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A Men’s Man Meat Cult > Sporno II February 9, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Fashion, Gay Life, Lifestyle, MetroSexual, Sports.
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Hunks in the locker room

A female University professor at the department of literature wrote her doctoral thesis on pornography written by female authors, and now gives a course on pornography in the Women and Gender Studies Program. “Pornographic representations are explicit representations of sexual acts or representations that contain photographs of genitalia,” she says. “I don’t like the way the use of the term is expanded in all sorts of ways, thought it’s clear that there are mutual influences among porno, art and advertising.

“It’s true that the very positioning of these men as objects of pleasure and visual consumption already marks a change in the standard Western view in which men are not supposed to be objects of visual pleasure. But the way in which they are presented is not subversive. Take the picture of Freddy Ljungberg for Calvin Klein: Yes, he shows us a bit of his ass, but he’s portrayed here in an active role, as the potential penetrator, as the dominant male. Women are portrayed as inviting, not as dominant. In terms of the fantasy potential, of which scenarios are supposed to occur to us when we see them, the men are still portrayed more as active, and this preserves the identification of maleness with activeness and penetration.”

Simpson: “This is certainly the way that many of the participants in these images would like to see themselves, and also the way many of the voyeurs would like to see the sex object. However, the key here is that they are presented as sex objects, regardless of what they may or may not like to do in bed. This is a basic tenet of psychoanalysis: Exhibitionism, offering yourself up for voyeuristic pleasure, is passive and/or masochistic.”

When you have an ad showing five soccer players in their underwear in a locker room, is this an aesthetic of gay porn? Is the homosexual context explicit here?

Professor: “Yes, in the sense that homosexual porn often situates itself in classic male locations, like a locker room or a gym. The locker-room site represents a kind of coveted masculinity, especially in being very straight. The locker room is the place where gay teens often feel uncomfortable and embarrassed because maybe they’re laughed at for being gay, or they’re afraid that others will see them get hard from looking at another guy in the shower. Frequently in gay porno you find these kinds of scenarios of the fantasy that came true, so now it’s actually happening with that same male hunk you always fantasized about.”

“The traditional explanation of feminist sociologists was that soccer allows for homoerotic manifestations, because they are not openly declared as such,” says a professor at the University of Florida, whose specialty is the sociology of sport. “When soccer players score a goal and then hug and roll around on the grass, no one would dare call this homoerotic behavior. It’s legitimate because it’s brotherhood between sportsmen and not brotherhood between men who are enjoying one another’s bodies. But when the homoerotic manifestations become more explicit, this explanation is subject to question.”

How is it possible, this combination of overt homophobia among soccer fans and the flirtation we’re seeing of soccer players with gays? Shouldn’t homophobes be appalled at the idea of soccer players striking revealing poses as models?

Professor: “Without question, there’s been a change as far as what soccer players deem permissible, and it will be interesting to follow what happens among the audience. In the United States, it’s very rare for an American football player to openly appeal to a gay audience. Beckham is now becoming a star in the U.S., he’s going to play in Los Angeles for about $250 million over five years. But in America, soccer players are not models of masculinity the way they are in England or elsewhere. Here, soccer is a game of children and women. From this standpoint, it won’t be any problem for an American audience to accept him. The people who watch soccer here are the middle class, which sees itself as liberal.

“Beckham, and a few other leading players, are a walking business,” adds. “Each with the scarf or socks or whatever that they’re supposed to sell. And this being the case, they’re exposed to market discipline, which in the past decades has given more power to homosexuals, because of the DINKS, dual income, no kids, referring to gay couples with relatively high purchasing power. The hyper-commercialization of sports has given a boost to models like Beckham, now that corporations have such a big economic stake in reaching this audience.”

And is soccer still identified with the lower classes?

“Precisely, while branches of sport identified with the middle and upper classes also tend to include women. Therefore, the obsession with the boundaries of sexuality is less strong among branches identified with the middle class.”

The increasing openness to less rugged-looking models from abroad has also been accompanied by the discovery that the combination of athletes and advertising holds great economic potential. Advertisers are tuning into the values embodied by the public image of sportsmen. And the sportsmen, for their part, are becoming attuned to the generous possibilities for financial reward. A modeling agency, for one, recently signed tennis player Matan Sheetrit and pole-vaulter Udi Karni. Soccer player Oren Turjeman is signed with the Look agency.

Do athletes really help increase sales? “Athletes are a higher level of models,” says a deputy director of an ad agency and the person responsible for the Dudi Balsar campaigns for Castro Men and the Itzik Zohar campaign for Careline. “A model doesn’t bring any values aside from aesthetics. Athletes, especially successful and famous ones, bring the values of success, of hard work, of masculinity, lots of things. When manufacturers of a brand-name product choose someone famous, they want to make sure that the values of that famous person are positive and also suit the brand. We took Itzik Zohar for Titanium because the concept of men’s grooming needs to obtain some legitimacy; these products are not yet a common thing in every man’s home. So if you take a man who’s also a talented and admired athlete, and also well-groomed, the fact that he’s promoting the product gives it legitimacy for other men.”

And the athletes? What do they need this for?

Ad agency: “Sports, like many other areas, is a product that goes beyond talent. To be a soccer player today is not just about scoring goals, doing well in the league and getting a better contract: It’s also about being part of the pop culture, being a celebrity. In our research we see that the thing that teenagers dream about in the most overwhelming and singular way is becoming famous. When an athlete leads a campaign, it creates a process of mutual empowerment. The brand invests a lot of money in creating exposure for itself and for its leading presenter, and as a result both are built up. When you do a fashion campaign with a good brand and a good ad agency, hundreds of thousands of dollars are invested in making you look the best and the sexiest, because you’re representing the brand. What other opportunity do these people have to receive this sort of platform? And don’t forget that in sports, except for the really successful soccer players, the money isn’t that big. This is their opportunity to make money.”

The financial aspect is central to the sporno story, and is the part of the mechanism that Simpson calls “gay for pay.” British athletes have no problem striking sexy poses for the camera, as long as they know they’re making a bundle for it. They’ll gladly do homoerotic modeling, but only in return for hefty pay, to remove any doubt that these gay elements actually relate to them personally in any way. And so, at a time when women models are seeking to emphasize how important it is to them that their photos be respectful and artistic, for the male athletes who model, money is the first justification cited.

To a subversive eye, the attempts to regiment and tame homo-erotica in sports are no less noticeable than the homo-erotica itself. For example, a soccer player who takes his shirt off on the pitch risks being given a yellow card, and yet many still can’t restrain themselves.

In England, says Simpson, the soccer federation “tried to ban kissing by players in the late 1980s, ostensibly because of the ‘risk of AIDS.’ Of course, this was nonsense, because HIV is not spread by kissing. What was really happening was that the old men of the federation were now experiencing homo-panic every time a goal was scored. Ironically their campaign was unsuccessful. The ‘gay for pay’ phenomenon has been much more successful in suppressing post-goal snogging.”

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