If you’ve read or heard the term ‘spornosexual’ tossed around recently, you may have rolled your eyes and thought, “Why?” It’s an unwieldy frankenstein of a word and not nearly as pronounceable or discernible as its predecessor, ’metrosexual,’ which by contrast skips off the tongue with a wink and a smirk.
Thank journalist Mark Simpson, who first coined ‘metrosexual’ two decades ago and has returned to lob another gem at us as part of his ongoing conversation about modern masculinity. This new one is more grotesque and narcissistic. It doubles down on sex and attempts to combine two words that should never be combined: sport and porn. And you can’t help but read ‘porno,’ which makes it worse.
In this new era, David Beckham, one of the archetypes of metrosexuality, is now something of forefather. He has evolved, and his offspring are younger, tattooed footballers and tanned shirtless guys in Brit reality shows most Americans have never heard of. (That’s no coincidence; Simpson is himself a Brit). And so too has the metrosexual, into someone obsessed less with accoutrements and more with his own body—and so much so, that a new word is required.
The metrosexual was born out of the notion that it’s okay for men to take painstaking care in making themselves desirable. The spornosexual takes this mindset out of the bathroom and the closet and into the gym. He undresses the word and lays himself bare for self-objectification. And he’s fine with it. Don’t think steroids. Think lean and cut. It’s about sex and seduction; not power. Think Brad Pitt in Fight Club. Yes, it’s an old chestnut, but the look is spot on.
So why bother trying to pinpoint masculinity at all when it’s so clearly amorphous? Is it all bullshit? There are other contenders out there—spoofs and spinoffs that have bubbled up in the wake of the metrosexual revolution. Retrosexual. Lumbersexual. Etcetera. They all hit on a cultural nerve, but none of them are meant to be serious or kind. The very act of naming something so fundamental as a guy’s sense of his own masculinity, in fact, implies affectation and phoniness. Simpson isn’t paying a compliment when he calls someone a spornosexual. He’s basically indicting a meta-culture of selfies, porn, and clickbait run rampant. If life imitates art, what happens when that art is your Instagram feed?
Naturally, there is a strong whiff of bullshit in all this, but we all knew that going in. Simpson makes a curious observation, and now you have a name (albeit, not a pleasant one) for that thing that you may or may not have noticed out in the world. It still remains to be seen whether the word will take off, but the fact that this piece is being written at all (and others like it) is evidence that it has at least made it off the runway. You could argue that the metrosexual, as a concept, was so successful because it lent itself so readily to consumerism. Companies queued up to fill a need that now had a name, a shape, and a personality, and poured buckets of gasoline over the flare-up. Given that, what’s the spornosexual equivalent? Is gym membership up? Are tattoo parlors reporting record earnings?
Whatever the case, it’s probably not a bad thing to stay in shape. Just please: no gym selfies.
Story By: Steven Chen
Images By: Ferrvor Staff, David Beckham Facebook, Cristiano Ronaldo Facebook