Finally! Spornosexuals no longer have to run the risk of socialising with people who don’t work out, own no Lycra, and think that whey isolate sounds absolutely vomitous.
Now, thanks to a Munich-based company, spornos have their very own ‘social’ app that will allow them to find, locate and interact with other spornos in their vicinity. Which of course is likely to be someone sweating on the machine next to them in the gym they spend their lives in.
Gymder, as it’s called, is billed as a free location-based app designed to help you find “mutually interested workout buddies nearby right when you need them”. Apparently it “uniquely connects people in a fitness context – thereby users can find each other and train together anytime, anywhere.”
It may seem a little silly that people who go to the gym every day need an app to find people who go to the gym, but hey that’s the kind of ‘social’ world we live in now. After all, everyone at the gym is now either staring at their phones between sets (sometimes during sets), or wearing huge, DON’T TALK TO ME earphones that look like they belong to 747 handlers.
Of course, phrases like “mutually interested”, “right when you need them”, and “anytime, anywhere” do rather suggest, like the name itself, that Gymder can serve as a Grindr for spornosexuals. That, like the Olivia Newton John song, it helps you get physical, in more ways than one.
The fact that the website states it isn’t a dating app is neither here nor there. To be successful even as a fitness dating app, Gymder probably needs to officially assert it’s not about dating but about fitness. And besides, because humans are human, everything social can be sexual – even something as desiccated as LinkedIn.
The potential for Gymder to be used for hunky hook ups sent Gizmodo and Mashable off the deep end of disapproval last week. They both worked themselves into a spectacularly prudish lather, ranting about how “creepy” and “nefarious” this app is.
Gizmodo went so far to described Gymder as a “terrifying development” – because an app for people interested in the cultivation of beautiful bodies might be used for getting to know people who cultivate beautiful bodies better?
Clutch the weighted pearls!
Gizmodo’s concern was partly directed at some of the app’s permissions, but the main offence here is sexualising something already sexualised. We are solemnly informed that “gyms are not appropriate places to find dates” and that “any normal person probably wants to be left alone and suffer through their workout without a stranger ogling at their beautiful body”.
Yeah, a ‘normal’ person just wants to suffer at the gym. A ‘normal’ person isn’t thinking about sex, at all. A ‘normal’ person would hate to think that someone found their honed and toned body attractive. And yeah, a ‘normal’ person treats the gym as a sacred place of solitary, miserable, Protestant penitence – which is why Gymder isn’t just creepy, it’s sacrilege!
Well, dude, you don’t have to download it.
But then, Mr Gizmodo and Ms Mashable do seem to be complaining about a spornosexual party they haven’t been invited to.
The ad for the app certainly presents a party vibe – an adamantly hetero one. Most of the ‘interactions’ presented are male/female: a prize, pumped sporno male takes a selfie with ladies literally hanging off him, his large tongue hanging out. Men are seen touching each other – but only through a punch, or a fist-bump.
There’s an implicit disavowal of anything ‘gay’ about Gymder in the ad, which is why we should treat with the same caution as the disavowal that it’s not a dating app. What better way to meet other male spornos on the down low than on a dating app that isn’t a dating app and isn’t gay?
Mark Simpson on some happy, warm – if scantily-dressed – memories of 2016
Last Summer in Brazil a tiny island in the South Pacific took on all the major sporting superpowers – and won the Olympics. Before a starting pistol was even fired.
When the flagbearer for Tonga, Pita Taukatofua, 32, made his sensational appearance at the opening ceremony in Rio, wearing just a grass skirt, a gallon of baby oil and a saucy grin – while gripping his massive flagpole with both hands – he melted Sugar Loaf Mountain and fused the internet. The Tongan’s torso glistening in a thousand spotlights. And billions of hot stares.
It was an historic moment. Finally, after all these years of hoping and praying, and all those letters I’ve written to my MP, male stripping had – at last! – been recognised as an Olympic sport.
Yes, the very nicely-put together Mr Taukatofua was nominally representing his country in the manly martial art of Taekwondo. But hardly anyone c ared about that. The slutty sexualisation of the sporting male body – what I have dubbed sporno – was the hottest, most popular game at the Rio Olympics.
