End of Gays?’ — Kindle Single essay

NSodom and Gomorrah.indd

Back in the 1980s, when the Conservative Government of Margaret Thatcher banned the ‘pro­mo­tion’ of homo­sexu­al­ity, gays were still semi-criminal – as well as immoral, ridicu­lous, dis­gust­ing, dis­eased and after your kids.

The UK’s ban on homo­sexual pro­pa­ganda failed – spec­tac­u­larly. Gays have been pro­moted more rap­idly and gid­dily than almost any per­se­cuted, des­pised group in his­tory. In just a gen­er­a­tion or so UK gays have achieved legal equal­ity, civil rights and even respect­ab­il­ity. Today they are gay mar­ried by the Tory PM, David Cameron, no less. Homosexuality has joined the golf club.

But, asks Mark Simpson in this pro­voc­at­ive Kindle essay, maybe gay people are a vic­tim of their own suc­cess. Perhaps the biggest prob­lem that gay people face in the UK and much of the West today is no longer overt homo­pho­bia, but rather the rapid fall­ing off of it. At least for their sur­vival as a dis­tinct group with their own iden­tity, cul­ture, clubs, hankie sem­a­phore and sensibility.

The Gays’ have been shaped and defined by their long struggle against pre­ju­dice. But what’s left of gay­ness when the homo­pho­bia stops?

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Sex Terror’ Now Available on Kindle — Sweet Dreams.

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SEX TERROR

Erotic Misadventures in Pop Culture

Mark Simpson

This book will change the way you think about sex. It may even put you off it altogether.

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 In his full-frontal follow-up to his widely acclaimed It’s a Queer World, Mark Simpson dis­penses with the mon­key busi­ness of sexu­al­ity and gets to grips with the organ grinder itself: SEX.

Subjecting our saucy new god to his sac­ri­le­gious satire, Simpson sins against every con­tem­por­ary com­mand­ment about doing the nasty: It must be hot. It must be fre­quent. It must wake the neigh­bours. And it must be Who You Are.

Simpson argues that we all put far too much faith in sex these days, and that in actual fact sex is messy, con­fus­ing, frus­trat­ing, and ulti­mately disappointing.

Especially if you’re hav­ing it with him.

Along the way he gets worked up with Alexis Arquette over Stephen Baldwin’s bubble-butt, gets intim­ate with Dana International, Aiden Shaw and Bruce LaBruce, and – very gingerly – con­fronts Henry Rollins with those ‘gay’ rumours.

 

Praise for Sex Terror:

MARVELLOUS… open Simpson’s book at any point, as many times as you want, and you’ll find the sort of gem-like sen­tences that Zadie Smith would give her white teeth for.”

- Suzi Feay, Independent on Sunday

A chain­saw cock of wit… blis­ter­ingly, endear­ingly hon­est… insight­ful and valu­able.  VERY FUNNY INDEED.”

- Dermod Moore, The Hot Press

Setting com­mon sexual sense on its ear, Simpson’s Swiftian pro­pos­als strike at an emo­tion dear to us: sexual desire. His anarchic mis­sion is to free sex from ser­mon­iz­ing, con­ven­tion, ego­ism, and cul­tural bias. But unlike Foucault, his decon­struct­ing weapon is built of rib­ald humour and pot­shots at pre­ten­sion. Simpson’s essays pro­duce ran­cour and HILARIOUS LAUGHTER, DISBELIEF AND DELIGHT. Some call him won­der­ful, and some call him out­rageous, but I call him A TRUE ORIGINAL and YOU SHOULDN’T MISS THIS BOOK.”

– Bruce Benderson, author of Pretending to Say No and User

BRILLIANT… With sur­gical pre­ci­sion Mark Simpson peels away the lay­ers of mod­ern mas­cu­line cul­ture, leav­ing few iconic fig­ures un-scarred. This book is cer­tain to pro­voke and likely to offend; we would expect noth­ing less from one of the most import­ant voyeurs of con­tem­por­ary life.”

