Swing it Around Like You’re in a TV Commercial’

 “Swing it around like you’re in a TV commercial.”

I like this spunky new hair gel ‘Now can be amaz­ing’ ad from Lynx, cur­rently air­ing in Australia. Especially since it’s the per­fect anti­dote to the ball-shrivelling dreary para­noia of ads like this.

In fact, it’s prob­ably my favour­ite ad since Philips/Norelco ‘I’d F*ck Me’ where a young man play­fully chats him­self up in front of the bath­room mir­ror. Like the Philips ad this one isn’t afraid of its own shadow, and instead of mak­ing apo­lo­gies just embraces and cel­eb­rates male beauty and van­ity — and the spirit mak­ing the most of it while you have it.

More than this, it’s an ad which encour­ages young men to be any­thing that they want to be — to be ‘amaz­ing’. In much the same way that young women have been encour­aged for some time.

Hence the ‘Kiss the hot­test girl — or the hot­test boy’ moment. This is not, as has been pro­claimed by gay blogs, a ‘gay kiss’ so much as a bi-curious one, since it’s the same guy kiss­ing the girl and then the boy. Which is in keep­ing with what we might term the James Dean ethic of the ad — don’t go through life with ‘one hand tied behind your back’. Especially if it’s your best hand.

This is par­tic­u­larly impress­ive com­ing from Lynx (known as Axe in the US), a brand which is not usu­ally asso­ci­ated with pro­gress­ive advert­ising and in fact often asso­ci­ated instead with a hys­ter­ical het­ero­sexu­al­ity: ‘I only smell nice coz it attracts women and that proves I’m not gay, OK?’. (Though there have been sort-of excep­tions, such as this Axe ad star­ring Ben Affleck back in 2007.)

But then, I told Lynx all about their hys­ter­ical het­ero­sexu­al­ity and how dated it was in a world in which young men take male van­ity and self care for gran­ted — and aspire to be everything - when they con­tac­ted me last sum­mer ask­ing for my input into their re-branding. I’d com­pletely for­got­ten about this con­sulta­tion when I saw the ad, and just thought it was cool. I don’t know for sure whether my cri­tique made it into the brief for this ad, but it seems quite pos­sible I may have been admir­ing my own reflection.

Though being hon­est, I’m not entirely sure he’s really made the most of his hair with that bird’s nest look.…

From Metrosexual to Spornosexual — Two Decades of Male Deliciousness

In a devel­op­ment which will prob­ably have him run­ning to the mir­ror yet again to search anxiously for lines, this year the met­ro­sexual leaves his teens and turns 20.

How quickly your chil­dren grow up. Although it seems only yes­ter­day, I first wrote about him in 1994 after attend­ing an exhib­i­tion organ­ised by GQ magazine called “It’s a Man’s World”. I’d seen the future of mas­culin­ity and it was moisturised.’

Read my piece on the evol­u­tion of male van­ity at The Daily Telegraph

(And don’t worry, des­pite the alarm­ing head­line The Telegraph gave the piece, the metrosexual’s not really dead — just dead jealous.)



Meat the Spornosexual

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


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.


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.


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.


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’.


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.


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.


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.


© Mark Simpson 2014

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


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

It’s a Queer World

Deviant Adventures in Pop Culture

Saint Morrissey

The acclaimed ‘psycho-bio’ of England’s most charm­ing – and alarm­ing – pop star.


A bio­graphy of the metrosexual.

By his dad.

End of Gays?

What’s left of gay­ness when the homo­pho­bia stops?

Male Impersonators

The book that changed the way the world looks at men.

Sex Terror

This book will change the way you think about sex. It may even put you off it altogether.

Metrosexuality & the Selfie

Metrodaddy Mark Simpson was recently email inter­viewed by Beverly Parungao for a Sydney Morning Herald piece titled ‘Are Men Becoming Too Metrosexual?’ . Below are his unapo­lo­getic, uncir­cum­cised replies.

Narcissus in the age of the selfie

BP: What is driv­ing the met­ro­sexual movement?

MS: Self-love – and a cer­tain amount of self-loathing – is cer­tainly a power­ful dynamo.

But ulti­mately what we’re see­ing here is noth­ing less than a revolu­tion in mas­culin­ity in par­tic­u­lar and gender rela­tion­ships in general.

Metrosexuality isn’t about flip flops, facials or man­scara, or about men becom­ing ‘girly’ or ‘gay’ – it’s about men becom­ing everything. Everything that they want to be.

Why are men today more con­cerned with their appearance?

Because they’re worth it. As advert­ising has told women for dec­ades. Men make up c. 50% of the mar­ket­place and need to pull their weight in the shop­ping mall if con­sumer­ism is to sur­vive. They cer­tainly seem to have upped their game rather a lot in the last dec­ade or so.…

We’re also liv­ing in a cul­ture in which women have enthu­si­ast­ic­ally taken on pre­vi­ously ‘male’ pre­serves – from drink­ing pints to join­ing the world of work to actu­ally hav­ing orgasms. Men, espe­cially younger men who’ve grown up with all this as the norm, have worked out that they too can now appro­pri­ate products, prac­tises and pleas­ures once deemed ‘gay’ or ‘girly’ and there­fore out of bounds. The much greater accept­ance of gay people has also reduced the stigma asso­ci­ated with men step­ping out of their stereotype.

Most of all, we’re liv­ing in a visual, looking-glass cul­ture of selfies, Facebook, Twitter, real­ity TV and Men’s Health cov­ers. Metrosexuality rep­res­ents men’s adapt­a­tion to this new world order – men can’t just ‘act’ any more they have ‘appear’ too, to be looked at. To be noticed. To be a brand. To be wanted. Male van­ity isn’t empty and indul­gent – it’s a sur­vival strategy.

In our shiny, highly reflect­ive 21st Century the sexual divi­sion of look­ing has thor­oughly broken down, and men now ache to ‘objec­tify’ themselves.