And thanks to the wonders of modern telephoto lenses and HD widescreen technology – and the widespread use of lycra in modern sportswear – there was no end of money shots for the avid sporno fan. Wrestlers grappling each other’s groins.
Pole-vaulters poleaxed by their… poles.
Speed cyclists flashing their superhero thighs.
And decathletes like the Sweden’s (Christian?) Bjorn Barrefors going dramatically commando. The gaiety of the Games!
But it was men’s swimming and diving that proved to be the most spornographic event. Of course, Speedos are sporno anyway – not only because they’re skimpy but because they advertise the delicious versatility of the male body: offering us buns and lunchboxes at the same time. Decisions, decisions!
Spain’s men’s Olympic swim team/dance troupe
And if you think this is just down to my dirty mind, a meme widely circulating online mocked the placement of results banners on TV screens covering the swimmers’ swimsuits, claiming it made it look like they were porn stars. (And I wasn’t responsible for it – honestly.)
David BOUDIA/Steele JOHNSON in hot flip-flop scene (though it seems their studio can’t decide what size their Johnsons’ are)
Or perhaps the TV companies were providing an electronic fig-leaf for the almost starkers statuesque young men. After all, this was the year Team GB’s swimming trunks seemed to have been replaced by thongs. While it may have appeared like a salute to the host country’s famously brief beachwear – and pubewear – it turned out to be down to naughty Tom Daley’s doing. The British diver had advised Team GB designer Stella McCartney that the trunks he wore at the London Olympics in 2012 were ‘too big’.
His concern was entirely practical though. At least according to Tom: “They have to be small because everything has to stay in place,” he explained. “If you’re spinning around the last thing you want to do is have something come out of place!”
I’m not sure the viewing public entirely shared Tom’s concern here, but either way the ‘end’ result was that there was even less fabric to come between the voyeuring public and the divers. And even more opportunity to admire Olympic ‘obliques’ – or ‘cum gutters’, to give them their medical, Latin name.
Tom Daley & Daniel Goodfellow watching the playback & realising just how brief their new swim briefs are.
Which brings me to the spornographic climax of the actual Rio Olympics as opposed to the opening ceremony – the synchronised 3M springboard men’s diving. British divers Jack Laugher, 21, and brunette Chris Mears, 23, inseparable – and straight – best pals (they live together as well as train and compete together), were the hottest, loveliest diving pair to goggle at.
And since diving is perhaps the most aesthetic Olympic sport of all, it was a wonderful affirmation when they turned out to be a golden pair in every sense – making the best dives technically as well as aesthetically, becoming the first British divers ever to win Olympic gold.
Watching Jack and Chris’ bubble butts, v-backs, and curved thighs spin around in perfect, Speedo-synch was actually so sexy it was beyond sex. Compared to this perfection, actual shagging is just a big fat belly-flop. (Though I still would, mind.)
Likewise, their spontaneous shared happiness for one another on winning gold, Jack jumping into the arms of Chris – hams, quads and glutes agogo – looked as orgasmic as it was Platonic.
Stella McCartney personally painted on Jack Laugher’s Speedos. Wouldn’t you?
I should probably give a shout out here to the Olympic hot tub in Rio. It gave us viewers many hours of pleasure, in addition to keeping divers supple between dives. It’s a nice warm feeling to know that, thanks to anti-steam camera lens technology and also lowered inhibitions, we the viewers can nowadays join Olympic divers rinsing off in the showers after their splash and also sit with them in the steamy hot tub, relaxing and waiting for their next ‘go’. Much as you might at a gay sauna.
Gymnastics is the one sport that can give the aesthetics of diving a run and jump for its money. Whether on the pommel horse, flexing those triceps and tightening that butt, or doing ‘ringwork’ and flaring the lats, it offers viewer-voyeur a body-weight bodybuilding show that displays the form and balance of the perfectly-developed human frame – defying gravity. In much the same way erections do.
But gymnastics has a problem. Gymnasts wear too much. Way too much compared to today’s swimmers. In addition to over-modest singlets and criminally baggy shorts, they often have to wear full length pants/tights. And these are definitely not the kind of compression pants that the lads in my gym wear these days that leave nothing to the imagination while they do lunges.
