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12 FEATURES Irish Independent

Wednesday, 17 September, 2003

The Adonis complex

Now men get obsessed with the perfect body
More and more young males are being
put under pressure to have a six-pack
and bulging biceps but, says JANE
LYONS, there are many hidden dangers
in this quest for the body beautiful

ike many young lads, Keith likes els of male cosmetic surgery and even
to go to the gym. He works out one man who wouldn’t kiss his girl-
every day for two to three hours friend because of her calorie-laden
but insists it is more from bore- saliva.
dom than vanity. He says that he ini- But although the Adonis complex
tially wanted to get bigger but he can’t may lose some of its all-American excess
explain why. He’s now a big lad for 17. in the leap across the Atlantic, it is still
“Some people go overboard. They an issue here. Barbara Doyle, develop-
think they’re better because they’re big- ment director of Bodywhys, the national
ger,” says Keith. “You see them down in support organisation for eating disor-
the gym, posing.” ders in Ireland, says 10pc of eating dis-
Women have long been hypnotised by order sufferers are men, with the major-
the Holy Grail perfection of a Britney ity struggling with bulimia and
Spears belly, dieting and tummy- over-exercising. “It’s no longer just a
crunching as if their lives depended on woman’s issue,” she says.
it. But it now seems that her taut male Ms Doyle believes there are many
counterpart, Justin Timberlake, is pre- more male sufferers out there. She says
senting the same kind of challenge to these men do not access support
the fellas. because they find it difficult to talk
Long considered the territory of about body image and eating disorders,
women and gay men, an increasing which are still seen as female issues.
number of guys are falling prey to their She says the Adonis complex “is indic-
own kind of beauty myth — the tyranny ative of a culture of beauty, a culture of
of the six-pack, the Becks-pecs and the perfection and a very body-conscious
bulging biceps. Where men once wore and fat-phobic culture. This is affecting
their insouciance about appearance like young people and children”.
a badge of honour, they are now dis- Jerry Kavanagh, a 23-year-old student
playing a marked change in attitude from Dublin, describes himself as obses-
and nowhere is this more evident than sive about his weight. He says he has
in the sales of men’s cosmetic and toi- good days and fat days. He has even
letry products. been known to put a biscuit in his
According to the European Cosmetics mouth and take it back out again just so
Markets magazine, the sale of men’s he could taste it.
body care items is booming. Last year According to Kavanagh, his boarding
men in the UK spent over £35m on school friends also took part in a variety
products like self-tanners, moisturisers of unusual weight-loss techniques. One
and body toning lotions. Even more tell- put himself through a rigorous exercise
No pain, no gain: many young men are obsessed with achieving the perfect body in an effort to look like popstars such as Justin Timberlake, right
ing is the development of male regime while eating only bread and
make-up. Jean Paul Gaultier is bringing water. Another wrapped himself in .................................................................................... ardstown. “There’s men here who are the physique.”
out a range in black rubber, King of cling film and jogged up and down the like tanks and they are still trying to get And it’s adolescent boys who are par-
Shave is marketing a tinted moisturiser stairs. ‘An increasing bigger,” she says. According to Ms ticularly susceptible to these physical
and lip balm and even Chanel is “At the time I thought I was over- Kilmurray, most of her clients are more ideals. According to Mr McGrath,
rumoured to be getting in on the act. weight but I look back at photos of number of guys are concerned with looking good for the puberty is a time of identity crisis and,
Marion Byron, director of the Irish myself now and realise I wasn’t,” he ladies. with some boys developing faster than
Cosmetics Detergent and Allied Prod- says. falling prey to their “An awful lot of lads are conscious — others, physical size is a huge factor. For
ucts Association, says the same market you can’t be 21 years of age, weigh 16 boys who are not sporty or who are late
own kind of beauty
trends are happening here.

