Incompletely Combusted — How Diesel Didn’t Save the World

By Mark Simpson

Can hate be good?’

This was the ques­tion posed ten years ago in an anim­ated ad that was as impossible to avoid as the products of incom­pletely com­bus­ted fuel in built-up areas. It began with noisy, dirty diesel engines fly­ing over a pretty, super-saturated green coun­tryside which rebelled against them.

Hate some­thing, change some­thing’ chor­uses the soundtrack, and a flock of shiny, newly-designed, silent, clean – and green – diesel engines arrive from Japan and the coun­tryside greets them in joy­ful rap­tures. Diesels have saved the world!

Grrr’ as the promo was called, was tre­mend­ously pop­u­lar. It won sev­eral awards, includ­ing Adweek’s ‘com­mer­cial of the dec­ade’. More the point it also suc­ceeded in boost­ing the sales of diesel engine Honda Accords from a mere 518 units in 2003 to a gag­ging 21,766 in 2004.

Now, I’m sure that Honda’s newly-designed diesel engines were rather bet­ter than the ones that went before, but the basic premise of the ad and more par­tic­u­larly of gov­ern­ment and EU policy since the early Noughties that diesel rep­res­ents a ‘green’ fuel that we should all embrace, was total organic fer­til­izer.

But embraced it we have. A dec­ade on and half of all UK car sales are now diesel, the total on our roads rising from 1.6M in 2004 to 11M of the clat­ter­ing things today. With the res­ult that London is one of the most pol­luted cit­ies on earth (again). Stung into action by whop­ping EU fines for being so filthy, its mayor Boris Johnson recently announced a £10 sur­charge start­ing in 2020 for dies­els enter­ing the cap­ital. Ever the pop­u­list, he also offered sup­port to The Sun’s cam­paign to ‘com­pensate’ diesel own­ers for scrap­ping their cars. Diesel own­ers who have been in effect sub­sid­ised by pet­rol drivers for the past dec­ade or so through a VED based on CO2 emissions.

London is unlikely to be alone in spurn­ing diesel. By the end of the dec­ade 18 cit­ies across UK are expec­ted to fail to meet EU clean air tar­gets for NOx, or nitro­gen oxide, thanks to ‘green diesel’.

Hate some­thing? Diesel engines emit ten times as many fine par­tic­u­lates as pet­rol engines and up to twice as much NOx. Particulates dam­age the lungs when inhaled and can cause per­man­ent stunt­ing of children’s lung growth. NOx pol­lu­tion is linked to 7,000 deaths p/a. Last year the UN’s WHO declared that diesel caused lung can­cer and was as ser­i­ous a risk as pass­ive smoking. Research estim­ates that diesel-related health prob­lems cost the NHS more than ten times as much as com­par­able prob­lems caused by pet­rol fumes.

Cheery car­toon stuff indeed. Ironically, the anim­ated diesel uto­pia ad of 2004 showed a rural set­ting, where diesel engine pol­lu­tion is min­imal. It’s actu­ally in densely-populated urban areas with high volumes of traffic – i.e. where most people in the world now live – that the real prob­lem lies.

The compression-ignition engine, to give it its tech­nical name, was ori­gin­ally designed by Rudolf Diesel 1897 to replace sta­tion­ary steam engines – and was inten­ded to run on coal dust. It is, to be sure, an engin­eer­ing mar­vel. Lacking a car­bur­et­tor or spark plugs, instead the high com­pres­sion of the air in the cyl­in­der heats and ignites the heavy, paraffin-like fuel when it’s injec­ted. The higher com­pres­sion ratio of the diesel engine com­bined with the higher dens­ity of diesel fuel means that mod­ern diesel engines have an impress­ive 20–40% MPG advant­age over petrol.

Which is the reason why they were touted as ‘green’ when com­batting global warm­ing became the head­line envir­on­mental issue. Because of their greater effi­ciency they pro­duce less CO2 per mile than pet­rol engines. Theoretically, by switch­ing to diesel we would be help­ing to save the planet from man-made cli­mate change. But you don’t have to be a cli­mate change sceptic/denier to con­sider this a very the­or­et­ical, per­haps almost meta­phys­ical concept, given all the other variables.