Even the Rio skyline is aroused by the US male gymnastics team
No wonder the highly aestheticised Sam Mikulak captain of the US gymnastic team captain at Rio suggested just before the games began: ‘Maybe we should perform with our shirts off’ so that people could see ‘how yoked we are’.
Sam Mikulak showing Rio his bis, tris and jacked hair
Although he was ostensibly suggesting ways in which male gymnastics could become more popular in the US and step out of the shadow of women’s gymnastics, he was also expressing a timeless truth about his sport and the Olympics itself.
‘Gymnastics’ derives from the Ancient Greek for ‘exercise naked’. Greek gymnasia were full of naked male youths – being admired by Greek men. As were the Ancient Olympics at Delphi – though here the stitchless athletes could be gawped at by maiden women as well as men (though definitely not married women). Sport for the Greeks was starkers.
So in a sense US silver-medallist gymnast Danell Leyva was giving us a history lesson when he took his captain at his word. During the gymnastics gala towards the end of the Rio games he danced on the parallel bars and coquettishly peeled off his top, to loud audience whoops, and then performed half-naked, in a kind of aerial Magic Mike routine.
Or rather, an aerial version of the tarty flagbearer from Tonga.
This post is based on a piece by MS published in XY Magazine, Nov 2016
'MERDE! He's got his tits out again for the fashion photographers - I'm not going to get fed for HOURS!'
Horse: ‘Oh, MERDE! He’s got his tits out for the cameras again – I’m not going to get fed for HOURS!’
We’ve seen a great deal of male pin-up tit-ilation over the last decade or so, in which men in traditionally masculine occupations get their clothes off and their tarty on as they occupy the traditionally ‘feminine’ and ‘passive’ position of the glammed-up calendar girl.
Not that I’m complaining. When it comes to male objectification too much is never enough.
Now French farmers are the latest traditionally blokey profession to get the full glamour model calendar boy treatment, in this instance from French fashion photographer Fred Goudon in his Le Calendrier des Agriculteurs 2017
So we see the ‘agriculteurs‘ lovingly lensed while going about their daily, honest toil in field and farmyard, keeping La France fed – while their overalls keep slipping off them in the hot Gallic sun, leaving them casually nearly naked. Save for their full body make-up.
If this calendar is to be believed, the French peasantry are definitely no longer revolting – but nor are they eating any cake. Nor in fact any carbs at all after 6pm.
It’s easy to make fun – so I shall, with captions – but while the French farmers collected here do look rather more spornosexual than pastoral, at least they’re not lumbosexuals.
Plowing fields will give you abs for miles
Gaston searches the horizon for gainz while doing bicep curls with a piglet.
French cows no longer bat an eye at the fashion photographers crowding their sheds.
Mark Simpson visits Rome’s Foro Italico, home of Mussolini’s Olympic ‘gay gang-bang in Carrara marble’
Off the well-worn tourist track, on the North bank of the Tiber in the Eternal City, hidden away in the Foro Italico sports complex, is a vast, open-air shrine to the idealised male form that most visitors to Rome are unaware exists.
Which is rather odd, seeing as it is essentially a huge – if tastefully done – gay gang-bang in Carrara marble.
The Stadio dei Marmi (‘Stadium of the Marbles’) is an open-air sports stadium completed in 1928 as a training centre for the adjoining Academy Physical Education, as part of a plan for attracting the Olympics to Rome in 1944 – a project blown slightly off-course by the Second World War.
But the Stadio dei Marmi is not a sports stadium like you have ever seen before, outside of sport-themed gay porn.
Fifty-nine statues of classically-styled athletes surround and dominate the stadium with their various states of perfect nakedness – some with fig-leaves, some in jock-straps, many completely starkers except for the occasional boxing glove or cricket bat.
The Foro Italico sports complex which contains Stadio dei Marmi was built during Italy’s fascist period and originally called the ‘Foro Mussolini’ – the Italian dictator took a close personal interest in the design. It was, you might say, a vanity project. The statues of the Stadio dei Marmi were of course meant to glorify Il Duce and Italian fascism and associate him and it with the strength, virility and triumphs of imperial Rome.
