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Metrosexuality On Ice

Tip: DAK

Fight Club: How Gay is MMA?

Mark Simpson attends an epic UFC event and finds himself turned on to the charms of ‘gay porn for straight men’

(Originally appeared in Out magazine, June 2008)

IMAGINE THE SPACE SHUTTLE taking off with a really fat customized exhaust pipe. Or Visigoths sacking Ancient Rome with kicking bass tubes fitted to their 4-by-4s. Or 20,000 supercharged male orgasms. Simultaneously. And you have some idea what it sounds and feels like in Montreal’s famous Bell Centre tonight for Ultimate Fighting Championship 83, as a spunky young carrot redhead in shorts pins an auburn lad on his back with his heels somewhere around his ears.

I think the technical term for this is a “full mount.” Or maybe it’s “ground and pound.”

Never Back DownAs the chiselled and blond bad guy with the low-slung shorts (Cam Gigandet) in the recent mixed martial arts (MMA) exploitation flick Never Back Down says leeringly to the doe-eyed brunet boxer  good guy (Sean Faris) new to MMA, the good news is that in this sport you can choke, kick, punch, pin, and throttle. “The bad news is that it’s gotta end with you looking like a bitch in front of everybody.”

Perhaps it was bad news for him – and for the auburn lad in the ring tonight – but certainly not for the 22,000-strong overwhelmingly young-male audience for the biggest-ever UFC event.

Over 2,500 miles away in Las Vegas, Brit boxer Joe “slapper” Calzaghe is tonight defeating light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins on points. In the long-established world of boxing, there is rumoured to be an ancient and secret tradition called the “perk,” or “perquisite” – by which the losing man may be required later to literally give up what he has lost symbolically. In other words, the fucked gets… really fucked.

I don’t know how much truth there is to the “perk,” though the breathless trash talk of modern-day boxers in the run-up to a fight – “I’m gonna make you my bitch/girlfriend/punk” – certainly doesn’t discredit it. But I’m fairly certain that the “perk” doesn’t exist in the “full-contact” brave new world of mixed martial arts (MMA), an omnivorous blend of boxing, freestyle wrestling, judo, tae kwon do, kick-boxing, karate, jujitsu, and Thai boxing that is rapidly replacing boring old traditional boxing, especially among young men, as the fighting sport. The perk isn’t needed. Because in MMA you get perked in the “ring” in front of everybody. On pay-per-view TV. The “perk” is the whole perking point, man. And UFC, by far the most successful purveyor of MMA fights for the cable TV voyeur, looks remarkably like gay porn for straight men: ultimate fuck-fighting.

ufc83_07_danzig_vs_bocek_001In the octagonal UFC cage set up over the Bell Centre ice hockey rink — octagonal perhaps because it better affords multiple viewing angles than a square boxing ring – Mac Danzig is still on his back; his sweaty, pumped, almost translucently white torso is flushed with the auburn heat that auburn skin produces when it is aroused. His panting, fetching head has been pushed up against the cage by redhead Marc Bocek’s energetic pounding, as if the cage were in fact a headboard. Bocek isn’t making love, however, or at least not the vanilla kind. He’s hammering the living daylights out of Danzig, stoking the crowd into ever-higher waves of frenzy. Although the Octagon is right in front of me, I’m watching all of this on one of the giant screens overhead: MMA is mostly a horizontal sport — one that requires multiple zoom lenses and a big TV to enjoy properly.

Bocek pauses for a moment to grab his partner/adversary by his hips, almost tenderly, and drag him backward while still kneeling between his legs, not wanting to break contact and negotiate that tricky “re-entry.” It isn’t, though, out of consideration for his chum’s cricked neck. He’s worried that Danzig will use the cage to get up off the canvas — and then get him in the “bitch” position. MMA is all about fighting for top. (Or maybe for extremely truculent bottom.)

bocekUnfortunately for Bocek, Danzig succeeds in breaking away anyway, jumps to his feet, and deftly, impersonally, brings up his knee and smashes it against Bocek’s left eyebrow, which provokes another roar of excitement from the crowd and opens up a very nasty laceration that spills hot blood everywhere, streaming into his eye, across his face, down his chin, and splatters across his lily-white chest — and all over his opponent. MMA is definitely not safe sex. The ref pauses the fight to examine Bocek’s eye. If the blood is preventing him from seeing, the fight will be declared in Danzig’s favor.

posterTurning to my beautifully produced glossy fight program, which includes full-page colour images of the topless young fighters arranged opposite one another and their vital statistics, I learn that Danzig is 5 foot 8 and 155 pounds, 28, and a Cleveland native. His feisty opponent, Bocek, from Woodbridge, Canada, is 26, and is also 5 foot 8 and 155 pounds. As someone who has a thing for redheads and short-asses, I’d say they are well matched.

The ref continues the match – and why not? Blood looks good on TV. There are only a few seconds left of the third and final round (UFC fights only go to a maximum three rounds at five minutes each — about the average length of a porn scene). Bocek, despite the turned tables and his pasting and what must be deathly tiredness, is still putting up an astonishing fight. Danzig scores a take-down almost immediately and moves, as they say in MMA, “directly to the mount.” Bocek “gives up his back” to try to save his ruined face from further punishment but is then caught in a “rear-naked choke” by Danzig’s powerful, fatally inviting arms. He “taps out” (submits) at 3 minutes, 48 seconds.

