NSodom and Gomorrah.indd

‘End of Gays?’ – Kindle Single essay

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

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

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

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

Download End of Gays? on Kindle

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Put a Ring On It

My old friend the (gay) human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, once loathed by the popular press for his ‘radical extremism’, is the biggest, loudest voice in the UK calling for same sex marriage.

Or was, until he found himself in bed recently with David Cameron, the Conservative Prime Minister, who stole his thunder somewhat by announcing at the Tory Party Conference this month his support for gay marriage – “Not despite my being a Conservative, but because I’m a Conservative.”

In the UK civil partnerships were introduced in 2004, giving same sex couples who signed up for them effectively the same legal rights – and privileges over single people – as married couples. Civil partnerships have been widely regarded as a success, and while it’s true that many lesbians and gays probably would want the option, unlike in the US there has been no great clamour for same sex marriage – no riots in Soho or MiLK-esque speeches at the BAFTAs.

In fact, the lack of much of a clamour for same-sex marriage (except for perhaps the one coming from Tatchell) is one of the reasons why Cameron was able to so easily co-opt – or ‘out’ – gay marriage as something essentially Conservative/conservative. And in the process complete his swishy remodelling of the Tories as the socially liberal, Nice to Gays, MetroTory Party, rather than The Nasty Party people remember from the 80s, 90s and much of the Noughties. While throwing his Coalition partners the Lib-Dems a boner.

And in an important sense he’s right about gay marriage: Conservatives don’t like new institutions, they like old ones. Really dusty, cobwebby ones that don’t work anymore. Although ageing hang ‘em and flog ‘em Shire Tories whom Holland Park ‘Dave’ clearly despises and who despise him back with interest won’t agree, better that gays line up to get married than go off and do their own civil thing. Especially when no one else is bothering to get married any more.

Unsurprisingly, half-hearted proposals to extend civil partnerships to cross-sex couples have been dropped – the reason cross-sex couples were barred from civil partnerships in the first place was due to fears that this would ‘undermine marriage’. The Tories, remember, want to prop up the lame duck industry of marriage by introducing a state subsidy for it.

But should Cameron succeed in legalising same-sex marriage, Tatchell isn’t going to get gay married himself. Despite his very personal identification with the cause of same sex marriage in the UK for several years, and his use of somewhat melodramatic rhetoric such as ‘sexual apartheid’ and ‘riding at the back of the bus’ to describe civil partnerships, he rejects marriage altogether – on political  grounds. Debating with Suzanne Moore (another old friend of mine) in Saturday’s Guardian in the wake of Cameron’s pledge, he repeated an argument he has made many times before:

‘Personally, I don’t like marriage. I share the feminist critique of its history of sexism and patriarchy. I would not want to get married.’

In other words, he sees marriage as a system of oppression and inequality which he wants nothing to do with. Though of course, this doesn’t mean he can’t crusade selflessly for the right of others to get oppressed:

‘But as a democrat and human rights defender, I support the right of others to marry. This is a simple issue of equality. The ban on same-sex marriage is discrimination and discrimination is wrong, full stop.’

Even without dwelling on the slight contradiction of campaigning for the extension of a system of oppression and inequality under the banner of equality, Tatchell is not presenting much of an argument here. Rather — and I say this as someone who owes Peter a debt of thanks for helping to get my first book published and for providing a cracking essay for my 1996 collection Anti-Gay — it’s a schoolmarmish piece of moralism designed to close down debate: ‘…discrimination is wrong, full stop’. Oh, no! The dreaded full stop! That’s it then. My powers of dialectic have turned to dust!

I’ve heard similar from liberal heteros who like to wear their support for gay marriage as a badge of their liberalism, and are crestfallen when you don’t pat them on the back for it. The poor dears usually end up irritably dismissing queer killjoys like me as ‘perverse’ and ‘eccentric’. Liberal do-gooders know best, even when they’re straight liberal do-gooders talking about gay marriage to gayers.

Thankfully, not all straight liberals think alike — in the Guardian debate Suzanne Moore dares to be the straight party-pooper at the gay marriage reception, airing many of the arguments that lots of LGBT people agree with but tend to keep quiet about in front of the Goyim. Like her, I’m not so much against same-sex marriage (what would be the point of that? Unless you have a kink for chaining yourself to church railings), as just not for it.

