Posts Tagged ‘sporno’


Hello Campers! I’m continuing to develop my thoughts on that thorny topic of  sporno, anti-homophobia and metrosexual-machismo. While I do so I thought I’d show you an apt illustration of the theme.

Last week a professional  footballer came out as gay! Oh. Em. Gee. But before anyone could get the babycham out it was also revealed that he was giving up professional football. According to the Graun,

‘The former Columbus Crew and USA winger Robbie Rogers has announced that he is gay, and that he has decided to “step away” from his career as a professional footballer.’

So, although on  twitter Robbie said he was touched by how supportive everyone was to this ‘news’, and ‘gay academic’ Mark McCormack fitted this event into his thesis about ‘declining homophobia’ especially in sport, I was not so jubilant. It seems a shame to me that a young man coming out does so just as he is leaving the career for which he is well known. He’s not exactly becoming an ‘ambassador’ for gay and bisexual players by putting his boots on the shelf. I’m not blaming him. I believe that football, by its very sweaty, physical, passionate, sexy nature is already ‘well gay’. And until the ‘beautiful game’ ‘fesses up to that fact, out gay or bi players will be few and far between. But before I get down and dirty and grapple with this complex subject, I want to point out something else about Rogers’ announcement that I think is worth a mention.

Apparently,  ‘Rogers is starting a new position with Men’s Health Magazine  in the UK and he is also part of the ownership group for the clothing company Halsey.’ So the side of himself that he is finally openly celebrating is not necessarily his gayness, but rather his metrosexuality!  From what I can see, football is as conflicted about this contemporary tarty display that its stars like to indulge in as it is about sex itself.  Taking your kit off with your  mates and posing for Gay Times is all very well, but if you are actually… you know….gay or bi, it makes the whole exercise a little bit more threatening and destabilises the ‘macho’, ‘heterosexual’, camaraderie of most sports teams.

I am glad Rogers is now free to be himself. But that self, and the culture he inhabits, is a little bit more nuanced than most people will have us believe.


tom daley


It’s hardly surprising an 18 year old, who is currently – er – splashed all over our TV and media, would usurp ageing David Beckham as the king/queen of metrosexual masculinity. So Heat’s latest list  of ‘hottest hunks’ is just reflecting public opinion. But, the Daily Mail, which I find much more positive in general about metro boys than other papers (especially the Graun) has felt the need to frame this event in a very ‘heterosexist’ way. According to the Mail:

‘And it seems that Tom Daley’s grueling work-out regime has paid off in more ways than one after coming top of Heat Magazine’s annual ‘Hottest Hunks’ poll.

The 18-year-old has toppled heartthrob David Beckham from the number one spot after gaining a legion of female followers thanks to his toned torso.’

I guess it is also not surprising that the story of Daley’s ascendance would be accompanied by some metrosexual denial. But following the #Splash twitter hashtag, it is clear that Daley has plenty of men fans, and that even if young men are not lusting after him but rather aspiring to be like him, it is his tits and abs they are emulating, not his backwards pike.

‘What if I should fall right through the center of the earth… oh, and come out the other side, where people walk upside down.’

– Alice in Wonderland

British hope Tom Daley, the metrotastic diver, is splashed across billboards in next to nothing- again, in the run-up to the Olympics. In a rather apt choice of slogan Adidas are commanding young Tom to ‘take the respect’. Of course MetroAuntie can’t let these ads pass us all by without remarking on just how ‘submissive’ and ‘sexual’ the connotations are: is Tom being told to ‘take it’ like a good ‘bottom’ should?

Apart from the suggestive tone of the text, the main thing to notice about the posters what a ‘passive’ pose the medal-winning diver is in. He is not seen here demonstrating his athletic skill, but rather standing still, looking down, holding one wrist with his other hand. His torso is the main ‘object of desire’.

And a man’s torso also features heavily in this short film by the Guardian celebrating the olympic body through history. Again, rather than showing sporting motion, this film just displays the man’s upper body as if it were a mannequin turning slowly in a shop window. It oozes metrosexuality and  sporno aesthetics.

These two examples of metrosexy bodies put paid to the feminist belief that in visual culture men are presented as active subjects, women as passive objectsEven Lego has been accused by feminist critics of promoting this oppressive, binary opposition, which contributes to a situation whereby the objectification of women is more widespread and more damaging than that of men.

