“Hong Kong has never been so dominated by the ripped abs of buff men, by pecs of steel adorning 60ft billboards and shirtless adonises, proudly displaying their V-lines,” writes Arthur Tam in timeout.com.hk.
“In the past few years, we’ve seen an incredible change in the extent to which Asian men are becoming highly sexualized objects of desire, resulting, today, in a constant, hot barrage of unashamedly in-your-face torsos,” wrote the columnist.
This rather new phenomenon points to a different era of the Asian sex symbol. “It might seem the norm in today’s world that men are as publically sexually desired as women – yet in Hong Kong, this wasn’t always the case,” said Tan, who is also presenter of the RTHK Radio 3 English-language LGBT show, From Top to Bottom.
“It’s a rather modern phenomenon that has really only come of age in the last few years (because) arguably never before have representations of men in Hong Kong been so provocatively, openly sexual,” he said.
This is largely because of the growing line of rugged models and celebrities teaming up with beauty centers and fashion brands, fat burning creams, underwear and skincare brands.
According to Tan this evolution crystallized into a full-blown phenomenon in August 2012, when Abercrombie & Fitch launched its flagship store in downtown Central by parading a horde of ripped half-naked men.
One of them was King Chiu, who since then has become the most high-profile Hong Kong sex symbol and who released King of V-Line, a provocative photo album of V-lines that sold out at last year’s Hong Kong Book Fair and generated newspaper headlines usually reserved for female counterparts.
“During my seven years of modeling, I never had to take off my shirt as much as I did after A&F came,” says Chiu.
“It’s not like people didn’t like pecs and six packs before… but now they feel like they are allowed to like them openly,” Chiu said.
Edwin Ma associate publisher of men’s lifestyle title MRRM suggests that the liberal shift in society’s attitudes toward sex and sexuality is because “The increasing acceptance of homosexuality has given a liberal standpoint on sexuality.
“By doing so, it takes away the stigma associated with men wanting to be desired,” he added.
Geng Song, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong, who focuses on media and cultural studies, said such highly sexualized male imagery largely comes because men look at those images and think that should be something to aspire to.