Even and espe­cially sports­men who used to be the embod­i­ment of ‘blokes’ and ‘reg­u­lar guys’ who were sup­posed to be only con­cerned, ‘at the end of the day’, with ‘the team’ and ‘doing their job’, have become glossy, inked, pneu­matic sporno stars.

You might be for­given for think­ing a lad only plays foot­ball or rugby these days as a way of star­ring in those saucy ads for Armani under­wear and those tarty rugby and row­ing calendars.

Manscaping is one the rise, but so too is male cos­metic sur­gery (in Australia and America). Do you view this as trend as part of the met­ro­sexual movement?

Absolutely. The male body, once the last fron­tier of con­sumer­ism, has been totally com­mod­i­fied. Masculinity has been thor­oughly aes­thet­i­cized. I would add to the trend for cos­metic sur­gery and man­scap­ing man-bits the way that men uses tat­toos to shade and emphas­ise their worked-out muscles. The male body has become a liv­ing work of art.

Ironically the total ubi­quity of beards at the moment is proof of that. No longer a sec­ond­ary sexual char­ac­ter­istic or badge of bloke­dom they’re just another sweet male access­ory. Another way today’s chaps ask you to adore them.

Should women be con­cerned that the met­ro­sexual male is now mainstream?

They should cer­tainly get used to it!

Many women I know wel­come the fact that men nowadays are not only bet­ter turned out, more worked-out, sen­sual creatures who are rather bet­ter in bed as a res­ult – but also the fact they’re more inde­pend­ent. Self-maintaining. They might spend forever in the bath­room but they are much more likely to be able to oper­ate a cooker or wash­ing machine and even buy their own under­wear. Which is an advant­age in a job mar­ket where women might be work­ing while their part­ner is not – and where men might be stay­ing at home look­ing after the kids.

Though for some women, per­haps with more tra­di­tional ideas about sex roles and the ‘com­ple­ment­ar­ity’ of the sexes, adjust­ing to the new met­ro­sexual order could be dif­fi­cult. But then, a lot of chau­vin­istic men had trouble adjust­ing to the changes brought about by women’s lib.

In their quest to be desired have men become too sexy, too fem­in­ised and there­fore less desir­able to women?

You should prob­ably ask women about that.… Though women aren’t always com­pletely truth­ful in their answer to that ques­tion. Quite a few assert that they find a man who spends longer than them in the bath­room – which prob­ably means just as long as them – a total turn off. But then they go com­pletely bana­nas over a guy who clearly spends hours in the bath­room and every even­ing in the gym. Trust me, men have noticed this discrepancy!

The only hope for het­ero­sexu­al­ity is double ensuite bathrooms.

Mark Simpson’s Metrosexy: A 21st Century Self-Love Story is avail­able from Amazon in Kindle form and also in physical/fondle form.

Selfie Narcissus image taken from here

Reset the Gaydar — Tom Daley’s Not Gay

Tom Daley showering

(Originally appeared on Guardian CiF, 11/09/13)

Tom Daley isn’t gay. But the bronze medal­list Olympic diver and presenter of celebrity Speedo show Splash! – recently voted ‘World’s Sexiest Man’ by the read­ers of gay mag Attitude – doesn’t mind if you think he is. Last week­end he told The Mirror:

I think it’s funny when people say I’m gay… I laugh it off,” says Tom… “I’m not. But even if I was, I wouldn’t be ashamed. It wouldn’t bother me in the slight­est what people thought.’

Quite a few gay pals of mine know bet­ter. Not because of any spe­cial ‘inside inform­a­tion’ gleaned from the gay grapev­ine mind, but simply because they ‘can tell’. Because they’ve seen him on telly they seem to know his sexual ori­ent­a­tion bet­ter than Daley does him­self. Maybe it’s because he smiles a lot, takes care over his appear­ance, is well-mannered and loves his mum. Or maybe it’s because he doesn’t have a girl­friend at the moment.

But whatever the reason I sus­pect many of them might be rather less con­vinced – or inter­ested in express­ing an opin­ion at all – if Tom didn’t look hot in a pair of spec­tac­u­larly abbre­vi­ated swim­ming trunks.

This kind of gay insist­ence about Daley’s sexu­al­ity (and other pretty boys in the pub­lic eye, such as the Olympic gym­nast and Strictly star Louis Smith) isn’t mali­cious, in fact it’s meant very affec­tion­ately. But unlike Daley I’m not quite so inclined to laugh it off. In a sense it’s the ‘friendly fire’ ver­sion of the homo­phobic tweets Daley has exper­i­enced, and the bul­ly­ing which made him change schools. Unintentionally it rein­forces straight-and-narrow and increas­ingly obsol­ete ideas about what boys should and shouldn’t be – if they don’t con­form to that then they ‘must’ be gay. Though in the snug­gly sense of ‘one of us’ – rather than the phobic sense of ‘one of them’.

Perhaps, for the sake of argu­ment, des­pite what he actu­ally says Daley ‘really’ is gay, or bisexual. Perhaps he’s cur­rently kid­ding him­self, or us – or both. But so what if he is? He’s nine­teen. People should be pre­pared let Tom be Tom and not pro­ject their own past onto his present.

Although gay people – myself included – often pride them­selves on their ‘gay­dar’, their abil­ity to ‘spot’ another gay per­son, it’s a very impre­cise instru­ment and get­ting more so all the time. Now that the streets are awash with pretty, moussed, mois­tur­ised, gym-toned young men in pas­tel col­ours that look like they’re audi­tion­ing to be in One Direction – and who, like boy band stars don’t mind show­ing phys­ical affec­tion for one another – the poor old gay­dar is get­ting very jammed indeed. Perhaps it’s time to turn it off, or at least dial it down a bit. Particularly since Grindr is a much more accur­ate detec­tion system.

In a world where being gay – or look­ing gay – is no longer such a big deal, a world that gay people worked hard to bring about, per­haps we shouldn’t make such a big deal out whether someone ‘really’ is or isn’t any more. Especially if they’re as gen­er­ous with their fit body as Daley. (Who, by the way, was born the same year as the met­ro­sexual.)

