Finally! Spornosexuals no longer have to run the risk of socialising with people who don’t work out, own no Lycra, and think that whey isolate sounds absolutely vomitous.
Now, thanks to a Munich-based company, spornos have their very own ‘social’ app that will allow them to find, locate and interact with other spornos in their vicinity. Which of course is likely to be someone sweating on the machine next to them in the gym they spend their lives in.
Gymder, as it’s called, is billed as a free location-based app designed to help you find “mutually interested workout buddies nearby right when you need them”. Apparently it “uniquely connects people in a fitness context – thereby users can find each other and train together anytime, anywhere.”
It may seem a little silly that people who go to the gym every day need an app to find people who go to the gym, but hey that’s the kind of ‘social’ world we live in now. After all, everyone at the gym is now either staring at their phones between sets (sometimes during sets), or wearing huge, DON’T TALK TO ME earphones that look like they belong to 747 handlers.
Of course, phrases like “mutually interested”, “right when you need them”, and “anytime, anywhere” do rather suggest, like the name itself, that Gymder can serve as a Grindr for spornosexuals. That, like the Olivia Newton John song, it helps you get physical, in more ways than one.
The fact that the website states it isn’t a dating app is neither here nor there. To be successful even as a fitness dating app, Gymder probably needs to officially assert it’s not about dating but about fitness. And besides, because humans are human, everything social can be sexual – even something as desiccated as LinkedIn.
The potential for Gymder to be used for hunky hook ups sent Gizmodo and Mashable off the deep end of disapproval last week. They both worked themselves into a spectacularly prudish lather, ranting about how “creepy” and “nefarious” this app is.
Gizmodo went so far to described Gymder as a “terrifying development” – because an app for people interested in the cultivation of beautiful bodies might be used for getting to know people who cultivate beautiful bodies better?
Clutch the weighted pearls!
Gizmodo’s concern was partly directed at some of the app’s permissions, but the main offence here is sexualising something already sexualised. We are solemnly informed that “gyms are not appropriate places to find dates” and that “any normal person probably wants to be left alone and suffer through their workout without a stranger ogling at their beautiful body”.
Yeah, a ‘normal’ person just wants to suffer at the gym. A ‘normal’ person isn’t thinking about sex, at all. A ‘normal’ person would hate to think that someone found their honed and toned body attractive. And yeah, a ‘normal’ person treats the gym as a sacred place of solitary, miserable, Protestant penitence – which is why Gymder isn’t just creepy, it’s sacrilege!
Well, dude, you don’t have to download it.
But then, Mr Gizmodo and Ms Mashable do seem to be complaining about a spornosexual party they haven’t been invited to.
GYMDER TRAILER 2016
The ad for the app certainly presents a party vibe – an adamantly hetero one. Most of the ‘interactions’ presented are male/female: a prize, pumped sporno male takes a selfie with ladies literally hanging off him, his large tongue hanging out. Men are seen touching each other – but only through a punch, or a fist-bump.
There’s an implicit disavowal of anything ‘gay’ about Gymder in the ad, which is why we should treat with the same caution as the disavowal that it’s not a dating app. What better way to meet other male spornos on the down low than on a dating app that isn’t a dating app and isn’t gay?
This ad starring Cristiano Ronaldo flogging body exercise electrodes called SIXPAD -- or SEXPAD? -- has been airing UK television for some months now, but every time it comes on it still makes me gape -- pardon my French.
It’s both funny and disturbing, and in truth I had avoided writing about it until now because I hoped it was just a bad dream (I usually glimpse it on late-night TV). But it isn’t going away.
Body Revolution - SIXPAD Featuring Cristiano Ronaldo / AIBI Official
The ad itself is incredibly camp. Or kitsch. Or cheesey. Or all of the above. Likewise the voiceover intoning ‘Bwody Rewolution!’ It’s almost as if the ad seems to know that its premise -- you can get a body like Ronaldo’s and grow yourself a six-pack by spending £350 on a souped up vibrator and not moving a muscle -- is hilarious and just decides to go with that.
But all this is eclipsed by the crazy campery of Ronaldo apparently playing the part of a Japanese sex robot -- wearing only his own brand designer underwear. Or a male Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager. Though this is perhaps the uncanny valley where spornosexuality is taking us.