acinta O’Brien-Lyons, a social psy- stone, with a belly out here and drink developers the obsession with the body
However, this concern with appear- chology lecturer in the department 20 pints on the weekend because beautiful can fulfil a need. “Boys need
ance has a dark side. Three American
psychologists have labelled the increas-
of physical education and sport sci-
ence at the University of Limerick, has
myth — the tyranny women just don’t like it,” says Mr
something masculine and physical to
identify with,” he says.
ing male obsession with the body beau- studied body image in Ireland and of the six-pack, the And, as bare-chested male models jos- But adolescent boys are not the only
tiful and its connection with self-worth America. “I’ve been looking at this area tle with the leggy perfection of pouting ones facing an identity crisis. Some
as the ‘Adonis complex’. for over 20 years. The main difference is females in magazines and on billboards, argue that changes in society have des-
Excessive dieting, bulimia, over-train- that 20 years ago we thought if girls
Becks-pecs and the experts point to the media as the source tabilised men’s roles, leaving them with
ing and preoccupation with muscularity could be more like boys in their atti- of the new male ideal. According to Ms the unconscious need to control their
and bulk are characteristic of this tudes to their bodies they’d be healthier. bulging biceps.’ O’Brien-Lyons, the male body has identity and to use muscularity as a
search for the physical ideal. Poor body We couldn’t say that now and it’s get- become the new commercial product signifier of masculinity.
image and self-esteem are common- ting worse.” and it’s Ireland’s young tiger cubs, flush And, as an increasing number of men
place. At its most extreme men may In a recent study Ms O’Brien-Lyons with disposable income, who are being fall prey to these masculine ideals, there
suffer muscle dysmorphia, where their found the majority of boys, when faced targeted and seduced by this market are danger signs ahead. “The amazing
view of themselves is so distorted they with computer-generated images of and the images that promote it. thing about the pursuit of beauty and
never believe they are big enough. themselves in shorts, underestimated questions from concerned parents about World, a body building shop in Dublin. “There are more and more magazines perfection, whether it be thinness or
According to a recent survey pre- their weight and chose to have bigger, whether it is appropriate for their 14- or The majority of his clients are looking on men’s health and all you see is six- muscularity, is that there is never a
sented at the American Psychological more muscular bodies. A Dublin City 15-year-old sons to start weight training. for weight gain powder and supple- packs and lads training and lads point at which it is enough. It is a
Association in Toronto, even top male University study showed the same “If a kid or an adolescent or a young ments. “I think more and more young looking good,” says O’Keeffe. behaviour, not an endgame, and they
athletes are suffering from poor body dynamic. “People are very concerned adult undertakes the programme for lads come in and they want to get huge Seanie McGrath, a secondary school just keep moving the goal posts,” says
image and the pressure to achieve phys- about male bodies because when boys aesthetic reasons then they are going to next week and they don’t want to put PE teacher for 14 years and trainer for Ms O’Brien-Lyons.
ical perfection, with one in five believ- do things in adolescence they do it to be vulnerable to abuse,” she says, refer- the time in,” he says. the Cork hurling team, agrees that there “And what if you have an accident?”
ing he does not have enough bulk. Like extreme if they are dissatisfied. They ring to steroids. Mr O’Keeffe has noticed possible can- is too much emphasis on looks. “These asks Mr McGrath. “If your whole ego
everything in the US, many of the case have that tendency towards hypo-manic “We get lads coming in all the time didates for muscle dysmorphia among magazines don’t seem to focus on skill depends on that, you are going to be
studies paint pictures of excess: steroid behaviour,” she says. asking: ‘Do you sell steroids?’ We don’t,” his clients, as has Clodagh Kilmurray, or acquiring a physical competency running psychologically into serious
abuse among teenagers, increasing lev- Ms O’Brien-Lyons has fielded a lot of says Rob O’Keeffe, manager of Workout manager of Westwood Gym in Leop- with something. They basically focus on trouble.”

The younger the fiddle,

the sexier the tune
Myles McWeeney
musicians to break with the tradi- well as cellist Gay-Yee Westerhoff, are
tional evening dress and penguin suit highly trained and stunningly good-

