Tom Daley Comes Out — As Happy

In the affect­ing, intimate-yet-professional YouTube clip above, a slightly red-eyed and emo­tional Tom Daley, the Olympic medal win­ning British diver and best thing to hap­pen to Speedos since Mark Spitz, says he was mis­quoted in an inter­view earlier this year in which he appeared to deny he was gay (albeit insist­ing he wouldn’t be ashamed if he was). He went on to make an announce­ment that you have prob­ably already read about.

Now I feel ready to talk about my rela­tion­ships. And come spring my life changed massively when I met someone and they make me feel so safe, happy and everything feels great. And that someone is a guy.’

Cue ban­ner head­lines announ­cing TOM DALEY COMES OUT!!. Millions of really witty Tweets about #TomGayley. And The Daily Telegraph inform­ing us on the front page of their online edi­tion that nineteen-year-old Tom has announced he is a nine­teenth cen­tury med­ical clas­si­fic­a­tion: ‘homosexual’.

Daily Telegraph 'Daley announces he is homosexual'
Daily Telegraph: ‘Daley announces he is homosexual’

Though in the actual clip rather than people’s over­heated minds Tom says no such thing. What he Tom Daley, the per­son whose sexu­al­ity we’re all pronouncing-pouncing on comes out as is: someone dat­ing a man who makes him feel safe and happy.

He also goes on to say: ‘I still fancy girls, of course’. He doesn’t in fact define his sexu­al­ity at any point, as gay, straight or even bisexual. That may change. Or it might not. And I’m sure every­one has an opin­ion on that.

But frankly, it doesn’t mat­ter. Whatever we might like to ana­lyse or gos­sip or spec­u­late — and I’m guilty of all those vices myself — in the end it’s really not our con­cern. It’s nineteen-year-old Tom’s con­cern. For all the crow­ing yes­ter­day from people who ALWAYS KNEW that Tom was A GAY, cur­rently his sexu­al­ity remains offi­cially undefined – even though yes, he does still have pretty eyes a soft voice and a really pert bum.

Tom’s jour­ney is his own to make. And sexu­al­ity itself is a jour­ney that doesn’t have to have a final des­tin­a­tion. But try telling that to the press. This excel­lent piece in the Guardian by Nichi Hodgson about the media’s need to label Tom as GAY said it best:

The only facts that speak for them­selves are that Daley is dat­ing a man, and wants to be hon­est about the fact so the media doesn’t try to make asser­tions about his per­sonal life and pref­er­ences for him. Instead, the only thing that has been outed today is the media’s rigid­ity – and stu­pid­ity – when it comes to report­ing on sexuality.”

Perhaps Tom might have been able to tell the world he was dat­ing a guy a bit sooner if the world, straight and gay hadn’t been yelling YOURE GAY!!! at him for most of his teens. If we all dialled the gay­dar down a little and erred on the side of open-mindedness it would make it a lot easier for guys to be open about their interest in other guys. Or bronzer and Speedos.

Though per­haps that is to miss part of the point of gay­dar – that it can be a form of sur­veil­lance. A way of poli­cing men’s appear­ance, gender style and sex lives, even and espe­cially when it’s gay men oper­at­ing it. It’s a source of con­stant won­der to me how many gay people for all their pride in their super-accurate long-distance gay­dar can’t see the sexual lib­er­a­tion wood for the gay trees.

This is the bit in Tom’s vid that we’re all not hearing:

In an ideal world I would not be doing this video because it should not matter.”

tom daley

Get Your Filthy Hands Off Me!’ Gorgeous George’s Glamorous Legacy

Rather than watch the Olympics, and all that noble, ser­i­ous sport­ing uplift, I’ve been read­ing a book about a carny, corny, shame­less 1940s-50s American wrest­ler: Gorgeous George: The Outrageous Bad-Boy Wrestler Who Created American Pop Culture, by John Capouya.

My American chum Chris Supermarky recom­men­ded it to me, think­ing it would be of interest. He wasn’t wrong. It was noth­ing less than a rev­el­a­tion. It was like find­ing the Rosetta Stone of met­ro­sexu­al­ity. Or at least, post-war male glamorousness.

George Wagner was a baby-faced bru­nette, pint-sized, some­what unre­mark­able 1940s US wrest­ler who decided he needed a gim­mick to get noticed. And boy, did he find one. By turn­ing him­self into Gorgeous George, a vain, primp­ing, preen­ing pea­cock who per­ox­ided his hair, had it metic­u­lously ton­sured, fussily held in place by gold-painted ‘Georgie’ pins, and wear­ing flam­boy­ant robes that were out­rageous cre­ations of lace and silk and chif­fon in mauves and pale pinks, he suc­ceeded in invent­ing per­haps the most per­sist­ent and suc­cess­ful gim­mick of the post-war world: The glam­or­ous, dec­ad­ent, ‘effem­in­ate’ male star.

Before Beckham. Before Boy George. Before Bowie. Before Jagger. Before Elvis. Before Liberace. Before Little Richard. Before James Brown there was Gorgeous George.

Under the shrewd guid­ance of his Svengali wife Betty (there’s no evid­ence, aside from his gor­geous­ness, that George was any­thing other than het­ero­sexual), who made many of his most dar­ing robes her­self, The ‘Human Orchid’ as he liked to be known, had deduced that the best way to get ‘heat’ from a wrest­ling audi­ence – and thus book­ings – was to trans­gress 1940s gender norms. Wildly. And cheat. Equally wildly. Not for noth­ing was his favour­ite slo­gan: ‘Win if you can. Lose if you must. But always cheat.’

The Sensation of the Nation’s pan­to­mime per­form­ance of sis­sy­n­ess was a kind of cheat­ing in itself: in 1940s and early 50s America men, par­tic­u­larly the blue-collar kind that Wagner wrestled for, were not allowed to enjoy chif­fon and affect­a­tion. George was bend­ing the rules and gender.

To help milk his act, and mul­tiply his crimes, Wagner would hold his pre-match press con­fer­ences in local beauty par­lours while hav­ing his hair mar­celled and employed a tail-coated valet (a device later appro­pri­ated by GG fan James Brown) who would snob­bishly spray the ring with cologne before George would deign to grace it with his aris­to­cratic pres­ence. When the ref­eree tried to search George before the match as required by wrest­ling rules he would recoil offen­ded, shout­ing ‘GET YOUR FILTHY HANDS OFF ME!!’

Such were the pas­sions aroused by George’s gor­geous­ness that his incen­di­ary appear­ance often led to fights and some­times mini-riots when incensed mem­bers of the pub­lic would storm the ring in an indig­nant fury and try to take him on them­selves. The dir­ector John Waters recalls watch­ing GG on TV as a kid, spell­bound by this appar­i­tion of queen­i­ness — while his offen­ded par­ents yelled insults at the lacey freak. GG was someone that America loved to hate but ended up just loving.

Although largely for­got­ten today, GG was about as fam­ous as you could get back then: a by-word for fame itself — even mak­ing an appear­ance in a Bugs Bunny Warner Bros car­toon (as ‘Ravishing Ronald’), and one of the first proper stars of the new medium of tele­vi­sion. Wrestling had been taken up by the early net­works as a cheaply-staged way of inter­est­ing the masses in this new-fangled gad­get. The small screen turned out to have been made for GG’s big glam head.

Many claimed to have been influ­enced by GG (includ­ing Bob Dylan of all people) but per­haps his most fam­ous dis­ciple was a young, rel­at­ively down­beat Mohammed Ali, who decided to adopt GG’s vain­glori­ous, pro­voc­at­ive per­sona – to dev­ast­at­ing effect:

I made up my mind after [meet­ing] Gorgeous George to make people angry at me.… I saw fif­teen thou­sand people comin’ to see this man get beat. And his talk­ing did it. I said this is a gooood idea!’

And so Ali became the mouthy black boxer who bragged about being the ‘pret­ti­est thing you’ve ever seen’ – ‘The Greatest’. Ali really was gor­geous. Facially and bod­ily. Wagner on the other hand… slightly less so. I’m not sug­gest­ing of course for one moment that GG was ugly – but at 5′ 9″, with a Roman nose and a bit of a pot belly his gor­geous­ness was per­haps more aspir­a­tional than Ali’s. Particularly in the lat­ter part of his career George’s appear­ance puts me in mind of Freud’s fam­ous phrase: ‘His majesty the baby.’

There was a dark side to all this glam­or­ous­ness. Wagner reportedly began to believe his own pub­li­city and insisted his own chil­dren refer to him as ‘Gorgeous George’, or ‘GG’. He was also, even by the stand­ards of the time and his pro­fes­sion, a hardened drinker. After both his mar­riages failed he took to drink­ing even more. And as TV fell out of love with wrest­ling, and the years – and the booz­ing – took their toll, he of course drank even more.

By the late 50s early 60s Gorgeous George was reduced to nov­elty fights in which he was billed as for­feit­ing his lovely locks if he lost. And of course, he did — sub­mit­ting to the indig­nity of being clippered seated on a stool in the centre of the ring, like a lat­ter day Samson. A great box-office suc­cess the first time, this ritual humi­li­ation became less and less so the more he repeated it. Even see­ing Gorgeous George finally get­ting what had been com­ing to him all these years wasn’t enough of a draw second or third time around.

When the final bell rang in 1963 and George Wagner died of liver dis­ease and heart fail­ure, aged 48, all the large wedges of cash that had passed through his hands dur­ing his stun­ningly suc­cess­ful career had van­ished without trace: he was pen­ni­less. But fam­ily and friends made sure he was given a glam­or­ous send off.

The Human Orchid was dressed in his favour­ite purple satin robe (the ‘George Washington’), his hair was ton­sured and pinned one last time and he was exhib­ited in a highly pol­ished purple cas­ket — before being ‘planted’ in the ground.

While he may have been largely for­got­ten, George’s glam­or­ous ‘gim­mick’ of course took root in the cul­ture, and lives on.



Let me Hear Your Body Talk

Are men the new women? I’ve always avoided using that line until now. As the (hetero)sexual divi­sion of labour and lov­ing and look­ing con­tin­ues to fall apart, men are the new everything. Just as women are.

But in the last few months we’ve been told men now take longer get­ting ready than women, mer­ci­fully delet­ing at a stroke most of the mater­ial of stand-ups like John Bishop. We’ve also been told that gents are more likely to take travel irons, hairdry­ers and straight­en­ers on hol­i­day than ladies. Now there’s new evid­ence they may be as body-conscious as women too. In fact, accord­ing to a widely-reported study of 394 British men pub­lished last week, lads are now more con­cerned with their body image than lasses.

A third said they think about their appear­ance more than five times a day, 18% were on a high-protein diet to increase muscle mass, and 16% on a calorie-controlled diet to slim down. While a Faustian 15% claimed they would hap­pily trade 2–5 years of their life if they could have their ideal body weight and shape. (Probably because they hoped the years would be sliced off the end of their lives — when they’re old and crumbly and not very likely to go on Big Brother anyway).

