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The 'Daddy' of the Metrosexual, the Retrosexual, & spawner of the Spornosexual

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Retrosexuality isn’t what it used to be

My attention was recently drawn by a concerned member of the browsing public to a piece on Salon.com, ‘Retrosexuals: The latest lame macho catchphrase’ by Aaron Traister, entertainingly lambasting the ‘new’ retrosexual trend:

I woke up this morning to discover my local paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, peddling a story about America’s new favorite model of man: the retrosexual. Normally I ignore almost everything in my local paper, but this, in combination with a recent article in the New York Times about the sequel to “The Official Preppy Handbook,” has got my knickers in a bunch.

The retrosexual is a clever play on that other dusty gem of modern trend masculinity, the metrosexual. Unlike metrosexualism, which encouraged men to worry about their appearance and spend copious amounts of money on beauty products and clothes to mask the kinds of insecurities normally pushed on women, the retrosexual trend encourages men to worry about their appearance and spend copious amounts of money on products and clothes to mask more traditional masculine insecurities, like being gay, or a broke loser, or a gay broke loser.

I happen to agree with much of Traister’s trashing of retrosexualism, particularly the way he mocks its central fear of being thought a fag.  But then I would because I’ve already done it. Several years ago. On Salon.  OK, so I stopped writing for them yonks ago, and it would of course be entirely understandable if they were still sulking about this….

But still, Salon writers should perhaps show a little more research – even from just the Salon.com search box – before lambasting at length ‘the latest lame macho catchphrase’. According to WordSpy.com the first usage of the term ‘retrosexual’ in the sense of the ‘anti-metrosexual’ was in an essay (‘Becks the virus’) by yours truly in 2003.  On Salon.

By the following year, 2004, America was having a gigantic national nervous breakdown over metrosexuality and gay marriage and re-elected Bush. I remember it well because it followed the crazy year or so of metrosexmania that swept the US – after my outing essay ‘Meet the metrosexual’ in 2002, and its bizarre appropriation and bowdlerisation by American marketers.  Which also appeared on Salon.

The ‘menaissance’ was mendacious even back in the mid noughties, of course, with its prissy lists of ‘dos and don’ts’, and euphemistic marketing strategies – as I pointed out at the time. But now everyone knows that ‘retrosexuality’, at least when appropriated by the media and marketing business, is just jokey, Mad Men-esque nostalgia for nostalgia – with a trilby cocked ‘just so’.  Or gag-me-with-a-silver-spoon preppy wannabe niche marketing that isn’t to be taken seriously.

In early 2004, with the homophobic anti-metro backlash brewing in the US, I returned to the subject – again, for Salon (‘Metrodaddy speaks!’).  Since I love quoting myself (at length), and since I think this as pertinent now as back then, here’s the relevant section from that auto-interview, which explains the repugnance of traditionalists towards the lack of repugnance metrosexuals generally have towards homoerotics:

Are hetero metrosexuals really latent homosexuals?

MS: Certainly it would make life easier and less worrying for retrosexuals if this were true — and I notice that in certain slightly, shall we say, clenched circles, metrosexual has become another word for “homo” or “fag.” Unfortunately for these threatened types — and also for me — this is just wishful, over-tidy thinking; homophobic housework. Hetero metros are not “really” gay — they’re just really metrosexual. In point of fact, hetero metrosexuals are probably rather less “latent” than retrosexuals. They are, after all, rather blatant — in their flirtatiousness. Their identity is not based on a constant repudiation of homosexuality. What the retrosexual finds repugnant in the metrosexual is his invitation of the gaze — a gaze that is not and cannot be gendered or straightened out. They’re equal-opportunity narcissists.

Homoerotics, rather than homosexuality, is an inevitable and obvious part of male narcissism — just as it is for female narcissism, hence “lesbian chic.” Which is one of the reasons why it has been discouraged for so long. This isn’t to say that most metrosexuals want to go to bed with other men — not even so as to generously share their beauty with the half of the human race so far deprived of it — it’s just that they aren’t necessarily repulsed by the male body in the way that many retrosexuals like to assert, repeatedly, they are. By extension, their interest in women is not necessarily driven by self-loathing or a need to prove their virility; it’s a matter of taste and pleasure. Which I suspect many women find something of a relief, not to mention a turn-on. Though admittedly some women may feel that the metrosexual is too much like competition.

God, I was good back then.  But so was Salon.

The Metrosexual Noughties

Amidst the swathe of drearily predictable ‘decade  in review’ pieces that appeared at the end of December this one by Amanda Hess at The Sexist stood out as one which actually managed to offer some observational cultural insight, rather than just recycled cuttings and cliches:

Think boys are simply born into their masculine gender role? Consider, for a moment, how quickly the cultural norms of acceptable maleness can change. The past decade of masculine fads saw cultural expressions of manliness range from finely-groomed boy bands to shlumpy stoners to blowed-out “guidos.” The versions of masculinity that gained popularity in the aughts saw an infusion of traditionally feminine traits—along with a heavy dose of hyper-masculine compensation.

Sharply observed and well-informed (after all, she quotes me) Hess is one of the few decade-end commentators to notice that the Noughties signalled a major, if not epochal shift in masculinity — but perhaps this isn’t so surprising since as I know very well myself the media in general is highly resistant to any serious analysis of the subject, despite or perhaps because of the space it gives to women’s issues.

Hess’ section on ‘bros’ is worth quoting at length:

Like the metrosexuals who rose alongside them, bros incorporated some traditionally feminine aspects into their own version of masculinity—think pink polos, pastel ribbon belts, and store-bought scents. But bros differentiated themselves from the metro set with a healthy dose of crippling homophobia that encouraged both aggressive heterosexual behavior and subversive homoerotic displays among the bros. And so—we got aggressive heterosexual sexual conquests (banging some chick in the frat house), alongside decidedly homoerotic sexual conquests (banging some chick in the frat house with three of your best bros). We got extreme masculine contests (CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!) alongside absurd homosocial displays (fraternity initiation paddling). At least women got a reliable warning sign of likely brodom—the double-popped collar.

I would submit however that most of Hess’ listed masculine trends, particularly ‘boy bands’, ‘bros’ and ‘Guidos’ are more like fads or subspecies within the wider trend of metrosexuality itself and the breakdown of traditional male gender and sexual norms that it represents.  Bros and Guidos for instance seem to be examples of how metrosexuality is being assimilated (and resisted — often in the same gesture) in different areas of American life, according to class, ethnicity, age etc.

The homophobia of bros for example, looks very familiar and very ‘gay’ to me: it’s the homophobia of ‘straight acting’ gay men towards ‘queens’.  While Jersey Shore looks to me very much like metrosexuality for boys who love their Momma’s cooking too much to go to college. They also look a lot like metrosexual young men from matriarchal working class backgrounds in the UK, such as Geordies — who tend to be just as orange and plucked and just as prone to fights and making fun of men who cook). [Prophetic words: Geordie Shore launched a year after this post in 2011 was the UK’s version of Jersey Shore.]

Hess lists the ‘peak year’ of metrosexuality as being ‘2003’ — in reality, this was the peak year not of metrosexuality but of metrosexmania, the global media’s insatiable craving for literally skin-deep stories about male spas and sack-and-crack waxes — and trying to wear out the ‘m’ word with empty repetition.

Metrosexuality, men’s passionate, epoch-making desire to be desired, is a long, long way from peaking.  And the Twenty First Century is going to have to get used to it.