But agnosticism about gay marriage isn’t really permitted. After all, gay America, Tatchell, straight liberals and even David Cameron all say we have to be for it. Full stop.

Thing is, if you get with the programme and make equality for its own sake your god you can end up saying really daft things which you clearly don’t believe. Worse, by making it the measure of ‘equality’, you make even more of a fetish out of marriage than the traditionalists.

And someone like Peter Tatchell, who has a long, radical history, who rejects marriage as ‘sexist and patriarchal’, who would like to see civil partnerships made more flexible and extended to cross-sex couples (so would I, but it’s not going to happen under this Government), ends up saying stuff like: ‘marriage is the gold standard.’

Perhaps, despite his denials, Peter really does want to get married after all. Sometimes he sounds like a very old-fashioned girl.

Metrosexual Daddy Mark Simpson interviewed by Elise Moore

English author and journalist Mark Simpson on love-hating the metrosexual, why bromance lacks balls, and why women are strapping on Captain Kirk.

By Elise Moore (Suite 101, May 6, 2010)

If you could copyright neologisms, Mark Simpson would be a billionaire. Since you can’t, the British gay/gender issues and pop/culture commentator talked to Suite101 about the real definition of metrosexuality and gave his views on gay marriage legalization, slash fic, bromance, and more.

The Metrosexual Past and Present

Being responsible for the metrosexual could keep less hearty souls awake at night. But Mark thinks the guilt should be shared. “Probably consumerism, post-feminism, Men’s Health magazine and Jersey Shore should shoulder at least some of the responsibility for the normalization of male vanity. I mean, the fact the President of the US now makes the Free World wait every morning for him to finish his work-out, and is something of his own First Lady, isn’t entirely down to me.

“Like most people, I have a love-hate relationship with the metrosexual. I love it when he pays me attention, and hate it when he’s flirting with someone else. Then I call him ‘self-obsessed’.”

Speaking of love-hating the metrosexual, Jerry Lewis arguably made the first metrosexual movie, The Nutty Professor, in 1963. “The Nutty Professor is a remarkable film,” Mark agrees. “It’s a kind of proto-metrosexual sci-fi. Geeky, unkempt, invisible and unlaid, Lewis concocts a potion that makes him the centre of attention and irresistible – by boosting his narcissism to monstrous levels. It’s Viagra and Biotherme Homme for Men in one product – decades before either were invented.”

Metrosexuality and Consumerism

“Metrosexuality has lots of antecedents of course: the virile degeneracy of Brando, Dean and Elvis in the 1950s, Jagger ‘s petulant narcissism in the 60s, Bowie’s glittering glamness in the 1970s, the mirrored male world of Saturday Night Fever and American Gigolo – and the military gay porn aesthetic of Top Gun. But they didn’t coalesce into the mainstream, High Street, off-the-peg phenomenon of mediated, commodified, love-me-or-love-me masculinity known as metrosexuality until the late Eighties, early Nineties.”

This close correlation between the metrosexual and increasing consumerism is what gets Mark annoyed when he’s confused with the late 19th century dandy. “As if we can pretend that the sexual and aesthetic division of labour of the Nineteenth and most of the Twentieth Century didn’t happen. As if Oscar Wilde – perhaps the most famous and in many ways the last dandy – hadn’t been destroyed by Victorian morality for his ‘gross indecency’. As if male narcissism and sensuality hadn’t been associated with male homosexuality – and thus criminalised and pathologised – for the next hundred years.

“And as if a dandy would have done anything so vulgar as go to the gym and get sweaty.”

Manlove for Ladies and Bros

Mark is also up for equal-opportunity equal opportunity when it comes to women who like the idea of man-on-man, as exemplified by the fan fiction phenomenon known as “slash fic.” “I’m fascinated and sometimes a little scared by the way that women interpret and fantasize male-on-male sex. Manlove for ladies is very different to gay porn. For starters, it uses imagination. Gay porn never does that. Slash-fic also tends to have a lot of feelings. Which always, always cause loss of wood in gay porn.

“Sometimes it seems as if women are trying, rather fabulously, to escape their prescribed feminine subjectivity by projecting themselves into the bodies of their male protagonists. Captain Kirk as the ultimate strap-on.”

