Vintage Wrestling

“Vintage” wrestling art holds a special place in my heart. The old photos and movies from the dark days of homoerotic suppression capture an amazing slice of history. American obscenity laws around the middle of the 20th century shaped the standards by which men’s bodies could be displayed for the sake of “art.” Videography and photography from early gay “porn” featured men in posing straps, frequently in highly contrived wrestling scenarios clearly intended to display beautiful young male physiques provocatively. Today, the images appear awfully tame, naive even. It’s homoeroticism cloaked in the (barest) pretense of modesty. The scenarios are so melodramatic as to be laughable, non-threatening, even juvenile. But what seems naive from today’s standards landed people in jail under the obscenity laws of the mid-twentieth century. The non-threatening scenarios and strategically covered up men were the flashpoint between a growing homoerotic sensibility and the desperate efforts of the establishment to defend heteronormativity. Although it’s apparently changed corporate hands at least once, AMG (Athletic Model Guild), is still selling the old catalogue and producing some new stuff with a nod to the vintage style. I hear that the 1998 movie Beefcake tells the story of AMG pioneer Bob Mizer (haven’t seen it yet). However far we’ve come in gay liberation and the maturing of the homoerotic and gay porn industry, the classics are still charming, beautiful, and sexy.

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