Epic Illusions and Metrowarriors

Achilles, Alexander, Jason, Odysseus – the fabulous scrapping, rutting warriors of the Ancient World fulfil every boy’s own fantasy. Now, says Mark Simpson, Oliver Stone’s spayed movie ‘Alexander’ and the recent crop of ‘epics’ confirms that Hollywood has abolished heroes – past and present.

(Originally appeared Independent on Sunday, 19 December 2004)

For some, the entry “Double Classics” in their school timetable might have been an ominous omen. For me and my classmates however it meant 80 minutes of bliss listening to a wonderful old gent called Mr Field recount, and frequently re-enact with his walking-stick, fantastic stories of male derring-do from the Ancient World. Spellbound and wide-eyed we listened to the adventures of Jason and the Argonauts, Achilles and Odysseus. So great was the pull of the past in the mouth of Mr Field that hardly anyone fidgeted or played with their chunky 1970s LED digital watches.

Of all the epic tales recounted it was that of Alexander the Great that most gripped my pubescent imagination. The story of a scrappy, muscular little blond boy from the provincial Greek state of Macedonia who took on the world and won, carving out an unprecedented empire that stretched from the Adriatic to India. The story of a boy who never quite grew up; who quite probably assassinated his father; who certainly surpassed his extraordinary achievements, establishing himself as the greatest cavalry captain who ever lived, whose tactics are still studied today. A boy who never really cared for any woman except his terrifying mother Olympias (so terrifying that once he left home, Alexander never returned); whose great and constant loves were Bucephalus, his legendary war-horse, and Hephaestion, his legendary comrade in beefy arms. What boy wouldn’t love Alexander? What boy wouldn’t want to be Alexander?

The story of Alexander the Great (356BC -323BC) is the best boy’s own story ever told -the Trojan Wars may never have happened: hence the posters for Oliver Stone’s new movie Alexander announce: “The Greatest Legend Of All Was Real”. Alexander’s is a tale of passion, adventure, really big fisticuffs, masculine camaraderie, and running away from girls. And also, drunkenness, debauchery, mass murder and madness. His 12-year tour of the known (and unknown) world, and his long list of battle honours – Thebes, Heliocarnassus, Issus, Gaugamela, Tyre, Hydaspes, to name but a few – represent dates on the greatest rock ‘n’ roll tour in history.

Alexander is the timeless, ageless hero of boyish psychosis – a romantic disease which affects all men, though admittedly some more than others (well, I was at boarding school). Boys brim with enough energy to change the world, or destroy it – it makes no difference to them. This dangerous, sexy, passionate indifference is the basis of the mixture of fear and envy that causes adults generally to treat them so badly.

Alexander’s ambition was literally global, shaping the Ancient World; his Eastern crusades ended the ancient dynasties of Persia and Egypt. Alexander effectively invented the Western idea of Empire, globalisation and stamped his face on our idea of fame and success. He wanted nothing less than the whole world to be Alexander. For a while he came shockingly close to achieving just that, boldly going where no man had gone before (another boyhood hero of mine, William Shatner, played Alexander in a TV series before landing the role of Captain James Tiberius Kirk – which he played of course, in his wonderfully limited way as Alexander again). In part, his success was due to the way he succeeded in portraying his own ambition and self-interest as being for the benefit of Macedonia, pan-Hellenism or humanity itself.

In this Alexander could be seen as the ancient template for a neo-con America; he even invaded and conquered what is today Iraq and Afghanistan – as well as Iran. But like the neo-cons he could conquer but he couldn’t or wouldn’t administrate: rebellions broke out frequently and his Empire dissolved immediately after his death; Alexander, like contemporary audiences, had a short attention span. Certainly Stone’s epic new biopic could be subtitled: “Operation Persian Freedom”: his Alexander mouths platitudes about liberating Asia; the turbaned, bearded King Darius looks oddly like Bin Laden and, after his decisive defeat at Gaugamela, he is hunted down by Alexander in the mountains.

Obviously this, in addition to the rediscovered fashionability of sword-and-sandal epics (Gladiator, Troy, King Arthur, The Last Samurai), is why Hollywood has rediscovered this chippy little man and remembered his story as the ultimate road move, the classic story of boundless boyish all-American ambition, lighting out for the territory. In addition to Oliver Stone’s effort, Baz Luhrmann is rumoured to be developing his own version, with Leonardo Di Caprio in the title role. Even The World’s Only True Catholic, Mel Gibson, is planning to make a 10 episode HBO TV series about this pagan arse-bandit who whipped the world’s butt. Suddenly, Alexander really does appear to be conquering the world again.

There is another reason why the epics are back though: they offer reassuring, if utterly fraudulent, nostrums about masculinity in an uncertain, metrosexual world. The Ancient World was a time when men were men (and boys were nervous). In fact, warrior chic has been the fashion statement of 2004. This is the same year, after all, that a US presidential election was fought largely on the basis of who would make the best warrior president – and won largely on the grounds of who saluted best on camera and looked most fetching in 1960s uniform.

And likewise, what Hollywood is really offering us in these modern epics is not hairy retrosexuality but just more metrosexual pleasures, this time in a rather gorgeous, ancient setting; models playing at being rough boys – metrowarriors. In The Last Samurai, the Tom finally grows facial hair, and renounces the unmanly military machinery of modernity for the harsh-but-tender camaraderie of Samurai life – but only to make him more glamorous; Mr Cruise’s Western otherness actually makes him the female lead of the movie. In Troy pretty boys Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom are the real beauty pageant entrants and Diane Kruger (Helen) – and the audience – sit in judgement. The fields of Ilium become not a backdrop for the glorious feats of ancient warriors, but an expensive pretext for ogling Brad Pitt’s body, and also a half-hearted attempt to make it look practical, purposeful: when in fact his flawless, untested physique is the very definition of look-don’t-touch. In Alexander Irish boy-band actor Colin Farrell, with bottle-blond hair and eyeliner, stands in for charisma and passion.

The main reason for the return to the epics is this: Hollywood is emasculating the past. It isn’t raiding it, but paving it over. Telling us there never were any heroes. What other explanation could there be for foisting Pitt as Achilles and Farrell as Alexander on us in the space of a year? These stars who have risen without a trace are stars because of their bland insubstantiality not despite it. We live in a crowded world which is offended by talent, terrified by genius. The Irish pipsqueak Colin Farrell was destined to become King of the Knowing World, aka Hollywood, because he is so inoffensive. He’s the anti-Alexander. Like Robbie Williams doing an album of Frank Sinatra songs, Farrell as Alexander, or Pitt as Achilles, serves to reassure a generation that might have some dim, uneasy ancestral memory of a time before the mediatisation of everything – relax! – there were no great men and there was no era of greatness. There are just different styles, man. Masculinity is a game of dressy-uppy. Like the CGI armies of modern epics, and the digital wars of Pentagon planners, contemporary masculinity is simulation and number-crunching technology. Shock and Awe without the draft.

Hence Farrell’s Alexander isn’t haunted, or driven, paranoid, or threatening, terrifying or charismatic: his eyes are just too close together. When wearing his giant war helmet in the battle scenes his beady little eyes look blinking out like Marvin the Martian. He is utterly lost in Stone’s movie. Farrell’s face is as blank and thoughtless as the world that has made him a “star”. It’s difficult to believe that anyone would follow him to the corner shop let alone the edge of the world.