Unlike Seven of Nine however, Ronaldo is entirely passive. Animated only by the pulses of electricity from the black leathery things that seem to have attached themselves like a kinky Sci-Fi leech to his abs and bis. The pulsing of his muscles in time to the music is kinda creepy -- but also kinda sexy. There is something sex toy cam-show about it all.
The (post) money-shot is the bit where he wipes his abs down and grins at the camera. Or maybe he’s just advertising his easy-maintenance qualities.
Some might describe Ronaldo’s performance as ‘wooden’ -- or possibly ‘silicone’. But his acting is still better than David Beckham’s in ‘King Arthur’.
And some might cite this ad as more proof of Ronaldo’s egotism. But I would rather take it as evidence that he’s a good sport.
For the right fee.
It seems SIXPAD read this blogpost and decided to actually go ahead and make a Ronaldo sex doll. Albeit one that looks like Pietro Boselli:
Mark Simpson sits at the feet of ‘The Bona from Verona’
Pietro Boselli, the ‘world’s sexiest maths teacher’ as he has been breathlessly dubbed by the press, is living, geometrically consistent proof that spornosexuals don’t have to be dumb. And also that for all their self-sexualisation, spornos can be romantico. Angelic, even.
Though if angels look like this who needs Hell?
Hailing from Verona, Italy, with his cherubic facial features, those bucolic, rosy cheeks that belies his 27 years, and that smiley submissiveness, Boselli puts me in mind somewhat of Antinous, the beautiful young male lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. After Antinous’ early death aged 20 years in 130 AD, a grieving Hadrian made him a deity, and his image was reproduced in countless statues and worshipped in both the Latin West and the Greek East.
Nowadays we can’t be waiting around until someone dies to turn them into a god. While smartphones and social media mean we don’t have to turn them into marble statues to reproduce -- and worship -- their image. The divine Boselli is of course all over YouTube and Instagram.
But beneath that angelic face he has that devilish body, which is rather more buff than most depictions of Antinous. The boyish face and the smoothly mannish body are slightly reminiscent perhaps of the young Marky Mark in Mr Klein’s underpants, sans the 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.
Boselli is not a maths teacher any more, but rather a full-time fitness model. And like any pro sporno he has his own YouTube channel, where we can dissect his beautiful body. Either to try and copy it, or perhaps to somehow penetrate its secrets.
Pietro Boselli's Exercise Anatomy - Trailer
In truth, he was never really a maths teacher in the way that perhaps most people probably understand or remember a maths teacher, though it is a great marketing moniker. While studying for his mechanical engineering PhD at London University he taught undergraduate mathematics to some lucky engineering students for a while. One of whom, according to Wikipedia, ‘took note of his physique and stumbled on his modelling career’.
Stumbled. Hmmm. I suppose you could ‘stumble’ while hyperventilating and rushing to Google someone’s name + ‘NAKED’.
Boselli was in fact a model long before he became an engineer: he landed the Armani Junior campaign in 1995 -- aged just seven -- and carried it for four years. But there is no question that he is a highly intelligent and highly educated young man. That he is not ‘just’ a pretty face attached to some pretty pecs.
However, the ‘world’s sexiest maths teacher’ moniker ensured he became even more famous than he would have done if he had just been a pretty face.
It’s interesting how we -- by which I mean ‘I’ -- still seem to have this difficulty reconciling beauty with intelligence, regardless of whether the ‘object’ of our desire is male or female. Perhaps it’s a form of Freud’s observation that men frequently separate affection and desire, tending to debase those they desire.
Pietro is confusing-intoxicating phenomenon to behold not just because of his near-androgyny -- as Susan Sontag said all truly beautiful things are a mixture of masculine and feminine -- but because we don’t know whether to put him on a pedestal or in a sling.
The Ancients saw beauty and virtue as being related: Antinous was likely intelligent and well-educated and Hadrian would have expected nothing less. But Christian dualism put paid to that. Crudely, in the Christian worldview the body is the world, thus corruption and sin, and belongs to the devil -- while our minds/souls are non-material, eternal and belong to God.
And bodies that provoke lust -- such as Boselli’s -- are doubly damned.
