A Men’s Man Meat Cult > Sporno I February 9, 2007Posted by grhomeboy in Fashion, Gay Life, Lifestyle, MetroSexual, Sports.
Swedish Fredrik Ljungberg for Calvin Klein > The potential penetrator >
Swedish soccer player Fredrik Ljungberg, who plays for the English team Arsenal, is starring in the Calvin Klein underwear campaign, photographed with an oiled body, his underpants partially pulled down.
Dolce & Gabbana’s most recent underwear ad campaign featured five members of Italy’s national soccer team, wearing nothing but underwear in a locker room. The Dieux du Stade (Gods of the Stadium) calendar features nude shots of players from the French rugby team, crouching on all fours, showering, being caressed. And David Beckham? Does he even need mentioning?
British journalist Mark Simpson, calls this “sporno”, a combination of sport and porno. In an article in last July’s issue of “Out” magazine, he described how sport has become the new homosexual pornography. “Much has been written about how porno is poised to go mainstream. Guess what? It already has … because sportsmen, like porn stars, are by definition show-offs, but more particularly because it means more money, more power, more endorsements, more kudos,” Simpson wrote.
In England, says Simpson, the homoerotic aspects of sport are no longer just hinted at. They’ve become an open and self-conscious flirtation. “Sportsmen on this side of the Atlantic are increasingly openly acknowledging and flirting with their gay fans, a la David Beckham and Fredrik Ljungberg, the man who actually looks the way Beckham thinks he looks. Both of these thoroughbreds have posed for spreads in gay magazines and both have welcomed the attention of gay fans because they ‘have great taste.’ They and a whole new generation of young males are actively pursuing sex-object status … In other words, they’re not just sports stars, but sporno stars.”
Simpson, who earned worldwide fame about a decade ago for coining the term “metrosexual” is a witty, sharp-eyed journalist and a skilled media animal. So it’s not surprising that last month The New York Times turned up the volume on the discussion surrounding “sporno”, pronouncing it one of the “Ideas of the Year”.
Simpson thinks the sporno phenomenon really began to take off a few years ago. “What is new about sporno is not that there is a (homo)erotic subtext to sport, obviously, well, to me at least, that was always there, but that this subtext is now the text, one that we are hit over the head with by consumer capitalism, or have rammed down our throats,” he says in a recent interview.
But the whole world has become more pornographic. Think, for example, of the well-publicized paparazzi photos of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton’s genitalia, or of the fact that a lot of female pop stars have a homemade sex video that’s distributed on the Internet. It’s not just sports.
Simpson: “Yes, many female celebs turned themselves into simulations of female porn actresses some time ago, and have become less and less simulated. What is interesting about sporno is that men who are considered to be ‘Alpha males’ because they are sports stars are going down the same prostituting route.”
This is the Cult of the body! Sporno was born, says Simpson, as a result of the wedding of the world of sport with the world of advertising, a match meant to be beneficial to both sides. In an age when sport has become so commercialized and has turned into showbiz, athletes hungry for public adoration are increasing their fan base, not to mention their bank accounts, by becoming sporno stars. Advertisers enjoy the aura of the athletes’ success and gain market niches by appealing to a number of population segments at once, straight men, who are viewed as the natural audience for sports, as well as gay men and straight women, who are discovering that soccer isn’t just 22 hooligans chasing after a ball, but guys who spread on lotion and like to hug.
“Sports and advertising have jumped into bed and produced a gigantic money shot,” Simpson explains. “Sporno is the product of a voyeuristic world in which media has multiplied itself. One in which more and more of us are spending more and more of our time. Screens have got bigger, cameras have become better and smaller and more invasive, pixels and channels and angles have multiplied. It is no longer simply the ‘game’ of football that is being watched: Now the bodies of the footballers themselves are being consumed by the audience.”
And in other countries? The trend is only in its infancy, if at all. Handball player and model Dudi Balsar posed partially nude for a Castro commercial, filmed on a nudist beach in Romania, and pictures of him in his underwear have adorned billboards on the Ayalon Highway; swimmer Eitan Orbach peeled off his clothes for the Fox ad campaign; soccer player Itzik Zohar parted with his shirt to help peddle a line of men’s grooming products and is currently negotiating to participate in an underwear ad; and lots of other athletes, some better known than others, including judo, tennis and athletics champions, have signed up with local modeling agencies in hopes of enjoying a second career, what Simpson would call a “spornographic” one, off the field.
Renen Carmel, creative director at the Euro ad agency, explains that “sex has always sold. That’s what sells fashion: youth and a perfect body. You can go back as far as ancient Greece. Athletes were always an icon of the body cult. Okay, then they didn’t have advertising, but a statue is like the billboard of the ancient world. The Greeks genuinely worshiped the male body, while geeks were never a physical model anywhere in the world. What has changed just a little is the openness to content that’s more homoerotic, because there is more cultural openness to it.”
Simpson rejects the parallel with ancient Greece. “The continuity with ancient Greece is really as much as a discontinuity. They would have been shocked by sporno. ‘Pornography’ is from the Greek meaning ‘writing of prostitutes.’ The Greeks would have had a nervous breakdown at the idea of their heroes being associated with prostitution. Today’s sporno stars are quite literally, quite openly, quite globally, prostituting themselves for money.”
“Obviously, sex sells,” Simpson continues, “but the key here is: What type of sex? What is new is that sports stars, men who are admired and worshiped by other men as paragons of what a man should be, are happy, hungry even, to offer their bodies to the world, and particularly to other men, visually, as sexual playthings. The use of sportsmen in place of models means that the effect is more shocking, more explicit. It also means, of course, that more men are likely to be interested in the ad. And what is equally new is that this doesn’t provoke waves of revulsion among their hetero male fans. Quite the opposite: Their young hetero male fans seem to enjoy this display almost as much as their homo male fans.”