Like many lads today Daley clearly loves to be looked at – and he has way of shower­ing after a dive in front of bil­lions that is, shall we say, very sen­sual. It’s part of the reason he wel­comes the gaze of gays. As he told The Mirror.

I can under­stand why I have a massive gay fol­low­ing – I spend most of my life half naked in trunks on a diving board show­ing off my bare chest.

I often joke I wear more to bed than I do to work.”

Being voted the sex­i­est guy in the world by a gay magazine (Daley’s aes­thetic daddy David Beckham was runner-up) might res­ult in your straight mates ‘gently tak­ing the mick’ as Daley reports, but in this age of rampant male tarti­ness, in which almost every straight male ath­lete that doesn’t look like the back end of a bus has been on the cover of a gay mag in their knick­ers, they’re prob­ably more than a tad jeal­ous too.


Update — Tom Daley Comes Out — As Happy

Why Men Love Shoes

‘Metrosexual goes main­stream as men out­spend women on foot­wear’ announced a head­line in the Daily Telegraph last week, deal­ing a death blow to yet another stand-up comedian gendered gen­er­al­isa­tion stand-by.


I have to admit that even metrodaddy was some­what taken aback that men have over­hauled women in the shoe fet­ish­ism depart­ment, and so quickly. But this may just be because I’m over 45 — appar­ently the one age group where men still spend less than women on footwear.

New research from the con­sumer ana­lysis out­fit Mintel shows 25–34 year-old males spent an aver­age of £178 on everything from shoes to train­ers and san­dals in the past year, while women in the same age bracket spent £171. Among 16–24 year-olds the gender ‘reversal’ is even more notice­able, with younger men spend­ing 15 per cent more than women of the same age. Men aged 35–44 also spent more: £157, against £138 for women.

The man from Mintel didn’t mince his words about what this all means:

Richard Cope, the mar­ket research spe­cial­ist Mintel’s prin­ciple [sic] trends ana­lyst, added the shock fig­ures con­firmed that met­ro­sexu­al­ity was now “in the main­stream.” He insisted that younger men than are more wor­ried than ever before about their appear­ance, are tak­ing more time to “groom” and star­ing at the mirror.

He said: “Taking pride in and tak­ing greater con­fid­ence from main­tain­ing a well groomed appear­ance now defines what it is to be ‘a man’ in today’s society.

Rather than being in a minor­ity, men who buy groom­ing products to boost self-esteem or feel more attract­ive are now in the majority.”

He added: “Metrosexuality has suc­cess­fully moved into the mainstream.

We’re see­ing men occupy pre­vi­ously ‘fem­in­ine’ space in the home — spend­ing more time on house­work and par­ent­ing — but also as con­sumers, embra­cing yoga, beauty goods, and the act of shop­ping itself.”

Quite so. Metrosexuality is about men doing and using and being things pre­vi­ously seen as ‘fem­in­ine’. About break­ing free of rigid gender ste­reo­types and becom­ing everything — and buy­ing everything and any­thing that makes you look/feel bet­ter. Why do young men love shoes? For the same reason women do.

But there’s a para­dox here: Now that young men spend more than women on shoes, hair dry­ers, hol­i­day clothes, gym mem­ber­ship and sup­ple­ments — and almost as much as on clothes and cos­met­ics - they are also earn­ing less than women of the same age.

Are they all liv­ing with their mothers?

Do You Shave Your Chest?


When I joined the British TA infantry back in the late 90s (bit of a long story) and had my med­ical the (woman) doc­tor asked a top­less me: ‘Do you shave your chest?’ It was still ver­boten back then to be gay and in the army so I hur­riedly said: ‘Er, yes. I do body­build­ing and it shows off the muscle defin­i­tion better.’

Hmm’, she said, sound­ing uncon­vinced, and made a note in her file.

How things have changed in the inter­ven­ing fif­teen years. I sus­pect that Army doc­tor now quizzes recruits if they DON’T shave their chests, so wide­spread is body shaving/waxing with young men today. The Bootnecks pos­ing in the recent Royal Marine char­ity cal­en­dar above don’t appear to have an undepil­ated pumped pec­toral between them.

Why do so many men shave their chests now? Because, as I told the scep­tical Army doc­tor, it shows off muscle defin­i­tion. That’s to say: it shows off. Now that met­ro­sexu­al­ity is pretty much ‘nor­mal’, young men think noth­ing of want­ing to be sexy, to be hot. To be PORNO. And what’s the point of going to the gym reli­giously and spend­ing a for­tune on sup­ple­ments if the world and your mates can’t see the mel­ony fruits of your labours? So scrape that chest fur off, guys! Tits out for the… lads.

Even as they cul­tiv­ate fash­ion beards as ador­able male accessor­ies men are sav­ing their razors for their chests, abs — and wed­ding tackle. They want their assets to be eas­ily scoped. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, because no one seems to be listen­ing: men are eagerly objec­ti­fy­ing them­selves. They want us, all of us, male and female, to see their ‘meat’. And want it.

“Did any­one remem­ber to pack the Veet? My chest stubble is itch­ing some­thing chronic.”

Despite the ascend­ency of hair­less male chests for sev­eral years now those smooth chests on the British Lions squad enjoy­ing a group swim on the beach recently caused a stir in some circles. Perhaps because rugby used to be a sport for hairy beer mon­sters and ‘real men’. But since it went ‘pro’ a while back that has all changed. ‘Rugby player build’ used to be a per­sonal ad euphem­ism for ‘a bit fat’ but now it tends to mean ‘ripped to bug­gery’ – pro­fes­sional rugby play­ers are liv­ing the Men’s Health dream with their own per­sonal dieti­cians, fit­ness train­ers and mas­seurs. Look at how much the England rugby strip has changed in the last dec­ade. It used to flap around in the wind, shape­lessly. Now it’s like some­thing a male strip­per might wear – towards the end of his act.


