There's a fascinating post over at Collectors Weekly about the first "hunk," Eugen Sandow, and the history of objectifying muscular male bodies. In 1894, when Sandow became famous, it wasn't for actually lifting things, strongman style. It was for just posing and looking fine.
As Hunter Oatman-Stanford writes, "Not only did Sandow have one of the finest musculatures in the Western world, but he made physical beauty his primary talent: Instead of focusing on daring feats, Sandow simply posed like a gorgeous hunk of marble." Does Joe Manganiello know about this?
Oatman-Stanford interviews David L. Chapman, whose latest book, Universal Hunks, explores the early days of working out for the sake of working out — for aesthetics, not for health. This was intricately linked to sexuality.
Sandow established the vocabulary of physique photography that was carried on until the ’50s and ’60s. As long as the hunk was posed like a statue, you could get away with it. If he was posed in a more provocative style, then it was considered pornography. You had to be careful. There was a thin line you had to tread.
Chapman also explains how early physique magazines evolved into gay porn:
If you say it’s a health magazine, people won’t shut you down. If they say this is gay softcore porn, you would get shut down immediately.
Awesome images of Sandow, vintage physique magazines and lots more at the link!