Man-Knockers on the London Underground

A funny thing happened to Mark Simpson on the way to the ‘Being a Man’ forum

I almost fell off the plat­form when I saw this body­build­ing sup­ple­ments poster bust­ing out all over the London Underground recently - around the same time as all that indig­nant hul­laba­loo sur­round­ing The Sun’s infam­ous now-you-don’t-see-them-any-more-now-you-do-again lady busts.

There they were, depil­ated man-knockers (and pixelated knack­ers) nakedly objec­ti­fied in the rush hour for all to see: men and women, chil­dren and adults, wide-eyed tour­ists and jaded loc­als. No need to buy a copy of a declin­ing tabloid news­pa­per, open it and turn to page three to ‘exploit’ this model’s tits and abs. Just look up from your smart­phone. Shameless male top­less and bottomless-ness plastered all over the walls for every­one to ‘gaze’ at while wait­ing for the next obscenely over­crowded Elephant & Castle train, per­haps car­ry­ing Laura Mulvey.

Even worse, the poster encour­aged other young men to objec­tify them­selves (‘reveal your­self’), and spend their hard-earned cash buy­ing sup­ple­ments that they hope will help to make them more desir­able, more sale­able, more shag­gable — bustier. Men are the new glam­our models.

The web­site for the sup­ple­ment com­pany includes ‘cover model’ as one of the poten­tial ‘goals’ that their sporno­sexual cus­tom­ers might be inter­ested in:

…lean muscle has become an industry recog­nised term that is now syn­onym­ous with a cover model look. To achieve a cover model body, the key con­sid­er­a­tion is to increase muscle whilst keep­ing body fat to an abso­lute minimum’.

And lib­eral use of Photoshop.

Funnily enough, I was on my way to appear on a panel at the Southbank Centre talk­ing about ‘Being a Man’ when I was con­fron­ted with these man-knockers. On the panel I was respond­ing to a present­a­tion by the artist and TV presenter Grayson Perry. Who is a bit of man knocker him­self — in a more ‘crit­ical’ sense.

Perry’s present­a­tion (along the lines of this piece for the New Statesman) was acerbic, enter­tain­ing and not without insight, but some­times seemed at least thirty years out of date. And I know this because I myself am only twenty years out of date.

My main issue with it was not that it prob­lem­at­ised and patho­lo­gised mas­culin­ity and ‘toxic’ testoster­one and the Sauronic ‘male gaze’ — which it did in spades — but that it reified, pos­sibly fet­ish­ised mas­culin­ity as some­thing unchan­ging, some­thing mono­lithic. Sometimes the biggest crit­ics of mas­culin­ity are its biggest believ­ers — includ­ing cross-dressing fem­in­ist men.

Of course, I tend to notice far too much what some don’t care to see at all — and I began my com­ments by warn­ing the audi­ence that I like men. A LOT. But I was sur­prised how little Mr Perry seemed to under­stand me when talk­ing about the eager self-objectification young men today go in for and the break­down of what I call the het­ero­sexual divi­sion of labour, of look­ing and of loving.

I won­der if he uses the tube? Or even his eyes?

***

The recently-released movie ver­sion of Fifty Shades of Grey has been attacked by some fem­in­ists for set­ting back ‘the cause of woman­hood’ (because it fea­tures female sub­missive­ness and male mas­ter­ful­ness) and for glor­i­fy­ing ‘abuse’ (des­pite being very con­sen­sual). Notwithstanding it is writ­ten by a woman, dir­ec­ted by a woman (Sam Taylor-Johnson), green-lighted by a woman — and of course enorm­ously pop­u­lar with women. Likewise, the rehab­il­it­a­tion of female mas­ochism in the last dec­ade or so seems to have been for­got­ten and replaced by sus­pi­cion of women who like their sex sub­missive and spanky.

I haven’t seen the movie, I’m still recov­er­ing from going to see the last ‘event’ ‘chick flick’, so can’t com­ment on whether or not the women involved in mak­ing it and the mil­lions going to see are suf­fer­ing from ‘false con­scious­ness’. And obvi­ously I don’t know much about woman­hood anyway.

But I have watched the offi­cial trailer. Repeatedly. The mas­ter­ful Mr Grey (Jamie Dornan) is a standard-issue sporno­sexual who prob­ably has a Bulk Powders Gold Card. In the 2.23 min trailer there are 7 top­less shots of his sculp­ted torso, includ­ing a mir­ror shot which gives you a sim­ul­tan­eous, spitroast­ing front and rear view of it, vs 1.5 of Ms Steele (Dakota Johnson), sans nipples in her case. Oh, and one side shot of her panties — with Dornan’s pretty face in front of them.

