Mâle Au Corps’: Mark Simpson talks to ‘Liberation’

grey Mâle Au Corps: Mark Simpson talks to Liberation

Mark Simpson inter­viewed by Clement Ghys in France’s Liberation news­pa­per about the evol­u­tion of his met­ro­sexual off­spring – and Justin Timberlake’s ass.

(Unedited English email Q&A, April 2012)

CG: In 1994, you coined the term “Metrosexual”. Looking back, how would you say the concept has evolved? In what way do you find this defin­i­tion still rel­ev­ant?

MS: Well, nat­ur­ally the reason it’s still rel­ev­ant, Clement, because I’ve recently pub­lished a book on the subject!

More ser­i­ously, met­ro­sexu­al­ity is still rel­ev­ant all these mois­tur­ised years later because the breadth and depth of the mas­cu­line revolu­tion it rep­res­ents has been obscured – often quite delib­er­ately – in a lot of chat­ter about facials, ‘man­bags’ and flip-flops.

Ironically, out-and-proud male beauty isn’t itself skin-deep. Metrosexuality rep­res­ents a pro­found change in how we look at and think about men. The emer­gence from its closet of the male desire to be desired has revolu­tion­ised the cul­ture and also opened up the options of what a man can be.

Metrosexuality isn’t about man­bags. It’s not about men becom­ing ‘girly’ or ‘gay’. It’s about men becom­ing everything. To them­selves. In much the same way that women have been for some time.

For all its faults, met­ro­sexu­al­ity rep­res­ents a kind of ‘male lib­er­a­tion’. It’s the end of the sexual divi­sion of labour in look­ing and lov­ing – of bath­room and bed­room labour. And of ‘sexu­al­ity’ itself.

Male ‘passiv­ity’ is the flip side of female ‘activ­ity’ – and should be wel­comed or at least accep­ted as much as the lat­ter, but is mostly mocked instead. Metrosexuality has too often pro­voked a kind of reverse sexism.

How has the met­ro­sexual man blurred the bound­ar­ies between the “gay” and straight” labels?

Irretrievably. To quote metrodaddy’s own defin­i­tion of the metrosexual:

He might be offi­cially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly imma­ter­ial because he has clearly taken him­self as his own love-object and pleas­ure as his sexual preference.’

There’s noth­ing ‘straight’ about met­ro­sexu­al­ity. Even though most met­ros def­in­itely prefer women in bed.

Narcissism was sup­posed to be the female qual­ity par excel­lence. ‘Vanity thy name is woman’. It’s con­sidered ‘fem­in­ine’ because invit­ing the gaze/exhibitionism is ‘pass­ive’. Likewise homo­sexual men were con­sidered devi­ant and ‘woman­ish’ because of their – real or per­ceived – passiv­ity. In a sense, homos exis­ted to lock up male passiv­ity in the homo body and keep it away from ‘nor­mal’ men.

Men were offi­cially sup­posed to be always desir­ing, never desired. Always look­ing, never looked at. Always act­ive, never pass­ive. Always hetero never homo.

Metrosexuality queers all of that. By out­ing the ‘passiv­ity’ in men, their desire to be desired, and also their keen visual interest in other men and their bod­ies. It’s pre­cisely because of this blur­ring between gay and straight that many older and more tra­di­tional types have reacted with phobic and often hys­ter­ical hos­til­ity to met­ro­sexu­al­ity. What indeed is straight a man to do – who in fact is he to be – if he can’t define him­self as NOT a gay?

Particularly in the mono­sexual US, which had a gigantic national nervous break­down over the met­ro­sexual in the mid-late Noughties, pre­cisely because of the queer­ness of met­ro­sexu­al­ity – pro­du­cing a so-called ‘menais­sance’ back­lash against it.

Though the back­lash was largely a phoney one. Metrosexuality con­tin­ued to con­quer that con­flic­ted con­tin­ent, albeit on the down-low, and even the US is now led by a svel­tely hand­some man who makes the world wait on his morn­ing workout and who, des­pite Michelle’s pret­ti­ness, is in many ways his own First Lady.

Even in less tra­di­tion­al­ist coun­tries like Britain there have been reaction-formations too, but less pro­nounced, and the younger gen­er­a­tion has gen­er­ally been quicker to seize the free­dom from gay/straight, male/female ghet­toes and bin­ar­ies that met­ro­sexu­al­ity offers. Recent research claimed that most hetero young men at uni­ver­sity enjoy kiss­ing their male friends full on the lips as an expres­sion of affec­tion. Quite a turn­about for an Anglo coun­try that sen­tenced Oscar Wilde to three years hard labour!

Recently in The Guardian, you said that “the met­ro­sexual revolu­tion has taken an increas­ingly phys­ical, sen­sual form”. Can you com­ment on that?

Metrosexuality is con­sumer­ist and fashion-orientated, but it isn’t neces­sar­ily about clothes. In fact, these days it’s per­haps less about clothes than the ulti­mate access­ory: the body. It’s almost as if male naked­ness has been abol­ished at the very moment that acres of male flesh are dis­played every­where you look. Young men have inves­ted a great deal of time, money and sup­ple­ments ‘fash­ion­ing’ their bod­ies into some­thing they ‘wear’ – and show off. Shaven (often every­where), sculp­ted, intric­ately tat­tooed, pierced. Never, ever unmediated.

