Mark Simpson in today’s Daily Telegraph on the irresistible rise of the male glamour model .
A funny thing happened to Mark Simpson on the way to the ‘Being a Man’ forum
I almost fell off the platform when I saw this bodybuilding supplements poster busting out all over the London Underground recently - around the same time as all that indignant hullabaloo surrounding The Sun’s infamous now-you-don’t-see-them-any-more-now-you-do-again lady busts.
There they were, depilated man-knockers (and pixelated knackers) nakedly objectified in the rush hour for all to see: men and women, children and adults, wide-eyed tourists and jaded locals. No need to buy a copy of a declining tabloid newspaper, open it and turn to page three to ‘exploit’ this model’s tits and abs. Just look up from your smartphone. Shameless male topless and bottomless-ness plastered all over the walls for everyone to ‘gaze’ at while waiting for the next obscenely overcrowded Elephant & Castle train, perhaps carrying Laura Mulvey.
Even worse, the poster encouraged other young men to objectify themselves (‘reveal yourself’), and spend their hard-earned cash buying supplements that they hope will help to make them more desirable, more saleable, more shaggable — bustier. Men are the new glamour models.
The website for the supplement company includes ‘cover model’ as one of the potential ‘goals’ that their spornosexual customers might be interested in:
‘…lean muscle has become an industry recognised term that is now synonymous with a cover model look. To achieve a cover model body, the key consideration is to increase muscle whilst keeping body fat to an absolute minimum’.
And liberal use of Photoshop.
Funnily enough, I was on my way to appear on a panel at the Southbank Centre talking about ‘Being a Man’ when I was confronted with these man-knockers. On the panel I was responding to a presentation by the artist and TV presenter Grayson Perry. Who is a bit of man knocker himself — in a more ‘critical’ sense.
Perry’s presentation (along the lines of this piece for the New Statesman) was acerbic, entertaining and not without insight, but sometimes seemed at least thirty years out of date. And I know this because I myself am only twenty years out of date.
My main issue with it was not that it problematised and pathologised masculinity and ‘toxic’ testosterone and the Sauronic ‘male gaze’ — which it did in spades — but that it reified, possibly fetishised masculinity as something unchanging, something monolithic. Sometimes the biggest critics of masculinity are its biggest believers — including cross-dressing feminist men.
Of course, I tend to notice far too much what some don’t care to see at all — and I began my comments by warning the audience that I like men. A LOT. But I was surprised how little Mr Perry seemed to understand me when talking about the eager self-objectification young men today go in for and the breakdown of what I call the heterosexual division of labour, of looking and of loving.
I wonder if he uses the tube? Or even his eyes?
The recently-released movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey has been attacked by some feminists for setting back ‘the cause of womanhood’ (because it features female submissiveness and male masterfulness) and for glorifying ‘abuse’ (despite being very consensual). Notwithstanding it is written by a woman, directed by a woman (Sam Taylor-Johnson), green-lighted by a woman — and of course enormously popular with women. Likewise, the rehabilitation of female masochism in the last decade or so seems to have been forgotten and replaced by suspicion of women who like their sex submissive and spanky.
I haven’t seen the movie, I’m still recovering from going to see the last ‘event’ ‘chick flick’, so can’t comment on whether or not the women involved in making it and the millions going to see are suffering from ‘false consciousness’. And obviously I don’t know much about womanhood anyway.
But I have watched the official trailer. Repeatedly. The masterful Mr Grey (Jamie Dornan) is a standard-issue spornosexual who probably has a Bulk Powders Gold Card. In the 2.23 min trailer there are 7 topless shots of his sculpted torso, including a mirror shot which gives you a simultaneous, spitroasting front and rear view of it, vs 1.5 of Ms Steele (Dakota Johnson), sans nipples in her case. Oh, and one side shot of her panties — with Dornan’s pretty face in front of them.
My favourite shot though shows him playing his grand piano shirtless, in a scene that looks a bit Behind the Candelabras - but with Liberace as the toy-boy. I suppose that the grand piano represents Ms Steele submitting to the skillful fingers of Mr Grey. But it looks like a very camp — sorry, I mean masterful — form of masturbation.
Mark Simpson on the headless horsemen of the coming ‘carpocalypse’
Look out! They’re coming! And they’re driving really, really carefully!