Just as I and countless other generations of boys before me worshipped Alexander, Alexander hero-worshipped Achilles. It is said he kept two items under his pillow at all times: a dagger and a copy of the Iliad. He yearned to emulate flame-capped Achilles’ achievements; in fact he far surpassed them (Farrell, by contrast, turns in a performance below even that of Pitt’s Achilles). He was terrified that his father would leave nothing left for him to achieve, and is one of the reasons why he is suspected of a hand in his assassination. Alexander wanted fame – but he wanted it for his worldly achievements not his profile. There was another reason why Alexander was fascinated by Achilles: he was interested in the story of his warrior-lover Patroclus (Homer doesn’t actually say they were lovers, but by the time of Alexander they were widely regarded as such). Patroclus was a year older than Achilles, just as Hephaestion was a year older than Alexander; Alexander must have worried that the world might think him Hephaestion’s boy.

At Ilium, Alexander and Hephaestion laid wreaths on Achilles’ tomb, stripped naked, anointed themselves with oil and ran races around the grave. Strangely, this scene didn’t make Oliver Stone’s movie. We do however hear Aristotle lecture the young Alexander on how Achilles and Patroclus were lovers and how such a friendship between men “produces virtue” and is “the basis of the city state”. But this dry history lesson on Greek patriarchy isn’t quite what the teasing tagline “Alexander was conquered only once: by Hephaestion’s thighs” might lead you to expect. In fact, we never really see Hephaestion’s thighs let alone Alexander between them. Stone hints heavily they were lovers, and uses Alexander’s life-long devotion to Hephaestion – Alexander was besides himself with grief when Hephaestion died and lay on his corpse for a day and a night – to make him more sympathetic, but can’t quite bring himself to show sex, kissing or even very much affection. By contrast, the on-screen romance between Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Ringpiece is positively pornographic.

There is only one sex scene in the film – but it is a wedding-night tryst with Roxanna, a wife that Alexander took after invading Persia (but didn’t get around to impregnating until years later, and only after Hephaestion’s demise). Alexander, by the way, was not “bisexual” in the way that publicity for the movie has carefully suggested. Stone’s Alexander is bisexual in the way that Elton John was “bisexual” in the Seventies: Stone is worried about losing his mainstream, American audience and wants to give them at least half of Alexander to identify with/desire. Of course, terms such as “heterosexual”, “homosexual” and especially “bisexual”, with its sixties ‘free love’ associations, are anachronistic and misleading in an Ancient context where the gender of a male’s partner was of much less importance than the public observance of certain rules of engagement based on age and rank (adult male citizens, for instance, were officially forbidden sexual relations with one another but encouraged to have them with unbearded teenaged youths).

Nevertheless, according to many accounts Alexander’s preference was for the same sex; and there is evidence that in regard to Hephaestion at least he disregarded the ban on sexual relations between adult males.

His mother and father were so frantically worried about the teenage Alexander’s lack of interest in ladies and what this augured for the royal line that they hired a beautiful and famously talented courtesan. The fact that his mother is recorded as pleading with him repeatedly to sleep with the courtesan suggests that this approach wasn’t very successful (and a mother’s pleading, let alone Olympias’, was likely to have been slightly counterproductive). He was to marry, more than once, but mostly for political reasons, or to satisfy demands for an heir. For most of Alexander’s life, boys were for pleasure; Hephaestion was for love; women were for heirs and alliances – and effeminates like Paris. Though, perhaps to confound our modern interpretations, or at least mine, there is evidence he took a mistress towards the end of his life.

Alexander disdained a chance to inspect Paris’ famous lyre, dismissing it as having been used for “adulterous ditties such as captivate and bewitch the hearts of women.” But, he added, “I would gladly see that of Achilles, which he used to sing the glorious deeds of brave men.” This early example of the public school mentality seems to us now like a kind of queeny misogyny, and perhaps it was, but the fearsome queeniness of hyper-masculinity, a queeniness that literally subjected the world (arguably not once, but three times: under Alexander, under the Romans and under the Brits). Alexander’s father Philip may have invented the modern state with his innovation of a standing army, but it was his Empire homo son who proved to be his most potent martial innovation of all.

According to some, possibly mischievous accounts, Macedonia – even by Greek standards – sounds like a giant, jumping, open all hours Ancient leather bar. In fact, the Greeks were scandalised by the “barbaric” and “beastly” behaviour of the Macedonians. Sniffy Greek sources complain that the members of Philip’s court were selected for their prowess at drinking, gambling, or sexual debauchery. “Some of them used to shave their bodies and make them smooth although they were men, and others actually practised lewdness with each other although bearded… Nearly every man in the Greek or barbarian world of a lecherous, loathsome, or ruffianly character flocked to Macedonia.” Actually, Macedonia was the kind of place that most leather queens would be terrified by.

Needless to say, it scares the bejesus out of Hollywood. In Stone’s film (financed mostly by German money), we get occasional, almost subliminal flashes of the real, raucous nature of Macedonian masculinity, with warriors and their boys glimpsed in the background almost necking each other. But despite these hints, the pre-Christian, barracks erotics of Macedonia ultimately defeats Stone precisely because it is too masculine, too pagan. Stone is a liberal Judeo-Christian pussy. Stone the macho director of films about macho men in which women are very thin on the ground wimps out in Alexander. Macedonian masculinity is just too… masculine. But then, this is the contradiction of all these metrowarrior epics: the Ancient World is just too  rough and real and beastly and male – and, well, Ancient – for contemporary America.

So the warrior sodomy of Alexander is turned into something modern and harmless, something simulated: Queer Eye for the Macedonian Guy, as one critic dubbed it. In addition to the creepily spayed relationship between Alexander and Hephaestion, which is presented as a kind of contemporary gay marriage (sexless, boring, respectable), there’s a strong smell of Sixties unisex androgyny, like rancid jossticks: Stone has Hephaestion portrayed by the spoilt-girlish Jared Leto, complete with hippy-chick wig, plastered in eyeliner applied by Dusty Springfield. The masculine side of male love is as taboo today as the effeminate side is popular.

There is a strange kind of poetic irony here: after all, in JFK Stone told us that his virile Irish Catholic hero Kennedy was punked by the hissing conspiracies of New Orleans fags. Here Alexander and its director are punked by Stone’s own fear of masculine homosexuality.

But there is, admittedly, a lot to be afraid of. An entire season of Jerry Springer couldn’t come close to one evening’s male jealousies, passions and intrigues in Macedonia. Although Stone makes much of Philip’s assassination he draws a veil over the details. The assassin, one of his bodyguards, was a spurned lover called Pausanias. Noted for his youthful beauty, he had been usurped in the royal bedchamber by another attractive young soldier. Pausanias denounced Philip’s new lover as a male tart and “whore”. The boy then proved his virility and virtue by saving Philip’s life in battle, at the cost of his own. His brother and friends then, as you do, drugged Pausanias and gang raped him before handing him on to their grooms and muleteers who also raped him and then gave him a good beating as thanks. For political reasons Philip refused to punish the wrongdoers and restore Pausanias’s honour. Olympias and Alexander probably then used Pausanias’ fury as an instrument for removing daddy and gaining power. Alexander became king and Emperor of the World because his father was murdered by a neglected male lover. Warrior sodomy is a terrifying, fearsome-fearless thing – don’t mess!

