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The 'Daddy' of the Metrosexual, the Retrosexual, & spawner of the Spornosexual

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‘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

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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.”

 


Let Hetero Couples Get Civilly Partnered

Mark Simpson argues in today’s London Times that heterosexuals should be allowed to have civil partnerships

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.

Respectability is the New Closet

Walk-in-closets-18By Mark Simpson (shorter version originally appeared on Guardian CIF, June 2009)

‘The more things a man is ashamed of’, wrote George Bernard Shaw, ‘the more respectable he is.’ Gays must now be terribly respectable since, forty years on from the Stonewall riots started by drag queens, hustlers and homeless youths high on drugs – outsiders with nothing to lose – gays have moved up in the world, become middle-aged and promptly found plenty of things to be ashamed of.

Like all arrivistes, and like Shaw’s most famous creation Eliza Doolittle, they’re particularly ashamed of their past.

Stonewall itself was recently ‘upgraded’ to ‘Stonewall 2.0′ – the name given the current wave of gay marriage activism. Which is a bit like updating ‘Querelle’ into ‘Little House on the Prairie’. Meanwhile, gays are now so ashamed of their dead heroes they dig them up and assassinate them all over again. The gay-adored, gay scripted, gay directed film ‘Milk’ was so popular precisely because it bumped off the actual historical Harvey Milk and his shamefully shameless sex-life, unloading a revolver of revisionism into his chicken-hawk head, replacing him with a serially-monogamous imposter who used to be cute and married to Madonna.

‘Milk’ also replaced the promiscuous, bathhouse-happy 1970s San Francisco that Milk eagerly embraced – and shagged silly – with something much more real-estate agent. Scripted by a gay Mormon, San Francisco looks less like 70s answer to Sodom and Gomorrah than a gayted community for Gap wearing gay couples. No wonder Lance Black mentioned marriage and God more than once in an Oscar acceptance speech that had more uplift than even his decorous hairdo.

In the Twenty First century, respectability is fast shaping up to be the New Closet. Or The Closet 2.0, if you like annoying software references. And the custodians of the New Closet are not paddy-wagons and queer-bashers, but gays themselves, itching to conform to standards of hypocrisy more and more straight people are abandoning. As a result, we can look forwards to many more outings such as that of Sam Adams, mayor of Portland, Oregon, once dubbed ‘The New Harvey Milk’, who repeatedly denied rumours of an affair with a teenager, denouncing them as scurrilous lies playing to base stereotypes of predatory homosexuals, but was recently forced to admit that, erm, they weren’t scurrilous after all. Or in fact, lies.

In their headlong pursuit of respectability – and let’s not pretend that marriage privileges are not at least as much about respectability as about equality – most gays that aren’t ‘cult’ writers like Bruce Benderson or Michael Warner seem to have forgotten that gay sex isn’t terribly respectable, and that it never will be no matter how much you talk up gay domesticity. Unless you plan on making medical history with a successful womb transplant, gay male sex is always going to be improper, inappropriate, non-procreative sex-for-sex’s sake rather than the Pope’s, Uncle Sam’s or Mothercare’s. And that is, if you’re honest, probably part of the reason why you enjoy it.

Even the word ‘gay’, now invested with so much golf-club decorum by social-climbing sodomites, doesn’t have a very decorous history. Despite the complaints of retired colonels about homos hijacking their favourite word, gay’s original meaning of ‘joyful’ and ‘carefree’ was pretty much an antonym for respectable. Which may be why in the 17th Century a ‘gay woman’ was a prostitute, a ‘gay man’ a womanizer, and a ‘gay house’ a brothel. In the early 20th Century, even before it commonly became associated with homosexuality, ‘gay’ meant ‘single’ and ‘unattached’ – ‘straight’ meant ‘married’ and ‘respectable’. In the Twenty First Century those meanings have of course been reversed.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising that gays turned out to be like everyone else – given the chance, they’ve grabbed any propriety they can lay their hands on and with it their chance to look down on others (‘Miss California those topless photos are a scandal and an outrage! Hand your crown back immediately, you hussy!‘). After all, like the sandal-wearing Shaw, I’m looking down loftily on those who want to be respectable. But really, as a Stonewall drag queen might have put it looking around the gay world today, smell her!

Ironically – or e-ronically – it’s the unlimited, anonymous sluttiness of the net that helps sustain the New Closet. Now gay men can move to the suburbs with their partner, present a front of monogamous chastity to the world, but also have discreet sex outside their relationship without having to access the urban gay scene, or even cruise draughty parks and rest stops. For quite a few gay men Manhunt and Gaydar take on the role prostitution played with the Victorian gentlemen of Shaw’s era: a disreputable institution they strongly disapprove of that makes their own respectability possible. (I know I’m not supposed to talk about this in public, but oops, I just have.)