This year driverless cars will arrive in the UK. As part of Government-sanctioned trials, the ghost cars will be quietly and sinisterly creeping around selected parts of Greenwich, Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes. Though some would argue that Milton Keynes was conquered by robots years ago.
The UK Government also recently announced that a driving licence would not be necessary to use a driverless car and expressed its intention to make Britain a world centre for driverless cars.
This may ultimately result in much safer roads, less congestion, faster travel times and cheaper insurance, as well as a life-changing boon to disabled and elderly people. But it will be the beginning of the end of the world as we’ve known it for most of the last century. Albeit in a very boring fashion.
Yes, for the time being the only commercially available self-driving vehicles are harmless open-air shuttles for pedestrian zones that operate at an underwhelming maximum speed of just 12.5 mph. But don’t be fooled.
Proper car manufacturers are planning to change all that. Nissan aims to launch driverless models by 2020. Tesla claims that their cars will be 90 per cent capable of autonomous driving this year. And Google believes that its Level 4 autonomous cars – that is, totally self-driving – will be available to the public within the next 3 to 5 years. One of their zombie cars already passed the Nevada state driving test in 2012. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers believes that by 2040, 75 per cent of all vehicles will be autonomous.
Worse, the dastardly road robots are here already, or at least their fifth columnists in the form of all those ‘driver’s aids’ fitted in production cars today. Self-parking and emergency braking are common, while adaptive cruise control is available on a wide range of production cars – using cameras, lasers and radar, it can control your distance from the vehicle in front as well as, on some models, staying in lane.
Some cars such as the latest Nissan Qashqai can now even ‘read’ speed limit signs – just in case you don’t have a passive-aggressive partner to do that for you.
But perhaps the most dangerous fifth columnists for the driverless cars invasion are the humans who enthuse about them. They paint a picture of a safe, stress free, luxurious future in which we’re all Lady Penelope, driven around by our robot Parker, who never ever makes any mistakes – and doesn’t see what’s going on in the back.
Or else they think they they’re going to be David Hasselhoff in Knight Rider, with his trusty, rather tasty KITT. Or Tom Cruise in Minority Report in his sexy autonomous Lexus. In reality, driverless cars will be much more like the chirpy, crappy robot taxis in Total Recall. But without the joystick override that Arnold was able to grab having uprooted and ejected the annoying robot driver.
Once humans are unplugged from the business of driving cars and become instead glorified luggage, the automobile will stop being an extension of the human body/spirit/ego. Instead of some strange, techno body-art, this wheeled thing that humans have had a torrid, Freudian love-affair with for over a century will become a long distance automatic pick-up machine, shuttling people around like stock in an especially gigantic Amazon warehouse. While they update their Twitter status with pictures of the view of the strange ‘Real World’ glimpsed from the car window – and buy more stuff online.
One man’s utopia is another’s ‘carpocalypse’. Cars will vanish from the sides of our streets and car sharing will become usual rather than exceptional. Über + driverless cars = the end of mass car ownership. Taxi drivers, chauffeurs, lorry drivers and much of the ancillary motoring business of car dealers, garages and spare parts will be scrapped. Essex will become depopulated.
With fewer cars and greater efficiency, consumption of fuel is likely to fall dramatically, and along with it government revenue. People awaiting organ transplants might have to wait longer, since traffic collisions are the main source of human spare parts.
There will be no going back. There’s no reverse gear on car automation. Once surrendered to robot cars, human agency is gone forever. I don’t mean that in a Stephen Hawking AI Skynet takeover sense – though that as well – but that eventually most driverless cars, like Google’s already, won’t have steering wheels or pedals.
They would only get in the way, and be a reminder to the passengers of their obsolescence. Most of all, it would be frankly crazy to allow people who haven’t actually driven anything for years except their finger over their smartphone – or Grand Theft Auto – to take control of a vehicle in an emergency.
We don’t need to wait until all or even most of cars on the roads are driverless. Once there are significant numbers of them on the road they will change the way human-operated cars drive – making them drive more like machines. Which is very bad news when humans do it. Studies have shown that human drivers sharing roads with autonomous cars copy the autonomous cars’ driving styles and leave less space between the vehicle in front. But are not able to stop nearly as quickly.