Tasty Pietro Boselli
Boselli’s TED talk earlier this year played on the cultural contradiction he represents, and was titled: ‘How I survived as professor on the runway and model in the classroom‘. And truth be told, he does look like a model on the runway talking like a professor. There seemed to be a lot of telephoto lens action from the audience, who may not have been entirely focused on his message.
His adorable accent and equally adorable nervousness do definitely add to his many other distractions.
As far as I can remember (my mind did wander) he was talking about the mind/body dualism of our culture and why it should be disregarded. It’s a message he seems to touch on again in this, the first of his new YouTube ‘Workout Philosophy’ talks. Cartesian dualism be damned!
Why should anyone work out? - Workout Philosophy #1 | Pietro Boselli
That said, most people watching the video above will probably see, in their mind’s eye, the video below. Even when he keeps his t-shirt on it looks like it is taking itself off.
Mark Simpson visits Rome’s Foro Italico, home of Mussolini’s Olympic ‘gay gang-bang in Carrara marble’
Off the well-worn tourist track, on the North bank of the Tiber in the Eternal City, hidden away in the Foro Italico sports complex, is a vast, open-air shrine to the idealised male form that most visitors to Rome are unaware exists.
Which is rather odd, seeing as it is essentially a huge – if tastefully done – gay gang-bang in Carrara marble.
The Stadio dei Marmi (‘Stadium of the Marbles’) is an open-air sports stadium completed in 1928 as a training centre for the adjoining Academy Physical Education, as part of a plan for attracting the Olympics to Rome in 1944 – a project blown slightly off-course by the Second World War.
But the Stadio dei Marmi is not a sports stadium like you have ever seen before, outside of sport-themed gay porn.
Fifty-nine statues of classically-styled athletes surround and dominate the stadium with their various states of perfect nakedness – some with fig-leaves, some in jock-straps, many completely starkers except for the occasional boxing glove or cricket bat.
The Foro Italico sports complex which contains Stadio dei Marmi was built during Italy’s fascist period and originally called the ‘Foro Mussolini’ – the Italian dictator took a close personal interest in the design. It was, you might say, a vanity project. The statues of the Stadio dei Marmi were of course meant to glorify Il Duce and Italian fascism and associate him and it with the strength, virility and triumphs of imperial Rome.
However, the sculptors involved seem to have got carried away. To the modern eye this celebration of firm male flesh looks like a spornographic scandal. It really has to be seen – to be experienced – to be believed. Standing in the middle of the stadium surrounded by all that virile marble it’s difficult not to feel you’re the centre of a neo-classical bukkake – the still-fresh white Carrara marble ejaculating against the blue Roman sky.
But it’s when you go around the rear of these god-like chaps that the real fun begins. The bubble buttocks on display are simply divine in their detail. All that carefully symbolised furious activity suddenly becomes irresistible passivity. Not at all what Il Duce had in mind.
One of the sculptors has even autographed one of the statues ‘A. Buttini’. A joke that doesn’t really work in Italian – but I like to think he knew I was coming.
If you squint your eyes against the Mediterranean sun it’s easy to imagine a young Dolce and Gabbana here with a packed lunch, furiously sketching away – getting inspiration for their famous underwear advertising campaigns in the Noughties. The ones starring the Italian rugby, soccer and swimming teams oiled up in the showers. Which were then followed in the Tweens by fellow-Italian Armani’s saucy underpants campaigns starring sporting heroes Beckham, Nadal and Ronaldo with their legs apart on the side of buses.
Perhaps it’s just a trick of the Mediterranean light. Perhaps it’s just an effect of hindsight. But whether or not the 20th Century martial-marble propaganda of Stadio dei Marmi anticipated 21st century hyper-sexualised depictions of male athletes, it’s well worth a visit.
“Would you like me to take my top off?” is the shy and retiring usual response when you ask a chap here if he minds having his photo taken. Followed by much flexing.
Those that are actually wearing a top. Many are just wearing a flawless tan. Or vests – or ‘tanks’ as they’re now called – of varying degrees of skimpiness and stretchiness. It’s cool out, but shorts and compression leggings abound – as well as tapered gym pants so ‘fitted’ that might as well be compression leggings. When in the National Exhibition Centre make a national exhibition of yourself.
