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Women are used to being inundated with various ads for beauty and youth, however, companies have begun to market to men in the same way but in a very different way. In our go-go economy that has become so common in the last 30 years, it has become important for people in certain industries to look and feel their best at all times. As one tech worker put it, “I need to look like I don’t have a wife, 2 kids, and a mortgage.” This pressure to stay forever young for professional advancement is not new but previously it has targeted women. Now the target of marketers is right in the nether regions of men by playing on the many insecurities of manhood.
Gym, Tanning, Laundry
One of the markers of the Aughts and the 10s of this century is the male obsession with working out. Much like the 1980s, Millennials and Gen Z are obsessed with fitness. Going to the gym has become a by-word for living a healthy life. Even older millennials who came of age in the early Aughts started working out in high school and the fit, lean, and trim look with gym-toned muscles was the style. Compare that to the 70s or even the 90s. Being thin was simply not enough, one had to be fit with muscles to show that a young man was sufficiently masculine. Socially, going to the gym and being fit became a social symbol for being healthy and disciplined. This works primarily because America, as a nation, is getting heavier. America leads the world in obesity. Being fit is a social signal for health, well-being, and attractiveness. That’s not new, but now it has taken on a new life as a fashion and something to be relentlessly pursued and now, thanks to a variety of supplements and the popularity of social media advertising, companies are peddling all sorts of new products to men.
Be a Man
The past decade has also seen an extreme obsession with masculinity. The advertising plays into that too. In a world where traditional markers of masculinity are no longer available and many men are stuck in jobs that don’t necessarily cater to all their psychological and emotional desires as men, showing off masculinity in other ways has become another way to signal masculinity to others. A man might not be able to work in a machine shop or buy a house but he can at least afford to develop a nice body. It’s nothing that some pre-workout, amino acids, and hours in the gym can’t solve.
This is not to look down on those who work out or a newfound culture of health in America. We need a healthy population. The Pentagon reports that American obesity among young people is so bad it’s considered a national security threat. The youth of America might not be fit enough to fight the enemies of the future. However, that is quite another topic for another day. The problem here is that our youthful obsession with the perfect male body has become a big business and part of that big business has to do with Body Dysmorphia.
Body dysmorphia, a condition originally associated with anorexic or bulimic women, has hit young men in the last decade. Many young men feel that they just can’t achieve the ideal body that they need. It is even worse for gay men, even older gay men that one might not suspect of having such a disorder. If you’re a guy you’ve probably seen more than one ad for testosterone in your social media feeds. You’ve probably also seen ads for other supplements to improve your time at the gym.
Why Men Over 30 are Looking for Testosterone
Biologically, men peak with testosterone fairly young. When we hit puberty testosterone begins coursing through a man’s veins and creates all the familiar changes. It’s why kids leave 6th grade in May and come back in the Fall 6” taller and knocking everything over because they have no awareness of their bodies. However, the male sex hormone peaks when men are young and there are big declines after 30. This leads to a reduced sex drive and it makes it harder to stay in shape or lose weight, to begin with. Some men even have erectile dysfunction. According to the marketers of at-home hormone testing and the many supplements marketed to raise free testosterone or for testosterone via injection or cream, the key to solving all those problems of middle age is to get your “T” levels back up to where they were at 25 or so. There are benefits of course. You’ll see plenty of ads where they hit on doing better in the gym, being fitter, and of course, being more virile in the bedroom.
More than ED meds
One of the first products marketed to men heavily was Viagra for erectile dysfunction. Before Viagra, there wasn’t much to be done for impotence. Once you reached an age or had a condition where erections were no longer possible the only option was surgery and little else. However, as Pfizer was looking for a new blood pressure medication they happened upon this unique drug and it changed manhood forever. Now, new services like Bluechew, Roman, and others are offering to deliver this straight to the doors of men looking for solutions. That same marketing strategy of better manhood through chemistry is now being extended to supplements for increasing natural testosterone and testosterone itself. You’ll find ads for gear (supplements that increase muscle growth) and other things as well. What was once the purview of body builders is now being marketed to men generally using the same insecurities that worked so well on women. Why are men looking to use chemicals to improve themselves like never before? Part of it is simple attractive but there is an economic pressure at play as well.
Younger, Faster, Sharper
People use looks to get ahead. We’re biologically programmed to give attractive people what they want because our lizard brains look for people with whom we can have successful offspring. This extends to every area of life. Rather than rebalance our lives to promote healthy living at every age, it is far easier to take a supplement or a chemical to improve how we look and how we feel. The fatigue from working too many hours and the health effects of a lack of healthy eating would require a complete economic reset. It’s easier to inject more testosterone than to fix the entire US economy. So for men looking to get and stay ahead, they reach for the chemicals. For people who are dating later in life or trying to improve their marriage or what have you, the chemicals provide an easy fix. Many people live in a world where they are working multiple jobs or putting in long hours in their careers and that doesn’t promote the sort of lifestyle that would be genuinely healthy. People are trying to get ahead in an economy that is plagued by stagnant wages and limited opportunities at all levels. Looking younger, healthier, and in shape is just another way to get ahead in a world that doesn’t allow for that very easily. And then there’s youth culture.
A holdover from the 1960s, everyone wants to look a little younger. No one stays 25 forever but chemicals can give us the advantage of at least looking 25 forever. Add on the constant photography for social media and this means that there is a new resistance to aging that we’ve never seen before. We are living in a visual society more than ever before.
Our society is becoming obsessed, more than ever before, with having everything humming on all cylinders health-wise. However, this can’t all be a good thing. Helping people be more healthy is an incredibly positive thing. This obsession with male hormone levels, on the other hand, seems to have a sinister side to it. It plays into economic, emotional, and psychological insecurity in a way that has been long criticized when pointed at women. Who is going to defend men from this new onslaught? If our society handles this the same way it handles any other men’s issue, nothing will be done.