If you’ve been wiping the drool off your floor for the past week after watching the sheer buffet of beautiful, cut humans gracing your television screen, science has some sobering news for you: They — and their fellow Insta-ready hot bod types dubbed “spornosexuals” — might just be reacting to a shitty economy.
In new research published in the Journal of Gender Studies, University of East Anglia lecturer Jamie Hakim suggests that the traditional arc of success — you know, the bootstrapping kind where you work hard, go to school, earn money, and woo that P.Y.T. — has basically died because of that little event you might remember from 2008 called the Great Recession, which forced millennials to rethink that whole paradigm.
But WTF is a spornosexual anyway? Harken back to the olden days of yore — 1994, to be exact — when Mark Simpson, a British journalist truly ahead of his time, coined the term combining the words “sport” and “porn” with the concept of a metrosexual, according to Esquire. He (correctly) predicted the rise of the city dude who’s vain and sex-obsessed and generally what we would otherwise classify as an insecure douche.
What Hakim points out, though, is that that guy we all know and love to hate might be actually acting out an economic impulse derived from an evolutionary need to puff out his chest. He’s got nothing else to prove his dominance, so why not hit the gym?
“Austerity has eroded young men’s traditional means of value-creation so they have become increasingly reliant on their bodies as a means of feeling valuable in society,” Hakim postulates in his paper. “In theoretical terms, so-called ‘spornosexuality’ is an embodied response to material changes brought about by neoliberal austerity.”
It’s a double economic and social whammy for young men trying to stand out in the crowd, personally and professionally. In order to make up ground and have something to be proud of, these men have to figure out a way to make art, but that’s not the ultimate straight-guy thing so the artform becomes the body. Chiseled six-packs and the #gymselfie are both cries for help and attempts to make masculinity relevant.
Hakim goes so far as to suggest that maybe we should consider gym selfies as an economic indicator:
“There is a correlation between the rise of young men fashioning muscular bodies and sharing them online, and the austerity measures experienced by their generation. These economic tactics are widening inequality, especially for those born after 1980, with prohibitively high house prices, the loss of secure long-term contracts, tuition fees and other hurdles to economic security.
Might explain all those Tinder bios along the lines of “I love to live, laugh, and work out at the gym.” Dadbod, you had a good run. We’ll miss you.Photos via Getty Images / Harry How