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the nice middle-aged lady on the Clapham Omnibus needs to know what I got up to last night – but on the other hand, I don’t want to have to pretend to be the nice middle-aged lady on the Clapham Omnibus.

Respectability is not to be sneered at, though. It can change history. It’s probably just a matter of time before the date of Stonewall is itself revised to 1968 or 1970. After all, 1969 plays far too easily into straight prejudices about gays being obsessed with perverse sex….

The Gay Case Against Gay Marriage and Gay Bigotry

miss-california_1391785c

By Mark Simpson (Guardian CIF, 30 April 2009)

Who would have guessed the dainty opinions of a Miss America candidate would have been taken so seriously by gays and liberals?

Miss California, a practising Christian, was last week denounced by Miss America judge Perez Hilton on his blog as ‘a dumb bitch’ and unworthy of the Miss America crown because she gave the ‘wrong’ answer to his chippy question about gay marriage. Like most Americans – including the current Democratic President of the United States – she believes that marriage is ‘between a man and a woman’. Boo! Hiss! Rip her to shreds!

It wasn’t just the famously bitchy gay gossip-monger Hilton casting stones, however. For honestly and somewhat courageously answering his question Miss California was roundly condemned as a ‘bigot’ by hosts of gay and liberal bloggers, and was even denounced by the directors of the Miss California pageant who declared themselves ‘saddened’ by her views and that they had no place in the ‘Miss California family’, whatever that is. Most now agree with Hilton’s gloating claim that her answer cost her the crown.

Candidate Obama expressed the exact same view during the Presidential Election: “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union. You know, God’s in the mix.” Instead of being scorned as a bigot and a dumb bitch, Obama was handed the Mr America crown by liberals and probably most gay voters. But I suppose that being President of the United States is a rather less important title than Miss America.

Branding Christians and traditionalists ‘bigots’ for being Christians and traditionalists and thus none too keen to fundamentally revise the definition of marriage is a highly unattractive exercise in liberal self-righteousness that makes Miss America look quite sophisticated. Not to mention sounding a lot like pots and kettles rattling. It’s faintly absurd to have to even say this, but it isn’t bigoted to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. It’s just being conventional. And after all, marriage itself is convention and tradition tied up in a big red bow and covered in confetti and sprinkled with Holy Water. Which is exactly why lesbians and gays should have nothing to do with it.

Today’s out and proud same-sex relationships are very unconventional and a very new kind of phenomenon. And so are in fact many of today’s cross-sex relationships in a brave new world of gender parity. Marriage on the other hand is an antiquated, failing institution based on inequality and traditional roles. Much like Miss America.

Marriage is, whether you like it or not, also based on religious sentiment: ‘God’s in the mix.’ Especially in a very religious country like America. And I have a hunch, based on millennia of violent opposition to sex that doesn’t produce more Christians, that God is not going to sanctify ‘sodomy’ any time soon.

New ways of living and loving require new institutions. Or in the words of the famously unmarried Galilee carpenter and fisher of men: put new wine into new wineskins. And keep the flippin’ Pharisees out of it. Or else you’ll end up with a tacky mess.

It needs to be said out loud that full civil unions with the same legal rights and privileges of marriage at both the State and Federal level, supported by President Obama and many Republicans and even some right-wing evangelicals – and the large majority of American voters – are not only much more politically achievable in the US than gay marriage, they are also a better fit for most same sex relationships. What’s more they represent an entirely dignified way of side-stepping this endless, unsightly domestic between liberal and conservative, secular and religious, metropolitan and rural America.

But instead, gay marriage zealots, many of whom admit that they themselves don’t wish to get married, insist on characterising civil unions as ‘second class’, ‘social apartheid’ or ‘riding at the back of the bus’. I’d like to think it was merely a ploy to make fully-recognised civil unions more achievable, but many really seem to believe their own shrill propaganda. Worse, they’ve made even more of a fetish of the word ‘marriage’ than the religious right they rail against.

In the UK, where nationally recognised same-sex civil unions with the same legal status as marriage – called civil partnerships – were introduced in 2004 there is little or no appetite now for gay marriage. In my experience few lesbians or gays feel they are ‘riding at the back of the bus’. Maybe because in many ways they’re actually riding at the front. It’s probably only a matter of time before gay civil partnerships in the UK are made available to all, as they are in France – where the vast majority of applications are now made by cross-sex couples disenchanted with traditional marriage.

