December 17, 2010

Sins of the Flesh

Not so long ago I introduced the first guest writer to Being Manly. It is now my pleasure to welcome my humble blog’s first guest artist, the venerable and manly Julian Peters, whose literary comic art is making a stir in Montreal. He has kindly lent me these four panels, on the Wicked Ankle Flasher of London Town, to accompany my text on The Sins of the Flesh.

Some moons ago I complained, under the good head of ‘I Like To Be Tied Up’, of the male throat’s loss of erotic status. This could be recovered, I postulated, by the universal adoption of the necktie, which would surely have the effect of sending those who lust after men wild with anticipation for the rare moments when top buttons are loosed. I have noticed some progress out there with regards to tying the knot, but the jury is still out as to its impact on the libido. I must now return to this topic, plunged as I am – like a celebrity neckline – into a culture of fleshly display, and bodily exhibitionism.

It is not only the Germans who have lost the primal instinct when it comes to the flesh. It is a general disease of the West that we are no longer titillated by suggestion, and must instead witness the brutal candour of sex and sexuality at every moment. Once upon a time, a sigh, a lengthened gaze, and a knowing look would have been enough to establish that television characters had done the deed. Now we would not be certain, and we demand the ocular proof. One can blame the internet, if one will, which has taken the shame out of purchasing pornography. Partakers of such things used to get a thrill from the mere daring of having to purchase their visual feast under the gaze of public scrutiny. This also kept up the shame levels, and I believe to some degree kept our baser natures in check. The internet has dispensed with all these balancing forces. The result is a whole new level of exposure, if you will, and now nothing short of the whole hog, sometimes literally, will do the trick. To be sure, the depths of the human imagination have always been plumbed, packaged and sold, for those few who had a taste for it. But now it seems to be the norm, and this is our loss.

Don’t mistake this for prudery. It’s really rather the opposite. We are sensual and thinking beings, and for as long as man has thought, he has known that eros and logos make for a heady cocktail. The greatest thing about humanity’s capacity for the erotic is its elevation above that which is merely animal. It is our sinking to the level of the beast that I decry, and the problem is just too much flesh, too often.

Never was a period more erroneously known for prudery than the Victorian Age. Here were men and women in a state of almost permanent arousal, for their taboos were so far-reaching. The merest improper suggestion could cause embarrassment; the slightest transgression of social inhibitions led to scandal. Quite self-consciously, all talk of sex was strictly censored, or else subject to censure. The only way safely to stay within these bounds was to make sure that one always kept them in mind. In short, Victorians thought about sex all the time. The slightest hint of sexuality sent shivers up the spine. An ankle here, a wrist there, a bat of the eyelids perhaps: any such thing sent a man – or a woman – into an internal frenzy. Just imagine what the bedroom scene must have been like, once all that passion was given an outlet.

In sum, taboos feed the imagination, and it is through our imagination that we thrive as humans. If all our mental capacities are denied to us through a too ready access to images of base animality, then base animals are what we shall become.


  1. Doctor, brutal candour is too much; you have convinced me; I am enlisted in the struggle against a world teeming with the most inappropriate things you could care to imagine.

  2. Well they're quite marvelous! It's not so often that illustration has dignity in the lines. Especially humorous illustration.

    The Flasher herself is rather cute - look at that guileless face!

    As for the question of ties - personal preference is for cravat, neckerchief or scarf (though I am very fussy about how a scarf is arranged & knotted).. because I enjoy overstated panache. But the theory holds.

  3. Thanks for visiting my blog, and for directing me to more gorgeous illustrations by Julian Peters!

  4. Thanks for the complimentary comments, and a thank you to "Out of Line" for the kind words about my Prufrock comic on your site. I also greatly enjoyed the comic you gave me, with its unusual combination of Art Nouveau sinuosity and a kind of Moomin-like decorative sensibility (Perhaps a reflection of your Scandinavian roots?).
    I have a rudimentary web site up now, but given that I am in some ways even more old-fashioned than Vir Beatum, I can't for the life of me find my own way around it for the moment, and I only have a couple of images up. But here's the link:
    I should be working the kinks out throughout the holidays however.

  5. Consider my post today as the beginning of a campaign to return wicked ankle flashers to the city streets!

  6. What? No mention of the Burgundy Lion Pub in Montreal, where the art work in question is displayed and can best be admired?

  7. The latest post has an inescapable signpost to the BL, Dave. But art is never defined by its gallery, right?


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