Advertisements, Personal (EoH)

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In the years before World War I insertions by homosexuals began to appear in the personal columns ("petites annonces") of mainstream newspapers in France and Germany. Unlike contemporary graffiti, they avoided sexual explicitness and were couched in the guise of seeking friendship. No counterpart is known in English-speaking countries of the time. In the 1920s the homophilepress of Germany became even bolder, but it was soon snuffed out by the Depression and the rise of the Nazis.

In the United States in the 1960s, the underground press represented by such Counterculture organs as The Berkeley Barb and The East Village Other began to push farther the boundaries of accepted expression-as seen in the printing of fourletter words and graphic descriptions of sexual acts in news stories. In order to enhance revenue, these papers ran personal ads soliciting sexual partners. This custom was taken over by the gay newspapers, some of which have quite extensive listings. Although they are explicit and oftenraunchily detailed as to the activities desired, to save space they tend to employ a code of abbreviations recalling that used by real-estate ads. The existence of these ads.has enlarged the sexual marketplace beyond the usual sphere of face-to-face meeting. These ads are generally separate from those placed by "entrepreneurs of the body," models, masseurs, and escorts; for their services payment is expected (generally at a specified rate).

Analysis of the ads reveals different styles for men and women. Women's ads are less explicit and are more likely to turn upon qualities of personality such as one might seek in a friend. Male ads tend to show remarkablenarrowness in somatic tastes-height, weight, hairiness, race, etc. Age restrictions in the desired partner are common, with parameters generally going considerably below the age of the person who places the ad, but rarely much above it. The coming of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s led to a decline in certain appeals (as for rimming), as well as more positive indications, such as the notation that the advertiser is "health conscious."

As a rule American and English mainstream newspapers do not accept personal ads for sex. In Europe, however, as a striking token of recent changes, they even appear in middle-class, "family" newspapers.


John Preston and Frederick Brandt, Classified Affairs: A Gay Man's Guide to the Personal Ads, Boston: Alyson, 1984.

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