Some we’re told were under­tak­ing com­puls­ive exer­cise, strict diets, using lax­at­ives or mak­ing them­selves sick in an attempt to lose weight or achieve a more toned physique. And although the sur­vey didn’t cover this, other data sug­gests a sur­pris­ingly large num­ber of men are also tak­ing ster­oids, growth hor­mones and other pre­scrip­tion drugs to achieve a more aes­thet­ic­ally pleas­ing appear­ance.

Which gen­er­ally means tits and abs. Men’s main pre­oc­cu­pa­tion, the sur­vey found, was their ‘beer belly’ and lack of muscles, with a whop­ping 63% say­ing they thought their arms or chests were not mus­cu­lar enough. And people never believe me when I tell them that while some women are size queens, all men are.

‘Geordie Shore’s Jay knows what you want

Clearly a lot of men are gaz­ing avar­i­ciously at the flaunted porno pecs and abs of hit TV shows like Jersey/Geordie Shore (Geordie Shore is back for a second sea­son on MTVUK at the end of this month). We already know they’re buy­ing Men’s Health magazine as it became the biggest-selling men’s mag recently. All those tarty, shouty Men’s Health front cov­ers prom­ising BIGGER ARMS! PUMPED PECS! and RIPPED ABS! in a fort­night may be as laugh­able as they are repet­it­ive, but they’re clearly, luc­rat­ively tap­ping into 21st Century man’s deep­est, darkest and beefi­est desires.

Men may or may not be the new women, but men’s tits and abs are the new eye candy. Men have become their own High Street Honeys.

They’re also rather bitchy. Apparently 80.7% of the sur­vey respond­ents talked about their own or oth­ers’ appear­ance in ways that draw atten­tion to weight, lack of hair or slim frame. It also con­firms that men of whatever sexual ori­ent­a­tion look rather a lot at each other’s bod­ies, com­par­ing and con­trast­ing, desir­ing and detracting.

Dr Philippa Diedrichs of the Centre for Appearance Research at UWE in Bristol who led the sur­vey, described this con­ver­sa­tion between men about their bod­ies as ‘body talk’ (which makes me think of both Olivia Newton John beat­ing up the fat­ties in ‘Physical’, and also that single from the same era by the incred­ibly camp dance band Imagination.)

Body talk rein­forces the unreal­istic beauty ideal which rein­forces lean­ness and mus­cu­lar­ity. This is tra­di­tion­ally seen as an issue for women but our research shows that men are feel­ing the pres­sure to con­form too.’

Rosi Prescott, chief exec­ut­ive of Central YMCA which com­mis­sioned the research also sees this as ‘damaging’:

Historically con­ver­sa­tion about your body has been per­ceived as some­thing women do, but it is clear from this research that men are also guilty of com­ment­ing on one another’s bod­ies; and in many cases this is hav­ing a dam­aging effect. Men’s high levels of body talk were symp­to­matic of a grow­ing obses­sion with appear­ance, she added.

Some three in five men (58.6%) said body talk affected them, usu­ally negatively.’

I’m a bit con­flic­ted here. Probably because as an ‘avid fan’ of the worked-out male body I’m part of the prob­lem. On the one hand I wel­come this kind of research and the pub­li­city it’s received because it’s both put­ting the spot­light on both how much men’s beha­viour has changed of late, and also under­min­ing sex­ist assump­tions about ‘men’ and ‘women’, which many fem­in­ists, like lazy stand-ups, buy into. And it’s always good to draw atten­tion to the Patrick Batemanesque dark side of the met­ro­sexual revolu­tion – and its costs.

On the other hand, I’m not entirely sure that apply­ing the prob­lem­at­ising, patho­lo­gising and some­times Puritanical, dare I say ‘Wolfian’ (as in ‘Naomi’), dis­course that’s been used on women’s bod­ies whole­sale to men would be some­thing to wel­come. Men aren’t the new women, but they might be the new moral panic.

This ‘body talk’ amongst men isn’t neces­sar­ily a sign of ‘guilt’ as was sug­ges­ted. It might be a healthy hon­esty. And whilst obvi­ously this kind of cri­tique and com­pet­i­tion might push some into anxi­ety and obses­sion and self-destructive beha­viour, or con­form­ity to rather nar­row ideals of male beauty, the gen­er­al­ised, com­puls­ory, tra­di­tional self-loathing that exis­ted amongst men before ‘body talk’ and (male) body interest became accept­able was in many ways worse. It was also, remem­ber, ‘normal’.

After all, not want­ing to talk about their bod­ies is part of the reason why men his­tor­ic­ally have been very reluct­ant to visit their GP and tend to die much earlier on aver­age than women. Until very recently the male body was simply an instru­ment that was to be used until the main­spring broke. Barely giv­ing men time to rewind their hor­ribly sym­bolic retire­ment clock.

And cer­tainly, men didn’t look at one another’s bod­ies. Unless they were queer.

Not any­more. Men’s ‘body talk’ has become deaf­en­ing. On the hit ITV real­ity series The Only Way is Essex Arge, who is a little on the husky side, was always gaz­ing long­ingly at Mark (above) and ask­ing how he gets his ‘fit body’ and whether he can help him get one too.

A mar­ried squad­die mate who is an occa­sional gym buddy always sub­jects my body to a close scru­tiny in the chan­ging rooms after our workouts, appre­ci­at­ively com­mend­ing, say, my delt­oid or tri­cep devel­op­ment, and mer­ci­lessly cri­ti­cising, say, my fore­arms’ fail­ure to keep up with them. And my belly’s gen­eral miser­able flab­bi­ness. Part of me dreads the scru­tiny, but another wel­comes the frank ‘body talk’ too. I’m glad he gets all Olivia Newton John on my ass. If he didn’t, I might have to pay someone to do it.

Mind you, his wise obser­va­tion about gym cul­ture to me one day sticks in my mind: “It’s all about ‘ow you look isn’t it, Mark? Nobody really cares whether any of this makes you fit or not. You could be rot­ten under­neath but if you look great no one gives a fook.” He’s right. The met­ro­sexy cult of male beauty is all a bit Dorian Ghey.

Which reminds me, appar­ently a quarter of the respond­ents in this sur­vey were gay (well, it was sponsored by the Central YMCA). Of course, some people will hast­ily seize upon that to dis­qual­ify its find­ings. And while it prob­ably is reason to treat them with at least as much cau­tion as those of any other sur­vey, I’m inclined to see the large sample of gay men included as a sign of this survey’s rel­ev­ance and inclus­ive­ness. After all, it’s gays that are to blame for the cult of male bloody beauty.…

Gays like The Village People. Love it or loathe it, the body-fascist found­a­tions for the met­ro­sexy male cul­ture we’re liv­ing in were laid in the early Eighties. And I’m deli­ri­ously happy the Central YMCA com­mis­sioned this sur­vey as it’s a per­fect excuse for me to post (below) my Favourite Music Video of All Time. I sus­pect it was part of the inspir­a­tion for Olivia’s ‘Physical’ video. (And both were almost cer­tainly inspired by this epic.)

Every frame is a joy, but the Busby Berkeley (or is it Leni Riefensthal?) shot of the swim­mers diving one after the other into the pool as if they were perfectly-formed pop­pies scythed down by the camera’s gaze never fails to send me into par­oxysms of delight. For me, it’s always fun to stay at the YMCA.

Which is just as well. In the 21st Century we’re all checked in there. Permanently.


Really Rucking Funny: Best Manlove Video of 2011 (SFW)

This clip by Irish com­edy out­fit Dead Cat Bounce called ‘Rugby’ has to be my favour­ite video of 2011. Even if it strongly sug­gests that, in Ireland at least, my work here is done and it’s well past time to retire to the touch-lines.

There’s much to admire here: the light­ness of touch, the hil­ari­ous blend of the accur­ate and the absurd; the josh­ing, ban­ter­ing, boy­ish affec­tion — both for rugby and man­love. I even like the tune. But I find myself espe­cially mes­mer­ised by the lead singer’s vast, match-winning gob. He could swal­low that giant, muddy testicle he’s pre­tend­ing to lick without it so much as touch­ing the sides.

It seems I’m not the only one who rated this man­love bal­lad. Originally broad­cast on their state TV sta­tion RTE, it’s the fifth most pop­u­lar YouTube clip in Ireland this year. Oh, and you can down­load the song from iTunes too.

Below the YouTube clip are scores of com­ments by self-identified straight rugby play­ers and fans, most of whom seem to love it as much as this old homo does:

im a rugby player. i play lock.. which makes me the guy who sticks his head between the guys’ thighs. i still think this is fuck­ing hilarious.’

It’s dif­fi­cult to ima­gine a sim­ilar skit about soc­cer get­ting the same good-humoured response. But then, as sev­eral rugby fans have poin­ted out, soc­cer is for poofs.

Tip: Dermod Moore

The Press Still Love-Hates ‘Twinkletoes’ Ronaldo So

Cristiano Ronaldo’s latest fash­ion foible, painted toe-nails has pro­voked the usual bitchy, mock­ing response that is attached to any­thing Ronaldo in the Anglo media. Despite — or per­haps because of — the way they seem to regard him as a sure-fire way of selling newspapers.

The announce­ment of the birth of his son by a sur­rog­ate mother last week also presen­ted another oppor­tun­ity to give him a good kick­ing.  Some, like Celia Walden in The Telegraph, really going over­board in the expres­sion of their tain­ted, twis­ted love.  It almost makes me regret out­ing the male nar­ciss­ism of met­ro­sexu­al­ity.  As one of the com­menters on the Telegraph web­site points out, her hus­band Piers Morgan is everything she com­plains about in Ronaldo — but untal­ten­ted and unat­tract­ive.  More gen­er­ally it goes without say­ing that Ronaldo’s van­ity would be con­sidered nor­mal and healthy and worthy of approb­a­tion in say, a much less pretty female journalist.

It’s pos­sible, I sup­pose, that Ronaldo painted his toe­nails as a riposte to the ‘Twinkletoes’ school play­ground nick­name (Twinkletoes was a fairy, ged­dit?) given to him by foot­ball fans and the tabloids dur­ing his stint at Manchester United.  But much more prob­able he painted his toe­nails just because he thought it would be fun and might look nice.  Which is an outrage.

Really, it’s no won­der that a year after leav­ing these shores the UK press con­tinue to love-hate him so.  This boy from a humble Portuguese fam­ily is very rich.  He’s fam­ous.  He’s fab­ulously tal­en­ted.  He’s young.  He’s absurdly good look­ing.  And he doesn’t owe any­one any­thing.  Worst of all, he knows it and doesn’t bother to hide this know­ledge.  And he thinks noth­ing of paint­ing his toe­nails because he feels like it, rather than because Esquire magazine told him to.  Yes, he’s a spoilt child, but then — so are the gods.

