From the time of its first publication, Tearoom Trade engendered
controversy. It was also accorded an unusual amount of praise for a
first book on a marginal, intentionally self-effacing population by
a previously unknown sociologist. The book was quickly recognized
as an important, imaginative, and useful contribution to our
understanding of "deviant" sexual activity. Describing impersonal,
anonymous sexual encounters in public restrooms--"tearooms" in the
argot--the book explored the behavior of men whose closet
homosexuality was kept from their families and neighbors.
By posing as an initiate, the author was able to engage in
systematic observation of homosexual acts in public settings, and
later to develop a more complete picture of those involved by
interviewing them in their homes, again without revealing their
unwitting participation in his study.
This enlarged edition of Tearoom Trade includes the original
text, together with a retrospect, written by Nicholas von Hoffman,
Irving Louis Horowitz, Lee Rainwater, Donald P. Warwick, and Myron
Glazer. The material added includes a perspective on the social
scientist at work and the ethical problems to which that work may
give rise, along with debate by the book's initial critics and
proponents. Humphreys added a postscript and his views on the
opinion expressed in the retrospect.
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