The near-global hege­mony of ‘Men’s Health’ magazine with its Photoshopped cov­ers of men’s sculp­ted tor­sos bears testi­mony to this, along with the massive pop­ular­ity of real­ity shows such as ‘Jersey Shore’, which fea­ture young men like Mikey Sorrentino show­ing off their tits and abs.

In this they’re also fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of tarty sporno stars like David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and Rafael Nadal, whose bod­ies are mar­keted and pro­moted by cor­por­ate consumerism.

A whole gen­er­a­tion of young men have grown up with met­ro­sex­i­ness. As the recent hit LMFAO single that is a kind of met­ro­sexy anthem puts it: ‘I’m sexy and I know It’.

In the same art­icle you evoked the highest and heightened interest of men in their own bod­ies (diets, ster­oids, gyms). What do you think is driv­ing this?

It’s partly an effect of post-industrialism. It’s inter­est­ing that its most pro­nounced amongst young work­ing class males who in the past might have looked for­wards to a life of selling their labour and work­ing on other men’s prop­erty, but who now instead of going to the fact­ory go to the gym to labour on their own bod­ies and turn them into a product. Their bod­ies remain the only thing they own – their only asset.

But now they turn their bod­ies into a com­mod­ity them­selves. By mak­ing them­selves desir­able they give them­selves value in a con­sumer­ist world. Not for noth­ing are ath­letes such as Beckham who will­ingly strip off and push their pack­ets down our throats on the side of buses often from a work­ing class background.

It’s also the effect of course of an increas­ingly visual world – of web­cams, face­book, cam­era phones, widescreen HD TVs, and real­ity TV. The desire to be desired is also about the desire to be noticed. To be wanted. To be pop­u­lar. To succeed.

And let’s not dis­count the import­ance of all the vast quant­it­ies of porn that men and boys are now down­load­ing, in which the male body is fully on dis­play. And is usu­ally worked out, shaved, tat­tooed, de-pubed. Lots of men aspire to be male porn stars these days. Or at least many of them seem to be audi­tion­ing for that job.…

In recent years, male bod­ies have been very much shot on screen.
Sometimes, even more than female bod­ies. I’m think­ing of Ryan Gosling in com­ed­ies such as Crazy Stupid Love, Justin Timberlake in Friends With Benefits or Alexander Skarsgard in the TV show True Blood. How do you explain this?

Friends With Benefits was a fea­ture film all about Justin’s ass! It was in almost every scene. We even heard from his girl­friend that he likes a fin­ger up it. His char­ac­ter was work­ing as an art-director for American GQ but had a body by Men’s Health. How met­ro­sexual can you get!

Women, who make up the major­ity of TV view­ers, have dis­covered an appet­ite for look­ing at men’s bod­ies on screen. In some ways the sexy scantily clad male has become a sym­bol of women’s con­sum­ing power and their new assert­ive sexual appet­ite. True Blood espe­cially seems to ‘feed’ on that.

But men also as we’ve seen also enjoy look­ing at other men’s bod­ies, and admir­ing, desir­ing and aspir­ing to them.

 What do you think of this quote? The actor Thomas Jane said, after appear­ing naked on screen, “I now know what it’s like to be a woman, because I now have to say dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion, ‘Hey, my eyes are up here!’ ”

It’s a funny quote, but it’s inter­est­ing that the sex of the per­son he’s talk­ing to with wan­der­ing eyes is left unstated.

Men are ‘sex objects’ now too. Some might put it in terms of ‘men are the new women’. But actu­ally what met­ro­sexu­al­ity has done is to break down the bound­ar­ies between ‘men’ and ‘women’.

Ironically many fem­in­ists are com­pletely blind to this phe­nomenon of men will­ingly objec­ti­fy­ing them­selves and other males. Or they pre­tend it’s a mar­ginal thing in no way com­par­able to the objec­ti­fic­a­tion of women. When clearly in main­stream media, par­tic­u­larly TV and cinema, it’s at the very least the equi­val­ent of female objectification.

Male nud­ity and sex is now a full advert­ising argu­ment. How do you explain David Beckham’s “pack­age” on the Armani/H&M camaigns? Or the homo­erotic Dolce & Gabbana ads?

This is what I dub ‘sporno’ – the place where sporn and porn get into bed while Mr Armani and Dolce and Gabbana take pictures.

Sporno rep­res­ents an intens­i­fic­a­tion of met­ro­sexu­al­ity. Where early met­ro­sexu­al­ity was soft-core, sporno is hard­core. Metrosexuality is now so main­stream and so ‘nor­mal’ that male coquet­tish­ness isn’t in itself likely to turn heads. So instead you have to prom­ise the punters a gang-bang in the showers. Or, more usu­ally, a prone, pass­ive image of a sport­ing star with their legs apart lit­er­ally mak­ing them­selves avail­able for the view­ing public.

And of course the ‘hard­core’ aes­thetic of sporno is flag­rantly gay.

Some have tried to dis­miss all this as some kind of con­spir­acy by gay fash­ionis­tas to cor­rupt young straight men and ram their pro­cliv­it­ies down their throats. If it is, it’s worked. Spectacularly. Sporno is the aes­thetic of the 21st Century.

Likewise, met­ro­sexu­al­ity is now so main­stream that to point to someone as a ‘met­ro­sexual’ these days is almost redund­ant. That’s why I called my latest col­lec­tion ‘Metrosexy’ – because what we’re talk­ing now is not a ‘type’ but rather a whole new male way of look­ing and being looked at.

