‘Natty or not?’: how steroids got big

Article here. Excerpt:

'Many of the young men I spoke to felt surrounded by signals that a muscular body was what they needed. They had noticed that celebrities, from movie stars to the sexed-up randos on reality shows such as Love Island, had got more muscular, though no one I talked to wanted to emulate a movie star exactly, let alone go on reality TV. The idea that “muscles get you girls” came up often, although most men I spoke to acknowledged that only a small subset of women prefer a mammothly muscular body. Many mentioned social media, where they saw constant images of successful muscular men – friends they knew and influencers they didn’t – which had, in some small way, made them feel bad about themselves. Many had got into weightlifting or fitness in order to feel better, and yet they often felt as if they were falling behind, or not achieving the milestones – “gains” in muscle or strength – that they should. Steroids, they hoped, would help.

The desire for this kind of body is relatively recent. In her 1999 book, The Male Body, the feminist social critic Susan Bordo noted that in the preceding decade, advertising and mass culture had become fixated on a kind of male body – muscular, athletic, often nearly nude – that hadn’t been considered ideal or attainable for much of the modern era. The erosion of mid-20th-century social hierarchies had weakened the traditional connection between body type and social position: the plump office manager versus the muscled factory worker, for example. Free of such associations, people were beginning to see their bodies as a representation of their identity or self. In this new reality, Bordo realised that the inescapable gaze of mass consumer culture would soon have the same shame-making effect on men as it did on women. “I never dreamed that equality would move in the direction of men worrying more about their looks rather than women worrying less,” she lamented.'

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