Teen mag defends hunt for sixth-form studs

16th July 2004 at 01:00
Jack is 16. He is a Cancerian, loves racing cars, and is taking A-levels in English, maths and ceramics. And, for the price of a premium-rate phone call, teenage girls could make Jack's day. Brown-eyed, chisel-jawed Jack Goldstraw is one of teen magazine Cosmogirl's sexy sixth-formers of 2004.

In a nine-page spread in its August edition, Cosmogirl! has launched a search to find Britain's sexiest male sixth-formers.

Nominated from among the friends and brothers of readers, the sixth-formers were whittled down to a shortlist of 30 by editorial staff. Finalists were photographed in alluring poses: riding a bike, sitting in class, and leaning topless against a wall.

Miranda Eason, Cosmogirl! acting editor, said: "Cosmopolitan is famous for its centrefolds. Eye-candy, gorgeous guys, are all part of that heritage."

And, to prove that Cosmogirls are not entirely image-focused, each sixth-former also lists his A-level subjects, star sign, and a brief description of himself. Readers' favourites will be announced in October's magazine.

Unlike girls, school-age boys are rarely the subject of illicit titillation. But many teachers are nonetheless wary of idealised images of manhood.

Ros Curtis, head of sixth-form at all-boys John Hampden grammar, in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, said: "If the article featured girls, I would be appalled at the outrageous sexist stereotyping. Because it's boys, I'm laughing. But boys are increasingly sensitive about body image. They use loo mirrors to tart themselves up, and are going on diets."

Andrew Parker, gender sociologist at Warwick university, agrees. "There's a shift towards consumption of men's images in the media," he said. "There's a growing male cosmetics industry. For sixth-formers, this pressure is often at its apex."

But Ms Eason insists that the contest is harmless fun: "School is where our readers meet guys. But how boys think can be a mystery. This is a fun, innocent way of presenting real guys."

And the subtler points of gender relations are unlikely to concern Cosmogirl! nominee Jack.

Mark Taylor, Jack's head of sixth form at Longsands college, in Cambridgeshire, said: "Yes, it's part of a redefinition of manhood, putting form above content. But I don't think Jack will be having a crisis of masculinity. He'll probably just get some stick from his mates."

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