As the number of driverless cars on our roads rise, insurance premiums for human operated cars are likely to rapidly become prohibitive, especially when compared to goody-goody autonomous ones that never nod off, smoke, eat, drink, do their hair, use their mobiles or look for a Genesis CD while driving.
Perhaps the scariest development is the way autonomous cars could have ‘ethics settings’ to deal with the ‘trolley bus dilemma’ – do I kill that child or my passenger? Split second decisions which were usually a secret between you and your god will have to be legislated and coded.
We will have made machines not just our unpaid and unloved chauffeurs but also our judges and executioners.
Originally appeared on Hitachi CVSL blog
Mark Simpson on how Lynx grew up. And kissed a boy.
“Swing it around like you’re in a TV commercial.”
I like this spunky new hair gel ‘Now can be amazing’ ad from Lynx, currently airing in Australia. Especially since it’s the perfect antidote to the ball-shrivelling dreary paranoia of ads like this.
In fact, it’s probably my favourite ad since Philips/Norelco ‘I’d F*ck Me’ where a young man playfully chats himself up in front of the bathroom mirror. Like the Philips ad this one isn’t afraid of its own shadow, and instead of making apologies just embraces and celebrates male beauty and vanity — and the spirit making the most of it while you have it.
More than this, it’s an ad which encourages young men to be anything that they want to be — to be ‘amazing’. In much the same way that young women have been encouraged for some time.
Hence the ‘Kiss the hottest girl — or the hottest boy’ moment. This is not, as has been proclaimed by gay blogs, a ‘gay kiss’ so much as a bi-curious one, since it’s the same guy kissing the girl and then the boy. Which is in keeping with what we might term the James Dean ethic of the ad — don’t go through life with ‘one hand tied behind your back’. Especially if it’s your best hand.
This is particularly impressive coming from Lynx (known as Axe in the US), a brand which is not usually associated with progressive advertising and in fact often associated instead with a hysterical heterosexuality: ‘I only smell nice coz it attracts women and that proves I’m not gay, OK?’. (Though there have been sort-of exceptions, such as this Axe ad starring Ben Affleck back in 2007.)
But then, I told Lynx all about their hysterical heterosexuality and how dated it was in a world in which young men take male vanity and self care for granted — and aspire to be everything - when they contacted me last summer asking for my input into their re-branding. I’d completely forgotten about this consultation when I saw the ad, and just thought it was cool. I don’t know for sure whether my critique made it into the brief for this ad, but it seems quite possible I may have been admiring my own reflection.
Though being honest, I’m not entirely sure he’s really made the most of his hair with that bird’s nest look.…
Mark Simpson on the (self) sexualisation of today’s male body & why straight young men crave gay adulation
(Originally appeared in Out Magazine, February 2015)
Male self-objectification is, as they like to say on social media, a “thing.”
There’s been a rash lately of so-called “gender flip” memes, in which people pretend to be impressed by male hipsters pretending to subvert sexism by ironically adopting the clichéd poses of sexualized women. Although sometimes funny and instructive, especially when it involves licking sledgehammers, the anti-sexism of many of these gender flip memes depends on a (hetero)sexist assumption that men just aren’t meant to be objectified — so it’s hilarious when they are.
Rather than, say, that the men adopting these cheesecake poses usually just aren’t very attractive.
It also relies on jamming your eyes shut in order not to notice how men who aren’t meme-generating hipsters prefer to stake their claim to our attention not on faux feminism but rather on sweat-soaked gym sessions, pricey supplements, plunging necklines, and general shamelessness. And as with sex itself, there’s nothing ironic about it. It’s a very serious, very profitable business.
At the multiplex, Chris Evans keeps blinding us with his all-American oiled bazookas. Channing Tatum and his bun chums keep whipping their pecs and asses out and — who knows? — may even finally deliver the man goods in this year’s sequel, Magic Mike XXL. Meanwhile, Guardians of the Galaxy recently wowed the world by proving that even previously pudgy Chris Pratt (of Parks and Recreation fame) can be a Men’s Health cover girl. And Chris Hemsworth was named “Sexiest Man Alive” by People magazine on account of his long lashes, big guns, and huge hammer.
There’s even an MTV Movie Award for “Best Shirtless Performance,” which in 2014 went to Zac Efron for That Awkward Moment — but only after he stripped again, onstage at the ceremony, without being awkward about it at all.