My favour­ite shot though shows him play­ing his grand piano shirt­less, in a scene that looks a bit Behind the Candelabras - but with Liberace as the toy-boy. I sup­pose that the grand piano rep­res­ents Ms Steele sub­mit­ting to the skill­ful fin­gers of Mr Grey. But it looks like a very camp — sorry, I mean mas­ter­ful — form of masturbation.

 

Objectify Yourself — Why Straight Young Men Crave Gay Adulation

attitude6I’ve penned an essay in the February edi­tion of Out magazine — with a David Gandy cover — about why straight young men won’t leave me alone:

The way straight young men chase and hustle gay atten­tion today rep­res­ents a major, mil­len­nial shift in atti­tudes. Part of the reason that men offer­ing them­selves as sex objects were frowned upon in the past was that they could be objec­ti­fied by any­one — includ­ing people with pen­ises. They were queered by the pen­et­rat­ing queer gaze.

Now they beg and plead for it. They instinct­ively know that male objec­ti­fic­a­tion is about enjoy­ing and cel­eb­rat­ing male passiv­ity, even — and espe­cially — if you’re straight. So get­ting the gays proves not only your hot­ness, and cool­ness, but also your meta­phys­ical ver­sat­il­ity. It proves that you are a proper, fully fledged, all-singing, all-dancing sex object.

Read the essay here.

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Dude, Where’s My Objectification?

These ‘jokey’ Veet ‘Don’t risk dude­ness’ ads in which a ‘sexy lady’ turns into an ‘unsexy dude’ because she hasn’t used the smelly depil­at­ory cream have pro­voked an e-flurry of out­rage for their sex­ism and sham­ing of women who aren’t always smooth, so much so that Veet had to issue an apo­logy and with­draw them.

But what’s truly ‘funny’ about these ads is that in some ways they strike me as actu­ally being the advert­ising world’s ver­sion of those ‘gender flip’ click-bait posts that many of the people lam­bast­ing the Veet ads pro­fess to love. You know, the ones that pre­tend that men are never objec­ti­fied – des­pite male (self) objec­ti­fic­a­tion being hard to miss these days unless you’re try­ing really, really hard not to notice flag­rant, flam­ing evid­ence like this. And this.

And this:

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Instead of look­ing around us, we’re sup­posed to listen to blather like this:

For some reason, as soon as you put a man in there … it’s an entirely dif­fer­ent thing that we aren’t used to seeing.”

Only if you’ve been jam­ming your eyes shut for the last twenty years, dear.

So, hav­ing pre­ten­ded that male objec­ti­fic­a­tion doesn’t exist, it’s now ‘really rad­ical’ and ‘chal­len­ging’ to ‘flip’ the roles. But in an ironic and uncon­vin­cing way, usu­ally mak­ing sure that the men adopt­ing the faux ‘sexu­al­ised’ poses are unat­tract­ive. (And not wet­ting their vests.)

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The ‘anti-sexism’ of many of those ‘gender flip’ memes strikes me as com­pletely bogus, impli­citly depend­ing as it does on the entirely (hetero)sexist pre­sump­tion that sex­i­ness is a female qual­ity. The ‘ludicrous­ness’ of the man adopt­ing ‘sexy’ poses requires a world­view that insists men just aren’t meant to be objec­ti­fied. That simply doesn’t see male objec­ti­fic­a­tion because it’s not sup­pose to hap­pen.

So the ‘gender flip’ actu­ally tends to rein­force the very thing it hypo­crit­ic­ally pre­tends to undermine.

Worse, people pre­tend, over and over again, to be impressed by daggy male hip­sters pre­tend­ing to do sexy while pre­tend­ing to sub­vert sex­ism – as a way of get­ting atten­tion. Which is the only really sin­cere part of the whole charade.

Instead of ditch­ing the dreary fuck­ing irony and just doing this. Or this.

By con­trast, these crass Veet ads are at least refresh­ingly hon­est and out of the closet in their hor­rendous het­ero­sex­ist revul­sion at ‘dude­ness’, and the ludicrous­ness of male sex­i­ness. And of course the thing that is always hov­er­ing behind that revul­sion, par­tic­u­larly in the US: that dudes might get it on with other dudes.

In stub­bly fact, this obses­sion ends up swal­low­ing their whole cam­paign, no gag reflex, to the point where it has little or noth­ing to do with women at all – des­pite them being the tar­get market.

It ends up being about two dudes in bed.

h/t Dr Petra

Meat the Spornosexual

The second gen­er­a­tion of met­ro­sexu­als are cum­ming. And this time it’s hardcore

Dan-Osborne-Spornosexual

by Mark Simpson

What is it about male hip­sters and their strange, pal­lid, highly ambi­val­ent fas­cin­a­tion with bod­ies beefier and sex­ier than their own? Which means, of course, pretty much everyone?