Here are a couple of other recently snapped pho­tos which may help explain the jeal­ousy mere mor­tals feel towards him.   (And let me assure you most people work­ing in journ­al­ism are very mor­tal indeed — inwardly and out­wardly.)

Tip: Mark W

Fight Club: How Gay is MMA?

Mark Simpson attends an epic UFC event and finds him­self turned on to the charms of ‘gay porn for straight men’

(Originally appeared in Out magazine, June 2008)

IMAGINE THE SPACE SHUTTLE tak­ing off with a really fat cus­tom­ized exhaust pipe. Or the Visigoths sack­ing Ancient Rome with kick­ing bass tubes fit­ted to their 4-by-4s. Or 20,000 super­charged male orgasms. Simultaneously. And you have some idea what it sounds and feels like in Montréal’s fam­ous Bell Centre tonight for Ultimate Fighting Championship 83, as a spunky young car­rot red­head in shorts pins an auburn lad on his back with his heels some­where around his ears. I think the tech­nical term for this is a “full mount.” Or maybe it’s “ground and pound.”

Never Back DownAs the chis­elled and blond bad guy with the low-slung shorts (Cam Gigandet) in the recent mixed mar­tial arts (MMA) exploit­a­tion flick Never Back Down says leer­ingly to the doe-eyed bru­net boxer  good guy (Sean Faris) new to MMA, the good news is that in this sport you can choke, kick, punch, pin, and throttle. “The bad news is that it’s gotta end with you look­ing like a bitch in front of everybody.”

Perhaps it was bad news for him — and for the auburn lad in the ring tonight — but cer­tainly not for the 22,000-strong over­whelm­ingly young-male audi­ence for the biggest-ever UFC event.

Over 2,500 miles away in Las Vegas, Brit boxer Joe “slap­per” Calzaghe is tonight defeat­ing light heavy­weight Bernard Hopkins on points. In the long-established world of box­ing, there is rumoured to be an ancient and secret tra­di­tion called the “perk,” or “per­quis­ite” — by which the los­ing man may be required later to lit­er­ally give up what he has lost sym­bol­ic­ally. In other words, the fucked gets… really fucked.

I don’t know how much truth there is to the “perk,” though the breath­less trash talk of modern-day box­ers in the run-up to a fight — “I’m gonna make you my bitch/girlfriend/punk” — cer­tainly doesn’t dis­credit it. But I’m fairly cer­tain that the “perk” doesn’t exist in the “full-contact” brave new world of mixed mar­tial arts (MMA), an omni­vor­ous blend of box­ing, free­style wrest­ling, judo, tae kwon do, kick-boxing, kar­ate, jujitsu, and Thai box­ing that is rap­idly repla­cing bor­ing old tra­di­tional box­ing, espe­cially among young men, as the fight­ing sport. The perk isn’t needed. Because in MMA you get perked in the “ring” in front of every­body. On pay-per-view TV. The “perk” is the whole perking point, man. And UFC, by far the most suc­cess­ful pur­veyor of MMA fights for the cable TV voyeur, looks remark­ably like gay porn for straight men: ulti­mate fuck-fighting.

ufc83_07_danzig_vs_bocek_001In the octa­gonal UFC cage set up over the Bell Centre ice hockey rink — octa­gonal per­haps because it bet­ter affords mul­tiple view­ing angles than a square box­ing ring — Mac Danzig is still on his back; his sweaty, pumped, almost trans­lu­cently white torso is flushed with the auburn heat that auburn skin pro­duces when it is aroused. His pant­ing, fetch­ing head has been pushed up against the cage by red­head Marc Bocek’s ener­getic pound­ing, as if the cage were in fact a head­board. Bocek isn’t mak­ing love, how­ever, or at least not the vanilla kind. He’s ham­mer­ing the liv­ing day­lights out of Danzig, stok­ing the crowd into ever-higher waves of frenzy. Although the Octagon is right in front of me, I’m watch­ing all of this on one of the giant screens over­head: MMA is mostly a hori­zontal sport — one that requires mul­tiple zoom lenses and a big TV to enjoy properly.

Bocek pauses for a moment to grab his partner/adversary by his hips, almost ten­derly, and drag him back­ward while still kneel­ing between his legs, not want­ing to break con­tact and nego­ti­ate that tricky “re-entry.” It isn’t, though, out of con­sid­er­a­tion for his chum’s cricked neck. He’s wor­ried that Danzig will use the cage to get up off the can­vas — and then get him in the “bitch” pos­i­tion. MMA is all about fight­ing for top. (Or maybe for extremely truc­u­lent bottom.)

bocekUnfortunately for Bocek, Danzig suc­ceeds in break­ing away any­way, jumps to his feet, and deftly, imper­son­ally, brings up his knee and smashes it against Bocek’s left eye­brow, which pro­vokes another roar of excite­ment from the crowd and opens up a very nasty lacer­a­tion that spills hot blood every­where, stream­ing into his eye, across his face, down his chin, and splat­ters across his lily-white chest — and all over his oppon­ent. MMA is def­in­itely not safe sex. The ref pauses the fight to exam­ine Bocek’s eye. If the blood is pre­vent­ing him from see­ing, the fight will be declared in Danzig’s favor.

posterTurning to my beau­ti­fully pro­duced glossy fight pro­gram, which includes full-page col­our images of the top­less young fight­ers arranged oppos­ite one another and their vital stat­ist­ics, I learn that Danzig is 5 foot 8 and 155 pounds, 28, and a Cleveland nat­ive. His feisty oppon­ent, Bocek, from Woodbridge, Canada, is 26, and is also 5 foot 8 and 155 pounds. As someone who has a thing for red­heads and short-asses, I’d say they are well matched.

The ref con­tin­ues the match — and why not? Blood looks good on TV. There are only a few seconds left of the third and final round (UFC fights only go to a max­imum three rounds at five minutes each — about the aver­age length of a porn scene). Bocek, des­pite the turned tables and his past­ing and what must be deathly tired­ness, is still put­ting up an aston­ish­ing fight. Danzig scores a take-down almost imme­di­ately and moves, as they say in MMA, “dir­ectly to the mount.” Bocek “gives up his back” to try to save his ruined face from fur­ther pun­ish­ment but is then caught in a “rear-naked choke” by Danzig’s power­ful, fatally invit­ing arms. He “taps out” (sub­mits) at 3 minutes, 48 seconds.

I don’t know about Bocek, but these were some of the longest 3 minutes, 48 seconds of my life. I’m aroused and inspired and exhausted and con­fused. For my money, Bocek won that fight — mor­ally speak­ing. Which of course means that he lost very badly. His face is roadkill. He is really fucked. But he dis­played that qual­ity you hear people talk about rev­er­ently in MMA: heart.

Despite the gore, MMA is gen­er­ally safer than box­ing — there are fewer fatal­it­ies and brain-damage is less com­mon. Because the fight is “full-contact,” the head doesn’t take all the viol­ence. When it does, though, it’s pretty grue­some. Yet amid all the may­hem, there is a touch­ing ten­der­ness to MMA. Not because it looks to my twis­ted, queer eye like very rough sex — but because of that “heart” busi­ness. After a bout is over, most fight­ers hug each other in a pseudo-post-coital embrace that re-enacts the war­like hug earlier, only this time it’s a hug of warm brotherhood.

Another huge, manly Gallic roar. The arena’s giant screen is now tuned to the locker room; a rangy young blond skin­head fighter has peeled his shirt off, reveal­ing a well-oiled fleshly fight­ing machine. The light behind him and his pier­cing blue eyes gaz­ing into the cam­era, not to men­tion the low pos­i­tion of the locker-room cam, give him the cast of a demi­god. It’s Georges “Rush” St-Pierre, the hand­some, styl­ish 26-year-old local Montréal boy who tonight is hop­ing to seize back his UFC Welterweight belt from Matt “the Terror” Serra, 33, the no-nonsense Long Island mas­ter of Brazilian jujitsu who dis­pos­sessed him of it last year with what some people said was a lucky punch.

We’ve only been watch­ing the hors d’œuvre. All this blood has just been so much fore­play.



STOP LOOKING LADIES!” some funny guy in the audi­ence shouts. It’s the weigh-in, a day earlier. Ed “Short Fuse” Herman, another 20-something boy-next-door red-headed fighter, from Vancouver, Wash., is naked on the stage under the spot­light, a towel held up by two lieu­ten­ants to shield his “short fuse.” Funnily enough, it’s mostly men rather than ladies doing the look­ing here in this packed aud­it­or­ium. Though some are per­haps doing more look­ing than oth­ers: From where I’m seated at the side, I man­age to catch a glimpse of Ed’s white butt as he bends over to slip off his briefs (a day later he will fight in shorts cheekily advert­ising ‘CONDOM DEPOT’ – across his butt).

Several guys have had to take their under­pants off — to cheers. I can’t help but won­der whether the UFC offi­cials, for showbiz’s sake, pre­tend some of these guys are closer to the weight limit than they are.

UFC knows all about show­biz. According to Forbes magazine, its pay-per-view shows have drawn well over 2 mil­lion view­ers, most of them male and ages 18 to 49. Formidably shrewd, motor-mouthed former box­ing pro­moter Dana White hosts The Ultimate Fighter, UFC’s hit PPV series on Spike (a men-only Big Brother with grap­pling gloves), which has taken MMA, essen­tially a semi-organized bar­room brawl in the ’90s, cleaned it up, intro­duced some rules — includ­ing no stomp­ing, no spit­ting, no throat strikes, no punches to the back of the head, and “no groin attacks of any kind” — and made it into a hot, mul­tiangle, high-impact PPV commodity.

Described mem­or­ably by John McCain in 1998 as “human cock­fight­ing,” and under threat of a total ban, MMA has become a dif­fer­ent, more sale­able, less relent­lessly viol­ent kind of “cock­fight­ing” in the nur­tur­ing hands of the UFC — so much so that McCain him­self recently relen­ted: “The sport has grown up.” As a meas­ure of just how grown up, UFC — for which casino own­ers the Fertitta broth­ers paid $2 mil­lion in 2001 — is today val­ued at roughly $1 bil­lion. Cultural respect­ab­il­ity has arrived too in the form of a recently pub­lished $2,500 MMA art book titled Octagon with a fore­word by man-loving straight play­wright David Mamet, who wrote and dir­ec­ted the MMA-themed movie Redbelt. MMA is also com­ing to major-network TV: CBS recently announced plans to air four MMA fights (non-UFC) annu­ally — des­pite the dis­ap­proval of CBS chair­man Sumner Redstone. “I’m a lover, not a fighter,” he said, per­haps miss­ing the way UFC brings lov­ing and fight­ing spec­tac­u­larly together.