And why not? Shyness is overrated, especially if you’re seriously fit. And most people here – I would estimate the crowd today 80% male and 20% female and mostly under 30 – have spent a great deal of time, sweat and money turning their body into a very glam accessory and want to show it off. Club music is pumping, the vibe is good, the crowd is friendly and not at all standoffish – but everyone is sober and the lights are up, so we can all get a really good look.
Officially called BodyPower, the UK’s largest expo for the UK fitness industry might be dubbed the Ideal Body Exhibition. Or Spornosexual Pride. It’s eye-poppingly clear that the gay love of the idealised male form has been taken up by a generation of (mostly) straight guys. And buffed up even more. In truth, they’ve turned out to be rather better at it than gay men.
Held over a weekend every May at the NEC, Birmingham, BodyPower fills six halls with exhibitors from the booming gym, supplement and sportswear sectors, represented by costly, elaborate stands for brands such as MyProtein, USN, Dynamix, Aesthetix Era and Gymshark. As well as ‘healthy eating’ kitchens, a teeth-whitening booth, posing coaches and PowerPoint lectures in darkened rooms on the science of muscle-building.
For those wanting more action, there are competitions such as the ‘BodyPower Games’, a blizzard of sweaty torsos and flying abs doing furiously fast pull-ups and leg raises. And ‘Fit Factor’, a talent search for new fitness models. Onstage the hopefuls adopt their favourite Men’s Health/Muscle & Fitness poses and grins while a photographer snaps and flashes away – the results instantly projected on a big screen and totally judged.
There’s even a workout area – just in case you felt guilty about missing a training day to go to BodyPower. After all, you’re already wearing your gym gear.
Launched in 2009 by CEO Nick Orton as something of a niche show for bodybuilding and power sports, BodyPower, like our culture’s interest in in the body itself, has grown rapidly, and now caters for ‘the whole fitness spectrum’, attracting over 90,000 visitors this year. Fitness and bodybuilding has left the dank, dark locker room and come out into the light – in really nicely filled-out compression leggings.
One in every seven people in the once pie-scoffing, pint-downing, tab-smoking UK is now a gym bunny – that’s over 9M memberships with a total UK market value estimated to be £4.4B, according to figures published last month by the Leisure Database Company. And the industry shows no signs of hitting a plateau – 224 new gyms opened in the UK in the past year alone.
Likewise, the fitness supplement industry is no longer a discreet corner in Holland & Barretts – protein sales alone are estimated to be worth a ‘swole’ £8B globally by 2017. Fashion gym-wear is also busting out all over, for both women and men: the global ‘athleisure’ – or spornowear – market is estimated to be worth £200B.
But of course, even with a pumped fitness industry, BP would be nothing without pumped punters. And everyone I speak to seems to think they’re getting value for their c.£30 admission.
‘We love it!!’, is the verdict of three cheery, worked-out lads in their late-teens, early 20s, Jack, Jake, and John from Leeds, who got up early on a Sunday morning and drove two and a half hours to be here, their second visit to BP. They also love training, going 5-6 times a week.
Do they get any stick for that from family and friends? ‘All the time,’ says one, the others agreeing. ‘Not so much from family, as they’ve accepted it, but mates are always going: “What you wanna go to the gym for??” With a belly and pint in their ‘ands!’
They’re especially looking forwards to meeting their fitness idol, Calum von Moger, a preposterously handsome 25-year-old Australian three times Mr Universe social media star (2M Facebook followers). Moger, along with preposterously pretty Americans Steve Cook (31 yrs,1M Instagram followers) and Jeff Seid (22 yrs, 1.7M Instagram followers) – both also attending BodyPower, courtesy of their sponsors – represents a new wave of ‘physique’ or ‘aesthetic’ bodybuilders. The aim now is not to be as freakishly huge as possible, but as hench and hot as possible. The so-called ‘cover model’ look. Pro spornos.
Thanks to social media, these fitness idols, with their downloadable ‘bulk and cut’ diets and ‘boulders like shoulders’ exercise plans, have in many ways become more influential than the magazines that they appear on/in. The Leeds lads tell me they don’t really buy fitness mags, preferring to watch Moger et al’s motivational videos on YouTube instead.