And of course some of the tastier and tartier ‘pro’ rugby play­ers have been appear­ing naked, shaved and oiled for years in the high pro­duc­tion low mor­als Dieux du Stade sporno cal­en­dars bought by gay men, straight women — and gay men again.

Though many gays them­selves have been re-fetishing chest hair lately, to the point where hir­sute­ness is now appar­ently akin to gay god­li­ness. In fact, many gay men seem to want to present them­selves as the hairy beer mon­ster real men rug­ger bug­gers of yes­teryear. The ones that used to chase them down the street.

I still remem­ber the hor­ror of my gay host on a visit to LA a few years back, exclaim­ing: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!” when he saw me apply a Bic razor to my chest. “No gay man in this town shaves his chest any more!”

But as a hope­less, help­less fan of smooth, clas­sical muscle myself, I’m pray­ing that this is one gay trend that straight men don’t get around to copying.

David Bowie’s Bisensuality

The DNA test res­ults are in. And I can exclus­ively reveal that the metrosexual’s real daddy is… David Robert Jones.

Whatever the truth of Bowie’s own sexu­al­ity, his early 70s intru­sion into the liv­ing rooms of sub­urban England was the most power­ful and pro­voc­at­ive sexual lib­er­a­tion parade ever seen in the UK. He was later to beat a retreat from his andro­gyny and bisexu­al­ity in the Reaganite ’80s, per­haps in the hope that America would no longer cen­sor him. But the glam­or­ous seeds he sowed back then have borne strange and won­der­ful bis­en­sual fruit – enjoyed by every­one, regard­less of gender or orientation.’

Read the art­icle by Mark Simpson in full at High50

David Bowie reading

Mirror Men on Canvas — and in Crocs

The Delhi-based artist Pallavi Singh has been med­it­at­ing on met­ro­sexu­al­ity in the Indian sub­con­tin­ental con­text again and has very kindly sent me these rather won­der­ful new paint­ings and given me per­mis­sion to post them here.

I think my per­sonal favour­ite is ‘Rise of Mirror Man’ — I par­tic­u­larly like how his Crocs match his suspenders.

Here’s Ms Singh’s accom­pa­ny­ing write-up:

In my recent work “Here comes the Mirror Man” and “Rise of Mirror Man”, I have tried to present the grow­ing con­fid­ence and com­fort of my char­ac­ter towards met­ro­sexu­al­ity, his desire to be adored and his accept­ance of his met­ro­sexual needs while remain­ing uncon­cerned with labels of homo­sexu­al­ity and cross dressing.




In the paint­ing “Mirror Mirror on the wall”, I have tried to com­pare the regional 18th–19th cen­tury Dandy phe­nom­ena with global Metrosexual phe­nom­ena of today i.e. the dis­tinc­tion between “to be admired” and “to be adored”.

All images Copy­right Pallavi Singh, 2012

Princess Spiderman

An inter­est­ing seg­ment from ABC about the way kids are made to wear the ‘appro­pri­ate’ gender, whether they want to or not. (Sorry about that emetic ‘mes­sage’ music at the end.)

The first mother lit­er­ally jumps with hor­ror and a sharp intake of breath when the boy shows up in his prin­cess out­fit. OK, so maybe yel­low isn’t his col­our, but behav­ing as if he was Freddie Kruger seems like a bit of an overreaction.

I think though that this isn’t mostly an issue of sexual ori­ent­a­tion, which is what it seems to end up being por­trayed as. Although many and per­haps most gay adults dis­played gender non-conformity as kids, most kids who want the ‘wrong’ Halloween cos­tumes don’t turn out gay, or transgendered.

Intriguing how many moth­ers, at least the ones who made the final edit, seem to have encountered this ‘prob­lem’ with their own kids — before ‘nip­ping it in the bud’. The nat­ur­al­ness of gender needs to be overtly policed quite a bit — even after all the other ‘pink’ and ‘blue’ mes­sages kids get every day. (And the way they can be pretty total­it­arian in their enforce­ment of them amongst themselves.)

  It’s a shame no one came to the aid of the little boy who wanted to be a prin­cess. But as was sug­ges­ted, girls who want to be Spiderman prob­ably face less dis­ap­proval, in gen­eral, than boys who want to be princesses.

My favour­ite bit is where the no-nonsense Staten Island mat­ri­arch says to the girl who wants to be an action not a pas­sion figure:

A Spiderman is only for one time. A prin­cess you can be for 24 hours of the day!”

Quite. No won­der the little boy wants that dress.

Tip: Michael Dennis

It’s Not a Journey: The Endless Trend of Male Vanity

The next time someone tries to con­vince me that Pitt is ‘a really great actor, actu­ally’ I’ll just throw my eyes around the room in a casually-but-profoundly dra­matic fash­ion before fix­ing them on the Fight Club fan­boy — and it always is a Fight Club fan­boy — and say­ing: “THERE you ARE!”

I don’t mean to be bitchy, but… Ab Pitt seems to have all the neur­oses of a Marilyn Monroe about being thought a dumb blond, but little or none of the tal­ent. It’s not the fact this Big Movie Star has done an ad like this at all, or even the bathetic hor­ror of the script – par to the course in per­fume ads – it’s the way he deliv­ers this stinky stuff like it was a Shakespearean soli­lo­quy. We’re laugh­ing at it because we know it will hurt.

Though of course, we’re just jeal­ous. I cer­tainly am. Brad is being so earn­est and romantico not because he’s address­ing you or me or Angelina Jolie, but his reportedly $7M cheque for the 30 second spot – which I sus­pect the dir­ector has taped to the camera.

At the height of her fame method-actress Marilyn was paid only $100,000 plus 10% of profits for the feature-length clas­sic movie: Some Like It Hot. And I rather doubt she received a fee at all for her own posthum­ous Chanel No.5 ad.

