C4 recently aired a series about pro spornos – called ‘Six Pack Superstars‘. It follows young men and women ‘influencers’ and wannabes in the fitness business preparing for their competitions. Like Bromans it’s mostly about the male spornos – they are after all the ones with the spectacular bodies.
Though there is an undisputed female star of the show – Audrey Kaipio, ‘the UK’s number one posing coach’ (from Canada), a woman who seems to play something of a dominatrix role while teaching bodybuilders and muscle models how to pose, flex and sashay, sorry, swagger – “Yeah, I got those danglin’ balls!”.
It seems entirely apt that the masquerade of masculinity on the UK sporno stage is emanating from between the legs of a very bossy Canadian lady. Spornosexuality is rather ‘sub’.
Perhaps the most famous male sporno profiled in the show is Tom Coleman, a 30-year-old former roofer from Essex turned WBFF champion, muscle model, and ‘inspirational’ YouTube star who has 1.3M followers. Can’t think why.
During a photo shoot Tom of Essex takes a break to rub lube all over his eye-popping chest. He complains in a moment of perhaps dehydrated neediness to the physique photographer Giles Crofta (can I have his job, please?) that he’s “really flat at the moment”.
“You’re shredded!” exclaims Giles reassuringly, his eyes doing their best to give Tom a hand rubbing the lube in. “Seriously, I think you’re the best! You know you are!”
The US had a national nervous breakdown over male beauty in the early noughties.
It seems ridiculous now – and actually it was fairly ridiculous at the time – but it’s simply an objective fact that the US went completely fucking berserk over the metrosexual: my insufferably pretty offspring with the really great, hydrated skin. Not since the Beatles had a British import caused so much screaming – and so much moral panicking.
The same year, the networked animated cable TV series South Park devoted a whole episode to him satirising his stunning popularity, called ‘South Park Is Gay!’. We are told that all the straight men and boys in South Park have turned ‘metrosexual’ – which here seems to mean ‘effeminate’. The ‘Fab Five’ swishy gay male grooming and lifestyle experts from Queer Eye For the Straight Guy – that year’s new, smash-hit makeover show – are blamed for the epidemic of preening. They turn out to be alien monsters and are executed by the men’s angry wives, who explain: ‘men need to be masculine!’.
Strangely, this disturbingly silly cartoon spoof pretty much predicted/incited how America ended up reacting in non-animated real life to the scary sexual ambiguity of metrosexuality.
The uptake of ‘gay’ beauty concerns by men along with the ‘feminine’ desire to be desirable by men in general, was something well underway by the noughties – without an intervention from the Fab Five (I’d originally written about metrosexuality for a British newspaper back in 1994, predicting the future of masculinity was moisturised).
In hindsight, I wonder how many of the straight men in NYC the Fab Five rescued from flaky skin, cheap chinos and TV dinners were just slumming it for the sake of a free facial, some product and plenty of attention.
For my money, Queer Eye For the Straight Guy, which was often described as the ‘metrosexual reality TV show’, had a typo in the title. It should have been ‘Queer Eye OF the Straight Guy’. But then it wouldn’t have been commissioned.
Queer Eye was entertaining, mostly safe fun precisely because it restated the already blurring boundaries in a reassuring way: straight men were hopeless at appreciating male beauty and gay men were fabulous. The queer eye belonged to the queers. Despite this, Queer Eye still managed to outrage some at the time – including apparently the makers of South Park.
My own definition of the metrosexual from my Salon essay had though been carefully inflammatory about the sexual ambiguity of the metrosexual:
‘He might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference.’
Though of course the US marketers who tried to appropriate – and spay – the metrosexual after my essay went viral, vehemently insisted that the metrosexual was always straight. And never vain. Just ‘well-groomed’. No one really bought this. His ambiguity and out-and-proud vanity was the only reason anyone was interested in him.
And it’s also why America, which really wasn’t ready to face up to this stuff back then, ended up having a full-blown backlash against metrosexuality by 2006, when the full, horrifying implications of metrosexuality began to sink in. Anti-metrosexuality became the 21st Century ‘Disco Sucks!’ campaign, but with even more pronounced gay panic.
The US media now aroused itself talking up hilariously butch reaction-formations such as ‘machosexuals’, ‘retrosexuals’ and a ‘menaissance’. Lots of books with annoying, anal lists of ‘manly’ do’s and don’ts were published. Most of all, the MAN word was hysterically over-deployed, often as a reassuring manly phallic pacifier strapped on the front of something that so wasn’t: MANdates, MANscara etc.