However, the sculptors involved seem to have got carried away. To the modern eye this celebration of firm male flesh looks like a spornographic scandal. It really has to be seen – to be experienced – to be believed. Standing in the middle of the stadium surrounded by all that virile marble it’s difficult not to feel you’re the centre of a neo-classical bukkake – the still-fresh white Carrara marble ejaculating against the blue Roman sky.
But it’s when you go around the rear of these god-like chaps that the real fun begins. The bubble buttocks on display are simply divine in their detail. All that carefully symbolised furious activity suddenly becomes irresistible passivity. Not at all what Il Duce had in mind.
One of the sculptors has even autographed one of the statues ‘A. Buttini’. A joke that doesn’t really work in Italian – but I like to think he knew I was coming.
If you squint your eyes against the Mediterranean sun it’s easy to imagine a young Dolce and Gabbana here with a packed lunch, furiously sketching away – getting inspiration for their famous underwear advertising campaigns in the Noughties. The ones starring the Italian rugby, soccer and swimming teams oiled up in the showers. Which were then followed in the Tweens by fellow-Italian Armani’s saucy underpants campaigns starring sporting heroes Beckham, Nadal and Ronaldo with their legs apart on the side of buses.
Perhaps it’s just a trick of the Mediterranean light. Perhaps it’s just an effect of hindsight. But whether or not the 20th Century martial-marble propaganda of Stadio dei Marmi anticipated 21st century hyper-sexualised depictions of male athletes, it’s well worth a visit.
These photos were published in 2002, before sporno really took off as a media phenomenon. The relative innocence and chastity of these photos illustrates how in just a decade sporting body shapes and the way they’re photographed for our visual pleasure has changed dramatically.
I’ve added an eye-popping gallery of sporno to the metrosexy Facebook page here. (It’s a lot easier on FB than on WordPress.)
Alas, due to the limitations of the format there are no illustrations in the e-book — aside from David Williams lyrical shower scene on the cover. Metrosexy is 70,000 words long but doesn’t say nearly as much as the buttocks below….
Paolo Rumi in Milano sends this snap of Armani’s latest sporno star, tennis player Rafael Nadal, kindly offering his giant but pertly athletic arse to passers by in Armani’s home town.
In the early Naughties I described the exhibitionism of metrosexuality as ‘literally asking to be fucked’. I’m sure people thought I was being absurd and vulgar again. I was, of course. But I was also on the money (shot).
The Daily Mail tastefully describes this saucy image of the world’s No.1 tennis player half-naked, bent over and looking imploringly at the camera over his shoulder as ‘confident’. Which is reassuringly masculine sounding enough for their readers I suppose. While perhaps implying ‘spunky’.
But let’s not pretend that this image is summed up by any other word other than ‘coquettish‘. Coquettish with knobs on. And in. It could be an image straight out of a Dieux du Stade calendar (minus the jeans).
It isn’t just the fact that a half-naked Rafael is apparently offering himself on a prop from a porno movie set (Builders’ Big Erections). It’s the smoothly inviting, defenceless musculature of his prone shoulders and lats. And the small of his back before the tempting swelling bubble of his butt filling out the product so alluringly. Along with that ‘come on big boy’ expression on his flirty face – which added all together shouts out: WANT ME!
As with much of sporno, the dynamic of the image is the deliberate provocation of an athlete who lives by ‘masculine’ ‘activity’ flaunting his flagrant ‘feminine’ ‘passivity’ to the world. And in case anyone refuses to get the message, Armani are, in this campaign, simultaneously running an image of a slightly boyish looking tattooed Megan Fox in the same pose. Lovely as it is, it doesn’t have quite the same charge as the Nadal snap, and in fact seems to have been designed to merely draw more attention to the tartiness of Nadal’s pose.
Male tartiness, once considered perverse and unnatural is a very big very global business these days. Or as Paolo put it in his email to me with the pic attached of Rafael spread all over the wall in Milano: ‘the homosexualization of heterosexuality is complete’.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s latest for Armani shows him looking – not too hard – for his t-shirt. Do you remember when maids rather than footballers were treated as sex-objects? No? OK, I must be getting very old indeed. But of course this tradition is what the ad is playing on – the reversal, or reflection/refraction, of ‘the male gaze’ that has happened in the last couple of decades that is the signature style of metrosexuality. And likewise it trumps the traditional presumption of feminine passivity and submissiveness: the maid is doing the perving.
