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.

Chris Evans is Captain Cocktease

You know how every­one com­plains that the best bits of a movie are in the trailer these days? Well, in the case of the new super-hero block­buster Captain America the ONLY bits are in the trailer.

But WHAT bits they are! At around c. 1.40 mins Chris Evans’ oiled bazookas burst out of the instant stud machine he’s been strapped into by the German-Jewish Frank-N-furter. Everyone’s jaw in the lab slaps the floor as the cam­era trol­leys in for a wor­ship­ful close-up on those shiny, massive melons.

Lab 1

Injected with gal­lons of ster­oids and popped in the gimp microwave the skinny nerd’s buns have risen, trans­form­ing him, not into an ulti­mate fight­ing machine but into the ulti­mate Men’s Health cover model. And in just a few moments instead of the sev­eral months it usu­ally takes every­one else using gear — or the seven days that Charles Atlas prom­ised. Isn’t this every boy’s met­ro­sexy dream come true?

So I eagerly coughed up £8 to see more of his super tits last night. But I was robbed. Turns out that this is the only time Evans’ gets his tits out in the whole movie. What a con! What a TEASE!

What’s more, this scene comes very early on in the film, and is its cli­max — in every way. Unfortunately, there’s another hour or two to go, in which our hero tedi­ously battles the evil Nazi bad guy, fully-clothed – and wear­ing that daft hel­met. Desperately try­ing to prove he’s not, as Tommy Lee Jones’ hard-bitten old Colonel char­ac­ter dis­misses him after he has done one too many pro­pa­ganda shows, a ‘chorus girl’.

But he so IS a chorus girl. No one went to see Captain America because they wanted to see him throw­ing his stu­pid boun­cing dust­bin lid around (has there ever been a more rub­bish super-power? Or a camper one?) Male, female, gay, straight, young, old, animal and veget­able they ALL went to see his TITS.

And I’m not even men­tion­ing the ter­rible script, total lack of any plot – or cred­ib­il­ity – the com­pletely life­less dir­ec­tion, and the ter­rible act­ing (Evans’ body may have been injec­ted with ster­oids but his face seems to have been injec­ted with Novocaine). It is, after all, a super-hero movie.

Towards the end of this very long, very dis­ap­point­ing, very chaste movie date, Nick Fury played by Samuel L. Jackson in a dash­ing eye-patch, tells a defros­ted Evans run­ning around Times Square (finally levered into a nice tight t-shirt — but it’s much too little much too late): ‘You’ve been asleep for 70 years, Cap’n.’

YES!’ I felt like shout­ing at the screen in my local cinema, ‘AND SO HAVE WE!!’

Chris Evans Tits

Sporno on Steroids


Now that’s what I call push­ing back.

Taking the sporno trend to parts it hasn’t yet reached — and what parts! — while spread­ing the fam­ous French ‘pro’ tarti­ness of the Dieux du Stade cal­en­dars to these shores, the latest ad cam­paign for Powerade’s ‘InnerGear’ iso­tonic sports drink fea­tures sev­eral UK pro rug­ger bug­gers in the buff snapped by the pho­to­grapher Alan Clarke. Including, most spec­tac­u­larly, most spher­ic­ally, England Rugby Union Captain Steve Borthwick (above), keep­ing his spor­no­graphic end up for the Queen.  And nicely stuck out.

Once again, it seems that it isn’t just me who is undress­ing ath­letes with my eyes and giv­ing them filthy dir­ec­tions. Advertising is doing it too. But unlike me, advert­ising can actu­ally afford them.

But I’m not bit­ter. Honestly. I’m sure that Borthwick was rewar­ded hand­somely by Coca Cola (who own Powerade) for his bare-faced cheek, but nev­er­the­less he also deserves, as Julian Clary would put it, a warm hand on his entrance for his bravery. Apparently his mates have been roger­ing him — sorry -  rib­bing him. ‘It is one of the most dar­ing shoots I’ve been involved in,’ he told the ladies and gen­tle­men of the press,  ‘but it has been loads of fun, even it it has given my team mates plenty of ammuni­tion for chan­ging room banter.’

I can’t help think­ing though that the shoot would have been even more dar­ing and fun if Borthwick had been por­trayed, along with his ban­ter­ing team mates, in an actual naked scrum instead of doing a mus­cu­lar Marcel Marceau. For the pur­poses of real­ism, of course.

The InnerGear for an ath­lete — how we train, what we eat and drink — is as import­ant as what we wear,’ says Borthwick, clearly read­ing here from Coca Cola’s script. ‘And it’s great that this cam­paign brings it to life’.