Metrosexuality of course, along with hyper-consumerism and visual culture, continued conquering the world. But in the US it wasn’t polite to mention it: metrosexuality was now on the downlow. As the South Park wives had put it in 2003: Men need to be masculine!
Or at least we needed to pretend they need to be.
All of which was of course way camper than the metrosexual ever was.
Queer Eye itself was axed in 2007 – the same year that the legendary cable TV drama series Mad Men first aired. But the star of the show, and the apple of the camera’s eye, the very dapper Don Draper (John Hamm) was essentially a late noughties metrosexual daydream of what a 1960s retrosexual looked like.
Either way, he certainly didn’t need the Fab Five to pick out his shirts.
Mark Simpson on the decline and fall of male modesty
Telly seems to have been hacking my brain lately. The filthiest parts.
Just when you thought ITV2, the people who brought us Love Island couldn’t get any more spornographic, and the underdressed, over-muscled guys they insist on making us ogle entirely against our will couldn’t get any sluttier, along comes Bromans. A gladiator-themed reality game show about ‘modern geezers in the time of Caesar’ that seems intent on taking sporno back to its sword-and-sandals (‘S&M’ for short) roots.
Eight 21st century lads are to be transported back to the Roman Empire to see if they can cut it as gladiators.
The handsome boys will fight it out with help from their loving girlfriends. They may have the muscles but do these lads have what it takes to go down in history?
Missed single entendre alert!
Cameras will follow eight modern day couples as they’re transported to an ancient world where they’ll live and fight like gladiators did 2000 years ago
If gladiators wore gold lame briefs and were ‘fresh as fuck’.
‘We who are about to do flyes salute your glutes!’
Note though how the first attribute of the boys is ‘handsome’, the second is ‘muscles’ – while the girlfriends are merely ‘helpful’ and ‘loving’. Likewise, the trailer and the title openly foregrounds the leather-harnessed tarty ‘geezers’ as the main visual/erotic attraction, seemingly going one logical step further than Love Island.
All this – plus the fact it looks camper than a Roman army laid up for the night – made me tremble with more anticipation than Dr. Frank N. Furter at Rocky’s first leather jockstrap contest.
The first episode aired last Thursday and didn’t disappoint visually, providing the promised spornographic guy candy – including a slave market scene which, intentionally or not, looked like a stark statement about the objectification of men on telly today.
The lads were ‘forced’ – i.e. allowed – to strip bollock-naked, chained up in the arena and left to sweat and bake in the hot gaze of millions of TV viewers, while covering their shaved immodesty with their hands.
Some of them weren’t exactly very conscientious about covering up: after all, like most young men today, they had painstakingly depilated themselves ready for their close-up. And neither were the VT editors.
The odd thing though is that although this flashing was happening in broad noonlight on primetime most of the guys didn’t look terribly naked at all. The ink, the waxing, the sculpting, the oiling, and the total lack of shame made sure of that. But then, the spornosexual body is designed and ‘built’ to be seen unclothed.
As the men sweated in chains the women (in skimpy bikinis) scrabbled about in the dust, fighting over a limited number of bags of clothes for the men. But this seemed entirely pointless as neither the men nor the viewers really wanted them to find any. Those ‘geezers’ whose partners failed to get them any clothes – entirely by chance, the swoliest, most shredded guys – had to wear a posing pouch straight out of Athletic Model Guild back issues for the rest of the episode. They didn’t look exactly crestfallen.
As reality TV though, the first episode teetered on the edge of floppiness. Bromans was not built in a day, only semi-erected. Hopefully future episodes (eight in total) will prove me wrong, but on the basis of last week’s outing it looked almost as if the title and the trailer was the whole point. Though admittedly, one that was entirely worth it.
Perhaps it’s just because I’m a big homo, but I’m also not entirely sure at the moment what the women on Bromans bring to the toga party, apart from visual proof of the heterosexuality of guys who otherwise look like gay-for-pay porn stars. And perhaps also an alibi for the straight men watching the show (though I doubt today’s young men really need one). As a female friend put it to me about the WAGs: ‘they just get in the way’.
Also because I’m a big homo, I thought some of the campery was poorly ‘executed’. The Emperor’s skinny assistant Dominus who presides over the games has obviously been cast and dressed to look like Kenneth Williams but isn’t really cutting it. They should have cast Julian Clary – who would know that ‘Not many men enter the Emperor’s ring’ is a setup, not a punchline.
David McIntosh and admirer.
That said, the casting of former Royal Marine Commando and now pectastic pro sporno (i.e. ‘fitness model’) David McIntosh, a man who can only be described as terrifyingly beautiful, as ‘Doctore’, the gladiator drill-sergeant, was perfect. His job is to beast the boys over the next seven weeks for our pleasure, and possibly theirs too. I’m sure lots of people would pay for the privilege of feeling the lash of his whip.
