PHOTOS: A History Of Man-On-Man Affection

A recent study found that some straight guys still think gay guys aren’t masculine. Evidently, one male displaying affection towards another male isn’t considered “manly.” But that wasn’t always the case. Once upon a time, men were much more forthcoming when it came to showing their softer sides.

Check out these vintage pictures of men from yesteryear displaying sweet man-on-man affection.

h/t Art of Manliness


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  • sfbeast

    Wonderful pictures. It’s fascinating to see the men in some of those old pics who look a little proud and rebellious and also a little scared because of how much more homophobic society was back then. And thanks for including a variety of races.

  • Bfrenz

    great to see’em

  • crowebobby

    Fifth photo down, in front of the Idaho National Bank, those guys are flirting with two pretty girls standing in front of them. Doesn’t diminish the affection they’re showing each other, but shows we can’t assume all of these photos are expressing homosexual love. And, yes, I’m as gay as you are.

  • SpunkyBunks

    Awesome pics. Doesn’t that sailor sitting on the barrel look like a young George Bush? :-)

  • Billy Budd

    I like the third photo, from bottom to top. The guys are impressively beautiful.

  • Jonty Coppersmith

    @Billy Budd

    I agree with you about the third photo from the bottom. Those guys are handsome, but they look like brothers to me, not boyfriends.

  • TampaBayTed

    I have old pics of my grandfather in World War 1 which show him and his buddies with their arms over each others shoulders and in virtually the same pose in trunks at some lake/beach in France. He was definitely uber straight. Also, tt wasn’t unusual for men to sleep in the same bed at the turn of the 20th century.

  • barkomatic

    Although the homophobia back then was much worse than it is today obviously, I don’t believe this kind of touching between guys was necessarily viewed as evidence of being gay in those days. Some of these guys are probably gay but I think many are friends–or just goofing off.

  • mz.sam

    Don’t kid yourself. Affection may not be considered ‘masculine’ by str8t guys standards but there are way more hetero/mano-on-mano sex occurring daily than statistic reports.

  • toberlin

    I think so too.My friends and I we talk pretty open about sex .And I know more than one”straight ” men who call this”watching a porn together”:) .My personal statistic is around 8% of men are gay/bi plus around another 12% who have a least one or more than 1 same experience ( maybe women even a few % more).
    This is no scientific report , just based on what I read plus reality I know about.
    Who knows?

  • jkb

    awesome pics!

  • loren_1955

    Guess I didn’t know the meaning of masculine. Never felt that showing another man affection or emotions made me any less masculine. All the photos here I would say are very masculine men. To me those who are feminine (or less masculine) are the limp wristed, fem sounding, queen types, the ones going around calling each other girls and women’s names. No judgement, just my definition. I am a man, I love men, I do man things with other men and that includes sometimes shedding tears at a movie or cuddling when feeling down.

  • toberlin

    loren_1955::)I think so too was to the “hand job” /”straight’ men Thing and NOT to the affection Thing.Beside I think it makes a man more man anyway if he is able to show affection/ emotions And who knows the sexual orientation of all these man anyway? I am sorry for not writing it more clearly.Its late here and I have to stay awake till 6.30 am.Got it and stop writing tired comments!

  • dali

    At least one of these men-on-men is sitting on something nice (sailor, picture #12) :-)

  • denvermtnbiker

    #3 from the top, on the right, is young Barack Obama, right?

  • commonsense

    Homophobia was not as big in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Male affection was shown rather openly as gay was not the big issue it would become. It was not until after WW II that gay would start to become vilified.

  • kevin83

    I had an older friend who was in the Army in WW2, and he told me stories of a man in their unit that would give BJ’s and a lot of guys would line up for one. I don’t know how accurate this account was, but that is one of the stories he would tell. It seemed that men of that era were not so rigid about things. It seems that the very hard lines between gay/straight (and points in between) came about later.

  • richard h

    I read all the comments but didn’t see the word ‘bromance’ used in any. This is just a word that has come up recently to describe two really close straight friends. I would say almost all the guys in these photos are just close friends and/or having fun. I can see that the modern industrial/corporate age after WWII may be to blame for tightening men’s sexual identity & codes. But, with the acceptance of gay men,, particularly among the young we see the phenomenon of young male cuddling. Acceptance that sexual &, more broadly, emotional expression can vary by many degrees is breaking down the walls that built up around male-to-male contact. Huffpost Gay Voices, where I read this piece, recently had a video in which several pairs of close friends had to say ‘I love you’ to each other just as, it was pointed out, girls do. With hesitation they each did so with a ‘Hey man, I love you’. And, so the barriers are falling and drawing us back to the past in all those beautiful photographs.

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