Hench

By Morgan Scott

Guest Post

(HENCH: strong and fit with very well-developed muscles; used about men)

1. Schwarzenegger: the Trendsetting Terminator

I have to admit it, growing up in the 1980s, myself and many males (and females) were in awe of bodybuilding action hero, the Austrian Oak, The Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Schwarzenegger was of course not the first bodybuilder, but he was the first to bring this bizarre body-expanding behaviour into the limelight, beginning with the release of acclaimed documentary, Pumping Iron.

Schwarzenegger was and is a fascinating man. He left Austria to live the American Dream over in the US. What he didn’t know was that he would become the epitome of the American Dream. He nailed it. His vehicle? Bodybuilding. Schwarzenegger was already a local European bodybuilding champ but he knew America was the place to be to achieve his ultimate dream, to conquer bodybuilding and then conquer the movie business.

After winning Mr. Olympia 6 times he was going to hang up his posing trunks until he was convinced by the producers of Pumping Iron to carry on for one more season. They wanted to follow his quest for a  7th Mr Olympia title, which he ultimately achieved.

Years later in an interview, he confessed that he started to see the ridiculousness of it all, posing in little trunks.

From building up his body, Schwarzenegger went into acting. His breakthrough movie role came as Conan the Barbarian in 1982. The director John Milius actually told Schwarzenegger that he was too jacked for the part and that he actually had to lose muscle weight. This was the opposite of what bodybuilding was all about. However, a large part of bodybuilding is bulking and shredding where you would bulk up in off competition season and shred body fat leading up to one. Schwarzenegger had it covered and got it sorted ready for Conan.

Schwarzenegger had some challenges in his way; his English was terrible and he had a strange accent, plus Hollywood actors were just not huge behemoths back then. He also had a weird unpronounceable name and no acting experience. Well, the rest is movie history.

However, he was unique and he spurred an epidemic of muscle growth. In the wake of the Schwarzenegger phenomenon, gym memberships soared and muscles across the globe groaned and swelled in search for the ‘Pump’ and a body that would have Michelangelo’s David second-guessing himself.

Why do people build bodies in the first place? Why do they emulate Schwarzenegger? Success and motivational coach Tony Robbins tells us that one of the six human needs as to why any of us do what we do is Significance. We want to be seen, we want to ‘be’ somebody and what better way to be noticed, by having to walk into a room sideways. But do we need huge muscles to be significant in the world? At what point does growing your biceps become pathological?

Don’t get me wrong, having an awesome torso is a great thing to have. You look great, you feel great, clothes fit you well and you don’t have to worry about whether your beer belly looks big in this. What I’m wondering about is that line which separates ‘normal’ behaviour and when you enter into an obsessive world where size and body fat percentages becomes body dysmorphia – when the obsession overtakes the rational and becomes a problem, trumping the significance you seek.

2.Experiences

During my time lifting weights in gyms I got speaking to ‘the lads’ squeezing the iron now and again. I was curious as to why they were building such massive bodies. These were not the guys who were training for a particular sport or who were fitness trainers nor movie stars. These guys built for personal goals.

When asking them why they did it, I would usually get one of two answers, one being “Woman” (or men) or as one charming young man put it bluntly “Pussy!” So sex is high on the agenda. The second answer was “Because I was bullied at school.” Both answers certainly lent themselves to the motivation of feeling significant.

Social media, particularly Instagram, has become a cultural mirror feeding a worrying narcissistic trend to achieving the perfect body. Before, we only had floor-to-ceiling mirrors in gyms to flex and pose, to see our progress and satisfy our ego. Now we have a platform to tell the whole world about our triceps with a selfie. Just another way to feel significant, especially if hundreds, if not thousands of followers can double tap on your virtual torso to give you a heart. #mustbewinninginlifenow?

OK, sure, it’s not all about feeding ones ego; it’s also about mastering oneself and feeling good. The body may be the easiest bit of us to master, because even if your soul and spirit are in shatters, at least we might protect them in slabs of muscle.