True, Hollywood too often still feels the need to justify big-screen male sluttiness with CGI heroics, a kind of muscular Christianity in spandex — insisting, in effect, that this is virile activity, not gay/girly passivity. And as if to keep that sluttiness further in check, it often limits the nude or topless male scenes to one per 100-minute movie.
Perhaps because it caters more to women, TV is a relatively unbuttoned medium when it comes to the male body. Even TV superheroes such as Stephen Amell’s Arrow are often costume-optional. Maybe because their male characters are already damned, gothic shows like True Blood, Teen Wolf, and The Vampire Diaries are positively pulsing with appetizing boy flesh. It’s enough to make anyone grow fangs. And the young, buff men of reality TV — the Jersey Shorettes — are everywhere, wearing very little, and doing even less. Except demanding we look at them.
The “structure” of structured reality TV is usually unveiled male V-shapes. In the U.K., a voluptuously endowed, cheeky, straight(ish) guy in The Only Way Is Essex(the U.K. Jersey Shore equivalent) called Dan Osborne became a national hero in 2014 after wearing glittery Speedos on prime time on another reality show,Splash! — even upstaging his mentor, the perfectly formed Olympic diver Tom Daley.
The 23-year-old Osborne, like a lot of today’s self-objectifying straight men, loves The Gays. Really loves them. Last year he appeared in the U.K. gay magazine Attitude, very generously offering readers his shapely bubble butt across a double-page spread, with the strapline “Sex is fun. Be safe and enjoy it.” He told Attitude, “I’ve had a few bum pinches, and I don’t mind that at all. Maybe it’s because a guy knows how hard it is to train, so they appreciate it more.”
The way straight young men chase and hustle gay attention today represents a major, millennial shift in attitudes. Part of the reason that men offering themselves as sex objects were frowned upon in the past was that they could be objectified by anyone — including people with penises. They were queered by the penetrating queer gaze.
Now they beg and plead for it. They instinctively know that male objectification is about enjoying and celebrating male passivity, even — and especially — if you’re straight. So getting the gays proves not only your hotness, and coolness, but also your metaphysical versatility. It proves that you are a proper, fully fledged, all-singing, all-dancing sex object.
Blame the metrosexual, who was born two decades ago, outing male vanity and the masculine need to be noticed. In just a generation, the male desire to be desired, or “objectified,” to use that ugly word — which the metrosexual exemplified — has become mainstream: It’s regarded as a right by today’s selfie-admiring young men, regardless of sexual orientation. In a visual world, men want to be wanted too — otherwise, they might disappear. They also need to look a lot at other men in order to better understand how to stand out.
Second-generation metrosexuality is very obviously more body-centered and hardcore — or spornosexual. Young men today want to be wanted, not for their wardrobes, but for their bodies. Bodies they spend a great deal of time, effort, and money fashioning into hot commodities down at the gym, tanning salon, and designer tattoo parlor — and then uploading to the online marketplace of social media for “likes,” “shares,” and cutthroat comparisons with their pals.
It shouldn’t be so surprising. Today’s young men are growing up with a different idea of “normal,” in which European and Australian professional rugby players are happy to strip down and oil up. The highly homoerotic, highly provocative Dieux du Stade calendars of rugby players in the buff became only slightly less homoerotic when adapted by Dolce and Gabbana in their megabucks advertising campaigns starring the Italian World Cup soccer team. David Beckham and then Cristiano Ronaldo offered similar favors for Armani, followed by lithe Spanish tennis ace Rafael Nadal, who is currently filling out the Italian designer packet. And former Australian rugby league player Nick Youngquest is now the body and face — in that order — of Paco Rabanne.
Gays are no longer a despised or marginalized niche — they’re leverage. If you get the gays panting, you eventually get everyone else.
David Gandy, possibly the world’s only male supermodel who isn’t a professional athlete, has a darkly handsome, model-perfect face. But his sensual, athletic, beautiful body is his calling card. So it is entirely apt that he was “made” by Mr. & Mr. D&G, who cast him in their famous 2007 “Light Blue” campaign, in a boat off Capri, wearing scandalously abbreviated D&G swim trunks, glistening in the sun and lying back, hands behind his head, awaiting our attention. He was accompanied by a foxy lady (Marija Vujovic), but he was the unquestioned object of the camera’s gaze.
