From ‘The rise of the spornosexual’, 1 March 2015, article by Gurveen Kaur, Sunday Life!
With his six-pack abs, bulging biceps and tanned, smooth skin, Mr Edwin Kon looks every bit the fitness model. The flight attendant, 29, has been snapping topless selfies ever since he began hitting the gym regularly seven years ago. Initially, the snaps served merely as a visual chart for him to track his physical development. Two years ago, however, he began posting them on Instagram.
“I’m proud of the way I look,” he says. “And there is nothing wrong with posting photos of myself in swimming trunks on social media.” Since then, he has amassed close to 37,000 followers with photos of his ripped physique – images that leave little to the imagination.
Nearly all of them are tagged: #spornosexual.
Coined last year by British journalist Mark Simpson (the same man who gave the world “metrosexual” in 1994), the term refers to a more hardcore, body- obsessed version of the noughties’ appearance- and fashion- conscious man.
Think football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, pop star Justin Bieber and local actors Allan Wu and Zheng Geping.
If you’re wondering why there’s ‘porn’ in the term, ‘sporno’ is actually a portmanteau of ‘sport’ and ‘porn’, though I don’t see how that applies to Justin Bieber. Lest we forget, the singer used to look like a floppy muppet. I’m also not sure if gym counts as a sport at all. It’s like calling torture a hobby, or walking on broken glass tap dancing.
‘Porn’ is apt, in the sense of how these narcissists flood Instagram with their ripped torsos, or ‘torso-porn’. Like porn, sporno hunks objectify the male anatomy, reducing it to money shots of glistening abs, throbbing waxed pecs and bulbous biceps. The first thing you notice is their He-Man boobs, not their personality or their faces. If you wear a very uncomfortable T-shirt over your sculpted body however, it sometimes looks like you’re hiding an alien trilobite underneath. Which explains why spornosexuals are often topless because the beast needs to breathe.
While ‘food porn’ gets your digestive juices flowing, ‘sporno’ makes you hate your flabby self and contemplate spending your money on ‘ab sculpting’ to fit in with the ideal of a ‘manly man’. It makes you look at your creepy fat uncle during CNY dinner and ask him: ‘Why can’t you do something about yourself and become more like Zheng Guoping, dammit!’ For some, it stimulates more juices than just salivation.
The idea of masculinity has been in flux ever since the first caveman began dragging his mate by her hair. Greek warriors and immortals like Adonis were fetishised and worshipped, similar to how our spornosexuals idolise the perfect body. Before Instagram, we already had buff, ripped men posing naked on canvas. Note the precision used in creating the shadow over his wondrous butt-crack. #greciosexual
In the 1950’s-60s, we aspired for the ‘Hollywood leading man’ look, the cool cat who didn’t think it was necessary to wear tight fitting shirts. All you needed were dreamy blue eyes, a sexy stare and wind-blown hair. Think classics like James Dean, Paul Newman or Robert Redford. Looking good was supposed to be EFFORTLESS, not spending your time pumping goddamn iron. Your face, that smooth pout, that intensity, did the talking, not your biceps. These men made the girls surrender to their irresistible indifference, hairy nipples or not. #dreamboatsexual
The 70’s had its ‘macho man’, and the Village People even made a song out of it. These beefcakes were not afraid to show off their armpit hair, or sport porno moustaches. The 70’s man indulged in vices loud and proud, sexualising beer, cigarettes and illicit drugs. The spornosexual on the other hand, is often as hairless as a baby’s bottom, in more places than you can imagine. He champions a ‘healthy lifestyle’, owns more wrist monitors than I’ve had watches in my lifetime, and probably has never heard of disco. #hirsutesexual
The 80’s was the era of the ‘action hero’, in the spirit of the machismo carried over from the decade before. Heartthrobs like Jean Claude Van Damme, Sly Stallone and Arnie were the real deal, and could smack today’s spornosexuals around with their pinkies while curling 10 kgs with the other hand. Conan the Barbarian FTW. Brawn mattered more than brain, and that was just fine. They graced B-grade movie posters and the covers of Mills and Boons romance novels. Hair started disappearing from chests and faces and migrated in droves to the scalp. In the early 90’s it was Highlander ‘himbo’ chic. You could be a garbage man in overalls and still exude glorious Fabio levels of manliness. You are Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers running in slow motion. #barbariosexual
Guys started to soften since. From lusty lumberjacks or stately warriors they became dandy princes on horses and pasty-faced vampires, and what used to be grease on their faces is now replaced by a more expensive form of emollient known as moisturiser. The new man was confident, well groomed, dapper and was ‘in touch’ with his feminine side. In short, they became richer but ‘gayer’. They’re not handy with power drills or axe to chop wood, but know exactly which button to unbutton to look absolutely ravishing. Cue the #metrosexual.
But it didn’t stop there. The masculine identity hit its pinnacle with the UBERSEXUAL. George Clooney became the man of the decade. The ‘Sexiest men alive’ as voted by People Magazine became less rugged and grimy over time, from Mel Gibson and Nick Nolte (?!) to more recent winners like Adam Levine and Ryan Gosling who fit the ‘uber’ bill. The latest winner, however, is grog-guzzling Thor himself Chris Hemsworth, who embodies more of the throwback Conan the Barbarian archetype than the fitspo-addicted spornosexuals of today, guys who swing a mighty hammer like a woman twirling a hula hoop. There is hope.
An interesting trend is the evolution of James Bond, who has traditionally been a sleek, not too muscular ladykiller who epitomised the definition of ‘dashing’. Sean Connery was the classic ladies’ man, before he morphed into the more girly Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Today’s 007 comes in the unlikely hunky -doriness of Daniel Craig. Craig is roast beef to Brosnan’s turkey bacon. Or look at Superman. Then and now. All tight and buff but still afraid of Kryptonite. #supersexual
The rise of celebrity chefs led the way for the invasion of the GASTROSEXUALS. Men who like to imagine themselves conquering Hell’s Kitchen, who know exactly what’s the best spatula or egg timer to use when baking a souffle. Never have we seen the Y-chromosome subject to so much sexual selection over time. It’s more straightforward for the ‘ideal’ woman. They become fatter or skinnier, their hair and skirts get longer or shorter. One moment our girl-crush is Kate Moss, the next it’s Kim Kadashian. Sexy women are just ‘sexual’, without us having to compartmentalise them by their penchant for facial products or whether they post pole-dancing videos on Facebook.
Maybe it’s time to look beyond the physique and glamour and reflect on what society (by society I mean women) finds alluring in a man again. Wit, intelligence, a sparkle in the eye? A man who impresses not with his pectorals but his poetic sense of humour and charm, with an endearing beer-belly body type that suggests mirth and a devil-may-care attitude. Think anti-sporno characters like Jonah Hill, or Ricky Gervais. Comedians basically, with as much brain as belly, not so much brawn. #flabbosexuals
But on a serious note, maybe we need to see if such spornosexualising is even healthy to begin with. You may be fit as a fiddle, but fall prey to a gym addiction and obsess over your body-image. You may collapse into a nervous wreck every time someone makes a passing remark of your weight, or the size of your chest, or fall into depression if someone else got more ‘Likes’ than you did on Instagram. You decide to hit the gym past midnight because you feel guilty about having half a pineapple tart. You spend an hour touching up your pic just to get the right hue on your six-pack and aureolae before making it your icon on Whatsapp. People who nod off on your shoulder on the MRT get concussions because you’re built like a German tank.
That’s no longer ‘pride’ anymore, dude. It’s body dysmorphic disorder.