I don’t know about Bocek, but these were some of the longest 3 minutes, 48 seconds of my life. I’m aroused and inspired and exhausted and confused. For my money, Bocek won that fight – morally speaking. Which of course means that he lost very badly. His face is roadkill. He is really fucked. But he displayed that quality you hear people talk about reverently in MMA: heart.

Despite the gore, MMA is generally safer than boxing – there are fewer fatalities and brain-damage is less common. Because the fight is “full-contact,” the head doesn’t take all the violence. When it does, though, it’s pretty gruesome. Yet amid all the mayhem, there is a touching tenderness to MMA. Not because it looks to my twisted, queer eye like very rough sex — but because of that “heart” business. After a bout is over, most fighters hug each other in a pseudo-post-coital embrace that re-enacts the warlike hug earlier, only this time it’s a hug of warm brotherhood.

Another huge, manly Gallic roar. The arena’s giant screen is now tuned to the locker room; a rangy young blond skinhead fighter has peeled his shirt off, revealing a well-oiled fleshly fighting machine. The light behind him and his piercing blue eyes gazing into the camera, not to mention the low position of the locker-room cam, give him the cast of a demigod. It’s Georges “Rush” St-Pierre, the handsome, stylish 26-year-old local Montreal boy who tonight is hoping to seize back his UFC Welterweight belt from Matt “the Terror” Serra, 33, the no-nonsense Long Island master of Brazilian jujitsu who dispossessed him of it last year with what some people said was a lucky punch.

We’ve only been watching the hors d’oeuvre. All this blood has just been so much foreplay.

***

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“STOP LOOKING LADIES!” some funny guy in the audience shouts. It’s the weigh-in, a day earlier. Ed “Short Fuse” Herman, another 20-something boy-next-door red-headed fighter, from Vancouver, Wash., is naked on the stage under the spotlight, a towel held up by two lieutenants to shield his “short fuse.” Funnily enough, it’s mostly men rather than ladies doing the looking here in this packed auditorium. Though some are perhaps doing more looking than others: From where I’m seated at the side, I manage to catch a glimpse of Ed’s white butt as he bends over to slip off his briefs (a day later he will fight in shorts cheekily advertising ‘CONDOM DEPOT’ – across his butt).

Several guys have had to take their underpants off – to cheers. I can’t help but wonder whether the UFC officials, for showbiz’s sake, pretend some of these guys are closer to the weight limit than they are.

UFC knows all about showbiz. According to Forbes magazine, its pay-per-view shows have drawn well over 2 million viewers, most of them male and ages 18 to 49. Formidably shrewd, motor-mouthed former boxing promoter Dana White hosts The Ultimate Fighter, UFC’s hit PPV series on Spike (a men-only Big Brother with grappling gloves), which has taken MMA, essentially a semi-organized barroom brawl in the ’90s, cleaned it up, introduced some rules – including no stomping, no spitting, no throat strikes, no punches to the back of the head, and “no groin attacks of any kind” – and made it into a hot, multiangle, high-impact PPV commodity.

Described memorably by John McCain in 1998 as “human cockfighting,” and under threat of a total ban, MMA has become a different, more saleable, less relentlessly violent kind of “cockfighting” in the nurturing hands of the UFC – so much so that McCain himself recently relented: “The sport has grown up.” As a measure of just how grown up, UFC – for which casino owners the Fertitta brothers paid $2 million in 2001 – is today valued at roughly $1 billion. Cultural respectability has arrived too in the form of a recently published $2,500 MMA art book titled Octagon with a foreword by man-loving straight playwright David Mamet, who wrote and directed the MMA-themed movie Redbelt. MMA is also coming to major-network TV: CBS recently announced plans to air four MMA fights (non-UFC) annually — despite the disapproval of CBS chairman Sumner Redstone. “I’m a lover, not a fighter,” he said, perhaps missing the way UFC brings loving and fighting spectacularly together.

There is a lot of passionate hero worship in the world of MMA, not so much homoerotic as hero-erotic – or herotic. Straight male fans and fighters themselves will enthuse with shining eyes about “my idol”, in a way that in most other contexts would be considered much too ‘gay’ to keep a straight face.  But perhaps that’s not so surprising, since MMA owes a lot to those notorious warrior homos, the ancient Greeks. Although today’s MMA came to us via Brazilian jujitsu (alas, not conducted in Speedos, as the name may suggest), many consider it the modern version of pankration, a combination of boxing and wrestling that was the basis of combat training for Greek soldiers and an original Olympic sport. With lethal purity, pankration had two primary rules: no eye-gouging or biting. Fingers were often snapped off. Sometimes death or unconsciousness was the only form of submission (rather like this year’s Democratic primaries).

