Can’t say that Kevin Spacey has quite the same effect on me as he appears to have on this Italian act called Gabriele. But I’m very glad he did.
The Hollywood actor was a guest recently on Italian talent show Amici di Maria De Filippi. And what talent they have in Italia! That very shy lad in white, who keeps licking his fingers and playing with his own endowments, is a veritable masterpiece.
(As ever when watching footage of armies of naked young men offering us their perfect pecs, packets and buttocks on prime-time it’s important to remember that male objectification doesn’t exist and in fact is impossible.)
For some reason, the Italian TV clip minded me of this ageless moment from a few years back where another group of shirtless young men entertained another famous older man in Rome:
Mark Simpson on the epidemic of ‘techno-hypnosis’ stalking our streets
Remember the Japanese Tamgotchi craze of the Noughties? Remember how we all laughed at the foolishness and childishness of the little hand-held digital pet that demanded constant attention and ‘feeding’, otherwise it would ‘die’?
Well, we’ve all got one now – but we call it a ‘smartphone’. And it’s much more demanding than the old Tamagotchis – so much so that they’ve convinced us that we are the ones that will die if we don’t devote ourselves to them. Smartphones are, like, totally fascinating. Soooo cool. Amazing. Literally. Seriously. Really. THIS!
In truth, smartphones are jealous, vicious little digital pets – such fiendishly well-designed distractions that there’s very little that can compete with them. Your partner, your job, your kids and even a fast-moving, very heavy lump of metal, glass and rubber, tend to get neglected. Tamagotcha!
You might feel you’d die without your smartphone, but actually your smartphone might kill you. Earlier this year a 32 year-old woman from North Carolina lost her life in a head-on collision with a recycling truck, apparently while using her phone to post on Facebook how happy Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ song made her.
Reportedly she had also managed to upload selfies of herself while driving.
This kind e-distraction may be behind a sudden rise in road accident casualties. In the UK the number of deaths on the road increased last year by 4% to 1,775. The number of serious injuries increased by 5%, to 22,807, and a total of 194,477 people were killed or injured – the first increase in overall casualties since 1997.
And it’s not just distracted drivers, it’s also distracted pedestrians that appear to be behind the rise. The number of accidents caused by both drivers and pedestrians ‘failing to look’ has risen by 12% over the last decade, according to figures from the department of transport. Across all reported road accidents, failing to look properly by all road users was the most frequently reported single contributory factor to a crash, being named in 44% of accidents, compared to 32% ten years ago.
In accidents where a pedestrian was killed or injured, pedestrians failed to look properly in 59% of cases. Which begs the question, how many people have been run over while staring at their phones by a driver also staring at their phone?
Road safety campaigners have blamed both drivers and pedestrians for being glued to their gadgets. Edmund King, President of the AA in addition to cautioning on how some car drivers may be becoming complacent in their increasingly comfortable, gadget-filled cars, also identified the rise of the ‘iPod zombie’ as a serious problem.
‘Pedestrians who have earplugs in or iPhones out,’ he told The Times recently, ‘they are listening to music or texting and they are not concentrating on traffic on the road. Walk down the road and 50% of people are on their phones. One wonders what we did before the mobile phone. Maybe we looked around a bit more.’
Indeed. Today’s road user might be forgiven for thinking that pedestrians can’t cross the street now without updating their Twitter status as they go, gawping and jabbing at their screen as they shuffle absent-mindedly over a four lane highway, trying desperately to think of something witty to share with their online friends.
Perhaps a solution would be to make cars look like really cool apps? Then they might actually be noticed by today’s i-Zombie pedestrians. I mean, who would want to admit they were run over by Instagram or Tripadvisor?
The AA has, more sensibly, called for road safety to be taught on the national curriculum. The Institute of Advanced Motorists urged the government to reintroduce road safety targets which were dropped by the coalition government in 2010. The transport minister Andrew Jones has reminded us that thanks to new laws there are increased penalties for using a mobile phone at the wheel: three penalty points and a £100 fine.
But I have a hunch that the only real solution to our current state of techno-hypnosis is going to be even more technology.
Such as the new roadside apparatus that detects when mobile phones are being used in cars. Currently being tested in Sussex, it uses a Vehicle Activated Sign (VAS) and a mobile detector which can’t be set off by pedestrians on their phones. The sign flashes a warning if a vehicle drives by with someone inside using a mobile phone.
Presumably something along the lines of ‘GET A LIFE!!!’