Do you think that gay ima­ging has now com­pletely entered (pre­dom­in­antly straight) soci­ety? How do you explain the fact that it is now a com­mer­cial tool?

Well as I say, it makes people look. Which is quite an achieve­ment in this jaded age.

But also ‘gay’ ima­ging is inev­it­able once the male body is com­mod­i­fied, and once men begin to objec­tify them­selves and other men. This is part of the reason why it was banned or res­isted for so long.

It’s impossible to straighten this stuff out. Of course, people try. Men some­times pre­tend that their self objec­ti­fic­a­tion is ‘strictly for the ladies’. But even if this weren’t a bare-cheeked lie it wouldn’t solve any­thing. Because the ‘queer­ness’ is in the male passiv­ity. It’s about as ‘straight’ as being fucked with a strap-on.

It even turns out that many women have male-on-male fantas­ies which increas­ingly com­mer­cial cul­ture is pan­der­ing to. In other words, men are being encour­aged to ‘act gay’ to turn the ladies on.

More cyn­ic­ally, or per­haps more real­ist­ic­ally, gay ideals of male beauty and per­fec­tion are largely unachiev­able. That’s really the point of them. They prom­ise end­less desir­ing – and also anxi­ety. Which is what con­sumer­ism needs.…

 Mark Simpson’s ‘Metrosexy’ is avail­able on Amazon Kindle.

Metrosexual Smoothie

Burger King have come a long way from their ‘man­them’ anti-metro back­lash days of the mid Noughties in which they lit­er­ally sang the praises of fatty food.

Now their ads star the ulti­mate met­ro­sexual smoothie, David Beckham, who is given the kind of soft-focus, mouth-watering treat­ment in this ad that used to be reserved for their ‘man-food’ Whoppers. Beckham is the ‘excit­ing thing’ hap­pen­ing at Burger King.

And he really does have a very appet­ising, seduct­ive smile. Even his ter­rible act­ing is appeal­ing. There is also some­thing charm­ingly sub­missive about the way he pleads for his order. No won­der the female server is transfixed.

Like BK’s new menu, which includes freshly-made low-calorie fruit smooth­ies, chicken strips and ‘snack-wraps’ — or what might once have been called ‘girl-food’ — Beckham is part of a push to rebrand BK, whose sales have been plum­met­ing. Even back in the Noughties, ‘man­them’ was an attempt to make a manly vir­tue out of BK’s accel­er­at­ing obsol­es­cence. Clearly even that approach isn’t work­ing any more.

The ad rams home the rebrand­ing of BK by play­ing up the omni­sexual appeal of the met­ro­sexual pin-up. The middle-aged male man­ager also finds him­self cap­tiv­ated by Becks’ beauty mid­way through say­ing ‘I am sorry David we make them fresh every time with… fruit.’ It’s unclear whether the man­ager is actu­ally a ‘fruit’ him­self or just another straight man who finds him­self strangely drawn by Beckham’s beguil­ing looks. Probably the lat­ter as he seems genu­inely sur­prised by his own response.

Beckham the equal opps nar­ciss­ist isn’t phased of course and replies, with an indul­gent smile: ‘No prob­lem, John’.

The only part that mys­ti­fies me is why any­one, male or female, straight or gay, would fan­tas­ise that the be-jeaned and denim-shirted Becks before them was actu­ally dressed as a 1960s undertaker.

Tip: Natty Soltesz

 

Sexy and I Show It: Parading Cadets (& Olympic Divers)

Last year metrodaddy declared the LMFAO dance hit ‘Sexy and I Know It’ an anthem  for the Jersey Shore/Geordie Shore/The Only Way is Essex/The Hunks/Men’s Health Magazine gen­er­a­tion of met­ro­sexy young men and the meta­phor­ical (and not so meta­phor­ical) spangly Speedos they’re flaunt­ing them­selves in.

But I have to say I was a tad ambi­val­ent about the heav­ily ironic hip­ster promo video.

Fortunately, it’s been remade by non-hipsters. In shape non-hipsters. Cadets from the USAF Academy, no less. Now, in case any­one objects that this is con­duct unbe­com­ing future officers (and appar­ently some kill­joys have) per­haps we should remem­ber that one of the lesser known mean­ings of ‘cadet’ is ‘pimp’. Though here of course they’re pimp­ing their own bod­ies. Like the rest of today’s young men.

grey Sexy and I Show It: Parading Cadets (& Olympic Divers)

Not to be out­done, US Navy cadets have also taken up the chal­lenge (see below). Which do you think is sex­ier? And which one knows it most? Air Force or Navy? Or neither? So far I haven’t been able to loc­ate an Army or USMC ver­sion — but some­thing tells me it won’t be long.

Tip: Roger Clarke and  Towelroad

 

UPDATE

UK Olympic diver Tom Daley and his chums have recor­ded their own Speedo-tastic ver­sion (I espe­cially like Tom’s Carmen Miranda moment):

Ciao Bello! Mark Simpson interviewed by Italian mag ‘Studio’

grey Ciao Bello! Mark Simpson interviewed by Italian mag Studio

English (uned­ited) ver­sion of Q&A with Mark Simpson by Michele Masneri for Italian cul­tural  magazine Studio in which he talks about the Italian roots of sporno, the next stage of met­ro­sexu­al­ity – and the Silviosexual

What do you mean by the word “sporno”?

