Homophobia and Bodybuilding


The following article comes from Strength & Health magazine, a 1950s American physical culture bi-weekly concerned with all things fitness. In the article, managing editor Harry B. Paschall attacks rival exercise magazines, whom he believes are using bodybuilding to peddle pornographic images.

The title of the article, ‘Let me Tell You a Fairy Tale’, reveals Harry’s opinions on the matter, demonstrating the long engrained homophobia of the exercise world. This homophobia is particularly striking in the bodybuilding world, which has long kept quiet on the issue despite the fact that Eugen Sandow, the founder of modern day bodybuilding, had a male lover. Heck even nowadays, people merely allude to the concept of ‘gay for pay’, leaving us to wonder how much longer will heterosexuality rule the bodybuilding scene.

See the article below. 

The menace of homosexual magazines is more serious than ever before, and the cause of clean physical culture is threatened by peddlers of pornography

Above are a few typical examples of the so-called Body Beautiful magazines aimed at the profitable homosexual trade. Such publications have infiltrated the bodybuiding field in recent years, contributing to juvenile delinquency and debauchery.

A FEW DAYS AGO, we received a letter from a police officer in New Jersey who complained that he could not buy Strength and Health in his town because all so-called “mucle magaizines” were barred from the newsstands through action of local people working in cooperation with The League of Decency, a Catholic Organization with headquarters in Chicago, Illinois.

The officer was perturbed over the situation because he felt that Strength and Health offered wholesome advice and a healthful hobby for young boys through weightlifting and weight-training. He thought the Leauge of Decency was hurting its own purpose by barring an influence for good in the comunity. We agree with him, but we can also understand the attitude of the League for it is quite natural to consider all the apples in a barrel bad if those on the top are rotten. We have written the League officials asking them to carefully read our magazine and decide for themselves if there is objectionable material in our pages.

If you will walk into your neighborhood newsdealer’s you can see for yourself the type of magazine that is causing censorship. In the past several years a flood of undersized booklets featuring the male physique in all stages of nudity have appeared. We show a few of these, picked at random, in the accompanying photograph. [note: the ones above are not the exact same issues as in the S&H article – TMF] Under the guise of wholesome physical culture, these dirtly little books are aimed directly at a very profitable market, the homosexual or “fairy” trade. They are on the stands for one reason only – to make a profit. Circulation figures show they do just that, because they outsell the regular physical culture journals, and are so cheap to print, that the profit is obvious.

While their ciruclation figures are impressive, another factor enters into their large apparent sale. They are so small they can easily be slipped into a pocket by youngsters who frequent the magainze racks, and thus carried out without payment at all. Of course this does not bother either the publisher or the distributor, since the dealer must pay for the magaine whether he actually sells it or not. How much the average store which deals in magazines loses on this type of publication is uncertain, but in our judgment, the type of person who reads such trash is very apt to be dishonest enough to steal anything in sight.

These magazines pretend to offer physical training advice, but they haven’t the space to do so. They are simply inteded to attract the attention of lovers of the male physique, and unfortunately, this includes a sizable number of misguided young bodybuilders whose intentions are good. The fact that they are aimed at the homo trade seems to escape these readers. Even the fact that they feature advertising by photographers known to cater to the “swish” trade, seems to leave the more normal bodybuilders unimpressed. We have even heard men high in the ranks of weightlifting and weight-traning condone these publications by saying they are harmless, and that all publicity is good publicity. Many young fellows who do not know the score actually submit photographs to these publications in the hope they will get publicity for their fine physiques.

There is a large group of so called bodybuilders in the country who simply close their eyes whenever this homo racket is mentioned. They seem to think that if they keep their eyes and their minds closed, the slimy creature will go away. But it won’t. When a venoumous reptile comes into your house you have to crush it or take the chance of being poisoned.

When the situation has reached a point where we cannot sell a clean magazine because of these dirty publications, we think something should be done about it. Other publishers continue to take this filthy money, and to cater to the immoral perverts who make these indecent pictures. Whenever you see a magazine that carries even ONE photographer’s advertisement featuring male photos, you know you are dealing with people without moral principles of any sort. These are the people who are killing a clean and wholesome sport.

What can we do about it ? One thing sure – we are not going to suffer in silence. We suggest, for one thing, that the AAU bar from competition in any athletic event any person whose photo has appeared in one of these trashy magazines. It is these so-called bodybuilders who have encouraged this disgracefull situation by offering their photographs for use in stimulating a vicicious trade. Some of these young men have cause to be proud of their bodies, because, in many cases, they built them from weakness to superb strength and health. But they certainly cannot understand the true facts — that these pictures are now being exposed to the droolings of homosexuals, and that their appearance in these books encourages other young and innocent boys to do likewise.

The police officer who wrote us about this situation tells about the efforts of the Boys Clubs and PAL (Police Athletic Association) to rescue underprivileged boys from the temptations of the slums, and he points out that weightlifting in such clubs have proven to be a splendid antidote against evil influences that contribute to juvenile delinquency. Yet the magazine stand in most communities stand free and open with this type of literature. Some time ago, the Comic Book Industry was forced to clean up the dirt in their publications. When are we going to do this in the field of physical training ?

What respect can anyone have for a man or boy caught with one of these books in his hands ? And why should Strength and Health suffer for the crimes of others ?

2 thoughts on “Homophobia and Bodybuilding

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  1. I have always been puzzled by homophobia in bodybuilding and not only because of Eugen Sandow’s case who turned out to be bisexual but also because bodybuilding descends from the Greek body ideal which a concept that was also created by men who loved men. As many perhaps know, during the time the Greek body ideal came to the surface Greece regarded same-sex attraction as higher than attraction to the opposite sex. In a way, men attracted to men had the monopoly on gym culture and they set the parameters for what was ideally beautiful when it comes to male beauty. From this the Greek body ideal rose and became as popular as it is today, a concept that gathers both athleticism and male attractiveness stemming from same-sex desire.

    It’s our societies influenced by christian views that have tried to erase the fact that it was men attracted to men that essentially invented gym culture. In the end, no other men will feel as passionate to become a living sculpture than those who love men because they can read and understand all the meanings in the male body that men not attracted to men cannot. This is clear in that there is no reciprocity, that is, gay men don’t watch nor do they express special admiration of female bodybuiding or muscle women in general because there is no attraction to the female body.

    1. Hi Kafka, thanks so much for stopping by with such a thought prevoking post. I especially like the parallel you’ve drawn with female bodybuilding, which at the elite level, is often castigated for being overly masculine. The appreciation of the male body within the bodybuilding community is certainly a taboo area for people interested in the sport. Indeed a cursory look at online forums shows the words ‘no homo’ written countless times after a laudatory remark is made concerning another’s physique.

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