And there’s noth­ing the­or­et­ical or, alas, meta­phys­ical about the impact of the other things that dies­els emit in much greater abund­ance than pet­rol engines. It’s in the very nature of a ‘coal dust’ diesel engine that it will be ‘dirtier’ because the fuel is not fully-combusted.

Shockingly, it’s pre­cisely for this reason that European stand­ards for diesel exhaust have not been as strict as for pet­rol engines. It’s also increas­ingly clear that much-touted mod­ern tech­no­lo­gies to con­trol diesel pol­lu­tion don’t work very well in the real world, as opposed to the labor­at­ory – or car­toon com­mer­cials. A 2011 gov­ern­ment test to meas­ure emis­sions from vehicles in every­day use found that while pet­rol emis­sions had improved by 96%, emis­sions of NOx from dies­els have not decreased for the past 15–20 years.

Remember those other vari­ables I men­tioned? Well it turns out that the soot or car­bon that dies­els emit may be second only to CO2 in climate-warming. And 70% of car­bon emis­sions in Europe, North America and Latin America are from diesels.

Full dis­clos­ure: I’ve always hated dies­els. I used to live atop London’s highest hill. A keen cyc­list I would usu­ally find myself gasp­ing behind a diesel belch­ing stinky soot straight down my sporty throat. As I type this prob­ably a zil­lion par­tic­u­lates are embed­ded deep in my lungs, fizz­ing away and hasten­ing the day I develop cell abnormalities.

Can hate be good? I don’t know. But schaden­freude at the fate of smug dies­els can be bloody brilliant.

(Originally appeared on LeasePlan 10/9/14)

The Sexiest Man Alive is a Super Spornosexual With Big Bis & Huge Hammer

People Mag have crowned the Australian actor Chris Hemsworth as this year’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive’.

Hemsworth was an early — and eye-poppingly rapid — adop­ter of sporno­sexu­al­ity. If the mont­age below grabbed from the inter­web is to be believed, Chris made the trans­form­a­tion from svelte soap opera met­ro­sexual to hench Hollywood sporno­sexual in just a year.

The cre­at­ine he was tak­ing must have had, er, super powers.


How The Prostate Came Out of the Closet

Mark Simpson snaps on the latex gloves and gives men’s pro­states a thor­ough examination

(Originally appeared in a shorter, more taste­ful form in The Daily Telegraph, 12 Nov 2014)

Movember’ is upon us again, and so are the ironic and per­haps not so ironic upper lip pubes, remind­ing us of the very import­ant, very worthy – and until Movember, very over­looked – issue of pro­state can­cer, a dis­ease which affects 42,000 men each year, and kills 11,000.

But this is per­haps also a good time to remem­ber that pro­states don’t just get can­cer – and they’re not just for November, or for pro­du­cing an alkaline secre­tion which helps sus­tain ejac­u­lated sperm in the vagina. They can also give a great deal of year-round pleas­ure. Mind blow­ing, leg-shaking, eye-rolling, neighbour-panicking pleasure.

While the very exist­ence of the female G-spot remains a mat­ter of hot debate, the male G-spot is mighty real. Situated just below a chap’s urin­ary blad­der, wrapped around the urethra, the pro­state is a walnut-sized but­ton con­veni­ently placed about a finger’s length from the anal open­ing – proof pos­it­ive of ‘intel­li­gent design’.

And more and more are being reached reg­u­larly – not just by med­ical prac­ti­tion­ers look­ing for ‘enlarge­ment’. The 21st cen­tury is shap­ing up to be the cen­tury of the prostate.

Reach’ it and you – and pos­sibly your bed­room walls – will be left in no doubt as to its exist­ence. As Seann Scott William dis­covered in the col­lege com­edy ‘Road Trip’ – released in 2000, around the time Movember was just get­ting bristly – when his arrog­ant frat-boy char­ac­ter ‘EL’ attempts to make a sperm dona­tion, and is ‘helped out’ by a slightly sad­istic, latex-gloved female nurse.

