Sunday, October 16, 2005

I am reading "The Adonis Complex" (sounds like a gay nightclub but isn't), it's a slightly depressing, academic book about the increasing phenomena of men who get obsessed with working out and believe their muscles aren't big enough. The book theorises that with advances of feminism in the last 40 years or so, men have fewer ways to demonstrate "superiority" over women, so being able to bench press 300 lbs is all they have left. How miserable that one way that men and women have now become equal is that they now both have extraordinary pressures on them to convert their bodies into increasingly impossible shapes, rather than this just happening to women. Somewhere, something went wrong, didn't it.

Also, with the invention of steriods, men now have unrealistic views of what is a "normal" male body (as so many people who do steroids lie and say they don't). Such images of muscular men are pervasive in the media and advertising, because they offer difficult-to-attain ideals. There's an analysis of how toys like GI Joe and Star Wars figures have gradually become buffed up over the last few decades (in the same way that Barbie turned into an anorexic anomaly). Also, because men aren't supposed to talk about their "feelings", all of these problems are kept secret, and are spiralling out of control. There are some very sad case studies in the book - the guy who wouldn't kiss his girlfriend because he was afraid he'd get extra calories (!) from her saliva. The guy who had all his gym equipments shipped to an overseas hotel at enormous expense, because they didn't have a gym, the guy who split up with his girlfriend because he spent all of his time at the gym, the guy who wouldn't have ice-cream after a night out at the cinema because they only had low-fat, not no-fat, despit the fact he was starving-hungry. And these were all guys who had huge, muscular bodies that most men would be envious of. Seems enough is never enough.

I've always been of the opinion in the past that advertising and the media are responsible for a lot of the world's ills, but the book makes the point that obviously, not everyone is suspectible to The Adonis Complex - or we'd all have it. Rather, it seems that some people are more prone to OCD than others, and tend to latch on to whatever silly obsession that's going round in society at the moment. If it wasn't muscles, it'd be germs, or nuclear war, or bird flu. And what these guys need is reassurance that they're not alone, and that their expectations are somewhat unrealistic. Sometimes I do get a little sad when I read other people's blogs and they're worrying about some aspect of their body, or going on about some model's fabulous ripped abs or something. There's something just a bit icky about it (although I'm sure I'll probably end up doing both those things within the next month myself!)


Trashbinder said...

I overheard two females at the gym I attend earlier today having a discussion about their boyfriends.

"John has told me that if we are going to make it long-term that I have got to do my best to keep to a size ten or below."

"That's really shit, I mean what if you have kids and can't shift the weight?"

"Yes. I think I would just eat brown rice and cut out dairy for nine weeks like Liz Hurley did"

"Mmmm. Probably wouldn't stop the bastard banging someone else whilst your pregnant anyway. I hate men, they're all shits."

"Yeah, but I can't be single. I would be the only female at work who isn't in a relationship!"

I know that there's a hell of a lot of people out there who can't function without a partner, but having heard this conversation I thought it was a really sad state of affairs.

Relationships are hard enough, without so many conditional elements. Poor cows.

comatose said...

It is unhealthy the extreme lengths some people will go to in order to look the way they think is required/acceptable and there is a certain amount of neurosis involved. However, there are still plenty of men that think it's perfectly okay to make no effort at all with their appearance. Having a body that's not saggy or horribly overweight is no different from getting a haircut and a shave and doing something about body odour - sure it takes time and a bit of education but it's not difficult. It's a matter of having some self-respect and respect for others... otherwise we might as well go back to living like cavemen and be completely "au naturel". I think it's a sign of progress that men are finally realising they need to make an effort too but I guess it's a matter of finding the right balance - that's my view anyway.

MrMosaico said...

Yepp. A former friend of mine also thinks that relations are about mascots, and so. "Sure, love and such things are important, but I don't want a girlfriend who does nothing for me. Who does not work out or keep in good shape." and "Sure, pregnancy is a reason to get fat, but I'd give her some months, and then she has to have a good shape again."

He argues that people who don't dream of being pretty and attractive, who don't live their lifes for that, who go out of the house without 100 percent perfect styling (or at least the best they can do), are lazy, idle, etc.

His mind is full of this shit. He does not even go out to the doctor without styling himself. No matter how sick he is.

And his body fat is so low, that even his fitness trainer said that he has to stop loosing fat. He is always sick, because of that. (Low body fat is bad for the immune system, and you often catch a cold or get a flu, and such actually trivial things...).

Totally crazy!

He got gay (I guess he always was - women were just a phase ;) ), and in the gay "scene", that kind of stuff seems to be standard.

Besides: no heterosexual man is so manly like a gay who want's to impress others with his pseudo-heterosexuality.

Tom said...

Hm. I can't quite get the last commenter's point. He's totally right that there's a lot of this stuff in gay men, who feel neurotic that somehow they're unmanned by their poofdom and decide to overcompensate. But it seems to me he's also saying that 'authentic' masculinity is a preserve of heterosexuals and gay men will always only ape it. That seems to me to be precisely the attitude that makes gay people feel less male than their straight colleagues. Maybe I'm misinterpreting...