Now, I’m all in favour of Cristiano wandering around half-naked, especially the bit where the camera zooms in on his astonishing thighs, but can we please have something just a little more convincing next time? I mean, it’s entirely believable that he would be more interested in his favourite t-shirt than the pretty maid, but are we really supposed to believe that he wouldn’t notice someone scoping him?
After all, every cell in his breathtaking body is clearly soaking up the attention of the camera lens….
Mark Simpson on how sport and porn got into bed – while D&G and Mr Armani took pictures….
(Out magazine, May 2006; expanded for The V&A’s ‘Fashion V Sport’ catalogue, June 2008. Also collected in ‘Metrosexy‘)
You might think that it was Italy’s greater ball skills, or stamina, or team spirit that won them the 2006 football World Cup. But you would be wrong.
Clearly, explicitly, thrillingly, what won it for the Italians was not so much their sporting spirit as their sporno spirit. In the run-up to the tournament, some especially fit players from the Italian football team took time off from their training and did something much more useful: they recruited Dolce & Gabbana (or was it the other way around?) to produce a spornographic fashion shoot of them all oiled-up and ready for us. In hindsight, we can see that the world was already grovelling at their feet from that moment on.
Sporno, the post-metrosexual aesthetic that sports and advertising are using to sell us the male body is, well, irresistible. Even for a fine French team – who were, let’s face it, a much plainer bunch. First Portugal devastate England because Ronaldo is better looking than Becks and far swoonier than Rooney, then Italy trounce France because the punters would much rather celebrate with the sweaty Italian stallions in the locker-room. The best men definitely won.
In a spornographic age it’s no longer enough for the male body to be presented to us by consumerism as merely attractive, or desiring to be desired, as it was in the early days of nakedly narcissistic male metrosexuality. This masculine coquettish-ness, pleasing as it is, no longer offers an intense enough image. Or provokes enough lust. It’s just not very shocking or arousing any more. In fact, it’s just too… normal. To get our attention these days the sporting male body has to promise us nothing less than an immaculately groomed, waxed and pumped gang-bang in the showers.
But of course, because this is sporno and not actual pornography, it remains just that: a promise. Advertising and fashion are less interested in making a fetish of the potent male body than its underwear: commodity fetishism is usually the name of the sporno game.
However, the homoprovocative nature of sporno is much less easy to overlook than it was in early metrosexuality, which could pretend when it wanted to that it was ‘straight’ and something entirely for the ladies. Where metrosexual imagery stole slyly from soft gay porn, sporno blatantly references hard gay porn.
Sometimes you might be forgiven for thinking sport is the new gay porn. Sportsmen are now openly acknowledging and flirting with their gay fans, à la David Beckham and fellow footballer and Calvin Klein underwear model Freddie Ljungberg. Both of these officially heterosexual thoroughbreds have posed for spreads in gay magazines (Ljungberg appeared on the cover of Attitude in April 2006, Beckham in 2002), albeit sporting more clothes than they usually wear when appearing on the side of buses.
Beefy England Rugby ace and married father of two Ben Cohen has explicitly marketed a calendar of sexy (PG) pics of himself at gay men, and talks of ‘embracing his gay fans’. Some, like Becks and smoothly-muscled Welsh Rugby ace Gavin Henson have even argued over them (Becks recently admitted that Henson had stolen a lot of his gay fans and he wanted them back because ‘I miss them.’).
Being found desirable by gay men, once a source of ridicule by others and even violent anger from the desired, now seems to mean you are worthy not just of love but also of large amounts of cash. A whole new generation of young bucks, from twinky soccer players such as Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who has modelled for Pepe, and Chelsea’s Fabulous Frankie ‘Legs’ Lampard, to rougher prospects such as Joe Cole and A.C. Milan’s Kakà posing for Samsung and Armani jeans respectively, and the naked, pneumatic rugby ‘pros’ of the legendary Dieux du Stade calendars, seems to be actively pursuing Beckham’s and Ljungberg’s male sex-object, more than slightly tarty, status. The sportsman as erotic symbol.