It’s tempting to see this current obsession with the Ancient World as a function of our search for new pagan lights in a chaotic, darkened, post-Christian, post-ideological world in which Posh and Becks have replaced the Holy Family. Tempting, but probably mistaken. None of these films have any gods – except the pathetically democratic, earthbound ones: the celebs that star in them. Real worship, whether of heroes or gods is definitely not on offer. It’s just too messy and dangerous for our safe, sterile, simulated modern lives. Boys today don’t worship or want to be Alexander or Achilles, who both regarded themselves as sons of gods. They want to be Colin or Brad. Or their stylist. Although it is difficult for someone like me to accept, maybe this isn’t all bad. After all, as we’ve seen in present-day Mesopotamia, there really isn’t much room in the world for Empire building these days.

Besides, we’re all too busy playing with our digital watches to care about warrior virtues.

Copyright Mark Simpson 2008

Duckie Goes Retrosexual

Ever with its middle finger on the cultural pulse, this year, Gay Shame, the Duckie collective’s artsy alternative to the pink poppered-up roller-skating jollity of Gay Pride, has this year decided to go retrosexual.

But unlike the mainstream appropriation of retrosexuality – e.g. those tiresome cloney beards all men, straight and gay, have to accessorise these days – Duckie’s, held this Saturday night at The Coronet, Elephant and Castle, South London, is being done with a rather keen sense of irony and parody.

It also sounds a hoot.

On Gay P**de night 2008 it’s time to make men pay. Collect your wad of nine bob notes on the door and spend them in the market place as Duckie turns consumers into real men.

It promises over 30 stalls that ‘test your masculinity’, including:

fighting
fucking
football

boxing
boozing
betting

Now that’s what I call a night out. And no expense has been spared, apparently:

…designer Robin Whitmore turns The Coronet into an interactive nightclub-theatre with the aesthetics of a giant fucking mini-cab office: sticky, brown, stained, a bit pongy and distinctly lacking a feminine touch.

Maybe though they could have saved Robin the trouble and stayed at the Vauxhall Tavern, Duckie’s venerably pongy venue on Saturday nights….

Hosted by Amy Lame, a panoply of stars familiar to Duckie regulars will be performing, including Justin Bond, Marisa Carnesky, Susannah Hewlett and Chris Green – all sound-tracked expertly as ever by The Readers Wifes.

If you’re thinking of having a gander and a flutter please note the dress code:

straight blokes, plumbers, fat darts players, dads, butch lesbians.
No pink, no make up, no heels, no floral patterns, no humanity

It’s not yet clear whether Guy Ritchie’s butch lesbian will allow him to attend.


Transexy Time!

 by Mark Simpson

 (Out magazine, March 2008)

How do you turn a penis into a vagina?

It’s not as difficult from a medical point of view as you might think. Yes, it involves some rather delicate major surgery and the risk of all kinds of ghastly complications. Nobody undertakes such a project lightly. But – and I know this will come as a disappointment to many – male and female genitalia are, anatomically speaking, sufficiently alike to make the procedure relatively straightforward. Essentially, the penis is turned inside out, inverted, and placed inside a cavity tunnelled out of the lower abdomen.

Or as my good friend Michelle, a post-op MTF transsexual (pictured above), joked with typical tact: “I’m now shagging myself 24/7 – and don’t even need to buy myself dinner!”

Michelle is a very special lady. Not because she turned her penis into a vagina, but because back in the early 1990s she was a sexy male stripper on steroids called “Stud-U-Like” whose tattooed muscles and XL penis were the toast of hen nights and gay bars up and down the U.K.

But one day Mitch, who had always had gender identity issues, decided that despite the whoops and wolf whistles, the whole boy thing wasn’t working for him. Mitch became Michelle, stopped taking steroids, and started taking female hormones instead – becoming with the aid of hair extensions and dangerous crash-dieting even sexier than Mitch. After living as a woman for a while, she finally said goodbye to the last of Mitch, i.e. her nine-inch chopper, and had The Op. Breaking the heart of many a gay man.

“Operation Pussycat,” as she dubbed it, was fortunately a total success. “I now have a 7.5-inch punani!” Michelle declared proudly while recovering in the hospital the Day After. “And in about six months, Mark, with use it will stretch to the full nine inches I had when I was a man!”

“More like a month in your case, dear,” I quipped.

Michelle pursed her lips (the old pair).

Michelle’s trans-tastic voyage, from Stud-U-Like to Chick-U-Love, turned out to be eerily prophetic. She herself has adjusted well to her life as a woman with large breasts, but I’m not so sure about the rest of us.

Looking around at our sexually transparent, stimulated-simulated, implanted-imploding cam-fun-anyone? world, it’s difficult not to conclude that most of us are going tranny but without the, er, balls to actually change sex or even properly cross-dress. Male-to-male and female-to-female transsexuals: transexy.

“Male and female created He them” – but now He’s watching His handiwork rush down to the cosmetic surgeon for a nip and tuck, liposuction, rhinoplasty, pec and buttock and calf implants, breast reduction, breast enlargement, penis extensions and girth widening, vaginal tightening, revirgination, six-pack etching, and labial and scrotum reduction. All in all, He must be feeling a little bit miffed.

It’s not enough, you see, to be male or female any more. You have to both embody and go beyond sex. You have to turn yourself inside out. We’re all becoming… Pamela Anderson. Which is nice, but we don’t all have the legs for it.

pamela_anderson-photo-sexy.jpgTransexy is not quite the same thing as androgyny – which, in addition to David Bowie being enigmatically fey in a spangly 1970s leotard to a glam-rock soundtrack, means a mixture of masculine and feminine characteristics. Androgyny can be actually quite affirming of sexual difference. Transexy, because it’s obsessed with transparency, transcends masculine and feminine and obliterates sexual difference – even and especially when it’s trying oh, so-hard not to look androgynous.

Let me give you a very hairy example. Newsweek recently reported the case of “George,” a 6-foot-3 man “with chiseled pecs and a bushy beard” who “seemed like a model of manliness.” Yet two years ago the 47-year-old decided he didn’t look quite macho enough. “So he had 3,000 hair follicles ripped from his scalp and transplanted into his face, chest, and belly.” He still wasn’t satisfied. So a year later he returned to get an additional 2,400 grafts done. “I could still have another surgery and not be completely covered,” says George today. “I’m very pleased, but 2,400 grafts is not a very hairy chest.”

A little bird tells me George is never going to be satisfied. After all, what is a very hairy chest? Once you start obsessing about such things, there’s no end to this.

And, boy, have we have started. Says Newsweek: “George’s quest for maximum hirsuteness isn’t as unusual as it may sound. He’s part of a growing group of ‘retrosexuals,’ men who shun metrosexuality…in favor of old-school masculinity.” The article also cites an increase in the number of men asking surgeons for “manlier” chins and noses as further evidence of the so-called “rise of retrosexuality.”

Since when did “old-school masculinity” persistently perceive itself as chronically lacking in maleness and obsess over its physical appearance? And since when did “old-school” men resort to repeated painful and costly cosmetic surgery of questionable effect to make themselves more attractive, more worthy of love – more “manly”?

It’s a measure of how totally transexy we’ve become that surgically fixated MTM Pammy-trannys are seen as “retrosexual” by Newsweek. Like last year’s mendacious “menaissance,” with all those prissy lists of manly dos and don’ts, this is just Fight Club the Musical (which by the way is coming to tap-dance and gush and bray on Broadway soon – no, really).

