Our first sight of a jockstrap might have been in the mirror but it didn’t take on hypnotic force until it was glimpsed making its grooved, scooping way around a buoyant pouch, just slightly above eye-level as we sat tying our sneaker and the locker doors were slamming.
It is any wonder that the trio of shower room, locker room and jockstrap has been plot enough for so many porn films? As soon as we see the familiar bench in a deserted room with a row of lockers looking on like somber tin soldiers, we pretty much know what’s up ahead. Blowjob City: Population 2. With casual walk-ins dropping their towels and swelling our small town to, at times, an orgiastic metropolis. (Bukkake Nation, anyone?) Then everyone ends up in the shower for a bang-up reprise, but with different partners. Wash, rinse, repeat.
The locker room is the perfect…the mythic…setting for classic porn preoccupations.
The casual nudity, the boisterous energy, the echoing voices in the shower room, the promise of a chance meeting in out-of-the-way cul-de-sacs where a glance might linger more than you would expect — these are experiences common to all locker rooms.
Gay and straight are there to build their bodies — but for different purposes. For gay men, it’s about the body you want to fuck; for straight men, the body you don’t want to fuck with!
In homo fiction and porn films, “athleticism is sexually fetishized,” writes Brian Pronger, philosophy professor at Toronto University, “indicative of a particularly ‘hot’ male body, promising the eroticism of an especially robust sexual scene”
Translation: Powerful arms, flaring thighs, thick necks, muscular buttocks externalize male potency and are suggestive of abundantly heavy genitalia.
In his seminal The Arena of Masculinity: Sports, Homosexuality, and the Meaning of Sex, Pronger contends that the well-hung, well-built man is, in fact, the central tribal preoccupation of the culture at large, a preoccupation that gay men merely take to its ultimate conclusion. (I might argue that battleships, jet fighters, and atomic bombs with their “heavy loads” are more blatant, certainly more dangerous formulations.)
“Athletic training,” Pronger writes, “is the means by which bodies are made into hyperreal objects of homoerotic desire.” In this context his take on the “coyness” of magazines in the style of Men’s Fitness is particularly sharp:
Here, barely submerged homoerotic subtexts permeate advice on how to transform one’s body into the paradigmatic gay athletic body.
In these publications, fairly scanty technical texts are amply supplemented with photographs of athletic men exercising or just sitting around looking beautiful.
The men’s muscle and fitness literature has replaced an earlier homoerotic genre: books and magazines about dance, such as After Dark Magazine, which in turn was the successor to the earlier 20th-century physical culture magazines. This form allows the homoerotic content of a publication to be masked by the ostensible “legitimacy” of exercise, art, or culture.
Certainly no one is fooled by the subterfuge. Gay porn, by stripping away such purposely transparent fig leaves, has a clarifying directness, a simplicity and sincerity that makes the health magazines look smarmy by comparison. An antique air of smut and leering hovers about these glossy publications.