The real sig­ni­fic­ance of Brad’s ad of course is that Pitt is the first man to advert­ise the woman’s fra­grance Chanel No.5 – which hitherto has been plugged only by lead­ing examples of the ‘fairer sex’. Leading man Brad has stepped into a role pre­vi­ously occu­pied by lead­ing ladies.

This though is very famil­iar ter­rit­ory though for Brad. Often described as ‘the most beau­ti­ful man in the world’ – i.e. the most objec­ti­fied – he did after all play both Achilles and Helen in the movie Troy. He has the abs that launched a thou­sand sit-ups. And this former model’s own movie career was launched by play­ing a toy­boy picked up and rav­ished by an older Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise (1991), a movie which itself fam­ously reversed the gender roles of the buddy road movie.

Clinching the mat­ter, his hair­styles are dis­cussed almost as much as any act­ress’ – or even David Beckham’s.

Pitt also played, you may remem­ber, the highly, er, aes­thetic leader of a bogus revolt against met­ro­sexu­al­ity and con­sumer­ism in Fight Club.

Oh, and by the way. Pitt is 48 years old. Which makes him even older than me. But in the Chanel ad, even with his gray beard and (elec­tron­ic­ally altered?) grav­elly voice, Dorian Pitt seems no older than about 27 — the same age he was when we first met him in Thelma & Louise. In fact, he looks like a 27-year-old with a stick-on beard pre­tend­ing to be 48.

As he puts it himself:

It’s not a jour­ney. Every jour­ney ends. But we go on.”


A sur­vey released just before Brad’s Bad Marilyn moment appears to con­firm the con­tinu­ing, end­less trend for men appro­pri­at­ing pre­vi­ously fem­in­ine pre­serves that has been going on since at least the 1990s, and which Pitt, whether he wants to or not, has often exem­pli­fied – and encour­aged. “The world turns and we turn with it.”

The fash­ion and beauty spend­ing poll (com­mis­sioned by online casino RoxyPalace.com) asked 1000 UK men and women how much they spent on clothes and cos­metic products. The find­ings showed, they said, that ‘men are fast catch­ing up with women’.

  • Women aver­age £2,462 p.a.; men £1,786 (£50 less a month than women).
  • Men and women in London are the most extra­vag­ant, and also the closest to one another in expendit­ure, with women spend­ing c. £2,700 a year; men £2,350, £29 per month less than women.
  • Unsurprisingly, other met­ro­pol­itan areas such as Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Liverpool also showed above-average rates of spending.
  • A man who took part in the sur­vey says: ‘I can remem­ber my dad’s cos­metic shelf con­sisted of a bar of soap and a bottle of Old Spice but I have a cab­inet full of products.’
  • A woman says: ‘I have been shop­ping with my boy­friend before and on occa­sions he has been known to spend more than me on hair products. I don’t think men spend­ing more money on clothes and cos­met­ics is a bad thing. It’s always attract­ive for someone to take pride on their appearance.’

Again, noth­ing very new here (and the quotes do sound a tad hack­neyed). Just, fur­ther evid­ence that des­pite the reces­sion the ‘trend’ of met­ro­sexu­al­ity has hardened into an epoch — that nev­er­the­less some are still in ter­rible denial about.

A spokes­per­son for RoxyPalace.com concluded:

It’s becom­ing increas­ingly accept­able for men to use cos­metic treat­ments. Even macho film stars are advert­ising skin cream, and whilst it would be dif­fi­cult to ima­gine a world where guys spent more money on look­ing good than women do, but who knows where the age of met­ro­sexu­al­ity will lead us?’

I ima­gine when he men­tioned ‘macho film stars’ he had in mind Gerard Butler as the bearded face of L’Oreal, not Brad Pitt. But in regard to his last poser, it’s not entirely impossible that for younger people liv­ing in met­ro­pol­itan areas, that world may have already been delivered by met­ro­sexu­al­ity. Or very nearly.

These days, work­ing out is often at least as import­ant a way of ‘look­ing good’ for males as fash­ion­able clothes and cos­met­ics — but isn’t covered in the sur­vey. In fact, many men invest more heav­ily in their bod­ies than in their ward­robe — which tends to be rather skimpy.… And gen­er­ally it seems men are more into work­ing on their bod­ies to ‘look good’ than women are.

So if you were to factor in aver­age spends on gym mem­ber­ship, fit­ness equip­ment, and par­tic­u­larly sports sup­ple­ments such as cre­at­ine and pro­tein drinks (a boom­ing mar­ket), the gap between men and women’s aver­age spend on ‘van­ity’ might shrink again. Currently the gap between male and female spend­ing on ‘look­ing good’ is reportedly only £29/month in London. That’s less than most monthly gym memberships.

£29 also hap­pens to be about the price of a yearly sub­scrip­tion to the best-selling men’s magazine, Men’s Health. The November UK issue of which car­ries the res­ults of another sur­vey, this one study­ing MH read­ers’ favour­ite sub­ject: them­selves.

One of the ques­tions asked read­ers who had their ideal body. The answers were:

  • Tom Hardy 42%.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo 32%.
  • David Beckham 26%.

Somewhere David Beckham is cry­ing into his low-carb lunch. Interesting to note though that Brad Pitt doesn’t make the list at all, when once he would prob­ably have dom­in­ated it – after all, Men’s Health has built a global empire out of mod­ern man’s yen to have abs — and thus be worthy of love. And abs didn’t exist, remem­ber, until Brad Pitt inven­ted them in the 1990s.

Perhaps though Brad is relieved to be out of the run­ning. Or maybe he’s relieved and heartbroken.

Tom Hardy, the Brit Brando with the volup­tu­ous pecs and the pouty lips, seems to have won the hearts of Men’s Health read­ers. I don’t blame them. And I sus­pect Tom’ doesn’t either. Probably they were seduced by his body in Warrior and his motto in Inception: “Don’t be afraid to dream a little big­ger darling”. Actually, in a bet­ter world that would be the motto of Men’s Health magazine.

