Skip to content

Final Triumph of Metrosexuality: Men’s Tits More Popular Than Women’s

Men's Health

It’s official. Men’s tits are now more popular than women’s. With men.

Men’s Health, the metromag with the pec-fest, ab-tastic covers is now the best-selling men’s magazine in the UK, selling more than 250,000, compared to 235,000 for previous best-seller so-called ‘lad mag’ FHM with its famous cover babes sporting udders almost as big as those of Men’s Health models.

The truth is of course is that FHM is as much a metromag as Men’s Health (or ‘Men’s Hypochondria’ as I like to call it). It just used the ‘lad mag’ tits-and-booze formula as a beard for its metrosexuality. When it was attacked by female journalists for being ‘sexist’ FHM’s publishers secretly cheered because this meant that these mass-circulation magazines peddling male vanity, fashion and self-consciousness might be mistaken for something traditional.

The real money shot in FHM — and the reason for its very existence — was never the ‘High Street Honey’ spreads but rather the pages and pages of glossy ‘high-value’ ads featuring pretty male models in various states of designer undress.

But fifteen years on from the launch of the first ‘lad mag’ – and also fifteen years on from my first use of the word ‘metrosexual’ in an article for the Independent which predicted that male vanity was ‘the most promising market of the decade‘ – the moisturised future has arrived.  A generation of young men have grown up with metrosexuality, see it as ‘normal’ – and don’t need the hysterical heterosexuality of lad mags.

In a sense, lads mags have done what they were invented to do: metrosexualize men on the sly.  So they aren’t really needed any more.  And arguably, post YouTube/iPhone, magazines in general aren’t needed any more either.

Men’s Health by contrast was always the most nakedly metro of the metromags – and as a result of those covers the most openly narcissistic and homoerotic. In a post metro world, men are most interested in themselves — and can download hardcore porn 24-7. So they choose the lifestyles mag that puts men’s (shaded) tits and abs on the cover, rather than hiding behind women’s.  (In one issue earlier this year, having nothing better to do on a train journey, I counted 73 male nipples and 4 female ones, the latter partly obscured by ‘superfoods’).

But no revolution is ever complete.  And everything is relative. Precisely because everyone knows what it is, Men’s Health are still trying convince you that none of their readers are gay or bisexual — or even metrosexual.  Instead the deputy editor reassures The London Times all their readers ‘have kids or want to have kids’, and and are ‘heteropolitan’ — an uptight marketing inversion of the word ‘metrosexual’, with HETERO in place of anything ambiguous and with that dangerous ‘sexual’ part surgically removed.

As I noted a couple of years ago in a piece lampooning their prissy denial, I suspect that most of even their straight  readers (and most of their readers are probably straight – just not very narrow) are way ahead of them. But then, marketing tends to be instinctively dishonest even if there’s no particular reason to be any more.

Whatever, I think it will be a while before male homoerotics and steroids, those unspoken staples of every single issue of Mens Health, get a strapline on the cover — even if female-on-male strap-on sex apparently already has (see the cover picture at top).

By the way, a similar trend has emerged in Australia, with MH also outselling FHM down under.  This recent piece in The Age, complete with rather amusing mock-up of what a men’s mag might look like in the not-too-distant future (which I thought for a moment was an publication currently available), provides a rather better analysis of what’s going on than much of what appeared in the UK press.

Shame then that The Age, along with its sister publication The Sydney Morning Herald, ‘borrowed heavily’ from — or in Australian: plagiarised — my 2002 Salon essay ‘Meet the metrosexual’  for a feature it ran in 2003 called ‘The rise of the metrosexual’ — with no mention of me or my Salon essay they thieved from.  I’ve yet to receive an apology.

I suspect I’ll get a column in Men’s Health before I do.

Tip: Sisu

19 thoughts on “Final Triumph of Metrosexuality: Men’s Tits More Popular Than Women’s”

  1. I think that staight guys will always be confused by us talking at their asses. No wonder, that amatomical wonder gets so little attention in the health mags. Even when we’re not talking , those fixed stares seem to be perplexing, if not utterly baffleing.

  2. That’s a great idea. We’ll call it ‘Tit Talk’.

    Women always complain that men talk to their tits and not to their face. Now they’re going to have to get used to men talking through their own tits.

  3. The mags, like consumerism itself, have an answer to the issue of why men need to buy a new edition of the mag each month to find out AGAIN how to get BIGGER ARMS!! and KILLER ABS!! – the advice on how to achieve this and the products endorsed changes from month to month. Often doing a shameless 180.

  4. Ah. But you know. And now so do I – but don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.

    I take your point that not all bodybuilding is about an appreciation or envy of the male form – still less all of it necessarily homoerotic – but I’m not really sure what MH has to do with ‘strength’ or ‘virility’.

    MH last time I checked is all about marketing the modern male desire to be desired with all the glossy technology of consumerism and Photoshop. Those carefully selected (from thousands of wannabes) flawless male cover models – the ones that persuade men to buy the mag – are always photographed in b/w because the body make-up they’re caked in is less obvious, plus it’s easier to digitally enhance.

    The abs on MH covers are literally made up. Impossible. Aspirational.

  5. It makes absolutely no sense to say narcissism is passive and submissive. Narcissism as a psychological force has the power to override guilt and the need for acceptance, two vulnerabilities that keep most people in line. To some degree, self-love is necessary for people to develop as individuals and prevent themselves from being absorbed into the undifferentiated masses.