MMA’s younger fans are not likely to acknowledge their sport’s homoerotic heritage. For most of these young men, many of them blue-collar and swooningly in love with masculinity, gay means unmanly and passive and emasculated – and therefore major turn-off. MMA is gay porn for straight men because its violence not only justifies the intimate, protracted, eye-popping physicality of the sport but also preserves its virility – the very thing that gets many of its fans hot. These fighters can’t be fags – look how fucking tough they are, dude! It’s a bit like how in gay porn “real” tops never bottom – for the sake of the bottoms watching.

Sometimes the MMA fighter really is homo – like professional MMA fighter Shad Smith, who was recently profiled in The New York Times. From a tough blue-collar background, Smith was desperate to hide his sexuality at first. “I was petrified because I didn’t want anyone to find out,” he told the Times. “And I would try to be the toughest person around. That way no one would suspect. No one would ever say it. No one would think it.” Doubtless there are quite a few Shad Smiths who became very good, very determined, very motivated scrappers because they weren’t escaping to college or opening a hairdressing salon.

Georges St.-PierreThe tough-guy image is something of an illusion – if an entrancing and convincing one. Surprisingly often, fighters turn out to be sensitive, introspective loners – “fags” who aren’t actually fags — such as Mac Danzig, the beefy auburn-haired killer who is in fact a vegan and whose main pastime, when he isn’t turning another lad’s face into tenderloin, is nature photography. That’s also the story of Georges St-Pierre, a bullied slight boy at school who turned to MMA for salvation, who with his tight, wiry body, immaculately groomed presentation and designer clothes looks rather metro. As one observer put it: “He’s the kind of flash Europunk you might think you could wipe the floor with if you came across him in a bar, but you’d be very, very wrong.”

Likewise you might expect a fight between Serra and St-Pierre to be billed as good ol’ USA versus Frenchy “fag,” but you’d be wrong. Because GSP – to give St-Pierre his brand name – is generally considered to be an exceptional fighter, genuinely excellent in several disciplines, or maybe because this is such a visual medium, he has begun to look like the David Beckham of UFC, albeit one who actually reads books and is, heaven forfend!, interested in philosophy (that’s the French for you). His photogenic face and body and his workouts have been splashed across countless health and fitness magazines.

His opponent, Matt Serra, may be breezily unpretentious and resemble an unpainted fire hydrant, but he is definitely no idiot: “I think they look at Georges as the Crest poster boy with the sparkle in his teeth, the looks, the physique, the body and the athleticism…the real version of what Van Damme was doing,” he’s said. “And then comes me – the Joe Pesci–style ‘Heyooo!’ But it’s cool, man. I’m down with it. I fit in those shoes real well. I’m just looking forward to having another good fight.”

When he turns up for his weigh-in, a relentless tidal wave of boos greets him. An Italian-American pocket battleship at 5 foot 6, Serra weighs in at 169.5 pounds; he appears indifferent to the roiling sea of hatred around him. The booing doesn’t stop when the host offers him the microphone, and whatever he says is completely drowned out. So he offers the crowd two fingers, meaning “two times” and V for victory – and, perhaps, “fuck you.”

Ecstatic cheers greet his challenger St-Pierre, who’s taller by four inches but in stature by several feet. St.-Pierre fluidly strips down to his tasteful and tastily filled-out black underwear and also weighs in at 169.5 pounds. Offered the mike, he graciously tells the crowd they shouldn’t hate Serra and that “I don’t fight with angerrr – I fight with my ‘eart.” The two men pose for the cameras in a fighting stance and then they hug, GSP kissing Serra’s huge neck.

There was no trash talk in the quieter surroundings of the press conference the day before. The fighters had been polite, respectful, even friendly. “C’mon, I’ve got nothing against the French,” protested Serra when the journalists dug up some “Frenchy” quotes from the past. St.-Pierre, for his part, was touchingly open. “I am nervous and scared to fail but that’s normal,” he admitted. “I ‘ave butterflies. but I ‘ave to make the butterflies fly in formation.”

***

AAAYYYYYYYYAYYYYEAAAAAAA-AAHHAAAARGH!!!

The Bell Centre outdoes itself as Georges St.-Pierre, surrounded by his lieutenants, makes his way to the stage in a natty red jujitsu jacket. Climbing into the Octagon, he peels off his silky, tight black T-shirt, and then his baggy trousers come off, revealing tight black trunks with just a white fleur-de-lis on the side of his firm right buttock. It matches the arty tattoo on the back of his steely calf.

Cheers turn to boos. Matt Serra has arrived in a baggy black T-shirt with big white lettering: BUY GUNS SELL GUNS — GUNSAMERICA.COM. The stats on the big screen make difficult reading for Serra: GSP is taller and younger and has a longer reach. Worse, he is more popular and better-looking and has nicer pants. He’s the favourite in every way.

The bell rings, and they touch gloves. In a flash St.-Pierre has Serra on the canvas. All that frustration, regret, resolve, training — and heart — have exploded. All over Serra. To tire him out, St.-Pierre lets him get up, keeping him within range of his own fists but out of Serra’s. Then he takes him down again. St.-Pierre’s purposeful, ominous shoulders rise up like medieval armour, like Joan of Arc seriously narked.

End of round 1. Serra’s eye is swelling up badly. He looks beaten already.

