The alpha male is dead and tech geeks rule world - but does it stoke female desire?
Women want to be independent and respected but they also desire a man to submit to, writes Niamh Horan
Throughout history the alpha male has dominated. From gladiators of the Colosseum to the Grecian Gods extolled in the work of Rubens and Carracci.
The mavericks of the Wild West to generals on the battlefield. When Napoleon asked Jacques-Louis David to capture his manliness when painting 'Crossing the Alps' his only instruction was 'Calme sur un cheval fougueux' - calm on a fiery horse. It was never about muscle power.
So watching Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) show off his hairless pecs for the umpteenth time in Fifty Shades Darker - you couldn't help but think is this what society really thinks women want?
The blockbuster was supposed to be a movie by a woman, for women. But perhaps E L James had been trapped in the humdrum of marriage for too long when she penned her fantasy. In the second instalment, we see Grey chopping vegetables, pushing a shopping trolley and striking a gymnastic pose in skinny lycra on the back of a pommel horse. And from the groans of women in the cinema (no, not that kind!) it didn't exactly get the blood flowing.
Feminism has tried to mould men into lifeless bores, demanding they change everything, from how to formally request sex, to the division of household chores. But it has forgotten women are full of contradictions. Yes we want to be independent and respected but we also want a man we can submit to. That's where we thought this piece of erotica could offer an escape. Instead, it bought into modern-day views of masculinity. And what is clear is that this century has heralded the death of the most desirable kind of man - the alpha.
Consumerism has pressurised men to wax and preen (the male grooming market is now worth $21bn annually) and for the first time in history, men worry more about body shape than women. A recent study by the Succeed Foundation found that 38pc would sacrifice at least a year of their life in exchange for the perfect physique.
Even gladiators were not overtly muscular. They carried a small portion of weight so they could take an injury and make it look bloody and fatal, before coming back to finish off their opponent. Now isn't that the type of man you would go for?
But try telling that to the 20-year-old I saw at my local gym - hanging upside down from a pull-up bar like a bat in a tank top.
It's not just a monumental shift in male physical expectations either. In business, the swash-buckling chauffeur-driven capitalist beast has been replaced by bespectacled tech nerds who wear backpacks and commute to work on scooters.
Wall Street has lost its Gordon Gekko types for geeks trained in algorithms and in politics, winsome leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are championed, while US President Donald Trump is written off as misogynistic. In sport, as much talk is dedicated to the hairstyles and underpants of male athletes as their skill set. Fifty Shades Darker tried to go against this trend - but they were wide of the mark when capturing the essence of the traditional alpha male.
Dornan came across as more of a kid throwing a tantrum than a cool and resilient lover. As for the physical perfection - could movie bosses not think outside the box of hiring a former male model? He had a monotonous voice and about as much swag as a potted plant. Forget the baby oil. We want our men to be men - with hairy chests and raffish good looks. As Quentin Crisp once advised: "Only very young women like vain men. The mature woman understands she will one day lose the fight for the mirror."
In interviews Dornan has said he hates being called 'baby faced' so directors had him grow a beard. Unfortunately it will take a lot more than a bit of bum fluff to get us to come back for more.
'Fifty Shades Darker' is now showing nationwide.