This 1942 ad for Lifebuoy soap is a great example of shifts in collective cultural awareness of homosexuality. From a contemporary U.S. perspective, where most of us have heard homophobic jokes about not dropping the soap in the shower, two men showering together (even or especially in a military context) and using language like “hard” and “get yourself in a lather” is undeniably a humorous reference to gay men.

I think, however, that this was not at all the intention in 1942, where the possibility of men’s sexual attraction to other men wasn’t so prominent of a cultural trope.  It simply wasn’t on people’s minds as it is today.  Accordingly, the ad seems to be a simple illustrated recommendation, complete with a nice heterosexual prize at the end.

From Vintage Ads.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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