Sporno on Steroids

nakedborthwick 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.

Or as the gay porn legend Dink Flamingo would say, ‘Arch your back, bitch!’

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 these tarts.

But I’m not bit­ter. Honestly. I’m sure that Borthwick was rewar­ded hand­somely by his sugar daddy 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 naked team mates in an actual 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 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, even if it is quite easy to do so and avoid detec­tion, 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 shag­gable, 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.

nakedsackey 666x390 717915a Sporno on Steroids

nakedwilliams 350x4 717878a Sporno on Steroids

Welsh International Shane Williams. Your flex­ible friend.

The All-New, All-Tarty Gladiators

gladiators 2 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.

atlas1 225x300 The All New, All Tarty GladiatorsSometimes 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

action man atlantic mission 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