Magic Mike XXL: What It Tells Us About Modern Manhood

The Magic Mike movies are, truth be told, a bit of a nos­tal­gia trip. ‘Male strip­ping’ is actu­ally rather retro. It emerged as a phe­nomenon in the now impossibly innocent-looking 90s when the Chippendales and their orange muscles framed by bow ties, white cuffs and permed hair drove women wild – and Channing Tatum him­self was work­ing as a strip­per in Florida, before he became a Hollywood sex object.”

Yours mus­ing on today’s stripped-down stuffed-crotch mas­culin­ity in The Telegraph.

Britain’s Got Tarty (& Chris Hemsworth’s Got Codpiece)

I always used to won­der when watch­ing gay porn in the 1990s how the deuce the mod­els man­aged to get their pants over their chunky butch boots without remov­ing them.

Now of course every straight male from South London learns how to do this before they can leg­ally drink in pubs — as ‘Forbidden Nights’, an act audi­tion­ing on Britain’s Got More Talent recently demonstrated.

Note how the camp judge (David Walliams) is con­trac­tu­ally bound to be ‘gay’ — regard­less of the fact he’s straight. And twice the size of the rather lovely pocket-sized strip­per he hugs (no doubt he had to have his suit dry-cleaned of orange body make-up).

Note also how ‘sexu­al­ised images’ of the male body — and extreme close-ups of cotton-lycra mix bulges — are now an entirely accept­able, and enthu­si­ast­ic­ally applauded, part of British prime-time fam­ily entertainment.

Something the American Phalliban suc­cess­fully sab­ot­aged in the BBC’s recent Wolf’s Hall — spoilsport American TV execs insisted the Tudor cod­pieces be toned down.

Hooray for Hollywood how­ever — who gave ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ Chris Hemsworth one the size of, well, the ham­mer of a Norse god of thun­der, in the just-released ‘red band’ trailer for the forth­com­ing remake of National Lampoon’s (R-rated) Vacation.

That’s prob­ably way more phal­lus than you’ll get in Magic Mike XXL.

Tip: Hans Versluys


Trunks Should Be Worn High (& Adjusted Privately)’

Trunks 1938


It seems that Cape May’s Speedo ban was rel­at­ively lib­eral com­pared to the beach blanket American Puritanism that pre­ceded it. Until the 1930s you could get arres­ted on East Coast beaches just for show­ing your (male) nipples, no mat­ter how baggy and unap­pet­ising your swim­ming trunks were.

In Europe and on the West Coast top­less bathing for men has long been no nov­elty on pub­lic as well as private beaches. But in the more inhib­ited East a male cos­tume con­sist­ing solely of trunks was, until just recently, cause for arrest on almost all pub­lic beaches and raised eye­brows on many a private one.

At Atlantic City top­less bathing suits are still for­bid­den, and only this year has Long Island’s ultrademo­cratic Long Beach allowed men to air their backs and chests. This trend which ori­gin­ated on the French Riviera has ser­i­ously dis­tressed man­u­fac­tur­ers who claim there is little field for ori­gin­al­ity of design in trunks. For proof of their con­ten­tion, see Long Beach pic­tures below.

On the one hand it seems laugh­able that the male breast should have been regarded as so inflam­mat­ory of lust to the good burgh­ers of East Coast America. But then again, given the flag­rant rise of pro­voc­at­ive, pec-tastic sporno­sexu­al­ity on our 21st Century beaches, maybe those clenched American WASPS were right.

At any rate, those trunks cer­tainly aren’t being worn ‘high’ any more. That would be a ter­rible waste of obliques.

 Tip: David Somerlinck


Viennese Gag on Big Strudels

A poster cam­paign advert­ising ‘Nude Men’ (“a long over­due exhib­i­tion on the diverse and chan­ging depic­tions of naked men from 1800 to the present”) at the Leopold Museum in Vienna seems to have aroused the pas­sions of the local phalliban.

I thought the Austrians, like the nut-brown Germans I spied on in Corfu when I was on a fam­ily hol­i­day there as a kid, were very laid back about nud­ity. But it seems, like the organ­isers of the exhib­i­tion, I was very much mistaken.

From Time’s news­feed:

We didn’t real­ise that many, many people would be really upset or really angry in a way that we are also afraid about secur­ity, about pro­tec­tion of the vis­it­ors of the museum” explained Klaus Pokorny, a spokes­per­son for the museum, as quoted in Reuters. “Many people told us that they wanted to or had to pro­tect their chil­dren,” he added about the response to the naked advert­ise­ments. “Some had warned that if we won’t cover it they would go there with a brush and they would cover it with color. Already some­body did that.”

