Mark Simpson examines some professional show-offs

I want to talk about Jeff Seid’s tongue.

I want to talk about what’s attached, so exquisitely, to the famous fitness model and aesthetic bodybuilder’s tongue as well. But, despite the rest of his body being so very good at talking, his tongue is probably the most eloquent part of him – without actually saying anything. Just by sticking it out in that signature way of his, Mr Seid communicates so much about himself, and about spornosexuality – second generation, body-centred, sexed-up metrosexuality.

Jeff’s 26-year-old tongue – he was born in Renton, Washington, in 1994, the same year as the metrosexual – appears to be directly attached to his biceps so that whenever he flexes them, out it pops. It’s a big, fleshy, generous tongue, that lolls over most of his square, dimpled chin. 

Perhaps that fleshly muscular organ used for tasting, licking and swallowing is promising ladies, or lads, a good time. Perhaps it’s just expressing an estimation of his own tastiness. Perhaps it’s a cheeky, boyish affront to the world. But what that big, lolling tongue definitely signifies is Mr Seid’s hunger. For it all. For everything he can get. For the money shot of fame.

There’s an early, amateurish Seid video on YouTube from 2012, as funny as it is scary, that everyone who wants to understand today’s generation of self-sexualising, body-commodifying young men should watch.

It stars an eighteen year-old ex-High School wrestler and just recently ex-football jock Jeff, pre Bieber-esque fringe, pre Mr Olympia Men’s Physique title, pre all those fitness mag covers, pre-sponsorship deals, pre-jetting around the world to appear at expos and pose for selfies with fans and wannabes, pre his own clothing line (SeidWear) and workout books. Pre a zillion professionally produced ‘inspirational’ videos of him working out topless with romantic lighting. And pre-3.9M Instagram followers

Before, in other words, he became a pro-sporno.

That’s to say, an online high priest of spornosexuality – whose body arouses fascination, envy and desire and helps convert other young men to the sexy cult. And thus converts into loads of filthy lucre. 

Jeff, whose dreams of a pro football career had not long been ended by an injury, has nothing at this point, except his hunger to be looked at. Wanted. His ravenous desire to be desired. And that tongue. Oh, and attached to that tongue, a body. Not yet quite the glistening, ‘totally ripped’, awesome ‘aesthetic’ (a key word for Jeff and other spornosexuals – but do they know it’s Greek for ‘beautiful’?), globally-monetised ‘pro’ thing that it is today.

But certainly one that can still stop traffic.

And that’s exactly what the cheeky scamp does, eagerly stripping down to his pants and fake bake on the sidewalk in Las Vegas, that tongue panting, as he flexes. Passers-by pose for selfies with him and stuff dollar bills into his pants. Which makes his tongue stick out even more. Appropriately enough, Jeff doesn’t really speak in the video, but a charmingly amateurish subtitling tells you: ‘I made like $50 in 20 minutes!’. Innocent days! (Seid is now estimated to be earning c. $1M/year)

In case there’s anyone in Vegas that still hasn’t seen this showboys’ abs and bis, the future ‘king of Aesthetics’ then stands up, somewhat precariously, in the sunroof of a limo which is driving around, a little too fast, in circles, while he furiously flexes and poses his body and his tongue – completely unbothered that a sudden brake could bisect him and his buffedness. Jeff is a mechanised, unstoppable young spornosexual, firing on all swole cylinders without, apparently, a shred of fear, shame or embarrassment anywhere in his flawless, shredded body.

We never stood a chance.

***

David Laid – apparently this is actually his real name, and not one made up to riff suggestively on Seid’s – doesn’t stick his tongue out very much. In fact, I can’t remember seeing his tongue. However, this 22-year-old does pull rather strange, twitchy faces in the gym, in his many, many and rather lengthy YouTube videos. If it’s true that the faces we pull when exerting ourselves in the gym are our ‘sex faces’ then Mr Laid would make for a somewhat distracting bedroom partner.

Then again, his extraordinary, other-worldly body would be much more distracting. And several hundred thousand people are already regularly distracted by it, regularly.

