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Dancefloor massive: Are more ravers taking steroids to make themselves big?

Male clubbers are bigger and more muscular than ever before. What’s behind this supersizing? And how far will people go to bulk up?

  • Words: Mike Power | Images: Pete Rogers
  • 2 February 2016

Anyone who's been out clubbing recently in the UK will have noticed that many male ravers are bigger and more muscular than ever before. A culture that's long been more 'elegantly wasted' has become absolutely ripped. And it's not just on the floor – DJs used to look and act like the biggest caners in the party. But now they are healthier and buffer than ever before, the likes of Calvin Harris posing in his pants with a perfect six-pack in an Armani campaign, and DJ Fresh revealing that he works out every other day. "When you're standing up there with your arms in the air, it's a bit shit if you look like a twig," he told Men's Health magazine.

With gruelling tour schedules and a carefully constructed image, it's understandable that DJs want to stay and look healthy – but what about the punters? Karenza Moore, a sociologist at Lancaster University who specialises in drug and club culture, says men today are subject to the same scrutiny and body image pressure that women have long suffered, and that ideal body shapes for men have shifted towards a musclier look.

"We used to go clubbing in jeans and trainers," she says. "Now, straight lads are going out in tight T-shirts, dressed to impress, and part of that look is being big and muscled," she says. "There's huge pressure on young people nowadays to look good, and to present yourself well on social media."

Where sex, drugs and acid house once ruled, now it's all creatine and cross trainers. Gym memberships hit 8m in the UK for the first time last summer in an industry now worth £4bn, and this year, the Office for National Statistics included protein powder – used by many gym-goers to build muscle – as a staple item in its basket of goods used to track inflation.

While there's no suggestion that any of the DJs mentioned above have achieved peak physique with anything other than healthy lifestyles and personal trainers, is there more to some clubland muscle-men than meets the eye? Is it just a casual insult from those who 'don't even lift bro', or are more clubbers taking steroids to make themselves big?

Stewart Who? used to work on the door of legendary London gay club Trade at Turnmills, is convinced the recent growth spurt among straight male clubbers is down to steroid use, and says many are emulating their gay counterparts in pursuit of the body beautiful – by any means necessary.

"The straight boys have taken to steroids with gusto," he says. "It's the TOWIE syndrome. They get the sleeve tattoos and the slicked-over hair and the big bodies. It was just gay men and body-builders before. That Men's Health, body beautiful thing is mainstream now. It's a shift in masculinity."

Stewart says the muscle tone, definition and scale of a steroid users' pumped-up parts stand out as they tend not match the rest of their bodies. The look is fake and, to the trained eye, he says, plain to see. And he should know. As the ex-boyfriend, many years ago, of a man who dealt steroids to London's gay male strippers, he has seen dozens of guys go from standard gym-pimped physiques to looking like superheroes.

"You can tell when someone has done steroids. You can sense the exaggeration – even if it's the first time you've seen them," he says. "You can go to the gym but you reach a plateau, even if you're dedicated. That's what leads people to steroids."

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