Sexualities and Urban Life

Authored by: Gustav Visser

The Routledge Research Companion to Geographies of Sex and Sexualities

Print publication date:  May  2016
Online publication date:  May  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472455482
eBook ISBN: 9781315613000
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043331


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An extensive discourse has developed over the past four decades, which suggests a relationship between different sexualities and urban space/places (M. Brown, 2012, 2014; Browne, 2013; Nash and Gorman-Murray, 2014). It is claimed that urban places (particularly larger cities) shape sexualities and that these sexualities shape those places, particularly where gay sexual identities are concerned (M. Brown, 2012; Hubbard, 2011). This chapter briefly reviews one of the debates focusing on the study of urban gay space of gay male identities that are lived through the commercial gay centres of major cities in parts of Europe, North America and a handful of other national settings (Browne, 2013; Nash and Gorman-Murray, 2014). Recent reflections on gay scholarship argue that many views on gay life in urban areas have become entangled in a trap of concentrating on the production of gay identities and urban spaces. It is the contention that this view of gay life in the urban has been conceptualized by drawing on the realities of small areas in a limited number of cities, in specific countries, against which all other gay spaces are implicitly assessed. This chapter argues that, in the process, conceptual understandings of gay sexualities’ relationships to urban spaces are incompletely theorized. I contend that a vastly expanded empirical project is required that is informed by a range of other gay lives – lived outside gay ghettos or villages in a handful of Northern metropolitan regions. Drawing on experiences outside the currently mainstream, I argue that differently constructed gay identities are differently spatialized and ultimately incongruent with Northern theoretical constructions of the relationship between gay identity and urban space. The investigation supports the growing scholarship that suggests Northern theorization of necessary links between gay sexual identity and urban space is not universally applicable (Binnie, 2014; M. Brown, 2012, 2014). In addition, a number of future avenues of research are outlined.

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