Lifting weights also feels good. When bench pressing 100 kg you’re certainly in the present and not thinking about that work report. It’s the rush, the pump and even the delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) a couple of days after is a great feeling, we’ve triumphed, we’ve mastered our body.

I do worry that most young men are growing up being seduced by what the media and advertisers portray as the perfect body. Often the ideal is an unrealistic one at that, where anything less suggests unworthiness.

3.Final Thoughts

I remember talking to an old mate, who was into bodybuilding at the time, and he said “I just want to get Huge. I want to be a monster!” He was in his late thirties when it’s much harder to achieve ‘huge’ and he seemed to be a lost boy trapped, seeking a measure of significance.

I asked “But why do you want to be huge?” The chances of becoming a world champion bodybuilder were slim to zero and becoming the next Schwarzenegger, even slimmer. He just stared into space searching for an answer.

Let’s not forget that the idea of the perfect body is driven by profiteers preying on our fragile persona and a need for significance in the world. Just buy this widget and you too can have a body like this. Young men are even turning to steroids to reach perfection sooner, but at what cost?

Can we get more sex without spending hours in the gym? Can we heal our broken selves without having to get Hench? Can we still get in shape and look great without XXL shirts? Sure we can. If it’s significance we seek, can we achieve it in other ways and channel that energy into making a difference in the world?

Damn right you can.

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I’m delighted that professional photographer Morgan Scott shares his images and ideas. His exciting portfolio can be found here: https://www.instagram.com/morganscottuk/

Instagram: MorganScottUK

Twitter: MorganScottUK

Watch out for more posts from Morgan in the future.

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‘Street Portraits’ by Morgan Scott

I’m delighted that professional photographer Morgan Scott shares his images and ideas. Most of the time he works in London as a Business Development Manager for Bijou Commerce. But photography, as he puts it, has been a long-standing ‘passion.’

His exciting portfolio can be found here: http://morganportraits.com/portfolio

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Street Portraits by Morgan Scott

In a multicultural city such as London, you will, for sure, encounter a plethora of amazing faces, fashions, cultures and personalities. It’s a candy shop of choice when it comes to portrait photography opportunities. It’s a great place to immortalize elements of the body.

There are two main types of street portrait photography styles. The first is when your subject is unaware of their photo being taken (at first at least) and the photographer is using a hide-and-seek approach. A good example is Vivian Maier, who used a Rolleiflex film camera in the 50s and 60s and which you would shoot from the navel. The subjects were unaware of the camera as it was not held up at eye level. Vivian’s photos gave the subject a very grand feeling as the portrait was taken at an angle looking up at them, even if the subject themselves were not a grand figure in stature or being.

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Maier only became famous post mortem, when a lot of film was purchased at auction by John Maloof. Maloof discovered that Maier was arguably one of the most significant street photographers of the twentieth centary and made the fantastic documentary ‘Finding Vivian Maier’, as well as curating her work. Finding Maier’s undeveloped films, hundreds of them, was the photography equivalent of discovering buried treasure.

She did also take portraits where the subject was fully aware a photo was being taken, although many were very natural, unforced forced poses. Perhaps she was lightning quick and somewhat unthreatening as a woman with a camera or perhaps it was simply not the norm to be photographed like in our camera-phone, Instagram world today.

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This takes us to the second type of street portrait: the ‘aware’ subject. This is a style I quite enjoy myself. The way I go about this is to wander/wonder about the streets looking for people with interesting styles and faces. I generally go by gut feeling – instinct, I suppose – about whether I want to take a portrait of someone or not. It’s usually based on a fleeting glance. So the first challenge is to find a subject, which is not too hard to do in London. The second challenge is approaching that person and asking permission to take their portrait. It’s all to do with the approach and manner you adopt. Because I seek out slightly ‘alternative’ looking people to take portraits of, they are generally more likely to say yes as there is an element of how they look that they want to be noticed in most cases. Why have purple hair if no one sees it, right?

