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Sexual Anarchy, 2

An icon of masculinity

The story of a beautiful hypocrisy

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Sexual Anarchy, 2
Sexual Anarchy, 1
Gustav Klimt

The contradictions of a society that wanted men to be muscular and virile, but worshipped the image of a feminised man.

1. Virility, muscles and patriotism

Physical culture


Modern sedentary lifestyles have undermined masculinity. By restoring muscle, France was saving its future, because a male body regenerated by sport would produce strong, intelligent little creatures. Lifting weights was a patriotic act.

2. Spiritual and female androgyny

The androgyne, favourite of the Fin de siècle


Strangely, this society worshipped the androgynous figure. The fusion of masculine and feminine souls was fantasised, feminine beauty was supported by masculine canons, while the effeminate ephebe embodied masculine beauty.

4. Queer theory and queer art

The repression: Simeon Solomon, Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley


The first queer theories were published, and we saw the first comings out. Yet Simeon Solomon and Oscar Wilde, -reworked by the talented Aubrey Beardsley-, were ostracised by those who admired them: a pathetic contradiction of a Victorian society that worshipped ephebes but executed its most talented inverts.

Readings Shearer West, Fin de Siècle, Overlook press, 1994 Elaine Showalter, Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siècle, Viking, 1990

Iconographic study

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