The place where sport and porn get into bed while Mr Armani takes pic­tures. Beckham and Ronaldo’s bul­ging pack­ets rammed down our throat on the sides of buses. Dolce & Gabbana hanging around the Italian foot­ball team’s locker room. That kind of thing. So once again we mostly have Italia to thank.

Metrosexuality, the male desire to be desired, has become so nor­mal now that it’s pretty much taken for gran­ted. So in order to get noticed you have to go hard­core – and prom­ise the view­ing pub­lic a gang-bang in the showers. Hence sporno.

grey Ciao Bello! Mark Simpson interviewed by Italian mag Studio

Is Italy the most met­ro­sexual country?

In a sense the wave of met­ro­sexu­al­ity that swept the globe in the last dec­ade or so was really just the rest of the world catch­ing up with Italia and becom­ing a little bit more Italian.

Male nar­ciss­ism is at the heart of met­ro­sexu­al­ity – and in Italy unlike in the Anglo world this has never really been prop­erly repressed. Italy, home of Michelangelo, Marcello Mastroianni and Dolce & Gabbana, never ser­i­ously pre­ten­ded that ‘beauty’ was a word that couldn’t sit along­side ‘male’, and pat its well-formed knee.

In Italy, par­tic­u­larly Southern Italy, young men often have an almost swishy but entirely assured way of walk­ing that few Anglos can ever hope to match. And if we try, it just ends up a silly sashay.

Nonetheless, I think full-throated met­ro­sexu­al­ity does break down tra­di­tional or offi­cial ideas about the sexual divi­sion of lov­ing and look­ing even in Italy by under­min­ing mach­ismo and ‘out­ing’ the queer­ness of it all. The way that women look at men and men look at other men – and how men get very turned on by all the attention.

Do you know the Fiat-Chrysler CEO, Sergio Marchionne? 

Mark Simpson: I’m afraid I had to look him up. Are you sure he’s Italian? He looks like Jeremy Clarkson’s dad. Do you think he has a ward­robe at home with 365 identical shape­less jump­ers and shirts?

Hummersexuals are guys who over-emphasise their mas­culin­ity with ‘manly’ accessor­ies in a way that makes you won­der what they’re cov­er­ing up. Retrosexuals are merely pre-metrosexual.

Sergio seems more ret­ro­sexual than hum­mer­sexual. Partly because Fiat cars aren’t ter­ribly pop­u­lar with the US mil­it­ary or Hollywood action her­oes  – too small and ‘faggy’, I expect – but mostly because he reminds me of my old chem­istry teacher.

And how about former Prime Minister Berlusconi?

He’s quite some­thing, that Berlusconi! But at least, as he keeps remind­ing us, he’s not queer. Even if he does look like a drag queen.

I don’t think any of the cat­egor­ies really fit Silvio. He’s far too spe­cial. He’s in a cat­egory all of his own. Silviosexual.

Mind you, his old chum Tony Blair, our former PM and rock star man­qué, shared the same drag queen smile. But ulti­mately Silvio is a reminder to an Anglo like me of the mys­ter­ies of ‘mach­ismo’. How some­thing so camp can ima­gine itself some­thing so butch.

Perhaps we need to go way back in time to loc­ate Berlusconi’s painted, dyed, stretched, ter­ri­fy­ingly cos­metic look. Back to the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt.…

grey Ciao Bello! Mark Simpson interviewed by Italian mag Studio

Is David Beckham still the epi­tome of the metrosexual?

Yes, albeit the age­ing met­ro­sexual. In English we have an expres­sion, ‘mut­ton dressed as lamb’.… But then there are lots of men his age and older who also don’t want to give up their sex-object status – so they look to him for inspir­a­tion. Though he’ll have to offer them some­thing a lot sex­ier than those daggy H&M pants and vests he came up with recently.

Beckham’s met­ro­sexual crown has of course been usurped by younger, pret­tier play­ers such as Cristiano Ronaldo – who also fam­ously stole his Armani undies. At the same time you have a new gen­er­a­tion of tarty male real­ity TV stars, such as Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino and his ‘gym tan laun­dry’ metro man­tra from Jersey Shore. And at the movies you have stars like Tom Hardy, with those pouty, Brando-esque lips, muscles and his openly admit­ted bi-curious past telling us ‘Don’t be a afraid to dream a little big­ger, darling.’

grey Ciao Bello! Mark Simpson interviewed by Italian mag Studio

Is met­ro­sexy the “next stage” of met­ro­sexu­al­ity? The word ‘met­ro­sexual’ was born in the Nineties. What happened to male nar­ciss­ism since then?

Funnily enough Justin Bieber was born the same year as the met­ro­sexual. They’re both sweet sev­en­teen. In other words, met­ro­sexu­al­ity is still wait­ing for its voice to drop.

That said, men’s nar­ciss­ism has become much so main­stream and accep­ted in the last dec­ade or so, to the point where it is often taken for gran­ted, espe­cially by the younger gen­er­a­tion who has grown up with it. Hence the word itself is likely to become defunct at some point in the not too dis­tant future. To some extent Metrosexy is about a post met­ro­sexual world.

