This is my review of Metrosexy by Mark Simpson, published in Freedom In A Puritan Age website/magazine:
If you were to listen to feminists, and the media in general, you might think we live in a culture in which ‘sexual objectification’ refers solely to women and girls. As some would have it, we are ‘bombarded’ by sexual imagery of the female form, and our society is ‘saturated’ with pornified material that demeans and exploits women.
Metrosexy (2011), the most recent book by Mark Simpson, British author and originator (in 1994) of the concept of metrosexuality, tells a very different story indeed. In this impressive collection of articles and essays that span the last two decades, Simpson shows how it is men who have come to be the subjects and objects of the ‘gaze’ in recent years, maybe even more so than women. Or, to use Simpson’s own phrase, men are ‘such tarts’ these days.
Metrosexy is a fun read – a lively and humorous romp through television, film, boy bands, fashion, sport, gym culture and advertising. But there are some serious underlying messages. Metrosexuality — masculinity ‘mediated and (self)-fetishised’ — is changing gender roles, relations and identities beyond all recognition.
‘Contrary to what you have been told,’ writes Simpson, ‘metrosexuality is not about flip-flops and facials, ‘man-bags’ or ‘manscara’. Or about men becoming ‘girlie’ or ‘gay’. It’s about men becoming everything. To themselves. In much the way that women have been for some time. It’s the end of the sexual division of bathroom and bedroom labour. It’s the end of sexuality as we’ve known it.’
It’s not just feminists, with their rigid views of women as ‘objects’ (and victims) of (heterosexual) men’s predatory desires who could be threatened by Simpson’s theories. In my interview with him on the release of Metrosexy he said:
‘I think gay men are very ambivalent about metrosexuality. It’s like a dream come true. And a living nightmare at the same time. All these fit, tarty straight men inviting – no, DEMANDING – the ‘gayze’. Pro athletes like Beckham and Ronaldo oiled up on the side of buses offering us their lunch-packets, and Becks and Gavin Henson bickering over who has the most gay fans. Homoerotics, narcissism and the celebration of the male body are no longer gay copyright’.
In the wake of Metrosexy’s publication, I named Simpson ‘A Roland Barthes for the iphone generation’, the ‘meticulous observer’ of contemporary culture. This is a vital addition to cultural theory, and a book that should change the way we look at men and masculinity forever.