– Bob Mould, Musician and Songwriter

When the cul­ture of sex breathes its final breath, Mark Simpson will be there to deliver the eulogy with great zeal. And what a GLORIOUSLY SARDONIC AND INSIGHTFUL farewell it will be!”

– Glenn Belverio, Dutch magazine

“One of those books that bounces up and down on your knee yelling ‘read me, read me…. Brutal hon­esty and razor wit  — a per­fect feast. QUOTABLE GENIUS.”

- RainbowNetwork.com

BLOODY GOOD…  every out­rageous insight is just that – an insight into the mod­ern  con­di­tion that often makes you laugh out loud and, if you are not entirely bey­ond hope, think. Simply some of the best writ­ing on mod­ern cul­ture around.”

- Brian Dempsey, Gay Scotland

One of England’s MOST ELOQUENT AND SARDONIC commentators.”

– Bay Windows

Mark Simpson won’t be every reader’s cup of tea, but those who enjoy a biter blend of DARK HUMOUR AND KEEN SOCIAL OBSERVATION will want to drink deeply.”

– Washington Blade

…never fails to amuse, bemuse, stun and stir… a writer at his peak, a SHAMELESS SUMPTUOUS SERVING OF SOCIAL SATIRE you’ll be digest­ing long after you put the book down”

– All Man Magazine

 

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ABOUT MARK SIMPSON

English author and journ­al­ist Mark Simpson is credited/blamed for coin­ing the word ‘met­ro­sexual‘. Simpson is the author of sev­eral books includ­ing: Saint MorrisseyMale Impersonators, and Metrosexy.

 

Sex Terror cover image taken by Michele Martinoli.

Male Impersonators’ Gets Digitally Dressed Up: now available on Kindle

Tom Cruise is reportedly work­ing on a script for a sequel to Top Gun. In case he’s mis­laid his well-thumbed ori­ginal copy of Male Impersonators: Men Performing Masculinity, the book that outed the flam­ing queer­ness of the ori­ginal movie, he needn’t worry.

Tom can now down­load it in an instant as a Kindle eBook, in a ‘2011 Director’s Cut Edition’.

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In fact, Top Gun and Tom Cruise’s swish­ingly sexu­ally ambigu­ous career only make up one of the chapters (and one of the weaker ones at that, it seems to me now). Published in 1994 Male Impersonators examined the way men were rep­res­en­ted in pop­u­lar cul­ture as a whole – movies, ads, mags, music and com­edy – filtered through, of course, my trade­mark ‘bent’. Showing how ‘unmanly’ pas­sions such as homo­erot­ics, male nar­ciss­ism and mas­ochism were not excluded but rather exploited, albeit semi-secretly, in voyeur­istic virility.

Essentially, Male Impersonators is an X-ray of what late-Twentieth Century medi­ated cul­ture was doing to mas­culin­ity. Elbow deep.

Unlike most ‘Director’s Cuts’ I have actu­ally cut instead of adding stuff. Chiefly, I’ve axed the long intro­duc­tion I didn’t want to write in the first place and that prob­ably no one read anyway.

WARNING: Commissioned by an aca­demic pub­lisher, Male Impersonators, my first book, is often heav­ily ref­er­enced and freighted with the­ory. This was the last time I wrote that kind of book.

It was also the high sum­mer of my love-affair with Freud. So there’s rather a lot of what Gore Vidal sniff­ingly dubbed ‘the Jewish dent­ist’ in this work. My heart still belongs to Siggy and his the­ory of uni­ver­sal bi-responsiveness, of course. But I’m no longer, as they say, ‘in love’.

Written in 1993, a lot of MI is nat­ur­ally very dated now. It really was a dif­fer­ent cen­tury. ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ had just been enacted in the US, while even prop­erly closeted homo­sexu­al­ity was still a dis­missal offense in the UK Armed Forces. The age of con­sent for two civil­ian males was 21 (lowered halt­ingly, reluct­antly, to 18 in the same year as MI was pub­lished). Section 28, the 1980s law intro­duced by Margaret Thatcher that out­lawed the ‘pro­mo­tion of homo­sexu­al­ity’ by local author­it­ies was still in force, along with all the grim panoply of ‘gross-indecency’ and ‘impor­tun­ing’ anti-homo legis­la­tion of the Nineteenth Century.

