Magic Mike XXL: What It Tells Us About Modern Manhood

The Magic Mike movies are, truth be told, a bit of a nos­tal­gia trip. ‘Male strip­ping’ is actu­ally rather retro. It emerged as a phe­nomenon in the now impossibly innocent-looking 90s when the Chippendales and their orange muscles framed by bow ties, white cuffs and permed hair drove women wild – and Channing Tatum him­self was work­ing as a strip­per in Florida, before he became a Hollywood sex object.”

Yours mus­ing on today’s stripped-down stuffed-crotch mas­culin­ity in The Telegraph.

Smoking Wheels of Fire

Mark Simpson on why the dis­mal pleas­ure of smoking in cars should be stubbed out

This may sound a little strange, but I can smell if the people in the car in front are smoking. Even if my win­dows and theirs are up.  I do have a keen sense of smell, but I think the reason I can detect fag fumes so well is that I’m over-sensitised as the res­ult of child­hood aver­sion therapy.

Both my par­ents were chain-smokers. And they didn’t smoke any old sissy cigs, no sir­ree, they smoked hairy-chested, unfiltered Senior Service – so high tar they could have powered battle­ships. When our fam­ily under­took long car jour­neys to see in-laws, or to Cornwall for our sum­mer hols, it would be in a Rover full of sweets and tobacco by-products.

Perhaps I’m a par­tic­u­larly del­ic­ate flower, but four dec­ades on I still remem­ber how much I hated it. How much it made my eyes smart and my nose recoil every time one of them lit up. I dreaded the satanic red glow of the elec­tric cigar­ette lighter.

But my par­ents, like most people back in the 1970s, had no idea of what second-hand smoke (SHS) can do to children’s health, and prob­ably were in denial about what it was doing to theirs. If they had known about SHS I think they would have stopped back then – instead of three dec­ades later because they wanted to be able to con­tinue breathing.

A burn­ing cigar­ette pro­duces 4,000 chem­ic­als, most are pol­lut­ants and irrit­ants, 69 of them are known car­ci­no­gens. For chil­dren, we now know, SHS sig­ni­fic­antly increases the risk of asthma, chest and ear infec­tions, men­ingitis and cot death. Smoke in your fam­ily car and it becomes eleven times as pol­luted as a smoke-fugged bar – some­thing which was, mer­ci­fully, largely made a thing of the past when smoking in enclosed pub­lic spaces was banned in 2007.

But des­pite the know­ledge we now have about the danger of second-hand smoke, and des­pite nation­wide edu­ca­tion cam­paigns, too many adult smokers still insist on shar­ing theirs with their chil­dren when driv­ing. According to the BMA more than 430,000 chil­dren are exposed to SHS in cars every week. The Department of Health says that there were 300,000 GP vis­its and 9,500 hos­pital admis­sions in 2011 as a res­ult of chil­dren inhal­ing SHS.

So, from 1 October this year, drivers in England who con­tinue to smoke in cars with pas­sen­gers under the age of 18 could be fined £50. Which obvi­ously, as a bit­ter, former uncon­sen­sual car smoker, I regard as very wel­come, if some­what belated, news. Several other coun­tries, includ­ing Australia, Cyprus and parts of the US and Canada, already have a ban on smoking in cars with minors.

Simon Clark, dir­ector of the smokers lobby group Forest, is less happy how­ever. More sul­phur­ous, per­haps. He told the BBC there was ‘no jus­ti­fic­a­tion’ for the ban and that ‘the over­whelm­ing major­ity of smokers know it’s incon­sid­er­ate to smoke in a car with chil­dren and they don’t do it. They don’t need the state micro-managing their lives.’ Apparently writing-off those 430,000 chil­dren a week chok­ing on Mummy and Daddy’s driv­ing nicot­ine addiction.

He also claimed that the police won’t be able to enforce the ban, and ‘will need a small army of snoop­ers to enforce it.’

Not to worry, Mr Clark! Help is at hand! This spring the police plan to intro­duce unmarked lor­ries to patrol motor­ways and A-roads nation­ally. A three-month trial last year, where a police­man videos drivers’ illegal activ­it­ies from the lofty vant­age point of the HGV, led to the detec­tion of 462 motor­ing offences. These were mostly tex­ting or phoning or fail­ing to wear a seat-belt – but also included a driver brush­ing his teeth while at the wheel and another read­ing a news­pa­per while in slow-moving traffic.

So spot­ting and record­ing adults smoking with chil­dren in the car should be a breeze.

Though per­haps the man from Forest has a point. It would be much sim­pler to ban all smoking in any vehicles alto­gether, as the BMA has argued.

Apart from elim­in­at­ing the prob­lem of estab­lish­ing whether the pas­sen­gers are under age or not, and solv­ing per­sist­ent breaches of smoke-free legis­la­tion by shared work vehicles, refrain­ing from smoking while driv­ing when chil­dren or pas­sen­gers are present is not enough to pre­vent the harm­ful effects of tobacco smoke being passed onto others.

All those lovely, rich tox­ins in tobacco smoke are impreg­nated – along with the lovely, rich aroma – in the plastics, car­pet and uphol­stery of the vehicle, ready to share their love with who­ever rides in that car. It’s not just my obsess­ive­ness talk­ing – it’s a recog­nised prob­lem with a name: third-hand smoke.

What’s more, smoking behind the wheel is poten­tially dan­ger­ous to oth­ers in itself. Looking for and light­ing cigar­ettes can be a major dis­trac­tion, even without the burn­ing stick fall­ing into your lap; smoking while driv­ing may be as dis­tract­ing as mobile phone use, which is of course already banned. A study in 2008 found that smokers are twice as likely to be involved in a crash as non-smokers, inde­pend­ent of demo­graphic factors and risk-taking.

A total ban would also help rein­force the mes­sage about smoking. Even after all these dec­ades of know­ing what cigs do there are 79,000 deaths in the UK a year from smoking.

Even bet­ter, it would mean that I never have to smell the car in front’s fag smoke again.

I real­ise though that it may take some time for the British pub­lic to be per­suaded of the need for a total ban on smoking in cars. After all, it was once one of the nation’s favour­ite, if most dis­mal, past-times. Perhaps I should move to Taiwan, which plans to ban smoking while driv­ing a car, rid­ing a bike or walk­ing on a sidewalk.

Which seems per­fectly reas­on­able to me.

Originally appeared on Hitachi Capital Vehicle blog

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.