What’s more, fully-recognised, open-to-all civil unions are a fully-fledged secular institution that helps to shore up a fragile secular society. And make no mistake, it is secularism on which most of the – historically very, very recent – freedoms enjoyed by lesbians and gays are based, along with those of women.

But so far the gay marriage crusade in the US doesn’t seem very interested in any of this or lessons it might learn from the experience of other countries. Instead it seems too busy proving itself holier-than-thou. And less sophisticated than Miss America contestants.

Gay Civil Unions Replacing Straight Marriage in France

According to the Daily Telegraph, ninety per cent of French “solidarity pacts” a year, some 135,000 of them, are now being made between people of the opposite sex, ‘despite them being designed for homosexuals, who are not formally allowed to marry in France’.  Unlike in the UK, the Civil Solidarity Pacts, or PACS, are open to everyone, not just same sexers. The Telegraph lists some of the attractions of PACS over marriage.  They

…take just 15 minutes and can be performed by a court clerk.

Just as significantly, they can be ended with a single letter from either partner, without any claims on the other’s money or property.

With divorce costs spiralling such a legal arrangement is particularly attractive to those potentially facing massive payouts if marriages fail.

The PACS provide near-identical financial and administrative protection as formal marriages, including the possibility of providing joint tax returns and enjoying deductions.

French councils also treat PACSed couples like married couples when assigning benefits or accommodation.

The PACS also allow couple to bypass social and Church conventions, many of which are viewed as outdated by younger generations.

This latter consideration should probably be placed rather further up in the list.

Either way this news is yet another indication that the gay American obsession with (politically impossible) marriage rather than (politically achievable) fully-recognised civil unions – ‘riding at the back of the bus!’ – is not just a giant tactical mistake but also culturally retrogressive, rather than the ‘giant leap for progress’ and ‘equality’ it is trumpeted as being by gay marriage zealots.  Marriage seems to be a very dull historical cul de sac that even straight people don’t want to live on any more.

The French trend towards rejecting marriage for civil partnerships/unions also illustrates how unfair it is that British civil partnerships are not open to everyone – just same sex couples.  The reason heterosexuals are denied that option is because when the legislation was being drawn up fears were expressed in Parliament that allowing heteros the choice would ‘undermine marriage’. (Which is rather revealing – even the champions of marriage obviously believe that marriage isn’t very appealing.)

But of course, marriage has undermined itself. Recently released figures in the UK show marriage is the most unpopular it’s ever been and suggest that the unwed will outnumber the wed within a year.

Milk Toast: How Van Sant Cut Off Harvey’s Balls

By Mark Simpson

(Originally appeard on Guardian Unlimited, 28 Jan 2009)

‘If a bullet should enter my brain, let it destroy ever closet door.’ So says Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, the gay activist who became California’s first openly gay public official. Any concern that this may be a slightly melodramatic statement is quelled of course by the knowledge that Milk was famously killed by a bullet to the head in 1978 by a disgruntled, possibly anti-gay colleague. So instead it becomes an epitaph – and this film’s marketing slogan.

Lauded by critics, laden with no less than 8 Academy Film Award nominations, including Best Film, and Best Actor, lavished with praise from editorials in straight and gay newspapers, director Gus Van Sant’s Milk, recently released in the UK, is, everyone agrees, that avenging ricochet from Harvey’s skull shooting down prejudice, fearfulness and dishonesty.

There’s only one small problem, however. It isn’t. With award-winning hypocrisy, Milk actually bundles Milk’s sexuality out of sight. This movie, far from ‘destroying every closet door’, builds a brand new bullet-proof one around it’s subject’s sex-life. Milk you see is living a lie.

Harvey Milk, the famously horny middle-aged sexual libertarian in 1970s Free Love San Francisco, who combined cruising and political campaigning – and had a taste for men half his age – is presented in Milk as a serially monogamous chap looking for The One to make house with. True, Harvey is allowed to be a bit flirty, but essentially Harvey is presented to the world as a very domesticated Mary – apart, that is, from his political altruism and desire to battle homophobia which, sadly, stops him settling down into fully-fledged home-making bliss.

Likewise, apart from one safely post-coital moment, Mr Milk is allowed one brief, badly lit, giggly heavy petting scene in his bedroom (the one place where probably no one had sex in 1970s SF) – filmed in long shot from another room. I don’t really have any great interest in seeing Sean Penn shagging in close up (ten or fifteen years ago it would have been a different story), but given the reluctance of the film to acknowledge Milk’s real, radically libidinal lifestyle (you might just call it ‘slutty’) this just seems like more coy emasculation.  Come out, come out wherever you are – but only if you’re decent.

