The Rise & Fall of Monosexuality

‘There is no middle ground – you are either het­ero­sexual or homosexual.’

Until quite recently, this state­ment was regarded as com­mon sense. More than this, it was a kind of widely-shared art­icle of quasi reli­gious faith, as pre­script­ive as it was descript­ive. An Eleventh Commandment.

Heterosexuality was the default, nor­mal, right, set­ting and any­thing that strayed from that was homo­sexu­al­ity. That is to say: sin­ful, wrong, ill, odd, hil­ari­ous, niche.

This het­ero­centric, essen­tially mono­sexual world-view was not just con­ven­tional wis­dom for many straight people. It was also shared by sur­pris­ingly large num­ber of (usu­ally older) gay people, who some­times regard bisexu­al­ity as a kind of heresy, or at least a cop out. What’s not straight must be gay, oth­er­wise you’re just kid­ding your­self and let­ting the side down.

But com­mon sense can change. And art­icles of reli­gious faith can fall. There has been a revolu­tion in atti­tudes in recent years that has shaken sexual cer­tain­ties to the core. Compulsory het­ero­sexu­al­ity, and the idea that any ‘devi­ation’ from it is homo­sexual, is no longer so com­puls­ory. People have lost their faith in monosexuality.

According to a recent, widely-publicised YouGov sur­vey less than a third of UK res­id­ents now agree that when it comes to sexu­al­ity ‘There is no middle ground — you are either het­ero­sexual or homo­sexual’. While nearly two thirds (60%) agree with the once heretical state­ment ‘sexu­al­ity is a scale – it is pos­sible to be some­where near the middle’.

kinsey1

Most strik­ingly of all, this fig­ure rose to three quar­ters of 18–24 year olds. Half of whom placed them­selves some­where on that scale as some­thing other than 100% het­ero­sexual. While a remark­able 43% of them describe them­selves as being, to some degree, bi-responsive.

kinsey2

It was the pion­eer­ing American sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, who inven­ted the 0–6 scale used in the YouGov poll (0 = totally het­ero­sexual; 6 = totally homo­sexual) back in the 1940s. Like Sigmund Freud, Kinsey believed that humans were basic­ally bi-responsive, that human sexu­al­ity was a spec­trum and that human­ity could not be divided up into gay goats and straight sheep. Kinsey argued that although most of the pres­sure was to be het­ero­sexual, society’s ostra­cism of homo­sexu­als also forced them into exclus­ive rela­tions with the same sex. In a soci­ety with less restrict­ive mores, in which homo­sexu­al­ity was tol­er­ated and integ­rated, Kinsey, who was him­self bisexual, believed sexual inter­ac­tion with both sexes would become the norm.

70s years on, mores have become less restrict­ive, the stig­mat­isa­tion of homo­sexu­al­ity has greatly dimin­ished – and the avail­ab­il­ity and insa­ti­ab­il­ity of online porn has opened the eyes of many to prac­tises once deemed so immoral and unnat­ural they were unmen­tion­able. And on paper, it would appear that Kinsey has been largely vin­dic­ated – at least as far as young UK het­ero­sexu­als are concerned.

The fact that only half of 18-24s say they are com­pletely het­ero­sexual is a sign that the younger gen­er­a­tion is abandon­ing mono­sexu­al­ity as a belief sys­tem — which has to appear to be a uni­ver­sal truth, not a minor­ity or ‘niche’ cult. It’s also an indic­a­tion that a the­or­et­ical level of bi-responsiveness has become or is becom­ing the norm. Most may not be act­ively explor­ing it (20% of 18-24s and 27% of 25-39s say they have had sex with someone of the same sex), and most of the less than 100% het­eros huddle at the het­ero­sexual end of the spec­trum, but they are touch­ingly keen to be – or at least appear to be – open-minded. Half of het­ero­sexual 18-24s say that if the right per­son of the same sex came along at the right time they could be attrac­ted to them.

Perhaps the col­lapse of com­puls­ory het­ero­sexu­al­ity and the crisis of mono­sexu­al­ity shouldn’t be so sur­pris­ing. A couple of years ago a sur­vey into male groom­ing found that half of UK men now describe them­selves as met­ro­sexual, and want to be beau­ti­ful. Men, espe­cially young men, have in the last dec­ade or so, been given per­mis­sion to enjoy products, pleas­ures, prac­tises, pret­ti­ness and poten­tials that were pre­vi­ously strictly for ‘girls and gays’.

Little won­der that as gender norms have relaxed they have become more open-minded about sexu­al­ity itself. As I’ve argued before, men in gen­eral are less hard on the gays nowadays because they’re less hard on them­selves – no longer need­ing so much to pro­ject their ‘weak­nesses’ into the des­pised, or just pat­ron­ised, ‘other’.

Instead, they now want to show how accept­ing they are of the ‘other’ – but most par­tic­u­larly they want those kinda fun, kinda kinky ‘weak­nesses’ back now, thanks very much, now that they are much more into them­selves than they used to be.

US Data

In Kinsey’s own coun­try the US, where mono­sexu­al­ity was even more entrenched than in the UK, a sea-change is afoot too, but one that seems by some meas­ures to lag behind the UK, and lead it by oth­ers. A YouGov sur­vey there pub­lished shortly after the UK one found that 31% of under-30s plot them­selves as some­thing other than com­pletely het­ero­sexual on the Kinsey scale – com­pared to 78% of the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion who say they are com­pletely het­ero­sexual, and 4% who say that they are com­pletely homosexual.