The HAART ther­apy cav­alry was yet to arrive and Aids was still per­ceived as a (gay) death sen­tence in the West, and had ‘executed’ a num­ber of friends of mine: includ­ing one of the ded­ic­atees, Imanol Iriondo (who died just after MI was published).

So it’s only under­stand­able that I should have been a little more pre­oc­cu­pied with ‘homo­pho­bia’ back then than I am these days. Particularly the hypo­crit­ical way it was often used to keep homo­erot­ics pure. I was a lot gayer then.

That said, some of MI stands up sur­pris­ingly well, I think. Often, my feel­ing as I went through it was: WHY did I write that? Quickly col­lid­ing with HOW did I write that? MI was writ­ten in the space of three months, when I was still in my 20s. Ah, the energy of youth.…

For all its dated­ness, there is some­thing time­less about the book The ‘male objec­ti­fic­a­tion’ it ana­lysed has become so dom­in­ant and every­day that even New York Magazine (and then Details) notices it.

And MI did after all give birth to that attention-seeking, dam­nably pretty creature that was to own the 21st Century: the met­ro­sexual. Though I never use that word in MI. Instead I talk about male nar­ciss­ism (and mas­ochism). A lot. It wasn’t until I wrote an essay for UK news­pa­per The Independent in late 1994 to pub­li­cise MI that I used the ‘m’ word – which turned out to be its first appear­ance in print.

I deployed ‘met­ro­sexual’ as journ­al­istic short­hand for the freighted the­ory of MI. Reading MI you may decide that the short­hand said rather more than the longhand. If Male Impersonators was the the­ory of met­ro­sexu­al­ity, Metrosexy, my recent col­lec­tion of metro journ­al­ism, doc­u­ments the way met­ro­sexu­al­ity went on to con­quer the cul­ture over the next dec­ade or so – and also the half-hearted, men-dacious back­lash against it in the late Noughties.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself today. Watching the pretty boys hug­ging and cry­ing on X-Factor and American Idol, or the straight muscle Marys flaunt­ing their depil­ated pecs and abs on Jersey/Geordie Shore, or the orange rugby play­ers spin­ning around top­less in glit­tery tight pants on Strictly Come Dancing — or Tom Hardy doing much the same thing in Warrior - it’s as if I’ve died and gone to a hellish kind of heaven.

MALE IMPERSONATORS

Men Performing Masculinity

The book that changed the way the world looks at men.

Why is body­build­ing a form of trans­sexu­al­ism? What do foot­ball and anal sex have in com­mon? Why is Top Gun such a flam­ingly ‘gay’ movie? Why is male van­ity such a hot com­mod­ity? And why oh why do Marky Mark’s pants keep fall­ing down?

In his influ­en­tial first book Male Impersonators, first pub­lished in 1994, Mark Simpson argues for the vital cent­ral­ity of homo­eroti­cism and nar­ciss­ism in any under­stand­ing of the fraught phe­nomenon of mod­ern mas­culin­ity. A highly pen­et­rat­ing, tick­lish but always ser­i­ous exam­in­a­tion of what hap­pens to men when they become ‘objectified’.

From porn to shav­ing adverts, rock and roll to war movies, drag to lads’ nights out, Male Impersonators offers wit and reader-friendly the­ory in equal meas­ure in a review of the greatest show on Earth – the per­form­ance of masculinity.

On male strippers…‘

The myth of male strip­ping mes­mer­ises pre­cisely because it con­tra­dicts itself with every dis­carded item… No mat­ter how freak­ish his gen­ital attrib­utes, no mat­ter how craft­ily engorged and arranged with rings and elastic bands, no mat­ter how frantic­ally it is waved and waggled, the stripper’s penis, once naked, never lives up to the prom­ise of the phal­lus: the cli­mactic finale of the strip is… an anti-climax.’

