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The Metrosexual Noughties

Amidst the swathe of drearily predictable ‘decade  in review’ pieces that appeared at the end of December this one by Amanda Hess at The Sexist stood out as one which actually managed to offer some observational cultural insight, rather than just recycled cuttings and cliches:

Think boys are simply born into their masculine gender role? Consider, for a moment, how quickly the cultural norms of acceptable maleness can change. The past decade of masculine fads saw cultural expressions of manliness range from finely-groomed boy bands to shlumpy stoners to blowed-out “guidos.” The versions of masculinity that gained popularity in the aughts saw an infusion of traditionally feminine traits—along with a heavy dose of hyper-masculine compensation.

Sharply observed and well-informed (after all, she quotes me) Hess is one of the few decade-end commentators to notice that the Noughties signalled a major, if not epochal shift in masculinity — but perhaps this isn’t so surprising since as I know very well myself the media in general is highly resistant to any serious analysis of the subject, despite or perhaps because of the space it gives to women’s issues.

Hess’ section on ‘bros’ is worth quoting at length:

Like the metrosexuals who rose alongside them, bros incorporated some traditionally feminine aspects into their own version of masculinity—think pink polos, pastel ribbon belts, and store-bought scents. But bros differentiated themselves from the metro set with a healthy dose of crippling homophobia that encouraged both aggressive heterosexual behavior and subversive homoerotic displays among the bros. And so—we got aggressive heterosexual sexual conquests (banging some chick in the frat house), alongside decidedly homoerotic sexual conquests (banging some chick in the frat house with three of your best bros). We got extreme masculine contests (CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!) alongside absurd homosocial displays (fraternity initiation paddling). At least women got a reliable warning sign of likely brodom—the double-popped collar.

I would submit however that most of Hess’ listed masculine trends, particularly ‘boy bands’, ‘bros’ and ‘Guidos’ are more like fads or subspecies within the wider trend of metrosexuality itself and the breakdown of traditional male gender and sexual norms that it represents.  Bros and Guidos for instance seem to be examples of how metrosexuality is being assimilated (and resisted — often in the same gesture) in different areas of American life, according to class, ethnicity, age etc.

The homophobia of bros for example, looks very familiar and very ‘gay’ to me: it’s the homophobia of ‘straight acting’ gay men towards ‘queens’.  While Jersey Shore looks to me very much like metrosexuality for boys who love their Momma’s cooking too much to go to college. They also look a lot like metrosexual young men from matriarchal working class backgrounds in the UK, such as Geordies — who tend to be just as orange and plucked and just as prone to fights and making fun of men who cook). [Prophetic words: Geordie Shore launched a year after this post in 2011 was the UK’s version of Jersey Shore.]

Hess lists the ‘peak year’ of metrosexuality as being ‘2003’ — in reality, this was the peak year not of metrosexuality but of metrosexmania, the global media’s insatiable craving for literally skin-deep stories about male spas and sack-and-crack waxes — and trying to wear out the ‘m’ word with empty repetition.

Metrosexuality, men’s passionate, epoch-making desire to be desired, is a long, long way from peaking.  And the Twenty First Century is going to have to get used to it.

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24 thoughts on “The Metrosexual Noughties”

  1. Gay culture is denying what it should have been embracing mens natural masculinity, not macho masculine/feminine the most sexual are a balance of both in physical and mental, the camp attitude or queen isn’t anything to do with either, it’s an extreme, certainly not close to women which to be honest is an offensive put down, women are not like that, the bitchy drag kind is purely there own, male and female sexuality is very close, kylie, sexually powerful, it oozes from her, some would say masculine attitude. thats sexual honesty, men and women love sex equally, i should know i grew up in female household, i have always had myself a powerful sex attitude, normal not acted just me, a lad from working class who loved cock, i wanted it and secure about it, my attitude is just me, guy who likes guys, although when i did start to go on gay scene i was shocked at the venom i received and being told how aggresive i was, angrily telling me this, couldn’t see the irony, i was a threat to the gay attitude, now scally, chav is everywhere. i am now fantasy porn. for me its me, i have no problem with the camp attitude it’s the ones that are nasty vile and hate, it’s not nice, just get rid of the not funny bitching, it’s not right. it’s low, nasty and holds us back. it’s changing fast, gay culture as it stands will be dead in twenty years.