However, there are still reaction-formations and kinky back­lashes against met­ro­sexu­al­ity, par­tic­u­larly in the US which, because of a pas­sion­ately Protestant his­tory and an equally pas­sion­ate denial about its own scream­ing gay­ness, con­tin­ues to work out her issues. E.g. those hummersexuals.…

Essentially ‘met­ro­sexy’ is the tarty male sens­ib­il­ity that met­ro­sexu­als have injec­ted into the cul­ture. Metrosexuality has gone from being a ‘type’ – ‘the met­ro­sexual’ –  to be spot­ted and poin­ted at, to being a per­vas­ive ‘feel­ing’. A way of see­ing and being seen.

Also, a glance at the news­stand, the bill­board, the TV, and the queue at the bus stop tells us that with many young men the desire to be desired and embody male beauty has taken an increas­ingly phys­ical, sen­sual form: their lov­ingly, painstak­ingly sculp­ted and shaved muscles and their elab­or­ate, expens­ive designer tattoos.

Following the cues of sporno, many seem to aspire to be sexual ath­letes. Hustlers. Porn stars.

What’s the rela­tion­ship between hip­ster­ism and metrosexuality?

Although most hip­sters would prob­ably rather die than admit it, hip­ster­ism is a form of met­ro­sexu­al­ity. But a very middle-class and ener­vated – or ‘ironic’ – one. It’s pat­ently nar­ciss­istic, but usu­ally regards the body and ‘sex­i­ness’ as ‘vul­gar’. Which it is of course – if you’re lucky.

What’s the “gay bomb”, Abercrombie & Fitch or American Apparel or Apple?

Abercrombie & Fitch were per­haps the det­on­ator – Apple and iPhones were the explo­sion. iPhones are of course the ulti­mate van­ity product – they’re really MEphones. The app that comes gratis with every smart­phone is dumb self-obsession. And they’re also a great way to take a pic­ture of your­self top­less in the gym chan­ging room mir­rors to upload to Facebook, or per­haps a more ‘dis­crete’ ‘social network’…

Are the social net­works, i.e. Facebook and espe­cially Twitter, a form of a sub­lim­ated metrosexuality?

Inasmuch as they’re all about MEEEEEE! yes. They’re where people com­pete for atten­tion and try to turn them­selves into brands and com­mod­it­ies and mar­ket them­selves, a hall­mark of metrosexuality.

In the case of Facebook, often the met­ro­sexu­al­ity isn’t even very sub­lim­ated. Young men can and do upload hun­dreds of top­less pic­tures of them­selves, appar­ently audi­tion­ing for that Men’s Health cover.

You’ve writ­ten that “in some ways Obama is the first US President to be his own First Lady.” Is there any met­ro­sexy can­did­ate in the Republican party?

Not in the cur­rent line-up of hope­fuls. Though Mitt Romney does look like a man­nequin in the win­dow of a par­tic­u­larly bor­ing depart­ment store.

Aaron Schock on the other hand, the Republican Congressman who stripped off for Men’s Health magazine pos­it­ively drips met­ro­sex­i­ness – for a politi­cian. He’ll prob­ably end up President one day. Him or Justin Bieber.…

grey Ciao Bello! Mark Simpson interviewed by Italian mag Studio

Mark Simpson’s Metrosexy is avail­able for down­load from Amazon.

grey Ciao Bello! Mark Simpson interviewed by Italian mag Studio

 

 

David Beckham’s ‘End Result’ — Can You Handle It?

Better order some indus­trial strength lip balm and prac­tise sup­press­ing the gag reflex.

Shameless sporno star and über-metrosexual David Beckham is ram­ming his eye-popping lunch­box down our col­lect­ive throats again. This time with a media ‘offens­ive’ for his own line of men’s undies – and strangely shape­less vests – from Swedish-owned high street fash­ion chain H&M.

grey David Beckhams End Result   Can You Handle It?

I always want to chal­lenge myself and this was such a reward­ing exper­i­ence for me. I’m very happy with the end res­ult and I hope H&M’s male cus­tom­ers will be as excited as I am.”.

It’s true, you do look very pleased to see us again, David dear. But I worry that my ‘end res­ult’ might not look quite so excited/exciting in your pants.

But Beck’s own palp­able, prom­in­ent excite­ment is entirely under­stand­able. He saw the humong­ous wads of cash Mr Armani was covered in when he brazenly pimped Beck’s designer cotton-clad tackle to the world a few years back. Becks was paid very hand­somely for his ser­vices him­self of course, but seems to have decided he can make even more filthy lucre by design­ing his packet him­self and flog­ging it to the global punter (H&M is the second largest retailer in the world).

Last year he explained:

I have had the idea of doing a body­wear col­lec­tion for some time now. The push to do some­thing of my own really came as a res­ult of my col­lab­or­a­tion with Armani. They told me that their gross turnover in 2007 was around €16 mil­lion, and after the cam­paign in 2008 it went up to €31 mil­lion, in 2008. It proved to me that there is a real mar­ket for good-looking, well-made men’s bodywear.”

grey David Beckhams End Result   Can You Handle It?
Whether or not his fin­ished pants and vests are that kind of body­wear I’ll let you be the judge of. Bear in mind they are a lot more afford­able than Mr Armani’s. I think proud-father-of-four Goldenballs is here going for ‘volume’. Metrosexy dad­wear. Hence the emphasis he puts on comfort.