Writing in the Guardian recently, Sarah Ditum (the original ‘mumsy cupcake feminist) did at least admit that sportsmen have been ‘pin ups for decades’. But she still suggested that women’s bodies are scrutinised and policed more than men’s.

But really it is just that men’s objectification is policed in different ways from women’s. The underplaying not just by feminists but by most people, of the  sheer tartiness of contemporary men, is one way of denying the homoerotics and deep self-love involved in metrosexual masculinity. A self-love that can never be entirely ‘straight’.

So,  in 2012, whilst feminists are STILL campaigning against the ‘objectified’ images of women on Page Three, the Sun publishes its list of  Top Ten Hot Shots (sexy Olympian sportsmen who are sex objects in their own right), without so much as a murmur to be heard from the feminists. Here’s David Boudia one of the top ten hotties, looking ready for… uh, anything.

There is no hiding fit young men’s  rampant narcissism, it takes the gaze wherever it can find it. And Tom Daley is a champion in his field…

h/t @zefrog for the Top Ten Hot Shots!

If, as I do, you live in London, you will be forgiven for wondering if the Olympics haven’t already been and gone. They have certainly been flogged to death in the capital city over the last few months, even though they are still yet to start.

Londoners will also be aware that here, it is not necessarily Jessica Ennis’ fitness or Andy Murray’s groundstrokes that are on our mind. No, the big question on our lips is – ‘will the tubes be working?’

And, in its pseudo-helpful tannoy announcement kind of way, Transport for London is reassuring us that of course, the tubes will probably be f*cked during The Games, but don’t worry, here are some jaunty cartoons of muscly athletes to distract you. Look! A birdie! (oh no that is just the tfl twitter feed).

BUT, however grumpy I may be about the travel chaos that is about to descend on my city of residence, I actually quite like the TfL olympics ‘public service ads’. Why? Because they are metrotastic of course!

This one of the two hulking weight lifters trying to get off the tube is my favourite. Look at all that naked flesh! Those cute trendy trainers! The coordinated colourful outfits! Who cares if we are stuck for an hour on Finsbury Park station, if we get some international top class eye candy to keep us occupied?

Of course, athletic, muscle-bound men’s bodies on display for the viewer’s pleasure are not a new phenomenon. Back in the 70s and 80s Arnold Schwarzenneger was parading round in next to nothing, showing off his tits and pecs and abs for our delectation. Even The Guardian, in an otherwise body-phobic, misandrous, metro-bashing article about Magic Mike and men strippers, admitted that Arnie was a pin up:

‘It wasn’t until the 1980s that male stripping became a “thing”. Arnold Schwarzenegger had spent most of the 70s walking around in budgie smugglers, and Michael Ontkean went full chilly burlesque on the ice in Slap Shot, but it was only in the 80s that others caught up: a male performer serving up his penis on a tray to Tom Hanks in Bachelor Party, and Michael Keaton getting an eyeful in Mr Mom. ‘

And Transport for London also have a history of metrosexual display. They were one of the first metro companies to put adverts on the walls next to the escalators, and on tube trains,  so commuters can look at sexy stars instead of each other’s ugly mugs on the way home. I like this TfL Olympics poster that nods to that tradition:

However it IS a 21st century phenomenon that sports men now cash in on their desirability as a matter of course. The ubiquity of sporno means that sports stars are not just keen to win on the pitch, but also in the box office, on the billboards, on the telly.

And, my guess is that whilst Delicious David Beckham and Nubile Nadal would probably grab our attention much more effectively than these sketchy cartoons, Transport For London couldn’t afford their supermodelling rates.

Just as they can’t afford to improve their services to cope with the demands of the Olympics.

Nobody said the metrosexual era would be efficient though. So long as it looks good we’re all happy.


Nadal won the French Open tennis tournament this year. But after his victory he returned to his hotel room to find the £240,000 watch he had been modelling in France for a fashion brand, had been stolen.

The watch was retrieved in the end and the thief identified. But what is interesting to me is just how much of a priority advertising, modelling and sponsorship is to the young Spanish tennis ace.

In metrosexual culture, sports stars, especially the men, are not just athletes and competitors. They are also ‘brands’ themselves, and they spend a lot of time and energy securing work making money advertising products and being sponsored by big companies.

Federer advertises Rolex, Beckham advertises anything he can, Djokovic advertises HEAD sports equipment.