    Narcissistic people, by force of their unquestioned self-affirmation, are usually able to inseminate other less self-loving types with their own value-systems which, luckily, they happen to be prime exemplars of. This is why cult-leaders almost always exhibit Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

    I would say that by and large women are a lot more narcissistic than men, but men more often are at the extreme end of the narcissistic spectrum.

  6. All of that aside, I’ve occasionally found some good articles in there.

    I was also in a married, suburban guy’s garage doing a delivery today, and he had exercise pages posted all over his wall near his gym equipment. I’m a homo, and I’ll buy it every so often. But not for the photos, which usually aren’t really that hot. They do have some good workouts–better than the WAY more steroid-y Muscle and Fitness.

    I have a bunch of old exercise magazines from the 1940s-1960s. I think there’s more going on with men’s obsession with dreaming about being muscular and godlike than mere narcissism or a secret desire to jerk off to a bunch of half naked guys. The desire to appear strong and virile is kind of the opposite of feminine/submissive narcissism.

    Real porn is so much easier to get at anyway. In fact, to prove the point, if I hit Ctrl+T and go to my bookmarks…there, I have it in a separate window right now. And no one even knows…

  7. BTW did you notice the abnormal number of abs that fellow on the picture has. there you have phallic imagery to match the astronomical bottoms (last article) the guys body shows up Steely Dan III (Naked Lunch), he has so many ripples.

  8. My first acquaintance with men’s health magazines occured at my older straight brother’s house. He had amassed piles of them, and works out like a madman. I know that he has to be straight , since he been married three times with rather shapely big bottomed ladies. Usually I never peruse the rag stacks, but find the things I want (science, art, etc.) . Lately I’m aware that there are a host of these hetero health magazines which indicates to me one of two things either these guys have very short attention spans and keep forgetting how to develope ‘abs’ tits, and whatever and need to be reminded every month, or that there is some homoerotic value, which would even diminish with me.

    Oh, the argot for strap on dildo sex W/M I just learned is “pegging”.

    Sadly, Mark, some of us aren’t blessed with getting to be bottoms. That was a treat which I anxiously practiced for using different garden selections. Alas, I seldom found anyone who wants to be a top, hence my joy in Berens, and bottoms in general. I read that I has something to do with having a controling demeanor. But assuredly there is nothing worse than trying to fight with a persistent bottom about who’s going to do what.

    Trust me, I’ve tried many times.

    I’m just not ready though to have a girl peg me!

  9. How about a Power Bottom on the Heteropolitan Line? Would that solve my problems? Or would it, like wet leaves, just cause terrible delays to everyone’s journey and mean we miss the cottage on the way home?

  10. That’s why power bottoms exist, Mark. You don’t even have to raise a sweat!

    I’ve been reading our (Australia’s) monthly glossy gay mag (the one which, with no sense of irony at all, gave sober reflection about the memorial of Auschwitz followed by good local gay bars in their Polish travel story). I only buy it for the social commentary….but it seems it has a growing readership of women (who buy it for the soft porn fashion / underwear pictures). So yes, there is a market for women buying mags geared to men. But whether MH is one of these? Having perused (and guiltily owned) some copies in my time it is extremely male-self reverential. Women, if they exist at all in the pages of MH, are more like fashion accessories.

    As for “Heteropolitan”, it sounds more like a line on the Tube. The Heteropolitan line, stopping at Youth, Marriage, Kids, Nappies, Cottaging-on-the-way-home, Middle-Aged Angst, Separation, Divorce, Baldness and Trying-to-recapture-your-youth.

    Sounds like more hard work than being a top!

  11. Agreed, and yes, its very clear that women do seem to enjoy role-reversal. Yet is male responsiveness to that female fantasy as routinely “submissive” as the success of Mens Health implies? Substantially, the answer is yes. And no. Lads mags such as Nuts and Zoo (I’ve no idea if they’re still selling in numbers) do seem to sell the page 3 stereotype of breasty,accessible, pullable femininity. A channel 5 documentary that aired last year showed that Zoo’s sales figures dived when they put charismatic, high status Hollywood stars on their covers, and rose when they stuck with lovable old-fashioned English birds.

    My own suspicion – and yes, without “real facts” its hard to corroborate these hunches pro or con- is that Mens Health is a much more “sharable” mag in gender terms than the rather lumpen Nuts and Zoo.

    Its as if, freed from the female gaze (and unlike Mens Health, Nuts and Zoo are really all about that), men revert to comforting type. After all, passivity and submissiveness do seem like a lot of hard work.

  12. Scott – real facts about such things as who buys glossy mags are always difficult to find, but I suspect that most Mens Health mags, like most porn, are bought by men.

    But yes, metrosexuality is also about men being very eager to please. Narcissism, according to Dr Siggy, is ‘passive’ and ‘submissive’. And more than a few women seem to enjoy a little role-reversal.

  13. Mark, I’ve always assumed that Men’s Health – with its strategic placement on the till-racks in Asda – was primarily targeted at women who buy it for their boyfriends. My assumption (i’ll admit its naive) has always been that it was rather more about women’s view of male body image than about mens’ themselves.

    You couldn’t exactly say this is tenable in the light of your account of metrosexuality. Yet that cover of Men’s Health, as well as depicting “hetero strap-on sex”, does seem to pitch as much to (post-feminist) female fantasy as it does to heteropolitan males. Lads mags have not only “metrosexualized men on the sly”; they also smuggle in, beneath the laddish veneer, lots of non-threatening advice about how to accommodate to post-feminist female fantasy.

    I do buy your arguments about male narcissism; i’m just saying that it does seem ridiculously eager to please.

Comments are closed.