On Elvis…

The world does not need a ‘gay Elvis’, for the ori­ginal, with his black leather suit, pomaded pom­pa­dour, come-fuck-me eyes and radi­ant nar­ciss­ism, was quite queer enough.’

On porn stars…

Visually, Jeff Stryker resembles noth­ing so much as an illus­tra­tion of the human nervous sys­tem in a med­ical text­book where the size of each region and append­age rep­res­en­ted is related to the num­ber of nerve end­ings. Thus Jeff on-screen is remembered as a huge face, a vast pair of hands (all the bet­ter to grab and slap ass with) and grot­esquely out­sized genitalia.’

Praise For Male Impersonators

Simpson pulls the pants off pop­u­lar cul­ture and wit­tily winks at the Freudian sym­bols lurk­ing beneath.’ (FOUR STARS OUT OF FOUR) – The Modern Review

This set of high-spirited essays dis­plays more insight into the mas­cu­line mys­tique than has the dec­ade of earn­est men’s stud­ies that pre­ceded it. Simpson has an unerr­ing eye for the inner logic and pre­tences of a wide range of mas­cu­line enter­prises and sym­bols. THIS IS QUEER THEORY WITHOUT THE JARGON AND IS A MUST FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN THINGS MALE. GENERAL AND ACADEMIC READERS AT ALL LEVELS ‘– Choices

What is hap­pen­ing when men and their sexu­al­it­ies become the focus of the camera’s gaze? Mark Simpson’s bril­liant, witty, up-to-the-minute ana­lysis shat­ters com­pla­cen­cies, old and new.’ – Alan Sinfield, University of Sussex

Mark Simpson detects and dis­sects the myths of mach­ismo and its attend­ant media cir­cus with refresh­ing gusto and wit.’  – John Ashbery

It’s not only women who don’t have the phal­lus – men don’t have it either – just the inad­equate penis! This book cheered me up with the reminder that when it gets down to it, both sexes are just great pre­tend­ers.’ – Lorraine Gamman

Like me this book plays with men. Provocative, irrev­er­ent, acerbic and witty, it offers one gigantic intel­lec­tual orgasm after another.’  – Margi Clarke

A brilliantly-positioned array of fire­crack­ers, ele­phant traps and banana skins designed to trick con­ven­tional male­ness into show­ing it’s true hand, or some extremity.… SIMPSON CAPERS LIKE ROBIN GOODFELLOW, STRIPPING OFF THE FIG LEAVES WITH EXUBERANCE.’  – The Observer

CLEVER, ENGAGING, INCISIVE.’ – The Guardian

EMINENTLY READABLE.’ – My Prime

Mark Simpson’s Male Impersonators could do for male sexu­al­ity what Camilla Paglia did for women, find­ing lat­ent homo sub­texts to Marky Mark, Clint Eastwood and Tom Cruise’s base­ball bat.’ - Melody Maker

‘Male Impersonators quickly reveals itself to be dif­fer­ent and, argu­ably more insight­ful than many pre­vi­ous ‘Masculinity books’. Male Impersonators makes a timely and exem­plary addi­tion to cult stud’s ‘Return to Freud’. It has an excel­lent read­ab­il­ity factor com­pared to many oth­ers freighted with dull writ­ing.’  – Perversions

A DEFT AND PERSUASIVE DISCUSSION ON THE SUBJECT.’

– Stage and Television Today

These smash­ingly pro­voc­at­ive essays by the spunky Brit writer Mark Simpson det­on­ate myths, ste­reo­types and icons, gay as well as straight. The psycho-social line sep­ar­at­ing homo and hetero male­ness, he ful­somely shows, is much fuz­zier than Robert Bly and Pat Buchanan find it to be.’

  • Lambda Book Report

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A Taste of Honey: Still Sweet Half a Century On

Hard to believe, but this year Tony Richardson’s wide-eyed 1961 ‘neo-realist’ mas­ter­piece A Taste of Honey, based on a play by Salford play­wright prodigy Shelagh Delaney is half a cen­tury old.