And as we’ve seen again and again in the last few years, there is def­in­itely a real mar­ket for good-looking, well-made, fam­ous, well-packaged men’s bod­ies. Advertisers, real­ity TV and Hollywood have prac­tic­ally had our eye out with them.

Regardless of his advan­cing years (he’s a fright­en­ingly well-preserved, carb-free 37 this May) and con­sequently fad­ing foot­ball career, Becks will always be fondly iden­ti­fied with that met­ro­sexual revolu­tion and will very likely get his money shot yet again.

He and his endow­ments, nat­ural and Photo-shopped, always seems to wangle a way to attract the eye. Whatever you may think of his vests.

 

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.

grey NY Mag Notices How Tarty Men Have Become

Tip: Fraser K

When You Gotta Big Dick, You Don’t Gotta Do Nothin!”

Mike De Luca (played with sweaty verve by Jordan Nice) is an unem­ployed, rather lazy young Italian-American chap liv­ing in blue-collar, post-industrial Philly who decides to go with the met­ro­sexy times and make his fame and for­tune by turn­ing his man­hood into cash. Whipping it out on web­cam for the punters, male and female. In his Ma’s front room.

As he puts it in a catch-phrase even more sali­ent and wise than ‘Gym. Tan. Laundry’: “When you gotta big dick, you don’t gotta do nothin! Life comes to YOU!”

So true, Mike, so true. You don’t even need to go to the gym. Or the laundry.

Big Dick Mike has gone one stage fur­ther than that other Italian-American Mikey ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino, the real star of Jersey Shore, who has already of course made his name and for­tune by com­modi­fy­ing his body. For all the mach­ismo, Mikey Sorrentino is in many ways a volup­tu­ous female glam­our model get­ting her tits out for the paparazzi — a glam­our model who just hap­pens to be pen­ised. Though if the bitchy rumours are to be believed, not so much.

Mike De Luca on the other hand is all cock. Which he has totally com­mod­i­fied. If not very suc­cess­fully yet.

The Big Dick Mike Show is a great idea for a sit-com, and also a poin­ted com­ment­ary on where mas­culin­ity is at in a medi­ated, totally tarty world.

It’s also much more enter­tain­ing than that dreary, mor­al­ising TV series Hung. Let’s hope Mike ‘The Erection’ De Luca gets a Network deal soon. And flops it out coast to coast, show­ing Mikey Sorrentino what a real ‘Situation’ looks like.

Scrape Me With a Strigil! The Grooming Guru interviews Mark Simpson

The Grooming Guru, alias Lee Kynaston, inter­views Simpson about how Top Gun made a gen­er­a­tion of young men ‘gay’ and why the Romans knew a thing or two about exfo­li­ation. A snippet:

GG: Many com­ment­at­ors com­plain that men are ‘becom­ing more like women’ with their grooming/beauty regimes. What would you say to this?

MS: I think it’s more a case of men no longer tying one hand behind their backs when it comes to the increas­ingly import­ant busi­ness – both in private and pub­lic life – of look­ing good. Happily mar­ried Lord Sugar, for example, some­times seems to dis­play a weak­ness for an attract­ive, nicely turned-out male can­did­ate. And of course, more and more bosses are female.

Instead of men becom­ing ‘more like women’ what we’re see­ing is men being less inhib­ited in their beha­viour by wor­ries about what’s ‘mas­cu­line’ and ‘fem­in­ine’, ‘gay’ and ‘straight’. In much the same way that women have been since the fem­in­ist revolu­tion of the 1970s. Likewise, ‘male beauty’ is no longer a com­pletely ver­boten con­jug­a­tion that has to always be euphemised with ‘male grooming’.

Read Kynaston’s inter­view in full here.

Metrosexy Marines

Perhaps only one of these US Marines in the latest ‘mil­it­ary camp’ Youtube hit is actu­ally drop dead beau­ti­ful (clue: he’s the one who shakes his ass most con­vin­cingly, takes his top off, strokes his abs lov­ingly — and grabs his packet while his buddy zooms in for a close-up).

But you have to give his less phys­ic­ally gif­ted com­rades full marks for the way these trained killers really want to be ‘drop dead’ gor­geous. At least for the dur­a­tion of a Britney pop song about a woman who loves to look. And make a mock­ery of the ‘male gaze’ — along with the notion that men, par­tic­u­larly fight­ing men, are always act­ive, never passive.

Like hun­dreds of other sol­diers pran­cing around in Youtube clips it’s done for a laugh and a giggle — but it also seems to be ser­i­ously say­ing some­thing about young men today. Even the ones expec­ted to kill for us.

Boy, come over here with your sexy ass.…

Tip: Fraser

Interview with Mark Simpson in Portuguese National ‘Publico’

English ver­sion of inter­view with Simpson about his new book met­ro­sexy by Bruno Horta (Publico, June 16, 2011)

Why did you decide to col­lect these texts in a single volume?

I wanted to bring together my essays that doc­u­ment and ana­lyse the pro­found revolu­tion in mas­culin­ity that met­ro­sexu­al­ity rep­res­ents. But which has been mostly trivi­al­ized by the media as being lit­er­ally skin-deep – Oooh! men hav­ing facials!! Oooh! Manbags!! That kind of thing. Metrosexuality isn’t about men becom­ing ‘girlie’ or ‘gay’. It’s about men becom­ing everything. To themselves.

