(Note: the A&F pager button only works if there’s a hidden film crew.)
Once again, I’m very grateful that American feminists have scientifically proven (by looking at dusty back issues of Rolling Stone magazine) that men aren’t ‘really’ objectified, only women are.
Because it means that this eye-popping ad for toilet cleaner featuring a tarty boy band suspended beneath the rim of a toilet in cages, imploring ‘baby’ to pull the chain and flush them — slowly washing away their clothes — doesn’t really exist, and none of us need have nightmares about it.
And I don’t need to analyse it.
Tip: David S
Yours truly in today’s Guardian.
This jokey Canadian ad is aimed, I believe, at encouraging women to regularly check their breasts for strange lumps. Though it seems to have been side-tracked by, er, checking out strange lumps. Albeit perfectly-formed and waxed ones.
For my charity money the blond, buffed, fashion-bearded presenter’s best asset isn’t his chest but his man-humps — which he, along with the other tarty men in the ad, kindly shoves in the camera during the credits, while disco dancing.
I suppose women are very grateful for this kind of eager self-sacrifice on the part of men, but I’m not entirely sure what the gentle sex is supposed to do with all those plucked, pushy, insatiable bottoms.
To be honest, I’m not even sure what I’d do.
Is a bevvy of men flaunting tits and ass the best way to educate women about looking after their own bodies? It may come as a shock, but I’m probably not best qualified to answer that question. I would imagine though that this infomercial has been circulated on the interweb rather more than more conventional efforts. But then, maybe it’s being circulated by men like me, who can’t recall the last time they examined a pair of breasts that didn’t come shrink-wrapped from Sainsburys.
One thing’s indubitable, however: this ‘inverted’ ad is more evidence if it were needed of the way that in the 21st century men’s tits have not just rivalled but replaced women’s as the touchstone of ‘sexy’ in mainstream pop culture, even when the audience for them is other men.
Speaking of tits, the apparently endless UK version of reality TV series The Bachelor starring metrosexy Welsh rugger bugger Gavin Henson reached its final climax this week on C5. Though I’ve no idea which lucky lass Gav plumped for in the end as I only made it through the first couple of shows. I have a pathological fear of commitment. And crazy ladies with a famous, rich, orange man in their sights.
Ostensibly a reality TV show in which a series of foxy women try ensnare a celebrity playboy who will then treat them like a princess, The Bachelor is, as everyone knows, quite the opposite — or inverse — of how it presents itself.
No matter how many times they make the eligible bachelor say sincerely, solemnly and unblinkingly into the camera, “I am looking for the special woman I will marry and spend the rest of my life with” we can’t help scoffing, loudly. Even when they say it in an adorable, slow-talking Welsh accent. We know that everyone on the show, Mr Henson especially, have gone on telly to spend their life with you and me.
Likewise, despite the traditional pretense of the ‘pretty ladies’ with their ‘stunning’ outfits paraded like cattle in front of the ‘man of the world’, Henson is unquestionably the show’s eye-candy. Or ‘object’ as the feminists would have it (if they could ever bring themselves to admit that men are objectified too — by both women and especially by themselves).
Gav’s the Prince and the Princess of The Bachelor. And, it has to be said, the worst actress out of a brace of very bad ones.
Pink of lip, white of eye and tooth and with a much prettier complexion than most of the ladies, his body, which only seems to be actually clothed after sunset — and then in tailored shirts and suits that advertise his flaring back, his beefy arms, his swelling chest, his voluptuous, shelf-like arse even more — simply has no competition. All must worship it. And do.
It is an astonishing, captivating ‘object’ (much more so than the one in the Canadian ad), which Henson has clearly devoted thousands and thousands of intimate hours to nurturing, feeding, watering, sculpting, shaving, tanning and moisturising. This, finally, is a love story we can all believe in. What’s more, unlike most male bodies on display these days, his also has a actual function. He’s a professional athlete.
Little wonder then that Gav and his body is the relentless focus of the camera’s gaze. Every time he strips off the camera zooms in and grazes along his taut, polished skin, practically licking the Armani body lotion off him. Just as it did last year when he appeared on the BBC’s Saturday night ‘family show’ Strictly Come Dancing — a reality vehicle targeting the older viewer which also objectifies men but presents it within the faux traditional ‘sexist’ format of ballroom dancing where men ‘lead’ — the eye. Sportsmen appearing on the show have to go topless every week or go home.
