Janes, D (2021) The Varsity Drag: Gender, Sexuality and Cross-Dressing at the University of Cambridge, 1850-1950. Journal of Social History, 55 (3). pp. 695-723. ISSN 0022-4529

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The records of student societies show that cross-dressing was a very popular practice at Cambridge University from the second half of the nineteenth century not only in drama but at a wide range of social events. Male and female students were segregated from one another in single-sex colleges because of the perceived moral dangers of co-education. One result of this was that plays were acted entirely by men or by women. Men’s performances of female glamour were sexualized in ways that appeared to confirm cross-sex desire but also contained the potential for flirtation with same-sex eroticism. Some student male actors began to accentuate knowingly queer elements of cross-dressing during the 1920s at a time when homosexuality was becoming more widely discussed in association with gender inversion. The authorities, meanwhile, had become less worried about preventing romantic liaisons between members of the opposite sex than they were about the possibility of same-sex scandals. Drama societies that recruited from across the University began to debate the admission of women members as a way of preventing the student stage from becoming associated with homosexuality and effeminacy. Productions in which men and women only performed as their own sex restored an appearance of heterosexual normality. Cross-dressing had a long afterlife in burlesque reviews in which the audience could be led to understand that it was camp homosexuality that was being parodied.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the accepted author manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Oxford University Press at https://academic.oup.com/jsh - please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2021 09:13
Last Modified: 17 May 2022 14:57
URI: https://eprints.keele.ac.uk/id/eprint/9362

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