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Round 2. Plucky Serra tries a kick.  St.-Pierre catches it and takes Serra down. After Serra stands up again, St.-Pierre lets fly a barrage of punches. Serra is too groggy to parry them. St.-Pierre — part panther, part lethal ballet dancer — comes in for the kill, easily taking his opponent down again. Serra offers his back, and St.-Pierre knees him repeatedly, athletically in the ribs in a manner which somehow manages to be as passionate as it is impersonal.

The ref stops the match, and it’s all over: technical knockout. Canada has won. Montreal has beaten Long Island. The butterflies flew in formation. Terrifying formation. And judging by the noise from the crowd, the entire world and its dad have just climaxed.

A grinning St.-Pierre executes a winning somersault. The crowd chants, “FUCK YOU, SERRA! FUCK YOU, SERRA!” He has been fucked. He was fucked. He is fucked. He is without any doubt whatsoever the fuckee. But he exhibits no resentment. The warriors embrace warmly, another kiss from GSP to that huge, now sweaty neck. Serra holds St.-Pierre’s arm up for the crowd, then hoists him on his shoulder, carrying him for a few staggering steps.

If MMA is gay porn for straight men, then tonight a part of me wonders whether, for all its spilled blood and mashed faces, it isn’t the better kind.

After all, no one could seriously accuse gay porn of having “heart.”

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

Cristiano Ronaldo Grabs David Beckham’s Bulging Underwear

My congratulations go to Cristiano Ronaldo, who once again is stepping into Beck’s pricey shoes – and briefs. Ronaldo has just been named Armani’s new international ‘spokesmodel’. (Presumably his legs and packet are going to do all the talking.)

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Poor Becks, Mr Armani’s previous sporno star, discarded by his Italian designer sugar daddy like yesterday’s trade, unpopular at Galaxy FC and currently sporting a Captain Birdseye beard, is increasingly looking like someone who was merely keeping that overpriced underwear warm for Ronaldo. In fact, being appointed Mr Armani’s international flasher — rather than the record-busting transfer deal to Real Madrid earlier this year — is the 100% cotton proof that Ronaldo has now finally and officially eclipsed Becks bulging profile in the metro-tarting stakes.

The crown of metrosexuality — and more importantly the pants — have been passed on to a new generation. Cristiano Ronaldo, ladies and gents, is the new metrosexual king/queen. (He may not have much taste, but that’s the wonderful thing about being king or queen: you don’t have to.)

Becks may have blazed a trail for footballing metrosexuality, but Ronaldo is looking like the finished, total product where Becks was merely the prototype. Ronaldo is genuinely, boyishly (and annoyingly) beautiful, where Becks, well into his thirties now, increasingly looks like mutton very expensively dressed as lamb.

I don’t think though that Becks will fade away any time soon. Despite all the talk about his his fetching looks, he never was a great beauty. No, really. It was the passion of his desire to be desired that was always the compelling thing about him — and as he gets older that passion will probably only increase.

Even with a Birdseye beard.

Sporno in German

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The new issue of Germany’s leading gay magazine Manner Aktuell carries an essay on Sporno by yours truly (and yes, that’s my name on the cover but not, alas, my body).

Ricky Berens Sporno Swimsuit – ‘The Bruno’

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US Olympic swimmer Ricky Berens unveiled his new dashing new swimsuit during the 4x100m relays at the World Swimming Championships in Rome last weekend.  ‘The Bruno’ caused something of a splash – and the US team, no doubt encouraged by the stirring vision before them – both of them – successfully qualified for the Finals.

Let’s hope other swimsuit designers adopt the asstounding aquadynamics of Mr Berens’ blond butt cheeks.

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Tip: Joe My God/Uroskin

 

Postscript:

I’m very grateful to Mark W for reminding me of this highly apposite literary quotation ‘regarding’ the male derriere:

“The veneration I feel for that part of the body and the great tenderness that I have bestowed on the [boys] who have allowed me to enter it, the grace and sweetness of their gift, oblige me to to speak of all this with respect”

Genet- “Funeral Rites”

 

Aussie Rules Football Surrenders to Sporno

Dolce & Gabbana Intimo underwear 2009-3

Dolce & Gabbana’s latest sporno campaign for their Intimo men’s underwear line (above), employing eager, wide-shouldered chaps from their national team to stretch their designer cotton, seems to have taken inspiration from the tarty antics of the swimmers at last year’s Olympics, peeling their swimsuits off to flash their ‘cum gutters’ at the world (or was it just me?).

I certainly wouldn’t mind a few lengths with any or all of them, but I can’t help but wonder whether D&G might not have had a more spornographic impact if they’d used instead some of these Aussie Rules footballers from Down Under to stretch and pitch their product: they’ve just appeared in a ‘Gods of Football’ sporno calendar clearly inspired by Dieux du Stade, if not actually paying homo-homage (see below).

Though maybe it’s all just a matter of taste.  Or positioning.  There’s definitely something about Aussie Rules Footie that makes for butts that sit up and beg for attention. And they’re certainly getting it from me. The photographer Pedro Virgil, has expertly exploited this ‘asset’ to the full and made these extraordinarily athletic arses the stars of the calendar.