Gear’ of course is also the street name given to ster­oids, that hot com­mod­ity more and more rugby play­ers these days often look as if they’re tak­ing, man­dat­ory drug-testing or no. According to vari­ous reports, epi­demic num­bers of young men who aren’t ath­letes but who, like today’s sports­men, also want to look like porn stars are down­ing them like, well, soft drinks.

I’m sure Coca Cola chose the name ‘InnerGear’ for entirely inno­cent and pure reas­ons, and that none of their mod­els would ever use banned sub­stances, but if young men think that by drink­ing an over­priced sugary-salty drink inves­ted with magical, virile prop­er­ties by advert­ising they’ll get buff instead of fat, and look as desir­able as these pro ath­letes, that can surely only help sales.

Below, England International Paul Sackey and Welsh International Shane Williams who also fea­ture in the InnerGear cam­paign, prove that really fit bubble-butts can fly. Williams, who looks a little like a Welsh statue of Eros with a rugby ball let loose instead of an arrow, also proves that really fit bubble-butts can arch and look over their shoulder at the same time.

It’s true that this pub­lic cam­paign, unlike the DDS cal­en­dars (which are for private con­sump­tion, after all), avoids frontal nud­ity, but then Freud thought that in dreams fly­ing had a phal­lic symbolism.

So with InnerGear’s fly­ing rugby but­tocks you really can have both.



The All-New, All-Tarty Gladiators

Contenders, ready! Gladiators, ready! Cross-Your-Heart male bra, ready!

It’s back. This week­end that naff 90s Saturday Night fam­ily enter­tain­ment staple Gladiators returns to British TVthough this time on sat­tel­ite and cable only.

A few, pos­sibly super­flu­ous, observations:

It looks a lot kinkier. It looks, in fact, like a sub­urban fet­ish party. Rather ‘dark’, with a lot of leather and rub­ber and a lot of porno pout­ing — and that’s just the guys.

The most pop­u­lar male Gladiator, ‘Spartan’, wears a skirt.

Some of the men also seem to be wear­ing bras. It’s dif­fi­cult not to won­der they’re a bit lack­ing in the tit depart­ment but have good abs, so they gave them some­thing to cover up their saggy breasts or over-large nipples.

Or maybe, along with the skirt, it is just more evid­ence that the male body is now as pack­aged and fet­ish­ised, not to men­tion scru­tin­ized, as the female vari­ety — at least on Prime Time TV.

Actually, on the basis of the new Gladiators, you could argue that women are now held up to less exact­ing stand­ards. The men are show­ing more flesh than the ladies — and their flesh is much more spec­tac­u­lar. Spartan’s abs aren’t really ter­ribly use­ful, but they do look fant­astic, so let’s have him hanging by his arms while the cam­era zooms in on them.

Either way, the Gladiators, male and female, with the excep­tion of pig­tailed Battleaxe who looks like she might actu­ally be able to handle her­self in a pub fight, seem less like super-heroes than a bunch of tarts.

But then, tarting’s what we want these days. Especially on fam­ily shows like Gladiators.

It’s a meas­ure of how main­stream met­ro­sexu­al­ity is now, how ‘nor­mal’ it’s become, that even naff old Gladiators has been met­ro­sexed up — ‘for all the fam­ily’. The ori­ginal series was of course also a form of lycra-clad voyeur­ism, but with a It’s a Knockout/PE-teacher hearti­ness as fig-leaf. New Gladiators, on the other hand, like the brave/terrifying new met­ro­sexual world we’re liv­ing in, isn’t the least bit shy and doesn’t need fig-leafs. Instead, we’re given skim­pier out­fits and flick­er­ing, lust­ful, wicked flames lick­ing around their per­fect bodies.

Sometimes the effect though can be very con­fus­ing. Atlas (left), with that long blond hair and sly wink he does on the web­site, looks less like Charles Atlas, than a cross between Popeye, Jessica Rabbit and Dick Emery. It used to be said that female body­build­ers looked like men in wigs — but look­ing at Atlas I can’t work out who or what is wear­ing the wig. Transexy time again.

Perhaps inev­it­ably the trailer for the new series includes a pas­tiche of the hit 2000 film Gladiator, set in the Coliseum. Gladiators were slaves, com­mod­it­ies of worked-out human flesh that were bought and sold and pit­ted against one another in a life and death struggle by Roman show­biz at the point of a sword. Now though it’s done at the point of a TV con­tract. Who says civil­iz­a­tion doesn’t advance?