When I approach the person I do it calmly, with a genuine smile, and say: “Excuse me, I’m doing a personal photography project on London Style (I point to my camera around my neck) and I love your look. If you don’t mind I would love to take your portrait. I’ll give you my website and you can save the photo and use it however you want for free.” The majority of the time a subject will say yes because s/he are flattered. If someone says no, I figure out if it’s just a shy no; some people are a little embarrassed at first and I’ll say ‘Oh go on you look great’, and they will. You can just tell when someone really is not interested and in this case I don’t push it and say ‘Ok no worries, cheers.’ Remember there’s always another opportunity right up the street. I also don’t want to look at a photo with a reluctant pose as it’s a little bit negative – meaning I won’t have the portrait I desire.

I was inspired by the ‘Humans of New York’ series by Brandon Stanton. His photos feature an eclectic bunch of people, and the portraits are aimed at revealing relatable, human stories. These portraits highlight human whole, from head to toe, displaying the subject in all his/her glory and interesting fashions. These are also posed portraits, considering they are also telling their story to Stanton and have been made into a series of books.

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For me, taking portraits is a passion. Faces tell a story and the eyes really are a window to the soul. It’s exciting for me to stop strangers, take their portrait and make a friend. Art is literally walking by us everyday, the art of the human, the art of human expression. What we see in the cities of the world is really an expression of the zeitgeist – a particular mindset, politics, and art – and it will never happen again; photography can freeze the essence of present time for future generations to enjoy and say “Look what they used to wear!”

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Instagram: MorganScottUK

Twitter: MorganScottUK

 

 

 

 

The Business of Babies and Body Products

Explosive legal developments in the sperm donation industry have raised significant questions about reproduction technologies and sperm banks in Canada and beyond.

Three separate Ontario families have recently launched lawsuits against a U.S.-based sperm bank and its Canadian retailer, alleging they were misled about their sperm donor’s background history, which included a criminal record and significant mental illness.

The families – all of whom used Donor 9623 – have brought suits against Xytex Corp., a Georgia-based company, and Ontario-based Outreach Health Services because, they were allegedly deceived. While Donor 9623 was marketed as very well-educated, a model of fitness, and a popular donor, other accounts suggest this wasn’t the case at all.

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advertising poster

Court statements claim this donor was diagnosed with schizophrenia, suffered from narcissistic personality disorder, was a convicted burglar, and misrepresented his education, having claimed the IQ level of a genius. Essentially, the antithesis of what you’d normally look for.

In the Toronto Star, a recent editorial argued that Paying for Sperm Should Not be Illegal.  Just like with selling human plasma (as I’ve written about here and here), there is much debate. A lot of Canadians agree that we ought to be able to choose what we do with our body products, as Americans can. Do you? Do you think we should be able to buy and sell body products in Canada?

Haha. “Polldaddy.” Get it?

A fact of life with reproduction is that some people find they need help conceiving. Couples may struggle with sterility, decreased fertility, or one of the many other causes that make conception difficult. And sperm banks, which use cryobank technology, are facilities that offer solutions.

In Canada, under the 2004 Assisted Human Reproduction Act, you cannot be paid to donate. This law prohibits the payment of sperm donors (and other providers of reproductive tissues), as a matter of principle – and this is in order to prevent the commercialization and commodification of human reproductive tissues.

This legal situation has, according to some, created a “sperm shortage” and established conditions wherein, much like plasma, we hypocritically use body products from other foreign paid systems. (In Saskatchewan, much of the discussion about for-profit plasma centred on the fact that we are forced to import from the United States.)

For paid sperm donors in the US or elsewhere, screening is often vigorous and takes typically two to three months to complete. There are basic requirements, such as being 18 years of age and having no chronic health problems, but banks also have variable screening processes. Perhaps you have to be over 5 feet 7 inches. Perhaps you need a college degree.