I really should be bored with this kind of thing by now, but just I seem never to be able to get quite enough of fit young straight slutty sportsmen sticking their naked shelf-like bums out and asking for it….

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‘Where are you planning on putting that big lens?’ asks Michael Osbourne. ‘And don’t I get some poppers first?’

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John Williams contemplates his career profile and clenches, while the setting sun — and our eyes — stroke his thighs.

TRAVIS BURNS Gods of Football

Travis Burns has cleverly tattooed his name on the back of his arm so we’ll know whose arse we’re staring at. And book him again.

 

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What would a gay porn shoot be without the obligatory barn and showers scenes? (Yes, yes, we know this calendar is officially aimed at women, complete with a quote from Cosmo on the cover, but everyone knows, including the athletes themselves and Cosmo readers, that gay porn is the sensibility of sporno.)

Gods of Football 2009 Chair Reclining

‘Do with me what you will! (But speak to my agent first, OK?)’

 

Tip: D.A. Krolak

Mark Simpson Talks About Sporno Packets in Berlin

Yours truly will be giving talk on ‘Sporno: How sport got into bed with gay porn – with Mr Armani taking pictures ‘ in Berlin on Thursday 18th June – i.e. tomorrow – at 8pm at the Dorrie * Priess Gallery (details below), courtesy of Manner-Magazin, CSD and Queer Nations.  It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

It will be richly illustrated.

Sorry for the very tardy notice….

Dörrie * Priess Berlin
Ulrich Dörrie / Holger Priess
Yorckstr. 89 a
D-10965 Berlin
Tel. (+49) 030/ 7889 5533

Tim ‘No Acorn’ Oakes

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I seem to have somehow missed the not entirely shocking news that Tim ‘No Acorn’ Oakes of Sandbach RUFC, the spunky rugger-bugger captain who was so keen to show off his impressive semi-tackle on national television – and very kindly let his team mates play with it – has since gone the whole hog and stripped off for FamousMales.com, teasing the gayers with his no longer semi but fully erect assets.

EthanSays.com has some safely doctored snaps from the FamousMales shoot (albeit with the wrong kind of ball  – please try to remember you Yanks: rugby players’ balls are odd-shaped). Here’s how the shoot went according to Ethan:

Completely at ease with being naked, Tim recently stripped down for Famous Males and stood stark naked in front of them, his proud, strong nude form – beautiful and stunning. “I’ve got quite a few scars now,” Tim said. “I get well bashed about on the field. God knows what the lads will think of this when they see the pictures…hee…hee.” “JUST LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU WANT ME HARD.”

I’ve seen the pics sans strategically placed football and let’s just say Tim is not only a shower, he’s also something of a grower.  That said, I personally happen to think his ‘hammer’ is even more fetching than his ‘nail’.

His face isn’t bad either….

(Shame about the haircut, though.)

Adidas Go Sporno

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Adidas’ flirty-shirty interactive sporno gets its tits out in New Zealand: ‘Which two players would you like to see swap jerseys?’

No.1 and No.3 did it for me – though I’d quite like to have invited No.5 to join us, but unfortunately you can only choose one-on-one jersey-swapping at present.

I’m sure though that given the ‘penetration’ of sporno into the culture, group shirt swapping along with shorts-swapping options isn’t far off.

Tip: Jay Hirst

Becks’ Public Service Announcement on Dangers of Botox

Tip: Donald Krolak

Sporno on Steroids

Now that’s what I call pushing back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Olympic Sporno – From NBC

If you’ve been watching the noble Olympics in a slightly pervey way, treating all that lycra and fit young firm flesh on your HD screens as a form of illicit spornography then you deserve to be spanked soundly with a spiked running shoe.

But you’re not alone.

America’s prestigious NBC no less are doing it too.

With an online splurge of swim-boy nakedness called ‘Ab-Fab’ it asks you to ‘Guess the Swimmer’ – by identifying the headless topless torsos of selected Olympic totty.

In other words, it presents photos of top-flight swimmers as if they were headless naked profile pics on Manhunt or Gaydar. At the very least, it takes it for granted that you’ve been studying their bodies rather closely. They should really go the whole hog and provide a ‘MESSAGE ME!’ button to send those naughty athletes our phone numbers.

Someone with more morals than me might be inclined to huff and puff a little at this non-consensual spornographic exploitation of the golden swim-boys. But then, they are encouraging it, those devilish rascals, with their low-slung pants showing off their storm-proof ‘cum-gutters’ and saucy ‘come-hither’ pelvic tatts. They know exactly what kind of world we’re living in – and they seem determined to give it a semi.

And when you see NBC’s full-length pic of multi-Gold-medal-winner Phelps – the slim-hipped superstar whose seismic popularity might just overcome America’s deep-seated Speedophobia – you realise that, like so many young men today, he’s already practically stripping for Fratmen TV , even when he’s wearing jeans and underpants. (And why he deserves yet another Gold – for tarting.)

Meanwhile, two US National wrestlers have permanently lost their place on the team and their scholarships for actually doing just that.

