Sporno

6.19.2006

By Out.com Editors

Much has been written about how porn is poised to go mainstream. Well, guess what? It already has. Sporno-sport that acknowledges and exploits the voyeuristic, usually homoerotic, thrill that fit male bodies throwing themselves against other fit male bodies can generate is already the acceptable, ruddy-cheeked outdoor-broadcasting face of porn. At least in soccer- and rugby-playing pagan Europe and Australia'but it can be only a matter of time before it conquers the God-fearing, football-playing United States too. (The phenomenal success of all those Abercrombie & Fitch online sporno films featuring shirtless Weber-ish hunks playing degenerate European games like rugby and soccer are successfully corrupting a whole generation of young Americans.)

Being equal opportunity flirts, today's sporno stars want to turn everyone on. Partly because sportsmen, like porn stars, are by definition show-offs, but more particularly because it means more money, more power, more endorsements, more kudos. It acknowledges the consumerist, showbiz direction that sport is moving in and engorges and inflates their career portfolio to gargantuan proportions. Why is Euro soccer star Beckham a household name in the United States, a country that generally has less interest in soccer than socialism? Because these metrosexual poster boys are sporno stars'young hustlers who are happy to be ogled barely dressed on Times Square billboards and in Vanity Fair'advertising a willingness to put out, or at least get it out, to get ahead that is about as all-American as you can get. Ljungberg's Calvin Klein'clad basket of giant Swedish meatballs is the dish everyone wants to dine on and he seems more than happy to feed us (God bless him). Or try a nice cool, creamy Beckham, recently hired as the new face of the long-running Got Milk? campaign.

Masculinity has been commodified, and team sports'the last male preserve in an integrated, female-friendly, safety-belted, couch-potatoed, civilian world where male camaraderie and virility is a distant dream'is the biggest market for it. After decades of being fetishized by fags, jocks are now fetishizing themselves. Because of the spurting, fantastical potency of sporno, millions of nongay boys and men around the world are excitedly buying clothes and underwear because they are worn or endorsed by their hero.

And after all, how could a guy, any guy, not fancy a sporno star? In a consumerist culture like ours, where envy and desire are almost indistinguishable, sporno stars have everything a man could want: youth, vigor, bodies, looks, money, fame, equally handsome bosom buddies, and the numbers for really, really good photographers and stylists. The ancient Greeks would have understood. For them, sport was an opportunity to worship and admire the beauty of the youthful male form, which in turn represented the freedom of the human spirit. That's why most sports competitions, including the original Olympics, were conducted butt-naked (clothes spoiled the experience, for the athlete and the spectator), and the gymnasium'another marvelous Greek invention'was a one-stop male shop where you went to exercise and practice'and also pick up. Most of their art was a virtuous version of today's sporno, in which the athletic male form was exquisitely, lovingly rendered.

Euro sportsmen are going out of their way to turn men on. Don't believe me? I have just three words for you: Dieux du Stade. Yes, that calendar you still have on your bedroom wall. These phenomenally successful sporno calendars, featuring the devastatingly handsome and usually even more devastatingly naked French National Rugby Team, copied by amateur rugby clubs all over Europe and Australia, are shot exactly as if each month were an especially hot box cover for Falcon or Jocks. (Check out this year's February, in the shape of Will Matthews: He should definitely have his own line of sex toys.) If these calendars weren't in tasteful black-and-white, they'd have to be sold in adult bookstores.

In these images, shot in musty locker rooms, the 'gods' clutch strategically placed rugby balls as if they were fat, leather erections and gaze longingly into the camera or into each other's eyes; they loll on the side of communal baths, arms draped around each other's thick necks, hypnotic designer tattoos directing, inviting our eyes to their geometrically delightful butts (stand up, Frederic Michalak'and please bend over).

Yes, of course women are looking at these pictures too, but there is no pretense that this is anything but hyperhomoerotic'partly because women are being turned on to the charms of gay male porn too, but mostly because this exhibitionism, whomever it's directed toward, is so charmingly submissive, especially from guys who live through action. Check out the 'Making of' DVD and see them obediently adopting the gay sporno poses requested of them by the photographer, head placed on buddy's shoulders, or at waist height, hands on buddy's perfectly formed buttocks.

How things'or rather, thighs'have changed. In the United Kingdom rugby used to be the sport of hairy beer monsters with nowhere else to go on a Saturday, but in recent years the players have become alarmingly young, sexy, and built. Blond, buffed, green-eyed England International player Josh Lewsey, sporting a jaw so square you could use it to paint walls and an ass you could stand your cocktail on, is part Greek god, part Matt Sterling model. Gavin Henson, the hunky, dark-haired Wales International star who shaves his legs and wears fake tan on the pitch, is metrosexual rugby's answer to David Beckham. In fact, Beckham whined out loud that Henson had stolen most of his gay fans and that he missed them. Aw.

As if following the French example, the England rugby team has also been given a Queer Eye makeover. Banished forever are their baggy, shapeless rugby shirts and shorts, replaced by a stretchy, skintight strip that might have been designed by Jean Paul Gaultier, all the better to show off their newly gym-built arms, chests, thighs, and asses. Understandably, the new sporno look dazzled the opposition: The year the team debuted it, 2003, England won the Rugby World Cup for the first time ever.

Certainly it's true that the degree to which a sporno star provokes other men's envy and desire is now a way of measuring his potency. It's also a measure of a sporno star's earning potential and his value to the club in merchandising. Despite mediocre performances on the pitch, David Beckham is the United Kingdom's most highly paid soccer player for his off-pitch pouting, and his purchase by Spain's Real Madrid has made it the most profitable soccer club in the world (replacing Manchester United, funnily enough, Beckham's previous club). Beckham is an object of global desire, and his merchandise moves much faster than his hips. Real Madrid is his sporno studio, and he is its number 1 box cover star.

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