Move over metrosexual, spornosexual is here

(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

Joanne Richard, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:39 PM ET

Look out metrosexual – the “spornosexual” has arrived.

This second-generation metrosexual is a hypersexual, body-obsessed man, and he’s totally selfie-fixated too, according to UK journalist Mark Simpson, who previously coined the term metrosexual 20 years ago.

Sport and porn are mashed together to produce men who want to be desired for their bodies and love to expose their rock-hard abs, including hot athletes and celebrities who plaster shirtless spornosexual images on social media. Think hunks from the World Cup. And online dating sites feature the spornosexual trend.

Forget the slick clothes and hair. Their bodies have become the ultimate accessories, declares Simpson in the Telegraph. “This new wave puts the ‘sexual’ into metrosexuality.”

Rob Weiner, pop culture expert at Texas Tech University, says he is not at all surprised by this development. “Our society has become increasingly obsessed with our bodies. We want everything to be so perfect and the truth is that it’s all a dream. Men’s bodies are not perfect, but it’s like there is this weird reversal of roles that women were often obsessed with. So now men are so concerned with buying shoes and having perfect pristine bodies. These trends come and go, you know.”

While it’s certainly good for the clothing industry and for all the gyms, “we are witnessing many more men – and I mean average-looking men - who are trying to look above average at the gym just to be a part of this type of trend. So self-obsessed and vain that it’s really unattractive in the personality department as arrogance always is.”

If you think you got it, flaunt it, says Weiner. “No shirt required, tattoos abound, and lots of folks will make money off this trend - for a while at least. And egos will be built, bruised, and eventually flattened!”

This is little more than super-fit celebrities posturing and flexing as a means of enhancing brand value, says Dr. Pamela Rutledge. “Society is very quick to condemn and pathologize new trends that push the boundaries of social norms. Mark Simpson is getting coverage for his clever label, but how is sexuality automatically porn? We’ve had body builders for years, but why is this now body-obsessed in a way that the other wasn’t?”

Kim Kardashian and others have been exposing their bodies, pushing the limits of social norms, so why should this be a gender-specific behaviour to get attention, says Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center and a blogger for psychologytoday.com.

“We live in a visual culture where sharing is a normal event, particularly among those who benefit from visibility and attention.” These ‘spornosexual’ images communicate highly-admired traits and brand-relevant information, such as strength, desirability, and pride, and Instagram and selfies create intimacy and contact with fans, she says.

While many men may qualify as metrosexual, few will attain this level of fitness, says Rutledge, of mprcenter.org, adding that the shirtless trend only has value to the ‘early entrants’ in the field. “When everyone is flexing for the public, it will be less interesting and less valuable.”

Dr. Wendy Walsh says that men in North America are in a giant male identity crisis and no longer know their true purpose. No longer needed as a protector, a provider, a head of household, or even a father, women still want their bodies though.

“Thus we’re seeing this hypersexualization, a hyperfocus on male adornment, a hyperfocus on an eight pack. It is an evolutionary fact that males develop in response to female choices. If women need men for finances, for handyman work, or to be great fathers you’d see men hitting the books and taking shop classes,” says Walsh.

“Instead these self-empowered young women are choosing men with hot bodies so men are hitting the gym.”

The trend saddens Dr. Pepper Schwartz, professor and author of The Normal Bar.

“As we women know, keeping up this kind of body is a lot of work. Join the club, fellas! Second, there is actually something unmanly about it… men as pin ups, the conscious product of hours at the gym straining and heaving for just the right muscle definition, rather than as just having nice bodies from keeping in shape as athletes or because they need to be strong to carry a fire hose, is a major cultural change.

“Even though the product is great, the process kind of turns me off,” adds Schwartz.

Boys matter too

We’ve spent all kinds of energy worrying about girls and body image - don’t neglect the boys, stresses Dr. Pamela Rutledge.

“Parents can use these events and trends as learning moments for boys - particularly those who are tweens and teens, and who are in the process of figuring out who they are. Start a conversation - that means both sides talk and both sides listen,” says Rutlege, director of the Media Psychology Research Center in Boston.

Find out how they feel about such things, if they admire them, what makes a person ‘valuable’ and interesting to others. “Let the child/teen talk first and be sure to listen for what they have to say and maybe the subtext about what they worry about,” says Rutledge, of mprcenter.org.

Talk about your opinions and worries and leave room for kids to explain how your perspective might not be accurate in their world, she suggests. Talk about what matters inside and whether or not how someone looks on the outside shows if they are a good person. If not, what does?

“Talk about how things look from the outside - he’s got it all - may not mean someone is happy or fulfilled.”


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