Tip: D.A. Krolak

Accidental Sporno Deliberately Collected

I’ve just happened across a new football blog ‘The Spoiler’ that has a self-described ‘Sporno’ section: ‘Where sport meets porn’.

They have some rather good pics (such as this one of Becks mounting an opponent who seems much more pleased than he is surprised). Pages and pages of them. And you can earn yourself £10 if you have any particularly hot examples. Go on, make those straight footie fans smile. You know they can’t get enough of it.

Sport tries its best to be clean, porno is always dirty. Sport is noble and healthy. Porno is always bad and wrong. Yet for all their efforts to keep a distance, they just can’t help running into each from time to time and making sporno, without meaning to at all.

Most of the people involved in ‘The Spoiler’ appear to be former lad mags staff (FHM, Nuts, Zoo). I’m sure their sporno snaps aren’t designed to turn on their male visitors, just make them giggle – or go ‘Ewwwwwwww!’ – and they probably haven’t read any of my articles on sporno.

All the same, they seem to have an even filthier imagination than I do. And they certainly have a bigger pervey pic collection.

From Sportsmen to Sporno Stars

by Mark Simpson (The London Times, 28 July, 2008)

Next week the V&A opens an exhibition called Fashion v Sport, profiling the relationship between the sports and fashion industries – a relationship that seems to be flourishing despite the habit of many of today’s sportsmen and women of wearing less and less.

Recently the New York Daily News ran a spread of photos showing rugby players from the New Zealand and South African national sides playing a match, starkers, on a windswept New Zealand beach. Disappointingly, it turned out that the players showing us their tackle were not in fact Boks and All Blacks, but local amateurs taking part in a beery annual “Naked Rugby” event.

But who can blame the media for getting over-excited? After all, last year the Rugby World Cup was advertised with posters on the Tube of snogging, scrumming rugby players. And then there are footballers such as Freddie Ljungberg and David Beckham spreadeagled across the side of buses.

Almost everywhere you look, sports, advertising and fashion seem to have jumped into bed to produce a spornographic money shot. Sports stars have become sporno stars. How did this happen? What does it mean? And where can I get hold of a pair of those pants?

Ironically, the only unconvincing aspect of the snogging scrum campaign was the relative unattractiveness of the faux rugby players compared to the pumped, shaved perfection of the real thing. The Parisian team produce an arty soft-porn calendar, called Dieux du Stade, featuring lovingly photographed nude players soaping each other up in the showers – or playing naked rugby on the beach. A great success. It sells like, well, hot rugby players.

In the run-up to the last football World Cup the fashion label Dolce & Gabbana commissioned the photographer Mariano Vivanco to snap members of the Italian team all oiled up and ready for us in the changing rooms, wearing very skimpy – and stretchy – D&G briefs. The results were splashed across prime advertising sites. In hindsight, the world was grovelling at the Italians’ feet from that moment on. The Spanish winners of Euro 2008 have yet to pose glistening in thongs, but with studs such as Fernando Torres and Iker Casillas in their stable it can only be a matter of time.

To get our attention in an age of broadband jadedeness, men’s fashion advertising has to promise us nothing less than an immaculately groomed, waxed and pumped group session in the showers.

And if this sporno looks a bit gay, that’s probably because it’s meant to. Partly because it made you look, partly because gay men are a loyal niche market and also taste-formers – especially when it comes to consuming the male body (Mr Dolce and Mr Gabbana are themselves famously gay).

It’s also partly because it seems to turn on the ladies in the same way that girl-on-girl action does their boyfriends. For an athlete nowadays, having a big gay following no longer necessarily means looking over his shoulder worriedly, but instead turning round and winking playfully.

Both Beckham and Ljungberg have posed in gay magazines, the beefy former England rugby ace and married father of two Ben Cohen has brought out a nude calendar marketed at gay men and talks about “embracing my gay fans”. Some, such as Becks and Welsh rugby glamour-boy Gavin Henson, have even argued over them. “I think I have lost a lot of my gay fans to Gavin,” Beckham once said. “It is a shame, as I really love them.”

Being equal-opportunity flirts, today’s sporno stars want to turn everyone on. Sportsmen, like porn stars, are by definition show-offs. Besides, it also means more money, more power, more endorsements, more kudos.

Fashion is more than happy to indulge them. Athletes represent everything that is desirable today: youth, vigour, success, health, fitness, looks, fame – and also the sweaty shorthand for all these things: sex. What’s more, as highly paid “pros”, their bodies are already what all men’s bodies are supposed to be these days: hot commodities. If athletes with hundreds of thousands of fans – gay and straight – are willing to tart themselves up this way, why bother with silly, skinny male models?

Naturally, all the sporno stars flirting with gayness are officially heterosexual. Team sports are still not the best place to openly bat for the other side, not least because it might cost you one of those lucrative gay-looking sporno endorsement deals. Virility is still considered to be officially hetero. (This holds true even in gay porn – where many stars are, like sporno stars, only “gay for pay”.)

But there’s no denying how dramatically attitudes towards the sporting male body have changed as a result of sport’s collision with the world of fashion and celebrity. Sporting male heroes now adopt sex-object poses on the side of buses that were once seen as girly, slutty or homosexual. Or, what was once much the same taboo in the male mind: passive.