The museum has capit­u­lated and agreed to cover up the big stru­dels with red strips of paper - in other words, to deface the images them­selves. Including a fam­ous photo by Pierre & Gilles called Vive la France, which shows three foot­ball play­ers wear­ing socks in blue, white and red and… big grins. (An image which for some reason Time doesn’t repro­duce — so I’ve done so below.)

We are not really happy about the situ­ation,” said Mr. Pokorny about the changes. “You always hope that we have made pro­gress, that we are now in the 21st century.”

 Tip: David S

Firemen’s Big Hose Sets NY Ablaze

By Mark Simpson

(The Guardian, 8 Aug 2007)

The Phalliban, America ‘s kill­joy cam­paign against the male body’s, er, male­ness, strikes yet again.

The 2008 Fire Department of New York Calendar of Heroes, the elev­enth in series of snaps of buffed young fire­men stripped to the waist which pro­duces mass hys­teria on the streets of NY on its release every year — along with large amounts of cash for the FDNY — will be the last.

Why? Because it might make the good people of New York think of firemen’s hoses.

Calendar cover-boy 22-year-old Michael Biserta (above) has caused a scan­dal because he briefly got his semi-erect hose out in the video Boys Gone Wild in 2004 — some time before he even joined the FDNY.

For the sake of research, you under­stand, I’ve viewed the clip (it’s because in the Net Age images never go away that this scan­dal has happened). And let me just say that Biserta’s fire-fighting equip­ment will have no trouble extin­guish­ing the tallest flames.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta is not impressed, how­ever, and has ordered the scrap­ping of future cal­en­dars. Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, him­self a former fire com­mis­sioner (and, judging by his pen­chant for double entendre, also an avid fan of Are You Being Served?) agrees, telling the press straight facedly: ‘You can’t allow any­thing that tar­nishes the repu­ta­tion of the people on the job.’

Not being American, I’m not sure how the fact that a fire­man flashed his large axe to con­sent­ing adults before he became a fire­man tar­nishes the repu­ta­tion of the people ‘on the job’, or any­where else.

Unless you’re just jeal­ous. Or pen­ises frighten you. (Admittedly, Biserta’s is slightly scary.)

And, Captain Peacock, isn’t a spot of pol­ish­ing, French or oth­er­wise, the usual way to deal with tarnishing?

I could under­stand if the FDNY was wor­ried that Biserta’s hot body might be start­ing more fires than it puts out. Instead it seems like just another example of the pur­it­an­ical American Phalliban try­ing to turn back the com­modi­fic­a­tion cock that American con­sumer­ism star­ted tick­ing. In the UK its dif­fi­cult to ima­gine that a top­less fire­man cal­en­dar would be banned because one of them had once got their big pump out on video. Instead, they’d prob­ably be given their own TV show. Over in France, the Dieux du Stade cal­en­dars fea­tur­ing stark­ers pro­fes­sional rugby play­ers covered in baby oil with their balls out sells like hot crois­sants — and no scan­dal erupts.

The US clearly has a dif­fer­ent atti­tude towards the male mem­ber, even if many people are con­vinced it’s cur­rently led by one. Recently the city coun­cil in Kaiser, Oregon was forced to prom­ise to remove some traffic bol­lards because people com­plained they looked ‘too much like pen­ises’. In other words, bol­lards. During the film­ing of last year’s Superman Returns the biggest pro­duc­tion pre­oc­cu­pa­tion was how to keep Superman’s Spandexed bulge from… bul­ging.

This year the posters for a film called Pride about Philadelphia ‘s first black swim team were nearly banned by the hawkeyed American Motion Picture Association because they were con­vinced that the pack­age of one of the black swim­mers in the back­ground had been ‘digit­ally enhanced’. (It hadn’t, and it wasn’t even par­tic­u­larly ‘proud’.)

I real­ise that post 9–11 the FDNY has been sanc­ti­fied. That they are now all ‘her­oes’. But nowadays ama­teur porn stars can be her­oes too. Especially if they’re hung as hero­ic­ally as Biserta.

The real prob­lem here is that Biserta’s showing-off before he became a fire-fighter was a little too expli­cit. The fact the cover-boy had got his actual cock out instead of his sym­bol­ism outed the pornoliz­ing of the male body going on in the cul­ture that the FDNY cal­en­dars them­selves are part of. Which freaked out the top brass who prob­ably never liked those faggy cal­en­dars anyway.