Perhaps I’m read­ing too much in again, but to my eye this adds a layer of irony to the inclu­sion of sev­eral black Gladiators — in an attempt to update the format to reflect multi-racial Britain. Or per­haps simply to make it look more ‘exotic’ and saleable.

The muscli­est gla­di­at­ors mean­while seem even musclier. Atlas and Destroyer look more impossibly massive than the big Gladiators of the Nineties series, such as Hunter and Wolf. The bar has, lit­er­ally, been raised. Their shoulders in par­tic­u­lar are vast — per­haps because since the 90s, partly down to the ori­ginal Gladiators series, we’ve all got a per­sonal fit­ness trainer — or are related to one. So they have to be EVEN BIGGER.

Or per­haps it’s because we’ve all got widescreen TVs now.

Somehow I don’t think it ter­ribly likely the ster­oid ‘epi­demic’ that drug agen­cies have warned is ram­pa­ging amongst young men today because they want a desir­able body like the ones they see in the media will abate any­time soon.


Size Hero: How Steroids & Muscle Marys Conquered the World

Mark Simpson on how ster­oids got into our blood­stream and changed the shape of masculinity

(Guardian CIF, 6 Dec, 2007)

Roids may sound as Eighties as Cher’s black-lace bod­ice. But they’re baaak, even big­ger and bustier than ever.

According to a series of recent reports, ster­oids, or ‘juice’ or ‘gear’ to the ini­ti­ated, once an exotic drug of cheat­ing ath­letes and freaky body­build­ers have entered the main­stream and have become just another life­style product for young men: some boys as young as 12 are reportedly tak­ing the drug.

And this des­pite the fright­en­ing pos­sible side-effects metic­u­lously lis­ted in these press reports, includ­ing liver, heart and kid­ney dam­age, atrophied testicles, erectile dys­func­tion, depres­sion and raised aggres­sion. (Though, argu­ably, you could also exper­i­ence most of these simply by fol­low­ing Arsenal FC.)

The key to this main­stream­ing of ster­oids is van­ity. If you want to get into people’s blood­stream these days, prom­ise to make them like what they see in the smoke-glass gym-mirror. According to the sur­veys, the large major­ity of young men using the gear are not doing so to be stronger or faster or scar­ier — all tra­di­tion­ally accept­able ‘mas­cu­line’ ambi­tions — but rather to look more attract­ive. To look shag­gable. Or just make you look.

In other words, young men are tak­ing ster­oids the way that many gay party boys have taken them for years: to look good on the beach or dance floor or web­cam. ‘Muscle Marys’ — as they’re called by envi­ous, less-muscular gays — are appar­ently no longer a strictly gay phe­nomenon. Muscle Marys are where mas­culin­ity is at, Mary.

It shouldn’t be so sur­pris­ing. We don’t really need sur­veys to tell us this. It has, after all, happened right before our eyes. It’s the media that has main­lined ster­oids into the cul­ture and our kids. Unlike, say, very skinny girls, very mus­cu­lar boys are very pop­u­lar. An anti ‘Size Hero’ cam­paign like that we’ve seen against Size Zero is some­what unlikely. Steroids are an essen­tial, pre­scribed even, part of the way that the male body has been farmed and pack­aged for our con­sump­tion since it was laid off at the fact­ory and the shipyard in the 1980s.

A gen­er­a­tion of young males have been reared on irres­ist­ibly — and fre­quently chem­ic­ally — lean and mus­cu­lar images of the male body in sport, advert­ising, magazines, movies and telly, even in the car­toons they watch and the com­puter games or toy dolls (or ‘action fig­ures’) they play with. It seems all that’s left of mas­culin­ity in a post indus­trial, post paternal world, apart from a science-fiction-sized penis, or a right foot good enough to get you into the Premier League, is a hot bod. Men and women — but espe­cially men — will give you kudos for that. So will people cast­ing real­ity TV series.

Even Action Man (GI Joe in the US) is now a Muscle Mary. Perhaps because he’s only twelve inches tall, Action Man seems to have been hit­ting the ‘juice’ big time. He’s also got him­self a nice deep all-over tan — to bet­ter show off his pumped muscles.

Since the 1960s his bicep meas­ure­ments have more than doubled from a (scaled up) 12″ to 27″ and his chest from 44″ to 55″. His cur­rent ‘cut’ physique would be rather dif­fi­cult to achieve just by eat­ing corned-beef hash rations — espe­cially since, as far as I’m aware, a port­able plastic gym isn’t yet one of his basic accessor­ies. In an example of life imit­at­ing art, or at least squad­dies imit­at­ing dolls, ster­oid abuse by sol­diers is increas­ingly com­mon: US sol­diers in Iraq have been caught order­ing ster­oids online, and it was recently alleged that a size­able pro­por­tion of Blackwater mer­cen­ar­ies are on ‘the gear’.

