Circles of Sex: The Queer Origins of the Sexual Revolution


ACLS Fellowship Program


Writing Program


This project uncovers how a network of queer writers developed much of the discursive infrastructure of the 1960s American Sexual Revolution. It tells this story through the lens of one amateur sexologist, Gavin Arthur (1901-1972), and the development of his visual schema “The Circle of Sex.” Throughout his fantastical life, Arthur remixed ideas from his famous friends and lovers—sexual radicals, bohemians, and sexologists—with astrology, to create a circular diagram of 12 sexual types that de-centered cisgendered heterosexuality. The schema circulated for almost a decade in early gay and lesbian periodicals before it eventually found its way into mass publication. Arthur’s Circle of Sex provides a compelling artifact to trace how the cross-pollination of theories within nascent queer communication networks influenced mainstream conceptions of sexual orientation and gender identity.