Being equal opportunity flirts, today’s sporno stars want to turn everyone on. Partly because sportsmen, like porn stars, are by definition show-offs, but more particularly because it means more money, more power, more endorsements, more kudos. Sporno exploits the corporate showbiz direction that sport is moving in, as well as the undifferentiated nature of desire in a media-saturated, mirrored-ceiling world – and inflates their career portfolio to gargantuan proportions.
Why is Euro soccer star Beckham a household name in the United States, a country that generally has less interest in soccer than socialism? Why did his recent move to the US to play for a team most Americans had never hear of provoke so much breathless coverage in the US media? Again, it wasn’t down to his soccer skills, but rather his sporno skills. Pictures of him semi-naked in Vanity Fair, or in W magazine, sporting skin-tight trousers that nevertheless seem to be somehow pulling themselves off, or that naked campaign for Motorola, in which the mobile phone dangles tantalizingly between his pert nipples, seem to be more ubiquitous, not to mention more stirring, than images of him actually playing football.
And what could be more American? Sporno stars are pushy young hustlers who are happy to be ogled undressed on Times Square billboards or in Vanity Fair – advertising a willingness to put out, or at least get it out, to get ahead. In campaigns like Ljungberg’s Calvin Klein unforgettable underwear posters of 2006 or Beckham’s globally gawked Armani briefs ads of 2008, their bodies and their bulges, blown up to gigantic proportions, are rammed down our throats by advertising. Most of us don’t appear to be gagging, however.
The male body has been well and truly, not to mention tastily, commodified. After decades of being fetishized by gay men, jocks are now fetishizing themselves. It was probably inevitable. Men are traditionally the more visual of the sexes – and by far the greatest consumers of porn. So why not cut out the middle-women and pornolize yourself? Because of the fantastical masculine potency of sporno millions of boys and men around the world are excitedly buying clothes and underwear worn or endorsed by their hero. And how could a guy, any guy, not have their head turned by a sporno star? Sporno stars have everything a man could want today: youth, vigour, money, fame, looks, equally beautiful bosom buddies, glamorous partners – and the numbers for top photographers and stylists.
The people who essentially invented sport, the Ancient Greeks, certainly thought the male athlete the greatest head-turner. For them, sport was an opportunity to worship and admire the beauty of the youthful male form, which in turn represented the freedom of the human spirit. They thought it natural that men would find the youthful athletic male form inspiring and desirable, and an essential part of the pleasure of sport. Most sports competitions, including the original Olympics, were conducted naked: clothes spoiled the experience, for athlete and spectator. Much of their muscular art was a classical antecedent of today’s sporno.
Admittedly though, many Greeks would probably have been scandalized by the keenness of today’s golden young athletes to pose for images designed to inflame lust – and cash purchases. Plato for one would certainly have been aghast at the neo-classical shamelessness of Dieux du Stade (‘Gods of the Stadium’). The phenomenally successful, luxurious calendars feature the Paris-based Stade Français rugby team and various well-endowed sporting guest stars from around the world re-enacting, you may be forgiven for thinking, the plot of every sports-themed gay porn vid. (Fashion photographers rather than pornographers take the pictures: Dolce & Gabbana favourite Mariano Vivanco was responsible for the particularly striking 2007 images.) Shot in musty locker rooms, the naked, pumped and tweezed ‘gods’, often in full body make-up, clutch strategically placed rugby balls like fat leather erections and gaze longingly into the camera, or into each other’s eyes.
Such brazen behaviour has only enhanced the careers of these rugger buggers. Frédérik Michalak and his hypnotically tattooed and geodesmic butt’s starring role in an early DVD showing the making of the Dieux du Stade calendar, has helped land him modelling contracts for Christian Lacroix, a French condom line endorsement deal, as well as becoming the expensive face of Biotherm Homme and the sporting package for a skimpy underwear line.