Apparently a bathhouse scene was filmed, but it ended up on the cutting room floor. I have no idea whether this was Van Sant’s call or the studio’s, but with that snip Mr Milk was effectively spayed. Many gays and liberals are indignant that Milk didn’t win a Golden Globe this January, but they should be more concerned the movie has no balls.

So why did it happen? Why is the ‘closet-busting’ film about Harvey Milk so fearful of its subject’s own sex-life? His own masculinity? Well, partly because a glossing over of human details, especially in regard to sex, is what becoming a saint usually involves – even a gay one. But probably the main reason why his sexuality has been bundled back in the closet is because that’s exactly what today’s US gay rights campaigners are doing with gay male sexuality itself in their crusade for gay marriage. In order to try and persuade an unconvinced American public to support gay marriage under the rubric of equality, gay male relationships are being presented, rather disingenuously, as ‘just the same’ as male-female ones.

Van Sant and others have even suggested that if Milk had been released earlier it might have helped prevent the passage of Proposition 8 last November, which re-banned gay marriage in California. Personally I think that’s absurdly far-fetched, but the wishful-thinking involved does give you some idea of how Harvey’s actual lived life has been appropriated to current political expediency. Just as the campaign for gay marriage is sometimes more about respectability than equality, Mr Milk’s historical sexuality wasn’t respectable enough for his hagiography. So it was surgically removed.

It’s impossible of course to know what Milk’s own attitude towards gay marriage would be today if he had lived – though whatever you do don’t mention that to the gay marriage zealots who have installed him as their patron Saint – but it’s pretty clear that while he was alive he believed in relationships as open as his closet door:

‘”As homosexuals we can’t depend of the heterosexual model”,’ Randy Shilts quotes him as saying in his biography The Mayor of Castro Street (a book which also documents how many of Milk’s political and community contacts were forged in bathouses). ‘We grow up with the heterosexual model, but we don’t have to pursue it. We should be developing our own lifestyle. There’s no reason why you can’t love more than one person at a time. You don’t have to love them all the same. You love some more, some less and always be honest about where you’re at. They in turn can do the same thing, and it opens up a bigger sphere”.’

When I tell you that middle-aged Milk was explaining to one 24 year-old lover in San Francisco why he had another even younger one in Los Angeles you may decide you find this view self-serving. You may find it inspiring. You may find it naïve. Or courageous. Or immoral. Or realistic. Or corny.

What’s not debatable however, is that this is how he lived his life and created his politics.

But you won’t find it in Van Sant’s pasteurised Milk.

Marry Me, Ms P – But Civilly

A little late -my brain turns to plum pudding during the festering season – I’d like to flag up a section on gay marriage from the stand-up intellectual Camille Paglia’s December column on Salon.com. Mostly of course because it mentions me in a flattering fashion. (If you find mutual love-fests a little queasy, you may want to look away now….)

Maybe because we’re both incurable Freudians dogmatically wedded to his concept of universal bisexual responsiveness, I consider Paglia a genuinely free thinker. Something all-too rare on the left these days. She is also a powerful, sometimes literally incandescent writer with a mischievous, kinky-booted provocative sense of humour. Sexual Personae indeed. Above all, or perhaps below all, she has big, brass, Italianate balls. I’m in awe of them.

And so, whether they know it or not, are Salon readers – that’s why they line up in their hundreds every month to rail against ‘that crazy bitch’ and, the ultimate insult, apparently, ‘narcissist’ on the letters page and demand she be sacked and paraded in chains through the streets of San Francisco otherwise they’ll tear up their Salon party membership card. Again.

In her column Camille makes the case for civil unions over gay marriage rather better than I do. In fact, my own view was very probably influenced by my eager reading of her barnstorming works back in the early 90s (they certainly helped inspire the dissident collection ‘Anti-Gay’). As she writes in Salon:

My position has always been (as in “No Law in the Arena” in my 1994 book, “Vamps & Tramps”) that government should get out of the marriage business. Marriage is a religious concept that should be defined and administered only by churches. The government, a secular entity, must institute and guarantee civil unions, open to both straight and gay couples and conferring full legal rights and benefits. Liberal heterosexuals who profess support for gay rights should be urged to publicly shun marriage and join gays in the civil union movement.

