I’ve written a feature about the changing shape of the male body for the Daily Telegraph which argues that the coming ‘fatsopocalypse’ may have been slightly over-egged.
Read it here.
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
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.’
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.
An eyepopping collection of celeb male self-objectification: Spornosexual Celebs — Gallery of Shamelessness
It seems that Cape May’s Speedo ban was relatively liberal compared to the beach blanket American Puritanism that preceded it. Until the 1930s you could get arrested on East Coast beaches just for showing your (male) nipples, no matter how baggy and unappetising your swimming trunks were.
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.
Tip: David Somerlinck