Beefcake. It’s a term coined for well-toned male models. They needn’t necessarily be nude; it’s possible to be ‘beefcake’ merely by being muscular and shirtless. Even Elvis Presley might qualify as ‘beefcake’ in some of his movies.

But ‘beefcake’ apparently had a whole different dimension in gay culture (see the gallery above), with magazines devoted to nude men in minimal military attire (cap, boots), bodies oiled, or striking ‘classical’ poses, all for consumption by a gay audience. Of course, as later magazines like Playgirl proved, there was also a female audience for such photography, and these ostensibly gay photoshoots would, in the 1940s and 1950s, have had some sort of female readership.

I did one of my wildly unscientific Vox-pops with some friends recently and asked if they had seen such magazines, and was surprised that most, usually in their teenage years, had seen magazines like Playgirl shared around in their peer group, and that all of them could admire the males photographed therein.

In a world where we’re told that women don’t consume porn in the same way as men, it’s still surprising to find that about a third of women watch porn on a weekly basis!

I have to say that I’ve never consumed porn. Of course I’ve found myself exposed to it at various stages of my life, but I’d never think of switching on a computer just to see two people making out, and more. That’s possibly because I’m a naturist, so I’ve been exposed to much, much more magazines, photos and films of the natural naked body.

Naturist or not, almost everyone on the planet is intrigued by the naked body. Porn users, we read, become desensitised through usage, and that real life sexual encounters are made more difficult as a result.

But there’s no getting away from the fact that we’re all intrigued by the naked form, either that of our own or the other gender.

Yes, there’s something beautiful about seeing people being entirely natural on the beach. And removed from the sexual element of the naked form, never desensitising. Away from the naturist beach, there’s still something erotic in two naked bodies. In this respect, our fascination for the nude form would appear to suggest that, in terms of mental health, naturism is a much healthier way to ‘consume’ the naked form than the use of pornography.