I can only assume that Pietro Boselli is getting career advice from an older homosexual. Which makes me very jealous.
He may be a sporno star, but Pietro is far too young and far too cherubic to know who Jeff Stryker is, or the ridiculously butch way he used to talk on the classic gay porn videos he made in the1980s when testing the gag reflex and nose-breathing techniques of his on-screen colleagues.
Though Pietro’s obviously coached attempt to copy Jeff’s sleazy delivery is very sweet.
Either way the career advice Pietro’s getting seems designed to drive middle-aged homos like me into a tizzy.
All I can say is: it’s working.
But I’m hoping that Pietro isn’t actually hung like Jeff. I’d prefer to think the Bona of Verona has a neo-classically-sized – i.e. tastefully tiny – uncircumcised penis, instead of a cut cock the size of lubed dolphin.
A feature in yesterday’s El Pais, the main Spanish daily, by Marita Alonso on the ‘plague’ of spornosexuals (or ‘espornosexuales’) in gyms, on reality TV and dating shows – and the triumph of spornowear (alias spray-on ‘clothes’).
I get the blame for it in the first line. Quite rightly.
Chris & Kem wooing ITV2 viewers during their Summer on Spornotopia aka Love Island
‘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 musical, steel-reinforced 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.’
My take on ITV2’s Summer hit reality show Love Island in today’s Daily Telegraph. Read the essay in full here.
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.
Read the rest of the article by yours truly on the new spornosexual ‘social’ app – denounced by Gizmodo and Mashable as ‘creepy’ and ‘terrifying’ – in today’s Daily Telegraph
This ad starring Cristiano Ronaldo flogging body exercise electrodes called SIXPAD – or SEXPAD? – has been airing UK television for some months now, but every time it comes on it still makes me gape – pardon my French.
It’s both funny and disturbing, and in truth I had avoided writing about it until now because I hoped it was just a bad dream (I usually glimpse it on late-night TV). But it isn’t going away.
The ad itself is incredibly camp. Or kitsch. Or cheesey. Or all of the above. Likewise the voiceover intoning ‘Bwody Rewolution!’ It’s almost as if the ad seems to know that its premise – you can get a body like Ronaldo’s and grow yourself a six-pack by spending £350 on a souped up vibrator and not moving a muscle – is hilarious and just decides to go with that.
But all this is eclipsed by the crazy campery of Ronaldo apparently playing the part of a Japanese sex robot – wearing only his own brand designer underwear. Or a male Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager. Though this is perhaps the uncanny valley where spornosexuality is taking us.
Unlike Seven of Nine however, Ronaldo is entirely passive. Animated only by the pulses of electricity from the black leathery things that seem to have attached themselves like a kinky Sci-Fi leech to his abs and bis. The pulsing of his muscles in time to the music is kinda creepy – but also kinda sexy. There is something sex toy cam-show about it all.
The (post) money-shot is the bit where he wipes his abs down and grins at the camera. Or maybe he’s just advertising his easy-maintenance qualities.
Some might describe Ronaldo’s performance as ‘wooden’ – or possibly ‘silicone’. But his acting is still better than David Beckham’s in ‘King Arthur’.
And some might cite this ad as more proof of Ronaldo’s egotism. But I would rather take it as evidence that he’s a good sport.
For the right fee.
It seems SIXPAD read this blogpost and decided to actually go ahead and make a Ronaldo sex doll. Albeit one that looks like Pietro Boselli:
Last year, in the run-up to the Rio Olympics I wrote, only slightly feverishly, about the inspiring way modern men’s gymnastics is responding to our hyper-visual culture and the spornosexual trend of eager male self-objectification by shyly taking its top off, going back to its naked/’gymnos’ Greek roots and showing us its ‘totally jacked’ body. And selling us jeans and cornflakes.
The globally-transmitted HD spornographic pleasures of the Olympics last Summer naturally only served to accelerate this shredded strip-tease – US gymnast Danell Leyva famously performing a Magic Mike routine on the parallel bars to a cheering universe.
As a result, gymnastics, once a rather uncool sport for boys, at least in the UK, is becoming ‘hot’. And is creating its own celebs, in the form of lithely leotard legends like Louis Smith (MBE), Nile Wilson and Max Whitlock, the latter winning two gold medals for gymnastics at Rio. (Previously the UK had won precisely zero gold medals in the sport.)
Gymnasts are after all superheroes without CGI or, officially at least, steroids. Unlike conventional bodybuilding – which of course has conquered the world, shaved it and put it in a posing pouch – gymnastics uses the human body as its ‘weights’, the skills and muscles it cultivates enable the human form to defy gravity. You’ll believe a man can fly.
Though it helps if you’re somewhat small – gymnasts are generally compact superheroes. But boy, do they walk tall.