Nadal’s ‘metrosexy’ earnings and work are so important to him that he did not compete in the Queens tennis tournament in London recently, because British tax laws mean he would lose too much of his sponsorship cash as a result of his participation in the competition.

And Tom Daley’s coach a few months ago expressed concern that the young diver does too much media work, which takes him away from training.

This is all interesting, not least because the ‘received wisdom’ is that it is women and women sports stars who are ‘objectified’ in our culture, and who are treated as glamorous models and objects of desire. When in fact, the men are developing careers in ‘passive display’ that seem to be equally important to them as their sports.

Some links about these stories here:

Metrosexual references here:

I am grateful to Sociological Images for linking to a lovely collection of old army and navy recruitment posters, full to bursting with phallic weapons and pretty sailor boys.  I am less enamoured with their analysis of these ‘homoerotic’ images from the past:

‘While men have always had sex with men and women have always had sex with women, the idea that a person could be of a particular homosexual type (as opposed to someone who did homosexual acts) only emerged in the late 1800s (in Western culture anyway).  Even then, it took a very long time for the idea that gay people might be among us to filter through popular culture.  Only after an active gay liberation movement made homosexuality more visible did people actually start to look for it in people they knew’ images

I disagree with this conclusion because a) I am certain that even in the 1940s, or 1960s, when homosexuality was illegal, people ‘actually start(ed) to look for it in people they knew’. Literature, film, cartoons and other forms of  popular culture, have had references to the ‘homosexual menace’ ever since the ‘homosexual’ became identified and pathologised in the 19th century. And I disagree with it because b) even now, in Gay Friendly 2011, we constantly and deliberately refuse to see the ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ or even ‘homoerotic’ charge of many images of men. I have not seen one article in Sociological Images examining the way men are presented in our culture, as desirable to themselves and each other. Take this photo of Beckham for example. It is as homoerotic as any of those Navy posters, if not more so. As Mark Simpson might say, Becks and his oiled up body are screaming: WANT ME!

And as Simpson actually has said:

“In a spornographic age it’s no longer enough for the male body to be presented to us by consumerism as merely attractive, or desiring to be desired, as it was in the early days of nakedly narcissistic male metrosexuality. This masculine coquettish-ness, pleasing as it is, no longer offers an intense enough image. Or provokes enough lust. It’s just not very shocking or arousing any more. In fact, it’s just too… normal. To get our attention these days the sporting male body has to promise us nothing less than an immaculately groomed, waxed and pumped gang-bang in the showers.”

Talking of Showers, Sociological Images turns its ‘right on’ attention to this ad from the 1940s for lifebuoy soap and decides the homosexual subtext would not have been identified by its readers back then:

‘From a contemporary U.S. perspective, where most of us have heard homophobic jokes about not dropping the soap in the shower, two men showering together (even or especially in a military context) and using language like “hard” and ”get yourself in a lather” is undeniably a humorous reference to gay men.’I think, however, that this was not at all the intention in 1942, where the possibility of men’s sexual attraction to other men wasn’t so prominent of a cultural trope.  It simply wasn’t on people’s minds as it is today.’

Apart from the fact that ‘drop the soap’ jokes are hardly ‘homophobic’ but rather an expression of people’s awareness of the homoerotics of men when they get naked together, I think Soc Images is underestimating both people’s awareness of homosexuality in the past, and their continued repression in the present. Does this image scream ‘Homo gang bang’ to you? It does to me but I don’t see anyone commenting on the blatant homoerotics  of Sporno, except for, yes, Mark Simpson.

And I have to agree with Simpson’s conclusions too, about why we avoid the homo-subtexts in contemporary culture, but insist in identifying them in cultural products from the past, such as in this case  the film Top Gun:

‘I suspect it’s more a case of the past being a foreign country — so ‘gayness’ can be safely projected onto something in the past, even if it was once what hundreds of millions of straight young men saw as the very epitome of aspirational heterosexuality.’

I think this is an example of how the term and identity ‘gay’ is a way of sidelining homosexual interest between men into a specific separate identity, and avoiding the homosexuality apparent  in masculinity as a whole. But nothing gets past me, Sociological Images. I’m on masculinity’s case!

Can you have beautiful buff boy fatigue?

Beautiful, buff, hairless chest, pretty young white boy fatigue?

Beautiful, buff, hairless chest, a hint of sensitivity in the expression, pretty young white boy fatigue?