No doubt the Greeks would have been shocked even more by the way that women are openly enjoying these homoprovocative images too. In fact, the Dieux du Stade calendars were originally part of a marketing plan to update and widen the appeal of French rugby, particularly for women, and have proved massively popular: the 2007 calendar reportedly sold 200,000 copies. But the sporno-graphic eye of Dieux du Stade is quite deliberately, quite flagrantly un-straight. Partly because some of today’s women are being turned on to the voyeuristic charms of male-on-male action (in an echo perhaps of their boyfriends’ interest in female-on-female action), partly because it gets attention – ‘whatarethoseguysdoing!’, and partly because, as we’ve seen, the adoration of gay men is the key to the successful marketing of the male body. But mostly because this all-male exhibitionism, whomever it’s directed toward, gay, straight or bi, female or male, is so charmingly, submissively keen to please. Especially from guys who live through action and the urge to dominate.
Check out the DDS ‘Making Of the 2004 Calendar’ DVD, or the ‘Making of’ DVD from any year really, and see them obediently adopting the gay porno poses requested of them by the photographer, head placed on buddy’s shoulders, or head at buddy’s waist, hands on his perfectly formed buttocks.
The uninhibitedness of the rugby players, in part a function of the physical intimacy of the game itself, ends up being deliciously suited to the visual uninhibitedness of our times. How things – or rather, thighs – have changed. In the United Kingdom rugby traditionally was the sport of hairy beer monsters with nowhere else to go on a Saturday. But with professionalization, players, particularly the more streamlined backs, have become younger, fitter, and self-consciously sexier and their dance-cards are as full as their biceps. Blond, buffed, green-eyed, square-jawed, England International player Josh Lewsey, has been deployed to interest rugby fans in bulging lycra. A giant, god-like blow-up ‘bronze’ statue of him in his shorts was erected outside Twickenham rugby stadium in 2006 by his sponsor Nike. Rugby fans queuing for their tickets had the distracting pleasure of gazing up between Josh’s towering, flared thighs and at his ‘divine’ abs and pecs bursting out of a skin-tight Nike top.
Meanwhile the England rugby strip itself has been given something of a Queer Eye makeover. Banished forever are their baggy, shapeless beer-towel rugby shirts, replaced by a form-hugging strip that might well have been designed by Jean Paul Gaultier. Understandably, England’s new sporno kit dazzled the opposition: in 2003, the year the team debuted it, England won the Rugby World Cup for the first time ever. The latest version of it, introduced for the 2007 World Cup, saw them achieve second place despite being written off beforehand by pundits.
No doubt this astonishing turnaround was down to their new strip being being even tighter than before and including a saucy red arrow/swoosh from armpit to the edge of the opposite thigh, reportedly designed to confuse opposing players. Too right – they won’t know whether to tackle them or kiss them. A confusion that seemed to be exploited, albeit unwittingly, by the ‘C’est so Paris’ humorous advertising campaign promoting the 2007 World Cup, which featured snogging scrumming rugby players and the jokey tagline ‘Paris: City of Love’ (the only far-fetched aspect of the campaign was the unattractiveness of the ad’s faux rugby players compared to the ‘real’ Dieux du Stade thing).
In the more moneyed world of football, which has been a much bigger business for much longer, the eye-catching potency of a sporno star seems to have disorientated even the tough no-nonsense guys who manage football clubs – until you look at the bottom line. Despite somewhat inconsistent performances on the pitch, David Beckham is the world’s biggest-earning soccer player and the best known – because of his off-pitch pouting (most recently confirmed by his 2007 £20 million Armani underwear deal). His purchase in 2003 by Spain’s Real Madrid made them the most profitable soccer club in the world – replacing Manchester United: Beckham’s previous club. Beckham is an object of global desire, and his merchandise moves even faster than his hips – his body is worth more on billboards than on the pitch. After making what was billed as the biggest sports deal in history at £128 million, American team LA Galaxy is his new sporno studio, and he their Number One box cover star.
There is, however, another way in which British soccer players are finding themselves and their athletic prowess paraded on the front pages. A slew of kiss-and-tell articles have appeared in the tabloids in recent years about the penchant our young sportsmen have for sharing a young female groupie with several other team mates. Simultaneously. Often videoing the proceedings. Sporting gods in naked, adult video action with other sporting gods. No wonder the tabs and the public got so excited. In recreating the more than slightly homoerotic straight ‘gang-bang’ porn that they, like many other young men today are downloading from the Net, footballers are, wittingly or not, realizing the fantasy underpinning sporno itself.