But why not? This after all is a generation of men on hormones: hundreds of thousands are taking steroids, according to recent reports. Most of them not circuit party queens. Not only do baseball players apparently now need to take them to be baseball players, and high school football players to be high school football players, but also ordinary non athletic, non-body-building men need to take them to be nonathletic non-body-building men. (Only 6% of steroid abusers in the United States play sports or consider themselves body builders.)

vindieselbigmh9.jpgThe vast majority of males taking “the juice” are not doing so to be stronger or faster or scarier, all traditionally masculine ambitions, but simply to look more attractive in the gym, on the dance floor, at the beach, or in their online profiles – to look, in other words, like male strippers: Stud-U-Like. Or what is much the same thing, Vin Diesel.

But steroids, like transexiness itself, can have a paradoxical effect. In addition to testicle shrinkage and erectile problems, in large doses they can turn into estrogen in the body, which causes “bitch tits” and female fat distribution: Stud-U-Like into Chick-U-Love. Perhaps this is why Sylvester Stallone looks more and more like his mother, Jackie. Given his recent steroid scandals, the tagline for his new Rambo movie, “Heroes never die…they just reload,” probably refers to syringes rather than ammunition.

paris_hilton_03.jpgThe world of celebrities is of course transexy with knobs and knockers on. This is really the whole point of celebs – and the reason we’re so interested in them. They’re what we would be if we had the time and money and could be bothered. Celebrities are the personal fitness instructors of postsexual identity: inspirational and motivational and very shouty. Women such as Paris and Nicole are ads for transexiness – not because they look like skinny boys with smacked lips holding water balloons, which of course they do, but because they look like women who have had all sorts of costly, painful, and occasionally risky procedures – to look, in fact, like Woman. They are all, like sex in the digital age, copies of an original that doesn’t exist. The question we continually ask of celebs is, How can we be like you? How can we copy your copy of sex?

Attacks on fashion designers for their unreal and unhealthy ideals of feminine beauty somewhat miss the point that fashion is fashion. The fashion world, for all its dictatorial gestures, only reflects culture – or what is the same thing these days, what culture aspires to be.

tom-cruise-top-gun.jpgCelebrity males are, of course, at least as transexy as the women. Tom Cruise, still the biggest Hollywood box-office draw despite jumping the chat-show sofa, is a pint-size all-American action hero who is the absolute epitome of artifice. After 22 years he’s still playing his Top Gun character, Maverick (and the Scientologists appear to have his portrait in their attic). The tagline on the posters for the Missy Impossible movies should read, “Can you spot the weave?” Weaved or not, Cruise’s zooming narcissism always outguns his leading ladies.

As Tom’s multimillion-dollar smile shows, male and female nowadays mean exactly the same thing: a ravenous, ruthless desire to be desired. And they both have the number of the same plastic surgeon. Sexual difference has been replaced by sexualized competition. As with Blu-ray and DVD HD, there’s not much to choose between the formats: One has more storage space, the other has a better interface. That’s pretty much it.

Put, say, a picture of Nicole Kidman next to ex-hubby Tom, and you’ll see what I mean. Can you really say that these two people are opposite sexes? Or even different sexes? Or put a picture of her next to Keith Urban and watch them blur into one. it’s no wonder these two ended up together. After all, they seem to be sharing the same stylist.

keith-urban-nicole-kidman.jpgNo wonder Sharon Stone recently announced that she is sick of men who “act like women” and claimed she’d rather be romanced by a “masculine lady. It is difficult to have a relationship because I like men in that old-fashioned way,” she sighed. “I like masculinity, and in truth only women do that now.” So true, Sharon, so true. My TS mate Michelle, who is also an old-fashioned girl at heart, agrees with you completely. She’s really fed up with the first thing straight blokes ask after she tells them her little secret being: “Will you fuck me??” Having been through all that trouble to have your large penis turned into a vagina, it’s a tad annoying to have to go out and buy a selection of strap-ons.

I suspect Sharon’s been watching that show Entourage, in which a group of young men from blue-collar backgrounds behave like Sex and the City women, only more superficial. The Entourage generation of men lives to shop and to be looked at and aspires to be nothing more than trophy-man wives. “Hug it out, bitch,” is the motto of transexy men everywhere.

artdemiashtongi.jpgSpeaking of trophy man-wives, take a look at today’s celebrity couples. Actually, don’t even look; just say their names: Demi and Ashton, Jen and Marc, Angelina and Brad, Maddy and Guy. None of these couples even sounds remotely man-and-wifey. They resemble – you can look now – anatomically incorrect kids’ toys. Where is sexual difference here? In the drag-king stubbly beards that the sack-and-crack-waxed toy-boys wear to emphasize their Timberlakian adorability? No wonder these celeb couples end up being called two-headed single names like Brangelina or TomKat: flesh of my undifferentiated flesh.

Even when a celebrity couple, like Maddy and Guy, act out a reassertion of traditional roles, it only serves as parody. When Madonna brags about her mockney gangster groupie husband bossing her about, it only serves to make it clear that Guy is the English nanny whose duties include having to pretend to dominate Madonna seven or eight times a week.

posh-becks-w-magazine-02.jpgBut none can compare, of course, with the ultimate transexy couple: Victoria Adams and David Beckham. Somehow, Posh and Becks’s extraordinary appearance becomes, daily, more heroically artificial – perhaps because they seem to embrace their transexiness completely, performing it shamelessly to the hilt in fashion shoots in which they simulate transexy sex (which is, by definition, simulated anyway).

If a recording of Posh and Becks having sex at home were to make its way onto the internet, as it has done with Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, or Paris Hilton and Rick Salomon, it probably wouldn’t test the server’s bandwidth much. Not because their naked angularity might be uncomfortable to watch, but because there’s nothing more to see.

Porn has become the celeb sensibility because porn literally makes sex transparent. By ceaselessly ‘showing’ sexual difference and turning it inside out, straight porn overexposes it, along with heterosexuality – and turns it transexy. Most female porn stars these days look like Pamela Anderson – did they copy her, or did she copy them? Or was it both? Meanwhile lesbianism and sodomy, i.e. non penile-vaginal sex, are pretty much de rigueur in ‘straight’ porn. On the rare occasions penile-vaginal sex actually occurs, it’s usually either in the form of a man lying flat on his back while a woman bounces up and down on him (fucking him or giving him a vaginal blow job) or a flotilla of science-fiction-sized penises on one vagina.

Which reminds me, the male models in straight porn are no longer the penises attached to fat hairy fucks of yore but increasingly resemble those in gay porn; they are getting younger and more attractive, and their bodies are shaved and more worked out, and the camera won’t shy from showing this off. Or so I’ve heard….

Meanwhile, something interesting – at last! – seems to be happening in the world of gay porn. Perhaps inspired by Michelle’s journey, an impressively hung young model called Stonie – who bizarrely also played Borat’s son in the Sacha Baron Cohen movie – is now taking female hormones. He’s already had breast implants and has changed his name to Brittany Coxxx (though for now she’s hanging onto her cockkk). And apart from the slightly hexagonal breast implants, she looks rather hot.

The curious thing, though, is that s/he also looks even more like a gay-porn star now than s/he did before.

As Borat, perhaps the last true retrosexual left, might say: “Transexy time!”

 

Special thanks to Michelle and Donald K and also the late great Jean Baudrillard, who shuffled off his virtual coil last year.

 

The Sun newspaper: Retro or Metro?

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So, Cilla, which of our lovely lads is the public going to plump for?