You may remem­ber last year that last year the Guardian colum­nist and TV presenter Charlton Brooker had a very messy bowel-evacuating panic attack over the self-sexualisation of the male body exhib­ited in real­ity show Geordie Shore.

Now the hip­ster bible Vice have run a long, pas­sion­ate – and some­times quite funny – com­plaint about today’s sexu­al­ised male body by a Brooker wan­nabe (and lookali­kee) titled ‘How sad young douchebags took over mod­ern Britain’.

At least the Vice writer isn’t in total denial. Brooker was so threatened by the brazen male hussies on Geordie Shore and the con­fu­sion their pumped, shaved ‘sex doll’ bod­ies, plucked eye­brows and pen­ises the size of a Sky remote pro­voked in him that the poor love had to pre­tend that they didn’t exist out­side of real­ity TV. That they were some kind of sci­ence fic­tion inven­ted to tor­ment and bewilder him and his nerdy body. Perhaps because he’s rather younger than Brooker, Mr Vice on the other hand has actu­ally noticed that these guys really do exist and are in fact pretty much every­where today, dipped in fake tan and designer tatts and ‘wear­ing’ plunging ‘heav­age’ condom-tight T-s.

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In a media world which largely ignores what’s happened to young men Mr Vice is to be com­men­ded that he’s clearly spent a great deal of time study­ing them. Albeit with a mix­ture of envy and desire, fear and loath­ing – and a large side order of self-contradiction and sexual confusion.

He laments that these ‘pumped, primed, ter­ri­fy­ingly sexu­al­ised high-street gigo­los’ have been impor­ted from America, but uses the exec­rable impor­ted Americanism ‘douchebag’ to describe them – over and over again. What’s a douchebag? Someone with big­ger arms than you, who’s get­ting more sex than you – and prob­ably earn­ing more than you, des­pite being con­sid­er­ably less expens­ively edu­cated than you.

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But by far the most infuri­at­ing thing about ‘sad young douchebags’ is that they are so very obvi­ously not sad at all. They and their shame­less, slutty bod­ies are hav­ing a whale of a time, thank you very much. They’re far too happy being ‘sad young douchebags’ to sit down and write lengthy, angry ration­al­ising essays about why someone else’s idea of a good time is WRONG. Or read one. Or read any­thing, in fact. Apart maybe from Men’s Health.

A strong smell of nos­tal­gia eman­ates from this Vice jeremiad, like a pickled onion burp. The writer laments a lost Eden of mas­cu­line cer­tain­ties and whinges that these young men with their sexu­al­ised ‘gym bunny wanker’ bod­ies have replaced older, more ‘authen­tic’ English mas­cu­line arche­types, ‘the charmer’, ‘the bit of rough’, ‘the sul­len thinker’ (which, I won­der, applies to him?) and that as a result:

Nobody wants to be Sean Connery any more. With their buff, waxed bod­ies and stu­pid hair­cuts, the mod­ern British douchebag looks more like a model from an Attitude chat­line ad than a poten­tial Bond.

Ah yes, Sean Connery – the former Mr Scotland gym bunny wanker ex chorus boy who wore a wig and fake tan in those glossy, slutty Bond films. Masculinity is never what it used to be. Even back in Ancient Greece every­one was whin­ing that real men went out of fash­ion with the Trojan War. And what’s so wrong with want­ing to look like an Attitude chat line ad, rather than a hired killer?

Oh, that’s right – coz it looks gay.

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All this moan­ing, along with the writer’s com­plaints that these buff young men are dis­ap­point­ingly ‘soft’, crap in a fight and don’t have nearly enough scars, reminds me of those gays on Grindr who stip­u­late in their pro­file ‘I like my men to be MEN!!’. Or the camp queens who over the years who have sol­emnly informed me: ‘If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s camp queens!!’ Actually, it reminds me of myself when I was much more hope­lessly romantic than I am today, and before I real­ised real men were really slutty.

There is noth­ing gayer than the long­ing for mas­cu­line cer­tain­ties like this. Especially since they never really exis­ted any­way. It’s like believ­ing that the phal­lus is the real thing and the penis is just a sym­bol. It’s Quentin Crisp’s Great Dark Man syn­drome, but sans the self-awareness, or the arch­ness and the henna.

In fact Mr Vice is so nos­tal­gic – and so young – that he seems to think met­ro­sexu­al­ity is some­thing prior to, dis­tinct from and more taste­ful than these sexed-up shame­lessly slutty male bod­ies that insist on grabbing his atten­tion, wist­fully con­trast­ing how the ‘nat­ural con­fid­ence’ of met­ro­sexu­al­ity ‘has been replaced by some­thing far more flag­rant’. Take it from metrodaddy, today’s flag­rantly sexu­al­ised male body is merely more met­ro­sexu­al­ity. More sexy, more tarty, more porny, more slapped in your face. So stop bitch­ing and suck on it. Metrosexuality has gone hard-core –the ‘sexu­al­ity’ part has gone ‘hyper’.

