Print Culture and the Construction of Radical Identity: Juliet H. Severance and the Reform Press in Late Nineteenth-Century America
Male physique magazines populated the racks at urban newsstands across the nation in cold war America, circulating too through the mails, sometimes openly, and sometimes in plain brown wrappers. In an age of heightened national anxiety over bodies, desires, and the national project, nobody embraced the magazines. Nonetheless, from the emergence of the homophile movement through the Stonewall rebellion of June 1969, physique magazines remained excluded from the institutional auspices of the formal gay rights movement. Examining Physique Pictorial through that lens supports this project and supplements David Johnson's recent assertion that, while scholars often position activism and consumerism as antagonists, it was in fact "the very rise of a gay consumer market that helped provide the rhetoric and construct the networks that fostered gay political activism". By restoring Physique to its proper position alongside the homophile movement, we can better understand the conflicted genealogy of modern gay rights activism, rooted always in the interwoven political, commercial, and erotic spheres.