A previous post of mine on Social Psychology Eye (June 22, 2009) about Christiano Ronaldo, argued that he was not just a footballing superstar, but like David Beckham, a commercial ‘brand’ advertising and marketing the likes of Emporio Armani or his own CR7 products. I argued that the Ronaldo ‘brand’ and avant-garde image allowed heterosexual men to engage with ‘metrosexual’ fashion and grooming products. However, one of the problems I signposted with the Ronaldo ‘brand’ (and others) was the open invitation of a homoerotic gaze. That is, men visually enjoying other men’s semi-naked bodies. It is argued this has (Simpson, 2004: 2):
…“queered” all the codes of official masculinity of the last hundred years or so: It’s passive where it should be active, desired where it should be desiring, looked at where it should be always looking.
This so called ‘queering’ of the male gaze unsettles traditional heteronormative hegemonic masculinity (Connell, 1995) in opening up a space for questions over gender and sexuality identity to be raised. Marketers are acutely aware of this tension and the imperative of disavowing homosexuality and promoting gender difference in order to allow men to enjoy images of other men (Edwards, 2003).
Ulrich Beck’s (1997) provides a useful framework for understanding how marketers deal with the undermining of traditional heteronormative hegemonic masculine scripts. Where the potential for uncertainty arises (e.g. other men’s semi-naked bodies and advertising feminised products), marketers attempt to construct certainty by dismissing alternative forms of sexuality altogether or by rendering consumption unproblematic. In other words they ‘construct certitude’ in order to ‘attempt to replace questioning and doubt with more certain frames of reference’ (Jackson et al., 2001: 129). One of the more prominent ways in which this is achieved is by photographing men with women in order to signpost heterosexuality. The way this is achieved in the photographs of Ronaldo advertising Emporio Armani’s summer 2010 underwear collection (above) is by reference to a masculine marker e.g. sporting and muscular poses, and by omitting direct eye contact with male viewers.
Emporio Armani’s summer 2010 underwear collection for men
Cristiano Ronaldo: The Brand
Masculinities and consumption
Metrosexuality and hegemonic masculinity