one should be forced to fight for, the right to love who you want to love. But it's also heartbreaking, because this is filmed just as HIV is starting to spread in the gay community. I can't help but look at all these happy, brave, proud people and wonder how many of them would live to the end of the next decade. I wish I could hop into a time machine and go give every single one of them a hug and tell them that they were going to win and to please use condoms.
posted by Kattullus at 5:31 AM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I thought about this overnight and I'm irritated at the rush of Metafilter commenters to point out "yes, but these may just be men being affectionate; they're not actually homosexual". It's not that I disagree factually; with the image alone and no background a lot of these are ambiguous. But so much of gay culture has been suppressed, and hidden, that I think it's only fair to err on the side of assuming homosexual content.

I don't know that these guys holding hands are about to start fucking once the photo is done, but geez, they're two cute young men holding hands, why not assume they're gay? Or this incredibly subtle image, nothing explicitly sexual, but it's so, so gay to me. The wry smile on the left, the spark in the eye on the right, the foot casually crossed over his partner's leg to suggest a little physical contact. Yeah, sure, I've got no evidence these guys were lovers. But it sure feels that way from the image, and it's a lot more fun to assume so.

OTOH, there is this whole lost world of male/male intimacy that's not explicitly homosexually. Like sonascope, I'm much happier with the more ambiguous and subtle erotic imagery of yesteryear. Speaking of which, if there's an online source for pornographic snapshots from the Civilian Conservation Corps, why, I'd be grateful to know it. Purely for research purposes.
posted by Nelson at 6:37 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

we can't be sure that the photos affirm the couples as real-life couples. In any case this is one of my favorites.

That one specifically says "this photo taken March 31 2010" - dunno if that just means it was added to flickr then, but it could easily be a stylized contemporary photo. Kind of seems more likely...
posted by mdn at 7:54 AM on November 10, 2010

further research points toward it being from the 20s - just looked so posed and perfect I thought it was probably a recreation. But I'll retract that, and blame flickr's weird wording for leading me astray.
posted by mdn at 8:05 AM on November 10, 2010

Nelson: I thought about this overnight and I'm irritated at the rush of Metafilter commenters to point out "yes, but these may just be men being affectionate; they're not actually homosexual".

Yeah, I agree, there's a very strong societal desire to explain away instances of homosexuality in the past. Amusingly, this often goes hand with hand with a general acknowledgment that surely people have been queer throughout all time, but specific instances can usually be argued away because the past is distant and so much can be read into artifacts and text. We bring our own context and for many for whom homosexuality or bisexuality or transsexuality are not a part of their everyday life, there's a tendency to interpret it out of existence. For some, unless there's a photograph, signed and authenticated on the back by the people in it, of people actually fucking, then the automatic interpretation is to cast doubt on the possibility of queerness. It's not really a mark of illiberalism or conservatism or homophobia, it's more a mark of unfamiliarity. Skepticism is fine and healthy, but sometimes it's good to leave the door open to the possibility that the historical people we are looking are indeed gay or bi or trans. One of the defining aspects of a people is their history, don't rob them of that in a quest for 100% certainty because the past offers no such thing.
posted by Kattullus at 9:43 AM on November 10, 2010

I'm unusually sensitive to the "they're not necessarily gay" thing because I grew up in a way where my role models for relationships were either definitively or presumably not gay, and yet those same-sex pairings still work for me.

See, no matter what CTW says, I know Ernie & Bert are gay. You, as an operative for Children's Television Workshop, can say "hey, they're just puppets, there's nothing below the waist," and so on. You can defend PBS against the early assaults of the idiotic Right, but what you say isn't true.

See, Barthes was right--the author is dead. It's my realm as the consumer of art to take it as I will, and I choose to accept the way of seeing that feels right to me. I don't make a claim that I can say for certain that some of those men and women are actually being intimate because they're gay, but I can still look at what's there and see myself in it, for the same reason I can watch Clea Duvall make out with Natasha Lyonne and see myself in that pairing, too.

