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The locker room after a match. Picture the scene (I know you can; I know you have). Adrenalined. Endorphined. Sweaty. Jocks. Grinning, joshing, back-slapping, hugging, grab-assing. Oiled, pumped, youthful, virile man flesh. Round, hard, dimpled butts as far as the eye can see. Steam. Swinging dicks.
Cue the cheap disco soundtrack and segue seamlessly, oh, so casually, into dick measuring, circle-jerking, deep-throating, and ass pounding: Oh, yeah!
Or so I and many other homos would like to think. It is after all the narrative of a thousand gay porn movies. Team sports on the field seen through the distorting eyes of the queer boy look like sex with clothes onfollowed by sex with no clothes on in the locker room. In other words, the sad, improbable fantasy of the dweeby or nelly boy who wasnt picked for the team and had to do with music and movement instead and thus spent the rest of his life wondering feverishly what it would have been like to have hung with the jocks, to flick towels with the godlike golden boys.
Well, maybe that was once true. But shockingly and rather wonderfully, this fag fantasy appears to be coming virtually true. At least in Europe and Australia. Sport is the new gay porn. Sportsmen on this side of the Atlantic are increasingly openly acknowledging and flirting with their gay fans, la David Beckham and Freddie Ljungberg (the man who actually looks the way Beckham thinks he looks). Both of these thoroughbreds have posed for spreads in gay magazines (see Ljungbergs story with Out here), and both have welcomed the attention of gay fans because they have great taste. More than this, they and a whole new generation of young bucks, from twinky soccer players like Manchester Uniteds Alan Smith and Cristiano Ronaldo to rougher prospects like Chelseas Joe Cole and AC Milans Kak, keen to emulate their success, are actively pursuing sex-object status in a postmetrosexual, increasingly pornolized world.
In other words, theyre not just sports stars, but sporno stars.
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 Australiabut 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, todays 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 starsyoung hustlers who are happy to be ogled barely dressed on Times Square billboards and in Vanity Fairadvertising a willingness to put out, or at least get it out, to get ahead that is about as all-American as you can get. Ljungbergs Calvin Kleinclad 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 sportsthe last male preserve in an integrated, female-friendly, safety-belted, couch-potatoed, civilian world where male camaraderie and virility is a distant dreamis 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. Thats why most sports competitions, including the original Olympics, were conducted butt-naked (clothes spoiled the experience, for the athlete and the spectator), and the gymnasiumanother marvelous Greek inventionwas a one-stop male shop where you went to exercise and practiceand also pick up. Most of their art was a virtuous version of todays sporno, in which the athletic male form was exquisitely, lovingly rendered.
Euro sportsmen are going out of their way to turn men on. Dont 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 years February, in the shape of Will Matthews: He should definitely have his own line of sex toys.) If these calendars werent in tasteful black-and-white, theyd 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 others eyes; they loll on the side of communal baths, arms draped around each others thick necks, hypnotic designer tattoos directing, inviting our eyes to their geometrically delightful butts (stand up, Frederic Michalakand please bend over).
Yes, of course women are looking at these pictures too, but there is no pretense that this is anything but hyperhomoeroticpartly because women are being turned on to the charms of gay male porn too, but mostly because this exhibitionism, whomever its 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 buddys shoulders, or at waist height, hands on buddys perfectly formed buttocks.
How thingsor rather, thighshave 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 rugbys 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 its true that the degree to which a sporno star provokes other mens envy and desire is now a way of measuring his potency. Its also a measure of a sporno stars earning potential and his value to the club in merchandising. Despite mediocre performances on the pitch, David Beckham is the United Kingdoms most highly paid soccer player for his off-pitch pouting, and his purchase by Spains Real Madrid has made it the most profitable soccer club in the world (replacing Manchester United, funnily enough, Beckhams 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.
There is, however, another way that British soccer players are finding themselves on the front pages. A slew of kiss-and-tell articles have appeared in the tabloids in recent years about roastings: the penchant our young sportsmen have for sharing a young female groupie with a teammateat the same time. Often with several teammates. Sporting gods naked with other sporting gods after a match, with full erections, in the same room, on the same girl, possibly sharing the same orifice, but definitely enjoying the spectacle of their sporting buddies out of their kits and in action and up close. Who wouldnt be interested in that? Its the locker room fantasy that underpins so much of sporno, and at least one hit TV series, the deliciously knowing Footballers Wive$.
And in recent months things have reached their logical, Footballers Wive$ conclusion, their spornographic money shot. Spectacularly confirming those roasting suspicions and all those timeless, dweeby gay fantasies about jocks, lurid stories were splashed across the tabloids about a secretly shot film showing several globally famous English soccer stars engaging in a gay sex orgy, while follow-up stories suggested a culture of anything-goes swinging bisexuality among many soccer stars that matches their rock-and-roll lifestyles. As you might imagine, this is a story that no one seems to be able to get enough of.
Except perhaps the footballers themselves. Although they didnt name the stars involved, the dashing Arsenal and England left-back Ashley Cole is suing a couple of papers for libel and breach of privacy. In spite of the rampant interest in sporno in the United Kingdom, the coverage of this story (the gay sex was routinely described as perverted and sordid, which I guess means really hot) and the response of many fans on the terrace (in the form of antigay taunts) show that casual homophobia is even more rampant. Masculinity may be an object of avid, voyeuristic desire for many if not most men in the United Kingdom today, but it seems the explicitly homoerotic implications of that still give quite a few of them the willies. The sporno stars themselves might not care, but they worry about what their fans will think. Perhaps this is the reason todays soccer stars, who are way gayer than their predecessors, no longer kiss one another ecstatically after a goal is scored: They have to maintain the impression that theyre only gay for pay.
This is the time-lag paradox of sport in general and todays sporno in particular: Its a spectator sport for men who are interested in men, who love and admire the male body in action and perhaps also in repose, who are entranced by the romance of the adolescent masculine dream that is athletic team sportsbut too many of the same men still worry that if they acknowledge this, their manhood will fall off and burst into flames.
And so they have to mock and despise your full-monty faggotryto prove theres nothing queer about their perfectly natural interest in young mens flashing thighs.
Soccer is a tough sport, and any perceived weakness will be exploited. As Oscar Wilde said, it is all very well as a game for rough girls, but it is hardly suitable for delicate boys. Opposing team fans like to chant at one player rumored to have been connected to that soccer gay orgy porno tape: Hes big, hes black, he takes it up the crack.
Which isnt exactly friendly. But then again, in a spornographic world, this chant might be something that excites the fans as much as it conveys their contempt.