Before porn ruled your lives: Meet the boyish beefcake of Young Physique magazine

Categories: Studies in Crap
Each Thursday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.

Young Physique Magazine

Date: August, 1961
Publisher: Body Builder Publications
Discovered at: Estate sale
The Cover Promises: "Behold my mighty branch!"
Representative Quote:
"Coming across a large manila envelope in our morning mail from Milo of Los Angeles always evokes a sensation of genuine pleasure, for in that packet we invariably meet a new model of handsome face and impressive physique posed in photographed in the inimitable Milo manner. You can imagine how pleased we were to find Dennis Sheeler on our desk a few days ago. Wouldn't you be, too?"

Hard to believe, but just a couple generations back Americans could read all the way through a sentence as long as this one without clicking over to for an ass break.

Go ahead. While you do that, I'll muse on porn's prevalence in our lives.

Seriously, you know how that crisp breath a beercan makes when you pop it open used to be the official sonic signifier of well-earned, All-American relaxation? To regain such status, that beer can today would actually have to hiss "Assssssss!"

You done?

Good. So, before the early 1970s, pornography - which Your Crap Archivist defines as "media designed exclusively to facilitate the one-man-band approach to love" - was forbidden in the American mailways, which explains everything from why Playboy doled out for Cheever stories to the existence of fake-scientific curios like 1969's A Man's Pictorial Guide to Feminine Hygiene, a spread-eagle classic I'll get around to sharing the day my mother stops reading these columns.

It also helps explain magazines like Young Physique. Purportedly a celebration of grand human achievement in bodybuilding, it seems equally interested in what boys just get from God.

Sometimes, it looks like the nose on Groucho glasses.

Sometimes, it's lunchmeat in a surgical mask.

Young Physique comes from Body Builder Publications, who also gave us Muscle Builder, Demi-Gods, and Mr. America. The last of these reveals something of the tricky position such rags were in. Their beefcake shots cheered an ideal of American strength, but mostly for an audience that many Americans believed sapped that strength just by existing.

It's difficult to imagine today that photos like these could ever have been considered anything other than gay. Notice the gentle goofiness of many of the shots, the way that despite the hardness of the bodies the models themselves pose with a joy and delicacy foreign to today's muscle mags.

A side effect of the establishment of an open and proud gay media has been a certain de-gaying of manly pursuits like wrestling and weight-lifting. Perhaps to prove they're not gay, our current he-men are beholden to an aesthetic of toughness rather than beauty, of aggression rather than ideals.

I thank God for the honesty that we've gained, but I can't help but wish for a little of what was lost. Imagine if kids still had tough-guy role models who smiled once in a while.

Shocking Detail:
The Young Physique allowed occasional rear nudity, but went to great lengths to shield the goods.

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Puppies are even better than Colorforms!

Here, we see that even in 1961 the term "tree hugger" wasn't strong enough.

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Mail order ads in the back invited you to send off for more photos of your favorite models. These often failed to live up to the magazine's professional polish.


Don't ask, don't tell, seamen!

[The Crap Archivist originates his on-line Studies for the Voice's sister paper, The Pitch.]

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