The video below stars three of them walking tall and flying high: top-flight young British gymnast Nile Wilson (21 years old and 5’4” tall), with his chalk-dust brothers Brinn Bevan (19) and Jay Thompson (20) larking about in the gym in Leeds, West Yorkshire (where Nile’s charming accent hails from), with their tops off in front of a camera on Wilson’s popular YouTube channel.
Although titled ‘Ultimate Gymnastics Challenge’, instead of practising their skills on the parallel bars and pommel horse, they’re competing to see who can do the fastest rope climbs, the longest handstands and the best jumps. The clip is only few weeks old but has had over a million views already. Many of the comments are of course admiring of their physiques. Some more, ahem, explicitly than others. Some of the comments are from young men wondering how long it would take for them to get a ‘shredded’ body like theirs.
And one is from a chap who seems worried about the effect the video is having on him:
‘Atleast wear a fucking tanktop people will think that im gay’.
Fortunately, it’s not very likely Nile & Co. will save his blushes – and lose all those other fans – by covering up. Of course, although many if not most of their fans are female, and probably most of their male fans aren’t gay, there is something a bit ‘gay’ about this video and about modern men’s gymnastics, regardless of the sexuality of gymnasts. But clearly it’s not something that seems to worry Nile and his flexing topless buddies – quite the contrary. Like many of their generation, they seem very happy to flirt with it. Heavily.
It is after all this ‘gayness’ that has helped make the sport ‘hot’.
I’m not though posting the video just for the eye-candy – honestly. No, I’m posting it for the shameless sense of fun and joy on display –the lyrical motion of muscles moving bodies through the air that is sadly lacking from the heavy-metal, earth-bound muscle factories we are all labouring in these days.
And also the eye-candy.
Update: Since making this video, while training on the parallel bars Nile had a ‘freak accident’ badly injuring his ankle ligaments and putting him out of action for several months. Proving that even superheroes are mortal. You can follow his rehabilitation here – now wearing a clunky, earthbound surgical boot, but still frequently sans tank top.
Further update: Good news, Nile isn’t going to let his injury stop him making the Ultimate Gymnastics Challenge videos: here’s Episode 2: ‘Who is the strongest, the fittest and the prettiest gymnast?’
Nile in a glittery top and a surgical boot is probably the most eye-catching. But his buff mates put up some stiff competition.
Mark Simpson sits at the feet of ‘The Bona of Verona’
Pietro Boselli, the ‘world’s sexiest maths teacher’ as he has been breathlessly dubbed by the press, is living, geometrically consistent proof that spornosexuals don’t have to be dumb. And also that for all their self-sexualisation, spornos can be romantico. Angelic, even.
Though if angels look like this who needs Hell?
Hailing from Verona, Italy, with his cherubic facial features, those bucolic, rosy cheeks that belies his 27 years, and that smiley submissiveness, Boselli puts me in mind somewhat of Antinous, the beautiful young male lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. After Antinous’ early death aged 20 years in 130 AD, a grieving Hadrian made him a deity, and his image was reproduced in countless statues and worshipped in both the Latin West and the Greek East.
Nowadays we can’t be waiting around until someone dies to turn them into a god. While smartphones and social media mean we don’t have to turn them into marble statues to reproduce – and worship – their image. The divine Boselli is of course all over YouTube and Instagram.
But beneath that angelic face he has that devilish body, which is rather more buff than most depictions of Antinous. The boyish face and the smoothly mannish body are slightly reminiscent perhaps of the young Marky Mark in Mr Klein’s underpants, sans the bad-boy rapismo. Boselli is a very good boy on the streets – but, we like to think, a very naughty one between the sheets. The bona from Verona.
As a reminder that we’re talking about second generation male tartiness here, Boselli was just four years old when Wahlberg was grabbing himself on the side of buses.
Boselli is not a maths teacher any more, but rather a full-time fitness model. And like any pro sporno he has his own YouTube channel, where we can dissect his beautiful body. Either to try and copy it, or perhaps to somehow penetrate its secrets.
In truth, he was never really a maths teacher in the way that perhaps most people probably understand or remember a maths teacher, though it is a great marketing moniker. While studying for his mechanical engineering PhD at London University he taught undergraduate mathematics to some lucky engineering students for a while. One of whom, according to Wikipedia, ‘took note of his physique and stumbled on his modelling career’.
Stumbled. Hmmm. I suppose you could ‘stumble’ while hyperventilating and rushing to Google someone’s name + ‘NAKED’.
Boselli was in fact a model long before he became an engineer: he landed the Armani Junior campaign in 1995 – aged just seven – and carried it for four years. But there is no question that he is a highly intelligent and highly educated young man. That he is not ‘just’ a pretty face attached to some pretty pecs.
However, the ‘world’s sexiest maths teacher’ moniker ensured he became even more famous than he would have done if he had just been a pretty face.
