The male body has been an object of widespread interest, admiration, and social contemplation at least since the time of the ancient Greeks. Contemporary American society has in some ways returned to the classical tradition of idealizing the male form, but with a number of troubling consequences that would have seemed unimaginable as recently as the mid–twentieth century. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, American culture increased its scrutiny of the male body and viewed it as both a symbol of an idealized masculinity (often a symbol laden with moral values) and an aesthetic object in itself.

The Nineteenth Century

Charismatic health experts and dietary reformers such as Sylvester Graham and John Harvey Kellogg contributed greatly to nineteenth-century American constructions of masculinity and of the idealized male ...

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