Many of the glossy images in the cal­en­dars, like the one on the cover, are delib­er­ately phal­lic and fet­ish­istic. Look at the way a ‘pumped’ and ‘ripped’ Biserta is hold­ing his big shiny red fire axe with both hands, over that huge butch metal clip appar­ently keep­ing his util­ity belt and flies together.

Even the Statue of Liberty, look­ing on, has erec­ted her arm — which has, under­stand­ably, burst into flames. Unlike the old grey men who run the FDNY, she’s an American who knows how to salute a prodi­giously well-equipped young fire­man when she sees one.

You can see that incen­di­ary Biserta clip on Xtube here.

This essay is col­lec­ted in Metrosexy: a 21st Century Self-Love Story

Pillars of the community — the Phalliban pops up again


In the latest example of the prudish power of the USA’s rampant Phalliban, out­raged res­id­ents of Kaiser, Oregon, have deman­ded the removal of some newly installed safety pil­lars.

Apparently they are too remin­is­cent of male gen­italia. What a load of bollards.

Although I’m no expert on American pen­ises, I’ve seen a few in my time — and I don’t recall any being made out of four feet of rein­forced con­crete. And I think I would have noticed.

I sus­pect the good women of Kaiser (and it does appear to be women in the report doing the com­plain­ing) are just bragging.

And if you’re talk­ing offens­ively penis-shaped eye­sores, humong­ous 4x4s like the one pic­tured behind the cheeky bol­lard — whose hefty momentum the pil­lars have clearly been designed to pro­tect ped­es­tri­ans from — look much more phal­lic to me.

The city coun­cil, eager to pla­cate the American Phalliban, plans to modify the appear­ance of the pil­lars with metal col­lars and chains. Though why S&M pricks should pass without com­ment where vanilla ones aroused a storm of indig­nant protest is unclear.

If this approach fails, the coun­cil has pledged to remove the pil­lars. Perhaps they should dynam­ite them like the Taliban did with the Buddhas of Banyan.

Surely though the cheapest way to dis­guise the phal­li­cism of pil­lars like this in the US would be to give them fore­skins? Or just make them wear really baggy board shorts?

Tip: Steve Zeeland

Speedophobia: America’s Fear & Loathing of Budgie Smuggling

Mark Simpson undresses the tor­tured rela­tion­ship between American men and their swimsuits

(Out, February 2007)


If the stern, kill­joy rub­ric of this warn­ing sign, erec­ted in the 1960s by the good people of Cape May, N.J., sounds like a way to rain on a gay beach party, that’s because it was.

Cape May, a resort town a few hours south of New York City by car, had become a pop­u­lar gay haunt by the late 1950s, nick­named “Cape Gay” by the cognoscenti. According to a 1969 art­icle in Philadelphia magazine, “their pub­lic dis­plays of affec­tion, par­tic­u­larly among men wear­ing women’s bathing suits on the main beach… turned off the towns­folk.” The city coun­cil, eager to pro­tect its flock from glimpsing the ter­ri­fy­ing out­line of adult male gen­italia, was moved to pass a law for­bid­ding bikini bathing suits on males over age 12 — a “phal­liban,” if you will.

The ban on ‘form-fitting’ bathing suits on males was offi­cially lif­ted by Cape May in 2005. Arguably this didn’t hap­pen because America now accepts male bumps and lumps but simply because it was now unne­ces­sary. After all, these days every­one knows that male bikinis — or, to give them their trade name-turned-generic moniker, “Speedos” — are unof­fi­cially banned from all main beaches in the United States, whatever your age.

You may think them prac­tical and sexy and iconic. You may con­sider them the single most per­fect and pithy item of cloth­ing ever designed for the male body. You may con­sider them the only thing to wear on the beach. You might even con­sider your­self slightly over­dressed in them. But if you do, it’s prob­ably because you’re gay. Or for­eign. Speedos, oth­er­wise known as “banana ham­mocks,” “marble bags,” “noodle bend­ers,” and “budgie smug­glers,” are appar­ently as un-American as Borat’s body thong.

Speedos on a nongay beach are the surest way to earn your­self angry stares, abuse, and plenty of room for your beach towel. As a res­ult, Speedos have in the United States become a badge of gay pride and exclusion-as overt homo­pho­bia declines, rampantly overt Speedophobia is bring­ing U.S. gays and Brazilians together, hud­dling together at the far end of the beach in their Lycra.

