Sex, Drag, and Male Roles: Investigating Gender as Performance

by Diane Torr & Stephen Bottoms

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Why would women want to perform as men? Why is gender crossing so compelling, whether it happens onstage or in everyday life? What can drag performance teach, and what aesthetic, political, and personal questions does it raise? Performance artist Diane Torr has been experimenting with the performance of gender for thirty years—exploring everything from feminist go-go dancing to masculine power play. One of the key pioneers of “drag king” performance, Torr has been celebrated internationally for her gender transformation workshops, in which she has taught hundreds of ordinary women how to pass as men on city streets around the world. This cultural subterfuge appeals to participants for many different reasons: personal confidence-building, sexual frisson, gender subversion, trans-curiosity, or simply the appeal of disguise and role play. Sex, Drag, and Male Roles documents the evolution of Torr’s work by blending first-person memoir and commentary from Torr with critical reflections and contextualization from leading performance critic Stephen J. Bottoms. The book includes a consideration of the long cultural history of female-to-male cross-dressing and concludes with Torr’s “Do-It-Yourself” guide to becoming a “Man for a Day.”

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