Gay Sex Through the Ages: A Timeline

7.9.2014

By Dennis Hinzmann

From antiquity to the digital age, the story of same-sex desire continues to evolve.

The Warren Cup is in the British Museum's Collection

With all the strides that LGBT people have seen in recent years when it comes to civil rights and equal treatment, it's easy to forget that it was also a sexual revolution. Same-sex love, desire, and romantic attraction has been around for milennia, but it's gone through various terminology changes and, only recently, in modern history has it been celebrated as an accepted part of mainstream society. So how did we get there from here? We take a look at some of the highlights (completely aware that entire history books have been written on this and many more are yet to come).

Early 6th Century BC - Sappho, a Greek poet born on the isle of Lesbos, is born and becomes famous for her lesbian themes, lending her name to the definition of lesbianism.

326 BC - Alexander the Great, known for preferring the company of men, completes his conquest of the majority of the known western world and ushers in the Hellenistic Age, where homosexuality is viewed positively.

Early 18th Century - Dutch gay men coin the term “Kruisen” for looking for suitable partners, and it sticks for hundreds of years.

1924 - The Society for Human Rights in Chicago becomes the first known gay rights organization.

1950s - Barton Scully, based on multiple characters from the real William Masters’s life (and portrayed by Beau Bridges on Showtime's Masters of Sex), submits himself to harsh aversion therapy to attempt to cure his homosexuality.

1962 - The Supreme Court rules that magazines consisting mostly of nude and near-nude males are not obscene, opening the U.S. postal service to deliver male pornographic magazines, especially those catering to gay men.

1969 - The first Gay Pride Parade march takes place in New York City.

1971 - Wakefield Poole’s Boys in the Sand, considered the first feature-length gay pornographic film to be shown in arthouse cinemas, opened in New York City, preceding Deep Throat, the first commercial straight pornographic film by nearly a year.

1973 - The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its official list of mental disorders.

1980 - The first AIDS cases and deaths began occurring in 1980 in San Francisco and New York City. The ensuing crisis would consume a generation, but it also brought gay male sexuality to the forefront of public discourse.

1982 - How to Have Sex in an Epidemic is published. Written by Richard Berkowitz and Michael Callen, it's considered by social scientists to be the first literature to recommend safe sex as a strategy to reduce risk of contracting HIV.

1980s - VHS tapes make it easier to buy, rent, and own pornographic videos. Staying at home and self-pleasuring was also seen as a way to have "safer" sex than actual intercourse.

1984 - Folsom Street Fair is founded in San Francisco. It's seen as a landmark occassion for the S&M and leather scene, and incorporates people of all sexual proclivities. 

1991 - The first Adult Erotic Gay Video Awards, now The Grabby Awards, were announced in the back of Gay Chicago Magazine.

1993 - AOL introduces chat rooms. These popular areas for people to meet and chat on the World Wide Web become online destinations for men and women to meet people around the globe—and maybe even hookup.

2000 - Queer as Folk premieres on Showtime in the U.S., educating a whole new generation of gay (and straight) viewers.

2003 - The Supreme Court of the United States struck down Texas's anti-sodomy law in the landmark legal case, Lawrence v. Texas. 

2009 - Smartphone apps are the norm for people finding each other easily using GPS. For example, Grindr is launched as a way to find other gay people near you and quickly becomes a hookup app. 

2013 - The Defense of Marriage Act is struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States the same summer it overturns California's Prop. 8, ushering in a new era of same-sex marriages across the nation and progress for LGBT equality.

Tags: Popnography
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