In their displeasure at the California vote, gay activists have fomented animosity among African-Americans who voted for Proposition 8 and who reject any equivalence between racism and homophobia. Do gays really want to split the Democratic coalition? I completely agree with a hard-hitting piece by the British gay activist Mark Simpson (which was forwarded to me by Glenn Belverio), “Let’s Be Civil: Marriage Isn’t the End of the Rainbow.” Simpson, who has been called “a skinhead Oscar Wilde,” is famous among other things for a riveting 2002 Salon article that put the term “metrosexual” into world circulation. I appreciate Simpson’s candor about how marriage is a very poor fit with the actual open lifestyle of so many gay men, which is far more radical. Marriage may be desirable for some gay men and women, but at what cost? Activists should have focused instead on removing all impediments to equality in civil unions — such as the unjust denial of Social Security benefits to the surviving partner in gay relationships.

(I’m not sure I’m much of a ‘gay activist’, but ‘rivetting’ sounds entirely accurate to me.)

While fully-equivalent civil unions are much more politically achievable in the US than gay marriage, they are being misrepresented as ‘second class’, ‘social apartheid’ or ‘riding at the back of the bus’ by gay marriage zealots who seem obsessed with appropriating, or perhaps expropriating, the experience of the black civil rights movement and presenting homosexuals as ‘the new blacks’. In the UK, where nationally recognised same-sex civil unions with the same legal status as marriage, called civil partnerships, were introduced a few years ago there is little or no appetite for gay marriage. Very few lesbians or gays feel they are ‘riding at the back of the bus’. Maybe because in many ways they’re actually sitting at the front.

Modern same-sex relationships are a new kind of institution. And so are many if not most of today’s cross-sex relationships. Marriage is an antiquated, failing institution based on inequality, traditional roles and religious sentiment. That’s why it’s seen most as being between ‘a man and a woman’. This isn’t bigotry – it’s tradition. Which is what marriage is. In the words of the Galilee carpenter and fisher of men: put new wine into new wineskins. And keep the fucking Pharisees out of it. Or else you’ll end up with a tacky mess.

What’s more, fully-recognised, fully-equal – and fully open to all – civil unions, would help to shore up our fragile secular society. And make no mistake, it is secularism on which most of the (very recent) freedoms enjoyed by lesbians and gays are based, as well as those of women in general, and also metrosexual man.

Which reminds me: I disagree with Paglia’s continued kicking of Hillary Clinton in the same column – perhaps there’s only room for one ‘ball-breaking’ 60s feminist in American public life – but she more than makes up for this with her plucky defence of spunky Sarah Palin against scolding, univocal liberal snobbery that continues to lash against her and the red-state, rural America that she represents. To do that anywhere in the liberal press would be quite something, but to do it on Salon, which during the election became a kind of spiteful schoolgirlish diary of hatred towards the Republican Vice Presidential Candidate is well-nigh heroic. (Did anyone, anywhere write anything about Joe Biden? Even when he frequently put his ‘expert’ foot in his ‘experienced’ bureaucratic mouth?).

On this occasion, Paglia took umbrage with NYT columnist Dick Cavett’s piece ‘The Wild Wordsmith of Wasilla’:

Cavett’s piece on Sarah Palin was insufferably supercilious. With dripping disdain, he sniffed at her “frayed syntax, bungled grammar and run-on sentences.” He called her “the serial syntax-killer from Wasilla High,” “one who seems to have no first language.” I will pass over Cavett’s sniggering dismissal of “soccer moms” as lightweights who should stay far, far away from government.

I was so outraged when I read Cavett’s column that I felt like taking to the air like a Valkyrie and dropping on him at his ocean retreat in Montauk in the chichi Hamptons. How can it be that so many highly educated Americans have so little historical and cultural consciousness that they identify their own native patois as an eternal mark of intelligence, talent and political aptitude?

I love the image of La Paglia taking to the air ‘like a Valkyrie’ and ‘dropping in’ on Cavett in his Montauk retreat. It would be a comically uneven match. Despite an illustrious CV, Cavett’s prose reads as if one of Palin’s bagged, wall-mounted mooseheads had started talking.

I suspect we will wait some time for Cavett’s column defending American English from President Uh-bama’s phony-folksy way of talking when interviewed. Because of course Harvard educated Obama is being condescending, which is just fine, while ‘white trash’ Palin is being who she is, which is completely unforgivable.

Let’s Be Civil: Gay Marriage Isn’t The End of the Rainbow

by Mark Simpson (A shorter version originally appeared on Guardian CIF November 2, 2008)

“It’s better to marry than burn with passion,” declared St Paul. But now marriage itself seems to have become a burning issue – or at least, gay marriage.

