Skip to main content


Sex and Community in Chicago

Photographs by Dylan Stuckey


Sex and Community in Chicago

Photographs by Dylan Stuckey
From neighborhoods as large as Chelsea or the Castro, to locales limited to a single club, like The Shamrock in Madison or Sidewinders in Albuquerque, gay areas are becoming normal. Straight people flood in. Gay people flee out. Scholars call this transformation assimilation, and some argue that we—gay and straight alike—are becoming “post-gay.” Jason Orne argues that rather than post-gay, America is becoming “post-queer,” losing the radical lessons of sex.

In Boystown, Orne takes readers on a detailed, lively journey through Chicago’s Boystown, which serves as a model for gayborhoods around the country. The neighborhood, he argues, has become an entertainment district—a gay Disneyland—where people get lost in the magic of the night and where straight white women can “go on safari.” In their original form, though, gayborhoods like this one don’t celebrate differences; they create them. By fostering a space outside the mainstream, gay spaces allow people to develop an alternative culture—a queer culture that celebrates sex.

Orne spent three years doing fieldwork in Boystown, searching for ways to ask new questions about the connective power of sex and about what it means to be not just gay, but queer. The result is the striking Boystown, illustrated throughout with street photography by Dylan Stuckey. In the dark backrooms of raunchy clubs where bachelorettes wouldn’t dare tread, people are hooking up and forging “naked intimacy.” Orne is your tour guide to the real Boystown, then, where sex functions as a vital center and an antidote to assimilation.

288 pages | 29 halftones, 1 line drawing | 6 x 9 | © 2017

Gay and Lesbian Studies

Gender and Sexuality

Geography: Urban Geography

Sociology: Urban and Rural Sociology


Boystown is an engaging portrait of a neighborhood in flux, where different communities are trying to work out a way to inhabit the same spaces, and the questions Orne raises about identity and privilege are relevant far beyond the boundaries of North Halsted.”

Chicago Reader

Boystown paves a brave path forward. . . .Orne’s narrative nonfiction style makes for a pleasurable read, and the keen insights in the book are essential for sexualities scholars and urban ethnographers.”

Men and Masculinities

“[Orne's] ethnography offers us a moving account of the lived experience for gays who are undergoing a dramatic shift that is liberating, alienating, and contradictory as they try to understand themselves. . .[Boystown] not only helps illustrate the lives of gay men, but it also speaks to gentrification and the commodification of culture, and to how these social forces impact the lives of individuals. The book should be a must read for any scholar of LGBT+ issues, but also would make a great addition to a course on sexuality, gender, urban sociology, or qualitative methods.”

Symbolic Interaction

“The book’s strength is in the author’s willingness to tell it like it is. . . With refreshing honesty, Orne does acknowledge that we would do better to learn from those who feel alienated from queer spaces.”

American Journal of Sociology

“Innovative, smart, and neon-hued, Boystown is chockablock with characters and a compelling, wry narrative. This is a one-of-a-kind ethnography that promises to be a well-received book. Using Gayle Rubin’s charmed circle, a Bourdieusian toolkit of concepts, and the familiar sociological trinity of race/class/gender, Orne manages to walk the line by keeping this foray into urban sexuality rigorous with a light touch.”

Jonathan R. Wynn | author of Music/City: American Festivals and Placemaking in Austin, Nashville, and

“In Boystown Orne takes us beyond the gayborhood on a rollicking, dark, sexy ethnography to explore the ‘queer lessons of the night.’ This book is so much more than an ethnographic study of Chicago’s Boystown, it is a rallying cry against the dangers of centrist LGBT politics, of assimilation, and, most importantly, the threat of queernormativity as ideology and practice. Orne issues a call to sexuality scholars to bring sex out of the private, to focus on the liberatory potentialities of pleasure, to examine what he calls ‘sexy communities’ that vividly illustrate the ways in which pleasure, messiness, and embodiment can be at the center of social change and challenges to inequality. Boystown is a gripping and urgent read for sexuality scholars from all disciplines.”

C.J. Pascoe | author of Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School

Table of Contents

1. Nightfall
2. On Safari
3. Naked Intimacy
4. Sexy Community
5. Sexual Racism
6. New, Now, Next, Not
7. Gay Disneyland
8. Becoming Gay
9. One of the Good Gays
10. Straight to Halsted
11. Girlstown
12. Take Back Boystown
13. Queer Is Community
14. Dawn
Supplement: Producing Ethnography

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press