Even in the mid 1970's companies such as Colt Studios, which has built a reputation for photographing hunky, very well built masculine men, used classical themes in their photography of muscular young men. Most of the early Colt magazines have photographs of naked young men that are accompanied by photographs and illustrations based on classical themes as can be seen in the image below. In their early magazines quite a large proportion of the bodies were hirsute or had moustaches as was popular with the 'clone' image at the time. Later Colt models of the early 1980's tend towards the buff, tanned, stereotypical muscular mesomorph in even greater numbers. Sometimes sexual acts are portrayed in Colt magazines but mainly they are not. It is the "look" of the body and the face that the viewers desiring gaze is directed towards - not the sexual act itself.
As social morals relaxed in the age of 'free love', physique photographers such as Bob Mizer from Athletic Model Guild produced more openly homoerotic images. In his work from the 1970's full erections are not prevalent but semi-erect penises do feature, as do revealing "moon" shots from the rear focusing on the arsehole as a site for male libidinal desires. A less closeted, more open expression of homosexual desire can be seen in the photographs of the male body in the 1970's. (See the In-Press chapter for more information on the transition from late physique to early gay pornography magazines in America). What can also be seen in the images of gay pornography magazines from the mid 1970s onwards is the continued development of the dominant stereotypical 'ideal' body image that is present in contemporary gay male society - that of the smooth, caucasian, tanned, muscular mesomorphic body image.
The subject is wary of the camera, hand gripping the chair arm, legs crossed in a protective manner but I think that the important significance of this photograph lies in the fact that the subject allowed himself to be photographed at all, with his face visible, prepared to reveal this portion of his life to the probing of Arbus' lens. In the closeted and conservative era of the 1960's (remember this is before Gay Liberation), to allow himself to be photographed in this way would have taken an act of courage, because of the fear of discrimination and persecution including the possible loss of job, home, friends, family and even life if this photograph ever came to the attention of employers, landlords and bigots.