It’s told-you-so van­ity on my part, but I also thought it was neces­sary to bring these pieces together into one col­lec­tion so that if someone wants to find out the real story of what has happened to men and to sexu­al­ity in the early 21st Century they can. Even if it’s just his­tor­i­ans of the future try­ing to work out why civil­iz­a­tion collapsed.

The kind of texts you write and the tone you use (ironic and camp) is not com­mon in Portugal but as far as I know is com­mon in English lan­guage authors. Could you com­ment? Is the tone of your writ­ings auto­bi­o­graph­ical or is just a rhet­or­ical mechanism?

Are you call­ing me camp, Bruno? I try my best to be enter­tain­ing when I write, as I’m extremely dull in per­son. Also, I think when it comes to sub­jects like sex, sexu­al­ity and gender a sense of humour is abso­lutely neces­sary. If someone can write about these sub­jects straight-faced then they prob­ably don’t know what they’re talk­ing about.

Did you real­ize you were cre­at­ing a world­wide concept when you first wrote about “met­ro­sexual” men in 1994? How proud do you feel about hav­ing seen before oth­ers a social tendency?

The news­pa­per art­icle in which I appar­ently coined that term was writ­ten to pub­li­cise my first book Male Impersonators: Men Performing Masculinity. I used met­ro­sexu­al­ity as a kind of short­hand for what I was talk­ing about in the book – about the way that an increas­ingly medi­ated world was chan­ging mas­culin­ity and how it was becom­ing much more nar­ciss­istic and exhib­i­tion­istic – and ‘objec­ti­fied’ in that feminist-speak.

In other words, mas­culin­ity was no longer always het­ero­sexual never homo­sexual, always act­ive never pass­ive, always desir­ing never desired, always look­ing never looked at.

The enforced asso­ci­ation of mas­culin­ity with cap­ital H het­ero­sexu­al­ity was break­ing down even in the early 90s – you only had to look around the cul­ture to see it. And I’ve always been some­thing of a voyeur. The desire of men to be desired wasn’t some­thing I was going to ignore.

Though, of course, people don’t always want to see things that are hap­pen­ing around them. Which is prob­ably why it took another dec­ade for the concept to catch on.

And yes, see­ing some things before oth­ers want to does give me a cer­tain mis­chiev­ous, per­verse pleas­ure, but it isn’t neces­sar­ily some­thing you’ll be thanked for. Look what happened to Cassandra.…

You say in the 1994 text that “met­ro­sexu­als are the cre­ation of capitalism’s vora­cious appet­ite for new mar­kets.” Do you think sexu­al­ity is nowadays more an eco­nomic issue than a ‘nat­ural’ or ‘primary’ behaviour?

Not really sure that sexu­al­ity has been a ‘nat­ural’ beha­viour since humans became social anim­als with elab­or­ate rules and codes, lan­guages – and reli­gions. It’s cer­tainly been even less ‘nat­ural’ since the indus­trial revolu­tion. What’s clear though is that the productive/reproductive impetus of early cap­it­al­ism has been replaced by sensual/consumerist imper­at­ives, even and espe­cially for men.

You see this even in China, where after a period of rapid pro­duct­ive growth con­sumer­ism is now rampant and encour­aged by the Party as the next step in China’s eco­nomic devel­op­ment – and hyper-metro beha­viour has been observed amongst a lot of Chinese young men (the so-called ‘herb­i­vore’ phe­nomenon). Plus of course, pop­u­la­tion growth is not some­thing China exactly needs.

It’s fairly clear that men have always had a capa­city for sen­su­al­ity and van­ity – and a desire to be desired – but for most of his­tory it has been rather closeted. Especially since the Victorian era. Men were meant to be war­ri­ors or labour­ers or empire build­ers. They weren’t meant to be beau­ti­ful. The sexual divi­sion of look­ing that the Victorians codi­fied decreed that women were beauty and men were action.

But now that men have been encour­aged to get in touch with their van­ity and sen­su­al­ity it seems there’s no stop­ping it.…

Is the concept of “sporno” a proof that our Western cul­ture is being con­struc­ted around por­no­graphy and sex? Camille Paglia wrote some months ago that American middle-class soci­ety is desexu­al­ized: men act like chil­dren until 50 and women are so thin­ner that men hardly fell attrac­ted for their bod­ies. What should we conclude?

America is a conun­drum. Sporno doesn’t really exist in the US, except via impor­ted Armani advert­ising cam­paigns (which don’t fea­ture US sports­men). Sporno is a European phe­nomenon. The Protestant com­pon­ent of American cul­ture is still very strong today and America still makes a quasi reli­gious fet­ish out the notion of the Real Man.

The US is the only coun­try that had a back­lash against met­ro­sexu­al­ity in the mid-Noughties. In many ways the ‘menais­sance’ as it was called was men-dacious and hypo­crit­ical – often it was just a more uptight ver­sion of met­ro­sexu­al­ity that was being sold. And in fact the US as a hugely con­sumer­ist coun­try has con­tin­ued of course down the met­ro­sexual path – it can hardly do any­thing else.  But it’s still in ter­rible denial.

Sporno rep­res­ents an intens­i­fic­a­tion of met­ro­sexu­al­ity – from a soft core to more hard-core gay porn sens­ib­il­ity.  It’s too out-and-proud in its met­ro­sexu­al­ity, ram­ming it’s designer-clad packet – or ass – down your throat. America’s not really ready for that. America is, as every­one knows, one of the ‘gay­est’ coun­tries in the world but it’s the last to know it.