Things reached their logical, if slightly Footballers Wives conclusion – their spornographic money shot – in 2006 when lurid stories were ‘splashed’ across the tabloids about a ‘secretly shot film’ allegedly showing several globally famous (but unnamed) English soccer stars engaging in a ‘gay sex orgy’, in which expensive limited edition mobile phones were supposedly used as ‘sex toys’. Regardless of the fact or feverish fantasy of this story, no one seemed to be able to get enough of it. Except perhaps the footballers themselves – who were not only not making any money out of this particular sporno spin-off, but also faced the threat of losing earning potential as a result of the scandal (British libel laws however quickly came to the rescue providing at least one player with a large, undisclosed sum). The response of many fans on the terrace in the form of vicious anti-gay taunts and the continued absence of any openly gay professional footballers, suggest that casual homophobia is as rampant in the culture as sporno itself – which is more than slightly ironic.
A generation of men may be entranced by images of glamorous, sporting males who so clearly, achingly, desire to be desired by all and sundry, but it seems the explicitly homoerotic implications of that still give quite a few of them the willies, especially in the highly-strung world of football. Though this is perhaps merely a time-lag issue: attitudes take longer to change than underwear.
Sporno stars themselves, moving in their celebrity circles, probably don’t care two hoots whether a fellow player likes bedroom partners with the same-shaped tackle, and may even be as pansexual as their advertising and fashion tastes portrays them, but they worry very much about what their fans will think. After all, this is show business, darling, and you can’t afford to alienate your audience – or, paradoxically, those homoerotic spornographic endorsement deals. While the statements of gay-friendly soccer stars such as Beckham and Ljungberg (and Cohen and Henson in rugby) have been sincere, thus far, actual homosex, or even bisex, rather than the faux variety proffered by advertising appears to still be beyond the pale. Sporno stars may pose gay but until now all of them have had to be officially totally heterosexual – as do all pro footballers and, with one or two exceptions, all rugby players.
Perhaps this is also the reason today’s soccer stars, who appear, way ‘gayer’ than their predecessors – according to The Sun, Manchester United’s locker rooms have recently had to be modified to make room for players’ ‘manbags’, because ‘they use more cosmetics than their wives’ – no longer kiss one another passionately after a goal is scored as they did just a few years ago. They have to maintain the impression, like many gay porn stars, that they’re only gay for pay.
As for the paymasters themselves, the fashion brands, while they certainly wish to continue changing mainstream masculine attitudes towards clothes and the male body, it could be argued that a certain amount of homophobia works to their benefit here: making sporno advertising more arresting, more powerful – and also helping to displace any homoerotic feelings/anxiety they provoke into commodity fetishism: buying the product instead of trying the fantasy it’s wrapped in. ‘Of course I don’t want the athlete’s desirable looks/face/body/packet’, the hetero male viewer/voyeur of sporno perhaps says to themselves – ‘I want his pants’.
Nevertheless, these are interesting if somewhat conflicted times. We shouldn’t underestimate how far we’ve come and how dramatically traditional male past-times such as football and rugby have changed in the last decade as a result of their collision with the worlds of fashion, celebrity and consumerism. Sporting male heroes have enthusiastically taken up shockingly exhibitionistic sex-object poses in the global media that once were anathema for most men because they were seen as ‘girly’, ‘slutty’ or ‘homo’. Or, what was much the same emasculating taboo in the male mind: passive.
Sports starts have become sporno stars – playing enthusiastic power bottoms to the public’s imagination. Stripping off, lying back, and thinking of England… lusting over them.
Unsurprisingly, this flagrant passivity represents a taboo too far for some. As one outraged middle-aged male (and, it probably needs to be said, somewhat plump and plain) BBC sports presenter thundered recently in a popular British tabloid about Beck’s Armani lunch-box ad: ‘You’ve got money, status, respect and fame – then someone says: “Armani want you to do a picture wearing tight white pants with your legs as wide open as the hole in England’s defence.” Why would you say yes?’
Actually, in a spornographic age, the question should rather be: Why on Earth would you say no?
Banning gay propaganda can backfire. Spectacularly.
“All Saints should be presumed guilty until proved innocent.”
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