I usually avoid linking to anything on Buzzfeed. On principle. I forget exactly what that principle is but I’m sure it was a very good one.
However this list of ’27 gendered products’ is rather funny. ‘Gendered products’ is of course a polite way of saying manly strap-ons — things that have to be butched up so that men’s penises don’t shrivel and blow away when they use/do them. Scary things like sunscreen and soap.
I say ‘men’s penises’ but really I mean American men’s penises. Most of the manly strap-ons are American — very American — and began to come on thick and strong during the faux backlash the US had against metrosexuality in the late Noughties. Remember the ‘menaissance’? Thought not.
Strapping a ‘man’ word onto something not very manly (manscara, mandates, manbag) was a kind of phallic pacifier, a lucky charm against any anxiety about sexual ambiguity. In other countries, such as Australia, this might have been done with humour and irony — but not in the US.
It was after all the US which gave us, in all seriousness, the ‘lumbersexual’ — the manly strap-on man (who worked in IT or artisan coffee retail). And before him the ‘ubersexual’ and the ‘machosexual’. All hysterical reaction-formations to the metrosexual.
Four years ago I hoped that manly strap-ons and campy codpieces had peaked — or drooped — with ‘hegans’. You know, men who don’t eat meat but aren’t faggy at all but MANLY. I was so wrong. Apparently there is such a thing in the world as ‘Mangria’ — though probably you shouldn’t drink it with a raised pinky, or even too much fruit. And ‘bronuts’. Which apparently you eat when you want to ‘snack like a man’. Whatever the bloody nora that means.
My favourite though is the manly soap with grips — a very practical addition: ensuring, of course, that it is NEVERDROPPED.
The sexualisation of the male body probes new, perfectly-rounded depths in this European ad promoting the ‘keyless entry’ feature on Ford cars.
And possibly the use of Ford key fobs as sex toys.
A remarkably well-crafted ad, it makes excellent use of the increasingly blatant modern phenomenon of metaphysical — and increasingly physical - male versatility. How men in our spornosexual age are now active and passive. Tops and bottoms. Subjects and objects. Heroic and tarty.
To the strains of an ‘innocent’ 1960s bubblegum pop track in which a girl compares her boyfriend to something sweet to suck, everyone on the beach, male or female, young or old, gay or straight, is having a really good look at the worked-out, oiled-up grinning hottie in the tight trunks sauntering past.
As our beach babe approaches his car however, we realise that everyone is supposedly staring because they are wondering how he’s going to get into his locked, lovely new ride.
The obligatory, ‘objectifying’ close ups of his packet and ass served up to us beforehand have only ‘served’ to make it clear that he hasn’t got anything down his pants, save his meat and two vege — plus two pert buns.
The car greedily unlocks itself when presented with his lunch-packet. Which is entirely understandable.
But we’re staring right at his bubble butt straining against his tight trunks when this happens.
And then the kiss-off strapline spells out the anality of all this:
Where you keep your key is up to you.
So the ad is less about the lollipop and more about the buttered buns. ‘Keyless entry’ is all about male versatility, if not voraciousness.
Likewise the popping sound-effect on the ‘Lollipop’ track at the end of the ad is now less suggestive of fellatio than the removal of a car fob from a toned, er, trunk.
This recent German ad caught my eye. Or rather, some silky smooth, highly-grabable German glutes leapt out of my monitor and rammed themselves in my face.
My German is rather poor, but the ad would appear to be for lady’s body-cream called Aldo Vandini. Expensive body-cream, judging by the size of that obscenely luxurious bath-living room the shameless young man is oiling himself and his precision-engineered buttocks up in. I don’t know about you, but I found myself rather distracted by it. Perhaps I’m deeply shallow, but I couldn’t decide which I wanted more. His bum or the bath-fittings.
‘Butt’ I think it’s pretty clear what the real product and object of desire is here – as it so often is in advertising these days: The tarty male body.
The ad is shot voyeuristically. We, the viewer, appear to be loitering in the doorway, breathing heavily, our eyes lingering on his nicely-lit back and buttocks – but we’re listening to opera, so we’re not being sleazy – while he bends over to sniff the aromatic body-rub, which we’ll assume isn’t actually poppers-infused. He’s not afraid of the feminine product, just likes the way it smells and how it feels.