It’s interesting how we – by which I mean ‘I’ – still seem to have this difficulty reconciling beauty with intelligence, regardless of whether the ‘object’ of our desire is male or female. Perhaps it’s a form of Freud’s observation that men frequently separate affection and desire, tending to debase those they desire.
Pietro is confusing-intoxicating phenomenon to behold not just because of his near-androgyny – as Susan Sontag said all truly beautiful things are a mixture of masculine and feminine – but because we don’t know whether to put him on a pedestal or in a sling.
The Ancients saw beauty and virtue as being related: Antinous was likely intelligent and well-educated and Hadrian would have expected nothing less. But Christian dualism put paid to that. Crudely, in the Christian worldview the body is the world, thus corruption and sin, and belongs to the devil – while our minds/souls are non-material, eternal and belong to God.
And bodies that provoke lust – such as Boselli’s – are doubly damned.
Tasty Pietro Boselli
Boselli’s TED talk earlier this year played on the cultural contradiction he represents, and was titled: ‘How I survived as professor on the runway and model in the classroom‘. And truth be told, he does look like a model on the runway talking like a professor. There seemed to be a lot of telephoto lens action from the audience, who may not have been entirely focused on his message.
His adorable accent and equally adorable nervousness do definitely add to his many other distractions.
As far as I can remember (my mind did wander) he was talking about the mind/body dualism of our culture and why it should be disregarded. It’s a message he seems to touch on again in this, the first of his new YouTube ‘Workout Philosophy’ talks. Cartesian dualism be damned!
That said, most people watching the video above will probably see, in their mind’s eye, the video below. Even when he keeps his t-shirt on it looks like it is taking itself off.
Sweaty, hunky fun at the BodyPower Games. (Photo M Burns)
“Would you like me to take my top off?” is the shy and retiring usual response when you ask a chap here if he minds having his photo taken. Followed by much flexing.
Those that are actually wearing a top. Many are just wearing a flawless tan. Or vests – or ‘tanks’ as they’re now called – of varying degrees of skimpiness and stretchiness. It’s cool out, but shorts and compression leggings abound – as well as tapered gym pants so ‘fitted’ that might as well be compression leggings. When in the National Exhibition Centre make a national exhibition of yourself.
And why not? Shyness is overrated, especially if you’re seriously fit. And most people here – I would estimate the crowd today 80% male and 20% female and mostly under 30 – have spent a great deal of time, sweat and money turning their body into a very glam accessory and want to show it off. Club music is pumping, the vibe is good, the crowd is friendly and not at all standoffish – but everyone is sober and the lights are up, so we can all get a really good look.
Officially called BodyPower, the UK’s largest expo for the UK fitness industry might be dubbed the Ideal Body Exhibition. Or Spornosexual Pride. It’s eye-poppingly clear that the gay love of the idealised male form has been taken up by a generation of (mostly) straight guys. And buffed up even more. In truth, they’ve turned out to be rather better at it than gay men.
Held over a weekend every May at the NEC, Birmingham, BodyPower fills six halls with exhibitors from the booming gym, supplement and sportswear sectors, represented by costly, elaborate stands for brands such as MyProtein, USN, Dynamix, Aesthetix Era and Gymshark. As well as ‘healthy eating’ kitchens, a teeth-whitening booth, posing coaches and PowerPoint lectures in darkened rooms on the science of muscle-building.
For those wanting more action, there are competitions such as the ‘BodyPower Games’, a blizzard of sweaty torsos and flying abs doing furiously fast pull-ups and leg raises. And ‘Fit Factor’, a talent search for new fitness models. Onstage the hopefuls adopt their favourite Men’s Health/Muscle & Fitness poses and grins while a photographer snaps and flashes away – the results instantly projected on a big screen and totally judged.
There’s even a workout area – just in case you felt guilty about missing a training day to go to BodyPower. After all, you’re already wearing your gym gear.
Launched in 2009 by CEO Nick Orton as something of a niche show for bodybuilding and power sports, BodyPower, like our culture’s interest in in the body itself, has grown rapidly, and now caters for ‘the whole fitness spectrum’, attracting over 90,000 visitors this year. Fitness and bodybuilding has left the dank, dark locker room and come out into the light – in really nicely filled-out compression leggings.
One in every seven people in the once pie-scoffing, pint-downing, tab-smoking UK is now a gym bunny – that’s over 9M memberships with a total UK market value estimated to be £4.4B, according to figures published last month by the Leisure Database Company. And the industry shows no signs of hitting a plateau – 224 new gyms opened in the UK in the past year alone.
Likewise, the fitness supplement industry is no longer a discreet corner in Holland & Barretts – protein sales alone are estimated to be worth a ‘swole’ £8B globally by 2017. Fashion gym-wear is also busting out all over, for both women and men: the global ‘athleisure’ – or spornowear – market is estimated to be worth £200B.