As one outraged, middle-aged – and rather plain looking – BBC sports presenter thundered recently in The Sun about Beckham’s Armani-clad giant package: “You’ve got money, status, respect and fame – and then someone says: ‘Armani want you to do a picture wearing tight white pants with your legs as wide open as England’s defence.’ Why would you say yes?” Actually, in a spornographic age, the question should really be: why on earth would you say no?

The Fashion v Sport exhibition runs from Aug 5 to Jan 4. The catalogue, edited by Ligaya Salazar, and featuring an essay on Sporno by Simpson, on is published by V&A Books at £19.99.

Naked Rugger Buggers Buggering About

The New Zealand and South African Rugby teams made the news this week with their nude rugby match on St Kilda beach.

(UPDATE: In fact, the NY Daily News story cited here appears to have got a little over excited: the players were NOT from the All Blacks and the Boks but local amateur players taking part in a mid-winter naked rugby tradition that has gone on for years – see Uroskin’s comment below and on his blog.)

Held before their official match, and sponsored by ‘Bottom Bus’ (a local tour agency, allegedly), it looks at first glance like a realisation of the spornographic fantasy of those Dieux Du Stade calendars and those ‘Paris: City of Love posters’ with snogging rugby players advertising the Rugby World Cup last year. And perhaps in a way it is.

But the naughty slogans scrawled on their bodies and the general mayhem seems to have more of the trademark, old-style rugger bugger hazing humour. Porn and DDS (and UFC) by contrast, are a very serious business.

This seems more like a genuine, beery, blokey laugh.

Nice arses, though.

Ultimate Pillowbiting – How Gay is MMA?

This month’s Out magazine includes a feature by yours truly on my visit to Montreal in April to see the biggest, baddest, ballsiest Ultimate Fighting Championship event ever. UFC, for those who aren’t in the know, or unaccountably uninterested in seeing fit, near-naked men grappling and grunting, is the cage-fighting craze that is rapidly becoming the most popular sport with young men in North America.

Out tell me my take has provoked some threats against my pretty face from outraged MMA fans. It seems my crime was enjoying it too much. Other less shall we say clenched followers of this man-mounting sport have however welcomed my interest – even if I breathe too heavily.

Here’s how the piece begins:

Imagine the space shuttle taking off with a really fat customized exhaust pipe or the Visigoths sacking Ancient Rome with kicking bass tubes fitted to their 4-by-4s. Or 20,000 supercharged male orgasms. Simultaneously. And you have some idea what it sounds and feels like in Montreal’s famous Bell Centre tonight for Ultimate Fighting Championship 83, as a spunky young carrot redhead in shorts pins an auburn lad on his back with his heels somewhere around his ears. I think the technical term for this is a “full mount.” Or maybe it’s “ground and pound.”

As the chiseled and blond bad guy with the low-slung shorts (Cam Gigandet) in the recent mixed martial arts (MMA) exploitation flick Never Back Down says leeringly to the doe-eyed brunet boxer good guy (Sean Faris) new to MMA, the good news is that in this sport you can choke, kick, punch, pin, and throttle; “the bad news is that it’s gotta end with you looking like a bitch in front of everybody.” Perhaps it was bad news for him — and for the auburn lad in the ring tonight — but certainly not for the 22,000-strong overwhelmingly young-male audience for the biggest-ever UFC event.

Over 2,500 miles away in Las Vegas, “slapper” Brit boxer Joe Calzaghe is tonight defeating light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins on points. In the long-established world of boxing, there is rumored to be an ancient and secret tradition called the “perk,” or “perquisite” — by which the losing man may be required later to literally give up what he has lost symbolically. In other words, the fucked gets…really fucked.

I don’t know how much truth there is to the “perk,” though the breathless trash talk of modern-day boxers in the run-up to a fight — “I’m gonna make you my bitch/girlfriend/punk” — certainly doesn’t discredit it. But I’m fairly certain that the “perk” doesn’t exist in the “full-contact” brave new world of mixed martial arts, an omnivorous blend of boxing, freestyle wrestling, judo, tae kwon do, kickboxing, karate, jujitsu, and Thai boxing that is rapidly replacing boring old traditional boxing, especially among young men, as the fighting sport. The perk isn’t needed. Because in MMA you get fucked in the “ring” in front of everybody. On pay-per-view TV. The “perk” is the whole, er, perking point, man. And UFC, by far the most successful purveyor of MMA fights for the cable TV voyeur, looks remarkably like gay porn for straight men: Ultimate Fuck-Fighting.

Read the article in full here.

Snogging Rugby Players (Again)

Even more snogging rugby players, this time in an American online ad for a noise-cancelling bluetooth headset.

I don’t wish to appear ungrateful, but it’s clear that American ad men, even groovy online ones, really don’t get rugby. Or 21st Century sexuality.

As the lovely lads of Sandbach have shown us so graphically, two rugger buggers snogging is:

a) Nothing unusual

b) Guaranteed to make your teamates even more excitable

And the phenomenon of Manlove for Ladies would suggest that this chick is probably kicking herself she missed the action while gossiping on the phone with her gal pal.