I do the same with Jack Benny and Rochester, with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, and with any pairing of men that say and do the things I say and do when I'm with a guy who takes me to those places. I'm single now, probably because I model my relationships on Laurel & Hardy and there just aren't a lot of guys who like the irritating plateau of slapstickery that comes with being with me, but on my big fat gay wedding day, I'm gonna dance the dance from Way Out West with my mate in homage to what was one of the great same sex couples, their wives notwithstanding.

When everything of our past has been meticulously erased, except for the grimmest of readings, as part of a systemic attempt to pretend we're something new and threatening in the world, it's time to lay claim to the same sort of unverifiable evidence of sexuality that you'd find in a photo of your grandparents.

Are they straight? Are they gay? Who's to say?

Maybe they are and they aren't, depending on where you stand.
posted by sonascope at 11:11 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

sonascope: I will never forget having Laurel & Hardy's "Liberty" screened for everyone when I was at church camp, sometime in late junior high or high school.

The hapless heroes spend the ENTIRE movie trying to exchange their pants, which for some reason or other they got switched at the beginning of the movie.

Yes, that's right. The entire film is made up of moments in which two men are looking for a safe spot in public to duck behind in order to drop trou.

Even in my pre-coming-out days of being super high on Jesus, I couldn't miss the subtext in that.

What's even more remarkable is, this was apparently a print of the film that the church camp leaders owned, because it was show again at least twice in subsequent years that I attended.

Now, maybe it was part of some subtle social engineering plan on behalf of the camp leaders. You know, instilling in the campers that men who seek to find a place to be furtive with each other should be laughed at. But as a still-yet-unformed not-out (even to myself) queer at the time, I've NEVER forgotten seeing that movie.
posted by hippybear at 11:27 AM on November 10, 2010

The lovely thing about subtext is that the clueless can be completely blind to what's really going on just under the surface, so being good working underwater while leaving the surface tension intact evolved as a queer skill set, which explains why we're so overrepresented in certain fields (the clergy being the most gleefully ironic of them all).

Of course, in one of my church lock-ins (the weekend overnight sleepovers), they showed us Tommy (on 16mm film, no less) and the sort of glorious trauma of seeing Tina Turner's shaky legs and twitchy face almost made it impossible for me to use a game of truth or dare to my filthy, filthy satisfaction.

posted by sonascope at 12:01 PM on November 10, 2010

hippybear: Now, maybe it was part of some subtle social engineering plan on behalf of the camp leaders.

Not to belabor the obvious, but they were camp leaders.
posted by Kattullus at 12:19 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

t's my realm as the consumer of art to take it as I will, and I choose to accept the way of seeing that feels right to me. I don't make a claim that I can say for certain that some of those men and women are actually being intimate because they're gay, but I can still look at what's there and see myself in it, for the same reason I can watch Clea Duvall make out with Natasha Lyonne and see myself in that pairing, too.

sonascope, in literary criticism this is referred to as rejecting the Intentional Fallacy:

Thus, a text's internal evidence — the words themselves, and their meanings — is fair game for literary analysis. External evidence — anything not contained within the text itself, such as information about the poet's life — belongs to literary biography, not literary criticism. Preoccupation with the author "leads away from the poem." According to New Criticism, a poem does not belong to its author, but rather "it is detached from the author at birth and goes about the world beyond his power to intend about it or control it. The poem belongs to the public."

... and, I would argue, this argument can be extended to most other works of art.

Certainly, some (Guernica, The Burghers of Calais, for two examples) may be magnitudinally enhanced by an understanding of the background and context in which they were made, but that is more often true of symbolic art (painting, for instance) than a more message-oriented form of art such as poetry. Regardless, if the work has no message without its creator's intent as context, I would argue the work is only superficially meaningful.

"The moving hand writes, and having writ, moves on..."

In that sense, a photo, snapped, developed (downloaded), and printed (saved to the web), becomes a work of art that is free and open to interpretation by the viewer. You see a vase, I see two faces kissing.. But who is to say who is "right", even if the "truth" is out there? If I see two faces kissing, they are there. If you see a gay subtext (or pretext, or blatant content), it's there for you, the audience.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:04 PM on November 10, 2010

I think we can all agree that these guys are every bit as gay as Dave & Jon.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:28 PM on November 10, 2010

Why do these two women seem to have spoons (fish slices?) behind their backs?
posted by Lexica at 8:31 PM on November 11, 2010

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