Virilizing Homosexuality: Queering Body Cultures after the Wilde Trials
Brauer, F. 2016. Virilizing Homosexuality: Queering Body Cultures after the Wilde Trials. Exploring queer cultures & lifestyles in the creative arts in Britain c1885-1967. University of the Arts, London 12 Mar 2016
After the third trial of Oscar Wilde when paranoia of insidious ‘inversion’ peaked, Eugen Sandow’s physical culture became widely advocated for the attainment of muscularized manhood and the eradication of onanism and ‘inversion’. Extolled by the Marquis of Queensbury as a defence against effeminacy and by National Efficiency reformers as a panacea for degeneration, Sandow’s physical culture was also lauded by ‘uranists’ and ‘unisexuals’ for virilizing and depathologizing ‘inversion’. The very year that The Intermediate Sex was published, Edward Carpenter openly advocated the practice of physical culture in Sandow’s Magazine, while insisting that the male body in Sandow’s Institutes would benefit from being bared in “a large open swimming bath”, with “a running track” and “horizontal bars in convenient locations”. “Uranians of the “normal type”, explained Carpenter in Love’s Coming-of-Age, “possess thoroughly masculine powers of mind and body” and are “often muscular and well built.” Extolling the virtues of the Ancient Greek gymnasium as Sandow’s model, Marc-André Raffalovich maintained that the ‘unisexual’ was also virilized by art and culture in which healthy heroic manliness was glorified. “He loves pictures, statues, images representing attractive figures,” Raffalovich wrote. “He has heroic dreams. He is a hero loving other heroes.” By no means were unisexuals denied these phantasies, as this paper will reveal.
Exploiting physical culture performances and photography, Sandow was powdered, painted and photographed nude in the same postures as Ancient Greek sculptures of Apollo and Hermes, while readily modelling himself as Hercules covered by nothing other than a skimpy tiger skin for the British and New Zealand Academicians, Aubrey Hunt and William Reuben Watts. Corporeally aspirational while lip-lickingly exhibitionist, this art and body culture was able to appease the Marquis of Queensbury, lure King Edward VII while simultaneously attracting a huge homosexual following. By focusing upon the ways in which the queering of art and body culture was able to function as a double sign, a licit expression of illicit desire that was simultaneously permissive and perverse, this paper will demonstrate how paradoxically the very policing of homoeroticism after the Wilde Trials led not to its suppression but to its gratification.
|Conference||Exploring queer cultures & lifestyles in the creative arts in Britain c1885-1967|
|Publication process dates|
|Deposited||17 Jan 2018|
|Completed||12 Mar 2016|
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