McIntosh certainly had the most awesome eyeliner of anyone on Bromans, which as in Love Island, was careful to include clips of some of the male contestants discussing their grooming routines: ‘I spent two hours to look this good, know what I mean?’ boasted one male hussy.
Tom and Rhiannon
Tom Trotter, a posh semi pro rugby player and humpy fitness model with really great hair was also shown telling us that he is ‘quite feminine, really’. I was especially taken with Tom and also inked Brandon Myers, another fitness model and Instagram personality, who was funny and vulgar in a broad Estuary accent: ‘I just did a nervous fart – can you smell it?’.
He’s an avid follower of fashion too, Mr Myers: ‘I loved the Roman fashions,’ he has said. ‘I was the stylist of the palace for both the boys and the girls. The men’s togas made my tattoos look really good.’ And they did.
I think both Tom and Brandon have real star quality – though actually I’m not sure that my brains is much involved in that opinion.
So I got even more excited when I thought I noticed that Tom and Brandon seemed to be quite taken with one another, bromantically speaking. Probably more out of wishful-thinking than anything else, I tweeted that they were the Chris and Kem (the couple that really won this year’s Love Island) of Bromans.
So imagine how I felt when Brandon found my tweet, gave it a thumbs up – and tweeted Tom about it, asking ‘what you reckon Tom?’.
Tom reckoned yes. ‘I’ll take that’ he tweeted back.
(FYI according to the tabs, baby-faced Brandon, like Love Island’s Chris, is supposed to have an XXL penis that he’s not shy about showing off. I am of course following him now. Avidly.)
Straight after Bromans, Chris and Kem appeared on the ITV2 game show Celebrity Juice, where they had a chocolate eclair strapped to their groins and were instructed by the host Keith Lemon to lick the icing off each other’s strapacaketome as quickly as possible. They obliged, in a 69 position – camera zooming in for extreme close-ups, as they sucked on each other’s cream-filled treats. Expertly, as it turned out.
Mark Simpson on this Summer’s smash-hit dating show : ‘a comedy of compulsory heterosexuality’.
(Telegraph Men, 18 July, 2017)
Utopian fantasies have long gripped the human imagination. Famous, brainy – but sadly, not very buff – thinkers such as Plato (in the 4th Century BC), Thomas Moore (in the 16th AD) and HG Wells (in the 20th), sketched out what an ideal society might look like. But their philosophical visions were never realised.
It wasn’t until the early 21st Century that someone finally had the brilliant idea of ditching ethics for aesthetics, taking a sun-drenched island, covering it in decking, astroturf, pools, lip gloss, and steel-reinforced, musical double beds. And then adding cameras. Lots and lots of cameras, to catch all the love-hate action between the goodly, beauteous creatures that inhabit this brave new world. And who mostly speak with an Essex accent.
I coined the phrase ‘spornosexual‘ to finger second-generation, body-centred, ‘hardcore’ metrosexuals – those buffed-up, barely-dressed young men kindly sharing their porny selfies on social media. Now ITV2 has given them a dream home – Spornotopia. Otherwise known as Love Island.
Love Island is the ratings hit of the summer; a socio-cultural phenomenon. It’s essentially a very expensive porn set, where babelicious women sit on beanbags discussing the size of their own silicone beanbags – while young spornosexual men and their shaped eyebrows labour in the outdoor gym to inflate their meat beanbags. And in the evening, everyone ‘recouples’. All sponsored by Superdrug.
I’ve seen the future, and it works out. And waxes. It also shags a lot – but perhaps that’s because the porntastic islanders are not allowed access to porn. In an exquisitely horny paradox, Love Island is a world based on porn in which porn doesn’t exist. Save the really exploitative, emotional variety.
Hence we don’t see any action – just c**k-blocking duvets. This is primetime, so phallic ice lollies and single entendre games with sausages have to do a lot of symbolic work.
Then again, maybe instead of bumping uglies, really bad acting by really beautiful people is what porn is.
In this perfect society – or society of perfection – everyone is a glamour model. But the men are more glamorous than the girls. They and their auto-airbrushed bodies are the tarty stars of the show (as the pectastic Love Island ident advertises). They are, as they never stop telling us, ‘the total package’. However, this can lead to problems in paradise – where everyone’s true love is their own reflection, and ITV2 is their selfie stick.
“The boys are more vain than the gels,” one of the young women [Chloe Crowhurst, 22, Essex] complains. “They come in the dressing room, take up all the mirrors, all the hairdryers and straighteners. They shave and wax everything, including their arms and fingers! Even I don’t do that! Kem spends 40 mins a day just blow drying ‘is ‘air!”