I fear however, that whatever the warning is it still won’t be noticed until they find a way to mirror the message on the screen of the phone user.
At the moment, it can’t differentiate between a driver and a passenger, and officially the purpose of it is meant to be educational, though this may change in the future as the technology becomes more accurate.
Personally, I think these i-Zombie detectors should be made less accurate – they should also flash at pedestrians staring at their phones.
Of course, the final solution to the Tamagotchi epidemic is total surrender – in the form of fully-autonomous cars, which will allow drivers to devote themselves fully, legally and safely to fiddling with their phones when on the road. At the moment however we’re stuck in a transitional period, where the technology has made driving deceptively easier, our cars more boring, and our phones impossible to ignore – but we’re still supposed to be fully present and in charge.
Frankly speaking, too often we’re not – or don’t deserve to be.
Once widely-introduced, driverless cars are estimated to be likely to reduce deaths on the road by up to 90%. Of the three Google driverless cars involved in accidents during testing in the last six months, human error was found to be at fault in 100% of them. Usually they were rear-ended by distracted humans.
Probably updating their Facebook page with a photo of a Google car.
The finest little bar on the Seven Seas is closing. After forty years of entertaining the sailors of the Royal Navy, Charles’ Hole in t’Wall in Gibraltar is shuttering its doors, bringing an end to a very special chapter in British maritime and marytime history.
This report from GBC gives some idea how much of an institution the bar and most particularly owner and star-attraction Charles have been for matelots on their ‘run ashore’ in Gib – and how much they love their ‘lovely Charlie’.
Here’s how I met Charles, back in the late Nineties. It was initially a disappointment to find the Fleet out and his bar deserted, but it turned out to be a great stroke of luck for me – because it meant that I had the privilege of having lovely Charles all to myself.
Mark Simpson has a sniff around a classic men’s deodorant ad that reveals how far we’ve come – and also how some things never change
Back in the 1960s the mass-market ‘grooming’ of men by advertisers wanting to sell them vanity products was only just beginning its warm-up.
This rare and pristine copy of a 1968 UK cinema ad for men’s deodorant with the reassuringly martial name ‘Target’ (a brand that seems to have gone missing in the intervening half century) recently posted on the BFI website is a little gem of a gender time-capsule.
Starring working class hero and footballing legend Geoff Hurst, the ad points up how much has changed – post Beckham and Ronaldo. But also how some things haven’t very much. It contains some of the now tiresome tropes that can still be found in (bad) advertising aimed at men today, however the passage of time has rendered them so absurd here as to be rather endearing.
A couple of years earlier Hurst had scored a hat-trick for England in the 1966 World Cup Final – defeating West Germany. It was VE Day all over again, but without the rationing. Hurst became a national (war)hero overnight, passionately admired by millions of men.
Hence Hurst was the perfect patriotic package for pitching a hitherto sissy product like deodorant as heroic and masculine. (1960s heavyweight boxing champion and Cockney folk hero Henry Cooper would later be deployed in a similar fashion for Brut aftershave in the blokey bruiser’s famous “splash it on all ovah!” 1970s TV ads.)
Note how the “GOOD and STRONG” – the opposite of sissy – deodorant bottle is the same no-nonsense colours as the bandages in the locker-room first aid cabinet its kept in. Today, players’ changing rooms have had to be rebuilt to make their lockers big enough to accommodate their cosmetic-filled manbags.
Target is not sold as a cosmetic, heaven forfend, but as ‘protection’ – it’s the off-pitch version of the martial shin-pads Geoff wears before he heads onto the pitch and pretending, endearingly badly, to be hard-tackled on what seems to be a pitch made mostly of honest, manly mud.
In fact, the ‘protection’ angle is emphasised so much you wonder whether Target made prophylactics as well.
Note also the modesty-saving towel velcroed to Hurst’s chest – today the camera would be zooming in on his oiled, shaved, pumped pecs, and following him into the shower. And note the visit to the local boring boozer instead of a poncey bar selling them there dodgy foreign lagers.
And it would be impossible to miss the hysterical insistence by the fruity voiceover on the MANLINESS of this deodorant and the “MAN-SIZED protection” it offers: “With a fresh clean smell that could ONLY BE MASCULINE! … For men and MEN ONLY!”
Because of course most men in the UK in the 1960s didn’t use deodorant and were slightly suspicious of men who did.