Becks Does Freddie (Doing Becks)

beckhamarmani_2.jpg

How much bigger can the cotton-clad packages in men’s underwear ads get, I wonder, before they are literally shoved down our throats? And if they are, will any of us be so impolite as to gag? Even though good quality cotton is so absorbent?

Above is Beck’s latest sporno for Emporio Armani underwear, due to air in early 2008. Below is fellow-footballer Freddie Ljunberg’s 2006 Calvin Klein campaign.

freddieliesback1.jpg

Do these chaps live together? I mean, they seem to share the same type of fancy underwear, the same kind of bed-linen, the same barber – and the same dodgy shaver. They also seem to favour the same saucy bedtime positions – and apparently use the same b/w digital camera. They even look like one another, in that slightly disturbing twin-ish way that some boyfriends have.

In fact, the shots are almost a mirror image of one another: are they looking into our eyes, their own or each others? Even if they don’t actually share the same bed, it’s clear that Becks is doing Ljunberg doing Becks: which is impressive. Auto-fellatio and 69-ing at the same time. Just as well these guys are supple athletes.

Becks seems to sport an even larger Ljunbox – though seems to be less well-endowed when it comes to lighting. (Becks is two whole years older than Freddie.)

Is Beck’s bigger basket a case of post-production spornographic one-up-manship? Or is it just that Beck’s Brit meatballs are bigger than the Swedish variety? (Which at Ikea at least seem to be a little on the mean side.) I think we need to be told.

In the meantime, I must commend Mr Armani’s decision to draw a veil – or a white linen shirt – over Beck’s seriously daggy arm and shoulder tatts.

Tip: Towelroad

Ricky Hatton: ‘I have a fantastic bum’

rickyhattonphoto.jpgToday’s Sun carries an interview with England’s tasty pocket-rocket Ricky Hatton about his upcoming fight in Vegas this Saturday with World welterweight title holder Floyd Mayweather.

‘Pretty Boy’ Mayweather was in the news last week for saying to Ricky: ‘I wish I was in prison with you. I’d make you my bitch.’

‘Having another boxer threatening to do that to me is a first,’ Ricky admitted to the Sun. ‘But’ he said (I’m guessing with a twinkle in his eye), ‘I’d like to think I have got a fantastic bum.’

From where I’m standing, Ricky, it looks like you have. And you can trust me – I’m an expert.

hatton-bum.jpgBut, given the infuriating bagginess of the boxing shorts you like to wear (which appear to have been made with some of your nan’s spare tasselled curtains), just to confirm how fantastic it is I think a closer inspection – and a road-test – is required.

And there’s no need to worry: we don’t have to go to prison. You could just come back to mine.

—-

PS  To those writing in to tell me that Ricky’s ‘no David Beckham’, or that he’s ‘really fat’ most of the time, or that he’s ‘ugly’, please note: I’m not claiming Ricky is of major socio-cultural importance or a ‘sex god’. I just fancy him.  Here’s one, sorry, two reasons why.

Metro Cowboy to Play Metro Athlete

namath_250.jpgHollywood has apparently taken note of the global publicity surrounding uber-metrosexual English footballer David Beckham’s arrival in Tinseltown and decided to dust off America’s own, discarded metrosexual sportsman prototype, 1960s flamboyant, fur-coat wearing NFL quarterback Joe Namath and give it the big-screen treatment.

Jake Gyllenhaal is to play Namath – popularly dubbed ‘Broadway Joe’ – in a Hollywood biopic of the Hall of Fame sportsman who was the first American footballer to become a multi-media phenemonon and Madison Avenue model.

In other words, the actor who played a metrosexual cowboy will be playing the first metrosexual athlete. It sounds perfect casting – in a postmodern way. Gyllenhaal’s inability to convince as a cowboy, or a Marine, or a blue-collar NFL quarterback is just more grist to the mill of the inauthenticity of modern masculinity.

Jake’s pretty, bottom-boy looks also underscore something else: how Namath really wouldn’t cut it today as an object of desire. He just isn’t attractive or seductive or tarty enough. He looks like what he was: a reasonably nice-looking 1960s quarterback in a fur coat – or pantyhose.

Joe Namath’s most famous ad was this eyebrow-raiser from 1974 for Beautymist pantyhose:

[youtube 23dBG27gnuU]

Apparently Namath regretted the ad for nylons which brought out many of his male fans in rash, despite its rather heavy-handed ‘I’M NOT A FAG AND THIS IS A JOKE’ message. It may have been one of the reasons why America, with the possible exception of Dennis Rodham, failed to produce another ‘Broadway Joe’. That and the fact that America is sometimes a more conformist country than Switzerland.

If this ad were to be reprised by David Beckham today you would notice the following differences:

  • He would look much better in pantyhose
  • He wouldn’t say ‘I don’t wear pantyhose’. And if he did, no one would believe him.
  • He wouldn’t be wearing anything else
  • He wouldn’t laugh. Fashion, as his titanium-cheekboned wife has taught him, is a very serious business.
  • He wouldn’t be selling them to women.

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