Muscle Marys aren’t just for Xmas — they’re also for High Office. Arnold ‘Commando’ Schwarzenegger, seven times Mr Olympia, who has admit­ted using indus­trial quant­it­ies of ster­oids since he was in his teens (though denies he takes them now) is today the walk-on-water Green Governator of California and Republican inspir­a­tion to David Cameron — after a suc­cess­ful Hollywood movie career play­ing an under-dressed heavily-muscled male mas­seur pre­tend­ing to be an action hero. Quite an achieve­ment when just walk­ing without pain­ful chaf­ing must have been difficult.

Partly because of Arnie’s 80s ‘spe­cial effects’, Muscle Marys are de rigeur in the movies today — even in middle-age. The age­ing star of a recent epic block­buster whose career has largely been built on his six-pack was widely rumoured to have been on so much ‘gear’ try­ing to look ‘invin­cible’ that he fre­quently had to be stretchered off the set at the end of the day, poor love. Meanwhile ‘Comeback Kid’ Sylvester ‘Rocky’ Stallone (aged 60) was caught by Australian cus­toms with sev­eral vials of his comeback secret earlier this year.

The ail­ing James Bond fran­chise suc­cess­fully re-launched Bond and made him more attract­ive to younger view­ers by rein­carn­at­ing him in the pneu­matic form of Daniel Craig — Bond became his own big-chested Bond Girl - and last year’s smash hit film ‘300′ fea­tured ‘Spartans’ who looked less like ancient war­ri­ors than Muscle Marys at a Toga Party. Or the “juiced-up” pro­fes­sional wrest­lers in Speedos that so many boys today have on their bed­room walls.

WWE wrest­ler Chris Benoit’s recent murder-suicide of his wife and child and intense media spec­u­la­tion about whether it was steroid-related (ster­oids were found at his house and his post mortem testoster­one level was ten times nor­mal) has caused a major scan­dal in the US. But it has been as obvi­ous for many years that most of these guys were sprink­ling more than sugar on their Cocoa Pops (and Benoit was actu­ally rel­at­ively scrawny com­pared to some wrestlers).

That’s, after all, what people were look­ing at. What they were pay­ing to see. Pro wrest­ling is show­busi­ness, and ster­oids are the busi­ness — at least when it comes to mak­ing spec­tac­u­lar bodies.

As a res­ult of this and other recent ster­oid scan­dals in American foot­ball and base­ball - includ­ing at High School level — a panic has emerged about the use of ster­oids by US ath­letes. But this has ten­ded to obscure how main­stream ster­oids already are in the US and how, as in the UK, they’re prin­cip­ally (ab)used by non-athletes (only 6% of users played sports or con­sidered them­selves bodybuilders).

In the UK there have been calls to ban the sale of ster­oids online, crack­down harder on gyms selling them and edu­cate young people about the dangers. Well, every­one is in favour of edu­ca­tion, and no one is in favour of teens using ster­oids, but it’s unlikely that any of this will ser­i­ously reverse the Muscle Mary/Size Hero trend.

Steroids can’t be unin­ven­ted — or filtered out from the culture’s blood­stream. They’ve already changed the shape of mas­culin­ity. What’s more, unlike most if not all of the expens­ive sup­ple­ments advert­ised in FHM, Men’s Health and Nuts as ‘muscle-builders’ and ‘fat-burners’, they actu­ally work. And I know whereof I speak: I dabbled with the ‘juice’ myself as a cal­low youth. They cer­tainly did what they said on the tin: I only stopped because they made me even spot­tier and angrier than I already was.

In an age when what’s authen­tic­ally mas­cu­line is unclear, but what’s hot is as in-yer-face as a nice pair of pecs, inject­ing syn­thetic man­li­ness, des­pite the pos­sible risks to your actual man-bits, is not going out of fash­ion any­time soon. The only effect­ive way to dis­cour­age their use will be to come up with a new gen­er­a­tion of muscle-building drugs that work as well as ster­oids but have fewer side-effects. I’d cer­tainly take them.

Steroids are the met­ro­sexual hor­mone — they make men sale­able and shag­gable in an age that doesn’t have much idea what else to do with them.

Copyright Mark Simpson 2007

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