Hurst is a man’s man from a man’s world of manly, smelly locker rooms, pitches, barracks, terraces and factories. But in case we still thought that there might be any ambiguity about his use of deodorant, despite the voiceover’s insistence, as the BFI website blurb points out, the ad is careful to show us that Hurst’s MANLY deodorant is definitely not for the benefit of MEN. Target is to be used ONLY after the match and locker-room towel-flicking is over – because it has a heterosexual aim.
Scrubbed-up, suited and booted and sprayed with the fresh clean MANLY smell of Target, Geoff has three ‘dolly-birds’ throwing themselves at him down the boozer (and maybe a fourth at the bar getting another round in). I hope he kept the shin-pads on.
Then again, for a previous generation of men such as some of the older ones we glimpse cheering on the MEN ONLY terraces in their cloth caps – who definitely aren’t the target market – young Geoff’s hanging out with all these women, with his hair all nice and his armpits ‘protected’ would likely have been seen as the height of effeminacy rather than a reassuring proof of heterosexuality.
He’ll be drinking from a stemmed glass next!
(Even worse, in just a couple of generations, he ended up swinging it around like this.)
There will be a range of very interesting, esteemed and knowledgeable contributors, and I will have the slightly unnerving honour of presenting the opening lecture, ‘From Metrosexual to Spornosexual: A Spectacular, Permanent Revolution’, on Wednesday 18th November at 6pm. So I’ll be sure to show plenty of slides and video clips of much hotter chaps than me.
The following day at 15.30 I’ll be on a panel discussing Men and Representations, presenting a short, mostly clean talk probing ‘Mainstream Male Anal(ity)’.
So says pretty much everyone in Legend about Tom Hardy’s looks. And the latest re-telling of the story of Ronald and Reginald Kray, the sharp-suited, impeccably-groomed, glamorous gangster twins who ruled 1960s London’s underworld, is a mostly enjoyable movie which often gladdens the eye (even if it makes you wince a bit during the violent scenes).
How could it not? After all, it stars not one, but two Tom Hardys – he plays, as everyone must know now since it’s the whole conceit of the movie, both twins.
Despite this, it does manage to get a little boring sometimes. Legend makes the mistake of thinking that we’re more interested in ‘Reggie’ than ‘Ronnie’ – because he wasn’t the mad, ‘gay’ one.
So it has a from-beyond-the-grave voice-over ostensibly provided by Reggie’s first wife, Frances Shea (Emily Browning) who committed suicide in 1967, two years after their marriage. The narrative focus of the film is essentially on what it portrays as her doomed attempt to ‘save’ Reggie, domesticate him and make him ‘normal’ – and how this eventually kills her. But no one, apart from Frances, wants him to be normal (and maybe she didn’t either: her family disputes the film’s victimy portrayal of her). Certainly the audience doesn’t, they just want him to get busy with a ball-hammer.
What everyone – or was it just me? – wanted from Legend was a gayer version of Hardy’s best performance as Britain’s longest-serving solitary-confinement muscular psychopath in Bronson (2008) – which come to think of it was pretty gay anyway. And you do get some of that when ‘Ron’ is on camera: Hardy’s ‘fat poof’ is often frighteningly funny.
But I put the names ‘Reggie’ and ‘Ronnie’ in quotes because at a visual level Legend isn’t about the gangster twins, or London in the 1960s. It’s about Tom and his very ‘hot’, very 21st Century, very narcissistic on-screen sexuality – split into two halves, mad, ugly, gay ‘Reggie’ – and straight, pretty, sympathetic ‘Ronnie’, which fight it out for dominance in this psycho costume drama.
That’s why everyone talks about how ‘lahvelee’ ‘Reggie’ is. Reggie Kray certainly wasn’t bad looking for a gangster, and he scrubbed up very nicely, but he was definitely no Tom Hardy (and Hardy, son of South West London bohemians, is definitely no Cockney). It’s also why we marvel at how ugly Tom manages to make himself as ‘Ronnie’ – so that when ‘Ronnie’ says that ‘Reggie’ got all the looks we actually find ourselves agreeing instead of laughing at the in-gag.
Any film about the Krays would struggle to remain focused on the Krays with Hardy in it. He’s proper Hollywood. But with two Hardys it stands no chance – the twins, their story and the mythology end up spit-roasted by Hardy’s double-ended charisma and great performances (even though his ‘Ron’ did look a bit like a David Walliams character sometimes).
So it shouldn’t perhaps be surprising that the questions get a bit personal. Hardy, 37, who is married (to a woman), famously ‘shut down’ a gay reporter at a press conference for Legend recently when he contrasted his character Ronnie’s openness about his sexuality with what he called Hardy’s ‘ambiguous sexuality’ as suggested in previous interviews.