That was awe­some!’ he says, dazed-amazed after­wards. And by the film’s end he’s instruct­ing his girl­friend to ‘use three fin­gers’. Probably pro­vok­ing many a young man’s interest in his own prostate.

2000 was cer­tainly a busy year for that tick­lish gland. In ‘Me, Myself & Irene’ another com­edy released later the same year, Jim Carrey plays a split per­son­al­ity Jekyll and Hyde char­ac­ter – the obnox­ious ego­ist half also turns out to enjoy anal inser­tion: this time in the form of an eye-wateringly XXL dildo dur­ing a night of pas­sion with Renee Zellwegger.

Yes the male anal­ity on dis­play in these Millennium movies was largely at the expense of the males con­cerned of course, but because the men being pro­stat­ic­ally pleas­ured were straight, both movies effect­ively told their audi­ences that in the new cen­tury men enjoy­ing their rears being played with was not spe­cific­ally ‘gay’. Just ridicu­lously intense.

Which seems to have been all the per­mis­sion that straight men needed. A dec­ade or so on from its Hollywood ‘out­ing’, that hitherto hid­den gland def­in­itely has no sexual ori­ent­a­tion – and little or no shame. ‘I’m going to stick my whole thumb up your ass this even­ing’ says a newly-engaged women fairly ran­domly to her lucky boy­friend in the TV drama ‘Fargo’.

Prostate mas­sagers’ of all shapes and baff­ling sizes (vibrat­ing and non-vibrating) fill the pages of online sex toy stores. Men’s mags such as Esquire and Men’s Health inter­rupt their guides to the mys­ter­ies of the female body to give advice on how to get your girl­friend to mas­sage your pro­state just right while giv­ing you a blow job. Entire books are devoted to the sub­ject, prom­ising you ‘The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure’.

And a giant green butt plug was inflated in Paris last month – the city that in another epoch was fam­ous for Mr Eiffel’s phal­lic Gallic tower.

Not want­ing to be, ahem, behind the curve, Harvard University is now offer­ing sem­inars on anal sex titled: ‘What’s What in the Butt: Anal Sex 101’, where you can learn ‘anal ana­tomy and the poten­tial for pleas­ure for all genders!’

The back bot­tom is the new front bot­tom – as a peek at straight online porn will con­firm. It’s pos­sibly not without sig­ni­fic­ance that the ori­fice that straight men seem most inter­ested in women these days is one they share them­selves. After all ‘anal sex’ is a highly revers­ible concept.

This was graph­ic­ally and nois­ily demon­strated in the leaked vid of the pro foot­baller a few years back which appeared to show him being ‘scored’ by an ex female part­ner with a ‘strap on’. The tabs talked then of course about how ‘bizarre’ and ‘kinky’ his private past-time was – but as with William’s ‘Road Trip’, his loud enjoy­ment of it will have just made many foot­ball fans won­der what they’ve been miss­ing by always play­ing up front instead of at the rear.

Certainly the pos­sib­il­ity of male passiv­ity is advert­ised every­where you look now. After all sporno­sexu­al­ity, hard-core, body-centred, second gen­er­a­tion met­ro­sexu­al­ity, is as much about the lunge-sculpted ass as it is the tits and abs. Straight Essex boy Dan Osborne kindly offered the read­ers of gay mag Attitude his naked muscle butt recently in a gen­er­ous double-page spread – with the strap line ‘Sex is fun. Be safe and enjoy it.’

Dan offers his bum (safely) to Attitude readers. 'Enjoy!'
Dan offers his bum (safely) to Attitude read­ers. ‘Enjoy!’

Posh boys are also at it. The male row­ers of Warwick University have just released their latest nude char­ity cal­en­dar, aimed at women and gay men, and ‘fight­ing homo­pho­bia in sports’ – rammed with plenty of arse shots (because there’s no penis in their nude cal­en­dar, they’re all bot­tom). In these pro­static times the male der­rière has been thor­oughly sexu­al­ised. Mostly by the men attached to one. Or as one of the row­ers puts it in their pro­mo­tional video: ‘Regardless of gender or sexu­al­ity we are invit­ing you into that moment with us.’

