My research explores the relationship between urban space and sexuality. I am currently finishing my first book, tentatively titled Public City/Public Sex: Homosexuality, Prostitution, and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris, which is under contract with Temple University Press. The book places women who sold sex and men who sought sex with other men at the heart of the history of nineteenth-century Parisian life. My work demonstrates the centrality of sexuality to histories of urban change, modernization, and consumer culture and participates in an ongoing effort by historians of sexuality to demonstrate the central role of sex and sexuality to histories of politics, society, and culture. It argues that the appropriation of public space by men and women seeking sexual partners for profit and pleasure shaped the meaning of the city for everyone who used it. The opening of the city to commerce, circulation, and social interaction enabled both new modes of social control and novel forms of urban pleasure. As the police and expert commentators not only failed to prevent, but also inadvertently enabled, the appropriation of parks, boulevards, cafés, and even public urinals by prostitutes, men seeking sex with other men, and Parisians seeking out sex, everyone who used the city found themselves wrestling with the sexualization of urban space. The interactions between these diverse groups put into question both the distinction between asexual and sexual spaces, but also between normal and abnormal individuals.
I have published portions of this research in several journals. I first published an article on the appropriation of public urinals by men who sought sex with other men in the Berkeley Journal of Sociology. More recently, I explored the use of serving girls in late nineteenth-century Parisian cafés in “Serving Sex: Playing with Prostitution in the Brasseries à femmes of Late Nineteenth-Century Paris,” which appeared in the Journal of the History of Sexuality. Finally, I laid out some of the theoretical and methodological impetuses of my project in French Historical Studies in an article titled “Sex in the Archives: Homosexuality, Prostitution, and the Archives de la Préfecture de Police de Paris.” Full citations to these articles can be found on my CV.
My next book expands upon this research through a transnational study of the relationship between transnational moral purity movements and urban sexual cultures in London and Paris at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth-century. I am interested in how each city’s sexual-political culture, especially those enunciated by first-wave feminism and early gay rights discourses, shaped both national and international attempts to regulate sexuality and ultimately contributed to the formation of the modern sexual regime and politics we know today. The transnational approach encourages a broader view than my first book and engages the precise connections built by moral purity organizations in France and the United Kingdom while also exploring the ways they constructed sexuality in dialog with their nationalist and imperialist projects.
I have also contributed to some local histories of LGBTQ people in Hattiesburg and at the University of Southern Mississippi with my colleague Dr. Douglas Bristol. You can view that research at Outhistory.org.