Will it be ‘Dave’ the retrosexual PE teacher from Liverpool with a pint, who only uses aftershave his mum bought him for Christmas ‘on special occasions’ (but seems to be rather fond of hair product)? Or will it be ‘Joe’ the metrosexual Accounts Manager from Essex with a glass of Chardonnay and perched on an Ikea stool (I know where it’s from because I have one) who spends £350 a month on clothes and goes to the gym every evening because he’s going on a ‘lad’s holiday’ with fifteen mates and they’ve got a bet on for who ‘looks best on the beach’?

Yesterday’s Sun ran a ‘Hetero or Metro?’ competition, supposedly prompted by the popularity of the unreconstructed (and impressively ugly) sexist police character in BBC 80s ironic nostalgia drama series ‘Ashes to Ashes’. According to the Sun he makes women ‘quiver’.

Probably because a) he’s safely in the 80s and b) they can’t smell him.

For just 10p you can cast your vote for the ‘hetero’ or the ‘metro’. (It costs nothing to show them your indifference.)

One of the many ironies of this exercise is that ‘Joe’ their sportswear clad ‘hetero’ ‘real man’ looks a lot like a lot of gay men these days, especially the ones you find in Central Station or in Triga videos. But then, after all, he’s a PE teacher. Are any of them straight?

Because the Sun is, like the rest of the media, part of the metrosexual consumer conspiracy, the competition is of course men-daciously loaded in favour of the retrosexual (bigger picture, first billing, biased intro).

In case you needed reminding that actually there’s no contest and that, whatever it pretends, the Sun is really rooting for metrosexuality, today’s paper has a male workout spread giving advice on how men can look good on the beach, or in underwear ads. A spread aimed very much at ‘Joes’ – who, of course, have more money and neuroses to spend than PE teachers from Liverpool. Even the Soaraway Sun’s family holiday guide in the same edition are illustrated with a scrummy ‘daddy’ with perfect pecs, skin, hair and teeth.

Whatever the outcome of the poll, Joe has already lost.

But the triumph of metrosexuality is not without rather queer contradictions and ironies. In the very same edition of the Sun, a news story tells of a gay BMW salesman taking his former employers to court for harassment and humiliation over his sexuality. Amongst his claims is that when he wore a pink shirt to work male colleagues jibed ‘Hello sweetie!’. Rather than reprimand them, his boss sent him home to change his shirt – whereas the same colour shirts worn by his straight colleagues went unremarked.

Perhaps they taunted and excluded the gay because he reminded them what their pink shirts were all about. What they were all about.

Mark Simpson interviewed in Greek National newspaper Eleftherotypia

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Interviewed by Spyros Chatzigiannis in the Greek national newspaper Eleftherotypia (18 Nov, 2007, Edited)

SC: What inspired you to come up with the term ‘metrosexual’ back in 1994? Was it the outcome of an obsession? You have said in the past that your writing is based on your own obsessions…

MS: Well, I’d obviously spent far too long thinking about men and masculinity. In fact, back then, anyone who used the word ‘masculinity’ was a little bit suspect….

I was attending an exhibition in London organized by GQ magazine called, with no irony, ‘It’s a Man’s World’, for the Independent newspaper, and it dawned on me that I’d seen the future. And it was moisturized.

Back then no one believed me. It wasn’t until I returned to the subject in 2002 for the then very popular American online magazine Salon and outed Mr Beckham – someone even I couldn’t have made up – as flamingly metrosexual that the word caught on. Alarmingly.

Is a man who adopts the way of life of a metrosexual more acceptable to women and can that improve his relationships with them? Or is it simply a mask behind which the 21st century man/hunter offers a camouflaged ‘bait’ to the woman/prey in an ongoing gender battle, as an evolutionary psychologist might argue?

I’ve always thought it would be fun to put a bunch of evolutionary psychologists in the Big Brother House, without any food, and see who gets eaten or raped first.

Metrosexuality isn’t about women – it’s about men. Of course, most metrosexuals are rather interested in women, but they’re even more interested in themselves. That’s the nature of metrosexuality. It’s a logical development of individualism and an end to the sexual division of labour in looks. The hallmark of the metrosexual is a certain independence from women: he actually buys his own clothes, can operate a washing machine and cooker and doesn’t regard beauty and sensuality as something that women embody on his brutish behalf. In other words: the metrosexual doesn’t see life as a Beauty and the Beast cartoon.

In a post-feminist world, where women no longer depend on men for their daily bread and protection, men can no longer depend on women to be women for them – so men are being women for themselves, in much the same way that women are being men for themselves.

Do you think that the term ‘metrosexual’ reflects/promotes the changing attitude of Western society towards a more complex view of masculinity or is it simply another useful tool for the market research companies to create another category of consumers with special needs?

It’s both – because it’s impossible nowadays to separate ‘Western society’ from consumption. In a sense, the metrosexual is the product of marketing: it’s intolerable to our post-industrial economy that half of the population should be impervious to advertising and not do its duty at the shopping mall. So men are dutifully buying glossy mags full of ads, religiously visiting the gym and going shopping for pleasure.

But, on the other hand, the metrosexual is also a response to marketing and the product of hitherto pent-up male wants, such as vanity and sensuality – and getting away from the buttoned-up, bottled-up male that is terrified of pastel colours and headed for a heart-attack at forty-five.

If the modern man identifies himself as metrosexual do you think he has less stereotypes both about his own identity and that of gay men? What is his attitude towards homosexuality?

If he identifies as metrosexual then he’s already dissenting from the male convention that any kind of difference is deviance – and that deviance is the worst possible thing that could befall a man. Besides, he’s like to get flak from both straight and gay people for messing with their gaydar.

The metrosexual is generally less paranoid about homosexuality than the retrosexual since his identity is based less on his sexual preference – and the disavowal of anything ‘faggy’ – than on his consumption patterns, tastes and lifestyles, pectorals. Which are often rather ‘faggy’.

He’s also inviting the gaze in a way that many, particularly Americans, frequently find disturbing – because this kind of male flirtatiousness/tartiness can’t be straightened or gendered out. To homophobes, the metrosexual is worse than a fag. He’s letting the anti-fag side down. He’s the prostate gland of heterosexuality: Satanically putting unmanly thoughts in the straight male body politic instead of projecting them onto the unmanly/unnatural gays out there.

Is being a pop star the ultimate fantasy/dream of a metrosexual man? In the past you have said that ‘it was a bloody pop star that encouraged me to make words my profession’. Did the term ‘metrosexual’ make you a pop star of words?

Metrosexuality is the end for pop and rock music. Stars like Little Richard and Elvis and Brando achieved such fame and devotion in part because they were so narcissistic and mascaraed at a time, the homebuilding 1950s, when men were definitely not supposed to be. In fact, abandoning your narcissism is one of the first steps traditionally required of little boys to become big boys and then small men.

Until recently, young male fans projected their own abandoned narcissism onto the radiant rock or film star who so clearly had not abandoned his and lived vicariously through him.

Nowadays though, it’s no longer necessary to worship from afar. Boys no longer necessarily give up their narcissism, or their auto-eroticism. And you don’t need a rock and roll career or budget to become a local celeb down the gym, at the disco or in the workplace. Or get yourself on Big Brother….

Those pop stars that are left are not actually pop stars at all: they’re footballers, like David Beckham.

Can he be popular in Arab/Islamic and non-Western countries? (Judging by David Beckham’s global success the answer is yes!)

