Tearooms are not only elegant salons in which ladies come together to share a refined cup of tea. They are also public toilets and as such likely meeting areas for sexual activities. Literary examples such as John Rechy’s The Sexual Outlaw have mapped out the dangerous and subversive potentials of these precarious places that continue to be threatened by policing, infection, and bigotry. And yet, tearooms are dissident and empowering marginal spaces in our social environment. Their architectural premises offer significant possibilities for pleasurable encounters through which identities are being reconfigured and ethics redefined.
Ralph J. Poole is Professor of American Studies at the University of Salzburg, Austria. He has taught in Munich and Istanbul, and his main research interests are American literature, popular culture, queer theory, and film studies. His latest book is on “Dangerous Masculinities” and he is currently conducting a project funded by the Austrian Science Fund on “Gender and Comedy in the Age of the American Revolution”.