Male celebs like David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Daniel Craig may now be nicely filling out their Speedos on their beach hol­i­days — but none of these fel­lows are American. Speedos and even more reveal­ing male swim­suits are pop­u­lar in South America, Asia, much of Europe, and espe­cially, of course, in the land of the pert-butted lifesaver: Australia, the place where the “Aussie cossie” and much of the beach life­style we know today was born.

The Speedo is more than just “gay” beach­wear: It’s a sym­bol of sexual free­dom and a redis­cov­ery of the body after cen­tur­ies of clammy Christian morality.

Bathing and swim­ming are undoubtedly pagan pas­sions. The ancients inven­ted the sea­side resort and spent a great deal of gold on, and time in, their blessed pub­lic baths, where the men bathed and swam naked. Not because they were indif­fer­ent to naked­ness, but because they esteemed vir­il­ity. Every night was wet jock­strap night (without the jock­strap) at the Roman baths, and espe­cially well-endowed bathers were likely to be greeted with a round of applause; dur­ing the reign of notori­ous size queen Emperor Elagabalus, those who hung low at the baths were pro­moted to high office.

Alas, neither swim­ming nor bathing nor size-queenery sur­vived the decline of the Roman Empire. Medieval Christianity, with its ghastly sus­pi­cion of the body, rendered water — the sen­sual cleanser of limbs — sus­pect. As late as the 16th cen­tury, bathing was thought to be wicked, unhealthy, and, er, filthy. (Even Catholic bap­tism used only “holy” water, water that had been blessed, sym­bol­iz­ing the cleans­ing blood of Christ: Sin was the deep-down dirt that Christianity was angry with.)

The English were the first to redis­cover the lost art of swim­ming, largely as a res­ult of their explor­a­tion of Polynesia in the 18th cen­tury, where swim­ming was com­mon amongst the bliss­fully naked nat­ives. By the 19th cen­tury swim­ming in rivers, lakes, and the sea was almost as pop­u­lar in England as it had been in Rome — fre­quently naked, males and females, some­times at the same time.

Christian mor­al­ists, their influ­ence hav­ing resur­ged in the late 19th cen­tury, were nat­ur­ally incan­des­cent at these dis­plays of wan­ton hap­pi­ness. They suc­cess­fully cam­paigned for local bylaws ban­ning day­light bathing, or insist­ing on the use of “bathing machines” that allowed the bather to enter and depart the water unseen, or requir­ing “neck-to-knee” bathing cos­tumes (New York State had such a law until as late as 1938). A typ­ical swim­ming cos­tume com­prised a pair of woolen knick­ers extend­ing to the knees and a sleeve­less jer­sey. Not a good look.

To their eternal credit, it was the Australians who struck the first blow against the 19th-century phal­liban. With typ­ical Aussie obstin­acy, the men of the aptly named Manly Beach chose simply to dis­reg­ard the pissy-prissy laws ban­ning day­time bathing. Faced with this sea­side insur­rec­tion, local author­it­ies threw in the towel and lif­ted the ban in 1903. The rest of Australia fol­lowed (swim)suit, though pre­cisely what kind of swim­suit was still con­tested. Many male bathers dis­reg­arded the neck-to-knee ordin­ances, either rolling their one-piece down to the waist or, wear­ing trunks, simply improvising.

Good Christian folk found this intol­er­able. There was a strident cam­paign by decent, upstand­ing, if slightly pal­lid, Christians to get male bathers to wear modesty-preserving bathing “tunics.” Protests by angry crowds of male bathers at Manly and Bondi Beach — wear­ing bal­let skirts and sarongs — put an end to the Ozzie phalliban.

So it was in Australia, a warm coun­try where most of the pop­u­la­tion ten­derly hug the coast­line and pay little atten­tion to busy­bod­ies — per­haps because Australia began as a con­vict colony — that the bod­ily free­dom of the mod­ern beach life­style (“surfers rather than serfs!”) was inven­ted, anti­cip­at­ing by dec­ades the sexual revolu­tion of the 1960s — giv­ing men’s pack­ets and asses free­dom of expres­sion. It was this, not Kylie Minogue, that was their greatest con­tri­bu­tion to world cul­ture. Australia, a coun­try fond of cas­u­ally abbre­vi­at­ing English, abbre­vi­ated the male bathing “cossie,” and with it Victorian morality.

The insti­tu­tion that did more to export this vis­ion of a sandy, nicely roun­ded uto­pia than any other, smug­gling mil­lions upon mil­lions of “budgies,” was ori­gin­ally called MacRae Knitting Mills after the fam­ily who foun­ded it in Australia in 1914. Among the first com­pan­ies to pro­duce spe­cific­ally “ath­letic” designs (i.e., swim­ming cos­tumes that didn’t double as sea anchors), MacRae changed its name to “Speedo” in 1928 after staff mem­ber Captain Parsons coined the slo­gan “Speed on in your Speedos.”

