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Warwick Rowers Talk Nude Athletes, Future Calendars, and Toxic Masculinity for 10-Year Calendar Anniversary

Warwick Rowers Talk Nude Athletes, Future Calendars, and Toxic Masculinity for 10-Year Calendar Anniversary


"We want to fight everything that’s toxic about patriarchal heteronormativity."

It's wild to think that the Warwick Rowers have been getting naked for a decade, but they never stripped down just for the sake of nudity. In the past 10 years, they've raised over $1 million in sales for the Warwick University Rowing Program and the Sports Allies Foundation - a registered charity devoted to promoting LGBT rights and gender equality through sport.

This year, the rowers are particularly honored to welcome a special guest star to the calendar. Robbie Manson, a two-time Olympic athlete from New Zealand, holds the world record for men's single sculling, officially making him the fastest rower on the planet.

Robbie, who came out as gay in 2014, commented: "As an LGBT athlete, I value the straight ally message of the Warwick Rowers. They prove you don't have to be a gay or female athlete to believe passionately that sport should be for everyone, and that sport can show leadership in promoting equality. So when the guys invited me to join them in their tenth anniversary calendar, I got on a plane!"

OUT caught up with Angus Malcolm, the photography and creator of the calendar, along with a current rower on the team, Lucas, to discuss the past, present, and future of the Warwick Rowers.

Grey Gardens

OUT: How did the Warwick Rowers calendar get started?

Angus Malcolm: I picked up amateur photography back in 2008 as a hobby. I found this model named Chris via Model Mayhem. At the time, Chris was at Warwick University.

He told me the rowing team was desperate for money, so I asked if they'd be interested in doing a calendar. I offered to do it for free, but it was so bad I couldn't even give it to my friends as a present. The next year, we did it again. [After shooting,] they were like, "Who would want to buy a calendar of us?"

And I was like, "I have a few ideas." I posted some pictures on Yahoo groups, and there were something like 36,000 downloads in 24 hours. I took the big numbers to the guys and showed them there was a market for [naked] pics of them.


They were like, "Wow, who are these people [downloading the images]?" I carefully explained that they are people interested in aesthetics, and there is definitely a market for photos like these.

So we produced a calendar, and I hit up all the gay bloggers at the time, and they started publishing stuff about it. Eventually, I decided that the guys needed to see everything. I was very nervous because I wasn't sure how they'd respond to being on a number of gay blogs. There was this particular blog in Italy that did a lovely write up of the rowers getting naked, so I sent this over to them. I thought they'd be like "Whoa, you turned us into gay porn pictures," but instead they were sharing the write up on their personal pages and saying things like, "Look at us! We're famous in gay Italy!"

So I asked them, "You're cool with this?"

And they replied, "Why would we not be?" I thought to myself, "Okay, that's a very good question."

That was really the start of my realization that these young guys didn't have the problem of homophobia. It presented absolutely no problem for gay men to see them naked. From there, we built the message of the calendar.


Lucas: I joined when the rowers were already an enormous well-oiled machine. It was already the culture when I joined in 2014, but I had no idea the scale of what they had become. I did love that it had this campaigning agenda behind it, which I cared about. It's turned into this political campaign, which I'm very proud of and every year, we try to fund it as much as we can.


Lucas, what has your experience been with homophobia and toxic masculinity in sports?

Lucas: I knew that homophobia was a problem, but I didn't know how much of a problem it was with these sports because before joining rowing, I did swimming, which is very individual. Homophobia [in sports] tends to come more from team sports such as football, basketball, and rugby. Sports where you have to be a "man" and when you're homosexual, [they think] you can't be a man.


So what's next for the Warwick Rowers and calendar?

Angus: We've reached our 10th anniversary with this one rowing team, and it's been great, but we want to turn this into a global campaign for better mental health, healthier masculinity, and more gender equality. Everything that's toxic about patriarchal heteronormativity, we want to fight. And we want this campaign, that gets men naked, to be an emblem of change. Men too, are suffering in a patriarchal culture. And we want to help combat it.


Until October 25th, the Warwick Rowers are offering exclusive preview crowdfunding deals on the new calendar. 10th Anniversary products include their fourth coffee table book (a luxurious and weighty tome at 2.5 kilos, or nearly 6lbs!), autographed calendars and subscriptions that will bring video and images of the boys to lucky supporters throughout the whole of 2019!

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