Ben Cohen, Calendar Pin Up, anti-homophobia activist and Rugger Bugger, posted this delectable photo on twitter, just before Christmas. He added that he is a ‘gay icon and proud’. This was quite a clever, if a little catty move. And was in response to an interview in the press with Louis Smith, Charleston dancing, hair coiffeuring, boxing winner of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing. The issue at hand is Louis’ disavowal of the ‘gay’ bit of his status as new gay icon on the block. Like many ‘straight’ metrosexual men, especially models, pop stars and sportsmen, Louis is happy to receive attention and adulation from wherever he can get it. But he is less delighted by some of the sexual undertones of this attention. The Telegraph reports:
‘After admitting that he has become a “gay icon”, he adds: “As long as gay people can see the line, and that I fancy women, that’s fine. I don’t want to be put in a difficult, uncomfortable situation.”’
These comments, also discussed in the gay press, received a lot of angry responses from (mainly white middle class) gay men. They seem to feel upset that lovely Louis is ‘playing’ with their affections, but unlike Cohen, refusing to play ball. Not only is Louis NOT an anti-homophobia activist like cuddly Cohen, he also has the audacity to throw a bit of a spanner in the works of gay men’s wet dreams about him. This ‘gay icon’ is doing it wrong!
But I have quite a lot of sympathy for Louis, and all men who identify as straight in our tarty, self-loving metro culture. Life is confusing enough, as it slowly dawns on them that they are as narcissistic – if not more so – as their gay brethren, that hair gel and moisturiser matters to them too, without being told they are also expected to be ‘up for it’ with homos as well!
Yes, metrosexuality is ‘well gay’. But more importantly it marks the ‘end of sexuality as we’ve known it’. And so gay men have no right to put the new generation of men pin ups in a ‘gay’ box. These boys won’t be fenced in and don’t have to be! So maybe the older gay generation are just jealous.
As for Cohen, I think he gets away with being an out and proud ‘gay icon’ because he looks more ‘butch’ than Louis. He seems to be maintaining his ‘straight’ status more successfully than pretty Smith, despite the oiled up calendar shoots and naked exhibitionism the rugby player displays. The irony is of course, that another reason the gays go easy on Cohen is he looks just like a gay bear with his gay beard and big muscles! He’s one of them!
But I vote for Louis in this stand off. We will be seeing a LOT more of him in the future. He may be a gay icon, but mainly he is his own metrosexual man.