Mr Laid is a 20-year-old ‘influencer’ and YouTube star from Atlantic City with 1.4M Instagram followers. Seven years ago he was a 98 pounds and ‘an absolute twig’, as he puts it, who was bullied in school for being so scrawny. So he turned to YouTube videos for advice on lifting – including, it seems, Mr Seid’s – and began his ‘personal journey’ and ‘natural bodybuilding transformation’ into the 200 pound ripped, strangely ethereal and yet highly corporeal creature he is today. 

With inevitable logic in a social me-dear world, his own transformative YouTube videos have gained him 1.4M YT followers keen to take inspiration of various kinds from his ‘muscle journey’ – and lucrative sponsorship from the spornowear company Gymshark.

Laid lifts several hours every day and somehow finds time to devour nearly 5000 calories a day in between workouts. And of course everything is documented on video. In fact, voracious eating in what appears to be the kitchen of his (always unseen) parents’ big suburban American house seems to be a major part of his videos – and a lot of what he and his two sidekicks eat isn’t exactly what you’d call ‘clean’. Visits to MacDonald’s drive-thru feature frequently. Youth and high metabolisms are so unfair.

Actually, y’know, working out often seems to make up a fraction of his videos, which also include him and his buddies playing with a drone, losing a drone and then finding a drone. Or visiting a grocery store and buying a trolley full of pre-cooked bacon. As you do.

Maybe this is because what fans really want from a David Laid video is the sense of hanging out with him and doing fun stuff – he is more of a ‘personality’ than Mr Seid, who is more of a… tongue. Or perhaps it’s because watching Laid work out in his inspirational videos is remarkably un-inspirational. It may be down to his long limbs and goofy expressions, but he seems to struggle and wobble with weights like a new-born foal trying to walk. Bambi the bodybuilder. Especially when he does his idiosyncratic version of a dead-lift, with his long legs so far apart they’re almost around his ears.

Then again, perhaps I miss the point that it is inspirational that someone so non-jockish should have succeeded in turning themselves into a muscle ice sculpture. 

Stripped down to his pants and posing in the locker room after a pumping workout while other gym-goers pretend not to notice, Laid is a perplexing sight. The long, v-shaped torso, the vanishingly small percentage of body fat – Maccy D’s notwithstanding – the armoured abs, and the silver knight shoulders, beautiful and imposing yet flowingly pretty and willowy. It’s difficult to know quite how to respond. Laid looks less like a 20 year-old-from Atlantic City, NJ, who works out than an androgynous alien cyborg, crossed with an anime pre-Raphaelite painting. It’s almost as if he represents the next step in human development – after Jeff Seid (he’s three years younger – which in our accelerated culture now represents a generation).

His sidekicks are both cute and buff – and rather difficult to tell apart, save one has bigger pecs than the other – but shorter, less goofy, and more conventionally jock-ish: managing not to twitch and gurn and wobble when working out. They seem almost to have been selected to throw Laid’s startling appearance into sharper relief.

Actual, hormonal heterosexuality, as is often the case with these spornographic videos, doesn’t really raise its head – because spornosexuality is the sexuality here. The orientation or relationship that matters is the one the star has to his own body and our voyeurism of that relationship, even though our eyes are the mirror. 

In one video, shot as many are in a kitchen, surrounded by boxes of newly arrived Gymshark stretchy-kinky superhero style gym wear that Laid and his chums have been trying on, enthusing over the tightness and texture, he shows his sidekicks some selfies scantily-clad female fans have just sent him. “How does that make you feel?” he asks. They look, but don’t reply.

Which is also kind of my reaction to Laid.

***

You are probably thinking that YouTube pro spornos, low, meatish animal cunning aside, are not the sharpest tools in the box. Or, rather, hoping that. Because of course, if you don’t have a body like theirs you need to clutch at any consolation you can. I know I do. All that pumping iron atrophies your brain, right?

Well, their pumping of iron that in turn pumps our nether regions may atrophy the voyeur’s brain, or at least starve it of oxygen, but not necessarily the sporno’s. Who has, after all, figured out a way to make himself indispensable in our hypervisual culture – unlike the intellectual.

Allow me to introduce you to Pietro Boselli, someone invented to cruelly deprive you of your faith in sporno stupidity, albeit with a dazzling and entirely disarming smile. Boselli, is living, geometrically consistent proof that spornos don’t have to be dumb. And also that for all their self-sexualisation, spornos can be romantico. Angelic, even. Boselli With his cherubic facial features, those bucolic, rosy cheeks that belie his 31 years, and that smiley submissiveness – and 2.7M Instagram followers – is the thoughtful, studied, articulate – but no less shredded – reply to Seid’s impish tongue. Boselli is sensuous lips. And nips.

