Lucas Etienne with furry friend.
To their army of gay fans, the Warwick Rowers are so well known for their cool poses and chiselled bodies that their sportsmanship sometimes seems an irrelevance. In case you've been off-planet for the past six years, we should explain that the Rowers, students at England’s Warwick University, have been stripping nude for their annual calendars. Released earlier this month, the 2016 edition is the nudest, sexiest version yet, featuring shots of the boys cavorting in bed, in the woods and on the grounds of a “Downton Abbey”-style mansion, completely in the nude.
It’s easy to dismiss the photos as an exercise in male vanity, but the calendar has a greater aim. Although the project began in 2009 in hopes of raising funds for equipment, it quickly gathered a massive following among gay men. These days, proceeds from calendar sales go to Sport Allies, a U.K. advocacy organization aimed at combating homophobia in team sports, part of an effort to give back to the admirers who support them the most.
Three of the team's members, Lucas Etienne and Will Johnson, both 19, and Tristan Edwards, 20, visited New York in early November to explain the role of the calendar in greater detail. Remarking that they don’t mind being the object of fan enthusiasm, they also hoped their fans appreciate the greater message in the photos. In an effort to break down stereotypes about masculinity in sports and show that it’s fine for straight men to express affection and be intimate with one another, many of the images feature the boys sunbathing together and innocently cuddling,
“A lot of the problems around homophobia in sport come from the enforcement of gender norms… people saying what a man is or what a woman is,” says Edwards, who returns to the calendar after his 2015 debut. “We don’t want to be put into a box in terms of what a man ‘should be’ in sport. This is how we think you can act.” Their charitable efforts have also been good news for the team: “The last two years have been the most successful we’ve had as a club.”
Lustralboy has supported the Warwick Rowers for three years now. We applaud both the philosophy and the aesthetics. Do go and grab a calendar and know you're helping push back on the lingering pockets of homophobia in sport and in general. Just check out The Warwick Rowers' website and "Be part of the story"!
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