Sunday, January 16, 2011

Male Erotica, circa 1900-1905

Circa 1900-1905
Men living back in the year 1900 pretty much had the same basic 'levels' of gay erotica that we do today:  1) For the gentleman who only wants to dip his toe into the water, there's suggestive advertising, such as the underwear selections in magazines and the Sears catalog.  2) For the athletic minded, there's the health and fitness publications promoting muscle development, and those nude (or almost) models. 3) And then there were the postcards and photo sets.  Like photography itself, both had already been around for quite a while, but the Paris Exposition in 1900 took them to a new (and often naughty) level.  The publication of a postcard of the newly-opened Eiffel Tower sold over 300,000 copies to visitors from around the world. Without records, we can only imagine how many erotic postcards were sold.  4) For the serious sex-minded man, there were sets of nude photographs available, which did little to pretend that they were intended for art or fitness.  5) And usually if you knew were to buy the nude photo sets you could also get some of people have sex.
Circa 1900
1889 French Postcard

Although erotic photographs were being produced all over the world, in 1900 Paris was considered to be  the epicenter of the industry, and it wasn't very long before the photos themselves became known simply as "French Postcards" regardless of their origin. They didn't know it then, but this sex novelty would help transform American smut when soldiers returned home from The Great War (WWI) which was just around the corner.  While most of these were of women (and men enjoying women) it's likely that there were more gay/bisexual photographs available back then than we have record of existing today.  That's because the Olympics offered an excuse to be interested in male nudes.  Unfortunately, many men were likely to boast to their friends about the male-female sex postcards, while keeping hushed about the other flavors of life that they also desired to taste.  VGMH's survey on sex last September confirmed that point for more modern times.
Circa 1900-1905
The naughty images were usually (but not always) modeled after the respectably classic "art nudes" that were accepted in fine art and were originally distributed in La Beaute magazine. This periodical was as a catalog of images, with 75 nude poses per edition.  It was distributed for "artist's use" at tobacco shops, male drinking spots and street dealers. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the foreign troops passing through Paris developed an "artistic flair" while in the City of Lights and proved to be one of the main patrons of La Beaute, in addition to others with similar offerings.  The hand-tinted postcard was clearly marketed to men visiting Paris and wanting to take home something a bit scandalous.  But the truly naughty bisexual/gay ones were likely hidden away for personal enjoyment.

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