Beware the spornosexual, the bronzed meathead filling up your news feed

The man who coined metrosexual is back, and he thinks we’re all oiled up hunky weirdos


Ten years ago, Mark Simpson coined the term ‘metrosexual’, outing us all as vain and image conscious and paving the way for marketing companies to boost sales of Brylcreme and hair dryers. 

He saw the future of man as a moisturised, polished, self indulgent wanker, where narcissism became less shameful and hair dryers became more prevalent.

And now he’s at it again. According to him, we’ve taken transformed into self-obsessed hunks. Motivated by a sense of one upmanship and spurred on by selfies, porn and sport, we’ve spent days chiseling our bodies and egos. We’ve been given a new label: the spornosexual.

The men who walk round like God’s gift in tight fit t-shirts with the neck cut so low you almost see their belly button. The men who fill the club photo albums boast more fake tan and flesh on show than the barbie doll squeezed between their bicep. The men whose selfies fill up instagram more than food blogs or pictures of pugs.

Masculinity guru? Mark Simpson

Masculinity guru? Mark Simpson

In his words: “They want to be wanted for their bodies, not their wardrobe. And certainly not their minds. these pumped-up offspring of those Ronaldo and Beckham lunch-box ads, where sport got into bed with porn while Mr Armani took pictures. Let’s call them ‘spornosexuals’.”

We spoke to Simpson, who said that many haven’t accepted the idea of spornosexual, yet. “Just as they refused to accept the metrosexual, initially. Male body image is only likely to continue to grow in importance, along with the desire of many young men today to be looked at. To be wanted. Male eager self-objectification, which is at the heart of spornosexuality, isn’t going away.

“Although spornosexuality cuts across the classes, I think it is particularly appealing for working class males. Who now tend to work on their bodies at the gym rather than on someone else’s product in the factory.”

Simpson claims the trend will grow in importance, to the extent it becomes normality. “Non sporno metrosexuality is still alive and well and probably not going to the gym much. Spornosexuality is already rapidly changing what young men consider ‘normal’. It’s a form of second generation metrosexuality – a hardcore, porny, body-centred, slap-it-in-your-face version.”

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He isn’t wrong. These ‘spornosexuals’ exist, but we shouldn’t all be tarred with the same fake tan mitt. Just because they exist doesn’t mean we’re all developing into them. There is an increasing tendency to go to the gym and not just for bragging rights. Taking an interest in your appearance is the norm, but it doesn’t mean we all share the same characteristics as the spornos.

The reality is that spornosexuality has been around for some time already. The difference between spornos and the rest of us isn’t just skin deep. Their motivation is an ego boost, an element of insecurity that needs to be stated by posting endless shirtless mirror selfies or talking about how big their session was in the gym.

There’s nothing wrong with low level vanity – we’re all a bit self-obsessed and there’s not much wrong with that. Spornos don’t follow that trend. Their goal is to be better than the next guy. The douchebag’s competitive aggression oozing from any form of social interaction with them is what differentiates spornos from your average joe.

The phenomenon of one upmanship is nothing new, just look at Mr University. Even the Georgians had nutters in powdered wigs and tights.

mr uni 1

mr uni 2

For your regular gym goer leg day isn’t a myth. He looks after his body. He buys beauty products. Hair wax, moisturiser, beard trimmer. Are they obsessed? They may be healthily vain and image conscious. Does this make him a ‘spornosexual’? No, of course it doesn’t.

You won’t see him in a baggy vest with ‘ripped’ stencilled across the front in capitals, beating his chest like a silver back and chin wagging with his pals by the bench press over how he shagged the daughter in one room then went downstairs to see to her mum on the couch. He won’t be screaming like a mouse caught in a trap on the bench press just to let everyone else know he’s lifting more than you.

Do we want to be like them? Maybe we want to own that body shape but we don’t want to be associated with hunks in trunks stars like Daz Hoff make anti-semitic slurs on public facebook pages. The perception of these oiled up Johnny Bravo clones is never good and there’s a reason for that.

Spornosexuality is Simpson’s way to marginalise, stereotype which, let’s be honest, is pretty easy to do when you’re comparing your skin tone to a Dulux colour chart.

We're not all that bad

We’re not all that bad

Far from critiquing our ongoing masculinity crisis, by cashing in on defining every twist and turn younger generations take, he provides ammunition for psychiatrists and sociologists to write books defining our characteristics and PR companies to market the latest Braun close shave electric razor.

Not only is it possibly the dirtiest sounding word in the English language, it reeks of Simpson’s confidence that he’s managed to define all our problems in one fail swoop so that we can help ourselves. It’s patronising and pointless. It doesn’t help anyone understand men better, it gives a false impression that we’ve lost all individuality. The main impact of metrosexual was an increase in Brylcreem sales, not any real understanding of culture. Spornosexuality is just another marketing slogan.

Just because some people are swapping pints of Guinness and meat pies for gin and tonics and quinoa, doesn’t entitle us to another wave of moral panic over our masculinity. 99% of us aren’t spornos and never will be. Men are the nicest they’ve ever been, and just because some are using fake tan to shroud their anxiety doesn’t mean we’re all in need of help.