The practice of sperm donation and cryobanking has not been without controversy. In 1954, three Iowa babies were conceived using semen that had been frozen and stored before use, a first in human reproduction. This represented a step forward in assisted conception, thus transforming the sperm bank from a futuristic (perhaps frightening) dream in The Handmaid’s Tale or 1984 or Twins into a viable part of reproductive medicine.

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Criticism emerged from both medical and religious circles. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, had condemned all means of artificial impregnation as early as 1897, and it reiterated its opposition, based on the separation of sexuality and reproduction, through the 1950s. Pope Pius XII called artificial insemination of any kind “entirely illicit and immoral.”

The New York Academy of Medicine initially condemned the technique in general, and the general public in U.S. demonstrated a mixed response.

At the same time, eugenicist and Malthusian undertones also led to criticism of sperm banking, with all of the pseudo-scientific, racist and sterilization images that these previously powerful movements conjured.

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Of course, we have slowly accepted the practice of artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and other techniques. But in David Plotz’s excellent book, The Genius Factory, we can see, even amid a transformation from societal antipathy to gradual acceptance, how sperm banks have the potential raise questions with reproductive technologies. In short, recent history has lessons for the present case against Xytex and Outreach Health Services.

In 1980, Robert Graham, an eccentric millionaire inventor, founded the Repository for Germinal Choice, which was instantly dubbed the “Nobel Prize Sperm Bank” by the press. Graham’s plan was to encourage a kind of positive eugenics and he won over at least three Nobel winners, who agreed to be part of the master plan and delivered their seeds of genius – much like Donor 9623 promised to do.

It was a bizarre attempt at breeding a super-race which brought to life Malthusian worries and Social Darwinism, or, as David Plotz points out, converted these ideas “into dismal practice.”

The effort was undone for a variety of reasons, and one of the most significant had to be Nobel Prize winner William Shockley’s admissions about low levels of intelligence and forced sterilization. As one of the famous donors at the Genius Factory, he provided a public and rather unseemly view of picking and choosing children’s traits like flavours of ice cream.

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Francis Galton

However, unlike Donor 9623 (whose real name is James Christian Aggeles), Shockley was a bona fide intellectual powerhouse. As distasteful as ideas were, he was co-inventor of the transistor and Nobel Prize laureate. He was not misrepresenting himself.

The recently launched lawsuits suggest that Donor 9623 lied about his IQ, his criminal record, as well as his health history. According to the statement of claim, the companies involved failed to screen and monitor donors properly, but, worse still, actively sought to sell the sperm after the donor’s arrests and mental health history were revealed.

“Instead of conducting an actual investigation into the claims made by Aggeles, Xytex promoted Donor #i9623 as one of their best donors,” the statement of claim said. “Xytex promoted Aggeles as a man of high integrity who was extremely intelligent and incredibly educated.”

Xytex, hailing from Georgia, has responded by calling itself “an industry leader” that “complies with all industry standards in how they safely and carefully help provide the gift of children to families…”

Bear in mind that these are American industry standards, which once again raises questions about the introduction of a paid donor model in Canada. Much like plasma, there is a large international market in sperm and a limited amount of sperm is provided altruistically here.

So should we re-evaluate our laws to allow for paid donation? This isn’t an easy sell.

In Canada, we don’t have a lengthy history of “paid” donation.

And while our neighbours to the south implemented such a system as early as 1937, Canadians have an altogether different vision of buying and selling parts of the body, including eggs, sperm and bone marrow. The recent federal discussions over plasma clinics clearly illustrated this.

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Yet, the lawsuits by Ontario families may point toward the need for a deeper conversation about sperm donation and regulation in Canada.

According to Robin Henig’s book, Pandora’s Baby, the historical trajectory of reproduction technologies shows that our reservations about cutting-edge medical advancements and policy reforms gradually dissolve when couples have more chances to have families with children.