Kem Cetinay, 21, Essex, is a powerful figure on the island and a seminal figure for our time: not just because he’s pretty and buff and funny, but because he’s a hair stylist. He keeps the lads’ sharp cuts sharp, and they love him for it: “The fact that Ken is a barber makes my life a dream,” confessed Dom Lever, 26 – who himself gave the lads manicures.
“We’ll do anything to look good. We’re not embarrassed about that,” says Kem.
Though some of the women try to make them. Hence the protests when Alex Beattie, 22, a buff, already absurdly attractive Geordie, receives a beauty treatment from Kem and his best friend andprettiness peer in the villa, Chris Hughes, 24: “They’re literally grooming him!” “It’s like a cult! That we’re not involved in!”
Eventually, as Alex is having his toenails painted, the girls stage an intervention, bursting in on the scene and screaming: ‘What the f*** is going on!!’. But Alex doesn’t want to be rescued, and is more interested in admiring his fetching new toes. The girls retreat in confusion: “We came on Love Island to find MEN! What have we done??”
Love Island is probably the gayest and certainly the campest show on telly. Something only compounded by the fact that no one on Love Island is actually, or at least officially, gay. It’s a comedy of compulsory heterosexuality – if you don’t couple up, you get kicked off. Much like life. And it hardly needs me to say this – because the knowing, fabulously catty narration by Scottish comedian Iain Stirling perfectly articulates all the on-screen camping around.
Gone is the formal objectivity of Big Brother’s date stamp in a Sunderland accent. Love Island’s voiceover archly pokes fun at the promiscuous fidelity of the contestants, their hair-flicking contests, and professions of undying (self) love. And even at the concept of the show itself.
“As we all know, this is love Island, not Friend Island” explains Stirling. “But there is one very important loophole. The bromance. And Kem and Chris are exploiting it to within an inch of its life.” The dreamers! Kem: “If we end up not coupling up you reckon they’ll let you and me couple up?” Chris: “I hope so. I wouldn’t mind coupling up with you.” Kem: “I’d share a bed with you.” Chris: “All day and every day.”
Cue a montage of them spooning and showering together and Kem cutting Chris’ hair – which is the real sex on Love Island. Chris, who apparently has the largest penis on the Island, reassures Kem, whose penis is apparently smaller: “It’s nice – and when it gets going it really gets going. Are we showering again this evening?” They even try to clipper each other’s initials into their pubes.
Compared to the Darwinian official heterosexuality of the show, bromance can seem sweetly spontaneous and loving. Even if it may be, as Stirling suggests, simply another ploy.
Either way, it’s indicative of how many straight young men are impressively unafraid of appearing ‘gay’ these days – only 50 years after male homosexuality was decriminalised. All the fears of those who opposed the law change seem to have come true. Beautifully.
And if Kem really is in love with Chris, it’s only to be expected in Spornotopia. “Every single person in this house fancies me,” sighs an exhausted Chris to himself/us at one point. He’s not bragging or exaggerating.
Canadian performance artist and humpy former erotic entertainment industry model Brent Ray Fraser recently appeared on France’s Got Talent, knocking one out for the panel.
A portrait, that is.
Slightly disappointing to discover that France’s version of Simon Cowell’s talent show has exactly the same format as the UK one – right down to the camp judges. Though they seem to have economised on Ant and Dec, opting for just a single sniggering Dec Francaise.
It is though rather impressive that France considers a naked, buff man basically masturbating with paint good family entertainment. Although Britain’s Got Talent has featured singing male strippers, they kept their stuffed undies on. Mr Fraser’s paint-balling would bring the safety curtain down over here.
France however seemed très amusant. And it was very touching to see how excited women in the audience and particularly the two young lads in the audience got over this big piece of art.
To their credit, the French didn’t seem to mind that Fraser appears to have learned their tongue from John Wayne.
An earlier work of Fraser’s (below) got some shares on t’internet a while back. His naked hike to the top of a Canadian mountain to paint a Maple Leaf with his pride and joy is something of an epic. It looks like a great workout for the calves. Not just up all those steps – past gawping Japanese tourists – but all that tippy-toeing Fraser has to do to reach the canvas on the easel.
It also looks as if this penis painting lark might be a form of jelqing. Mind you, as Fraser dragged his poor paint-smeared glans back and forth across the raspy canvas I found myself wondering whether you have to be circumcised to be a naked painter. My snug uncut bell end certainly isn’t used to that kind of exposure.
Either way, Men’s Health really need to run a big spread on Fraser and his inspiring and creative fitness regime.
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