Beautiful buff, hairless chest, a hint of sensitivity in the expression, homogenous homoerotics pretty young white boy fatigue?

Beautiful buff, hairless chest, a hint of sensitivity in the expression, homogenous homoerotics, perfectly coiffed, designer stubble, pretty young white boy fatigue?

Because I do.

h/t @homo_superior


We all know Sporno is more interesting and seductive than regular porno right? Well the leaders of the rat pack at the moment in the genre seem to be those Italian Stallions, Armani. And who better to be the face and body of the brand but that wonderfully bronzed and buff tennis player, Rafael Nadal? Move over Ronaldo there is a new kid in town.

As Mark Simpson, the spawner of sporno himself, says, this ad campaign is even more homo erotic than some of the most butt clenchingly homo images from other years and companies:

‘It isn’t just the fact that a half-naked Rafael is apparently offering himself on a prop from a porno movie set (‘Builders’ Big Erections’); it’s the smoothly inviting, defenceless musculature of his prone shoulders and back; and the small of his back before the tempting swelling bubble of his butt; along with that ‘come on big boy’ expression on his flirty face that shouts WANT ME! It could be an image straight out of a Dieux du Stade calendar (minus the jeans).

As with much of sporno the dynamic of the image is the deliberate provocation of an athlete who lives by ‘masculine’ ‘activity’ flaunting his flagrant ‘feminine’ ‘passivity’ to the world. And in case anyone refuses to get the message, Armani are simultaneously running an image of a slightly boyish looking tattooed Megan Fox in the same pose. But one without quite the same charge as the Nadal image’.

I am interested in why there is less of a ‘charge’ in this photo of a woman, Megan Fox, than the picture of Nadal in all his glory.

Look how Megan is clasped round the wooden ‘shelf’, holding on as if she may fall. Whereas in the photo above, Nadal is perched manfully on his piece of wood, resting his elbows and stretching up to fill the frame. He looks down at us, sure, a little ‘coquettishly’ as Mark said. But he commands the picture. Megan is in a much more ‘submissive’ pose, and her look is more that of a traditional female model: doe-eyed, sort of vacant. If, as Simpson says, Nadal is screaming ‘WANT ME!’, Fox is only asking, ‘want me?’

There is also something different about a topless man and a topless woman. I’d say that in general, a topless woman, especially one like this, hiding her breasts, is more vulnerable than a topless man. Neither model is totally nude, but Megan is covering her ‘assets’ in a moment of modesty. There is nothing modest about Nadal’s pose however, and you get the impression he’d feel and look just as potent if he completely stripped off.

Talking of assets, as Mark Simpson has said, there is something potent too in how the active sportsmen of sporno transform themselves into ‘passive’ ‘feminine’ objects of desire. Megan Fox has always been a ‘passive’ object of desire, both as a porn and a film actress. Her modelling role is not a departure, a surprise, but just what we would expect of her. I don’t know which of these two is the richer, in purely financial terms, but Nadal has more avenues, more revenue streams at his disposal I should think. Maybe that adds to the puff of his chest as he poses for Armani. The fact his name is emblazoned at the bottom of the ad shows that Nadal is indeed a ‘brand’, as well as Armani (and Beckham and Ronaldo) in a way that Megan Fox is not.

Returning to the idea of nudity, that is never far from either of these model’s minds it seems, maybe that is partly it. The naked man and the naked woman still mean something different to us. After centuries of seeing both depicted in art, but in quite contrasting ways, it tends to be the nude woman that we think of as the ‘victim’ or the ‘object’ of the gaze. There is something about the male form that manages to always be looking back at us. Nadal knows this as he looks back over his shoulder with his come to bed eyes. Megan, she is not so sure that she can escape the camera’s trap.

I am grateful to Armani for something: the way their adverts feature men and women has meant Mr Simpson’s sporno gaze has had to become (briefly maybe) ‘bisexual’. I think it throws up some fascinating questions about the objectification of men and women in visual culture (that I have looked at in relation to that Ronaldo ad). I am pretty sure Mark only really has eyes for Nadal in this particular campaign, but by featuring both photos on his normally very gay blog, he has created a bit of an unusual ‘charge’ , for this reader at least. But despite my moment of excitement I am left wondering, in relation to photography and visual culture in general, and sporno in particular, why can’t a woman be more like a man?