Some stick-in-the-muds will of course har­rumph that male anal play and passiv­ity is ‘unnat­ural’ and ‘sod­om­it­ical’. To which I always reply: If God hadn’t inten­ded men to try anal play he wouldn’t have given them pro­state glands. Unless he just wanted to really mess with their heads.

And He – or naughty, naughty She – gave them to all men, whatever their sexual ori­ent­a­tion and whatever their sexual hang-ups. Your pro­state gland doesn’t care whether you’re straight, gay, bi or homo­phobic – just whether or not it’s loved.

But then, that quaint old homo­phobic ral­ly­ing cry ‘Backs against the wall lads!’ was always a bit of a giveaway. Ever so slightly hint­ing that if ‘the lads’ didn’t press their rears against some­thing solid they wouldn’t be able to res­ist impal­ing them­selves on the ‘poof’.

Yes, of course, des­pite some of the pro­stat­itc pro­pa­ganda – includ­ing this art­icle – not all men enjoy their pro­states being mas­saged. Whether they are straight or gay. But the out­ing of the pro­state gland as a poten­tial organ of (pass­ive) male pleas­ure – of male ver­sat­il­ity – regard­less of sexu­al­ity frees gay and bisexual men from the very heavy bur­den of rep­res­ent­ing all male anal pleas­ure. And straight men from hav­ing to be full-time ‘studs’.

So next time you see a Village People mous­tache in November, remem­ber that the pro­state is a gland men should be proud of. And in touch with. One way or another.




Pride & Prejudice

I think the time has come to share a secret about my past I’ve kept hid­den for far too long.

Back in the 20th Century, when I was still a teen­ager (just) – and a long, long time before I became cyn­ical old queen – I shook a bucket for the miners as a mem­ber of an unlikely lefty group called Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners dur­ing the Great ‘Coal Not Dole’ NUM Strike of 1984–85.

I had no idea a film had been made about that unlikely out­fit until I happened to see, mouth akimbo, the trailer for Pride online a couple of months back. And if someone had told me before I’d seen it that the story of how some well-meaning gay London lefties reached out to a Welsh min­ing com­munity dur­ing that year-long show­down with Margaret Thatcher’s gov­ern­ment had been made into a big budget com­edy film star­ring Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton I wouldn’t have believed them.

To be hon­est, even after see­ing the Pride with my own eyes at the cinema the other day I still can’t quite believe it.

I knew many of the char­ac­ters in Pride, some of them very well: feisty, flame-haired, wise-cracking Steph – ‘I’m the Lesbian in Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners’ – (played by Faye Marsay) let home­less, pathetic me stay in her coun­cil flat until I was slightly less home­less and pathetic. And of course, like every­one else, I was in love with the 23 year old canny Irish Commie Mark Ashton (played by Ben Schnetzer), albeit mostly from a dis­tance. Largely for the love of Mark, and per­haps a deeply-buried, highly polit­ic­ally incor­rect hope that one day a burly miner might show me his, er, grat­it­ude, I atten­ded meet­ings in a crowded roll-your-own-smoke-filled room above a gay pub in Islington. (Which were usu­ally, like most meet­ings, crush­ingly bor­ing, so I com­pletely under­stand why the film instead pre­tends that LGSM was just ten people).

I was unem­ployed so had plenty of time to shake a bucket out­side Gays The Word book­shop in Bloomsbury, The Bell pub in Kings Cross and in Camden Market bel­low­ing ‘LESBIANS AND GAYS SUPPORT THE MINERS!!!’ at slightly baffled or alarmed passers-by. Of course this was a form of hope­ful think­ing as much as it was a slo­gan. Even back then, many gay people were very Tory. But in the end, LGSM reportedly col­lec­ted more money for the miners than any other sup­port group in the UK. I doubt though it was thanks to me – I may have had a lot of time on my hands, but I was a very lazy activist.

I remem­ber wit­ness­ing two LGSM mates who weren’t at all lazy being har­assed and unlaw­fully arres­ted by the police while col­lect­ing in Camden. I gave evid­ence against the police in an unlaw­ful arrest case – the court of course acquit­ted the police and found my mates guilty of being gay, lefty and sup­port­ing the miners.