Seven years on, it’s still his trademark. In a clip for Gandy’s recent Autograph underwear campaign, the camera, in extreme close-up, licks down his naked torso towards his naked, shaved groin — then fades out just in time.
It’s clear to anyone who wants to notice that in the spornosexual 21st century, the male body has been radically redesigned. With the help of some “objectifying” blueprints from Tom of Finland, it is no longer simply an instrumental thing for extracting coal, building ships, making babies, fighting wars, and taking the trash out. Instead it has become a much more sensual, playful thing for giving and especially receiving pleasure.
Or as the young men of the Warwick University rowing team put it in a promotional quote for the 2015 version of their now famous nude charity calendar, dedicated to fighting homophobia in sports and rammed with arty ass shots: “Regardless of gender or sexuality, we are inviting you into that moment with us.”
By Mark Simpson
Some people are more proactive passengers than others. Hyacinth Bucket in the classic sit-com Keeping Up Appearances takes what we might call a ‘hands on’ approach to being driven.
‘Mind the sheep, dear!’
‘They’re in the FIELD!’
‘Richard, I don’t appreciate your tone.’
‘Minding the sheep.’
We all laugh at the snobbish battle axe’s incessant and insistent backseat driving. Not least because it is meant to be horribly symbolic of her marriage to Richard. He may sit in the driver’s seat, but it’s definitely his passenger who does the driving. In a nice big hat.
Every driver hates a backseat driver. Until you’re a passenger yourself. According to a 2011 survey, 92% of motorists admit to being backseat drivers themselves.
This however didn’t stop 51% of them getting angry behind the wheel as a result of advice from passengers, or the same number claiming it was the biggest distraction for drivers. While 14% even claimed they were involved in an accident or near miss as a result of being told to blow their horn in a more refined way, dear, or some such.
The official advice from car safety experts is not to distract or frustrate the driver with backseat driving. They say it could be dangerous – both to your safety and to your relationships: partners are ranked by motorists as the worst back seat drivers. I suppose no one likes being criticised by their partner, particularly if being married to them has made you wonder if weeks in traction in the General Hospital might be a nice break.
But what precisely is a back seat driver though? Well, according to Wikipedia, it is ‘a passenger who is not controlling the vehicle but who excessively comments on the driver’s actions and decisions in an attempt to control the vehicle.’
Which confirms what I have always known: I’m not a backseat driver.
You see, I never excessively comment. There are so many things I could say, but I stoically bite my lip instead. Granted, there are still plenty of things that I do say, but they are always kept to the absolute minimum — and always thoughtfully designed to impart only the most pertinent pearls of my precious driving wisdom to the person fortunate enough to find themselves at the wheel in my presence.
Besides, I don’t sit in the back. I prefer to sit up front, where I can see much more clearly what mistakes the driver is making, such as driving too close to the vehicle in front – and then too far away – and what hazards he or she has failed to anticipate, such as the deceptively harmless pensioner stood at the bus stop, leaning on a walking stick, who could suddenly and with no warning whatsoever sprint into the road. (And by the way, it needs to be mentioned that sheep in fields can jump hedges.)
Sitting up front also means you can more easily communicate with the driver, sometimes using non-verbal signals, such as sharp intakes of breath, grabbing arm-rests or anxiously checking and re-checking the seat belt. Even though I’m not actually Catholic, I usually carry Rosary beads with me as I find counting them loudly and crossing myself can be quite salutary.
And of course, if all else fails, there’s always stamping on an imaginary brake pedal with a look of wide-eyed abject terror on your sheet-white face.
I also do my best to help the driver by leaning forwards at junctions and shouting ‘YOU’RE ALL RIGHT THIS SIDE!’. Or ‘YOU CAN GET A BUS THROUGH THERE MATE!’ When I’m not fiddling with the stereo and the air-con controls. I invariably find that people haven’t set these at their optimum levels – and are tuned in to the wrong radio stations. I don’t expect any thanks for these little considerations. Which is just as well as none ever comes.