‘What on earth are you on about?’ retorted Hardy, clearly annoyed, eventually clarifying the question himself: ‘Are you asking me about my sexuality?’ ‘Sure’ replied the reporter. ‘Why?’ asked Hardy. When no reply came, Hardy dismissed him with a curt ‘Thank you’.
The interview the reporter had in mind was a candid one Hardy gave a gay magazine in 2008 (to publicise RocknRolla, in which he played a gay gangster) where he acknowledged he had experimented sexually with men when he was younger: “’As a boy? Of course I have. I’m an actor for f***’s sake. I’m an artist. I’ve played with everything and everyone,” he said. “But I’m not into men sexually. I love the form and the physicality but the gay sex bit does nothing for me.”
After a backlash from some of the gay commentariat to Hardy’s rather more clenched response to the 2015 press conference probings, Hardy stated:
“I’m under no obligation to share anything to do with my family, my children, my sexuality – that’s nobody’s business but my own. And I don’t see how that can have anything to do with what I do as an actor, and it’s my own business.”
Despite the apparent use of his family and children as sexuality shields in that sentence, the gist of it is true. I also have some sympathy for Tom’s pique at being asked about his ‘sexuality’ (which always means non-heterosexuality) at a crowded press conference, being a married Hollywood heartthrob these days. Moreover, the seven-year-old interview quotes from the earlier part of his career don’t actually demonstrate that his own sexuality is ‘ambiguous’ or that he is now hiding anything – at most he stated that he was bi-curious when younger but is no longer.
That said, Legend is a film which makes his on-screen sexuality into a business. Show business. The drama of the movie is Hardy’s bi/two-sexual cinematic personae. Legend is a bit like Top Gun, but with ‘Tom’ playing both Ice Man (Val Kilmer) and Maverick – where Ice Man wins (and Kelly McGillis kills herself).
‘Reggie’, Hardy’s straight half, aspires, somewhat, to normality; ‘Ronnie’, Hardy’s gay half, revels in deviancy and keeps dragging ‘Reggie’ back to the bent and crooked – and making sure they never part. That’s why Ron is portrayed as openly – and unambiguously – homosexual (“I’m a ‘omosexual”, “I prefer boys”) not interested in women, when in fact he described himself as bisexual (and married a woman while in prison). Reg is portrayed as straight, when he seems to have also been bisexual, but not so openly as Ron.
Yes, sexuality is a confusing business. No wonder the movie simplifies things – just like the popular press.
Reginald reportedly ‘came out’ in a letter published shortly after his death. Here’s how it was covered in a UK tabloid the Sunday People in 2000, headlined: ‘REGGIE KRAY CONFESSES FROM GRAVE: I AM GAY’:
GANGSTER Reggie Kray has made an amazing confession from beyond the grave – his hardman image concealed that he was GAY.
Reggie poured out his darkest secret in a letter written as he faced blackmail over his homosexuality.
He handed me the astonishing two-page admission in a prison visiting room and asked for it to be published after his death.
So there you have it. Reggie was a self-confessed (dead) GAY homosexual. Except he wasn’t. The very next sentence in the same report reads:
The once-feared East End crime boss wrote: “I wish for the public to know that I am bisexual.”
‘Gay’ and ‘homosexual’ are often mixed up with ‘bisexual’ in the accounts of the twins’ lives, because culturally we tend to mix up ‘gay’ and ‘bi’ when talking about men. Although attitudes are changing, we often still too often think of male bisexuality as ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ or ‘queer’ (because it’s ‘emasculating’ – e.g. ‘once-feared’). Whereas female bisexuality tends to be thought of as heterosexual (because it’s ‘hot’, or because female sexuality is ‘complicated’). And as Hardy himself has discovered, admitting to a bi-curious youth can mean that you are assumed to be at least bisexual or ‘ambiguous’ in the bedroom as an adult.
I don’t claim to know anything about Hardy’s ‘real’ sexuality – I’m totally out of the celebrity sex gossip loop, which frankly, is usually mythology and fantasy anyway, even and especially when provided by other celebs. Likewise, ‘gaydar’ is a very faulty instrument indeed, prone to squealing feedback and hair-raising short-circuits. (And unlike it seems almost everyone else on the planet, I have no information and no opinion on the other Hollywood Tom’s ‘real’ sexuality either.)
