Who is the Queer Consumer: Historical Perspectives on Capitalism and Homosexuality

In this new essay, the first to synthesise historical interest in homosexuality and capitalism in Britain and America across the twentieth century, I ask who is the queer consumer, and what does it mean to consumer queerly? 

From the late nineteenth century, interplays between legal prohibitions, the expansion of media and retailing, and demographic shifts attendant with urbanization all helped create, through processes of appeal and denial, the idea of the queer consumer. By queer consumer, I suggest the historical belief that queer men were natural consumers who enjoyed using licit and illicit goods, spaces, and leisure activities in coded, homoerotic, and subversive, ultimately queer, ways. This notion of the queer consumer was shared both by those seeking to restrain homosexual activities and those hoping to profit from them. This essay begins to think more critically about queer consumers by providing an overview of extant scholarship, considering primarily how proprietors sold commodities to queer men, and by proposing avenues for further research.

From the Publisher:

9780857855305Bridging the divide between historical and cultural studies approaches, Consuming Behaviours discusses what makes British consumer culture distinctive, while acknowledging how these consumer identities are inextricably a product of both Britain’s domestic history and its relationship with its Empire, with Europe and with the United States. In twentieth-century Britain, consumerism increasingly defined and redefined individual and social identities. New types of consumers emerged: the idealized working-class consumer, the African consumer and the teenager challenged the prominent position of the middle and upper-class female shopper. Linking politics and pleasure, this collection explores how individual consumers and groups reacted to changes in marketing, government control, popular leisure and the availability of consumer goods.

Justin Bengry, ‘Who is the Queer Consumer: Historical Perspectives on Capitalism and Homosexuality’. In Consuming Behaviours: Identity, Politics and Pleasure in Twentieth-Century Britain edited by Erika Rappaport, Sandra Trudgen Dawson and Mark J. Crowley. London: Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2015.

Project Details


December 2014

Bloomsbury Academic

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