I have a recol­lec­tion of attend­ing some stu­dent event in Manchester on behalf of LGSM at which I gave some kind of speech. And I was, I think, at the Pits & Perverts gig at the Electric Ballroom, shak­ing a bucket again – and very prob­ably at Pride in 1985 where Welsh miners fam­ously led the march.

I also made the trip to Dulais Valley in an LGSM minibus, but I think it was after the strike had ended. I don’t recall much about the trip, save that every­one was lovely. Everyone that is except me. After get­ting back from the miners’ social club I drunk­enly shagged one of the char­ac­ters in the film on a very creaky bed­room floor belong­ing to the fam­ily that had very kindly put us up. Mortifyingly, every­one crammed into the tiny house knew about it the next day.

If I sound a bit vague about some of the details it’s because I don’t remem­ber a great deal about that era. In my defence I’ll say I’m not the only one: Jeff Cole, on whom the young ‘heart of gold’ ‘Jeff’ char­ac­ter (played by Freddie Fox) is based, someone whom I hadn’t spoken to for over twenty years for no other reason than life, as it does, push­ing people apart after push­ing them together very closely for a while, reas­sures me he also can’t remem­ber very much. And he was the offi­cial pho­to­grapher of LGSM, who made the won­der­ful no-budget doc­u­ment­ary about LGSM in 1985 which was part of the inspir­a­tion for Pride. (See below.)

Perhaps I don’t recall much because it was another cen­tury, another Millennium, and I was a dif­fer­ent per­son. With ideals and full of – Christ! – earn­est­ness. Maybe none of us should really remem­ber what it was like to be a teen­ager when we’re middle aged. It’s just so unfair on both ver­sions of us.


Mark Simpson 1985
Showing off my Camden hair cut (Russell Square, London 1985)

What do I think of the film? Well, obvi­ously I can’t offer an impar­tial review of it, as I’m far too close to the sub­ject mat­ter – and yet at the same time strangely dis­tanced from it by a faulty memory. In truth, I dreaded going to see it, partly because I thought it was going to be a kind of gay Brassed Off (which I loathed – all that emetic Londoncentric con­des­cen­sion), and partly because I wasn’t sure I really wanted to remem­ber that era. I think many gay lefties and dream­ers from the 80s are suf­fer­ing from PTSD – Post-Thatcher Stress Disorder.

Particularly since in many ways, and des­pite the naked homo­pho­bia of the 1980s Tory Party, gays on the make were to become the hot pink shock troops of Thatcherite indi­vidu­al­ism. After all, no one believed in the power of money, shop­ping and per­sonal rein­ven­tion more than they did. The ‘gay life­style’ was to take off in the late 80s, largely repla­cing gay polit­ics in the 90s — and even­tu­ally becom­ing a straight aspiration.

Pride though played me like a violin outisde a soup kit­chen and had me laugh­ing and blub­bing in all the places it wanted me to. And I recog­nised, in won­der, many of the char­ac­ters in a way that I really didn’t think I would. It was like meet­ing old friends again – in the pomp and splend­our of their/our youth, com­plete with those 1950s style hair­cuts and t-shirts we all had back then. Except that Mark Ashton was even more cha­ris­matic and attract­ive and myth­ical than Ben Schnetzer’s por­trayal of him.

Stephen Beresford’s script does a near-miraculous  job of stay­ing true to the both the spirit of the times, and the lead­ing char­ac­ters – bring­ing both alive. It’s incred­ibly well-researched, thanks in no small part to the advis­ory role of Mike Jackson, beanie-wearing LGSM Secretary (played by Joseph Gilgun) – or ‘the Accrington sod­om­ite’ as Mark calls him in the film, through a loud-hailer.

If I have a cri­ti­cism it’s that Pride is at its weak­est in some of its fic­tion­al­ised parts – the use of homo­pho­bia for easy drama (there was never any trouble, in fact, on any of the LGSM vis­its to Wales), and the ‘sym­path­etic’ com­ing out storyline of ‘Joe’ — an inven­ted char­ac­ter — and his stifling middle-class fam­ily, all tap into the clichés of ‘the big gay movie’ that we’ve seen too many times before. I don’t think these devices were really needed – since the LGSM story is not a com­ing out story but rather a story about already out-and-loud gay people going back. But what do I know? The film is a smash hit.

