rough trade

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rough trade (uncountable)

  1. (slang) Rough or tough men who are either gay or are straight but available as casual sexual partners for other men (for example in exchange for money).
    • 1932, John Dos Passos, 1919:
      Looked to me like one of these here sissies lookin' for rough trade, see, thought I'd roll him for some jack, what the hell, what can you do if you're sick an' can't work?
    • (Can we date this quote?), Ned Rorem, quoted by Nadine Hubbs in 2004 in The Queer Composition of America’s Sound (ISBN 0520241851):
      Marc Blitzstein [...] forever championed the working class but avoided rubbing elbows with them unless they were rough trade (which wasn't quite elbows).
    • 2011, Dagmar Herzog, Sexuality in Europe: A Twentieth-Century History, page 33:
      Some of them preferred only men; some of them dressed in flamboyant “feminine” style; some continued to be interested also in women but wore lipstick and dressed as “queans” when they went to gay clubs. But many of these men who were “to be had” were “rough trade” whose self-understanding was by no means either effeminate in gender role or exclusively homosexual in object choice.
    • 2015, Ryan Berg, No House to Call My Home: Love, Family, and Other Transgressions:
      I was compelled to check in on him after I'd come across a photography book in the East Village about gay male go-go dancers in New York. The book showed gritty backrooms, suggestions of illicit sex, parties, and drugs. Flipping through its pages, I saw dancers caught in risqué, frozen poses. The photographer suggested the subjects were “rough trade,” men with criminal pasts, busted for prostitution, drugs, or assault. Others were “gay for pay,” husbands with wives and kids, trying to scrape by.
  2. (slang) Violent or sadomasochistic sex, especially casual gay sex.
    • 2000, Susan Stryker, Gay Pulp Address Book (ISBN 0811821811):
      Marcus Miller, The Mother Truckers (San Diego: Phenix Publishers, 1968)
      Truck drivers Joe, Jimmy, and Allyson cruise the nation's highways in a never-ending quest for rough trade. That's how they get their kicks and break free from the boredom of the road. When they cross paths with Gino and his biker gang, however, the truckers get more than they've bargained for. These hardcore homos are into heavy-duty sadomasochsim, and they think they've found three new slaves!


  • New Dictionary of American Slang →ISBN.