But of course, even with a pumped fitness industry, BP would be nothing without pumped punters. And everyone I speak to seems to think they’re getting value for their c.£30 admission.
‘We love it!!’, is the verdict of three cheery, worked-out lads in their late-teens, early 20s, Jack, Jake, and John from Leeds, who got up early on a Sunday morning and drove two and a half hours to be here, their second visit to BP. They also love training, going 5-6 times a week.
Do they get any stick for that from family and friends? ‘All the time,’ says one, the others agreeing. ‘Not so much from family, as they’ve accepted it, but mates are always going: “What you wanna go to the gym for??” With a belly and pint in their ‘ands!’
They’re especially looking forwards to meeting their fitness idol, Calum von Moger, a preposterously handsome 25-year-old Australian three times Mr Universe social media star (2M Facebook followers). Moger, along with preposterously pretty Americans Steve Cook (31 yrs,1M Instagram followers) and Jeff Seid (22 yrs, 1.7M Instagram followers) – both also attending BodyPower, courtesy of their sponsors – represents a new wave of ‘physique’ or ‘aesthetic’ bodybuilders. The aim now is not to be as freakishly huge as possible, but as hench and hot as possible. The so-called ‘cover model’ look. Pro spornos.
Thanks to social media, these fitness idols, with their downloadable ‘bulk and cut’ diets and ‘boulders like shoulders’ exercise plans, have in many ways become more influential than the magazines that they appear on/in. The Leeds lads tell me they don’t really buy fitness mags, preferring to watch Moger et al’s motivational videos on YouTube instead.
‘You’re looking pretty shredded, man!’ says Steve Cook to a 20-something male audience member in a particularly draughty vest – who then gets up and flexes for a cheering audience. Onstage at a packed auditorium at BodyPower, ex pro American football jock Cook, with his narrow waist, dazzling smile, great hair and skin, photogenic personality and unapologetic vanity – he identifies as metrosexual – is the perfectly-formed embodiment of ‘aesthetic’.
He has real star quality. He jokes how his parents took the mirrors out of his bedroom when he was a kid ‘’cause they knew I liked them too much’, banters with a man-bunned member of the audience about a rumour that he had one himself for a while (‘It was a very dark time in my life’), before breaking into an impromptu Whip and Nae-Nae dancing display for his fans crowding round to have their selfie taken with him.
The ‘swole’ selfie moment in many ways the BP money shot – the real attendance draw. Punters patiently queue to have their selfie taken flexing with their online idol – the idealised, ‘motivational’ reflection of themselves as they hope to be.
Sometimes the mirror-image is literal. One lad waiting to meet Jeff Seid at his sponsor’s stand (Pursue Fitness) looks uncannily like his only slightly less pumped twin, right down to the high hair and the wide grin: ‘Some people say I look a bit like him!’ And indeed he does.
Jeff Seid meets the man in the mirror.
And if you happen to actually have a proper, biological twin already, that’s catered for as well. Toby and Adam, two boisterous, buffed, 20-year-old redhead twins in identical vests and caps have travelled from Herefordshire to meet UK muscle model twins Owen and Lewis Harrison (25yrs, c. 400K Instagram followers each), cover stars of this month’s Muscle & Fitness. Though at their sponsor’s stand, BPI supplements, Lewis seems to have gone temporarily AWOL, slightly spoiling the twin twins selfie moment.
A Harrison twin meets a couple of fans
With their mirror-image, colourfully-inked, sculpted physiques and hair, shaped eyebrows and perfect skin, the Harrisons are the total ‘aesthetic’ package. Pec pop stars. In fact, these ex junior pro footballers from Manchester look like the ‘totally shredded’ offspring of Beckham and Take That.
They also represent the ultimate gym-buddy fantasy: brothers in muscle, mirroring each other’s achievements. But, I ask, can working and training with your twin ‘bro’, cultivating exactly the same muscle development – part of their savvy branding – lead to some resentment? Even when he doesn’t go AWOL? ‘I bloody ‘ate ‘im’ laughs Owen.
Actually Owen, like most of the ‘brand ambassadors’ I’ve seen today, seems very good- humoured, relaxed, and endlessly patient with the fans, happily co-operating with endless, sometimes slightly breathless photographic requests (and slightly breathless questions from this middle aged journo). Perhaps because he was once a fitness fan himself, though ‘when we started it was all about the fitness mags – that was what inspired us to work on our bods, to be a cover star’.
Then again, these days one tetchy remark to a fan can get you trashed on social media.
At the next stand, protein brand Dynamix, three grinning Asian lads in their mid-twenties from Wolverhampton, Suhi, Jas, Iqqi, are having their selfie taken with a tall, especially v-shaped and of course topless muscle model called Myles Leask – ‘He’s a big inspiration!’.