  2. Seems to me that there is an awful lot of talking, it’s obvious, understand humans as the animals we are, sex is simple, gay culture, queens whatever you call is very modern, previously it has simply been man on man, that’s it, i know that’s me, i don’t identify with gay culture, it’s very alien, i am me, very very secure about sex, lad from council estate thats into men, never struggled with it, i love mens dick, but gay culture, queens seem nonsexual, to me seems they are homophobic, my sex attitude is straight male, simple, i am attracted to male attitude. even gay porn is wrong, to much anticock sex there is not enough cocksucking, men love that, not fucking up the arse, strip the crap. cock thats it.

  3. My thought in that vein was that Brando would have been a bitch in Kenneth Angers’gay film Scorpio Rising!

  4. I’m sorry, but an argument that takes Marlon Brando in The Wild One as the epitome of ‘straight’ is just making my point much better than I ever could.

  5. @Mark Walsh

    Quosque tandem abutere, Mark Walsh, patientia mea?

    Frankly, I am not going to waste any more time arguing with you. Saying that gay men are, on average, as masculine as straight men is not an argument; it is retarded. It is like trying to argue that 2 + 2 = 5. It goes against logic, reason and common sense. Funny that gay men themselves don’t seem to agree with you, given that a lack of masculine gay men is the most common complain from queens from what I can infer from gay message boards. We must apply Occam’s Razor here: the reason why gay men act effeminate and have effeminate interests is because they are effeminate. You don’t believe the garbage you’re saying yourself. My personal guess is that if you’re trying to convince yourself that a lie is true by repeating the lie to yourself ad nauseum, but that’s self-delusion.

    As for Alexander and Richard Lionhearted and other pederasts, there are two fundamental differences between the pederast from classical antiquity and the modern gay man:

    1. Pederasts were attracted exclusively to skinny and hairless teenage boys, whilst gay men are attracted to masculine-looking men.

    2. Pederasts had sex with women too, and in many cases prefered women over boys, unlike gay men who are exclusively homosexual.

  6. By the way, Pedro, I’m sure that it’s a souce of curiousity why you would spend so much time hanging out exclusively with these extreme queens who most of us never get to see but on the rare occasion,( unless they are straight.) You must have some facination which reaches beyond most peoples. I would have trouble finding the kind of society which you seem to surround yourself with.. Why do you want too make a case for that sort of extreme? It has to be personal. and treasured..

  7. Coattailing Sisu’s description, and just in response to your unlistening posture, I have to observe that you have not kept astride with the men’s movement, in which men seek to throw off the schackles of traditional roles. Robert Blys’ “Iron John” the empahsis is on the belief that men are trapped by he same type of roles which act as a foil to womens’ traditional entrapment. This leaves them with time to primp and pose and show off like peacocks in the yard.
    How would you know what Alexander and Richard did. Histiorically, Alexander started his roving when very young, so to find younger partners he would literally have to rob the crib-like one year olds; which is at least odd. Richard had a long term affair with a peer Philip of Agincourt. and fellow soldiers. He was on the battlefield fighting the Moors to much too chase young boys ariound.

    As far as “insulting your intelligence “goes, I would instead praise your imagination, which is remarkable. You are a man of another age.

  8. Goodness, are we here again? Defending the pseudo-masculinity of today’s gay man?

    Well, Pedro my friend, I hate to tell you that my male students are incredibly effeminate – they wax and pluck themselves, they are constantly reapplying their aftershaves, they flirt with me (quite nice, really, especially the geeky redhead…but I digress). My point is that my male students are buff, are waxed or clippered and display such effeminate behaviour that even I want to bash them for being too faggy.