The re-banning of gay marriage in California earlier this month with the passage of Proposition 8 has been presented by gay marriage advocates as a vicious body-blow for gay rights. Angry gay people and their allies have protested across the US, some reportedly even rioting. The timely release of the Gus Van Sant movie Milk, about the murder in 1977 of Harvey Milk, the US’s first out elected official, has fuelled the sense of gay outrage and defiance. Surely only a hateful bigot like the one that gunned down Harvey would be opposed to gay marriage?

Gay marriage is the touchstone of gay equality, apparently. Settling for anything less is a form of Jim Crow style gay segregation and second-class citizenship.

But not all gays agree. This one for instance sees gay marriage not so much as a touchstone as a fetish. A largely symbolic and emotional issue that in the US threatens to undermine real, non-symbolic same-sex couple protection: civil unions bestow in effect the same legal status as marriage in several US states – including California. As a result of the religious right’s mobilisation against gay marriage, civil unions have been rolled back in several US states.

Perhaps the lesson of Proposition 8 is not that most straight people think gay people should sit at the back of the bus, but that if you take on religion and tradition on its hallowed turf – and that is what marriage effectively is – you’re highly likely to lose.  Even in liberal California.

Maybe I shouldn’t carp, living as I do in the UK, where civil partnerships with equal legal status to marriage have been nationally recognised since 2004. But part of the reason that civil partnerships were successfully introduced here was because they are civil partnerships not “marriages” (the UK is a much more secular country than the US, and somewhat more gay-friendly too – but even here gay marriage would almost certainly not have passed).

At this point I’d like to hide behind the, erm, formidable figure of Sir Elton John, who also expressed doubts recently about the fixation of US gay campaigners on the word ‘marriage’, and declared he was happy to be in a civil partnership with the Canadian David Furnish and did not want to get married. Needless to say, Mr John wasn’t exactly thanked for speaking his mind by gay marriage advocates.

But amidst all the gay gnashing of teeth about the inequality of Proposition 8 it’s worth asking: when did marriage have anything to do with equality? Respectability, certainly. Normality, possibly. Stability, hopefully. Very hopefully. But equality?

First of all, there’s something gay people and their friends need to admit to the world: gay and straight long-term relationships are generally not the same. How many heterosexual marriages are open, for example? In my experience, many if not most long term male-male relationships are very open indeed. Similarly, sex is not quite so likely to be turned into reproduction when your genitals are the same shape. Yes, some gay couples may want to have children, by adoption or other means, and that’s fine and dandy of course, but children are not a consequence of gay conjugation. Which has always been part of the appeal for some.

More fundamentally who is the “man” and who is the “wife” in a gay marriage? Unlike cross-sex couples, same-sex partnerships are partnerships between nominal equals without any biologically, divinely or even culturally determined reproductive/domestic roles. Who is to be “given away”? Or as Elton John, put it: “I don’t wanna be anyone’s wife”.

It’s increasingly unclear even to heterosexuals who is the “man” and who is the “wife”, who should cleave to the other’s will and who should bring home the bacon. That’s why so many today introduce their husband or wife as “my partner”. The famous exception to this of course was Guy Ritchie and his missus, Madonna – and look what happened to them. Pre-nuptial agreements, very popular with celebs (though not, apparently, with Guy and Madonna), represent the very realistic step of divorcing before you get married – like plastic surgery, this is a hard-faced celeb habit that’s going mainstream.

If Christians and traditionalists want to preserve the “sanctity” of marriage as something between a man and a woman, with all the mumbo jumbo that entails, let them. They only hasten the collapse of marriage. Instead of demanding gay marriage, in effect trying to modernise an increasingly moribund institution, maybe lesbian and gay people should push for civil partnerships to be opened to everyone, as they are in France – where they have proved very popular.

I suspect civil partnerships, new, secular, literally down-to-earth contracts between two equals, relatively free of the baggage of tradition, ritual and unrealistic expectations, would also prove very popular with cross-sex couples in the Anglo world at a time when the institution of marriage is the most unpopular it’s ever been among people who aren’t actually gay. Yes, cross-sex couples can have civil marriage ceremonies, but they’re still marriages, not partnerships. If made open to everyone, civil partnerships might eventually not just be an alternative to marriage. Marriage might end up being something left to Mormons.

Perhaps my scepticism about gay marriage and marriage in general is down to the fact that I’m terminally single. Perhaps it’s all just sour grapes. Or maybe I prefer to burn with passion than marry. After all, St Paul’s violently ascetic world-view which regarded marriage as a poor runner-up to chastity, also ensured that the Christian Church would burn sodomites like kindling for centuries.