Myles Leask meeting and greeting
Leask, 27, standing 6’3” tall, is exceptionally lean or ‘cut’, with your actual ‘shoulders like boulders’ giving him that hyper v-shape, and a blindingly white smile almost as wide. He’s one of the most established and versatile UK muscle models, jetting around the world for expos and photoshoots, fitness and catwalk. He’s seen a lot of changes.
‘The industry and BodyPower has grown so much since I started out seven years ago,’ he says. ‘There’s a lot more money in it now.’ How much does he make? ‘Well, let’s just say it’s not a bad living!’ Like many other pro spornos, he started off as a high-level athlete, but a shoulder injury put paid to his rugby career – before he found another, possibly more lucrative one in fitness modelling.
The rise of social media is the big change. Leask has adapted to it, and the way it means that you are ‘always on’ – not just during photoshoots and expos – but is still sometimes baffled by its intimacies. ‘I did a big glossy photo shoot for Attitude magazine recently. But that got nothing in the way of likes compared to a badly-lit selfie of me brushing my teeth with my top off.’
The Olympics in Rio are taking up the starting position, and Yorkshire-based Team GB gymnast Nile Wilson has dusted his hands with chalk and mounted his pommel horse to warm up and show off his pecs, tris, tatts, abs and obliques.
Oh, and advertise Hyperflex jeans.
They certainly look very flexible. Though surely there’s a jean-shorts version available? Or perhap a denim thong?
Nile, 20, is not the only UK gymnast to be ‘exploited’ and ‘objectified’ by the rapacious eye of advertising in our body-centred age.
Olympic medallist Louis Smith, 27, a former Strictly contestant and almost as famous for his collection of hair straighteners as his medals, has also been showing us his eye-watering versatility in an ad for Kellogg’s – in his pajama bottoms.
Long gone are the days when cornflakes would save you from self-abuse.
Paradoxically, gymnastics is not just the purest Olympic sport but also the most spornosexual – after all, the word ‘gymnastics’ derives from the Ancient Greek for ‘exercise naked’ (‘gymnos’ = ‘naked’). The Greeks saw it as the perfect training for war – but also an aesthetic good in itself, informing much of their sculpture. It’s weightlifting where the weight is your own body. Crossfit without the cult – and the beards (mostly).
It also makes for spectacular HD TV – perfect human forms executing perfect gravity-defying movements, and flexing their core muscles in the process. Today’s gymnastics is not so much about preparing for war as stardom. Which can of course be a cut-throat business.
And to that end there’s a whole new generation of male gymnasts who seem very happy to get closer to the original nakedness of gymnastics, many of them sharing semi-naked selfies on social media that show off – sometimes in extreme, saucy close-up – their aesthetic as well as their sporting achievements.
I think we’re going to see a lot more of them this summer.
Dan Keatings’ ring action
Sam Oldham astride his horse
Max Whitlock showing his ‘core’
Nile Wilson & Brinn Bevan buddying up
Even the Rio skyline is aroused by the US male gymnastics team
Mark Simpson on the splendidly shameless pumped progeny of David Beckham & Take That
Good things come in pairs. Buttocks, breasts, balls, pecs, Twix – and the Harrison twins.
Owen and Lewis Harrison, originally from England’s beautiful Lake District, an hour’ or so’s drive north of Manchester, are quite the attraction themselves – international fitness models, personal trainers, Instagram stars and ‘ambassadors’ for the giant online supplements company MyProtein. So they’re probably not eating many Twix.
They’re also stunning spornosexuals. So stunning, you see double.
Through hard, sweaty labour at the gym, carefully-planned diets, plenty of supplements – and liberal application of designer ink, styling fudge and fake tan – these 25 year-olds have fashioned themselves into highly desirable, highly saleable commodities. Male glamour models.
Fitness models and aesthetic or ‘physique’ bodybuilders (e.g. Steve Cook, whom I blogged about recently here) are the online high priests of spornosexuality – that is, second generation, ‘hardcore’, sexed-up, body-centred metrosexuality.
Bodybuilding for most younger guys is no longer about being as big and Austrian – and straight – as possible, as it was in the Arnie 80s & 90s. Instead it’s about being as hot as possible – and maintaining a cover-model body all year round, instead of having ‘on’ and ‘off’ seasons centred around contests.
The Harrisons, like many other fitness models, star in a host of YouTube ‘motivational’ workout videos – usually topless and in tight compression pants, lit by romantic lighting. Motivating thousands of young men to get a hench, hot bod like theirs. On their website, again, like other fitness gurus/idols,they offer personalised diet plans to help make the v-shaped dream come true, as well as, for the lucky few, ‘one 2 one‘ meetings. (Disappointingly, you only have the option to choose to train with Owen or Lewis – not both.)
If Bel Ami did workout videos.
Former Royal Marines, the Harrisons, like their ex-Marine buddy David McIntosh (below), seem completely at ease with sexualising themselves and behaving in a fashion that a previous generation would have thought ‘well gay’.