    Well, not really, but being a teenager and young adult in the late 80s / early 90s meant that I have an old-fashioned idea of what is “masculine” and what is “feminine” and to avoid being bashed, I made sure I wasn’t on the feminine side of the line. These young boys are far camper and prissy and “female-acting” that the “straightest” thing about them is their claim to be straight.

    Yes, we might lament the strong, alpha-male type… but working at a Training College has shown me that today’s young men are increasingly metrosexual, and that the muscle-bound fitness students are the most “feminised” of the lot.

    So Pedro…”Most gay men are effeminate”? No, in today’s world most men are feminised, at least from the idea of “men” upon which our fathers and grandfathers were raised.

  9. Yeah, but Alexander the Great, Richard Lionhearted etc prefered hairless teenage boys over manly men and they took the active role with them. Go tell Richard the Lionhearted that he enjoyed being sodomized and you’d see what he would do to you. Liberace or Boy George he was not.

    Cut the CRAP, Mark Walsh: most gay men are effeminate. I can see it, the 90 year-old lady next door can see it, everyone with two eyes and a working brain can see it. Who are you trying to fool? Even you don’t believe it. Most gay men are butch? Oh, really? Then why is it the most common complain of gay men that there are so few butch gay men around? Just go to gay message boards and you’ll see it. Serioulsy, you insult my intelligence by claiming that most gay men are butch. You must take me for a complete fucking chump.

  10. p.s.Your only contention, pedro, is that you have to be straight to pull a trigger?
    A male can stick his dick in anything.

  11. If you are only hanging around the two percent who are fey, Pedro you must like the company of queens and have a twisted perspective.; the other eight percent are butch ! Remember that Alexander the Great; Richard the Lionhearted, and some of the greatest warriors were gay.

    It only takes money to be a big game hunter: probably mor women do rthat then men, who don’t have the time. I can tell you fotrom experience thatr hirt men are gay, as are women.

    You are just being silly!

  12. @Mark Walsh

    You are undoubtedly the most delusional person I’ve ever seen in my life. Straight men are intimidated by gay men’s hyper-masculinity, huh? I wonder then why the popular image of the homosexual is that of a flamboyant fashionista who works in a hair saloon, and I wonder why practically all out gay men I’ve ever met acted and talked like a Valley girl from an American 1980s teen flick. I wonder if it’s a mere coincidence that gay men, at only 2% of the male population, represent 90% of male fashion stylists, interior designers and professional ballet dancers – Baryshnikov is the exception that proves the rule. I wonder also why soldiers of fortune, big game hunters and professional hit men are usually the straightest of men, usually having several children by different women. We hear all the time about fashion designers coming out as gay, but we never ever hear about stevedores or mercenaries coming out as gay. Oh yes, I know what you’re gona say: they are afraid of the homophobia in their environments. I just figure they are doing a good job hiding their homosexuality, seeing as they go to great lengths pursuing women to mate with them and practically all these men are womanizers. Considering the aversion gays have for pussy, I find it hard to believe these men would sink their dinks into so many of them just to prove that they are not gay.

  13. @Mark Simpson

    Good point Mark – and good points coming from you are a dime a dozen.

    Nevertheless, it is always gay men that start parroting straight men’s behavior and not the other way around. Recall that in the early 1950s, when Marlon Brando started to appear in films wearing denin jeans and leather jackets, this way of dressing was synonymous with macho and all young men started to dress like that – watch the film “Grease”, which is ambiented at a 1950s American high school and you’ll see that. However, gay men found the genuinelly masculine young men who dressed like that attractive and started to parrot them to appear more masculine, to the point that, by the 1970s, no straight man would wear leather jackets save for members of motorcycle gangs because it was seen as gay.

