Professor James Polchin’s new book, Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall has been published to praise from Kirkus and the New Republic. An early review from Kirkus called it “an enlighteningly provocative cultural history.”
In his article “Finding Stonewall,” the New Republic’s Alexander Chee selects Indecent Advances as one of three books to reconsider our understanding of the Stonewall Riots of 1969: “What makes Polchin’s readings stand out is the way he pursues an underlying story across several seemingly separate crimes. He is interested in the way the stories of these crimes, their prosecution in court and in the press, are shaped by socioeconomic class and race.”
Indecent Advances tells the story of how homosexuals were criminalized in the popular imagination—from the sex panics of the 1930s, to Kinsey study of male homosexuality of the 1940s, and the Cold War panic of Communists and homosexuals in government. Polchin illustrates the vital role crime stories played in circulating ideas of normalcy and deviancy, and how those stories were used as tools to discriminate and harm the gay men who were observers and victims of crime. More importantly, he shows how this discrimination was ultimately transformed by activists to help shape the burgeoning gay rights movement in the years leading up to Stonewall Riots of 1968.