‘Look at the pins on that!’
As Owen explains in the ‘How it All Began’ vid (below – featuring a motivational workout ‘threesome’ with fitness model Simeon Panda): “I LOVE coming in the gym, working out an’ – sounds a bit poncey – looking in the mirror and thinking ‘I built that!‘”
In a profile in the Daily Mail, Lewis said: ‘It’s good fun getting in front of the camera and showing off our physiques which we have worked so hard for.’
Personally, I think they both have a lot to be proud of, and I don’t blame them for liking what they see in the mirror.
‘Objectifying’ themselves, far from rendering them powerless and despised as the word would suggest, has given them a fame and lifestyle that wasn’t supposed to be an aspiration for working class lads in rural NW England being told to get real and get a trade – and work on someone else’s property instead of their own bodies.
They originally dreamed of becoming professional footballers: ‘Growing up in the era of David Beckham… that was the dream’, explains Owen. Despite being talented scouted by Bolton Wanderers it didn’t work out for them. Rather than knuckle down get a trade, they opted for the glamour and excitement of the Royal Marines instead. It’s rather touching when Owen gets all teary-eyed reminiscing about his time in the Marines as being ‘a brotherhood’ – when of course having a twin brother is more ‘brotherhood’ than most people ever have.
After they left the Royal Marines and suffered a series of ‘depressing’ manual jobs the Harrisons finally achieved their Beckham dreams by hitting the gym harder – even after a long day labouring – and putting into action a plan to become fitness models like the ones they admired on the cover of the glossy mags they loved to read. Eventually they were discovered by a physique photographer, became online celebs – and then professional spornosexuals. A more modern, more digital type of hero than a Marine, or even a footballer or pop star.
In a sense the Harrisons are Beckham’s offspring – with some mesomorphic Take That DNA thrown in. And more interesting and significant for that reason than Beckham is perhaps now, frowning in his H&M dad pants. (But it seems especially fitting that the gym the Harrisons work out at with Panda at the ‘climax’ of the clip is called ‘Metro-Flex’.)
Their identical, stereoscopic physiques – albeit with slightly different body art – are part of their marketing shtick: cleverly, but also rather sweetly, they began their transformation into fitness models by making sure that they ate exactly the same meals and trained exactly the same way with exactly the same weights, so that they would have exactly the same weight, chest and arm size. (Their shared genes had already given them the same height of 5′ 10″.)
‘We lived together, trained together and ate all the same things at the same time. It was full on’, Lewis has said. Even their ‘cheat’ days were spent scoffing the same Dominos pizza and chocolate bars.
In a sense, they had the kind of dream ‘gym buddy’ shared lifestyle that many guys today, gay, straight or bi fantasise about. Nothing lasts forever though – the twins no longer live together as Lewis has moved in with his girlfriend.
There is also something about twindom that resonates with modern selfie-regarding masculinity (e.g. Tom Hardy in ‘Legend’ and those preternaturally prescient D&G twin ads from a few years back), which compliments the gym-mirrors and camera-lenses of spornosexuality. The Hodge twins (below) in the US are another impressive manifestation of this twinsome tendency.
The Harrisons however take it to another level. Look at the way they pout and preen in front of the mirrors – much like the lads in my gym who have no qualms about taking their tops off and flexing and snapping selfies while I pretend not to gawp. Look at the way they run their hands over themselves, feeling their own pump, gazing into the camera lens, sharing that special moment with us. Bless ’em.
And as twins they are of course mirrors to one another anyway.
No wonder other fitness models are sometimes photographed as if they had a twin.
And some people even use the twin illusion to sell books.
I know that you’re gagging to for the lads to give you their hot tips, so will leave you with some more motivational videos starring our twinsome devils – including a ‘group’ sesh (bottom) with the American physique model Jeff Seid and his big hair and even bigger tongue.
I don’t know about you, but I’m already feeling totally motivated. So much so I may have to adjust my compression pants….
The spornosexual is a man who has hammered and fashioned his own body into a hot, ripped, pumped, inked, vaguely lewd commodity at the factory of the 21st century—the gymnasium. He’s a man who aspires to be that ultimate male hero today —a Men’s Health cover model.
How do you spot one? You don’t. Their under-dressed body spots you—and then demands that you look at it, to admire its glutes and guns and dizzyingly low body-fat percentage. The spornosexual is that irksome, wannabe male glamour model who hogs your Instagram and Facebook feed. But strangely, you still haven’t got around to unfollowing.
How does “spornosexual” differ from “metrosexual”?
Spornosexuality is second-generation metrosexuality. A sexed-up, body-centred, “hardcore” form of metrosexuality. The spornosexual doesn’t want to be loved just for his wardrobe, clear skin and groomed beard. He wants to be wanted for his own body—something that he’s worked very hard to turn into the ultimate accessory.