There is a lot of pas­sion­ate hero wor­ship in the world of MMA, not so much homo­erotic as hero-erotic — or herotic. Straight male fans and fight­ers them­selves will enthuse with shin­ing eyes about “my idol”, in a way that in most other con­texts would be con­sidered much too ‘gay’ to keep a straight face.  But per­haps that’s not so sur­pris­ing, since MMA owes a lot to those notori­ous war­rior homos, the ancient Greeks. Although today’s MMA came to us via Brazilian jujitsu (alas, not con­duc­ted in Speedos, as the name may sug­gest), many con­sider it the mod­ern ver­sion of pankra­tion, a com­bin­a­tion of box­ing and wrest­ling that was the basis of com­bat train­ing for Greek sol­diers and an ori­ginal Olympic sport. With lethal pur­ity, pankra­tion had two primary rules: no eye-gouging or bit­ing. Fingers were often snapped off. Sometimes death or uncon­scious­ness was the only form of sub­mis­sion (rather like this year’s Democratic primaries).

MMA’s younger fans are not likely to acknow­ledge their sport’s homo­erotic her­it­age. For most of these young men, many of them blue-collar and swoon­ingly in love with mas­culin­ity, gay means unmanly and pass­ive and emas­cu­lated - and there­fore major turn-off. MMA is gay porn for straight men because its viol­ence not only jus­ti­fies the intim­ate, pro­trac­ted, eye-popping phys­ic­al­ity of the sport but also pre­serves its vir­il­ity — the very thing that gets many of its fans hot. These fight­ers can’t be fags — look how fuck­ing tough they are, dude! It’s a bit like how in gay porn “real” tops never bot­tom — for the sake of the bot­toms watching.

Sometimes the MMA fighter really is homo — like pro­fes­sional MMA fighter Shad Smith, who was recently pro­filed in The New York Times. From a tough blue-collar back­ground, Smith was des­per­ate to hide his sexu­al­ity at first. “I was pet­ri­fied because I didn’t want any­one to find out,” he told the Times. “And I would try to be the toughest per­son around. That way no one would sus­pect. No one would ever say it. No one would think it.” Doubtless there are quite a few Shad Smiths who became very good, very determ­ined, very motiv­ated scrap­pers because they weren’t escap­ing to col­lege or open­ing a hairdress­ing salon.

Georges St.-PierreThe tough-guy image is some­thing of an illu­sion — if an entran­cing and con­vin­cing one. Surprisingly often, fight­ers turn out to be sens­it­ive, intro­spect­ive loners — “fags” who aren’t actu­ally fags — such as Mac Danzig, the beefy auburn-haired killer who is in fact a vegan and whose main pas­time, when he isn’t turn­ing another lad’s face into ten­der­loin, is nature pho­to­graphy. That’s also the story of Georges St-Pierre, a bul­lied slight boy at school who turned to MMA for sal­va­tion, who with his tight, wiry body, immacu­lately groomed present­a­tion and designer clothes looks rather metro. As one observer put it: “He’s the kind of flash Europunk you might think you could wipe the floor with if you came across him in a bar, but you’d be very, very wrong.”

Likewise you might expect a fight between Serra and St-Pierre to be billed as good ol’ USA versus Frenchy “fag,” but you’d be wrong. Because GSP — to give St-Pierre his brand name — is gen­er­ally con­sidered to be an excep­tional fighter, genu­inely excel­lent in sev­eral dis­cip­lines, or maybe because this is such a visual medium, he has begun to look like the David Beckham of UFC, albeit one who actu­ally reads books and is, heaven for­fend!, inter­ested in philo­sophy (that’s the French for you). His pho­to­genic face and body and his workouts have been splashed across count­less health and fit­ness magazines.

His oppon­ent, Matt Serra, may be breez­ily unpre­ten­tious and resemble an unpainted fire hydrant, but he is def­in­itely no idiot: “I think they look at Georges as the Crest poster boy with the sparkle in his teeth, the looks, the physique, the body and the athleticism…the real ver­sion of what Van Damme was doing,” he’s said. “And then comes me — the Joe Pesci–style ‘Heyooo!’ But it’s cool, man. I’m down with it. I fit in those shoes real well. I’m just look­ing for­ward to hav­ing another good fight.”

When he turns up for his weigh-in, a relent­less tidal wave of boos greets him. An Italian-American pocket battle­ship at 5 foot 6, Serra weighs in at 169.5 pounds; he appears indif­fer­ent to the roil­ing sea of hatred around him. The boo­ing doesn’t stop when the host offers him the micro­phone, and whatever he says is com­pletely drowned out. So he offers the crowd two fin­gers, mean­ing “two times” and V for vic­tory – and, per­haps, “fuck you.”

Ecstatic cheers greet his chal­lenger St-Pierre, who’s taller by four inches but in stature by sev­eral feet. St.-Pierre flu­idly strips down to his taste­ful and tastily filled-out black under­wear and also weighs in at 169.5 pounds. Offered the mike, he gra­ciously tells the crowd they shouldn’t hate Serra and that “I don’t fight with angerrr — I fight with my ‘eart.” The two men pose for the cam­eras in a fight­ing stance and then they hug, GSP kiss­ing Serra’s huge neck.

There was no trash talk in the quieter sur­round­ings of the press con­fer­ence the day before. The fight­ers had been polite, respect­ful, even friendly. “C’mon, I’ve got noth­ing against the French,” pro­tested Serra when the journ­al­ists dug up some “Frenchy” quotes from the past. St.-Pierre, for his part, was touch­ingly open. “I am nervous and scared to fail but that’s nor­mal,” he admit­ted. “I ‘ave but­ter­flies. but I ‘ave to make the but­ter­flies fly in formation.”



The Bell Centre out­does itself as Georges St.-Pierre, sur­roun­ded by his lieu­ten­ants, makes his way to the stage in a natty red jujitsu jacket. Climbing into the Octagon, he peels off his silky, tight black T-shirt, and then his baggy trousers come off, reveal­ing tight black trunks with just a white fleur-de-lis on the side of his firm right but­tock. It matches the arty tat­too on the back of his steely calf.

Cheers turn to boos. Matt Serra has arrived in a baggy black T-shirt with big white let­ter­ing: BUY GUNS SELL GUNSGUNSAMERICA.COM. The stats on the big screen make dif­fi­cult read­ing for Serra: GSP is taller and younger and has a longer reach. Worse, he is more pop­u­lar and better-looking and has nicer pants. He’s the favour­ite in every way.

The bell rings, and they touch gloves. In a flash St.-Pierre has Serra on the can­vas. All that frus­tra­tion, regret, resolve, train­ing — and heart — have exploded. All over Serra. To tire him out, St.-Pierre lets him get up, keep­ing him within range of his own fists but out of Serra’s. Then he takes him down again. St.-Pierre’s pur­pose­ful, omin­ous shoulders rise up like medi­eval armour, like Joan of Arc ser­i­ously narked.

End of round 1. Serra’s eye is swell­ing up badly. He looks beaten already.


Round 2. Plucky Serra tries a kick.  St.-Pierre catches it and takes Serra down. After Serra stands up again, St.-Pierre lets fly a bar­rage of punches. Serra is too groggy to parry them. St.-Pierre — part pan­ther, part lethal bal­let dan­cer — comes in for the kill, eas­ily tak­ing his oppon­ent down again. Serra offers his back, and St.-Pierre knees him repeatedly, ath­let­ic­ally in the ribs in a man­ner which some­how man­ages to be as pas­sion­ate as it is impersonal.

The ref stops the match, and it’s all over: tech­nical knock­out. Canada has won. Montréal has beaten Long Island. The but­ter­flies flew in form­a­tion. Terrifying form­a­tion. And judging by the noise from the crowd, the entire world and its dad have just climaxed.

A grin­ning St.-Pierre executes a win­ning somer­sault. The crowd chants, “FUCK YOU, SERRA! FUCK YOU, SERRA!” He has been fucked. He was fucked. He is fucked. He is without any doubt what­so­ever the fuckee. But he exhib­its no resent­ment. The war­ri­ors embrace warmly, another kiss from GSP to that huge, now sweaty neck. Serra holds St.-Pierre’s arm up for the crowd, then hoists him on his shoulder, car­ry­ing him for a few stag­ger­ing steps.

If MMA is gay porn for straight men, then tonight a part of me won­ders whether, for all its spilled blood and mashed faces, it isn’t the bet­ter kind.

After all, no one could ser­i­ously accuse gay porn of hav­ing “heart.”

Copyright Mark Simpson 2009

This essay is col­lec­ted in ‘Metrosexy: A 21st Century Self-Love Story’.

We Loved You Really, Ronaldo


By Mark Simpson (col­lec­ted in Metrosexy)

Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the best foot­ballers ever to play in this coun­try — and one of the best look­ing — brought out the worst in the English.

He prickled you see, our ugly, mean-minded, spite­ful, spit­ting jeal­ousy. We were jeal­ous of his tal­ent, his looks, his body, his youth, his money and most of all of his total lack of interest in what the English media and ter­race cul­ture thought of him and his dress sense and the way they kept shout­ing ‘winker!’, ‘poof!’, ‘twink­le­toes!!’ to try and get his attention.

It just made us even more fren­zied and pas­sion­ate and help­less that the way we obsessed over everything about him from the dark­ness of his tan to the size of his beach shorts meant noth­ing to him. He ignored our stalker­ish beha­viour, and our play­ground bul­ly­ing, and just kept on being Cristiano. He didn’t need us. He didn’t even bloody notice us. He was hot. He knew he was hot. And worst of all, there was noth­ing we could do about it. No won­der we hated him.

And now it seems he’s leav­ing us behind for good – and will prob­ably for­get about us before he even lands in Madrid. The bas­tard!

Our most pop­u­lar tabloid The Sun has run a par­tic­u­larly bitchy cam­paign against him for years. Most recently, they devoted pages of phoney out­rage to the fact that he wore a pink base­ball cap on hol­i­day in LA, and had the effrontery to wear a flower in his ear. Apparently he’s also per­son­ally to blame for turn­ing today’s pro foot­ballers into met­ro­sexu­als and is the evil ‘queen’ behind what they like to call ‘The Campions League’.

In short, Ronaldo has been on the receiv­ing end of abuse that would be deemed ‘homo­phobic’ in a trice if it were dir­ec­ted at someone actu­ally gay. But this isn’t just homo­pho­bia in the form of met­ro­pho­bia, this is good old English hypo­crisy at work: The Sun exploits the way young foot­ballers look today to sell papers, filling their pages almost daily with pic­tures of them being tarty – and then of course damns them for mak­ing us look at them.