igel Kennedy’s idiosyncracies — look were the Kronos Quartet, four looking classical musicians, but have
his spiky hairdos, stand-up col- eminently serious and now highly suffered a slap in the face by the deci-
lars and grungy clothes — may respected musicians. Their first hip sion of the Chart Information Net-
have raised the blood pressure of the and edgy album covers of some 30 work to de-list their best-selling
mandarins of classical music but his years ago pictured them looking like a album from the classical charts
anti-establishment and populist cross between Steely Dan and a because it wasn’t classical enough.
approach has helped thousands on grunge band. A year later Karen England and
the path to enjoying classical music. There have been plenty of other Rebecca Knight joined forces and
The fact he painted his Jaguar sedan classical musicians in the last number formed OperaBabes. Their debut
claret and blue in honour of Aston of decades who have unbuttoned album, Beyond Imagination, was a Classical good looks: Nigel Kennedy ... and the Medieval Baebes
Villa made him a pin-up for many more than their top shirt button in big success — think One Fine Day
young people. pursuit of fame and record sales. from Madam Butterfly with a back-
His recording of Vivaldi’s The Four The celebrated German violinist beat — but their star has dimmed and
Seasons has sold in excess of two mil- Anne-Sophie Mutter’s plunging cleav- their record company has dropped
lion copies, an astonishing feat in the
rarefied world of serious music, and
record companies have been desper-
age has graced a number of CD cov-
ers, and Vanessa Mae’s standout tal-
ent, clearly visible in her wet t-shirt
Other really sexy-looking groups
whose appeal doesn’t seem to have
ately seeking a formula that will repli- pose for the cover of the album Red had a lasting impact include the Dominic Millar: An Argentianian classical
cate the Kennedy phenomenon. Hot, brought her to the attention of Medieval Baebes, stunningly beautiful guitarist with male model looks. His
Looking to the crop tops, hipster the hormone-addled MTV generation young women dressed in flowing Shapes album, pop reworkings of familIar
jeans and sexy moves of MTV and its and onto pop crossover stardom. white robes who sing the hottest hits pieces by Bach, Beethoven, Albinoni, and
myriad clones, record executives have Crossover violinist Linda Brava of the 13th century, the Planets, and featuring Moya Brennan singing Ave
been throwing serious money at good- went quite a bit further in seeking that hunk of hormones on the hoof, Maria, is in the classical charts. Likely to
looking young classical artists willing exposure by appearing on the cover of former butcher Russell Watson, who be a mega crossover star.
to be photographed in sexy gear. Playboy’s special Sex & Music edition didn’t cut it in operatic recital and
If some of them don’t make the five years ago. It didn’t do the curva- has gone MOR. Myleen Klass: Had fame thrust upon her
crossover breakthrough it certainly ceous Finn’s career any harm at all, The purists may sniff and suggest, thanks to appearing on Britain’s Popstars
won’t be for the want of trying. and her discs are huge best sellers in with a certain amount of right on TV show. Recently signed a reported £1.4
The latest kids on the block are her homeland. their side, that sex doesn’t seem to million six record deal with Universal as a
Amici, an operatic quintet consisting sell classical music, but it is interest- classical pianist. Didn’t make it in pop, so
of five extremely good-looking and,

ussian cellist Nina Kotova, for- ing to note that the front covers of the what chance of a classic Top 10 spot?
according to their publicist, talented merly a successful model who two latest issues of BBC Music, which
individuals. used her fees from the like of bills itself as the world’s best-selling Charlotte Church: Hit the headlines at
Tellingly, one of the tracks on their Commes des Garcons and Karl Lar- classical music magazine, feature 13 with the first of a series of best-selling
debut CD is a song called Prayer in gerfeld to buy her first good cello, smouldering portraits of the lissom classical albums but gave up the frillly
the Night based on the Sarabande says she’s proud to be a pin-up and on and willowy 43-year-old Russian vio- gingham dress a couple of years ago and
from Handel’s Harpsichord Suite in D the sexy cover of her latest classical linist, Viktoria Mullova, and the gor- now plans MOR/Classical career. Made
minor, which was used in a Levi’s CD it’s hard to tell which has the geous and voluptuous Romanian diva, her film debut this year in I’ll Be There but
television commercial. What makes better shape, Nina or her cello. Angela Gheorghiu, who was the star looked very lost at the Mercury Music
Amicia stand out from the crowd is Three years ago the group that’s of this year’s Last Night of the Proms. Beautiful music: Charlotte Awards last week in an uncool Pirates of
that they look remarkably like the been described as the Spice Girls with Church ... and Vanessa Mae the Caribbean T-shirt.
now defunct made-to-measure pop strings were launched with great
band Hear’say. hoop-la. Bond, made up of violinists Nigel Kennedy appears tonight at The
Among the first talented classical Haylie Ecker, Eos and Tania Davis as Helix, Dublin City University