Interesting that a third would want a body like Ronaldo’s – des­pite Ronaldo’s offi­cial des­ig­na­tion in the UK as Most Hated Footballer. It rather con­firms my sus­pi­cion that us Brits are just jeal­ous of him.

It does seem a little odd though that there are only three men in the whole world whose bod­ies Men’s Health read­ers want/aspire to – and nearly half of them want just one body in par­tic­u­lar. (There’s no indic­a­tion of whether they were given a mul­tiple choice or just came up with the names themselves.)

Other find­ings include:

  • 37% of MH read­ers spend 4–6 hours in the gym a week — while 30% spend more than six hours there.
  • 46% want to improve their abs. 42% their upper body, and 12% lower body.

Chicken legs, in other words, are de rigeur with MH readers.


Tip: Lee Kynaston

Charlie Brooker’s Anxious Anus

Middle class met­ro­pho­bia keeps rear­ing its ugly, anxious head and leav­ing a really bad smell in the air. Maybe it’s because some middle class men are hap­pier pre­tend­ing that they don’t have bod­ies, just giant self-propelled brains (that are always right), but men’s new-found desire to be desired and the attend­ant rampant sexu­al­isa­tion of the male body in the media seems to lit­er­ally scare the shit out of a few of them.

The world’s lead­ing lib­eral voice’ this week ran two curi­ously met­ro­phobic art­icles in the space of a few days (while this older blo­g­post fea­tures numer­ous other examples). Today’s Guardian car­ries a piece by an Olly Richards pegged to the new strip­per movie Magic Mike, ostens­ibly about male nud­ity in the movies.

At the top of the piece he announces:

We all know the nude male form is essen­tially ridicu­lous, built only for floppy comedy.’

Speak for your­self, Mary.

This asser­tion of the writer’s con­tempt for the male body — and de facto dis­missal of any­one who thinks dif­fer­ently — is the only thing the art­icle has to say. An art­icle on male nud­ity in the movies has noth­ing to say about male nud­ity in movies – because if it did then the author would have to be inter­ested in the male body.

But Olly is a par­agon of self-awareness and insight com­pared to a bizarre rant earlier in the week by the Guardian’s star colum­nist and TV celeb Charlton Brooker, which also seemed to take it as a given that the sexu­al­ised male body is ‘essen­tially ridiculous’.

Charlton’s column pre­tends it’s about the hate­ful­ness of real­ity stars – and let’s face it, they are fair, if embar­rass­ingly easy game. But it’s telling that he has noth­ing spe­cific to say about the female real­ity stars in his piece. At all. None of them are men­tioned, no female pro­nouns are used. It’s all about judging the men. For how they look. For pluck­ing their eye­brows. For using product. Fake tan and make-up. For work­ing out. For ‘sexu­al­ising’ their bodies.

But let’s not judge them by the con­tent of their char­ac­ter. Let’s judge them by the col­our of their skin, which is ter­ra­cotta. Mostly. Apart from the pale ones. The way they look is the second unbe­liev­able thing about them. Not all of them; most of them are sort of nor­mal. But one or two of the men look … well they don’t look real, put it that way. They’ve got sculp­ted physiques, sculp­ted hair­dos, sculp­ted eye­brows, and as far as I can tell, no skin pores.’

They’re not real men or nor­mal because Charlton says so. Here’s a pic­ture of him look­ing nor­mal and real (from his Wiki page).

Charlton (41) saves his most pas­sion­ate, most fun­da­mental atten­tions for a con­test­ant called James (21), whom he describes as resem­bling a ‘vinyl sex doll’. Born and bred in the Home Counties, liv­ing and work­ing in London’s medi­a­land, Brooker is also an expert on Newcastle:

 ‘I’ve been to Newcastle. There’s no way James is from Newcastle. He’s from space. Deep space. My guess would be he’s actu­ally some form of sen­tient syn­thetic meat that crudely dis­guises itself as other life forms, but only to an accur­acy of about 23%. He’s awe­somely creepy to behold. Seriously, if James popped up on the comms screen of the USS Enterprise, Captain Kirk would shit his own guts out. And that’s the sort of beha­viour that can under­mine a leader’s authority.’

Yes, I real­ise it’s faintly ridicu­lous tak­ing this kind of ‘comic prose’ ser­i­ously. And part of the irony here any­way is that Brooker is ridicul­ing real­ity TV for its vul­gar­ity while his job descrip­tion at the Guardian is to be as vul­gar as pos­sible about vul­gar TV shows and use words like ‘shit’ and ‘cock’ a lot. Pour epater les bour­geois – at the same time as appeal­ing to their snobbery.

But in the wider con­text of the Guardian’s middle class prob­lem with met­ro­sexu­al­ity and the male body, and Brooker’s role in many people’s eyes as right-on lib­eral super­hero, I think it’s worth­while examin­ing what’s going on here.

James of course doesn’t look like any of the things Brooker says he looks like. Here’s a pic­ture of James (who lives with his mam and who accord­ing to the Geordie Shore web­site ‘isn’t ashamed to call him­self a mummy’s boy’).

Now, I know this is very sub­ject­ive. But I would much rather look at James in HD widescreen in my liv­ing room than Charlton. Especially if it comes down to shag­ging, as Geordie Shore often does. And before you accuse me of being bitchy: which TV celeb was it again who said earlier that we should judge only appearances?

What’s more, James is not at all unusual, let alone ‘non-existent’ as Charlton would like to believe. There are loads of lads like James in the North East. And I know this because I didn’t visit for a book-signing once but because I live here. There are sev­eral down my gym. One of them, a really nice, chatty bloke who’s always got a canny smile, was short­l­is­ted for this year’s Big Brother. It could eas­ily have been him that Charlton was rail­ing against for pluck­ing his eye­brows and hav­ing plunging neck­lines. So for­give me if metrodaddy feels a bit maternal.