I’ve been interviewed about metrosexuality by newspapers and TV stations in Brazil and India and asked to speak at a birthday bash in Beijing for China’s FHM magazine, so I think it’s clear that it’s not just a Western phenomenon, especially in countries that are rapidly urbanising. Even Cuba’s youth newspaper recently ran a big feature about Cuba’s macho men turning metrosexual – which, frankly, is no mean achievement when you’re being blockaded by the US and you’re living in a Marxist-Leninist country where queuing for essentials, let alone moisturiser, is so common.

As for metrosexual muslims: well, Pakistan is apparently undergoing what their media has termed a ‘metrosexual revolution’ at this very moment, despite the disapproval of the hairy mullahs.

Would a metrosexual be respected and accepted in the ancient Athens of Plato and Socrates?

I’ve been told that metrosexual is a Greek/Latin hybrid that means ‘motherfucker’, so I doubt he’d have been popular. Except maybe in Thebes.

The Greeks didn’t recognize the concept of ‘sexuality’, the notion of a psychology and aesthetic determined by your sexual preference, but they did recognize the universal attractiveness of the fit, youthful male. So the metrosexual would have been unnecessary.

Mind you, they probably would have been scandalized by the way that our metrosexual times seem to make boys of all men. Have you noticed how every male celeb now has exactly the same cute little toy beard? And that they all look, whatever their actual age, precisely 17?

Is your metrosexual vision challenged by the various ‘new’ concepts that have come along, such as the ‘heteropolitan’, the ‘ubersexual’ or the ‘ecosexual’? Or are they offsprings of your original idea?

Poor relations, more like.

Now that men have been commodified by metrosexuality it’s inevitable that there should be ‘new’ models out more often than vacuum cleaners. Practically every month we’re told the metrosexual is ‘so over’ and now replaced by something remarkably similar – but somehow completely different and, of course, so much better….

Even the so-called ‘metrosexual backlash’ and ‘menaissance’ which came and went a year or so ago, mostly in the god-fearing, fag-hating US, and which supposedly saw the re-ascendancy of the retrosexual, is just more metrosexuality, but with added mendacity. When I first used the term ‘retrosexual’ back in 2003, apparently coining the usage, I merely meant men who were not metrosexual, so-called ‘regular guys’ – now though a retrosexual seems to mean just a metrosexual with shaped chest hair.

Masculinity has been so commodified that even ‘regular guys’ are now just another fad.

A critic in Britain once called you ‘the skinhead Oscar Wilde’. Do you agree with the comment and was Oscar the metrosexual bloke of his time?

I think he probably meant ‘balding homosexual’.

Wilde the married-with-kids aesthete and dandy about town whose greatest work was about mediated male narcissism – ‘The Portrait of Dorian Gray’ – would probably have preferred ‘metrosexual’ to the, then newly-coined, label he got lumbered with: homosexual. In fact, after his downfall, Wilde was seen as The Homosexual. The original. The Homo Adam.

It was Wilde, after all, who said that ‘To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.’ Which is practically the motto of metrosexuality.

You came up with the term ‘sporno’, which The New York Times named as one of the best ‘Ideas of the Year’. Are the worlds of sports, porn and homosexuality so closely allied together nowadays?

Sporno, where advertising and sports meet and produce a spectacular money shot, is really an intensification of metrosexuality.

Metrosexuality is so common these days that it’s not in itself arresting as an advertising image – we’re used to young semi-naked men inviting our gaze on the side of buses – or down the pub.

Sporno is a hardcore metrosexuality that promises you a gang bang in the showers after the match with your favourite humpy athlete.

Is the advertising industry just illuminating more brightly what was always there, the homoerotic subtext of male sportsmen/ sport fans?

Yes, sports has probably always had a male-male erotic dimension – the Olympics were conducted in the nude for the benefit of the male spectators as well as the, er, freedom of the sportsmen.

Gymnasiums – another wonderful Greek gift to the world – were one stop shops where Ancient Greek males could work out and pick up, or perhaps, if they were Plato, just be very inspired.

Sports today is a very peculiar place: a world where open homosexuality is still largely taboo, and often reviled, but also world in which homoerotics and male narcissism is being nakedly exploited by consumerism. A world in which the barely-clad bodies and tightly-clad packets of male sportsmen like Becks, and Ljunberg, are being pimped out globally by advertising: making them fabulously wealthy, and even more successful sportsmen.

And leaving non metro sports fans even more confused.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand: Touchy-Feely Footballers

Hand holdingBy Mark Simpson (Guardian CIF, 30/11/07)

In an age of broadband hardcore it’s rather sweet to discover that men are still so easily aroused. At least, that is, football fans and tabloid journalists.

A little innocent hand-holding by Liverpool FC during a team-building training session before their crucial Champions League match with Porto worked the Sun into a frenzy this week. ‘Koppin’ Off’ screamed The Sun headline, next to a picture of Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard chastely holding hands, with the subtitle ‘So this is what they mean by “training camp”??’

Those logging on with moistening palms to The Sun’s website were treated to a ‘slide show’ of other members of Liverpool FC holding hands with mood-enhancing captions like ‘Chase me, chase me!’ and ‘Ere, is that the fairy across the Mersey?’.

In fact, The Sun was so excited by this non-story it returned to it yesterday, wheeling in early 90s Liverpool ‘hardman’ footballer Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock to stick it to the nancy boys, by-lining a piece headlined, ‘What’s next… make-up and pink strips?’

At first Ruddock dutifully tries to play the ‘hardman’ role the Sun has cast him in: ‘It certainly wouldn’t have happened in my day, he says. ‘I’d have found it too embarrassing and a bit girly.’

But then he begins to lose the plot: ‘The only time we would have held hands with another player is on the way back from the pub after a few drinks.’

No, no, NO! You’re really letting the side down now, hardman! Where’s your… rigidity? The whole point of getting so pissed with the lads is so that you don’t remember what you did on the way home and certainly don’t write about it in a national newspaper.

But Neil can’t help himself: ‘In our day, we did all our team-building in the pub. When a new player joined it was straight down the pub for a few bevies… It did the trick and the new lads soon bedded in.’

Bedded in?? Was that before or after holding your hand on the way back from the pub?

Neil tries to get back ‘on message’, but then he’s off again, giving us far too much information: ‘But it’s no longer a hardman’s game. John Terry and Frank Lampard now shave their body hair off…. It’s a Continental thing… When I was at West Ham Paulo Di Canio shaved off all his hair apart from the stuff on his head.’

I’m sure if you asked them nicely and made it clear how much you preferred your footballers furry they’d let their body hair grow for the ‘Razor’.

He goes on: ‘Players use sunbeds and wax their chests and under-arm hair. What’s next? Make-up? Pink strips?’.

Get up to speed mate. The Sun already told us a few months back that Manchester United have had to rebuild their players’ changing rooms to make their lockers big enough to ‘accommodate their manbags’ filled with ‘more cosmetics than their WAGS’.

Then, finally, he confesses: ‘Mind you, if I was offered £120,000 a week like some of the top stars are on now I would hold Peter Crouch’s hand – or anyone else’s for that matter.’

Yes, which reminds me Neil, how much were you paid to be Pete Burn’s bitch on Wife Swap?

Maybe it’s the fear of another tongue-lashing from hardman Pete Burns that’s responsible for Ruddock’s endearing failure to deliver the queerbashing goods here and go a bit… limp. Compared the Sun’s first report, and, sadly, too many football fans, he seems to go out of his way not to chastise the Liverpool players for their ‘poovery’ – and talks instead rather mildly about how holding hands is ‘a bit girly’. (At least, that is, when you’re sober.)