Ronaldo united the English in ways that few other things do these days. The editor of snooty Esquire for instance, a magazine that likes to see itself as being the oppos­ite end of the media and social spec­trum to The Sun, recently joined in the national gang bang of Ronaldo, tak­ing aim at his pretty pout­ing face in a piece sniff­ing at the vul­gar­ity of English foot­ballers, and the way they ‘pile on the designer labels with gay aban­don (Ronaldo), accessor­ise with far too many sparkly things (Ronaldo) and haven’t yet dis­covered that logos a go-go have gone out of fash­ion (Ronaldo).’

Yes dear, but Ronaldo has more nat­ural beauty, sex­i­ness and vital­ity in his left foot than a hun­dred back issues of Esquire – a magazine that would bene­fit enorm­ously from a little vul­gar­ity: I mean, it might be mis­taken for some­thing actu­ally alive. It’s prob­ably Ronaldo’s ‘gay aban­don’ which is the most won­der­ful and insuf­fer­able thing about him to the English. After all, it’s the sign that someone is genu­inely free – they genu­inely don’t care what the neighbours/bloke down the pub/The Sun/Esquire think, and they do and wear what they like, damn them.

This is also prob­ably the reason why he was hated so much for his on-pitch naugh­ti­ness – not so much the cheat­ing itself, but the brazen­ness of it. The flam­boy­ance of it! Ronaldo was hated and envied because he broke the rules in plain view. And could behave like a spoilt child. The English you see can never for­give someone for doing pub­licly what they have to spend so much time and energy hiding.

As Ronaldo said, matter-of-factly, in response to the English media’s frenzy over the pink hat with the flower: ‘I don’t see what is wrong with that if you are com­fort­able with your sexu­al­ity.’ But the English aren’t com­fort­able, Ronaldo. In any sense. Don’t remind us of it!.

David Beckham man­aged, more or less, to get away with sarongs and nail pol­ish and worse. But that was partly because Beckham wasn’t as tal­en­ted a foot­baller as Ronaldo, wasn’t as pretty, or as young – and, unlike Ronaldo, was very, very con­cerned with hand­ling the English press and his pub­lic image: he really cared about us and what we thought, and so was gen­er­ally regarded as ‘nice’. Most import­antly, in the end Becks was English. He may have been a tart, but he was our tart (though at the moment he appears to be Mr Armani’s.)

The prob­lem with Portuguese Ronaldo, and the reason ulti­mately why he was so resen­ted and the tar­get of such pas­sion­ate ambi­val­ence, was that he wasn’t ours. He was always only on loan – which is why whenever rumours of a move abroad sur­faced the hate cam­paign in the press would reach new, trem­u­lous heights.

But now he’s really going. And we’re really going to miss him. But being English, the way we’ll express that is by say­ing: ‘Good rid­dance, you WINKER!!’

Copyright Mark Simpson 2009

Sporno on Steroids


Now that’s what I call push­ing back.

Taking the sporno trend to parts it hasn’t yet reached — and what parts! — while spread­ing the fam­ous French ‘pro’ tarti­ness of the Dieux du Stade cal­en­dars to these shores, the latest ad cam­paign for Powerade’s ‘InnerGear’ iso­tonic sports drink fea­tures sev­eral UK pro rug­ger bug­gers in the buff snapped by the pho­to­grapher Alan Clarke. Including, most spec­tac­u­larly, most spher­ic­ally, England Rugby Union Captain Steve Borthwick (above), keep­ing his spor­no­graphic end up for the Queen.  And nicely stuck out.

Or as the gay porn legend Dink Flamingo would say, ‘Arch your back, bitch!’

Once again, it seems that it isn’t just me who is undress­ing ath­letes with my eyes and giv­ing them filthy dir­ec­tions.  Advertising is doing it too.  But unlike me, advert­ising can actu­ally afford these tarts.

But I’m not bit­ter. Honestly. I’m sure that Borthwick was rewar­ded hand­somely by his sugar daddy Coca Cola (who own Powerade) for his bare-faced cheek, but nev­er­the­less he also deserves, as Julian Clary would put it, a warm hand on his entrance for his bravery.  Apparently his mates have been roger­ing him — sorry -  rib­bing him.  ‘It is one of the most dar­ing shoots I’ve been involved in,’ he told the ladies and gen­tle­men of the press,  ‘but it has been loads of fun, even it it has given my team mates plenty of ammuni­tion for chan­ging room banter.’

I can’t help think­ing though that the shoot would have been even more dar­ing and fun if Borthwick had been por­trayed along with his ban­ter­ing naked team mates in an actual scrum instead of doing a mus­cu­lar Marcel Marceau.  For the pur­poses of real­ism, of course.

The InnerGear for an ath­lete — how we train, what we eat and drink — is as import­ant as what we wear,’ says Borthwick, clearly read­ing here from Coca Cola’s script. ‘And it’s great that this cam­paign brings it to life’.

Gear’ of course is also the street name given to ster­oids, that hot com­mod­ity more and more rugby play­ers these days look as if they’re tak­ing, man­dat­ory drug test­ing or no.  According to vari­ous reports, epi­demic num­bers of young men who aren’t ath­letes but who, like today’s sports­men, also want to look like porn stars are down­ing them like, well, soft drinks.

I’m sure Coca Cola chose the name ‘InnerGear’ for entirely inno­cent and pure reas­ons, and that none of their mod­els would ever use banned sub­stances, even if it is quite easy to do so and avoid detec­tion, but if young men think that by drink­ing an over­priced sugary-salty drink inves­ted with magical, virile prop­er­ties by advert­ising they’ll get buff instead of fat, and look as desir­able, as shag­gable, as these pro ath­letes, that can surely only help sales.

Below, England International Paul Sackey and Welsh International Shane Williams who also fea­ture in the InnerGear cam­paign, prove that really fit bubble-butts can fly. Williams, who looks a little like a Welsh statue of Eros with a rugby ball let loose instead of an arrow, also proves that really fit bubble-butts can arch and look over their shoulder at the same time.

It’s true that this pub­lic cam­paign, unlike the DDS cal­en­dars (which are for private con­sump­tion, after all), avoids frontal nud­ity, but then Freud thought that in dreams fly­ing had a phal­lic symbolism.

So with InnerGear’s fly­ing rugby but­tocks you really can have both.



Welsh International Shane Williams. Your flex­ible friend.

Why The Sun Can’t Leave Ronaldo’s Legs Alone

Ere, Ron, The Sun’s just texted me. They want to know if you’ve got any smal­ler shorts.”

Britain’s best-selling news­pa­per The Sun has been work­ing itself into a con­fused lather about our met­ro­sexual foot­ballers, again. Like me, it just can’t leave them alone.

In a long, hand-wringing — and graph­ic­ally illus­trated — art­icle spread over the centre pages last Friday head­lined ‘Preen Team’ they ask ‘What the hell is going on with our footballers?’

Led by the Premier League’s arch-metrosexual Cristiano Ronaldo, foot­ball has this sum­mer gone camper than a row of tents.

This week Ronaldo con­tin­ued his hol­i­day tour by hanging out in a pair of tight sil­ver shorts in LA — and had the world’s gay men com­ing over all funny.

Er no, it had The Sun com­ing over all funny. For much of the sum­mer, The Sun has been stalk­ing Portuguese Ronaldo, the best foot­baller in the UK and also one of the best look­ing, who is cur­rently con­vales­cing after an injury (hence the unflat­ter­ing blue foot­wear), try­ing to exploit his cur­rent unpop­ular­ity — the res­ult of his plans to leave Manchester United for Real Madrid, and his fail­ure to keep them, like his hot oiled bod, under wraps.

Like a jeal­ous, spurned suitor, The Sun (along with most of the Brit tabloids) has been bitch­ing and beat­ing him up over his dark (Portuguese) tan, his shorts, his good looks — and his lack of apo­logy for them. And try­ing to imply he is girly and, what is the same thing in their book, homo.

And who can blame him for want­ing to leave the UK, where the biggest paper behaves like a school-ground bully with sexual iden­tity issues? They’ve even pub­lished pic­tures of him smil­ing at a mate (who appears to be his brother), telling us that he’s cruis­ing him. And I thought I had bum­sex on the brain.

In a famil­iar trick, they’ve given space to the editor of ‘Britain’s best-selling gay magazine’ to gush about what a ‘gay idol’ Ronaldo is. Otherwise known as guilt by asso­ci­ation. At the same time as prov­ing they’re ‘not homo­phobic’ because they let the king of poofs have his say.

Friday’s art­icle goes one step fur­ther and seems to blame Ronaldo for mak­ing an entire gen­er­a­tion of foot­ballers gay. I know he has nice legs, but I doubt even those pins have that kind of power.

But a perfectly-waxed chest and budgie smug­gling shorts are just the tip of the iceberg.

A sun invest­ig­a­tion has found the man­bag and groom­ing obses­sion is rife among our highly-paid stars.

As you may have sus­pec­ted, it turns out that this ‘invest­ig­a­tion’ is just another excuse for lots of pics of young foot­ballers without much on. An excuse even smal­ler than Ron’s sil­ver shorts.

Though I can’t help but poke fun at The Sun’s hissy list of the met­ro­sexual offences of our footie aces:

Chelsea ace Frank Lampard refused to go any­where this sum­mer without his sal­mon pink vest and match­ing shorts.

(Which we’ve Photoshopped to make look even pinker and gayer, just as we’ve done with Ronaldo’s tan to make him look even darker and even more of a girly dago.)

He has also been lug­ging around wife Elen Rives’ fuch­sia handbag.

I think it suits Fabulous Frankie and he should nick it off her.

Italian World Cup win­ner Fabio Cannavaro actu­ally SHAVED his mate’s chest and armpits on the deck of their hol­i­day yacht this week in a show of shame­less male bonding.

Actually SHAVED his mate’s chest and armpits? No! Well, I never! The shame­less­ness of it!

And Liverpool and Spain striker Fernando Torres spent most of last month by the pool with an Alice band in his hair while leaf­ing through life­style magazines.

You can bet he wasn’t read­ing The Sun.

Ah, for the days of foot­ball when men were men and soap was never scen­ted — or dropped. Right on cue The Sun wheels out 1970s foot­baller Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris, to whinge about how in his day he got paid ten bob a week, cut his own hair with garden shears, ate gravel, and beat up poofs on sight (or so you’d be for­given for think­ing). Interesting that The Sun didn’t ask retired ‘hard­man’ Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock back to play this role, after he failed to deliver the poof-baiting goods in a recent pre­vi­ous Sun art­icle bemoan­ing the gay­ness of today’s foot­ball.

How The Sun loves to keep com­ing back to this theme of metro V retro, pre­tend­ing of course to be on the side of ret­ro­sexu­al­ity against, well, homo­sexu­al­ity. Partly this is because it ima­gines that ret­ro­sexu­al­ity is syn­onym­ous with ‘work­ing class’ — tra­di­tion­ally the major­ity of this tab’s read­er­ship — because The Sun is now edited by expens­ively edu­cated types who are fak­ing it.

