Society: New type of guy: Are “soft jocks” the men of the hour?

“When is a man a man?”: The hit “Men” is 40 years old this year.

Society: New type of guy: Are “soft jocks” the men of the hour?

“When is a man a man?”: The hit “Men” is 40 years old this year. As if Herbert Grönemeyer had already suspected in 1984 what would be debated in 2024, he wrote back then: "Men have it hard, take it easy - hard on the outside and very soft on the inside." That's the core of the thesis about a currently very popular type of guy called a "soft jock". This refers to muscle men who show themselves to be sensitive.

This label is currently being attached to several famous men in the media. The “Soft Jock” model guys of 2024 are all much younger than Herbie’s hit “Men”: American football star Travis Kelce (34), actors Jeremy Allen White (33), Paul Mescal (28) and Jacob Elordi (26) .

Men who show emotions

Bearded muscleman Kelce is the boyfriend of megastar Taylor Swift. He attracted attention by publicly showing his infatuation and talking about his relationship. US series star White is the lead actor in the acclaimed series "The Bear" and recently caused a stir as a muscular Calvin Klein underpants model. In "The Bear" he plays a chef who shows emotions. The Irish film star Paul Mescal recently fascinated as a mysterious neighbor in the queer fantasy love melodrama “All of Us Strangers”. And the Australian actor Elordi turned the head of his university friend Oliver (Barry Keoghan) as the charming aristocrat Felix in the thriller “Saltburn”.

What is a so-called jock anyway? Actually just a cliché and nothing positive. He is a young, physically active and sexually attractive man who is not necessarily the brightest. Such imposing guys with broad backs and thick biceps appear in almost every US high school comedy. In gay online dating, where American-style terms are used, he is one of the stereotypes alongside bear, cub, hunk, twink or nerd. In terms of character, jocks are often spoiled because they are sought after and idolized and hardly have to make any effort in the social structure. It would be extremely shorthand to simply translate jock as "athlete" or "athlete", even though the term is probably derived from the athlete's underwear jockstrap - a jockstrap.

“Soft jocks” (i.e. soft muscle types) are impressive men who are sensitive and non-threatening. "Soft jocks may have a masculine physique, but their insides are far less toxic," summarized Britain's Guardian.

Even though he's only 19 and exudes the aura of a golden retriever, you could still call the "Heartstopper" actor Kit Connor. The young Brit recently seemed to be training himself to have a bodybuilder's body. In Germany, the 27-year-old musician and actor Emilio Sakraya ("Rheingold", "60 Minutes") might fit into the drawer.

The online women's magazine "Bustle" wrote about actor Paul Mescal that he "combines his massive thighs with a deep appreciation for sad girl music." The Guardian added that of course it's easier to show off your so-called feminine side if you can trash anyone who objects to it. In the past, men who were considered to have a sensitive image - think of film star Timothée Chalamet - looked different.

Change in masculinity

Masculinity researcher Toni Tohlen from the University of Hildesheim says that masculinity is up for negotiation in many ways today: socially, individually and in partnership. "From a social and cultural perspective, the phenomenon of "soft jocks" also articulates what is referred to in masculinity research as "hybrid masculinity". What this means is that male identity performance also includes aspects with "feminine" connotations such as emotionality, softness and openness, Sensitivity and vulnerability can also be selectively integrated."

According to Tohlen, this does not change the structural dominance of masculinity. The socio-cultural privilege of men may even just be disguised. Often, even supposedly soft men don't really break away from traditional, "sometimes toxic-seeming attributions such as strength, performance optimization, assertiveness mentality and Superman image."

Tohlen emphasizes that the phenomenon could also be an indication of the current conflict in the Western discourse about masculinity. "Some want to hold on to the idea of ​​a traditional, strong and superior masculinity or return to it, others want an alternative masculinity that does not require dominance and muscle packs. A masculinity that is open, approachable, caring and sensitive. This dichotomy becomes often acted out directly in individual men and also in women."