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

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Meat the Spornosexual

The second generation of metrosexuals are cumming. And this time it’s hardcore

Dan-Osborne-Spornosexual

by Mark Simpson

What is it about male hipsters and their strange, pallid, highly ambivalent fascination with bodies beefier and sexier than their own? Which means, of course, pretty much everyone?

You may remember last year that last year the Guardian columnist and TV presenter Charlton Brooker had a very messy bowel-evacuating panic attack over the self-sexualisation of the male body exhibited in reality show Geordie Shore.

Now the hipster bible Vice have run a long, passionate – and sometimes quite funny – complaint about today’s sexualised male body by a Brooker wannabe (and lookalikee) titled ‘How sad young douchebags took over modern Britain’.

At least the Vice writer isn’t in total denial. Brooker was so threatened by the brazen male hussies on Geordie Shore and the confusion their pumped, shaved ‘sex doll’ bodies, plucked eyebrows and penises the size of a Sky remote provoked in him that the poor love had to pretend that they didn’t exist outside of reality TV. That they were some kind of science fiction invented to torment and bewilder him and his nerdy body. Perhaps because he’s rather younger than Brooker, Mr Vice on the other hand has actually noticed that these guys really do exist and are in fact pretty much everywhere today, dipped in fake tan and designer tatts and ‘wearing’ plunging ‘heavage’ condom-tight T-s.

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In a media world which largely ignores what’s happened to young men Mr Vice is to be commended that he’s clearly spent a great deal of time studying them. Albeit with a mixture of envy and desire, fear and loathing – and a large side order of self-contradiction and sexual confusion.

He laments that these ‘pumped, primed, terrifyingly sexualised high-street gigolos’ have been imported from America, but uses the execrable imported Americanism ‘douchebag’ to describe them – over and over again. What’s a douchebag? Someone with bigger arms than you, who’s getting more sex than you – and probably earning more than you, despite being considerably less expensively educated than you.

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But by far the most infuriating thing about ‘sad young douchebags’ is that they are so very obviously not sad at all. They and their shameless, slutty bodies are having a whale of a time, thank you very much. They’re far too happy being ‘sad young douchebags’ to sit down and write lengthy, angry rationalising essays about why someone else’s idea of a good time is WRONG. Or read one. Or read anything, in fact. Apart maybe from Men’s Health.

A strong smell of nostalgia emanates from this Vice jeremiad, like a pickled onion burp. The writer laments a lost Eden of masculine certainties and whinges that these young men with their sexualised ‘gym bunny wanker’ bodies have replaced older, more ‘authentic’ English masculine archetypes, ‘the charmer’, ‘the bit of rough’, ‘the sullen thinker’ (which, I wonder, applies to him?) and that as a result:

Nobody wants to be Sean Connery any more. With their buff, waxed bodies and stupid haircuts, the modern British douchebag looks more like a model from an Attitude chatline ad than a potential Bond.

Ah yes, Sean Connery – the former Mr Scotland gym bunny wanker ex chorus boy who wore a wig and fake tan in those glossy, slutty Bond films. Masculinity is never what it used to be. Even back in Ancient Greece everyone was whining that real men went out of fashion with the Trojan War. And what’s so wrong with wanting to look like an Attitude chat line ad, rather than a hired killer?

Oh, that’s right – coz it looks gay.

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All this moaning, along with the writer’s complaints that these buff young men are disappointingly ‘soft’, crap in a fight and don’t have nearly enough scars, reminds me of those gays on Grindr who stipulate in their profile ‘I like my men to be MEN!!’. Or the camp queens who over the years who have solemnly informed me: ‘If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s camp queens!!’ Actually, it reminds me of myself when I was much more hopelessly romantic than I am today, and before I realised real men were really slutty.

There is nothing gayer than the longing for masculine certainties like this. Especially since they never really existed anyway. It’s like believing that the phallus is the real thing and the penis is just a symbol. It’s Quentin Crisp’s Great Dark Man syndrome, but sans the self-awareness, or the archness and the henna.

In fact Mr Vice is so nostalgic – and so young – that he seems to think metrosexuality is something prior to, distinct from and more tasteful than these sexed-up shamelessly slutty male bodies that insist on grabbing his attention, wistfully contrasting how the ‘natural confidence’ of metrosexuality ‘has been replaced by something far more flagrant’. Take it from metrodaddy, today’s flagrantly sexualised male body is merely more metrosexuality. More sexy, more tarty, more porny, more slapped in your face. So stop bitching and suck on it. Metrosexuality has gone hard-core -the ‘sexuality’ part has gone ‘hyper’.

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The metrosexual was born twenty years ago and had to struggle to survive in an untucked ‘no-homo’ 1990s – but the second wave take the revolution he brought about in masculine aesthetics for granted. Steeped in images of male desirability from birth and masturbating furiously to hard-core online porn from puberty, they have totally sexed-up the male body and turbo-charged the male desire to be desired, which was always at the heart of metrosexuality rather than expensive fashion spreads and fastidious lists of ‘dos and don’ts’. Their own bodies rather than clobber and cosmetics have become the ultimate accessory, fashioning them at the gym into a hot commodity. Nakedly metrosexy.

