Jacobs & Delany
“’This is deplorable! If these people had decent homes and a more private or bosky outdoor place, they wouldn’t be on the street.’” This quote is the epitome of the negative representation Jane Jacobs tackles about cities in her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Likewise, author Samuel R. Delany also discusses in his book, Times Square Red Times Square Blue, the misconception people have about the Times Square District in New York City from the late 60s to early 90s. Together, they defend the notion of city streets with benefits urban life can solely give. Firstly, anonymity is a major theme discussed in both literature pieces. In suburbia, it is inconceivable that townspeople do not personally know their neighbors. Since the population is far less dense than opposed to an urban area, it is less possible to have an anonymous identity. People would recognize each other from social institutions such as church, school or a country club for example. “In small settlements everyone knows your affairs. In the city everyone does not – only those you choose to tell…” Delany frequented many pornography theaters in the Times Square District between the late 60s and early 90s. Within these theaters he participated in numerous amounts of sexual activity with other men present. Before and after they took place, he sometimes made conversation with his partners. “If you wanted to talk about where you’d been or what you’d been doing, he was intelligently interested. ‘But,’ as he said several times, ‘I don’t pry.’” The men that he encountered kept their personal details to themselves unless asked. They all had a mutual understanding that they were there for mere sexual pleasure. Delany describes his connection them as long encounters instead of relationships, which would suggest strong emotional ties. However, with anonymity also comes the ideal amount of privacy both authors illustrate. Jacobs gives the example of Joe who works in a delicatessen. People entrust them to hold keys to their homes when lending to a friend while they are out of the city. Customers develop a relationship with Joe and can do this sort of thing “…because we know that he combines a feeling of good will with a feeling of no personal responsibility about our private affairs.”
In similar fashion, Delany and the other theater frequenters form another kind of trust. Often, they had sex with the same person various times because they could trust them with their bodies. However, their trust did not stem from personal details, but personal pleasures. “But that was the closet thing to real violence I ever saw there – over thousands of visits.” In what seems like a shady area due to the daily prostitutes and drug dealers on the strip, the porn theater was a strikingly safe place.
Suburbanites are forced to make contact in places that are designed for it such a resident’s club or school function. This is considered unnatural because contact is purposefully intended to happen. “There is no public life…