Besides, a few slutty selfies aside, I’m much more interested in Tom H’s on-screen sexuality. Which is radiantly, brazenly bi-responsive. It’s not ambiguous – it’s ambisexual. Hardy’s dazzling bi-brilliance lights up the screen – it is what makes him such a charismatic, watchable actor, in the mould, dare I say it, of some of the greats, such as James Dean and Marlon Brando (cutely, Tom is the same titchy height 5’9”, as Marlon).
There’s a rather ridiculous Romeo & Juliet scene in Legend where a drunken ‘Reggie’ proposes to Frances through her bedroom window at the top of a drainpipe. But thanks to Tom’s tender talents, instead of scoffing at the cheesiness of it, you find yourself hoping, when the hard man fishes out the engagement ring, that he doesn’t fall and hurt his lahvlee face.
Regardless of his private sexuality, the ‘business’ of Hardy’s on-screen sexuality in many of his other movies is definitely not monosexual, depending as it does on a certain homoerotic-homosocial appeal, and a ‘hard man’/‘soft man’ tension, androgyny even. In addition to his early Band of Brothers/Black Hawk Down fresh-faced, all-boys-together soldierly roles, he’s, as we’ve seen, played a gay gangster before. In Inception he psychically ‘cross-dressed’ and delivered some wonderfully camp lines with panache: “Mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”
In Warrior (2011) he played a heavily-muscled young MMA fighter forced to wrestle his equally fit brother in a Speedo – but with a happy ending. Even the bottom-feeder comedy This Means War (2012), in which two CIA killers compete for the same girl, was primarily about the passionately Platonic romance between him and Chris Pine, an actor who seems to be 70% hair and 30% teeth. It was only Hardy’s sympathetic skills as an actor and his dazzling bi-brilliance that made you care about their relationship, Pine or that atrocity of a movie at all.
Hardy has a special proclivity for playing ‘hard men’ who are soft and receptive inside. It’s what makes him such an entrancing sight on the silver screen, for men and women alike. It’s all there in his sweetly engaging face and twinkly eyes, with those big kissable, suckable lips – atop his street-fighter body (young Brando had an angel’s face on a stevedore’s body). Perhaps because of his appreciation for ‘the form and physicality’ of masculinity, Tom is the kind of bloke a lot of straight lads would ‘go gay’ for – and plenty of gay ones would go even gayer for. A man’s man in the modern sense of the phrase. Hardy’s career has been made at the place where desire and identification meet.
There is a magical kind of misrecognition involved in going to the movies: you see, especially when younger, the movie star as your idealised self. Your twin who is identical with what you should be, rather than what you are. In the darkness of the cinema, the brilliant shadow on the screen becomes your real, long lost twin – you sitting in the dark are the false, found one.
Which brings us back to the sexuality of Legend and the doubly-doomed nature of the deceased wife attempted-redemption storyline. Twins are by their very nature ‘homosexual’ that is ‘same-sexual’ – at least to non-twins looking in. They share the same conception, the same womb at the same time, the same birth, as wells as usually the same infancy, potty-training and childhood, and the same puberty. Intimacies far beyond those of lovers. Identical twins also reflect one another, in a narcissistic fashion. In a sense, they are born with the life-companion everyone else has to search for – and they can also watch themselves starring in the movie of their own lives.
So no wonder the Krays’ biographer recently claimed that the twins had sex with one another when adolescents. Or, as the Daily Mail headline put it: ‘THEY FOUGHT AS ONE. THEY KILLED AS ONE. BUT DID THE KRAY TWIN’S UNCANNY BOND LEAD THEM TO BREAK THE ULTIMATE TABOO?’.
Whether or not it’s true, it’s something that should definitely have been included in Legend. Tom-on-Tom action should not have been restricted to those fight scenes….
‘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’.
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.
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.
Seventy 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.
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?
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%.
“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.
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.
‘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 recently very overlooked – issue of prostate cancer. A disease which affects 42,000 men in the UK 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 – his 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, 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’. [And a couple of months after this piece was published, the sit-com ‘Broad City’ featured an episode in which a man asks his female date to use a strap-on on him – after some initial uncertainty, she kindly obliges.]
‘Prostate massagers’ of all shapes and baffling sizes (vibrating and non-vibrating) fill the pages of on-line 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 on-line 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!’
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 derriere 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 give-away. 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 prostatic 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.
David is very keen to discuss footie scores with you.
In Europe and on the West Coast topless bathing for men has long been no novelty on public as well as private beaches. But in the more inhibited East a male costume consisting solely of trunks was, until just recently, cause for arrest on almost all public beaches and raised eyebrows on many a private one.
