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#TBT: The Battle for the Bulge

#TBT: The Battle for the Bulge


From Eden to Chris Hemsworth, it's not just the gays anymore; the mainstream world is crotch-watching, too. Here is a short but plump history of the basket.


Don't get scared, it's just Jesus. Before we explore the artful bulges of masters like Jon Hamm, Nick Jonas, and Chris Hemsworth, we must first review these historical crotch shots.

Masaccio-theexpulsionofadamandevefromeden-restorationx633_0Above: The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden by Masaccio, before and after restoration. It was painted in 1425, covered up in 1680, and restored in 1980.

Dateline: Genesis 3:7
"At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves."

Some nasty stuff went down in Eden involving a serpent, an apple, and a big boatload of shame. The canon of nude art surrounding the Genesis story is staggering. Throughout history, various "restoration" efforts have attempted to censor many of these works. Apparently, Adam and Eve never actually looked down there before sampling some fruit.

Ever since they got bounced from Eden, cultures the world over have grappled with obscuring, hiding, or flaunting the goods. Some civilizations say, "I don't need to see that!" Others say, "Put a leaf on it!"

Today, bulges are increasingly under the media spotlight -- from late-night talk shows, blogs, and the internet's lust for Jon Hamm. How did we get here?

Greeks and Romans had no problem with nudity. The original games that the Olympics were based on were played in the nude. The attendance must have been awesome!

Jan_van_eyck_x633_0Above: Painting by Jan van Eyck.

Following that, there was a long dull time of tunics and robes -- Christianity on the upswing. But let's note that the whole corporate ID of Christianity is a nearly-naked guy on a cross with a small piece of fabric, sometimes transparent, like Jan's painting above -- just moments from slipping away.

Beginning of the Bulge Binge
The real crotch carnival began around the 14th century. Men's tunic hemlines began to rise and leggings were two independent socks that only went up so far. And then, before you know it, we had the codpiece.

06_20_braguette_renaissancex633_0Above: In this Renaissance image we see the cod, or what was also known as the "baguette."

1502x633_0Above: Was there spandex in the 16th century? A standard bearer, standing and holding a banner with the Cross of St. Andrew. c. 1502, engraving by Albrecht Durer.

Renaissance_man_dogx633_0Above: Agnolo Bronzino: Portrait of Guidobaldo della Rovere (1531-1532). An example of the codpiece made to resemble a large erect penis. And a dog serving side-eye.

Bronzinox633_0Above: Portrait of Emperor Charles V with Dog, Titian, 1533. Why were all the dogs' noses so close to the goods?Maybe codpieces didn't get washed much.

The word 'codpiece' originates from Middle English 'cod' which means 'scrotum.' It was a flap or a pouch attached to the front of men's trousers to accentuate the genital area. The codpiece might be adorned with embroidery, pearls, precious stones, or decorative stitches. Some codpieces would be pointed up, resembling an erect penis. (For more info, visit

16thcenturyarmorx633_0Above: 16th-century armor, in the "upswing" mode.

"Legend has it that Edward III, king of England from 1327-1377, had the codpiece of his armor enlarged to astounding proportions because he had heard that strength and military prowess were correlated with a man's endowment. As he was in the midst of the Hundred Years' War with the French at the time, it would not be surprising that he would try to seek any possible advantage available to him. He then ordered that the nobility and knights do the same to their armor. The legend goes on to say that the gullible French (from the nobility all the way down to the peasantry) were scared to death by the advance of the 'well-equipped' men. If this legend is true, and the personality of Edward III would support it, it is an example of how the nobility can influence fashion."
-- Modesty to Majesty: The Development of the Codpiece by Beth Marie Kosir

Below, Pier Paolo Pasolini's Canterbury Tales. Chaucer is NSFW, by the way.

In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the Parson criticizes short doublet and tunic garments for their revealing nature:

"Alas! some of them show the very boss of the penis and the horrible pushed-out testicles that look like the malady of hernia in the wrapping of their hose, and the buttocks of such persons look like the hinder parts of a she-ape in the full of the moon. And moreover, the hateful proud members that they show by the fantastic fashion of making one leg of their hose white and the other red, make it seem that half of their privy members are flayed. And if it be that they divide their hose in other colours, as white and black, or white and blue, or black and red, and so forth, then it seems, by the variation of colour, that the half of their privy members are corrupted by the fire of Saint Anthony, or by cancer, or by other such misfortune."

In 1482, Edward IV introduced a law that forbade persons below the rank of lord to expose their private parts via short doublets. People ignored it. Finally, the public outcry became too fierce, and, since men would not be inconvenienced by simply sewing the crotch seam shut, the codpiece was invented.

The Spanish court in 1550, bursting with virile pride over conquests in the New World, sported codpieces that portrayed, as it seemed, permanent erections.

Figlef_on-statuex633_0The Queen Is Displeased
A fig leaf cast in plaster was used to cover the genitals of a copy of a statue of David in the Cast Courts of the Victoria and Albert Museum. In the reign of Queen Victoria, the display of male nudity was considered contentious, and the queen herself was said to find it shocking.

The museum commissioned this fig leaf and kept it in readiness in case of a visit by the queen or other female dignitaries. The fig leaf was then hung on the figure using a pair of hooks. Today, the fig leaf is no longer used, but it is displayed in a case at the back of the cast's plinth.

Victoria's displeasure at male protuberance persisted well into the 20th century. Athletics, the ballet, and certain types of swimwear were still exceptional fashion moments for bulges, and seeing a bulge in streetwear was fairly uncommon. Boxer-style underwear was worn widely, so your tailor might ask if you "dress right or dress left" to accommodate your pants leg for the extra width on one side. Aside from these glimpses, it's hard to see much evidence of bulge celebration.