As with the blue-collar guys turned strip­pers in Magic Mike, in the post-industrial North East work­ing class lads hap­pily work on their own bod­ies instead of someone else’s prop­erty and, unlike London hip­sters, aren’t afraid to flaunt it and make them­selves pretty. Especially since they don’t gen­er­ally have many other routes to celebrity – not being likely to land them­selves a place on a C4 panel show being snarky and painstak­ingly scruffy in a dowdy cor­duroy jacket.

So why the pas­sion­ate rage against James for being a very com­mon (these days) mix­ture of mas­cu­line and fem­in­ine beauty tricks? Why the des­per­ate need to pre­tend he doesn’t exist? That he shouldn’t exist? That he should be ban­ished to outer space?

There can only be one answer. The sad, taw­dry truth is that Charlton can’t trust him­self in a world with James in it. He has to tell him­self these wicked lies about James because oth­er­wise he might find him­self being turned on by him.

James the ‘sex doll’ is the one, by the way, who fam­ously has a cock the size of a Sky remote.

Here’s a simple test — one that you can apply to almost any instance of lib­eral met­ro­pho­bia, how­ever ‘jokey’ or ‘ironic’ it presents itself as being. Would someone like Brooker still rage on and on about James’s ‘unmanly’, ‘creepy’, ‘alien’ appear­ance and how worthy he was of hatred because of it, if James was gay instead of straight? Would he still describe a gay James as ‘syn­thetic meat’ and a ‘pol­ished turd’? Or someone who would make Captain Kirk ‘shit his guts out’? (The anxious anal­ity here is all Charlton’s — def­in­itely not Captain Kirk’s, who wasn’t afraid to shape his eye­brows and side­burns, or wear a corset.)

Wouldn’t Charlton the lib­eral super­hero in fact be the first to loudly ridicule him­self for his own homo­pho­bia and repressed homo­sexu­al­ity? And, drunk once again on his own self-righteousness, call him­self a farty old reac­tion­ary cock?

In fair­ness though it can’t be denied that one of the truly awful things about met­ro­sexu­al­ity is the way it gives uneducated, shame­lessly tarty young men with regional accents a way of get­ting gigs on TV shows with more view­ers than yours.

Tip: Bat020

The Perfect Mandate: Obama & Becks (& the Media)

David Beckham, global poster-boy for met­ro­sexu­al­ity, sport­ing an Edwardian beard, had a hot date with Obama at the White House today.

Though he had to bring his team-mates along as LA Galaxy were being hon­oured with a recep­tion after win­ning the Major League Soccer Cup, America’s equi­val­ent of the Premiership.

After list­ing the soc­cer star’s achieve­ments, intro­du­cing him josh­ingly as a “young up-and-comer,” and adding that, “half your team­mates could be your kids”, Obama quipped (almost fluff­ing the line): “It’s a rare man that can be that tough on the field and have his own line of underwear.”

Or as rare as a GQ Commander in Chief?

Contrary to recent reports, Obama is not the first gay President. He’s the first met­ro­sexual President. Or as I wrote in Metrosexy:

A well-dressed mixed-race, poly­glot male who makes the Free World wait on his gym visit every morn­ing. A man whose looks are reg­u­larly praised – par­tic­u­larly by male jour­nal­ists. A man who won the Demo­c­ra­tic nom­i­na­tion in part because he was much pret­tier than his more expe­ri­enced female oppo­nent. His wife Michelle is very attrac­tive too, of course – but in some ways Obama is the first US Pres­i­dent to be his own First Lady.”

Which makes the Beckham and Obama’s hot date quite a his­toric occasion.

I can’t quite decide though whether Obama’s own rampant met­ro­sexu­al­ity makes his bitchy remark to Beckham about his under­wear funny or a bit… pants.

Winsome, Losesome, Mansome

It’s always tricky as a writer talk­ing to a researcher for a TV or film doc­u­ment­ary. On the one hand you want your ideas to be taken ser­i­ously and the his­tor­ical record to be as accur­ate as pos­sible. And of course we all like atten­tion. Especially from a visual medium we prob­ably don’t belong in.

On the other hand, you don’t want to give everything away for nowt.

But you can hardly blame research­ers for try­ing. For every ‘expert’ who appears on-screen in a doc, prob­ably a dozen or more had their brains picked.

I don’t recall much of what I gabbled down the phone when I was con­tac­ted a couple of years ago by a female asso­ci­ate of the indie doc­u­ment­ary maker Morgan Spurlock about a doc­u­ment­ary she was help­ing him develop about the ‘male-grooming industry’. But I do remem­ber that after speak­ing to her for about an hour I politely wound up the call – after get­ting that famil­iar brain-pick feel­ing. Or maybe I was just embar­rassed at how talk­at­ive I’d been.

And that was the last I heard from Spurlock & Co. Which didn’t sur­prise me as I live in the UK, and it’s an American doc (with an Indie budget). True, I’m credited/blamed not just for coin­ing the ‘met­ro­sexual’ back in 1994 but also intro­du­cing him to the US ten years ago this Summer, kick­ing off the national nervous break­down America had over mas­culin­ity in the Noughties and from which it is yet to fully recover. (Sorry ‘bout that, guys!)

But if there’s one thing the USA has no need to import from Blighty it’s talk­ing big heads. They pro­duce even more of those them­selves than they do male beauty products.

Last April Mansome as it is now offi­cially dubbed, emerged glisten­ing and groomed at the TriBeCa film fest­ival. With the pub­li­city pos­eur: ‘In the age of man­scap­ing, met­ro­sexu­als, and groom­ing products galore – what does it mean to be a man?’ And of course they found plenty of States-side experts, plus sev­eral celebs, such as Paul Rudd, Judd Apatow and John Waters to answer that ques­tion – along with Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, both exec­ut­ive pro­du­cers of the doc and unashamed pedicurists.