OK, having worked myself into a frenzy talking about Gav’s pneumatic body I’ve just taken a quick peek at the final episode of The Bachelor online, and it seems Gav chose as the winner and his ‘girlfriend’ (whatever that actually means in the context of reality TV) a female model — with a Roman nose remarkably similar to his. Whose first, delicate, coy, halting words on seeing him clad immaculately in designer black tie in Episode One, were: “GO ON!! SHOW US YOUR MUSCLES THEN!!!”
Before doing what everyone else wants to do to Gav, and what Gav seems to want everyone to do — grabbing his bicep and copping a really good feel.
And this is the show that the Guardian recently moaned was ‘demeaning to women’.
Like ballsy ladies, gender reversal is everywhere these days. Below is a UK viral ad raising awareness for testicular cancer, which uses the same ‘inversion’ as the Canadian breast cancer ad, but to rather different effect. Check out the lumps on her.…
The Summer of 2011 officially became the summer that the male gaze was reflected back at itself — and with enthusiasm! In the summer’s superhero movies, a supremely buff body became part of what made these heroes so super. The Captain America trailer had Dominic Cooper doing the old look-over-the-top-of-my-sunglasses move to get a load of the newly pumped up Chris Evans. In Thor, Kat Dennings’s audience-surrogate character spends half the movie talking about how nutso everything is and the other half pointing out that this blond god from the heavens is massively pumped. Fourteen years ago, America lost it when Batman’s costume included rubber nipples. Now we’ve got a Spider-Man whose costume lifts and separates.
It’s great that New York Magazine has noticed (and welcomed) how Hollywood has objectified men, and how men have objectified themselves. Difficult to believe, I know, but there are still plenty of people who do their best not to. Or refuse to admit that they’ve noticed. Including some feminists who want to pretend that objectification is something only done by men to women.
But despite NY Magazine’s presentation of it, this isn’t something that happened in one Summer. I’ve been banging on about it myself since 1994 — my first book Male Impersonators: Men Performing Masculinity examined the way the so-called ‘male gaze’ had been reflected back at itself in movies, magazines and advertising. And rather liked what it saw. Even back then I wasn’t exactly the first to notice — though I did make more of a meal of it than anyone else.
‘Objectification’ is also of course the hallmark of metrosexuality — men’s desire to be desired is necessarily the desire to be ‘objectified’. Though I have to say I think the ‘O’ word clunky and outmoded. ‘Tarty’ trips and skips off the tongue better.
For those interested in ancient history — albeit ancient history that New York Magazine treats as news — all rights in Male Impersonators have reverted to me and I’m planning to e-publish it very soon, probably in downloadable PDF format for a nominal fee.
The image below is the jacket of the original Cassell edition of M.I., now out of print, sporting a classic 1950s Athletic Model Guild still. I chose it partly because it was a tad ‘overdetermined’ and camp — particularly the Grecian codpiece and the pedestal/butt-plug. And partly as an illustration of the kind of ‘objectification’ of the male that happened underground and illicitly in the past.
In contrast to today’s corporate kind, conducted on billboards and at the multiplex.
UPDATE: Male Impersonators is now available on Kindle.
Tip: Fraser K
As if the tarty Armani poster of Rafael Nadal offering his arse to the world wasn’t slutty enough. Along comes the sporno video.
The tennis ace is being shoved up against the (unplastered) wall and then thrown down and hammered on the builder’s bench. Twice.
By the camera. Which chops up his body into sexy, slippery bits and pieces. Tits and ass and abs. Total, rampant, ruthless objectification. Which Mr Nadal — like many young men today — appears to relish.
And that liquid he’s half-drowning in. Is it bodily fluids? Or is he being water boarded by our gaze?
Could this video in fact be any sluttier, without actual penetration? Then again, wouldn’t your actual, standard-issue penetration diminish the sluttiness by making it both ‘hard’ and banal? Instead of the grainy non-specific sluttiness that drips off everything in our mediated, metrosexy world.
Mark Simpson probes Men’s Health and finds it in painful denial (originally appeared on Guardian CiF)
Isn’t it about time Men’s Health, the world’s biggest-selling ‘men’s lifestyle’ magazine, came out to itself?
I couldn’t get to sleep the other night and so resorted to flicking through last month’s UK issue: I find the pictures of semi-naked men’s perfect, sweating muscles and the droning narcissistic hypochondria of the copy in this notorious metromag strangely soothing.
