Naked boys playing at liberty

About male photography featuring naked men horsing around together, mostly at the beach. The (four) X-rated images are in a posting on AZBlogX; they’re there because they show penises, but in (I maintain) an essentially innocent way, but still there are penises. On this blog we’ll get buttocks and concealed penises, but without sexual charge, so the images are technically safe for kids and the sexually modest, but you might want to use your judgment.

There are points about sexuality, about social practices involving the body (notably, horseplay), and about the use of on leave and on liberty.

The whole thing started with a penguin-themed collage based on an image of naked men frolicking in the surf (#2 on AZBlogX). That led (after some hours of searching) to another image of the same men horsing around, an image carefully chosen by the photographer to be technically safe, one that got me to the source, a 1993 book of male photography, Shoreleave, by Andrew Kennedy.

This photo:


A cheeky description of the book from a bookseller’s site:

Four sailors and one naval officer take shore leave and provide the viewer with eighty pages of the young male in all his glory. As they leave the ship, one sailor urinates in the street. — They set out in a convertible, pick up a hunky hitchhiker, play beach volley ball, sunbathe and swim naked of course.  They pop a beer, play pool, just hang out.

On AZBlog: posing for the camera in #3 and #5, playing beach volleyball in #4. From AZBlogX:

Everybody’s cock hangin’ out for everything, but at approximately the sexual temperature of a naturist camp; if dick display can be said to be innocent, this is it. On the other hand, in their frequent posing, the guys show great pride in their bodies and pleasure at dislaying them (to each other and the wider world). But that’s a guy thing — if you’ve got it, flaunt it — not an especially gay guy thing.

As usual, men in general can appreciate these photos by identifying with the men in them, by wanting to be them, while gay men get an extra kick from seeing the men in the photos also as objects of desire, from wanting to do them. (Well, each gay man will have his own favorites.)

Amplifying on dick innocence:

[These images have to be on AZBlogX] because of the dicks, but the dicks are not at all the point of the photo, beyond the fact that they signify freedom and lack of constraint . [Putting this another way: their dicks are at liberty — NOAD2 on at liberty, ‘allowed or entitled to do something’, that is , ‘free (to)’]. (They hardly work as dicks for veneration or jack-off purposes: they’re normal-size, not even close to pornstar quality, and they’re retracted about as far as dicks can be, so they’re minimal appendages.)

Going naked is a male cultural thing (quite outside naturism movements), simultaneously an assertion of freedom (from conventions of propriety, order, neatness, and so on — note, all conventions typically assigned to women, mothers and then female partners, to regulate) and an assertion of masculinity through going rough and bonding with other men. There are long traditions of athletic contests in the nude, as well as naked swimming and running and the like, combining competition, demonstrations of endurance and toughness, displaying your own body and appreciating other men’s bodies, and joy.

In this context, a man’s dick isn’t so much something wielded for sex as merely a gender tag. It says: yes, I’ve got a man’s face and hair and muscles, and, oh yes, here’s the dick too. In this context, nobody cares how big it is or whether it’s hard, just that it is.

… [Another] significant feature of the two surf-frolicking photos: in the story they convey, the … characters are buddies, almost surely straight (and the models were almost surely straight too). They are bonding in pleasurable, but non-sexual, horseplay. Still, the images are homoerotic, because they show gorgeous men engaging in satisfying physical and emotional intimacy with other men. If you’re gay, that’s powerful, and really hot. (If you’re straight, it just looks like a lot of fun.)

Horseplay ‘rough, boisterous play’ is the relevant lexical item here. (The word has been around since the 16th century. My sources are not especially helpful in explaining it, saying only that it’s horse + play. Perhaps the original alluded to the gamboling of foals in the field; certainly, play — especially mock combat — among young animals  is widespread.)

The cultural practice, in modern America at any rate, is one engaged in by straight boys and men for fun; Kennedy’s boys are smiling or laughing in delight, as are the young men in this wonderful image (whose source I have not yet identified for sure, though it might well be Kennedy again [added 11/11/16: not Kennedy, but Warwick Rowers]) — who are also engaged in agonistic play, in mock combat:


Horseplay on this blog:

Item 1. In “Male beauty” of 3/10/16, on Johan Paulik and Chance in Bel Ami Studio’s gay porn flick An American in Prague:

[Chance is] taken on a four-day tour of gay-sexual Prague. Their scenes together are full of adolescent horseplay as well as hot sex.

The actors are in fact young and straight, and it’s entertaining to see them move back and forth between their characters’ intense gaysex focus and their own (not entirely unstudied, I grant) adolescent goofiness.

Item 2. In “The strap snap” of 12/12/15, about jockstrap snapping:

Out in the real world, strap snapping is a not uncommon bit of locker room horseplay by teammates, with one guy snapping one strap of another guy’s jock; it stings, but only mildly. Then there is towel-snapping in the showers [also intended to be mildly hurtful, but not actually harmful], and more advanced body play, like fingering a teammate’s asshole.

The guys involved in this horseplay are usually straight; gay guys tend to do their best not to put themselves into potentially arousing situations like the ones I’ve just described. (I’ve seen strap snapping and towel-snapping at first hand, but not asshole-fingering, though there are plenty of accounts of locker room play in which fingering plays a part.) The emotional resonances of this apparently aggressive play are complex: part jockeying for dominance, part male bonding in which the targets are accorded membership in a tight group and show that they can good-heartedly “take it like a man”. The play is ritualized and almost never dissolves into actual aggression. [Everybody is supposed to laugh.]

Linguistic note. Kennedy’s story is about sailors on shore leave, and his photographs show men at liberty to display themselves, which brings us to the American Navy terms on leave and on liberty.

The expressions on leave and on liberty have very different meanings in the Navy. If you’re on leave, there are no restrictions on your travel, within the time limits of the leave. If you’re on liberty, your release is time-restricted, usually a weekend, you can’t leave the immediate area (as defined locally, so from 50 to 400 miles, depending on your base), and you have to be available for recall; but all federal holidays are liberty days, unless you have assigned duty on board.

(For sailors on leave in NYC, the standard guide is the Bernstein/Comden/Green On the Town, on Broadway in 1944, on film in 1949.)

Carnal note. Kennedy’s photos above are from the front, so even if the dicks aren’t the point, they’re in the picture (or just barely concealed). On the other hand, many of Kennedy’s  photos celebrate butts / asses unabashedly, and that’s more clearly homoerotic. Another from Shoreleave:


There’s a gogantic world of beach butts out there, many already surveyed on AZBlogX. Here are two collections of surf guys, in shots where hand on ass is a thing:



As far as I can tell, these are straight guys hanging with each other, guys so sure of their sexuality that they can use hand on ass as an affiliative gesture. I don’t have good identifications of either of these photos, but Google Images suggests that #4 shows guys from a Latin American fútbol team, either Atlético Tucumán in Mexico or Atlético River Plate in Argentina, while #5 is simply identified as “heteros mostrando a bunda” (‘straight guys showing ass’ in Portuguese), in what looks like an American football huddle.

Buddy butt pats if you’re straight, copping butt feels if you’re gay.

2 Responses to “Naked boys playing at liberty”

  1. Tim O'Connor Says:

    Image #2 looks like Warwick Rowers to me.

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