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The met­ro­sexual was born twenty years ago and had to struggle to sur­vive in an untucked ‘no-homo’ 1990s — but the second wave take the revolu­tion he brought about in mas­cu­line aes­thet­ics for gran­ted. Steeped in images of male desirab­il­ity from birth and mas­turb­at­ing furi­ously to hard-core online porn from puberty, they have totally sexed-up the male body and turbo-charged the male desire to be desired, which was always at the heart of met­ro­sexu­al­ity rather than expens­ive fash­ion spreads and fas­ti­di­ous lists of ‘dos and don’ts’. Their own bod­ies rather than clob­ber and cos­met­ics have become the ulti­mate access­ory, fash­ion­ing them at the gym into a hot com­mod­ity. Nakedly met­ro­sexy.

If we need to give this new gen­er­a­tion of hyper met­ro­sexu­als a name – other than total tarts – we should per­haps dub them sporno­sexu­als. These mostly straight-identified young men are happy to advert­ise, like an Attitude chat line, their love of the pornolised, sporting-spurting male body – par­tic­u­larly their own. Along with their very gen­er­ous avail­ab­il­ity to anyone’s gaze-graze. Especially at premium rates.

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And every­one is call­ing their num­ber. Though admit­tedly not many do it via the extremely kinky route of writ­ing long essays denoun­cing them and explain­ing why they’re TOTALLY NOT INTERESTED. Hipsters, who of course think them­selves above the vul­gar­ity of sex­i­ness, are simply the ironic, anti-sexual wing of met­ro­sexu­al­ity – which is to say, abso­lutely fuck­ing point­less.

It’s the obvi­ous, if often obli­vi­ous, visual bi-curiosity of today’s totally tarty, hyper met­ro­sexu­al­ity that alarms people even more than its ‘vul­gar­ity’. Male bisexu­al­ity is still largely a taboo pre­cisely because it threatens the final, fond, sac­red, and highly phal­lic myth of mas­culin­ity: that it has an (het­ero­norm­at­ive) ‘aim’ and ‘pur­pose’. The scat­ter­shot slut­ti­ness of sporno­sexu­als sig­nals a very sticky end to that virile delusion.

Mr Vice argues repeatedly that these young men enjoy­ing their bod­ies and their lack of inhib­i­tion com­pared to their fath­ers and grand­fath­ers, are hav­ing a ‘crisis of mas­culin­ity’. This just smacks of more middle class resent­ment dressed up as ‘con­cern’ – a pissy, pass­ive aggress­ive way of call­ing them ‘sad douchebags’ again. Or ‘gay’. When people talk about a ‘crisis of mas­culin­ity’ they’re usu­ally talk­ing about their own – in deal­ing with the fact that mas­culin­ity isn’t what they want it to be. And par­tic­u­larly when work­ing class chaps aren’t what middle class chaps want them to be.

It’s true that our post-industrial land­scape often doesn’t know what to do with the male body apart from shag it or sell it, but that’s not neces­sar­ily such a ter­rible con­trast with the ‘glor­i­ous’ past. For a younger gen­er­a­tion of young men no longer afraid of their own bod­ies there’s no crisis – but rather a lib­er­a­tion. From the dehu­man­ising, sex­ist con­straints of their fore­fath­ers. Men’s bod­ies are no longer simply instru­mental things – for fight­ing wars, extract­ing coal, build­ing ships, scor­ing goals, mak­ing babies and put­ting the rub­bish out that must renounce pleas­ure, van­ity, sen­su­al­ity and a really good fin­ger­ing and leave that to women and pooves.

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Instead the male body has been rad­ic­ally redesigned, with the help of some blue­prints from Tom of Finland, as a sen­sual sex toy designed to give and par­tic­u­larly to receive pleas­ure. Maybe it’s not ter­ribly heroic, and admit­tedly some of the tatts are really grotty, but there are much worse things to be. Such as a slut-shaming writer for a hip­ster magazine.

Of course, I would say that. Because I find these sporno­sexual, totally tarty young men fuck­able. But that’s kind of the point. They des­per­ately want to be found fuck­able. It would be extremely rude and ungrate­ful not to find them fuck­able when they have gone to so much trouble doing all those bubble-butt build­ing bar­bell lunges at the gym for me.

And in fuck­able fact, it’s their fuckab­il­ity which makes the unfuck­ables hate them so fuck­ing much.

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© Mark Simpson 2014

Mark Simpson’s Metrosexy: A 21st Century Self-Love Story is avail­able on Kindle.

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Totally tarty Dan Osborne gifs from here - h/t DAKrolak

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