By pos­ing as cham­pi­ons of ‘Chopper’ Harris they present them­selves as con­nec­ted to that stoic pro­let­arian tra­di­tion they actu­ally have noth­ing to do with, and today’s con­sumer­ist, sen­sual, closet­ted metro Sun is a mil­lion fake-tanned miles from.

I sus­pect read­ers under the age of 30 that they know they des­per­ately need to attract if they are to have any future at all, let alone con­tinue to sell mil­lions every day, are mostly turned off by this con­fused and con­flic­ted met­ro­phobic bul­ly­ing, how­ever jokey it’s presen­ted as being. Especially those from a work­ing class back­ground. Why? Because they will prob­ably see it as dir­ec­ted against them.

When repeatedly adopt­ing this kind of cor, strewth, look at the poof­tahs foot­ballers are today! tone, The Sun just sounds like their night­mare fat dad.

Or me.

Intentionally or not, this time the space given to the editor of Attitude to twit­ter about fash­ion and male free­dom and foot­ballers show­ing the way makes that gay mag sound much more in tune with younger Sun read­ers than The Sun itself.

Tip: Dave Harley

Naked Rugger Buggers Buggering About

The New Zeeland and South African Rugby teams made the news this week with their nude rugby match on St Kilda beach.

(UPDATE: In fact, the NY Daily News story cited here appears to have got a little over­ex­cited: the play­ers were NOT from the All Blacks and the Boks but local ama­teur play­ers tak­ing part in a mid-winter naked rugby tra­di­tion that has gone on for years — see Uroskin’s com­ment below and on his blog.)

Held before their offi­cial match, and sponsored by ‘Bottom Bus’ (a local tour agency, allegedly), it looks at first glance like a real­isa­tion of the spor­no­graphic fantasy of those Dieux Du Stade cal­en­dars and those ‘Paris: City of Love posters’ with snog­ging rugby play­ers advert­ising the Rugby World Cup last year. And per­haps in a way it is.

But the naughty slo­gans scrawled on their bod­ies and the gen­eral may­hem seems to have more of the trade­mark, old-style rug­ger bug­ger haz­ing humour. Porn and DDS (and UFC) by con­trast, are a very ser­i­ous business.

This seems more like a genu­ine, beery, blokey laugh.

Nice arses, though.

Ultimate Pillowbiting — How Gay is MMA?

This month’s Out magazine includes a fea­ture by yours truly on my visit to Montréal in April to see the biggest, bad­dest, ball­si­est Ultimate Fighting Championship event ever. UFC, for those who aren’t in the know, or unac­count­ably unin­ter­ested in see­ing fit, near-naked men grap­pling and grunt­ing, is the cage-fighting craze that is rap­idly becom­ing the most pop­u­lar sport with young men in North America.

Out tell me my take has pro­voked some threats against my pretty face from out­raged MMA fans. It seems my crime was enjoy­ing it too much. Other less shall we say clenched fol­low­ers of this man-mounting sport have how­ever wel­comed my interest — even if I breathe too heavily.

Here’s how the piece begins:

Imagine the space shuttle tak­ing off with a really fat cus­tom­ized exhaust pipe or the Visigoths sack­ing Ancient Rome with kick­ing bass tubes fit­ted to their 4-by-4s. Or 20,000 super­charged male orgasms. Simultaneously. And you have some idea what it sounds and feels like in Montréal’s fam­ous Bell Centre tonight for Ultimate Fighting Championship 83, as a spunky young car­rot red­head in shorts pins an auburn lad on his back with his heels some­where around his ears. I think the tech­nical term for this is a “full mount.” Or maybe it’s “ground and pound.”

As the chiseled and blond bad guy with the low-slung shorts (Cam Gigandet) in the recent mixed mar­tial arts (MMA) exploit­a­tion flick Never Back Down says leer­ingly to the doe-eyed bru­net boxer good guy (Sean Faris) new to MMA, the good news is that in this sport you can choke, kick, punch, pin, and throttle; “the bad news is that it’s gotta end with you look­ing like a bitch in front of every­body.” Perhaps it was bad news for him — and for the auburn lad in the ring tonight — but cer­tainly not for the 22,000-strong over­whelm­ingly young-male audi­ence for the biggest-ever UFC event.

Over 2,500 miles away in Las Vegas, “slap­per” Brit boxer Joe Calzaghe is tonight defeat­ing light heavy­weight Bernard Hopkins on points. In the long-established world of box­ing, there is rumored to be an ancient and secret tra­di­tion called the “perk,” or “per­quis­ite” — by which the los­ing man may be required later to lit­er­ally give up what he has lost sym­bol­ic­ally. In other words, the fucked gets…really fucked.

I don’t know how much truth there is to the “perk,” though the breath­less trash talk of modern-day box­ers in the run-up to a fight — “I’m gonna make you my bitch/girlfriend/punk” — cer­tainly doesn’t dis­credit it. But I’m fairly cer­tain that the “perk” doesn’t exist in the “full-contact” brave new world of mixed mar­tial arts, an omni­vor­ous blend of box­ing, free­style wrest­ling, judo, tae kwon do, kick­box­ing, kar­ate, jujitsu, and Thai box­ing that is rap­idly repla­cing bor­ing old tra­di­tional box­ing, espe­cially among young men, as the fight­ing sport. The perk isn’t needed. Because in MMA you get fucked in the “ring” in front of every­body. On pay-per-view TV. The “perk” is the whole, er, perking point, man. And UFC, by far the most suc­cess­ful pur­veyor of MMA fights for the cable TV voyeur, looks remark­ably like gay porn for straight men: Ultimate Fuck-Fighting.

Read the art­icle in full here.

Fluffy Ideology: The Cold War With Cuddly Toys

Mark Simpson on the Cold War with Cuddly Toys

(Arena Hommes Plus, Spring 2008)

The titanic Superpower con­front­a­tion of the early 1980s between the Soviet Union and the United States saw the deploy­ment of sev­eral new and ter­ri­fy­ing stra­tegic weapons sys­tems, includ­ing Cruise Missiles, Pershings, SS-20s, B1 Bombers, and SDI/Star Wars.

But undoubtedly the most power­ful, most feared and most soph­ist­ic­ated of these weapons sys­tems was a smi­ley cuddly toy called Misha.

Unleashed at the height of the Cold War, at the Moscow Olympics of 1980, boy­cot­ted by the US and her allies because of the Soviet inva­sion of Afghanistan, Misha the bear cub, or to give him his full, chilling title, Mikhail Potapych Toptygin, left the West com­pletely defence­less. A tri­umph of art, mar­ket­ing, pro­pa­ganda, and plush toys, Misha appeared on hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent badges, in plastic, por­cel­ain, rub­ber and wood. He was the most com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful and thor­oughly exploited Olympic mas­cot ever. It took Communists to real­ise the mer­chand­ising poten­tial and polit­ical power of fluffiness.

To under­stand the scale of the Soviet tri­umph that was Misha you have to look at (gingerly, through your fin­gers) what went before: 1968 Grenoble’s Winter Olympics ‘Schuss’ or ‘ski­ing sperm’ as it came to be known, Munich 1972’s radio­act­ive Wiener dog, and Montréal 1976’s black beaver Amik, a turd taste­fully tied-off with a chocolate-box ribbon.

Misha, who became the smi­ley, irres­ist­ibly furry shape of Brezhnevism, was a labour of love. Famous children’s illus­trator Viktor Chizikov took six months to per­fect him, draw­ing over one hun­dred vari­ations. His big dark wide eyes, trust­ing smile and irres­ist­ible cud­dli­ness inver­ted the Western view of the USSR and Russia as a scary, slav­er­ing, lum­ber­ing beast. Misha’s humane, friendly face fore­told the arrival five years later of that other cuddly Mikhail, the one with that ador­able birth­mark on his forehead.

The US, under­stand­ably pan­icked by Red Misha, com­mis­sioned their ideo­lo­gical depart­ment, bet­ter known as Disney, to come up with a response to this stra­tegic threat. Sam, a bald eagle, the national sym­bol of the US (and also of the USMC, which the pre­vi­ous year had invaded Grenada), wear­ing a natty stars and stripes (Capitalist?) top hat and bow tie, was rolled out as the offi­cial mas­cot for the 1984 LA Games.

Although bet­ter than most mas­cots, Sam was rather less lov­able and much crasser than Misha, and in this Cold War of cuddly toys it was gen­er­ally agreed that the USSR had won.

The end of the Cold War proper shortly after­wards, and the non-ideological nature of the Games that fol­lowed, meant that mas­cots once again rever­ted to their pre-Misha harm­less­ness — and tack­i­ness. 1988 Seoul’s ‘Hodori’ looked like Tony the Tiger with tas­sels. OK, but not Grrrrreat.

Better than most, 1992 Barcelona’s snig­ger­ing sur­real dog ‘Cobi’ was unloved at first but won many over in the end.

The Sydney Olympics in 2000 fea­tured a Platypus, an Echidna and a Kookaburra that appeared to be a rejec­ted Aussie kid’s TV line-up (and were in fact rejec­ted by the Australians).

Athens in 2004 deployed Athena and Phevos, gods of wis­dom and light, who might have been for­mid­able if they hadn’t been rendered in Playdough by an angry two year old.

The undoubted nadir though was Izzy (from ‘Whatizit?’) in Atlanta 1996. An ‘amorph­ous abstract fantasy fig­ure’ Izzy was an aes­thetic tizzy who only sym­bol­ised how the post-ideological world had no place for icon­o­graphy or, for that mat­ter, human­ism. The End of History meant not only dreary Olympics, but a wider cul­ture lack­ing a sense of import­ance or pur­pose. Worst of all, it meant really daggy mascots.

But now, eight­een years on from Moscow, another Communist giant is host­ing the Games, determ­ined to exploit them for every last scrap of pro­pa­ganda. Consequently they threaten to be the most spec­tac­u­lar yet. The Soviet Union may have been con­signed to the dust­bin of his­tory, but the coun­try it taught how to organ­ise a proper flag-waving parade, the People’s Republic of China, goes from strength to strength, dividend to dividend — and wants the world to know about it. Everything, from the Stadium to the stick­ers, is going to be a huge, flut­ter­ing statement.

The Games might offi­cially hark back to the freedom-loving ideals of Ancient Greece, cradle of demo­cracy, but it takes a good old-fashioned total­it­arian state to show us what they really mean: Ideology and icon­o­graphy plus cho­reo­graphy.

And all these things come together in… fluffy toys. Undoubtedly, China’s ‘Fuwa’ mas­cots for 2008, imp­ish ener­getic car­toons based on pop­u­lar Chinese anim­als, have been given more thought than all the ones since Misha put together. That there are also five of them, the most ever, is a reminder of China’s pop­u­lous­ness, its dynam­ism, and its new-found Capitalist wili­ness: five mas­cots = five times as many sales opportunities.