Then I happened across a five page cringemakingly earnest article about ‘heteropolitans’ (complete with a deathly serious ‘Am I heteropolitan?’ questionnaire), which MH wants us to believe have replaced metrosexuals. Apparently metrosexuals were too gay and too vain. HETEROpolitans on the other hand are just perfect: they’re really, really hetero, really attractive, really buffed, really rich, really stylish and really successful. What’s more they also find the time to be really great husbands and dads, and are not in the least bit gay, vain, or even single.
Did I mention that they’re not gay already? And guess what? Men’s Health readers are all goody-two-shoes ‘heteropolitans’!
Now this single, childless, beer-bellied bum-bandit REALLY couldn’t get to sleep.
Who do they think they’re kidding with this guff? Their mother? Men’s Health, with it’s front page pin-ups of studly six-packed shirtless men and pages and pages obsessive-compulsive advice on how to get the perfect pecs/skin/low-fat soufflé has long been one of the most nakedly metro of the men’s metromags. You might be forgiven for thinking that the only questionnaire MH needs to run is: ‘Am I Gay? Or Just Bisexual?’
It looks like we’ll have to wait a while for that one. Of course most of its readers are not card-carrying homos like me (though most of them probably have a Boots Storecard). Or closeted. Or even particularly bisexual. Though I’d take a wild guess that a fair percentage of them are. But even the majority hetero readers of MH and other men’s shopping and gyming ‘men’s lifestyle’ mags are not that hetero – they’re clearly metro. Even if MH is in massive denial about this.
The prissy pretence that that any suggestion of gayness is utterly inconceivable between their pristine pages can lead to hilarious results: such as the recent MH sex guide which encouraged readers to get in touch with the hidden pleasures of their prostate gland by ‘getting your girlfriend to massage it for you with her finger’. Or maybe your boyfriend could do it with his penis? (In fact, it’s MH and consumerism in general that is really ‘massaging your prostate’, no vaseline.)
I haven’t been exactly what you’d call a devoted reader over the years (the UK edition of MH was launched in 1995), I tend to dip in when I’m feeling in need of masochistic motivation at the gym or just some eye-candy, but I don’t recall MH always being so comically keen to insist on its Totally Het credentials. Yes, like almost all men’s glossies, the copy didn’t openly acknowledge any of its readers might be homosexual, bisexual, bi-curious, or even just straight but-not-narrow. But then, with those covers it didn’t need to.
Obviously there’s been a rethink at MH Towers. MH is published by Rodale, an American-owned company and I suspect they’ve been influenced by all that mendacious ‘menassance’ marketing twaddle in the US last year in which manly manliness and old-time real-guyness supposedly made a comeback knocking that faggy metro back into the closet. ‘Reclaim your manhood – go shopping for moisturiser in a Hummer’, that kind of thing.
Maybe this faux-macho Hummersexual over-compensation works in God-fearing, Bush-voting, fag-baiting America – after all, as Gore Vidal once observed, Ernest Hemingway was a joke that only America couldn’t get. But it just looks as camp as a row of camouflage print tents over here. When it doesn’t come across just plain creepy.
Every month gets more surreal in the flawlessly worked-out world of MH. In addition to the usual advice on how to achieve the most desirable body on the dance-floor, the May issue of MH includes an oh-so butch ‘Spartan warrior workout’ based on the Chippendale epic ‘300’, random expressions of disgust at male homosexuality in the Dining Out section, and a ‘welcome aboard’ piece on the Contributors Page in which the editor chastises a new boy from Total Film for spending too much time reviewing films ‘in darkened basements with other men’.
Not to worry though lads, nothing queer about the new grooming editor: he’s a fan of Rocky movies. (I kid you not.) ‘We’re now ensuring he spends as much time in daylight and in the company of women as possible,’ smugly assures the – rather gay and grey looking – editor. Which means, I guess, that he won’t be spending much time in the gym. Or reading Men’s Health.
After taking rather a lot of paid advice from MH over the years, I have some advice for them I’ll offer gratis. The editorial staff at MH should give some serious thought to all those nasty stress hormones released into the bloodstream by having to live a lie, and the terrible things they do to complexions, hair and muscle tone.
Not to mention looking absolutely bloody ridiculous by being so nancy about mansex and so coy about something as natural and irrepressible as good old male vanity.
Especially when your business is built on it.
This essay is collected in Metrosexy: A 21st Century Self-Love Story