Remember when men got the unfortunate “metrosexual” label? Back in 1994, The Independent, a UK newspaper, ran a piece by journalist Mark Simpson on modern masculinity. In it, Simpson coined the term “metrosexual” to describe men who shunned the traditional view of rough-and-tumble masculinity in favor of keeping themselves well-groomed.
Of course, much of the metrosexual lifestyle began to bleed into mainstream culture: Men young and old started paying closer attention to their haircuts, their facial hair, and the way their suits fit. “Metrosexual” became an antiquated term— it just meant a guy who liked to look good.
So what next?
According to Simpson, 2014 ushers in the age of the “spornosexual”.
Spornosexuals, as Simpson describes in a new article in the Telegraph, are the latest chapter in the handbook for the modern man. They’re Metrosexual 2.0. And this time around, they’re less focused on looking put-together and more concerned with flaunting a hyper-defined, muscular physique and consciously selected body art. The word specifically comes from combining “sport” and “porn,” so the guys are a little bit sporty, a little porny.
“With their painstakingly pumped and chiseled bodies, muscle-enhancing tattoos, piercings, adorable beards and/or plunging necklines it’s eye-fetchingly clear that second-generation metrosexuality is less about clothes than it was for the first,” explains Simpson. “Their own bodies have become the ultimate accessories, fashioning them at the gym into a hot commodity – one that they share and compare in an online marketplace.”
These so-called “spornosexuals” are the oiled-up contemporaries of men like David Beckham and Lenny Kravitz. They’re preeners, according to Simpson. You may have run into 12 of them at your local gym, clad in skin-tight workout tops and top of the line headphones. They came of age “where sport got into bed with porn while Mr. Armani took pictures.”
With his commentary, Mark Simpson was simply trying to define an emerging cultural trend. I don’t fault his efforts. But the idea that we need to squeeze men into yet another category leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
Honestly, I’m not sure when we decided to start slapping labels on people for the way they like to dress themselves (I’m guessing it was back during the Pleistocene epoch or directly following the birth of the Universe), but maybe it’s time to stop.
Labels are tricky. They can be a way to find like-minds or to understand yourself. But labels also devalue the power of the individual. It’s society’s way of saying, “You belong in this group and this group only.” For years, women have been fighting against labels like “whore”, “gold-digger” and “virgin”. It reduces us to the badge we wear and nothing more. It allows marketers and politicians to corral us into one pen for their own profit.
So why would we lower ourselves to this level when we see how detrimental it can be on a daily basis?
While we may not agree with the hyper-sexualization and the immaculate grooming habits of the new “spornosexual” man, we should still be wary of abusing the term or of making shallow assumptions about the men who ascribe to it.
Featured image via The Telegraph.