Step aside, metrosexuals, and make way for … the spornosexual man?


David Beckham, whose body and visage will be chiseled onto the Mount Rushmore of metrosexuals, shows some tatted skin in Beijing. (Reuters)

They’re well-groomed, well-dressed, well-compensated and so very into themselves. Metrosexual men have become a staple of our existence.

But the time has come for Mr. Metrosexual to step aside — at least according to Mark Simpson, the man who coined the term 20 years ago.

Now comes the spornosexual, Simpson writes in London’s Daily Telegraph.

Spornosexuals, according to Simpson, are the hyper-sexualized, body-obsessed cultural offspring of the metrosexual. They have eschewed tailored suits for wearing nothing at all. Their kingdom is the high-priced urban gym, not the mall.

We can still blame all of this on British soccer star-turned-H&M underwear model David Beckham, according to Simpson:

With their painstakingly pumped and chiselled bodies, muscle-enhancing tattoos, piercings, adorable beards and plunging necklines it’s eye-catchingly clear that second-generation metrosexuality is less about clothes than it was for the first. Eagerly self-objectifying, second generation metrosexuality is totally tarty. Their own bodies (more than clobber and product) have become the ultimate accessories, fashioning them at the gym into a hot commodity – one that they share and compare in an online marketplace.

This new wave puts the “sexual” into metrosexuality. In fact, a new term is needed to describe them, these pumped-up offspring of those Ronaldo and Beckham lunch-box ads, where sport got into bed with porn while Mr Armani took pictures.

Let’s call them “spornosexuals”.

Let us also, for a moment, explore the naming of this latest iteration in male vanity.

A journalist and writer, Simpson is also something of a professional namer. He notes that the term metrosexual, which he first articulated in a 1994 Independent article, came to him after he attended a GQ exhibition called “It’s a man’s world.”

Beckham became the poster child for the phenomenon in a subsequent 2002 Slate piece.

“Beckham is the biggest metrosexual in Britain because he loves being looked at and because so many men and women love to look at him: He’s the future, but also a way of adapting other, less advanced specimens to that future,” Simpson wrote in 2002.

Later, when sex symbols became sports stars, and sports stars became sex symbols, Simpson proclaimed in Out magazine that the “sporno” had been born. A cross between porn and sports star, these new aged “jocks” are now “fetishizing themselves,” Simpson wrote.

Which brings us back to spornosexuals, the trickle-down cultural derivative of the sporno. These men were fed on sporno glossy magazines and superhuman ads, but they came to maturity on their own terms, though selfies, social media and porn Simpson said.

They are, as Simpson put it, the male finally becoming “everything. To themselves.”

“Just as women have been encouraged to do for some time,” he adds.

Which raises a critical question: Just as women struggle to counter the oh-too-perfect, hypersexualized images of female bodies in magazines and on TV, are there not men struggling with the same problem?

Earlier this year, Marian Salzman, branding expert and co-author of The Future of Men, suggested that metrosexuality had evolved, but probably not in the way Simpson hopes.

“The word metrosexual has outgrown Simpson’s narcissistic depiction and now transcends narrow stereotypes to describe a whole range of traits,” Salzman wrote. “And the metrosexuals themselves are now men who don’t unquestioningly assume that there’s just one way of being a man.”

So with more men than ever choosing to become stay-at-home dads, or otherwise juggling the children and their careers with no time to perfect their six-packs, and hipster culture making a little grunge the new cool, the rise of spornosexuality, as clever a concept as it is, seems to describe an ever-shrinking sliver of the male pie.

Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip
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