Why There is Boxing

In the 1850s Muscular Christianity (with its strong vein of latent homosexuality) was popularizing manly mensports like boxing and swimming, which required young men to display their naked bodies to each other. The novelist Charles Kingsley was the main propagandist for the muscular cult, and The Water Babies (1863) was, among other things, a long advertisement for the manifold joys of water sport.

ā€”John Sutherland, Can Jane Eyre Be Happy?

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14 Responses to “Why There is Boxing”


  1. 1 possum March 25, 2013 at 9:01 am

    What??? You mean the whole idea is not the manly demonstration of strength and endurance??

    • 2 bluenred March 25, 2013 at 9:06 am

      This fellow seems to argue it is instead about the manly demonstration of . . . manly parts. ; )

      Hi possum! I’ve missed you.

      • 3 possum March 26, 2013 at 3:15 am

        There is an argument to be made for display of manly parts. Did not the Greeks wrestle naked? Maybe Victorian standards took the fully uncovered away but still there is lots to see. The audience these days seems to be more about violence than nakedness but who can tell for sure.

        • 4 bluenred March 26, 2013 at 9:18 pm

          The Greeks indeed preferred their sports naked. They were also more open and comfortable with the notion of males admiring, lusting after, other males.

      • 5 possum March 26, 2013 at 3:41 am

        Blueness, I have missed visiting. Life is on the upswing but far too busy for comfort sometimes. Will try to come around more often. šŸ™‚

        • 6 bluenred March 26, 2013 at 9:18 pm

          So long as life is upswinging, that’s what’s important. ; )

          • 7 possum March 27, 2013 at 3:26 am

            Upswinging is a variable in life. Most would say yes to that description but some days work really takes over and is more than one might wish. Yet being employed and having a fine job is a good thing, too.

    • 8 Alexa March 26, 2013 at 12:00 am

      hello there, Dr. P! good to see you. šŸ˜‰

      • 9 possum March 26, 2013 at 3:16 am

        Amazing. You were on my mind just this morning. Reminiscing about days past. Very nice to see you about these parts. I miss being here but life is crazy these days. Good, but crazy. Take good care of yourself.

  2. 12 mieprowan March 26, 2013 at 8:27 am

    I ran across copies of “The Water Babies” a couple of times during my antiquarian bookdealing days. I remember looking over the illustrations cursorily and thinking “Gawd, what is this? Some kind of peculiar Victorian child pornography?”

    • 13 Alexa March 26, 2013 at 7:13 pm

      well, what is it, Miep? not hydrocephalus, right?

      • 14 mieprowan March 26, 2013 at 7:22 pm

        Racist claptrap, apparantly.

        From Wikipedia:

        The Water-Babies, A Fairy Tale for a Land Baby is a children’s novel by the Reverend Charles Kingsley. Written in 1862ā€“63 as a serial for Macmillan’s Magazine, it was first published in its entirety in 1863. It was written as part satire in support of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. The book was extremely popular in England, and was a mainstay of British children’s literature for many decades, but eventually fell out of favour in part due to its prejudices (common at the time) against Irish, Jews and Americans.


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