    So there is an “arms race” between straight men and gay men: the latter are always trying to appear straight – because that’s what other gays find attractive -, and straight men are always trying not to appear gay. So straight men start dressing in a certain way, this way of dressing is seen as a straight guy thing and masculine, gay men start copying them to appear straight and soon it becomes gay and unmasculine, so straight men switch to other ways of dressing/acting etc to not appear gay. It’s like in the 1990s all American straight boys weared baseball caps, gay fashionistas and trend setters took note of it, gay men started wearing them and nowadays no straight boy wears baseball caps because it’s seen as gay. Gay men will always try to look like straight men and the latter will always try to not look gay, meaning that as soon as gay men start copying straight men’s codes, straight men abandon those codes and switch to new ones to not appear gay.

  14. Ginsberg was usually so stoned that he probably didn’t know what was in his mouth much of the time.
    Even if Becks may at one times may have had any European sophistication, being in America has left him believing that that optimum progressive political expression is to promote maraquana legalization. The connection with Ginsbergs sexuality is probably completely accidental. Los Angeles is very avant guard in that respect.

    Mark S, I recall that when I first moved from the Midwest where gays dressed klike queens and “men’ dressed like men, my whole world was wonderfully upended to discover that in San Fran. gays dressed like “men’ and straights dressed like queens, and it was easy to make the distinction.!

  15. Mark – oh it was the jarring combo of Beckham + Ginsberg. I would bet he’s wearing it without knowing anything about Ginsberg, just cos it looks cool, but it’s an intriguing thought that he might :]

  16. Pedro: Sometimes ‘straight acting’ means nothing more than ‘not gay acting’ – ‘gay acting’ being a very definite and often annoying cliche. Too often it is an attempt to pass the stigma of homosexuality onto the ‘real gays/queers’. ‘Bros’ are ‘straight acting’ in the latter sense: clearly ‘gay’ in any number of ways and they know it, so they repeatedly try to pass the stigma of homosexuality on to the ‘real queers’.

    As for copies and originals: metrosexuality is the end of that. Who is copying whom now? Gay men may have started out appropriating the Marlboro Man (though what the sexuality was of this advertising invention is anyone’s guess) in the 1970s, but straight men have been copying them ever since. Have you seen Men’s Health magazine?

  17. Paul: Thanks for the pic. And for thinking of me. But was it Becks or baldy, beardy Ginsberg that made you think of me? Either way, I hope that Becks doesn’t read poetry!

  18. @Marl Walsh

    Yes, the genuinelly hyper-masculine gay man is like the unicorn: a mythological creature that lots of people claim to exist, but which no one has ever saw in person.

  19. Oh, Paul, that is a cute enough picture of Becks; I think that he’s more interested in the big tea joint Ginsberg has in his mouth, than any sexual reference. If you were ever at any on Ginsberg’s’ reading, the space was usually so full of reefer smoke that it was hard to see what was happening; it was a happening none the less.
    Re; Metrosexuality, I suspect that the examples presented by Ms. Hess actually reinforce your [metero]view, Mark more than anything: I.e.,boys rebelling, rather than bowing to their pere’s conventions are far more likely to aim at most available countercultural roles in the long run, including & especially feminine paradigms eventually. As you suggest, the over emphasis of homophobia is just that for the reason that they are not acting the role of the traditional anti-hetero, and feel (non-masculine) guilt ). Also they are just at the start of a path of gender/sexual redefinition. So many things, especially in American culture are in for radical readjustment.

  20. Some gay men, whose nature it is to be effeminate “act masculine’ ,in the same way that straight men try to act masculine but are humiliated and threatened by the naturally very masculine gay men, get the covers pulled on them when they act like bitches in the odd moment..
    None of these guys were ever in prison, or other confined male spaces for long. I think that Genet phrased the situation such that “A male who fucks another male is a double male.”(something to ponder).

  21. But Mark, doesen’t the fact that gay men themselves refer to gays that are masculine-acting as straight-acting indicate the perception, on the part of gays, that straight men are more masculine, and that what straight-acting gay men are doing is an act copying the genuine original?

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