Minor carp­ing aside, I’m happy to accept Pride as my cath­artic memory implant of 1984–5, free­ing me at last from my youth­ful pinko PTSD. It also offers in the end a truth that is more than just sen­ti­mental feel­goodery. Despite the crush­ing defeat of the miners and the (pipe?) dream of social­ism by Margaret Pinochet. Despite Aids — or AIDS!!! as it was then (Mark Ashton died from ‘the gay plague’ in 1987, aged just 26). And des­pite Section 28, the ori­ginal anti ‘gay pro­pa­ganda’ law, intro­duced by the Tories as a way of exploit­ing a tabloid hate cam­paign.

Two very dif­fer­ent and dis­tant com­munit­ies under siege came together and dis­covered they had a great deal in com­mon – and not just that they both knew, as Mark puts it in the film and as I recall (I think) at the time, what it’s like to be bul­lied by the police, the tabloids and the Government and labelled ‘the enemy within’. After the strike a grate­ful big butch NUM block vote forced the Labour Party to finally adopt a gay equal­ity pledge which was to help change Britain forever in the fol­low­ing dec­ade when (New) Labour swept back into power.

And as the film sug­gests, in an echo per­haps of Billy Eliot, miners learned how to dance to disco instead of nurs­ing a pint watch­ing the ladies, while their wives learned how to take on the law and polit­ics instead of mak­ing sand­wiches. The Victorian sexual divi­sion of labour and lov­ing on which many work­ing class com­munit­ies had been based was begin­ning to break down. This was a pro­cess that was only accel­er­ated over the next dec­ade or so by the loss of ‘male’ heavy industry jobs – like min­ing – and the cre­ation of ‘fem­in­ine’ ser­vice industry jobs (often part time and poorly paid — and non-unionised). Although Thatcher laid waste – quite delib­er­ately – to much of South Wales, the North and Scotland, a new gen­er­a­tion of young men and women would adapt to the brave new post-industrial, and argu­ably post-heterosexual world they found them­selves grow­ing up in. Laughable as it may seem, Geordie Shore is the tanned, bleached, pumped proof of this.

Pride is a timely reminder that the revolu­tion in the way our soci­ety thinks about and treats gender and sexu­al­ity came from the left and its ideals of solid­ar­ity – not just the atom­ising nature of con­sumer­ism and indi­vidu­al­ism. And cer­tainly not by the design of our first woman Prime Minister with her ‘Victorian val­ues’. Thatcher fan-boy David Cameron’s intro­duc­tion of same sex mar­riage was inten­ded as a rewrit­ing of his­tory, a brazen co-option of all the heavy-lifting vic­tor­ies for gay equal­ity by the left in the pre­vi­ous years in the teeth of vehe­ment oppos­i­tion by his own ‘nasty party’ and its many allies in the press. (And by him per­son­ally: only a dec­ade ago Cameron voted twice against the repeal of Section 28 – the second time in a free vote.)

If Mark Ashton were alive today he’d prob­ably remind us of that him­self. He might also add, with char­ac­ter­istic hon­esty and real­ism, that the reason why Pride can be such a smash hit now and regarded with such fond nos­tal­gia by many people who prob­ably sup­por­ted Thatcher at the time is because the miners, the organ­ised work­ing class and ulti­mately social­ism as a polit­ical force were his­tor­ic­ally defeated in the 1980s and no longer rep­res­ent a threat. And the gays got married.

But then his­tory is made out of strange, tragi-comic para­doxes, which in the 20th Century we used to call ‘dia­lectics’. No won­der some of us can’t remem­ber some of our per­sonal ones properly.

Stripping Down the Male Body

Disability char­ity Scope have been air­ing a cheeky ad this sum­mer designed to encour­age people to donate clothes. It’s a funny trib­ute to the iconic Levis ‘Laundrette’ ad of 1985 and fea­tures a very studly 24-year-old model and per­sonal fit­ness trainer Jack Eyers in the Nick Kamen role. And boy, does he fill it.