And you can be sure these mas­cots, like everything else theses days, are made in China. (They will also be offi­cial: China, the home of cheap knock-offs is crack­ing down hard on Olympic cloning.)

Apparently Beibei the fish sym­bol­ises water, prosper­ity and swim­ming. Jinjing the Panda: metal, hap­pi­ness, weight­lift­ing and judo. HuanHuan the (Red!) Olympic Flame: fire, pas­sion and ball sports. Yingying the Tibetan ante­lope: earth, health, track and field events. Nini the swal­low: wood, good Fortune and gymnastics.

A col­li­sion of Chinese astro­logy, Communist ideo­logy and Sino hege­mony, per­haps these mas­cots — with their ‘super­powers’ — sym­bol­ise a little too much. Their names also spell out ‘Beijing wel­comes you’. Or is it ‘Welcome to a Chinese 21st Century’? The ele­mental nature of the Fuwa mas­cots also looks like an augury of the future: given its recent phe­nom­enal growth China may one day mono­pol­ise these resources.

The flame of the fluffy mar­ket­ing and ideo­lo­gical tri­umph of the Moscow Olympics has been passed on to Chinese Communism — which, unlike the USSR, is still around today only because it effect­ively went Misha back in the 1980s, now doing Capitalism and con­sumer­ism bet­ter than the West. Being very, very care­ful, of course, not to allow the emer­gence of a Misha Gorbachov: instead at Tiananmen Square the lead­er­ship crushed its own people like they were… toys. Rather than grant­ing its people human rights, China set about mak­ing everything the rest of the world wanted — and at a snip.

So I pre­dict the Fuwa, or Chinese Spice Girls, will be a great suc­cess with kids and adults around the world, and cause China to open a couple of dozen more power-stations, as well as pay­ing for at least another air­craft carrier.

Especially Jingjing the giant panda — Misha with Chinese characteristics.

Special thanks to Jo-Ann Furniss

Size Hero: How Steroids & Muscle Marys Conquered the World

Mark Simpson on how ster­oids got into our blood­stream and changed the shape of masculinity

(Guardian CIF, 6 Dec, 2007)

Roids may sound as Eighties as Cher’s black-lace bod­ice. But they’re baaak, even big­ger and bustier than ever.

According to a series of recent reports, ster­oids, or ‘juice’ or ‘gear’ to the ini­ti­ated, once an exotic drug of cheat­ing ath­letes and freaky body­build­ers have entered the main­stream and have become just another life­style product for young men: some boys as young as 12 are reportedly tak­ing the drug.

And this des­pite the fright­en­ing pos­sible side-effects metic­u­lously lis­ted in these press reports, includ­ing liver, heart and kid­ney dam­age, atrophied testicles, erectile dys­func­tion, depres­sion and raised aggres­sion. (Though, argu­ably, you could also exper­i­ence most of these simply by fol­low­ing Arsenal FC.)

The key to this main­stream­ing of ster­oids is van­ity. If you want to get into people’s blood­stream these days, prom­ise to make them like what they see in the smoke-glass gym-mirror. According to the sur­veys, the large major­ity of young men using the gear are not doing so to be stronger or faster or scar­ier — all tra­di­tion­ally accept­able ‘mas­cu­line’ ambi­tions — but rather to look more attract­ive. To look shag­gable. Or just make you look.

In other words, young men are tak­ing ster­oids the way that many gay party boys have taken them for years: to look good on the beach or dance floor or web­cam. ‘Muscle Marys’ — as they’re called by envi­ous, less-muscular gays — are appar­ently no longer a strictly gay phe­nomenon. Muscle Marys are where mas­culin­ity is at, Mary.

It shouldn’t be so sur­pris­ing. We don’t really need sur­veys to tell us this. It has, after all, happened right before our eyes. It’s the media that has main­lined ster­oids into the cul­ture and our kids. Unlike, say, very skinny girls, very mus­cu­lar boys are very pop­u­lar. An anti ‘Size Hero’ cam­paign like that we’ve seen against Size Zero is some­what unlikely. Steroids are an essen­tial, pre­scribed even, part of the way that the male body has been farmed and pack­aged for our con­sump­tion since it was laid off at the fact­ory and the shipyard in the 1980s.

A gen­er­a­tion of young males have been reared on irres­ist­ibly — and fre­quently chem­ic­ally — lean and mus­cu­lar images of the male body in sport, advert­ising, magazines, movies and telly, even in the car­toons they watch and the com­puter games or toy dolls (or ‘action fig­ures’) they play with. It seems all that’s left of mas­culin­ity in a post indus­trial, post paternal world, apart from a science-fiction-sized penis, or a right foot good enough to get you into the Premier League, is a hot bod. Men and women — but espe­cially men — will give you kudos for that. So will people cast­ing real­ity TV series.

Even Action Man (GI Joe in the US) is now a Muscle Mary. Perhaps because he’s only twelve inches tall, Action Man seems to have been hit­ting the ‘juice’ big time. He’s also got him­self a nice deep all-over tan — to bet­ter show off his pumped muscles.

Since the 1960s his bicep meas­ure­ments have more than doubled from a (scaled up) 12″ to 27″ and his chest from 44″ to 55″. His cur­rent ‘cut’ physique would be rather dif­fi­cult to achieve just by eat­ing corned-beef hash rations — espe­cially since, as far as I’m aware, a port­able plastic gym isn’t yet one of his basic accessor­ies. In an example of life imit­at­ing art, or at least squad­dies imit­at­ing dolls, ster­oid abuse by sol­diers is increas­ingly com­mon: US sol­diers in Iraq have been caught order­ing ster­oids online, and it was recently alleged that a size­able pro­por­tion of Blackwater mer­cen­ar­ies are on ‘the gear’.

Muscle Marys aren’t just for Xmas — they’re also for High Office. Arnold ‘Commando’ Schwarzenegger, seven times Mr Olympia, who has admit­ted using indus­trial quant­it­ies of ster­oids since he was in his teens (though denies he takes them now) is today the walk-on-water Green Governator of California and Republican inspir­a­tion to David Cameron — after a suc­cess­ful Hollywood movie career play­ing an under-dressed heavily-muscled male mas­seur pre­tend­ing to be an action hero. Quite an achieve­ment when just walk­ing without pain­ful chaf­ing must have been difficult.

Partly because of Arnie’s 80s ‘spe­cial effects’, Muscle Marys are de rigeur in the movies today — even in middle-age. The age­ing star of a recent epic block­buster whose career has largely been built on his six-pack was widely rumoured to have been on so much ‘gear’ try­ing to look ‘invin­cible’ that he fre­quently had to be stretchered off the set at the end of the day, poor love. Meanwhile ‘Comeback Kid’ Sylvester ‘Rocky’ Stallone (aged 60) was caught by Australian cus­toms with sev­eral vials of his comeback secret earlier this year.

The ail­ing James Bond fran­chise suc­cess­fully re-launched Bond and made him more attract­ive to younger view­ers by rein­carn­at­ing him in the pneu­matic form of Daniel Craig — Bond became his own big-chested Bond Girl - and last year’s smash hit film ‘300′ fea­tured ‘Spartans’ who looked less like ancient war­ri­ors than Muscle Marys at a Toga Party. Or the “juiced-up” pro­fes­sional wrest­lers in Speedos that so many boys today have on their bed­room walls.

WWE wrest­ler Chris Benoit’s recent murder-suicide of his wife and child and intense media spec­u­la­tion about whether it was steroid-related (ster­oids were found at his house and his post mortem testoster­one level was ten times nor­mal) has caused a major scan­dal in the US. But it has been as obvi­ous for many years that most of these guys were sprink­ling more than sugar on their Cocoa Pops (and Benoit was actu­ally rel­at­ively scrawny com­pared to some wrestlers).

That’s, after all, what people were look­ing at. What they were pay­ing to see. Pro wrest­ling is show­busi­ness, and ster­oids are the busi­ness — at least when it comes to mak­ing spec­tac­u­lar bodies.

As a res­ult of this and other recent ster­oid scan­dals in American foot­ball and base­ball - includ­ing at High School level — a panic has emerged about the use of ster­oids by US ath­letes. But this has ten­ded to obscure how main­stream ster­oids already are in the US and how, as in the UK, they’re prin­cip­ally (ab)used by non-athletes (only 6% of users played sports or con­sidered them­selves bodybuilders).

In the UK there have been calls to ban the sale of ster­oids online, crack­down harder on gyms selling them and edu­cate young people about the dangers. Well, every­one is in favour of edu­ca­tion, and no one is in favour of teens using ster­oids, but it’s unlikely that any of this will ser­i­ously reverse the Muscle Mary/Size Hero trend.

Steroids can’t be unin­ven­ted — or filtered out from the culture’s blood­stream. They’ve already changed the shape of mas­culin­ity. What’s more, unlike most if not all of the expens­ive sup­ple­ments advert­ised in FHM, Men’s Health and Nuts as ‘muscle-builders’ and ‘fat-burners’, they actu­ally work. And I know whereof I speak: I dabbled with the ‘juice’ myself as a cal­low youth. They cer­tainly did what they said on the tin: I only stopped because they made me even spot­tier and angrier than I already was.

In an age when what’s authen­tic­ally mas­cu­line is unclear, but what’s hot is as in-yer-face as a nice pair of pecs, inject­ing syn­thetic man­li­ness, des­pite the pos­sible risks to your actual man-bits, is not going out of fash­ion any­time soon. The only effect­ive way to dis­cour­age their use will be to come up with a new gen­er­a­tion of muscle-building drugs that work as well as ster­oids but have fewer side-effects. I’d cer­tainly take them.

Steroids are the met­ro­sexual hor­mone — they make men sale­able and shag­gable in an age that doesn’t have much idea what else to do with them.

Copyright Mark Simpson 2007

This essay is col­lec­ted in Metrosexy: A 21st Century Self-Love Story

Ricky Hatton: ‘I have a fantastic bum’

rickyhattonphoto.jpgToday’s Sun car­ries an inter­view with England’s tasty pocket-rocket Ricky Hatton about his upcom­ing fight in Vegas this Saturday with World wel­ter­weight title holder Floyd Mayweather.

Pretty Boy’ Mayweather was in the news last week for say­ing to Ricky: ‘I wish I was in prison with you. I’d make you my bitch.’

Having another boxer threat­en­ing to do that to me is a first,’ Ricky admit­ted to the Sun. ‘But’ he said (I’m guess­ing with a twinkle in his eye), ‘I’d like to think I have got a fant­astic bum.’

