The Phallic Armoured Body

Anon. "Untitled" 1952

In much of the imagery of the muscular male the body becomes a substitute for the undisclosed and hidden power of the penis. The body becomes a huge phallus, hard and rigid, strong, erect and powerful.


Anonymous. "Untitled."
Athletic Model Guild



Irvin Johnson


Anon. "Untitled" 1952




The muscular body acts as a phallic symbol, surrounding itself with an implied sexual mystique, the physical embodiment of male phallic power. But the penis can never live up to these expectations.

After all the penis is just an appendage of limp flesh and looks faintly ridiculous most of the time!  



The muscular body becomes a form of dominance display; hard, bulging muscles embodying the mystical potency and virility implied in its phallic construction. Gay men are attracted to the fantasy of a powerful phallus. They too want to be powerful. In some sections of the gay community (especially the 'Muscle Marys' as they are known) the muscular body is seen as the epitome of physical attractiveness. This body type has a powerful image, as much for the supposed power of its hidden penis as anything else. Within the gay community a big body can stand as a metaphor for the power of a big dick, something which some gay men seem obsessed about. Muscular gay men are often derided by other gay men by saying that 'he must have a big body because he can't have a big dick' or, if a gay man is obviously on steroids, then his balls 'will have shrivelled up like walnuts and he will have no sex drive'.

I wonder whether these assertions are generally true or are some gay men just jealous?

The body as phallus has also become an armoured body, supposedly able to protect its occupant from the anxieties and stress of modern life. This body allows the occupant to control his environment through his body, not allowing any transgressive pleasures/messy secretions/intimacy/love to interject into his controlled armoured existence - no a(r)mour, no love. The body surface becomes an impervious barrier, all orifices closed to seepage across its boundaries. Hard, shiny and smooth nothing can penetrate this perfect projectile. This is especially significant with the onset of the HIV/AIDS virus. A big body was and is perhaps still seen as a healthy body, muscles becoming a sign and symbol of health within the gay community.


Douglas "Vic Seipke, Detroit" 1952
Anon. "Bill Pearl" 1952


"Vic Seipke, Detroit."



"Bill Pearl."

Bob Jones "Jim Park, Mr. World" 1952
Fritshe "Mike Barrilli" 1952


Bob Jones.
"Jim Park, Mr. World."



"Mike Barrilli."


Author: Here are some of my favourite physiques from a 1952 men's fitness magazine. I especially like the photograph of Mike Barrilli who I think is pretty cute!



Below is a contemporary advertisement that I believe illustrates the linkage between the phallic smooth, white muscular mesomorphic body and product. Advertising helps encourage the body to become a consumer of the product and postulates the body as a perfect product for consumption itself, at one and the same time. The model with the 6-pak looks longingly at the phallic, erect, penis shaped bar (a 'bar' in gay slang is a stiff cock), eats the bar to burn fat, to become 'ripped', so other men can gaze at and desire the perfection of his body as a product they wish to consume themselves by having sex with him. His body, his (chocolate) bar becomes a metaphor for the mythological power of his bulging (just) hidden penis.






"Burn off more
than you can chew."
Aussie Bodies
Festival guide.

Anon. "Burn off More Than You Can Chew" 1999