Why did metrosexualism die out to be replaced by this newer concept?
It didn’t. It swallowed everything. Men no longer “act,” while women “appear.” Men do a great deal of appearing these days. Male vanity and product use is no big deal any more—in a visual, social media world, men have to be image-conscious or else they simply… disappear.
However, because the male desire to be desired—which is the self-regarding heart of metrosexuality—is so normal these days, it’s just taken for granted, especially by the younger generation. There’s little point in “outing” someone as “metrosexual” when pretty much everyone is. Likewise, and slightly paradoxically, being metrosexual isn’t in itself something that makes you stand out nowadays. Being spornosexual, though, does. After all, what’s more eye-catching than living, walking, talking porn?
How has 21st-century culture led to the rise of the “spornosexual”?
Metrosexuality was shaped largely by glossy magazines and advertising in the ‘90s. Then in the Noughties, celebrity culture, reality TV and Beckham and co. sent it into orbit. Spornosexuality on the other hand is shaped largely by selfie-obsessed social media—where young men are busy comparing body parts. Thanks to smartphones you can be the director and star of your own reality TV show.
Ronaldo is good with colours
What is the connection to sport? Is it just about fitness, or is there an element of narcissism, about fitness to look good rather than feel good?
Well, going to the gym is a kind of sport. And arguably, pornography is a kind of sport too—and not just a spectator sport any more. Spornosexuality is the interface between fitness and sensuality, feeling good and looking good, activity and passivity, heroism and sluttiness.
Sportsmen have played a big role in promoting spornosexuality themselves—with many of them appearing in their pants on the covers of magazines—including gay magazines—and on the sides of buses in their underwear. Many of them also use topless avatars on social media, the hussies.
They don’t regard their bodies as merely a “tool” for their trade of sports — they absolutely maximise its aesthetic/sexual potential too. Eager self-objectification is a major part of spornosexuality.
Why did you pick Cristiano Ronaldo as an example? How would someone like Ronaldo differ from the man you popularized as the ultimate metrosexual, David Beckham?
Although Beckham was never shy about taking his clothes off, and was of course an athlete, his body was never that buff. He doesn’t look like he spends a lot of time in the gym. Ronaldo on the other hand is totally shredded and hench and completely fits that advertising format. You wonder whether he scores goals just so that he can take his shirt off and flex for the roaring crowd. Like much of the younger generation of males, Cristiano seems very aware of his body as a sexualized object and very keen to enhance that effect.
In a nutshell: Becks, now 40, is metrosexual. Ronaldo, 31, is spornosexual.
Coming at Cristiano Ronaldo from all angles
Is there something about football especially that fits your term? Requiring a body to be athletic and muscular but not overtly so, defined yet lithe… would the footballer be the ideal of the movement?
Footballers in the U.K. didn’t use to go to the gym. In the 1970s and ‘80s some would spend most of their time in the pub. Many of them didn’t have upper bodies at all. The transformation today is quite astonishing.
That said, gymnasts probably more embody the ideal, with their defined muscles developed from moving their perfect bodies around in the air where we can get a really good look at them. After all, the word “gymnastics” derives from the Greek for “exercise naked.”
Football, of course, traditionally has a much bigger global following than gymnastics, which is not exactly the greatest of team sports. Hence Ronaldo, who has the body of a gymnast and is also one of the world’s best footballers, is such an arresting combination – and why he is no doubt persuading a generation of young men that they need to do more crunches.
Is the spornosexual out to gain the attention of the opposite sex, or is his sexuality more fluid?
The spornosexual usually prefers women in bed, but doesn’t mind who is enjoying their body in public. His body is an adult bouncy castle for the eyes. Everyone is invited. He might sometimes look a bit of a bruiser, but he’s still a cruiser. He’s always checking out who is checking him out.
In fact, the admiration of other men is often especially prized because other men are more likely to understand how much time and sweat has gone into getting those biceps. Or care. No matter how hetero, a spornosexual isn’t usually too squeamish about homosexuality. After all, his body advertises a deep understanding and study of the the sexiness of the male body. In fact, he often looks like a gay for pay porn star. Or is actually one.
A write-up in La Vanguardia of my lecture ‘From Metrosexual to Spornosexual – a Permanent Spectacular Revolution’ at the ‘Men in Movement‘ conference in Barcelona last week, which was organised by the Arts and Humanities department of Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.
Many thanks to everyone involved for their hard work and kind hospitality. With special thanks to Dr Begonya Enguix Grau, the driving force behind this timely event – someone who not only knows her anthropological onions, but also the best places to visit in Barcelona and was great, generous company despite having broken her toe the previous week.
She even managed to organise warm and sunny weather in late November.
While prepping for my Barcelona lecture, ‘From Metrosexual to Spornosexual – a Permanent, Spectacular Masculine Revolution’, this video serendipitously popped up into MetroDaddy’s timeline on Twitter.