Filmed on loc­a­tion in lyr­ical black and white when Manchester was still con­nec­ted to its chimney-stacked ‘dark Satanic’ past, it tells the story of Jo, a gawky, dream-filled, preg­nant, unmar­ried work­ing class teen­age girl think­ing about life and think­ing about death and neither one par­tic­u­larly appeal­ing to her.

This Sunday the Liverpool-based queer arts fest­ival Homotopia will be hold­ing a 50th anniversary screen­ing of this clas­sic film fol­lowed by a Q&A ses­sion with Rita Tushingham, who played young Jo in what turned out to be the per­form­ance of her life. (As part of the same fest­ival, yours truly will be ‘in con­ver­sa­tion’ with April Ashley on Nov 23.)

Back in the 1980s, when it was almost for­got­ten, A Taste of Honey had a big mouthed, bolshy, blou­sey north­ern cham­pion — the singer Morrissey, who fash­ioned pretty much the entire world of his first couple of albums out of it. And fam­ously lift­ing sev­eral lyr­ics from it:

    • Hand in Glove’: And I’ll prob­ably never see you again (‘I’ll prob­ably never see you again. I know it!’)
    • Reel Around the Fountain’: I dreamt about you last night/and I fell out of bed twice (‘I dreamt about you last night. Fell out of bed twice’.); You’re the bees knees/but so am I (‘You’re the bees knees, but so am I’.)
    • You’ve Got Everything Now’: As merry as the days were long (‘As merry as the day is long’.)
    • Shoplifters of the World Unite’: Six months is a long time (‘It’s a long time, six months’.)
    • I Don’t Owe You Anything’: (‘I don’t owe you anything’.)
    • Alma Matters’: It’s my life/to ruin/my own way (‘Anyway, it’s your life, ruin it your own way’.)
    • ‘This Night Has Opened My Eyes’ The dream has gone but the baby is real (‘Oh, well, the dream’s gone but the baby’s real enough.’) And I’m not happy and I’m not sad. (I’m not sorry and I’m not glad.’).

The title I gave the chapter in Saint Morrissey examin­ing Moz’s doomed little love-affair with Shelagh/Jo – ‘Dump her on the door­step, girl’ — was yet another Moz lyric inspired by Taste. As the man him­self admit­ted in the 90s: “Even I — even I — went a bit too far with A Taste of Honey.”

Here’s an excerpt from that chapter, explain­ing the impact and fresh­ness of the film in 1961, how Delaney’s spark­ling script sets Taste apart from the rest of the so-called British New Realism cinema of the 1960s, and why des­pite the passing of time and all its hein­ous crimes (and the nor­m­al­isa­tion of many of the taboos it tackled) it has hardly dated at all:

Unlike the other works by Fifties (usu­ally north­ern) work­ing class authors that were turned into films in the early Sixties, such as Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, Billy Liar, and Room at the Top, A Taste of Honey was writ­ten from a female per­spect­ive, or rather intro-spective. Unashamedly self-absorbed, it man­ages to be genu­inely ‘shock­ing’ and con­tem­por­ary in its sub­ject mat­ter: adul­tery, promis­cu­ity, teen­age preg­nancy, mater­nal irre­spons­ib­il­ity, abor­tion, mis­ce­gen­a­tion, homo­sexu­al­ity, con­gen­ital mad­ness . . . (if this list reads like an epis­ode of Brookside, per­haps this is why, in the late Eighties, Morrissey made a cameo appear­ance in a spin-off of that show called South).

However, Taste man­aged to cover all these themes without being sen­sa­tion­al­ist, refus­ing to hide behind pom­pous ges­tures and pseudo polit­ics. It isn’t a play about an angry young man, but a vaguely anxious young girl — a much more ‘uni­ver­sal’ sub­ject, since most of us are vaguely anxious young girls at some point in our lives.

And all of these char­ac­ter­ist­ics — poetic nat­ur­al­ism, shock­ing without sen­sa­tion­al­ism, refusal of pom­pous ges­tures, dreamy intro­spec­tion, a freshly fem­in­ine per­spect­ive — were to be fea­tures of Morrissey’s own work.