Is “manlove for ladies,” as Mark calls it, comparable in any way to the new neologism in town, “bromance”? “Manlove for the ladies has much more in the way of… balls than ‘bromance’. As the name ‘bromance’ suggests, actual sex, or in fact anything physical, would be a form of incest. It seems like it’s being left to women to put men in touch with their bi-curiousness. Which is as everyone knows – but pretends not to – even more common than the female variety.”

The Greatest Iconoclast

If the views expressed above haven’t made it clear, Mark has upset a few people in his career, not least other, more “orthodox” gay commentators. But who out of his infatuations and inspirations would he deem the greatest iconoclast – Camille Paglia, Lady Gaga, Morrissey, Jerry Lewis? “I would probably have to pick Gore Vidal. He took on everything that is sacred in America: Machismo. Empire. The Kennedys. The Cold War. Hollywood. Monotheism and Monosexuality. What’s more his hilarious late 1960s transsexual novel ‘Myra Breckenridge’ figured out what was happening to masculinity and femininity before I was out of short trousers and long before the Twenty First Century got underway.

“Come to think of it, I should probably clast Mr. Vidal for leaving so little for the rest of us to smash.”

Future of Metrosexuality

Now that the 21st century is unavoidably underway, what does the new millennium hold for the metrosexual?

“A big, scented candle. And even more product.”

 


Not in Front of the Goyim: Gays and Not-So-Open Relationships

Interesting piece by Scott James in today’s New York Times:

New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study has followed 556 male couples for three years — about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners.

That consent is key. “With straight people, it’s called affairs or cheating,” said Colleen Hoff, the study’s principal investigator, “but with gay people it does not have such negative connotations.”

The study also found open gay couples just as happy in their relationships as pairs in sexually exclusive unions, Dr. Hoff said. A different study, published in 1985, concluded that open gay relationships actually lasted longer.

However the reporter discovered a wall of silence surrounding the subject:

None of this is news in the gay community, but few will speak publicly about it. Of the dozen people in open relationships contacted for this column, no one would agree to use his or her full name, citing privacy concerns. They also worried that discussing the subject could undermine the legal fight for same-sex marriage.

Or perhaps they worry they might be shouted down and called ‘sluts’ by the gay blogs.

Given the very real fear of being osctracised and shamed for talking in front of the goyim about how gay relationships actually are, instead of the Disney-esque way that gay marriage zealots would like to portray them, it seems a reasonable assumption that the 50% figure is an underreporting.  Probably most gay male relationships in the Bay Area are open.  As I’ve said before, in public, in front of the goyim, in my experience probably most gay male relationships are open.  (I’ll admit I was surprised by the article’s claims about lesbian relationships — but then, I have rather less experience of them…).

Of course, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s half or most, or even a large minority, the point, as Scott James acknowledges, is that this is definitely not an attribute of the vast majority of hetero relationships.  Many may have their ‘infidelities’, but very, very few have open relationships.  For most the concept is a contradiction in terms.  Especially if married.  The author makes much of how the openess of gay relationships can help reform the failing institution of marriage, but personally I suspect he fails to understand what marriage actually is, and the proprietary, exclusive nature of it.  In reality, gay marriage may just  succeed in making gay relationships less open and more hypocritical.

Too often the movement for gay marriage is censorious and shame-based, about presenting homosexuality as a neutered heterosexuality, about claiming over and over again that gay relationships are ‘just like’ straight ones and anyone who says different is a bigot and ‘homophobe’ —  externalised or internalised.

There’s also another dimension to the reluctance of gay couples to talk about their open relationships… openly, one that has less to do with worrying about what the gays will say, and more to do with what the world will think: It may cost them their new-found respectability.  This after all is the point of ‘gay marriage’ for some, particularly those of the Sullivanite tendency: to prove to the world they’re not like those promiscuous, hedonistic, slut gays. Even and especially if they are still getting rogered by them regularly via Manhunt.

Then again, open relationships can be hard work.  And discussing them in public allows people like me to pass unhelpful comment.  Here’s ‘Chris’ and ‘James” rules for their open relationship:

complete disclosure, honesty about all encounters, advance approval of partners, and no sex with strangers — they must both know the other men first. “We check in with each other on this an awful lot,” said James, 37.

Obviously how they conduct their relationship is their business — and good luck to them — but I can’t help wondering if in this instance monogamy wouldn’t be much less trouble.

Gay Marriage On The Rocks: Ain’t No Surprise

The wheels appear to have come off the gay marriage bus in the US and no one seems to know how to put them back on.  Not even the lesbians.