It’s an exploration of the meaning of being called ‘metrosexual’ by professional bodybuilder and popular online fitness guru Steve Cook, who has his own YouTube channel SwoldierNation where he offers workout tips, vlogs, and totally ‘hench’ eye candy to those who wanna be like him or just wanna be with him.
There’s a whole humpy army of these online fitness coaches/ exhibitionists today – and according to my buff and brainy Chilean stand-up chum Villouta, they are making Men’s Health magazine look lame.
Like most of these YouTube heroes, Cook is an aesthetic/physique bodybuilder – that is, one that aims to look hot rather than HUGE. Horny rather than Arnie. Cover model rather than Rambo. He is out and proud about his metrosexuality, and says he’s been called metrosexual since high school – though not always in a positive fashion. In the vlog he rather touchingly shares with us his extensive product stash.
He also gets a pedicure, enjoys the comfy pink ‘girly’ chairs and then confronts some rather terrified looking mall-goers about what they understand ‘metrosexual’ to mean. I suspect they were as intimidated by his preposterously good looks, awesome body and self-confidence as much as the questions. I think I would have fainted.
Reading between the lines, Cook seems keen to emphasise that ‘metrosexual’ doesn’t mean ‘non heterosexual’ (he’s a married, hetero father). But then he does live in America, a country which since the early Naughties has had regular nervous breakdowns about the possible ambiguity of metrosexuality – hence those very American reaction-formations ‘machosexual’, ‘ubersexual’, ‘heteropolitan’ and ‘lumbersexual’. Which were in some ways oddly ‘gayer’ than what they were trying to run away from.
So kudos to Mr Cook for refusing to run away from the ‘metro’ tag and having the cojones to embrace and pamper it instead.
Of course, Cook who was born in 1984, is more of a second generation metrosexual – that’s to say, spornosexual. He has fashioned his own body into the ultimate accessory and hot commodity. A product. A brand.
And I for one am certainly buying. Even if he isn’t so great at research. He doesn’t seem to know who his ‘daddy’ is….
As ever, though the Brits are ahead of the curve, and more relaxed about the gay thing – even if their abs aren’t always Olympian standard. The short but charming video below by Jenny Wotherspoon (accompanying an excellent piece on spornosexuals by Theo Merz in The Daily Telegraph) is comprised of interviews with self-confessed spornosexuals from Newcastle, North East England – who aren’t ashamed of their love of lycra, or much bothered their own, more traditionally-minded parents keep asking them ‘are you sure you’re not gay?’.
There will be a range of very interesting, esteemed and knowledgeable contributors, and I will have the slightly unnerving honour of presenting the opening lecture, ‘From Metrosexual to Spornosexual: A Spectacular, Permanent Revolution’, on Wednesday 18th November at 6pm. So I’ll be sure to show plenty of slides and video clips of much hotter chaps than me.
The following day at 15.30 I’ll be on a panel discussing Men and Representations, presenting a short, mostly clean talk probing ‘Mainstream Male Anal(ity)’.
Is that a racquet in your pants? Or are you just pleased to see a camera?
Darkly handsome 29 year old tennis ace Rafael Nadal’s new ad for Tommy Hilfiger has more than a hint of a Tom Cruise Top Gun locker room scene about it.
It also goes further than any other recent underwear ads in commodifying celebrity cock. All but shoving it down our all-consuming maws. It’s a big budget version of a web-cam show.
The ad begins with the camera, apparently held by a heavy-breathing voyeur pretending to towel off after a shower – i.e. the viewing public – slyly staring at Cruise/Nadal’s pert bum filling out his designer jeans as he enters the locker room. Then zooming in as the winner of fourteen ‘Grand Slams’ strips, seemingly unawares.
We clock his athletic back, his cotton-clad buns, his tanned, toned, centre court thighs, his abs, and – WOAH! – his ‘open stance’ packet. Is that just the carefully-angled light? Or a prosthesis? Or is he actually turned on??
And is he going to have our eye out with it if he pulls those pricey pants down?
Just as we are about to find out, Nadal decides to end his little show – shaking his head at us with a naughty grin that says he knew full well what we were up to and enjoyed every minute of it. And then he volleys us his still warm ‘top-seeded’ Hilfiger underwear. So kind.
In the latest campaign Nadal’s world-class rear still has a starring role, but now, nearly 30 – and the envelope of what’s acceptable in mainstream advertising having been well-and-truly pushed in our faces – he not only sports chest hair but also, a very prominent penis.
Which reminds me. Perhaps I’ve been paying too much attention, but in the vid Nadal seems to be dressing to his right and ‘resting’ at 0:10. But by 0:11 he’s dressing left and a semi-finalist.
Banning gay propaganda can backfire. Spectacularly.
“All Saints should be presumed guilty until proved innocent.”
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