Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Life in the Penthouse-Seriously, leave your shirt on…please

A few days before summer really kicked in and the temperatures were fairly
moderate, but not really warm enough to want to go swimming I began to notice
something rather interesting, we are in the midst of a national pandemic: men have
stopped wearing shirts. Not all men, admittedly. So far, this topless outbreak seems
to be confined to a specific demographic (teens and twenties) with only mutant
strains appearing in those over 30.
In young guys, however, it is rampant.
When did this happen? The whole strutting around, look-at-me thing was female
behaviour. So what is happening with our young men.
Everywhere I go lately, the girls have become invisible. Instead, there are packs of
blokes roaming around shirtless, flexing their pecs. And so for the purpose of this
column, we shall name them Pectosexuals.
I don’t just mean they’re at the beach. Oh no. Pectosexuals are marauding in the
street, far from any large body of water. They are in cafes and supermarkets.
Sometimes, you even see them AT NIGHT.
Ground zero for Pectosexuals is the summer music festival but they can be spotted
anywhere the temperature is above 20 degrees.
Sometimes their shirts are tucked into the back of their pants like a limp tea towel.
Other times, there’s no sign of a shirt, suggesting they made a conscious decision to
leave the house that way.
It puzzled me at first. Because while these packs of topless, hairless, pumped-up
guys pose and preen like mad, the desired focus of their attention doesn’t seem to
be girls. It’s other guys.
Oh yes. Women may dress for other women but now men are undressing for other
men. And that messes with my head a little bit because when I was younger, the
only guys whose bodies were hard enough to hang out in shirtless groups were gay.
Nobody else could match their dedication to bench pressing and body hair removal.
But the new Pectosexuals are straight. Sometimes aggressively so. They don’t want
to have sex with other men, they just want them to admire their bodies. So is it an
alpha male competitive thing? Vanity? Peacocking? And when did a hard naked torso
become the new embodiment of masculinity?
It wasn’t always like this. Manly men of the past like James Dean, Carey Grant and
John Wayne had pretty average bodies.
Hell, even Batman had love handles when he was on TV (decades later, when the
franchise was revived for new films, the suit came with it’s own moulded pecs and
six-pack).
According to website The Art Of Manliness, in the 1950s, only 3% of print
advertisements showed men undressed. Today it has risen to more than 35%.
In case there was any confusion about the target audience for these new
Pectosexuals, The Art Of Manliness bloggers Kate and Brett McKay insist that big
muscles do not attract women.
They site a study by psychiatrists who gave a computerised test to university
students in France, America and Austria. ”The men could choose from 10 different
layers of fat and 10 different layers of muscle to create what they believed was the
most attractive body type to women. The study found that men consistently
layered on more muscle than women actually preferred.”
A follow-up study discovered that Western men overestimate how much muscle
women want to see by about 9-15kg. That’s a lot of time on the weights bench.
Here’s the interesting bit: the whole pumped-up-and-shirtless thing happens much
more in Western cultures where there is a high base level of equality between men
and women. Harrison Pope, whose lab headed up the studies, said, “Nowadays,
women can do almost anything that a man can do with one exception: They can’t
bench press 315 pounds, no matter what the Supreme Court says. It may be a last
refuge of masculinity for some men in the West.”
One person thoughtfully explained there are four enclave of Pectosexual. The first is
the gay enclave who does it best. The second is the under 20s who don’t have body
fat yet. The third is the over 20s who spend far too much time in the gym. The
fourth is the over 30s who should know better.