Oh, and a big buff brain. Dubbed the world’s ‘sexiest maths teacher’ by the press – or perhaps by his own cunning PR – Boselli has a PhD in mechanical engineering, and taught undergraduate mathematics as a side-line for a while to lucky engineering students at London University. One of whom according to Wikipedia, ‘took note of his physique and stumbled on his modelling career’.

Stumbled. I suppose you could stumble while hyperventilating and rushing home to Google ‘Boselli’ + ‘naked’ in the privacy of your own bedroom.

Boselli, originally from Verona, Italy, is no longer involved in the world of old-skool engineering. He is fully-employed nowadays in the new wave of engineering – designing his own machine-body and working as a fitness model, offering body-blueprints for others to copy or just lust over. And it’s a stunningly successful project. In fact, Boselli was a model long before he was an engineer: he was chosen as the face of Armani Junior campaign in 1995 when he was just seven.

The boyish face and the smoothly mannish body are slightly reminiscent perhaps of the young Marky Mark in Mr Klein’s underpants, sans the compensatory bad-boy rapismo. Boselli is a very good boy on the streets – but, we like to think, a very naughty one between the sheets. The bona from Verona. As a reminder that we’re talking about second generation male tartiness here, Boselli was just four years old when Wahlberg was grabbing himself on the side of buses.

In addition to magazine ‘spreads’, he has his own YouTube channel where we can dissect the secrets of his beautiful body (Pietro Boselli’s Exercise Anatomy), and also listen to him offering thoughtful, philosophical advice about bodybuilding, and beauty tips, including ways to keep your skin hydrated by “drying your clothes indoors”. Pietro is not just a fitness coach – Pietro is a way of life.

Though admittedly it can be a little difficult to focus on all those words. His genetics are very distracting – and anyway tend to undermine his message. Most of us are never going to have skin or abs or lives like him, no matter how much washing we hang up in our untidy apartments. Paradoxically, that’s why we’re sat there in our onesies eating pizza and drooling over his fitness and beauty advice videos. Or is that just me?

The Bona from Verona likes to wax philosophical about the Cartesian ‘mind/body dualism’ in our culture. One which tends to both assume/hope he will be dumb because he’s hot – but which has also made him even more famous than he would have been if he had just been a pretty face and studly body. Boselli gave a TED lecture called ‘How I survived as professor on the runway and model in the classroom’ – looking like he was on a catwalk rather than in a lecture theatre while doing so. There was certainly a lot of telephoto lens action from the audience.

Boselli also likes to post photos of himself on Instagram/Facebook etc. in his Speedos, looking lonely somewhere scenic – or looking scenic somewhere lonely – usually with a self-improving motto attached. Such as:

Learn to think. Embrace being alone with your own thoughts.

Pietro boselli

I’m not sure whether it’s down to the Cartesian mind/body split, but these uplifting messages – as is often the case with the self-help slogans that many pro spornos go in for when posting sexy photos of themselves – seem sincere, and also a kind of parody at the same time. After all, the thoughts that Boselli is mostly in the business of provoking already involve a great deal of lonely self-embracing.

A little bit like Laid, Pietro is a confusing/intoxicating phenomenon to behold. Not just because of his boyish, Dorian-esque head on his pumped, smooth, statuesque body. Or his near-androgyny: all truly beautiful things, as Sontag famously noted, are a mixture of masculine and feminine – like early Tom of Finland drawings, Boselli has a wonderful, firm voluptuousness to his ‘hyper male’ body. But also because – unlike say Mr Seid who has made it perfectly clear exactly what we’re supposed to do with him – we don’t know whether to put Signore Boselli on a pedestal or in a sling. 

His buff beauty, like his buff brain, is exquisitely discombobulating.

***

(Don’t worry, I’ve not forgotten Matt Does Fitness, who with 2M YouTube followers, he is possibly the UK’s most popular pro sporno. He and his assets deserve a scrutinising post all to himself – and will soon be getting one.)

A version of this post originally appeared on Mark Simpson’s Patreon