The beautiful Phil Lambert looks as though he is awakening and about to abandon his artistic pedestal and step onto more solid ground here. The presence of visible hair on the model's body also marks a significant step too - towards a more real and open depiction of the naked male form. That body hair forms an integral part of the line that is the backbone of this picture - a sweeping arc that runs from his cheek down the length of his torso and away through his leg to the very tip of his toe. If you imagine tracing that line with your fingers you will understand just how sensual the pose actually is, despite it's outward academic appearance (and all know how erotic the stretching of a tired leg actually feels!). The modesty-imposing G-string introduces a key stopping-off point on that arc, in fact it draws attention to it - as does the hair on the model's abdomen which is clearly 'undoctored' and free to play it's natural role as 'treasure trail' and pointer. The dark crevice formed below the pouch by the model's intersecting legs is like the dot on that pubic exclamation mark and darkly suggestive in it's own right.
|Billy Joe Carr|
This image of Billy Joe Carr trying to free himself from a restricting net provides an apt illustration of another step forward. His genitals are showing clearly through the flimsy fabric of the posing pouch with the creases running down from the top hem suggesting an equivalent, sexual straining at the leash. In this image the posing pouch itself is clearly aiding and abetting a sexual display.
Here's Joe Lynes, struggling to hang on to something pretty important. Another man perhaps? Or is he trying to bring that dangling tassel into contact with his pouch? These 'struggle' images were generally suggestive of virility but this one has a distinct flavour of resisting rather than controlling. His compact, shapely pouch adds it's intended emasculating touch, but there's a glimpse of resistance there too in the shape of a penis making it's presence felt.
|Danny Alsop (WPG)|
You will observe that there is a striking similarity between this image and the the one of Phil Lambert that tops this post. Notably the subtly erotic folded leg and dark crevice motif. The difference here is Danny's happy 'come-on' smile and the more open display of manhood. This informality greatly intensifies the suggestive undertones of the pose and you can see here how the hand-on-head element (present in both pictures) signals availability.
These images come from a time when censorship was gradually fading away through a series of compromises which sought to balance the opposing views of conservatism and freedom, coupled with an increasing disinclination on the part of officialdom to actually apply any 'rules'. In this confusion there was an incentive for erotic photographers to push at the boundaries. The prospect of seeing much loved models totally nude excited loyal followers and commercial image producers alike. This was a golden era in more ways than one.
|Dick Stark (Champion)|
The display is even more overt in this picture of Dick Stark and he looks well pleased doesn't he? I have questioned the authenticity of the contents of Champion's pouches in previous articles but that doesn't affect the significance of the imagery. It is however a reminder that these models faced a challenge not unlike that of movie stars in the dying years of the silent movie era. When fans finally got to experience 'the real thing' would it add to their 'reputation' or destroy it?
There's absolutely no compromise in this picture at all. The angle of the shot makes it's sexual intent completely clear as well as flattering the model's assets in a delightful way. There's no question in my mind that the shroud of pouch fabric does nothing to moderate the erotic punch of this image - it actually increases it, not least because of the way it gathers together and disappears between his buttocks.
This picture is probably also by Champion but I have to say that this cock looks real enough to me. I suspect that a shape like this was possibly even more alarming to censors (and exciting to audiences) in the UK, since the uncut men who predominate here only reveal this detail when fully aroused.
At the end of this little historical review, John Davidson can look towards a better future with head held high and cock pointing upwards, even if it's not quite erect yet. (As it turned out in the UK 'the angle of dangle' was to become another of the later, bizarre restrictions that for a time delayed the movement towards complete freedom of expression in sexual nudity). However, although this seems amusing looking back, we should not forget that the suppression of male nude images was part of a much wider framework of oppression intended to prevent gay men having any respect or freedom to enjoy their sexuality.
It's no exaggeration to say that the ordinary gay men in these images and the photographers and publishers who stood behind them were heroes of the gay resistance, secretly reaching out to fellow gays around the world to reassure them they were not alone or forgotten. Their weapons of printed images were seemingly trivial in nature but their determination to be seen as human and beautiful, in spite of all the crude efforts of heterosexual society to make them invisible and ugly, played a vital role in undermining censorship and ultimately bringing the edifice of gay oppression tumbling down.
As we have seen the humble, laughable, posing pouch was a key ingredient of that campaign, gradually transforming itself from defensive shield and instrument of oppression to the symbol of defiant Pride we see in the last picture. Even at this late stage the pouch is still crude in nature, inherently mannish I suppose, but it's an ironic reflection of its improvised nature and temporary role as what you might think of as something like prisoner clothing. It deserves our respect and love.
(of the beginning!)
(of the beginning!)
Read this series from Part 1