I haven’t seen Mansome myself yet (an enquiry to the distributor’s press office some weeks ago has yet to pro­duce a response), but going by the trail­ers, the advance reviews – and the title – I have a hunch that even if I’d lived within eyebrow-plucking dis­tance of Spurlock and had been inter­viewed on cam­era for days I still wouldn’t have made the final nip and tuck of Mansome.

That ‘ironic’ music in the trailer, remin­is­cent of Desperate Housewives, seems to be there as a reas­sur­ance that none of this is to be taken ser­i­ously. That – relax dudes! – Mansome won’t goose you with any pointy ideas or insights. After all, even an indie film costs actual money to make and you have to get bums – waxed or just clenched – on seats to have a hope of get­ting any of it back. Mansome is selling itself as light enter­tain­ment not heavy enquiry. Or as Jessica Bennett at the Daily Beast put it in her review: ‘pseudo-documentary’.

So prob­ably the last thing poor Spurlock would have wanted was the English and queer Metrodaddy insist­ing that met­ro­sexu­al­ity is not only male van­ity swish­ing tri­umphantly out of the closet, but tarty male passiv­ity flaunt­ing itself every­where too. How men’s now flagrant-fragrant desire to be desired means that mod­ern mas­culin­ity is quite lit­er­ally ask­ing for it.

But I won­der a bit how many bums, male or female, clenched or oth­er­wise Mansome will actu­ally lure into the mul­ti­plex. Arnett and Bateman are very droll in their tow­el­ling dress­ing gowns, but really, in 2012 who genu­inely finds the notion of Hollywood act­ors vis­it­ing spas or shav­ing their backs remark­able? Or ter­ribly snig­ger some? Even in America?

What’s more, the trail­ers, the cred­its and the hair­lines sug­gest the mas­culin­ity being spot­lighted here is mostly middle-aged. (It takes one to know one.)

One reviewer com­plained Mansome is ‘cute’ but has ‘noth­ing to say’. I doubt any­one would have bothered to make that com­plaint if we were talk­ing Mikey Sorrentino’s abs. Or Channing Tatum’s but­tocks. Or Justin Bieber’s dimples (Bieber, by the way, was born the very same year as the met­ro­sexual). I cer­tainly wouldn’t.

In the UK many if not most of the younger gen­er­a­tion of males have taken met­ro­sexu­al­ity as a given and lit­er­ally fash­ioned their own bod­ies into a desir­able, mar­ket­able product – and facial hair into less of a sec­ond­ary sexual char­ac­ter­istic, or fet­ish of man­hood, than just another sweet male access­ory. Rather than try to define ‘what makes a man’ most would rather visit the gym or the tan­ning salon. Again.

Or show Metrodaddy their depil­ated pubes, balls and pierced John-Thomases in the pub. While their girl­friends look on, rolling their eyes. (No, really, this hap­pens to me ALL the time. It’s just one of the many crosses I have to bear.…)

Despite all this carp­ing I’m still keen to see Mansome. America — or maybe just America of a cer­tain age - does still need to talk this stuff through, hon­estly and openly. Especially after the men­dacious ‘menais­sance’ anti-metro back­lash of the late Noughties that shut down the (admit­tedly rather skin-deep) con­ver­sa­tion by shout­ing: ‘MAN-UP!!’.

Or the retreat into a slightly creepy if metic­u­lously observed hip­ster wax­work ver­sion of Madison Avenue in the 1960s.

And there are some encour­aging signs that Mansome might have some­thing to say after all. Executive pro­du­cer Bateman was quoted say­ing some­thing rather refresh­ing in the WSJ the other day, cut­ting through much of the mar­ket­ing froth around ‘male groom­ing’ – i.e. male beauty:

What this film con­firmed for me was that men are not aller­gic to the mir­ror at all, We want to be as pretty as females. Body-hair removal, skin care—men basic­ally do the same things, but are more secret­ive about them.’

Mind you, in the same art­icle Spurlock him­self was quoted as blam­ing Adam’s van­ity on Eve again – in a very famil­iar and fruit­less attempt to straighten out male narcissism:

Men do crazy things for women, to get them and to keep them,” he said. “If all women were like, I want to have sex with a big, hairy Neanderthal, next thing you know one of the most pop­u­lar products would be stuff that grows hair on your back and forearms.”

Not so sure about that, darling. (Though I do know a few bears who are already hot for hairy backs.)

And then there’s the manly strap-on euphem­ism chosen as the title for his doc. The Wiki page for Mansome includes this help­ful para­graph about it:

Mansome’ is a rel­at­ively new word in pop cul­ture. It is defined by UrbanDictionary.com as ‘an adject­ive that describes a man who is both manly and hand­some.’ Mansome, the doc­u­ment­ary, attempts to cla­rify exactly what makes a man “mansome”.

Obviously this is inten­ded as a clever, ironic decon­struc­tion of the way the ‘man’ word is too often stuck on a ‘girly’ product so that unad­ven­tur­ous fel­lows don’t think their nads are going to fall off if they buy it.

After all, ‘hand­some’ is a tra­di­tional, accept­able ‘manly’ euphem­ism for ‘mas­cu­line beauty’. Or ‘attract­ive male’. One that a chap can use to describe another chap without call­ing into ques­tion one’s own whop­ping manhood.

So, need­lessly strap­ping ‘man’ on an already essen­tially ‘male’ word would be some­thing you would only ever do to point up the ridicu­lously camp and self-defeating nature of all these ‘man’ words, wouldn’t it?

I mean, effect­ively call­ing your doc­u­ment­ary about male beauty Handsome (No Homo) is some­thing you could only be doing to sat­ir­ise the juven­ile homo­pho­bia of American culture.

Isn’t it?

 Mansome goes on gen­eral release in the US later this month.

Mark Simpson’s Metrosexy: a 21st Century Self-Love Story is avail­able now.



I’d for­got­ten about this hil­ari­ous clip of Dean Martin Orson Welles gos­sip­ing under hairdry­ers at a ‘male hairdress­ing salon’. It puts Bateman and Arnett to shame. And it aired c. forty years ago.