Instead of strip­ping off to wash his clothes, Eyers denudes him­self to donate to the cause. As he gets down to his white box­ers we sud­denly get a close-up on his hi-tech pros­thetic leg, which has remained hid­den until now. In terms of the way the ad is shot and struc­tured his pros­thesis is basic­ally his penis. It becomes another way of ‘strip­ping down’ and ‘reveal­ing’ the male body. Of sig­nalling both tough­ness and vul­ner­ab­il­ity, passiv­ity and activ­ity, loss and pos­ses­sion at the same time.

Jack Eyers kink

And Eyers isn’t shy about it. His pros­thesis is, as he says in an inter­est­ing inter­view with the Telegraph’s Theo Merz here, some­thing he likes to show off rather than hide because it looks ‘pretty cool’. It also doesn’t neces­sar­ily harm his employ­ment pro­spects in an industry wak­ing up to both the eye-catching poten­tial and, para­dox­ic­ally, the ‘nor­mal­ness’ of dis­ab­il­ity. (You might also want to check out Theo Merz’s exped­i­tion to Newcastle in search of the sporno­sexual here - in which he dis­cov­ers the man some Telegraph read­ers would like to pre­tend doesn’t exist is ter­ri­fy­ingly, ab-tauteningly real.)

Alex Minksy

Even less shy is US Marine vet turned under­wear model Alex Minsky, who has been gar­ner­ing a lot of well-deserved atten­tion for his saucy shoots — and most par­tic­u­larly for the way, with his body art, sculp­ted muscles, styled facial and head hair, he has totally aes­thet­i­cised him­self, pros­thesis and all. He’s also a model who clearly isn’t afraid to become a form of per­form­ance art. Splendidly kinky per­form­ance art. (Some naked selfies were leaked earlier this year — which only served to, err, enhance his reputation.)

Alex Minsky pressup

Perhaps part of the appeal of the buff, sexu­al­ised chap with pros­thetic limb(s) is not just the ‘inspir­a­tional story’, but also the fantasy of total con­trol over the body — even after some­thing as trau­mat­ising as ampu­ta­tion. And of course the hi-tech, fas­cin­at­ing pros­thesis that seems to bring ‘bionic’ powers blends with the cyborg nature of sporno­sexu­al­ity itself — a bod­ily mer­ging with tech­no­logy, in which the body is ‘machine tooled’ into some­thing more excit­ing by nutri­tional and med­ical sci­ence, Technogym decline presses and Nair for Men. (Though for most this mer­ging is done by upload­ing smart­phone selfies to Facebook.)

Alex-Minsky-9 alex-minsky-modello-senza-gamba-6

I ana­lysed the ‘Laundrette’ ad in Male Impersonators as a ‘sem­inal’ moment in the objec­ti­fic­a­tion of the male body — its ‘looked-at-ness’. Kamen’s strip in the liv­ing rooms of the UK in the mid-1980s (along with sev­eral other ads in that cam­paign, which increas­ingly sought to sub­sti­tute the product for the model’s unshow­able penis) really did mark a moment at which we woke up to the male body as a fully-fledged object of desire. Everyone in the laundrette, male and female, is hav­ing a really good look. And it’s worth men­tion­ing he’s doing his own wash­ing — no ‘little woman’ in his life to do it for him.

Like Top Gun, which was released the fol­low­ing year, ‘Laundrette’ pack­ages this new male nar­ciss­ism as ‘tra­di­tional’ and ‘retro’, when the real 1950s it is notion­ally loc­ated in con­fined this kind of fare to under­ground gay mags like AMG — cer­tainly not prime-time TV.

Thirty years on we’re all still hav­ing a really good look. So much so that we require much more visual stim­u­la­tion. Our gaze is more demand­ing, more pen­et­rat­ing. Back then Kamen’s body was pantingly-described as ‘hunky’, but now his slim, svelte body looks not rather coy in com­par­ison to today’s ripped, pumped, inked and sexed-up spornos, with or without gleam­ing, well-oiled pros­thetic limbs.

Not to men­tion almost a dif­fer­ent species.