And that’s not according to meddlin’ Limey Uncle Tom ‘slut’ me (as I was dubbed by the Voice of Gay America) but according to the gay-marriage-supporting  New York Times in a piece last week titled ‘Amidst Small Wins, Advocates Lose Marquee Battles’:

…the bill to legalize same-sex marriage in New York failed by a surprisingly wide margin on Wednesday. In New Jersey, Democrats have declined to schedule the bill for a vote, believing that the support is no longer there. Voters in Maine last month repealed a state law allowing same-sex marriage despite advocates’ advantage in money and volunteers.

And on the other reliably liberal coast, California advocates of gay marriage announced this week that they would not try in the next elections to reverse the ban on gay marriage that voters approved in 2008; they did not believe they could succeed.

Gay marriage doesn’t appear to be something that even liberal ‘bi-coastal’ America has much of a stomach for, let alone the God-fearing ‘flyover’ States that of course make up most of the US.  So how earth did the US gay rights movement turn down this gay marriage cul-de-sac, apparently without a reverse gear? 

Even supporters of gay marriage say that all the optimism got ahead of the reality.

“I think there was some overreading of the political marketplace for gay marriage,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster. “It’s not so much that something changed. There was a misreading of where the public was at.”

You don’t say.  Perhaps though it was not so much an ‘overreading’ or ‘misreading’ but rather more a case of complete illiteracy.  I mean, who would have guessed that screaming ‘BIGOT!!’ at beauty queens for believing, like most Americans, including President Obama, that marriage is between a man and a woman wasn’t going to be a terribly persuasive strategy? Whoever would have imagined that trying to blame black voters for California’s re-banning of gay marriage last year at the same time as trying to hijack their history of civil rights struggle and proclaim gays as ‘the new blacks’ wouldn’t play so well?  

And who could have possibly conceived that self-righteously denouncing civil unions, a much more politically achievable – and in my Limey Uncle Tom slut opinion also much more appropriate and modern – institution for giving same-sex couples legal protection as ‘riding at the back of the bus!’, and instead going pell-mell after gay marriage and respectability would have turned out to be such a tactical and strategic blunder? 

Empowered by judicial decisions affirming a constitutional right to gay marriage, beginning in Massachusetts in 2003, advocates argued to move away from a strategy that had focused on more incremental change.

“The gamble has not paid off,” Mr. Garin said.  “We leapfrogged from civil unions to marriage, primarily as a result of judicial decisions that were followed in some cases by legislative action. But the reality is that the judicial decisions were substantially ahead of public opinion, and still are.”

And, it might be added going pell-mell after gay marriage also helped George Bush get re-elected in 2004. Which as we know was such a wonderful outcome for everyone, gay or straight.

Mr Garin may be more clear-headed on this issue than many gay marriage advocates, but the expression ‘ahead of public opinion’ sounds to me like more ‘overreading’.  Maybe most Americans don’t accept that a relationship between two men — and after all, it is this double-penised aspect, not two wombs together, that the straight public think about — is ‘just the same’ as a relationship between a man and a woman, not because they’re backwards, or ignorant, or prejudiced, but because, if you’re not blinded by liberal platitudes, it clearly isn’t. 

And please, can someone over there point out, if only just to be really annoying, that the assimilation of the radically new phenomenon on modern gay relationships to the moribund institution of marriage with its reproductive role-playing, religious flavouring, and history of treating women as chattel does not exactly represent ‘progress’?

Fortunately, there’s one American homo left who isn’t Gore Vidal doing exactly this — though not of course in the NYT.  The novelist Bruce Benderson, interviewed by Christopher Stoddard in the latest issue of East Village Boys about his new book Pacific Agony makes some salient points about male sexuality which the Andrea Sullivanized American gays don’t want to hear:

Bruce Benderson: I have a kind of old-fashioned idea about what a homosexual is, and I think it’s somebody who is made to live outside the social norm. And the reason he was made to live outside the social norm is because one of the main functions of the structure of a social norm is to perpetuate the species, but I don’t think that’s a natural thing for male homosexuals. Not just homosexuals, but men in general are naturally too promiscuous. It’s their relationship with women that makes them more stable so that they can channel it into building a family. These gay couples are going around saying, “Oh, we’re just like you straight couples, really! We just happen to be two men.” I don’t believe that. I think they’re different.