In 1955, Speedo intro­duced nylon into its fab­ric for com­pet­it­ive swim­wear (unwit­tingly invent­ing a whole new branch of fet­ish­ism). The 1956 Melbourne Olympics provided a sen­sa­tional debut for the new sheer style of brief briefs when Speedo sponsored the medal-sweeping Australian team. By the time of the 1968 Olympics and through the ’76 games, almost every gold medal­ist swim­mer wore Speedos. Naturally, men all over the globe wanted to enjoy the sen­sa­tion for themselves.

Even in the United States. Up until the early 1980s, Speedos were a com­mon sight here, both on the beach and at the pool. Everything was lovely and snug and nicely out­lined. But then some­thing hor­ri­fy­ing happened. Sometime in the late ‘80s men’s swim­suits began to grow in length and bulk. Year by year they crept down the thigh toward the knee-and bey­ond — all the while bil­low­ing clown­ishly out­ward. Now U.S. men wear, of their own voli­tion, not even the knee-length woolen knick­ers that the Australian men of Manly hero­ic­ally pro­tested in the early 20th cen­tury, but bloom­ers — a volu­min­ous form of female attire last seen in the 1850s (and gen­er­ally regarded as ridicu­lous back then). In the water, today’s Speedophobic males are half-man, half-jellyfish.

Unfittingly enough, this tra­gic trend began with someone wear­ing two pairs of shorts at the same time. In the ‘70s bas­ket­ball shorts were skimpy (almost like Oz foot­ball shorts), but Michael Jordan pop­ular­ized sex­less long shorts in the NBA in the late 1980s. “He wanted to keep wear­ing his lucky University of North Carolina shorts under his Chicago Bulls shorts,” explains Australian aca­demic David Coad, author of an upcom­ing book on sexu­al­ity, gender, and sport,” and decided to wear a longer pair to cover the shorter ones.” Because Jordan was Jordan, oth­ers copied, and thus baggy shorts became fash­ion­able. It seems that this evil trend spread to male swimwear.

There was, I’d ven­ture, another, weight­ier reason for this swim­wear ele­phant­iasis. The late ‘80s was also when male obesity became a big trend in the United States. Baggy shorts hide baggy but­tocks. They also wear higher, and their large pro­file makes a baggy stom­ach con­sid­er­ably less obvi­ous than when hanging over the waist­band of a Speedo. Moreover, “board shorts” hide the chicken legs of a car-centered soci­ety in which men watch sport (while eat­ing) instead of play­ing. Is it simply a coin­cid­ence that when many young American men saw their bod­ies los­ing mas­cu­line defin­i­tion they star­ted wear­ing ladies’ bloomers?

The ‘80s also saw the begin­ning of the rise of the male as appet­iz­ing, ideal­ized media sex object. The bar for male beauty was being set higher and higher as the real­ity was get­ting heav­ier and heav­ier. The tyranny of “boardies” is an expres­sion of male self-consciousness, self-loathing — and para­noia. Both of being “checked out” and of not meas­ur­ing up. The ‘80s saw a steep rise in the American male’s aware­ness of gays — and with it his desire not to be mis­taken for one in any way by sig­nal­ing that he actu­ally had an ass and a packet. Baggy shorts are a delib­er­ate and cruel affront to homos — but it’s nice to know that straight men are think­ing about us so much.

Gays are, of course, fre­quently flam­boy­ant Speedophiles. They are less likely to be over­weight. They are more likely to be worked-out. Hence their wear­ing Speedos really rubs people’s noses in it — in every sense. Gays are gen­er­ally more than happy to advert­ise the highly ver­sat­ile sex-object status of the male body. And a Speedo screams COCK!! BALLS!! ASS!!… in any order or com­bin­a­tion you fancy.

It’s as obvi­ous as a badly smuggled budgie that des­pite the pagan pas­sions of pop cul­ture and an enthu­si­astic uptake of the beach life­style, the prom­ise of sandy sexual lib­er­a­tion has come slightly adrift Stateside. The pain­fully unequal sexual divi­sion of labor on U.S. beaches, where women wear little more than eye­liner and men wear tents — without the pole — is a sorry test­a­ment to that.

The phal­liban spirit of 1960s Cape May has triumphed.

 © Mark Simpson 2012

This essay is col­lec­ted in Metrosexy: A 21st Century Self-Love Story