T Nation

Physical Culture Have Gay Roots?


#1

Did Physical Culture have Gay roots?

I was on a bodyweightforum and someone raised this question.

They went onto to say that the old Atlas course seemed to have homosexual undertones. In the thread someone claimed, though this stuff has since been removed in newer versions, that in an older version of the course it recommended activities such a naked sun bathing and encouraged getting friends to join you in this activity.

For instance in if you go to?

http://www.sandowplus.co.uk/

A site which archives information about guys like Atlas and the course materials they marketed there seem, to modern eyes, to be some undertones.

Below is a link to a piece on Atlas from an issue of Physical Culture Magazine which was published in October 1921.

http://www.sandowplus.co.uk/Competition/Atlas/Handsome/handsome.htm

The section dealing with Tony Sansone, who was billed as Atlas?s number one pupil seems like actual gay porn, in places. There are some photos in gallery in his section, which I can?t see being classed as anything else.

A advert from Physical Culture Magazine in January 1924.

http://www.sandowplus.co.uk/Competition/Sansone/start.htm

The picture gallery which, I think is a collection of photos from various magazines and training courses, seemss like nothing more than soft-core porn.

http://www.sandowplus.co.uk/Competition/Sansone/gallery/index.htm

For anyone who knows about the history of the old exercise gurus I was wondering did physical culture have gay roots? Was there a conscious effort made to market towards the gay underground? Or was it simply a more innocent time which I'm now unfairly looking at with cynical modern eyes?


#2

Women may have gotten off on seeing him naked, its not like he is with another dude. So it may be porn, but wether or not it is gay is up for debate.


#3

That's no more gay than a woman in a similar pose is. Some may say it didn't start that way but it's ending that way. Let's face it that stereotype of the self obesessed male pursuing this area of life has been around for a while. It's usually perpetuated by those that don't or can't make any progress and/or are insecure about their own bodies/sexuallity.


#4

I used to work in a book warehouse which had quite a largish section of stuff aimed at the gay market which sold fairly well. Though some of the stuff on the Sandow site is very soft core it does appear similar in tone to a lot of the calendars sold by some of the big gay publishers these days.


#5

That may be, anything like this can have an ineterperated "tone". Keep in mind that in Sandow's days things were quite different than they are now. I don't think this stuff was looked upon as gay by the mainstream. I'd bet he was viewed as more vain and freaky than anything else. Plus Sandow was a very strong guy, not just some poster boy, not stuff associated with the "weaker sex".


#6

Supposedly test levels go up with increased sun exposure, and your balls are a key area.

I read it in a mag, so it could be completely false...but if it is, then it's old bodybuilder dogma.


#7

If you or anyone else wants to think of it as gay, I don't give a hoot. If I had any doubts about my own sexuality, I might question it also.


#8

Erm ok...

I don't mean that to sound too dismissive.

But there is no need to be se defensive.


#9

It is what you make it.


#10

[quote]pbody03 wrote:

http://www.sandowplus.co.uk/Competition/Atlas/Handsome/handsome.htm

A lot of the stuff, to me now, comes across as soft-core gay porn.

From some of other stuff that I have read online the books certainly had very odd suggestions.

That's no more gay than a woman in a similar pose is. quote]

Those picture look tasteful to me. I think that some might even consider them art.

Is the statue of David soft porn?


#12

No, no gay underoots IMO.

Men today who think they are acting macho (dare i say think they are T men?) would be classified as homos back then though. Think about it, men wearing earings, insignificant tatoos, watching women in lesbian acts, etc. These traits were considered sickening just decades ago.


#13

Looking through those photos, I get the feeling that they were trying to emulate the classical Greek statues of athletes. These statues were for many centuries (millenia, even) the ideal of male body development.

Of course, gay men would have found them appealing, but in a different way to how we (straight bodybuilders) might do.


#14

Homo and bisexuality was rampant throughout ancient Roman and Greek culture; it was quite common for men to have both wives and boyfriends on the side. So that defense (emulation of their artwork) doesn't really help.

Muscle Beach, which most would consider to be the root of "physical culture" in America, was also widely known to be a hotbed of homosexual activity. Many people did raise an eyebrow at anyone who cared so much for how they looked back in the 40's, 50's, and probably even the 60's.

So to answer your question, while it may not have actually been started by the gay community, physical culture certainly had very close ties to it in the early days.


#15

I believe bodybuilding has strong gay undertones. It's not much differant than the metrosexual movement going on right now. How is getting your hair frosted, waxing your eyebrows, and wearing nice clothes, much differant than shaving the majority of your body hair, looking for certain proportions, and wearing oil and speedos. Physical beauty is a feminine trait.

The typical bodybuilder tends to go for the look that will impress other men rather than what a woman will get turned on by. How many women are turned on by Arnold's physique? Most you'll find think he's "disgusting". I'm not saying heterosexual men are getting turned on by it. Perhaps it's a dominance and respect thing.

If you're more worried about what the bouncer thinks of you when you enter a club rather than the chicks inside I think something is very wrong. It's not necessarily gay but it is feminine.


#16

So you're telling me that a sport/hobby that has well-muscled, shaven, and tan men dance around on stage in thongs for the pleasure of other men might have some gay overtones? ROFL. Or that guys posted pictures of themselves in stringy tank tops, daisy dukes, and posing oil bending over and lifting might have homosexual overtones? hahahaahahahahahahahahaha NEVER!!!!!!!!


#17

For those using Greek and Roman statues as counterarguments, you should look up pederasty. Some eye-opening stuff there.

As far as I understand it, "gay" and "homosexual" are fairly modern ideas. Calling them "not/gay" is about as accurate as trying to classify ancient music as punk or rock.

With respect to whether old-school (early 1900s) physical culture was gay, I remember reading something about it one of those books on the sandowplus.co.uk site. The author (of that time period) was arguing against the image that working out at a gym was effeminate and real masculine muscle was built through manual labor. Unfortunately, I can't remember which book/author it was, but if I recall correctly, that indicates that there were some "gay" overtones even then.


#18

My point exactly :slightly_smiling:


#19

Why does this shit matter so much to people?


#20

Absolutely there are gay undertones but who really cares?


#21

Because apparently quite a few have issues with their own sexuality and the sexuality of others. That is the only possible explanation.