There is a picture of fitness model and bodybuilder Ulisses Williams Junior in the male professional gallery that has been creating something of a stir. The flurry of comments highlight the divided opinion, some suggesting the young gym manager in New York is showing too much…ahem…maleness. Standing off stage in his brilliant red posing pouch Ulisses looks aroused in this forum posting: http://forum.bodybuilding.com/photo/showphoto.php?photo=19419 He has a magnificent physique that he began training aged 19 and his competition weight of 185 pounds has landed him a first prize in numerous bodybuilding competitions over the years. His parents are from West Africa and the Caribbean and he has a naturally lean physique, he says, in his bio on the Fitness Atlantic website. The comments on this Ulisses picture began in 2004 and continue up till today, some reflecting merely on his physique, others focusing on his manhood. They range from the smutty to racist getting at least one poster banned for suggesting Ulisses is well endowed because he’s black; while another comments that Ulisses can’t be a professional bodybuilder having landed himself an erection in his posing trunks. The picture, like others in the pro gallery with sexual overtones of bodybuilders in thongs in beach settings, got me thinking about what displays of maleness we consider acceptable. From the comments these pictures elicit it seems that sporting bodybuilders can get remarkably unsporting – branding guys ‘***s’, ‘homos’ and ‘sick’ for poses deemed homoerotic. When suddenly did it become acceptable to brandish prejudice like a badge of honor guys? It strikes me that we all find different looks acceptable. My own drive is to achieve a lean muscular look that would likely get me laughed of any professional stage. I admire the achievement of heavyweight category bodybuilders whose traps hug their ears and whose quads are so pumped they look ready to burst. But not wanting that look for myself doesn’t qualify me to call another man a gorilla, or dub muscular women man-like. Each to their own. Some men are gay, some are not - we all know that. And in a sport as varied as bodybuilding there’s a common aim for an aesthetic derived from dedication and a shared knowledge of how to get there. The Ulisses picture merely shows a man comfortable flaunting his assets. Does he have an erection? We don’t know. Is he gay? We posters can’t say. He may well answer yes to both those questions. But those offended should look away. We certainly shouldn’t so freely run our mouths when confronted with something different. After all, we may have bodies at different stages of development, but ultimately we’re headed in the same direction.
Author: Rajendra Shepherd is a magazine grooming editor in London, UK.