Nightmare Balls

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

Men’s Tits, Women’s Balls & Gavin Henson’s Tarty Body

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.

gavin henson naked huskies 01 779x1024 Mens Tits, Womens Balls & Gavin Hensons Tarty Body

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.

henson gallery Mens Tits, Womens Balls & Gavin Hensons Tarty Body

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.…

Tip: DAKrolak

NY Mag Notices How Tarty Men Have Become

New York Magazine has just noticed that men have become ‘objec­ti­fied’. Or as I like to put it in Metrosexy, using the proper, sci­entific term – tarts.

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.

MI NY Mag Notices How Tarty Men Have Become

Tip: Fraser K

Nadal Hammered Into Sexy, Slippery Pieces by Armani

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.

Mens Health Magazine – How Gay is It?

Mark Simpson probes Men’s Health and finds it in pain­ful denial (ori­gin­ally appeared on Guardian CiF)

kellan lutz mens health magazine Mens Health Magazine – How Gay is It?

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