Chastitydevice_1880sx633_0 In a great example of the mindset of the moment, an 1880s chastity device. Not sure what the ring on the bottom is for, as people had no car keys then.

20th-Century Bulge: The Birth of the Posing Strap
Photographer and publisher Bob Mizer practically invented the beefcake magazine -- in fact, the biopic about his life is called Beefcake. In the late 1940s and '50s, his images of smirking, flexing men, all posed and strutting, acted out Mizer's tableaux vivants.

His crafty sets of army barracks, police stations, locker rooms, and gladiators' arenas were all peopled by exhibitionistic, swaggering youths, and they all wore the most obscene item of clothing ever devised: the posing strap.

Obscenity laws at the time still forbade the depiction of an undraped penis, so Bob Mizer's mother sewed little pouches of stretchy fabric, which were held with a drawstring about the waist. Another string went from the bottom of the pouch under the balls, up the ass crack, and connected with the waist string in the back. The posing strap drew attention to the obscured object of desire while keeping the publication street legal.


Bursting Off the Screen
For the diligent groin watcher, there were legendary moments on both the big and small screen.

Batman_and_robin_1966x633_0 Robin's Bobbin'
Burt Ward, who played Robin on the 1960s television series Batman, had a little problem. Actually a big problem. Not only did his mound look bigger than Batman's (Adam West) on-screen, but the Catholic League of Decency, in its constant scrutiny of television, was outraged. (Can you imagine how much fun it is to watch TV with them?) So Robin had to tuck and strap and push it all down to make the Catholics happy. You can read about this in a 1995 issue of The Advocate. Below, the Bulge Wonder -- you can't keep a good man down.


Clockwork_orangex633_0 Malcolm McDowell, shown with a large penis-like sculpture in A Clockwork Orange (1971), wore padded codpieces, along with the rest of his rowdy gang.

Film_conanx633_0 The ex-governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, wore a big furry cod in his Conan films.

Film_romeoandjulietx633_0 Franco Zeffirelli's authentically costumed Romeo and Juliet (1968) made Shakespeare so very accessible. See the adorable Leonard Whiting as Romeo at right, and Michael York as Tybalt at left.

Peter_berlinx633_0In the early to mid-1970s, Peter Berlin created some of the most recognizable gay male erotic imagery of the time. Serving as his own photographer, model, and fashion designer, Peter redefined self-portraiture and became an international sensation. His two films, Nights in Black Leather (1972) and That Boy (1974), played to packed houses for years and, along with other pioneering erotic filmmakers such as Wakefield Poole and Jack Deveau, helped bring gay male erotic films artistic legitimacy. Berlin had no dividing line between his performing life and his life on the streets of San Francisco. He was often sighted in the Castro, bulge rampant, as he strutted down the street.

Stallone_dreddx633_0 Sylvester Stallone in 1995's Judge Dredd wears a particularly weird, metallic codpiece.

Fashionably Full
Designers often revive fashion from the past with a new twist. See a few 20th-century retakes on the original codpiece below.

Eldrege_cleaver_adx633_0 Above and below: Black Panthers leader Eldridge Cleaver, in one of the more astounding reinventions ever seen, became Eldridge de Paris with his radical chic designs for men.


Versace-_-fall-2014-menswear-collectionx633_0 Versace's fall 2014 collection put studs on the stud.

Montclerx633_0 Nothing says spring like a Moncler quilted codpiece. A model walks the runway during the Moncler Gamme Bleu fashion show as part of Milan Fashion Week Menswear Spring/Summer 2011 in Milan.

In the uninhibited music scene of the 1960s and '70s, letting it all hang out was encouraged. Only uptight people wore underwear.

Stickyfingersx633_0 The Warhol-produced album cover for the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers with a working zipper could be one of the greatest moments in crotch marketing ever.

Ian_anderson_jethro_tullx633_0 Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull incorporated zany codpieces and cups into his costume repertoire.

Robertplantx633_0 Robert Plant's penis was practically another band member in Led Zeppelin.

Michael-jackson-freddie_mercuryx633_0 Freddie Mercury, left, while Michael Jackson on the right averts his gaze.

Modern Mound
All this historical justification brings us to the present -- the new age of the bulge. The starting gun seems to have been fired by the rash of Jon Hamm crotch shots which culminated in Jon's emotional plea for us to not think of him as a giant penis on legs (see the Daily Beast video below).

Nick Jonas Shows That He Is the Ultimate Good Sport

Above: Sugarscape: Nick Jonas plays "Guess the Bulge" featuring Harry Styles, Justin Bieber, Zac Efron, and more.

Below: Jon Hamm Has Competition.
TMZ: Idris Elba's Bulge

Andy_cohen_cockx633_0Andy Cohen's School of Cock
James Marsden and Jack Black fall prey to Andy Cohen's celebrity bulges. Video below:

Vpl_hemsworthx633_0Look Downward, Angel
Chris Hemsworth's thick and veiny moment in the new Vacation trailer is obviously faked. But his delight in the moment looks very real. Check out the video on

One More Time

Papua_new_guineax633_0Just so you know, Western culture isn't the only culture obsessed with all things long and pointy. Above, a Papua New Guinea man in ceremonial attire. Careful -- you could poke an eye out with that thing.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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Christopher Harrity

Christopher Harrity is the Manager of Online Production for Here Media, parent company to The Advocate and Out. He enjoys assembling online features on artists and photographers, and you can often find him poring over the mouldering archives of the magazines.
Christopher Harrity is the Manager of Online Production for Here Media, parent company to The Advocate and Out. He enjoys assembling online features on artists and photographers, and you can often find him poring over the mouldering archives of the magazines.