Christopher Stoddard: Okay, so you think that gay men are essentially subject to “vice”?

BB: If you want to make that moral judgment… Suppose a bomb dropped and there were only 100 women and 1 man left. Well, theoretically, that man could repopulate the species by impregnating 100 women a year. Now, take 100 men and 1 woman after the bomb drops; we could only make 1 baby a year, okay? To perpetuate the species, men have been programmed by evolution to be promiscuous. Marriage is the social taming of a man’s sexual energies by a woman, which is necessary to build a social structure. Because a man is made to screw more than one person, there’s nobody to stop him if he’s with just another man.

CS: You sound like the proverbial Repulican who believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

BB: I think that marriage should be illegal! Just like pledging to God should be illegal. Marriage is a sacrament that has absolutely nothing to do with the State, and it should have no legal status whatsoever. A domestic partnership should be recognized by the State, and it should hinge on things like wills, joint tax filing, inheritance, things like that. And any two people should be able to do it. A marriage is just this left-over sacrament that somehow wiggled its way into legal status.

CS: You don’t believe that two men can be devoted to each other in a monogamous way and not cheat because of these carnal needs?

BB: Correct. I believe two men can be totally devoted to each other, but it probably won’t be in the same way that a man and a woman can be totally devoted to each other. I know several gay male couples who’ve been together a long time and go to the baths together, or they both go to one of those, you know, orgy places.

CS: I think I know who you mean. {chuckles}

BB: Yet they’re totally close, and they totally trust each other, and it’s a wonderful pairing.

Be careful, Bruce!  You can’t just go around talking the truth about gay men in public!  Not if you want to be taken seriously, that is.

Gore Vidal Takes on The World – Again

Gore Old

God, I can’t help but love the old bastard.  Another tour-de-force from Gore Vidal (interviewed by Tim Teeman) appeared in The London Times last week, in which, as usual, he said so many things, so very loudly that so many people know to be true but daren’t begin to mumble.

This frail, crippled, diabetic, alcoholic, eighty-three-year-old man repeatedly and energetically Gores Obama, for his ‘dreadful’ performance as President, decries how he has ‘fucked up’ healthcare, and most particularly how he has allowed himself to be railroaded by the military into continuing the American Imperialist project, something Vidal has heroically dedicated his life to attacking. He also expresses his deep regret over dumping feisty Hillary, his first choice, for this smooth-talking ingenue during the Democratic Primaries:

“Hillary knows more about the world and what to do with the generals. History has proven when the girls get involved, they’re good at it. Elizabeth I knew Raleigh would be a good man to give a ship to.”

Vidal suggests that he was beguiled – as many clearly were in the Democratic Party – by the historic if not actually romantic appeal of a black man as President of the United States.  Particularly one that was much more intelligent than his white predecessor; but seems to have been disappointed even in that department.

Vidal originally became pro-Obama because he grew up in “a black city” (meaning Washington), as well as being impressed by Obama’s intelligence. “But he believes the generals. Even Bush knew the way to win a general was to give him another star”.

He also discusses, or rather, disses, gay marriage – a subject I wasn’t alas able to cover when I interviewed him earlier this year for Arena Hommes Plus. When Teeman asks, ‘Has love been important to him?’ he responds blisteringly:

“Don’t make the error that schoolteacher idiots make by thinking that gay men’s relationships are like heterosexual ones. They’re not.”

This one, simple, obviously true statement is of course complete heresy for modern American gays – who aren’t listening anyway since most of them probably don’t even know who Gore Vidal is.  Which is in itself damning enough.

Vidal puts on a scornful, campy voice. “People ask {of he and Austen, his life-long companion who died last year}, ‘How did you live together so long?’ The only rule was no sex. They can’t believe that….

No, because if you wish to pretend that two men living together is just like a man and woman living together you have to pretend to the same lies and illusions heterosexuals do.

He is single now. “I’m not into partnerships,” he says dismissively. I don’t even know what it means.” He “couldn’t care less” about gay marriage. “Does anyone care what Americans think? They’re the worst-educated people in the First World. They don’t have any thoughts, they have emotional responses, which good advertisers know how to provoke.” You could have been the first gay president, I say. “No, I would have married and had nine children,” he replies quickly and seriously. “I don’t believe in these exclusive terms.”

They certainly don’t make ’em like that any more.