Why do we see rugby and foot­ball play­ers act­ing as “sporno” stars but rugby and foot­ball are still homo­phobic areas?

I’m not so sure that rugby is that homo­phobic – partly because it’s all about male-male phys­ical con­tact.  And it does have one or two out players/ex-players. Football is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter how­ever. Pretty much the whole point of fol­low­ing foot­ball is to prove you’re not gay, my son….

To some extent the fash­ion houses deploy­ing foot­ballers in their spor­no­graphic advert­ising cam­paigns are exploit­ing the homo­pho­bia of the sport – the images are espe­cially strik­ing in their ‘gay­ness’ and their ‘passiv­ity’ because they use men who live by ‘activ­ity’ in a sport renowned for its homophobia.

In fact, David Beckham’s media career has also been based to some degree on exploit­ing the homo­pho­bia of foot­ball. If foot­ball wasn’t homo­phobic the notion of a foot­baller who ‘loves my gay fans’ and wears sarongs and his wife’s knick­ers wouldn’t be so newsworthy.

But of course sporno – and Beckham and Ronaldo – also change expect­a­tions and chal­lenge pre­ju­dices. There is a time-lag between the pan­sexu­al­ity proffered by sporno images used to sell cloth­ing to young foot­ball fans and atti­tudes on the ter­races and in the chan­ging rooms. But this will change. Things have already changed enorm­ously in just a few years.

What is really, strik­ingly, shock­ingly appar­ent in these spor­no­graphic images is the lust young sport­ing her­oes have to be… sluts. This appar­ently insa­ti­able appet­ite for tarti­ness and slut­ti­ness of men is some­thing that met­ro­sexu­al­ity has unleashed and isn’t going back in the closet any time soon.

How do you see the way gay men, or more accur­ately gay act­iv­ism, behave today: they demand gay mar­riage, they want to adopt chil­dren and they claim fam­ily val­ues? What’s hap­pen­ing? Has the “het­ero­sex­ist” soci­ety just con­tam­in­ated the pre­vi­ously sub­vers­ive gay culture?

A lot of gays seem to have decided that they want respect­ab­il­ity. Of course they call it ‘equal­ity’. But per­haps they have an equal right to be respect­able if they really want to be.

Just as straights appear to be going ‘gay’, given the chance, in the form of met­ro­sexu­al­ity and recre­ational, kinky sex, gays seem to be going ‘straight’. It’s the inev­it­able res­ult of the break­down of the divi­sion between ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ and the cros­sover between the two.  Sexuality no longer dic­tates lifestyle.

And it’s not so sur­pris­ing that it turns out that a lot of gays have made a fet­ish out of ‘nor­mal­ity’ and respect­ab­il­ity – because it was denied them for so long.  I expect though that many will tire of it rather more quickly than a lot of het­ero­sexu­als have.

What’s your opin­ion about the appar­ently main-streaming of the trans­gender cul­ture (last week Daniel Craig in drag; the Spanish magazine Candy, the recent suc­cess of the model Andrej Pejic)? Is trans the new sexual/aesthetic model? Are we going “tran­sexy”, as you call it?

I think it’s becom­ing pretty appar­ent that in an increas­ingly intensely medi­ated cul­ture everything is becom­ing hyper-real – espe­cially gender.  The increas­ing use of cos­metic sur­gery by both men and women, espe­cially celebrit­ies, is bring­ing about a kind of efface­ment of sexual dif­fer­ence. Not neces­sar­ily because men and women are becom­ing andro­gyn­ous, although that is hap­pen­ing too, but because even the attempts to emphas­ize ‘mas­cu­line’ and ‘fem­in­ine’ with cos­metic sur­gery, designer tatts and beards, ster­oids etc. etc. tend to pro­duce an ‘over-exposure’ which res­ults in a kind of ‘tran­sexy’ appear­ance. Sexiness has effaced sex.

Gender has become so arti­fi­cial and so over-stated that we’re all Pammy-trannies now. Male-to-male and female-to-female transsexuals.

Who do you con­sider to be the most inter­est­ing, sexy, defi­ant and myth­o­lo­gical pub­lic per­son of nowadays? Why?

That’s a tall order. I’m not sure I can think of any­one that really fits that descrip­tion. But Tom Hardy was the best thing by far about ‘Inception’ and there is some­thing quite inspir­ing about this pouty-faced yet rug­gedly hand­some Hollywood star’s open own­er­ship both of his bi-curious past and his ambi-sexual per­sona. He looks like a good advert for met­ro­sex­i­ness: ‘Don’t be afraid to dream a little big­ger, darling.’

I think that’s an excel­lent motto for nego­ti­at­ing the met­ro­sexy world we’re now liv­ing in.

met­ro­sexy is avail­able for your instant pleas­ure on Amazon Kindle

Sporno Gallery

I’ve added an eye-popping gal­lery of sporno to the met­ro­sexy Facebook page here. (It’s a lot easier on FB than on WordPress.)

Alas, due to the lim­it­a­tions of the format there are no illus­tra­tions in the e-book — aside from David Williams lyr­ical shower scene on the cover. Metrosexy is 70,000 words long but doesn’t say nearly as much as the but­tocks below.…

grey Sporno Gallery