‘You’re looking pretty shredded, man!’ says Steve Cook to a 20-something male audience member in a particularly draughty vest – who then gets up and flexes for a cheering audience. Onstage at a packed auditorium at BodyPower, ex pro American football jock Cook, with his narrow waist, dazzling smile, great hair and skin, photogenic personality and unapologetic vanity – he identifies as metrosexual – is the perfectly-formed embodiment of ‘aesthetic’.
He has real star quality. He jokes how his parents took the mirrors out of his bedroom when he was a kid ‘’cause they knew I liked them too much’, banters with a man-bunned member of the audience about a rumour that he had one himself for a while (‘It was a very dark time in my life’), before breaking into an impromptu Whip and Nae-Nae dancing display for his fans crowding round to have their selfie taken with him.
The ‘swole’ selfie moment in many ways the BP money shot – the real attendance draw. Punters patiently queue to have their selfie taken flexing with their online idol – the idealised, ‘motivational’ reflection of themselves as they hope to be.
Sometimes the mirror-image is literal. One lad waiting to meet Jeff Seid at his sponsor’s stand (Pursue Fitness) looks uncannily like his only slightly less pumped twin, right down to the high hair and the wide grin: ‘Some people say I look a bit like him!’ And indeed he does.
Jeff Seid meets the man in the mirror.
And if you happen to actually have a proper, biological twin already, that’s catered for as well. Toby and Adam, two boisterous, buffed, 20-year-old redhead twins in identical vests and caps have travelled from Herefordshire to meet UK muscle model twins Owen and Lewis Harrison (25yrs, c. 400K Instagram followers each), cover stars of this month’s Muscle & Fitness. Though at their sponsor’s stand, BPI supplements, Lewis seems to have gone temporarily AWOL, slightly spoiling the twin twins selfie moment.
A Harrison twin meets a couple of fans
With their mirror-image, colourfully-inked, sculpted physiques and hair, shaped eyebrows and perfect skin, the Harrisons are the total ‘aesthetic’ package. Pec pop stars. In fact, these ex junior pro footballers from Manchester look like the ‘totally shredded’ offspring of Beckham and Take That.
They also represent the ultimate gym-buddy fantasy: brothers in muscle, mirroring each other’s achievements. But, I ask, can working and training with your twin ‘bro’, cultivating exactly the same muscle development – part of their savvy branding – lead to some resentment? Even when he doesn’t go AWOL? ‘I bloody ‘ate ‘im’ laughs Owen.
Actually Owen, like most of the ‘brand ambassadors’ I’ve seen today, seems very good- humoured, relaxed, and endlessly patient with the fans, happily co-operating with endless, sometimes slightly breathless photographic requests (and slightly breathless questions from this middle aged journo). Perhaps because he was once a fitness fan himself, though ‘when we started it was all about the fitness mags – that was what inspired us to work on our bods, to be a cover star’.
Then again, these days one tetchy remark to a fan can get you trashed on social media.
At the next stand, protein brand Dynamix, three grinning Asian lads in their mid-twenties from Wolverhampton, Suhi, Jas, Iqqi, are having their selfie taken with a tall, especially v-shaped and of course topless muscle model called Myles Leask – ‘He’s a big inspiration!’.
Myles Leask meeting and greeting
Leask, 27, standing 6’3” tall, is exceptionally lean or ‘cut’, with your actual ‘shoulders like boulders’ giving him that hyper v-shape, and a blindingly white smile almost as wide. He’s one of the most established and versatile UK muscle models, jetting around the world for expos and photoshoots, fitness and catwalk. He’s seen a lot of changes.
‘The industry and BodyPower has grown so much since I started out seven years ago,’ he says. ‘There’s a lot more money in it now.’ How much does he make? ‘Well, let’s just say it’s not a bad living!’ Like many other pro spornos, he started off as a high-level athlete, but a shoulder injury put paid to his rugby career – before he found another, possibly more lucrative one in fitness modelling.
The rise of social media is the big change. Leask has adapted to it, and the way it means that you are ‘always on’ – not just during photoshoots and expos – but is still sometimes baffled by its intimacies. ‘I did a big glossy photo shoot for Attitude magazine recently. But that got nothing in the way of likes compared to a badly-lit selfie of me brushing my teeth with my top off.’