Speaking of Sex: The Human Sexuality Collection

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This year New York’s Cornell University Library celebrates the quarter century anniversary of its Human Sexuality Collection, an ongoing study and documentation of sex-focused media. From rare books, essays and letters to artwork and pornography, each piece has been collected with the intention of encouraging research on the many topics related to sexuality, topics that that 25 years ago would have been entirely taboo and largely rejected by academia. The hope was that through this study of the various facets of sexuality and sexual study, particularly that of niche or marginalised areas of the community, that we might begin to view sex from alternative perspectives and, ultimately, accept it as not only a commonality, but as a fundamental part of the human existence.

“It is as if this most vital of human concerns is filled with too many dangers to allow it to be studied seriously.” –David B. Goodstein, former publisher of US LGBT publication The Advocate and benefactor of the Library’s archives.

As part of the celebration the library has provided a brief glance into the archives in an online exhibition Speaking of Sex presenting a host of  important artifacts in documenting the place of sexuality in society and the ongoing struggles people across the world continue to endure because of their sexuality, struggles so often forgotten in the smokescreen of crepe paper floats and ghb-laced partying that threatens to cloud occasions such as this weekend’s Stonewall anniversary. Below is Sang Bleu’s selection of images from the Library’s collection of zines, from independent gay publications to a beginners guide to cruising. (Explore the rest of this illuminating exhibition here.)

 

Queer Action Figures zine #1. New York: 1994

Queer Action Figures zine #1. New York: 1994

Queer Action Figures zine #1. New York: 1994

Physiques Speak zine #1, 1959.

The Beginner’s Guide to Cruising, 1964

Cruise Magazine Vol. 8, # 6, 1986

Christmas card from Frank Olson and Don Morrison
“A couple for over 40 years and 2010 inductees to the Leather Hall of Fame. During the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York City, the police kept closing gay bars, and Frank kept finding new places for them to open.”

 

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