WWII, Gay Erotica and Uniforms

According to Alan Berube in his book, 'Coming Out Under Fire',

"The post-war growth and commercialization of gay male erotica in the form of mail-order 8 mm films, photographic stills, and physique magazines were developed in part by veterans and drew heavily on World War II uniforms and iconography for erotic imagery."

Looking through the photographs of men having sex from the 1940s in the collection at The Kinsey Institute, I did find that uniforms were used as a fetish object in some of the explicitly erotic photographs. These photographs of male2male sex were for private consumption only. However, I found little evidence of the use of uniforms as fetish in the published photographs of the physique magazines. Here image composition mainly featured classical themes, beach scenes, outdoor and studio settings.


Tom of Finland "Untitled" 1963


Touko Laaksonen
(Tom of Finland).












Bob Mizer/AMG "Untitled" nd


Bob Mizer/Athletic
Model Guild.
Cover of Physique Pictorial.
Vol. 14, No. 2.



Although not a photographer one artist who was heavily influenced by the uniforms and muscularity of soldiers he lusted after and had sex with during the war was Touko Laaksonen, known as 'Tom of Finland'. His images featured hunky, leather clad bikers, sailors, and rough trade ploughing their enlarged, engorged penises up the rears of chunky men in graphic scenes of male2male sex. His images portrayed gay men as the hard-bodied epitome of masculinity, contrary to the nancy boy image of the limp-wristed poof that was the stereotype in the hetero/homosexual community up until the 1960s and even later. His early images were again only for private consumption. His first success was a (non-sexual) drawing of a well built male body that he sent to America. It appeared on the cover of the spring 1957 issue of 'Physique Pictorial'. Here we can see a link between the drawings of Tom of Finland and the construction of a body engineered towards selling to a homosexual market, the male body as marketable commodity. His drawings of muscular men were influenced by the bodies in the beefcake magazines and the bodies of the soldiers he desired. Tom of Finland, in an exaggerated way, portrayed the desirability of this type of body for gay men by emphasising that, for him, gay sex and gay bodies are ultimately 'masculine'.



Australian Body Architecture II


Max Dupain "At Newport" 1952


Max Dupain.
"At Newport."



Very little of this iconography of the muscular male was available to gay men in Australia throughout the 1940s. The few publications that became available were likely to have come from America or the United Kingdom. Instead, photographers such as Max Dupain took images of Australian beach culture such as the one above. Dupain took a series of photographs of this beautiful young man, 'the lad' as he calls him, climbing out of the pool. Elegant in its structural form 'the lad' is oblivious to the camera's and our gaze. Although the body is toned and tanned this body image is a much more 'natural' representation of the male body than the photographs in the physique magazines, with their inherent posing for the camera.