Either way, I think it needs to be mentioned amidst all this shouting about gay domesticity that, important as it is to see lesbian and gay couples recognised and given legal protection, probably most gay men (though probably not most lesbians) are single and probably will be single for most of their lives. With or without civil partnerships/unions.

Or even the magical, symbolic power of gay marriage.

Postscript: The Voice of Gay America responds – loudly.

Is There Sex After Marriage?

A remarkably, refreshingly reasonable treatment of the Spitzer scandal and the indispensable social role of prostitutes by a woman, Minette Marin, in The London Times (if a straight man had written this he would probably have faced a lengthy free sex ban):

Right up and down the scale, a man can rent a girl a great deal better and more cooperative than the woman he lives with. She will be probably be much more sexually experienced and more accomplished than most wives too. In plain English, or so I am told by perfectly nice men, prostitutes tend to be better at it. They tend to be younger and more energetic. They are also prepared to do things which her indoors might draw the line at. Some prostitutes provide tender loving care, too; the famous madam Cynthia Payne provided her suburban clients with comfort food after the act in the form of poached eggs on toast.

The other awkward fact, which most people must know, but somehow prefer to ignore, is that men often prefer sex without a relationship. Perhaps that is wrong of them, but one must concede that relationships can be wearing, particularly marriage, and sometimes a man just wants time out, and sex without strings is clearly a source of great pleasure, at least for men. If you were an evolutionary biologist you might argue that unfettered sex is entirely natural to men. One might at least agree that hogamous higamous, man seems to be a bit polygamous.

Prostitution, like cruising, is something that makes the institution of marriage tolerable for many men who otherwise wouldn’t be able to meet its rather exacting standards. No strings, slutty sex outside marriage might, for many men, be the only kind of sex there is. For them, sex inside marriage is perhaps the abnormality. ‘Where they love they do not desire and where they desire they cannot love’, as Dr Freud put it. Such is the nature of much male sexuality – for which, of course, quite a few women wish to condemn men as a species.

Gay marriage may have had a lot of press lately, along with the consoling idea that homos are becoming homebodies, but what is rather less publicised is that gay male marriage is, by definition, a much more ‘realistic’ arrangement than the traditional variety. Because it involves two men, they usually don’t hold each other up to such exacting sexual standards. They can’t kid themselves – or each other. Truth be told, the easygoing attitude of many gay partners towards sex outside the relationship – and the use of online cruising sites like Gaydar – would be intolerable for most heterosexual women, and many heterosexual men for that matter.

Male cruising produces even more hysteria and hypocrisy than prostitution – when it involves a man married to a woman. In the midst of all the loudly proclaimed sanctimony over Spitzer’s use of call girls, no one is suggesting that the former NY Governor is obviously a congenital visitor of prostitutes and this this is the truth of who he is and hence his marriage must have been a complete sham from day one and in fact his whole life has been a lie.

No, that’s something reserved for Senators busted in dubious airport rest-room entrapments.

The Trouble With Men

Why can’t gay men grow up? Why can’t they get themselves a nice cat instead of behaving like dirty dogs? Why can’t they listen to Radio Four more instead of trawling the net for sex? Why don’t they get a pipe and slippers instead of thongs and crystal meth? Why can’t they stop being so damn undomesticated and be more… lesbian?

And why oh why can’t gays settle down with nice Simon Fanshawe, especially when he’s done so much for them? Surely they could have drawn straws and allocated him somebody? Or maybe set up a rota?

The Trouble With… Gay Men TV polemic presented by Fanshawe recently on BBC3, took ‘gay men’ to task for still ‘behaving like rebellious teenagers’ despite now ‘being accepted as equals by society’ and was one of the funniest programmes I’ve seen in ages. Unfortunately for comedian-turned-busybody Fanshawe, the humour was mostly unintentional.

There’s not really much point in seriously dealing with his argument as there wasn’t one, instead there was just an hour-long Grumpy Old Gay Man Special in which Fanshawe went round London and Brighton’s gay scene feebly tutting and harrumphing at gay men’s vanity, promiscuity, drug-use, and failure to settle down and make curtains – despite all the sterling work people like him and the Stonewall Group have done to make homosexuality respectable and suburban.

At one point, instead of even pretending to offer an argument, Fanshawe merely wandered shiftily around the dodgems on Brighton pier while a lot of headless statistics about gay drug use and STD infection rates were flashed on the screen. Great telly, that.

Even this witless approach might have worked – after all, no one could seriously deny that the gay scene is founded on questionable habits, and even the keenest hedonist tires of his vices from time to time. But only if Fanshawe hadn’t presented it. 