Likewise, he’s not afraid of the ‘feminine’, ‘passive’ position of being looked at – from behind. Towards the end, the finely-featured scamp looks over his shoulder, clocks us perving over him, smiles and just carries on rubbing himself up. Deliberately or not, this German ad, aimed apparently at women, has spoken in the lingua franca of the delightful, playful, sensual ambiguity of modern, spornosexual masculinity – and the assertive sexual appetite of modern femininity.
And also, as I’ve shown with my drooling, the ambiguity of just who is watching.
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 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.…
Disability charity Scope have been airing a cheeky ad this summer designed to encourage people to donate clothes. It’s a funny tribute to the iconic Levis ‘Laundrette’ ad of 1985 and features a very studly 24-year-old model and personal fitness trainer Jack Eyers in the Nick Kamen role. And boy, does he fill it.
Instead of stripping off to wash his clothes, Eyers denudes himself to donate to the cause. As he gets down to his white boxers we suddenly get a close-up on his hi-tech prosthetic leg, which has remained hidden until now. In terms of the way the ad is shot and structured his prosthesis is basically his penis. It becomes another way of ‘stripping down’ and ‘revealing’ the male body. Of signalling both toughness and vulnerability, passivity and activity, loss and possession at the same time.
And Eyers isn’t shy about it. His prosthesis is, as he says in an interesting interview with the Telegraph’s Theo Merz here, something he likes to show off rather than hide because it looks ‘pretty cool’. It also doesn’t necessarily harm his employment prospects in an industry waking up to both the eye-catching potential and, paradoxically, the ‘normalness’ of disability. (You might also want to check out Theo Merz’s expedition to Newcastle in search of the spornosexual here - in which he discovers the man some Telegraph readers would like to pretend doesn’t exist is terrifyingly, ab-tauteningly real.)
Even less shy is US Marine vet turned underwear model Alex Minsky, who has been garnering a lot of well-deserved attention for his saucy shoots — and most particularly for the way, with his body art, sculpted muscles, styled facial and head hair, he has totally aestheticised himself, prosthesis and all. He’s also a model who clearly isn’t afraid to become a form of performance art. Splendidly kinky performance art. (Some naked selfies were leaked earlier this year — which only served to, err, enhance his reputation.)
Perhaps part of the appeal of the buff, sexualised chap with prosthetic limb(s) is not just the ‘inspirational story’, but also the fantasy of total control over the body — even after something as traumatising as amputation. And of course the hi-tech, fascinating prosthesis that seems to bring ‘bionic’ powers blends with the cyborg nature of spornosexuality itself — a bodily merging with technology, in which the body is ‘machine tooled’ into something more exciting by nutritional and medical science, Technogym decline presses and Nair for Men. (Though for most this merging is done by uploading smartphone selfies to Facebook.)
I analysed the ‘Laundrette’ ad in Male Impersonators as a ‘seminal’ moment in the objectification of the male body — its ‘looked-at-ness’. Kamen’s strip in the living rooms of the UK in the mid-1980s (along with several other ads in that campaign, which increasingly sought to substitute the product for the model’s unshowable penis) really did mark a moment at which we woke up to the male body as a fully-fledged object of desire. Everyone in the laundrette, male and female, is having a really good look. And it’s worth mentioning he’s doing his own washing — no ‘little woman’ in his life to do it for him.
Like Top Gun, which was released the following year, ‘Laundrette’ packages this new male narcissism as ‘traditional’ and ‘retro’, when the real 1950s it is notionally located in confined this kind of fare to underground gay mags like AMG — certainly not prime-time TV.
Thirty years on we’re all still having a really good look. So much so that we require much more visual stimulation. Our gaze is more demanding, more penetrating. Back then Kamen’s body was pantingly-described as ‘hunky’, but now his slim, svelte body looks not rather coy in comparison to today’s ripped, pumped, inked and sexed-up spornos, with or without gleaming, well-oiled prosthetic limbs.