Sorry, gym bunnies, but men with dad bods just make better fathers | Barbara Ellen | Opinion

Men who have put on lockdown weight, rejoice – women have a positive opinion about it. Researchers from the University of Southern Mississippi found that women perceived men with dad bods to be better parent material. While the gym-honed body is considered generally more attractive, it scores the lowest with women regarding monogamy and child-rearing.

For the study, 800 women were shown bodies ranging from lean to slightly overweight. The dad bod came out on top, while the gym bod came last. Dad bods scored high with positive behaviours: “Babies melt this person’s heart”; “This person tries to teach their child new things”. Gym bods were assigned negative traits, such as “This person thinks kids are annoying” and “This person grabs or handles their child roughly”. The research also alludes ominously to gym bods’ “pluralistic mating strategies”.

So there you have it, all those with gym bods. Women find you alluring during their cocktail-sipping/nightclub-surfing years but when they want to get serious, they think you’re bad fathers and serial cheaters.

Is this harsh on men who just wish to keep physically fit? Maybe it says less about actual gym bods than it does about creepy gym guy syndrome. Many women have come across creepy gym guys: men with ripped musculature bulging out of neon singlets who appear to live semi-permanently in the weights section, occasionally lifting dumbbells with attention-seeking grunts, but mainly sitting on benches, ogling women.

Understandably, few women want the likes of creepy gym guy to father their children. However, there’s widespread confusion about dad bods. The study didn’t include very unfit, overweight men (who may also be judged extremely negatively). The dad bod is about being fit enough, just not narcissistically “it’s all about me” uber-fit. It’s about having minor love handles, not letting yourself go. When women talk about dad bods, they really mean “Hollywood-casual dad bod”: the likes of Matt Damon, father of four, photographed ambling around, looking relatively normal. By contrast, the recent shots of Boris Johnson on holiday in his fetching bobble hat only just qualify him as a dad bod and, by my scientific calculations, actually verge on grandad bod.

Sorry to be judgmental, though arguably I shouldn’t be sorry. The female body routinely withstands far more ruthless criticism and objectification. Even in this department, any male talk of “mum bod” would doubtless concentrate on fertility indicators, such as large breasts or curvaceous hips. Not real-life mum bods belonging to actual mums like me, slumped on the sofa, catching up on Selling Sunset while tucking into a family bag of Doritos. Judgmental women may be and sometimes in dark and surprising ways. Still, the enduring popularity of the dad bod proves that men continue to enjoy far fairer, more nuanced scrutiny and treatment.

Pretty in pink: a new look for Dominic Cummings



Dominic Cummings: quite the fashion plate. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Why, Dominic Cummings, you’re a proper little bobby-dazzler! The government aide who has devoted his life to earning the label “maverick” returned to work last week in a suit. Those who despaired over his attire of hoodies and jogging bottoms rejoiced at the transformation. There’s scant truth in the rumours that some political journalists were privately disappointed that they would now have to score their top-quality ganja elsewhere.

If I may drift into red-carpet parlance: the suit was a stylish black, showing off Dominic’s elegantly trim physique, doubtless honed with vigorous woodlands-based exercise in the County Durham area. A pink shirt enhanced his radiant complexion, sultry pout and flirtatious, sparkling eyes. Dominic boldly eschewed a tie, teasingly undoing just enough buttons to expose a highly sexual glimpse of his chest.

Was this his audition to become the new James Bond? A sartorial indicator that he intends to be more businesslike and authoritative? Or were his “I’m a bad boy, me” stained-looking joggers in the wash? Does it even matter? Didn’t we always say that he could be very pretty if he tried?

When is a porn site not a porn site? Answers on a postcard

Bella Thorne



Bella Thorne: coining it from OnlyFans – and no nudity. Photograph: Michael Tran/AFP via Getty Images

When you’re delivering non-pornographic material on a porn subscription site, is it still part of porn? Former Disney actress Bella Thorne is the latest celebrity to join OnlyFans, earning more than £1m in subscriptions in 24 hours, breaking the site’s record. However, her OnlyFans content proved to be the same as her Instagram feed, with no nude content, and subscribers are demanding refunds.

OnlyFans is a subscription site (reaching 60 million users in lockdown), where up to 750,000 “content creators” post intimate photos, videos and text messages, with OnlyFans taking 20% commission. Some creators are models, singers and fitness trainers, who don’t post anything nude or sexual. Others are sex workers offering explicit content. People such as former Atomic Kitten Kerry Katona, and reality show alumni (Love Island, The Only Way Is Essex) post, saying they find “controlling the narrative” empowering.

One complaint is that OnlyFans is “gentrifying” as it attracts higher-end celebrities, such as Thorne and rapper Cardi B, neither of whom posts nude material. It may be that OnlyFans is evolving into a next-stage Instagram. Founder Timothy Stokely is thought to be keen for it to get away from pornography to become a mainstream networking platform for influencers.

Still, OnlyFans was primarily built on pornographic content. It’s not about morality, it’s about celebrities “keeping it clean”, while their presence effectively helps to normalise and sanitise what developed and flourished as a DIY pornography site. Does the context matter or are the celebrities right and only accountable for their own content?

Barbara Ellen is an Observer columnist


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