By Raef Harrison
Image courtesy of Museum of Sex
An exhibit currently running at New York's Museum of Sex is shedding light on what life was like for gay men of the '50s and '60s. Obscene Diary showcases a collection of drawings, photographs, letters, sexual paraphernalia, and other items collected by Samuel Steward, a professor, tattoo artist, and sexual record keeper in 1950s Chicago.
The items in the exhibit were never seen by the public during Stewards lifetime. Found in an attic in San Francisco in 2001, however, his archive became the primary research for the acclaimed biography Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade, which was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Award.
The exhibit is a reflection of a Pre-Stonewall era, when it was still dangerous to be openly gay, and while it is an intimate look at one man’s encounters, it “asks patrons to reflect on what it would look like if their own sexual histories were documented and what this would say about the times in which we live.”
A tantalizing thought indeed!