Or perhaps he was worried someone might find some pics of those dirty great big sloppy snogs he and the lads used to give one another after every goal back in the good old manly days of soccer. Followed, frequently, by what looked very much like a team gang-bang on the ground.

Today’s metrosexual young footballers – perhaps because they look so ‘gay’ – are vestal virgins with one another by comparison. They practically shake hands and exchange business cards.

On the other hand, perhaps they don’t snog each other wildly after a goal these days because unlike Ruddock’s retrosexual generation, they don’t need that special excuse – or have to be dosed with gallons of beer down the pub – to actually show affection towards other men. Many of them probably kiss one another when meeting and bidding farewell, like Becks – ‘It’s a Continental thing’. This after all is a generation of straight lads who send text messages to other lads peppered with kisses at the end. And to be honest, this old pooftah finds that a bit girly himself.

It seems though that holding hands sober, whatever the Sun or Ruddock think of it, worked a treat. Liverpool won the game against Porto 4-1.

Retrosexual Underwear

jbs.jpgDutch men’s underwear company JBS are really kinky.

At first glimpse it seems they’re marketing themselves as the anti-metrosexual underwear brand: it features no gorgeous male models with abs and bulging packets filling out their products and provoking the lust/envy/anxiety of the male consumer. Instead there are pictures of hot porno babes in various states of undress, holding the underwear up to their faces.

So nothing faggy about JBS then.

But then look at the pictures again and you begin to realise that something really pervey is going on here.

For starters, the women are sniffing the underwear. Do many women – any women – actually do that? Especially with underwear worn by retrosexuals (usually for several days)? Isn’t that in fact something that men like to do women’s underwear – and men’s underwear? Isn’t there some kind of pervey projection going on here?

Maybe JBS is cunningly associating their underwear with the lingerie worn by their babes. JBS is selling itself as the brand for cross-dressers who haven’t come out to themselves yet.

Personally, my favourite JBS underwear is their daggy downmarket range. Here’s their alluring description of it:

For some people underwear is not exactly the most important thing in the world. They want a decent product – and at an attractive price; two requirements you can only completely satisfy by introducing them to JBS Trade.

I’ll take three. Do they do out-calls?

Tip: Dave

BearForce1 – can you resist them?

BearForce1, Holland’s answer to Take That – which in turn was the UK’s answer to the Village People – have landed.

And make the Village People look, like, totally straight. Not to mention well-dressed.

Suddenly millions of straight men realise with horror where their studied furry ‘retrosexual’ ‘real guy’ look came from….

Gran Canaria.

The Topless Apostles

Get ready for the Men on a Mission calendar: 12 topless, buffed, young, male Mormons keen to show you the beauty of God’s creation. 

By Mark Simpson (Guardian, 20 Sept 2007)

‘As a sodomite, being knocked up by Mormon missionaries isn’t always an experience I look forward to. I don’t know about you, but that air-conditioning salesman look doesn’t really do it for me….’

Read the article here.

The Death of the Retrosexual

To paraphrase the world’s most famously dissatisfied customer Mr Praline (played by an eloquently irate Python, John Cleese), I know a dead parrot when I see one and I’m looking at one now.  The retrosexual is dead. He has ceased to be. If marketers hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies.  He’s an ex-parrot.

When I first used the metrosexual antonym in 2003, I used it merely to refer to men who were not metrosexual – what most people still liked to call ‘real men’.

Remember those? 

Four years on, it seems the word ‘retrosexual’ is on everyone’s lips in the US – especially marketers keen to sell even more vanity products to men.  But ironically the US media’s love-affair with the retrosexual as a supposed antidote to the queerness and self-consciousness of the metrosexual just reveals what a sorry state ‘real’ masculinity is in.  It has shuffled off it’s mortal coil and joined the choir invisible. If I was an American, I’d ask for my bleedin’ money back.

Did real masculinity even exist in the first place, I wonder?  Or was it just some 1940s Hollywood daydream?  Or a 1980s Jeff Stryker video?

But whether ‘real men’ are called ‘John Wayne’ or ‘Marion Robert Morrison’ (Wayne’s given name) or ‘hung the size and shape of a baby dolphin’ is somewhat moot now as in the 21st Century the male has been thoroughly mediated, accessorised and monetised – and turned into another way of making men even more self-conscious and consumerist.  As this item from last week’s Newsweek makes clear, retrosexuals are now metrosexuals with implanted chest hair:

Measuring 6 feet 3, with chiseled pecs and a bushy beard, George seemed like a model of manliness. Yet two years ago the 47-year-old Virginia businessman (who declined to give his full name to protect his privacy) decided he didn’t look quite macho enough. So he went to see Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, a Miami hair-restoration surgeon, to have 3,000 hair follicles ripped from his scalp and transplanted into his face, chest and belly. He wasn’t satisfied. So a year later he returned to get an additional 2,400 grafts done. “I could still have another surgery and not be completely covered,” says George today. “I’m very pleased, but 2,400 grafts is not a very hairy chest.”

I’ll take your word for it.  But I wonder how many grafts a very hairy chest is.

George’s quest for maximum hirsuteness isn’t as unusual as it may sound. He’s part of a growing group of “retrosexuals”- men who shun metrosexuality, with its often feminine esthetic, in favor of old-school masculinity. 

Old-school masculinity that perceives itself as chronically lacking in masculinity, is obsessed with its appearance, and resorts to painful and costly cosmetic surgery of a questionable effect to make itself more attractive, more worthy of love, more ‘manly’ – and up-to-date with current furry fashion trends.  As Mr Praline would say: you’re ‘avin’ a larf, mate!

Cosmetic and hair-transplant surgeons on both coasts report increases in patients seeking a more rugged look: hairier chests and beards, squarer chins, more angular jaw lines. Dr. Paul Nassif, a well-known Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, has noticed the change in the photos patients bring in to show him their ideal image. A few years ago “they were bringing in a pretty-boy look,” he says. Now, though, the requests are different: ” ‘Give me a big, strong, manlier chin’,” he says.

No doubt they were bringing in clippings of ‘manly’ models and celebrities from the very same glossy magazines from which they previously clipped images of ‘pretty-boys’.  Some of them were probably the same models and celebs, now sporting those de rigeur manicured beards.  Like David Beckham, Brad Pitt, Jake Gyllenhaal, Justin Timberlake et al.

These cosmetic surgery fashion victims clearly aren’t retrosexuals.  They aren’t even metrosexuals with faux chest hair.  These are male-to-male transsexuals. 

And like many male-to-female trannys, they’ll probably never be really satisfied with the results.  After all, neither 2,400 nor 24,000 grafts are a ‘really’ hairy chest.  It’s in the nature of consumerism – no, desire itself – that we always want what we don’t have.  I happen to have a ‘really hairy’ chest – but I’m still shaving mine, despite the appalled intervention of my gay host in LA when I visited a couple of years ago, who snatched the razor out of my hands and told me in no uncertain terms that ‘No one gay shaves their chests any more!’.  Like metrosexuality itself, faux retrosexuality was pioneered by the gays.

Perhaps Newsweek’s retrosexuals should go about shopping for the manly traits they desire in truly retro fashion – by going cruising.  Even if it’s bad for business.  As the punchline of the Python’s Parrot Sketch has it, after the owner admits the parrot he sold is in fact deceased and that has no more in stock:

Owner: (quietly) D’you…. d’you want to come back to my place?

Mr. Praline: (looks around) Yeah, all right, sure.

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