According to yesterday’s The Sunday Times, the so-called ‘laddish’ culture promoted by men’s magazines has spawned a new medical condition: ‘athletica nervosa’, or an obsession with exercise:
New research shows that the magazines, whose titillating displays of female flesh were meant to liberate their readers from political correctness, may be trapping them into an unhealthy obsession with their own bodies.
Rather than, presumably, a healthy obsession with women’s bodies.
Some readers become so anxious about their own physique that they embark on excessive exercise, spending hours running, swimming or in the gym. Athletica nervosa is already known to affect young women, but this is thought to be the first British study to link the phenomenon to men.
The piece, headlined ‘Lads’ mags inflict preening curse’, quotes David Giles, a psychologist at Winchester University, who co-wrote the research, saying: “We found that the more such magazines a man reads the more likely he is to be anxious about his physique.” The study carried out interviews and surveys of 161 men aged 18–36 to find out how many lads’ mags they read and for how long. They also scored them for dietary habits, exercise regimes and attitudes towards appearance.
“Men who read the most lads’ mags seemed to internalise the appearance ideals portrayed by them,” said Giles. “Models in these magazines are impossibly good-looking and seeing them can make readers anxious about their own bodies.”
Really? You don’t say.
Pardon me for pointing out that this is the whole glossy point of them. And the only research you have to do to discover this is flick through them. Describing these metromags as ‘lads mags’ or ‘laddish mags’ is to fall for their mendacious marketing and the beard-like breasty covers.
The reason they exist at all is to deliver the hyper-fit, near naked male-modelled fashion and vanity product advertising within to men who until the 90s were immune to it because they were too busy being actual lads with other lads to buy a magazine selling them a simulated, lonely version of ‘laddishness’ while encouraging them to to look with a mixture of envy and desire at idealised images of other men produced lovingly with all the latest techniques and technology of consumerism.
The desire that ‘lads mags’ are selling isn’t heterosexuality. It’s metrosexuality.
And don’t think staying in and becoming an online gaming geek will save you. The article quotes a separate study at the University of Illinois two years ago which showed that the muscular male bodies in computer gaming magazines drove boys as young as eight to try to build their muscles. Which is not very easy if you spend your time playing computer games. Another reason why steroids, the metrosexual hormone, are the dystopian future.
For all this, men’s magazines, however, have had their day.
Loaded - the magazine that invented the phoney ‘lad mag’ beer-and-tits-and-designer-underpants formula but which was quickly emulated, improved on and overtaken by kit-and-clobber-happy FHM - lost nearly 30% of its circulation in the second half of 2007 as circulation dropped by 47,000 year on year.
Even FHM shed 56,114 sales while Maxim lost 53,034 sales. However, sales of Men’s Health are said to be ‘stable’. Probably because, despite its laughable recent attempts to het it up, it’s the most obviously metro of the metromags — and puts men’s tits on the cover. And also the one with the most hardcore hypochondria. Men’s Health is ‘stable’ because it’s the most neurotic title, doing its best for equality of the sexes when it comes to eating disorders and supplement addiction.
Men’s magazines have peaked not so much because they have so many gadgets now to play with when they’re bored and alone — Ipods, Podcasts, portable DVD players, the Interweb, Fleshlights - but because men’s mags have largely done their job.
They slyly converted an entire generation of young men to metrosexuality so successfully — partly because they were aching to be converted anyway — that now, with the possible exception of Men’s Hypochondria, they’re more or less redundant.