This comment by arctic jay, under my last post about Strictly Come Dancing, was so good I am reposting it here. Ajay was responding to a feminist blogpost about the X factor, which suggested women are much more ‘objectified’ on TV shows and in culture in general, than men. He said:
‘How can anyone deny at this point that the male chest, especially the pumped up variety, is an eroticized body part?
How can feminist honestly argue that women are more sexualized than men when bare male chests are on display for public consumption approximately 10,000 times more often than bare females chests?
Their only option is try to uphold the canard that male nudity is by default non-sexual, which is the same lie social conservatives promote due to their own homophobia’.
I agree wholeheartedly with Ajay’s comment, and would go further and say that it is not just conservatives and feminists who deny the sexual charge of men’s bodies, and the ubiquity of men’s bodies being shown off these days, but almost everyone. Men’s metrosexual displays have become the great big pink elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. Because, as ajay suggested, it would throw the whole applecart over.
Influenced by the work of Mark Simpson I have been talking about it. And recently I have turned my attention to how football in particular, is a flagrant example of both the promotion and selling of metrosexual masculinity, and the denial of what it means, for footballers and fans alike. With footballers as tarty as Ronaldo how can we pretend that part of football’s allure for men, is not its presentation of fit men’s bodies, to use a phrase by Simpson, ‘literally asking to be fucked’?
This is my piece about a new young metrosexual football starlet, Tom Cleverley:
The Times Sports Section one recent Saturday had a very pretty pin up on the cover. Serena Williams? No. Sharapova? No. It was Tom Cleverley, a rising star in football, who plays for Manchester Utd and is on his way to becoming a member of the England team.
Tom’s face fills the front page. His blue eyes look directly at the camera. His full lips are parted slightly, a pose all models know how to pull off, so you can imagine yourself slipping something between them – a tongue, a finger, a ….? His hair is short, fashionably sculpted and highlighted. It is not difficult to see the influence of his ‘idol’, David Beckham.
The headline on the cover reads: HE’s GOT THE LOOK! This is taken from Sheena Easton’s song ‘SHE’s got the look’. And the byline calls Tom a ‘starlet’. It might be the introduction to an article about Keira Knightley. The words and the images are feminine.
The article inside is a two-page spread, but most of the space is taken up with another photo of Tom. This time it is a full-length body shot. He is leaning against a wall, dressed casually in jeans and a leather jacket, but he is still looking straight at the camera coquettishly. You can’t take your eyes off me, he seems to be saying.
There is a cartoon inserted into the piece. It features a tattooist in his tattoo parlour, and he is on the phone. The caption reads:
‘Is that Tom Cleverley? I hear you want to be like David Beckham…’
This innocuous little cartoon sums up what The Times are saying about Cleverley: if this rising ‘starlet’ wants to emulate his ‘idol’ Beckham, he will have to match Becks narcissistic act for narcissistic act. Because Beckham is all about ‘the look’.
So has The Times done the unthinkable and ‘outed’ not only Cleverley but also football itself, as the exhibitionist, commodified, metrosexual, spornotastic display that it is? Hold the front page!
Well no, it hasn’t. Because the text of the article itself is a traditional run of the mill ‘macho’ piece of sports journalism. I couldn’t follow it all due to my lack of interest in actual football (as opposed to the imagery and masculine complexities that surround it). But it was full of phrases such as ‘midfielder…transfer…European Championships….goal scoring…early in the season…money… Alex Ferguson…class of ’92….’
There was no mention of Cleverley’s beautiful blue eyes, or the way he parts his lips, or speculation about who his really big signing will be with: Armani? Gucci? Rolex? Because the passive exhibitionism of sports stars is still closeted, even whilst it is used to sell newspapers, and underpants, and watches. The Times use metrosexual imagery, and they even knowingly wink at it, in the form of a humorous cartoon. But they don’t talk about it. That, like if football fans actually said ‘No Homo’, would give the game away. And we can’t have that.
Male Impersonators by Mark Simpson is due out as an e-book VERY SOON!