OK, so perhaps I’m just ever so slightly controlling. But honestly, have you seen the way other people drive? It’s not my fault that I’m a better driver than them and it would be just plain dishonest of me to pretend otherwise. Not to mention selfish – how are they going to get better if I don’t tell them they should use the gears to brake more?
You wouldn’t believe how downright ungrateful and rude people can be sometimes. Unfortunately, not all drivers are as open to advice as Hyacinth’s husband. I’ve been yelled at just for suggesting that their screen wash isn’t as effective as the brand I use. And that their wiper blades need replacing.
But when that happens I just tell them that they shouldn’t talk to passengers and concentrate on the road instead. And adjust my hat.
By Mark Simpson
There’s a place where drivers lose all reason and all humanity. A place where not only the Highway Code but the European Convention on Human Rights apparently no longer applies. A Hobbesian world at the edges of civilization, where pedestrians are mere squidgy pin balls to be flipped between car bumpers, where anything goes and nothing is off limits.
Except staying longer than two hours.
I’m talking of course about the supermarket car park. We’ve all been there. And we’re all going back. Even though we really, really don’t want to.
According to the AA accidents in car parks are the most common single category of car insurance claims. A cracking 20% of all claims – equivalent to six million – are for damage caused there, and most of these are for supermarket car parks. Though the true figure is probably even higher since many people, mindful of their excess or of losing their No Claims Bonus, don’t bother claiming for minor damage unless it can be proven to have been caused by someone else.
But good luck with that, since according to other research at least a fifth of drivers hitting another car in a car park would just drive off if they thought that no one would notice.
It’s true that many supermarket car parks function as meeting places for young tearaways with souped-up hot hatches throbbing menacingly with bass tubes. However, although noisy, these guys are usually relatively well-behaved – perhaps because an expensively lowered suspension tends to make you more careful. The ones you really want to watch out for are the 4x4s with ‘Baby on board’ stickers in the back window. The main reason people buy 4x4s isn’t ‘safety’ of course – but just so they can speed over speed bumps. And possibly people.
Many drivers instead of slowing down, actually accelerate off the Queen’s Highway into supermarkets. For them, supermarket car parks seem to be a cross between a track day and the dodgems – WHEEE!!! What’s more, they’re FREE!!! The fact that there will of course be other vehicles moving very slowly, or stationary – or reversing out of parking bays – only seems to add to their urgent need to get to the wine aisle ASAP and spend half an hour or so looking for a discounted wine that looks dead posh.
Supermarket car parks are also pavements, since people have to get to and from their cars – and load them up with their shopping before leaving. Which should give one pause. I mean, you might have thought that even the most reckless of drivers would be inclined to take more care here, if only because by definition they are about to become pedestrians negotiating the Death Race 2000 car park themselves. But only if you’d never actually used a supermarket car park.
Things are so bad, so red in tooth and claw in supermarket car parks, that local by-laws really should require all supermarket trolleys to be equipped with defibrillators.
Don’t let it be said though that supermarkets don’t bring the exotic into all our lives. You don’t have to travel to the Continent to see people driving on the other side of the road – just go to Tesco, Asda or Sainsburys. And in the Italo-French style, junctions in supermarket car parks have been dispensed with – or rather, the meaning of a dotted double line across the carriageway changed to: ‘DON’T LOOK YOU LOSER! JUST ACCELERATE!!’.
All in all, it’s probably just as well that something used in the construction of supermarket car parks completely disables indicators.
Another fun past-time seems to be opening your car door without consideration to the one parked next to you, leaving an indelible memento of your intimate inconsideration on their paintwork. You might try avoiding this by parking in the farthest corner of the parking area, surrounded by legions of empty bays. So far away that you actually have to take a bus to get to the entrance. But this never ever works.
Someone will always take the trouble to ignore the acres of empty spaces and drive out of their way to keep your lonely car company by parking right next to you – and then dinging you. Quite often, as an added gift, you will find yourself wedged in by two 4x4s and have to turn yourself into Elastoman to get into your (doubled dinged) vehicle.
And if, by some Biblical miracle, some ineffable stroke of luck, you manage to avoid all these terrifying hazards presented by other drivers when doing your weekly shop, still you will not I’m afraid escape unscathed. You will return to your car with your unexpected items in the bagging area and find that you have been rammed by a rogue shopping trolley.
Probably one thoughtlessly discarded by Thomas Hobbes.