One For The Ladies
November 08, 2018
I bring saucy celebrity news, which we don’t often cover. The catch is, it’s from the Guardian:
The US magazine People has crowned Idris Elba the sexiest man alive,
A handsome chap, and popular, so not entirely surprising. Indeed, the author of the piece, Mr Caspar Salmon, refers to Mr Elba as “incontrovertibly loin-tugging.”
It’s heartening that Elba, long held to be a favourite to become the next James Bond, has cracked another predominantly white institution.
So far, so Guardian. But it could, I think, be a little more Guardian.
Elba fits squarely into an amusing pattern that People has been building up over the years, which sees them plump for decidedly masculine, established, patriarchal figures. The award, in other words, is relentlessly straight.
There we go.
The prize tells us a good deal about the cult of masculinity still prevalent in the world, which equates male looks with “sexiness” rather than beauty. This emphasis on sexual attraction brings power and dominance into consideration alongside mere aesthetic qualities.
“The cult of masculinity.” Now we’re cooking. And a trashy magazine that once a year ranks famous men by sex appeal tends to favour men who strike its readers as sexy, statusful, and manly. Shocking stuff. They even - brace yourselves - put “emphasis on sexual attraction.” Despite the aforementioned loin-tugging, I suspect this may prove problematic:
[The magazine’s] museum-like display of strong, mostly white, straight-acting men does tell us something about the dominant culture, and is, let’s face it, funny.
What’s funny, apparently, is that the largely straight and female readers of People magazine - readers whose average age is 38 - often rate as sexy men of roughly similar age:
Elba is the fourth man in his 40s in a row to win the award… The average age of winners is 38.7 years old.
And which, it turns out, is also problematic:
This can feel surprising in the era of the internet, when gay twink culture has fed into straight desire, with men such as Timothée Chalamet (age 22) hitting the scene.
Apparently, “gay twink culture” is feeding into straight desire, albeit in ways never specified; and yet, complains our columnist, these ephebophile appetites are “nowhere to be seen in the People [Sexiest Man Alive] list.” Readers will doubtless be shocked by the revelation that the middle-aged ladies who buy People magazine, many of whom have children of their own, aren’t overwhelmingly aroused by the kind of skinny young men whose fame is based on playing skinny 17-year-old boys who get seduced by older men in the kind of art-house films loved by Guardian columnists. In short, middle-aged ladies tend to prefer a bit of this to a bit of that.
For those intrigued by Mr Salmon’s own rugged erotic magnetism, I have good news:
Mr Salmon is 37.
Masculinity is a decorative feature that is essentially counter-productive.
Via Ben Sixsmith.