Unfortunately, there is no 18–24 cat­egory in the US data, so that 31% fig­ure for under 30 non-heterosexuality is dif­fi­cult to com­pare prop­erly with the UK fig­ure of 49% (though the UK fig­ure for the next age cat­egory 25–39 is 42%). However, as in the UK there is clearly a major gen­er­a­tional shift at work, with young people being much more open-minded. ‘No homo’ isn’t quite so ‘no homo’ as it used to be.

Some of the other data avail­able does sug­gest that the US is still more mono­sexu­al­ist than the UK. Nearly half (48%) of Americans believe ‘there is no middle ground – you are either het­ero­sexual or you are not’ com­pared to only 27% of Brits. (However, the UK question/statement reads: ‘there is no middle ground — you are either het­ero­sexual or homo­sexual’; the US question/statement replaces ‘homo­sexual’ with ‘not’, which is per­haps itself symbolic).

Which is to say, half of America does not believe there is such a thing as bisexu­al­ity, and thus any devi­ation from het­ero­sexu­al­ity is just homo­sexu­al­ity. Amongst Republicans that increases to 63% — and stands at 58% in the South, sug­gest­ing a mono­the­istic basis to monosexuality.

Only 39% of Americans agree with the state­ment that sexu­al­ity is a scale – com­pared to 61% of Brits. And only 27% of US het­ero­sexu­als say that if the right per­son came along they could pos­sibly be attrac­ted to a per­son of the same sex, com­pared to 38% of Brits. (Though this may be a func­tion of British politeness.)

All that said, c. five times as many young Americans identify as bisexual as young Brits. 10% of American 18-29s, com­pared to just 2% of UK 18-24s, and 2% of Americans of all ages. And five times fewer young Americans identify as gay or les­bian than UK young people do: 10% of UK 18-24s (com­pared to 6% for all ages) and 2% of US 18-29s (com­pared to 4% for all ages).

It’s dif­fi­cult to know for sure, espe­cially from this side of the Pond, whether this is a meas­ure of greater enlight­en­ment and inclus­iv­ity about sexu­al­ity amongst young people in the US and a related dimin­ished need for dis­tinct gay and les­bian iden­tit­ies – prov­ing Kinsey right about gay people becom­ing less sexu­ally exclus­ive as they became more integ­rated. Or whether some­thing else is going on, espe­cially given the lower levels of tol­er­ance and accept­ance for homo­sexu­al­ity in the US com­pared to the UK. Perhaps as some older gay people like to com­plain, young gay and les­bian Americans are ‘hid­ing’ their ‘true’ sexu­al­ity in ‘fash­ion­able’ bisexuality..

Or maybe the reason so many young Americans choose to identify as bisexual is pre­cisely because the belief in mono­sexu­al­ity has been so devout and oppress­ive there for so long – on both sides of the gay/straight divide.

What bet­ter way to flip the older gen­er­a­tion the bird than to declare an iden­tity which by defin­i­tion rejects their cher­ished sexual religion?

UK Data Odds & Sods

Men are five times more likely to describe them­selves as ‘gay or les­bian’ than women: 10% of men com­pared to 2% of women. (In the US the fig­ure is 5% for men and 4% for women.) When it came to ‘bisexual’ the num­bers were evenly split at 2% for men and women alike.

7% of Conservative voters described them­selves as ‘gay or les­bian’ com­pared to 4% of Labour voters – des­pite the fact that male homo­sexu­al­ity was decrim­in­al­ised under a Labour gov­ern­ment in the 1960s, and it was another Labour admin­is­tra­tion in the 90s & Noughties which did away with the remain­ing dis­crim­in­at­ory laws – in the teeth of Conservative oppos­i­tion. Rather than attrib­ute this all to Cameron’s recent suc­cess­ful co-option of gay mar­riage, per­haps a bet­ter explan­a­tion for the fact there were nearly twice as many Conservative gays and les­bi­ans as Labour is to be found in the data show­ing social class ABC1 were four times more likely to describe them­selves as gay or les­bian (8%) than those in C2DE (2%). Class and income doesn’t just influ­ence your vot­ing, but also your declared sexu­al­ity. Interestingly, the num­bers for ‘bisexual’ were the same for Labour and Tory voters and both social classes – 2%.

Perhaps not entirely sur­pris­ingly, sup­port­ers of the cent­rist (and largely middle-class) Lib Dems were most likely to agree with the state­ment ‘sexu­al­ity is a scale – it is pos­sible to be some­where near the middle’, at 71%, com­pared to 47% of UKIP voters, who are much more likely to be C2DE (39% of UKIP voters believed there was no middle ground – you are either het­ero­sexual or homosexual).

The great, throb­bing Metropolis of London, as you might expect, had the highest num­ber of self-described gays and les­bi­ans: 8% com­pared to Scotland’s 3%. But wrong-footing ste­reo­types, ‘Midlands/Wales’ was only one point behind what is now surely the gay cap­ital of the entire world, at 7%.

 

h/t @villouta

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.