From where I’m stand­ing, Ricky, it looks like you have. And you can trust me — I’m an expert.

hatton-bum.jpgBut, given the infuri­at­ing bag­gi­ness of the box­ing shorts you like to wear (which appear to have been made with some of your nan’s spare tas­selled cur­tains), just to con­firm how fant­astic it is I think a closer inspec­tion — and a road-test — is required.

And there’s no need to worry: we don’t have to go to prison. You could just come back to mine.


PS  To those writ­ing in to tell me that Ricky’s ‘no David Beckham’, or that he’s ‘really fat’ most of the time, or that he’s ‘ugly’, please note: I’m not claim­ing Ricky is of major socio-cultural import­ance or a ‘sex god’. I just fancy him.  Here’s one, sorry, two reas­ons why.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand: Touchy-Feely Footballers

By Mark Simpson (Guardian CIF, 30/11/07)

In an age of broad­band hard­core it’s rather sweet to dis­cover that men are still so eas­ily aroused. At least, that is, foot­ball fans and tabloid journalists.

A little inno­cent hand-holding by Liverpool FC dur­ing a team-building train­ing ses­sion before their cru­cial Champions League match with Porto worked the Sun into a frenzy this week. ‘Koppin’ Off’ screamed the Sun head­line, next to a pic­ture of Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard chastely hold­ing hands, with the sub­title ‘So this is what they mean by “train­ing camp”??’

Those log­ging on with moisten­ing palms to the Sun’s web­site were treated to a ‘slide show’ of other mem­bers of Liverpool FC hold­ing hands with mood-enhancing cap­tions like ‘Chase me, chase me!’ and ‘Ere, is that the fairy across the Mersey?’.

In fact, the Sun was so excited by this non-story it returned to it yes­ter­day, wheel­ing in early 90s Liverpool ‘hard­man’ foot­baller Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock to stick it to the nancy boys, by-lining a piece head­lined, ‘What’s next… make-up and pink strips?’

At first Ruddock duti­fully tries to play the ‘hard­man’ role the Sun has cast him in: ‘It cer­tainly wouldn’t have happened in my day, he says. ‘I’d have found it too embar­rass­ing and a bit girly.’

But then he begins to lose the plot: ‘The only time we would have held hands with another player is on the way back from the pub after a few drinks.’

No, no, no! You”re really let­ting the side down now, hard­man! Where’s your… rigid­ity? The whole point of get­ting so pissed with the lads is so that you don’t remem­ber what you did on the way home and cer­tainly don’t write about it in a national newspaper.

But Neil can’t help him­self: ‘In our day, we did all our team-building in the pub. When a new player joined it was straight down the pub for a few bevies… It did the trick and the new lads soon bed­ded in.’

Bedded in?? Was that before or after hold­ing your hand on the way back from the pub?

Neil tries to get back ‘on mes­sage’, but then he’s off again, giv­ing us far too much inform­a­tion: ‘But it’s no longer a hardman’s game. John Terry and Frank Lampard now shave their body hair off.… It’s a Continental thing… When I was at West Ham Paulo Di Canio shaved off all his hair apart from the stuff on his head.’

I’m sure if he asked them nicely and made it clear how much you pre­ferred your foot­ballers furry they’d let their body hair grow for the ‘Razor’.

He goes on: ‘Players use sun­beds and wax their chests and under-arm hair. What’s next? Make-up? Pink strips?’.

Get up to speed mate. The Sun already told us a few months back that Manchester United have had to rebuild their player’s chan­ging rooms to make their lock­ers big enough to ‘accom­mod­ate their man­bags’ filled with ‘more cos­met­ics than their WAGS’.

Then, finally, he con­fesses: ‘Mind you, if I was offered £120,000 a week like some of the top stars are on now I would hold Peter Crouch’s hand — or any­one else’s for that matter.’

Yes, which reminds me Neil, how much were you paid to be Pete Burn’s bitch on Wife Swap?

Maybe it’s the fear of another tongue-lashing from real hard­man Pete Burns that’s respons­ible for Ruddock’s endear­ing fail­ure to deliver the queerbash­ing goods here and go a bit… limp. Compared the Sun’s first report, and, sadly, many foot­ball fans, he seems to go out of his way not to chas­tise the Liverpool play­ers for their ‘poovery’ — and talks instead rather mildly about how hold­ing hands is ‘a bit girly’. (At least, that is, when you’re sober.)

Or per­haps he was wor­ried someone might find some pics of those dirty great big sloppy snogs he and the lads used to give one another after every goal back in the good old manly days of soc­cer. Followed, fre­quently, by what looked very much like a team gang-bang on the ground.

Today’s met­ro­sexual young foot­ballers — per­haps because they look so ‘gay’ — are vestal vir­gins with one another by com­par­ison. They prac­tic­ally shake hands and exchange busi­ness cards.

On the other hand, per­haps they don’t snog each other wildly after a goal these days because unlike Ruddock’s ret­ro­sexual gen­er­a­tion, they don’t need that spe­cial excuse — or have to be dosed with gal­lons of beer down the pub — to actu­ally show affec­tion towards other men. Many of them prob­ably kiss one another when meet­ing and bid­ding farewell, like Becks - ‘It’s a Continental thing’). This after all is a gen­er­a­tion of straight lads who send text mes­sages to other lads peppered with kisses at the end. And to be hon­est, this old poof­tah finds that a bit girly himself.

It seems though that hold­ing hands sober, whatever the Sun or Ruddock thought of it, worked a treat. Liverpool won the game against Porto 4–1.

Copyright Mark Simpson 2007

Ricky’s My Bitch!’ Boxing Gets Spornographic

Boxing’s trash talk just got trash­ier — and highly spor­no­graphic. According to huge head­lines in Britain’s most pop­u­lar news­pa­per the Sun, big black American Welterweight cham­pion Floyd Mayweather has announced that he wants to make England’s white scally Manc boxer Ricky Hatton his ‘Prison Bitch’.

He said he wanted to buttf**k me’ com­plained little Ricky, look­ing even paler than usual.

Ricky, mate, I have to say I really don’t blame him. mayweather-hatton.jpgAnd I mean that in a very lov­ing way. (Though I’d have to insist you remove those mickey-mouse earphones first.)

But why wait until they’re shar­ing a prison cell? Why not do it ‘in the ring’ — like they do in Ultimate Fighting?

Actually, I’ve heard that there is a (semi) secret tra­di­tion in box­ing of the loser giv­ing it up after a match — appar­ently, it’s called ‘the perk’. (A term I rather like and plan to use: ‘I’m gonna perk your brains out, bitch’ and ‘I’m gonna give you such a hard perking’.) I’m told it’s not exactly oblig­at­ory, but not so rare either. It is, after all, what that film Fight Club was really all about.

So if Ricky loses, we’ll know why.

Rugby students study sporno


It’s rumoured that some mem­bers of the ‘rugby com­munity’ com­plained about the white-hot 2007 Dieux du Stade cal­en­dar (pho­to­graphed by the stun­ningly tal­en­ted Mariano Vivanco) going ‘too far’ and being ‘too gay’. Which would sug­gest that some rugby fans are very, very stu­pid. What on earth do they think the long-established DDS is for if not to go ‘too far’ and be ‘too gay’?

Stade Francais, the French Rugby club who owns the luc­rat­ive fran­chise, sup­posedly took­fright at these com­plaints and decided to tone down the 2008 Dieux du Stade Calendar.

Judging by this just-released kinky cover image for the 2008 edi­tion which brings a whole new mean­ing to the term ‘ball weight’, I’m not con­vinced they succeeded.

Whoever the spoilsports were who com­plained about the spor­no­graphy of the 2007 cal­en­dar, it clearly wasn’t the lads of Sheffield Hallam University Rugby team– who as you can see are only too happy to emu­late the excess­ive homo­erot­ics in their latest cal­en­dar. (Obviously these are very smart mem­bers of the rugby community.)

Nor the fit young chaps of Sandbach RUFC, who were happy to go even fur­ther on national tele­vi­sion.

I’ll bet it was the same jeal­ous ugly old bas­tards that got this can­celled.

Rugger Buggers & Swinging Dicks


In the Middle Ages, sod­omy was thought to be caused not by hair whorls, but by drunk­en­ness. As this spor­no­graphic clip shows, they were abso­lutely right.

The post-match beery bond­ing of the lovely lads of Sandbach RUFC — which, be warned, includes very male nud­ity, heavy pet­ting and male-on-male snog­ging — made me feel faint with jeal­ousy. And also faintly redundant.

These straight lads’ eager­ness to per­form their manly love for one another in front of UK TV cam­eras (for an instal­ment of an ITV2 series last month called ‘Generation Xcess’) does away with the need for my:

  • essay on haz­ing, in which I argued that male bond­ing is deeply homo­erotic, but that des­pite this it is not a ‘gay’ thing — it’s a ‘guy’ thing
  • point­ing out the size queen­ery of straight men.
  • explain­ing how little pur­chase the Phalliban has in the UK — com­pared to the US where it has a tighter grip than Captain Tim’s team-mates have on his ‘massive cock’
  • arguing that homo­erotic fantasy that Sporno advert­ising sells us is not entirely base­less
  • respond­ing to those who adam­antly refuse to believe that straight men could get naked with one another on cam­era and play with each other’s dangly bits when offered lots of cash. (These ones did it for a few beers.)

Instead of all my scrib­bling, I just needed to take a video cam­era to a pub in Sandbach on Saturday night and buy a few rounds. It would have been a lot more fun too.

Funny that this should have sur­faced around the same time as this spor­no­graphic ad cam­paign for Paris — which after the salty mantics of Sandbach RUFC now looks like a slightly coy pro­mo­tion for a copycat pro­gramme fea­tur­ing a less attract­ive, less ballsy team. Perhaps the most ‘touch­ing’ part of all this grop­ing is the way this (highly suc­cess­ful) team of rug­ger bug­gers refuse to be embar­rassed by the naughty clips the pro­gramme makers make them watch in the cold-sober light of day. Instead they seem quite proud.

But then, they have much to be proud of. Especially their Captain. Alas, I sus­pect that some — gay and straight — spite­ful mem­bers of the Great British Public who saw the doc did their best to make these young men feel ashamed for being ‘gay’ with one another — to make them feel ashamed, in fact, for being fit, bois­ter­ous lads full of life, laughs, spunk and puppy­ish enthu­si­asm for masculinity.

Actually, the more I think about it — and what I’m miss­ing — I’m begin­ning to feel spite­ful too.… Criminally though, the clip ends before the pro­gramme does. Anyone have the final seg­ment? Or a bet­ter qual­ity ver­sion? As the com­pletely unabashed grin­ning donkey-hung, bubble-butted Captain Tim says, ‘We should watch that again.’

Update: I’ve just been informed that a bet­ter qual­ity clip is avail­able, along with rather a lot of other ath­letes show­ing off their, er, sport­ing prowess, at the premium adult site:

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