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Samuel Steward: Sexual Outlaw on the Gay Frontier

"Secret Historian, a new book by Justin Spring, examines the life of Samuel Steward, above, an English professor, novelist and tattoo artist who documented gay life in the middle decades of the 20th century."
"When the author Justin Spring finally tracked down the executor of Samuel Steward’s estate, he had no idea what this sexual outlaw and little-known literary figure had left behind after his death in 1993. So he was taken unawares by the 80 boxes full of drawings, letters, photographs, sexual paraphernalia, manuscripts and other items, including an autograph and reliquary with pubic hair from Rudolph Valentino, a thousand-page confessional journal Steward created at the request of the sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, and a green metal card catalog labeled Stud File, which contained a meticulously documented record on index cards of every sexual experience and partner — Rock Hudson, Thornton Wilder — that Steward said he had had over 50 years," writes Patricia Cohen.


Among the artifacts was "a green metal card catalog labeled 'Stud File,' which contained a meticulously documented record on index cards of every sexual experience and partner — Rock Hudson, Thornton Wilder, 'One-eyed Sadist' — that Steward said he had had over 50 years."


"On each of the 746 cards that ultimately made up his alphabetized Stud File, Steward listed his sexual partner's name, his place in the lineup (i.e., the 354th person Steward had sex with), the dates and locations of every encounter, a coded description of penis size and of every specific sexual activity, and a brief comment."
"An attic full of items contained a secret history of a little-documented strand of gay life in the middle decades of the 20th century. Steward’s experience stands in stark contrast to the familiar story of furtive concealment and persecution in the period before gay liberation. As new biographies of artists and writers like E.M. Forster detail the effects of sexual repression on their work, Steward’s history shows what a life of openness, when embraced, entailed day to day. This unusual cache is significant because source material from this period is rare, said Martin Duberman, a professor emeritus and founder of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Many of Steward’s contemporaries — and their heirs — destroyed or hid evidence of their homosexuality." Continue reading: Sexual Outlaw on the Gay Frontier

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