Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Nathan Tye

Committee Members

Linda Van Ingen, David Vail, Sandra Loughrin


leather community;HIV/AIDS;Eroticism


The most enduring images of the HIV/AIDS crisis are pictures of ACT UP members being arrested and staging die-ins or men huddled together in hospital beds. These images and the historical narrative accompanying them espouse unity, a coming together of the queer community. No one manufactured this unity. Gay men came together to fight AIDS with force stronger than that which had fought back at Stonewall. Although the gay community saw increased unity during the AIDS Pandemic, the benefactors of this unity, the mainstream gay movement, marginalized men practicing radical sex through a rhetoric of anti-eroticism, a negative, rather than safer sex, a positive. This sacrifice is present only in reading between the lines of the current historiography. While the earliest gay documentation of the crisis is very clear on where the mainstream movement sits concerning radical sex, later work glosses over this position. This anti-eroticism in mainstream gay activism is countered by an intensely erotic activism from the radical sex community. This argument is made with the sources produced by gay men at the time, relying on popular literature as well as periodicals and newsletters of radical sex communities.



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