At Atlantic City topless bathing suits are still forbidden, and only this year has Long Island’s ultrademocratic Long Beach allowed men to air their backs and chests. This trend which originated on the French Riviera has seriously distressed manufacturers who claim there is little field for originality of design in trunks. For proof of their contention, see Long Beach pictures below.
On the one hand it seems laughable that the male breast should have been regarded as so inflammatory of lust to the good burghers of East Coast America. But then again, given the flagrant rise of provocative, pec-tastic spornosexuality on our 21st Century beaches, maybe those clenched American WASPS were right.
At any rate, those trunks certainly aren’t being worn ‘high’ any more. That would be a terrible waste of obliques.
Hugo Cornellier took a selfie a day from the age of seven until he was nineteen and then turned it into a selfie-movie. And in the process turned himself into a YouTube celebrity.
There’s something quite haunting about it, not just in the stop-motion documentary of a boy’s transition into manhood in a self-regarding, accelerated age – and the way he can’t make up his mind whether or not a beard really suits him – but also the way that a selfie-movie turns everyone else in your life into a blur, the only constant being your eyes gazing into the lens. Or is it the abyss?
Oh, and the other constant being the swivelly IKEA computer chair everyone has these days.
It reminds me of the wonderful 1960 movie version of HG Wells’ The Time Machine, starring Rod Taylor, the original Jon Hamm, in an Edwardian swivelly chair that travels through time. As his horrified friend with the comedy ‘Scotch’ accent warns him:
“If that machine can do what you say it can, destroy it George before it destroys YOU!”
But of course, as Mr Corneillier’s selfie time machine demonstrates, it’s already far, far too late for us to save ourselves. From ourselves.
I’m really looking forwards to this doc La Bare, about a male stripper club in Dallas, released later this month. This single clip is more sensual than anything in Magic Mike. Except the bit where he goes to take a piss after a hard night’s partying. And that’s just accidental buttock roll.
I have no idea how to body roll, and I suspect it would be medically inadvisable at my age – let alone aesthetically – but it certainly looks quite something when muscular men do it, as opposed to the teen girls on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.
These ‘jokey’ Veet ‘Don’t risk dudeness’ ads in which a ‘sexy lady’ turns into an ‘unsexy dude’ because she hasn’t used the smelly depilatory cream have provoked an e-flurry of outrage for their sexism and shaming of women who aren’t always smooth, so much so that Veet had to issue an apology and withdraw them.
But what’s truly ‘funny’ about these ads is that in some ways they strike me as actually being the advertising world’s version of those ‘gender flip’ click-bait posts that many of the people lambasting the Veet ads profess to love. You know, the ones that pretend that men are never objectified – despite male (self) objectification being hard to miss these days unless you’re trying really, really hard not to notice flagrant, flaming evidence like this. And this.
Instead of looking around us, we’re supposed to listen to blather like this:
“For some reason, as soon as you put a man in there … it’s an entirely different thing that we aren’t used to seeing.”
Only if you’ve been jamming your eyes shut for the last twenty years, dear.
So, having pretended that male objectification doesn’t exist, it’s now ‘really radical’ and ‘challenging’ to ‘flip’ the roles. But in an ironic and unconvincing way, usually making sure that the men adopting the faux ‘sexualised’ poses are unattractive. (And not wetting their vests.)
The ‘anti-sexism’ of many of those ‘gender flip’ memes strikes me as completely bogus, implicitly depending as it does on the entirely (hetero)sexist presumption that sexiness is a female quality/property. The ‘ludicrousness’ of the man adopting ‘sexy’ poses requires a worldview that insists men just aren’t meant to be objectified. That simply doesn’t see male objectification because it’s not suppose to happen.
So the ‘gender flip’ actually tends to reinforce the very thing it hypocritically pretends to undermine.
Worse, people pretend, over and over again, to be impressed by daggy male hipsters pretending to do sexy while pretending to subvert sexism – as a way of getting attention. Which is the only really sincere part of the whole charade.
Instead of ditching the dreary fucking irony and just doing this. Or this.
By contrast, these crass Veet ads are at least refreshingly honest and out of the closet in their horrendous heterosexist revulsion at ‘dudeness’, and the ludicrousness of male sexiness. And of course the thing that is always hovering behind that revulsion, particularly in the US: that dudes might get it on with other dudes.
In stubbly fact, this obsession ends up swallowing their whole campaign, no gag reflex, to the point where it has little or nothing to do with women at all – despite them being the target market.