Hilariously, this middle-aged moral mary moaning about muscle marys was the best argument for a life of untrammelled irresponsibility, superficiality and fleshly obsession. I’ll bet that after the programme aired the gay gyms, saunas and back-rooms in London had a major rush on, and crystal-meth dealers were working overtime.

Even I, who recently moved to North Yorkshire in part to get away from urban gayness – and also give it a chance to get away from me – felt the urge to change into something less comfortable and take a taxi all the way to Soho.

More to the point, it became rapidly apparent that this paragon of the community who kept denouncing gay men’s failure to ‘grow up’ was himself suffering from a form of arrested development. Clearly he’d never progressed beyond the point of being the bossy fat girl at school with the clipboard who thought they were God because they’d be put in charge of the school dinner queue.

And what was all that whining about the lack of ‘role models’? Why should gay men have someone to copy? Why should they be so special?  Grow up and do it yourself, like everyone else has to these days.

Now, I’m all in favour of more self-criticism in the gay world, and being beastly to gays is something I’m rather fond of. After all I did edit Anti-Gay back in 1996, the book which gave a bunch of chippy non-heterosexuals the opportunity to take on the sacred orthodoxies of the gay world and gay identity, or at least the gay press, and generally have a good whinge. (And which was, funnily enough, violently denounced by the gay press).

But this programme wasn’t taking on mindless conformity, gay self-censorship, or feelgood propaganda. Instead it seemed to be about one middle-aged middle class man’s exasperation at how gays have let him down by being so, well, gay, and his corresponding desperation to prescribe a one-sized-fits-all homo-counties identity. Fanshawe is only exercised by gay bad habits because he’s so transparently even more desperate for respectability than he is for a boyfriend.

Hence the shameless mugging to camera during his visit to a gay sauna, pretending to be shocked by a sling, or not knowing what ‘watersports’ means. Who were the appalled-of-Tunbridge-Wells looks for? The gay men the programme was ostensibly aimed at? The gay men who apparently spend all their time in saunas like this? Clearly not.

Ironically, the people that Fanshawe was really addressing – straight TV producers looking for a nice respectable gay presenter and ‘role model’ – also know what slings and watersports are, and in fact were probably lying in one being peed on whilst they watched the programme.

Again and again Fanshawe showed himself as someone with an almost endearing naivety as he went around posing as the adult voice of the reality principle. Visiting a Mr Gay UK heat he dismissed the oiled-up contestants as ‘superficial’, ‘pathetically deluded’ and ‘vain’. I wonder if he’s taken a look at young straight men lately. In fact, it was blindingly obvious that the main problem with the gays he was talking to was not that they were vain, but that they had nothing to be vain about – a skinny bunch of munters who would be laughed out of the gym by most straight lads.

And what was Fanshawe’s answer to all this vain, promiscuous, drug taking? An inspirational trip to the feet of ‘role model’ Chief Inspector Brian Paddick, ‘one of the most senior policemen in the country! And he’s gay!’ during which Fanshawe made it embarrassingly clear he’d love nothing more than to be Mrs Paddick and attend the Chief Inspector’s Balls.

Strangely, there was no mention of that troublesome ex who went to the papers to proclaim he and Paddick often took drugs together in the Chief Inspector’s house, and who also claimed that Paddick was a regular visitor to gay saunas (Paddick has denied both these claims).

Then came the chaste climax of this hour-long programme, the summit of everything that Fanshawe says gays should be aiming for and the answer to all the problems he had decried: two chubby inoffensive gays in a country house choosing what chocolate cake they were going to have at their registration reception.

Now, I’m sure they’re nice enough fellas, but if they had known that they were going to be flaunted by Fanshawe as the ultimate role models for gays everywhere, the compulsory ideal for all – not simply one option amongst many – and the wonder cure for all that meaningless sex, drug use and existential angst then maybe they would have had second thoughts about appearing on this programme. Or at least they might have tried to look a bit happier.

The real problem with gay men, even the campest variety, is that they’re men. Men without wombs in their lives to take responsibility for or slow them down – or give life a point. But instead, lots of testosterone and spunk and spare time. It’s this that makes them homo. Why do so many gay men have so much sex and take so many drugs, often – and this is something Fanshawe utterly failed to acknowledge – even when they are in a relationship?

Because they can.

I’m not particularly recommending promiscuity or drugs – and who, frankly, gives a flying fuck whether I do or don’t. But I can tell you in no uncertain terms that neither Simon Fanshawe, nor Brian Paddick, nor gay registrations, nor even really expensive chocolate wedding cake are going to persuade homos to become neutered heterosexuals.

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