If we need to give this new generation of hyper metrosexuals a name – other than total tarts – we should perhaps dub them spornosexuals. These mostly straight-identified young men are happy to advertise, like an Attitude chat line, their love of the pornolised, sporting-spurting male body – particularly their own. Along with their very generous availability to anyone’s gaze-graze. Especially at premium rates.

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And everyone is calling their number. Though admittedly not many do it via the extremely kinky route of writing long essays denouncing them and explaining why they’re TOTALLY NOT INTERESTED. Hipsters, who of course think themselves above the vulgarity of sexiness, are simply the ironic, anti-sexual wing of metrosexuality – which is to say, absolutely fucking pointless.

It’s the obvious, if often oblivious, visual bi-curiosity of today’s totally tarty, hyper metrosexuality that alarms people even more than its ‘vulgarity’. Male bisexuality is still largely a taboo precisely because it threatens the final, fond, sacred, and highly phallic myth of masculinity: that it has an (heteronormative) ‘aim’ and ‘purpose’. The scattershot sluttiness of spornosexuals signals a very sticky end to that virile delusion.

Mr Vice argues repeatedly that these young men enjoying their bodies and their lack of inhibition compared to their fathers and grandfathers, are having a ‘crisis of masculinity’. This just smacks of more middle class resentment dressed up as ‘concern’ – a pissy, passive aggressive way of calling them ‘sad douchebags’ again. Or ‘gay’. When people talk about a ‘crisis of masculinity’ they’re usually talking about their own – in dealing with the fact that masculinity isn’t what they want it to be. And particularly when working class chaps aren’t what middle class chaps want them to be.

It’s true that our post-industrial landscape often doesn’t know what to do with the male body apart from shag it or sell it, but that’s not necessarily such a terrible contrast with the ‘glorious’ past. For a younger generation of young men no longer afraid of their own bodies there’s no crisis – but rather a liberation. From the dehumanising, sexist constraints of their forefathers. Men’s bodies are no longer simply instrumental things – for fighting wars, extracting coal, building ships, scoring goals, making babies and putting the rubbish out that must renounce pleasure, vanity, sensuality and a really good fingering and leave that to women and pooves.

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Instead the male body has been radically redesigned, with the help of some blueprints from Tom of Finland, as a sensual sex toy designed to give and particularly to receive pleasure. Maybe it’s not terribly heroic, and admittedly some of the tatts are really grotty, but there are much worse things to be. Such as a slut-shaming writer for a hipster magazine.

Of course, I would say that. Because I find these spornosexual, totally tarty young men fuckable. But that’s kind of the point. They desperately want to be found fuckable. It would be extremely rude and ungrateful not to find them fuckable when they have gone to so much trouble doing all those bubble-butt building barbell lunges at the gym for me.

And in fuckable fact, it’s their fuckability which makes the unfuckables hate them so fucking much.

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© Mark Simpson 2014

Mark Simpson’s Metrosexy: A 21st Century Self-Love Story is available on Kindle.

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Totally tarty Dan Osborne gifs from here – h/t DAKrolak

It's a Queer World

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The acclaimed ‘psycho-bio’ of England’s most charming – and alarming – pop star.

Metrosexy

A biography of the metrosexual.

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What’s left of gayness when the homophobia stops?

Male Impersonators

The book that changed the way the world looks at men.

Sex Terror

This book will change the way you think about sex. It may even put you off it altogether.

God Save The Sea Queen

Gibraltar, otherwise known as ‘The Rock’, is the full stop to the sentence of Europe. It has been besieged no less than fourteen times. The Ancients thought it was a pillar holding up the end of the World. In the Middle Ages Jews fled here from the red-hot instruments of the Spanish Inquisition. Aeons ago, the last survivors of the ancestors of Homo sapiens also retreated to this toothy promontory of the Iberian peninsula, lasting a few, increasingly lonely, thousand years more in the dark caves that abound here, before being finally snuffed out by Progress.

Even today, rare and exotic creatures survive here that have long since become extinct elsewhere in Continental Europe. Off one of the narrow, steep, cobbled streets, down some worn steps, there’s a dark cellar bar, that holds out against not only the Twenty First Century but much of the latter half of the Twentieth. This is the domain and refuge of the last of the Sea Queens, Lovely Charlie, landlocked in the last corner of the British Empire.

The brick walls and vaulted ceiling of Charles’ domain are completely covered in battered Royal Navy Ensign flags. All of them have personal messages scrawled across them in Secondary Modern hands: ‘To Lovely Charlie, from the lads on HMS Sheffield – We think you’re magic!’ (dated 1981, the year before it was sunk by an Argentine Exocet in The Falklands); ‘Donkey Nob Was Here – 1979’’; and ‘Royal Marine Commandos do it in boats – 1989’. Signed photos of sunburnt, laughing young men with cans of lager in their hands and their arms around each other’s shoulders cover the wall next to the bar, together with postcards from Hong Kong, Belize, Brunei, Germany and Kuwait.

Tonight however Charles’ Hole in t’Wall bar – the finest bar on the Seven Seas – is completely empty, except for Charles himself, a well-preserved, handsome middle-aged man with glittery ear-studs and immaculate hair, sitting at the bar, and his snoozing big black labrador, heavy eyelids sagging. ‘Well, come in, luv,’ he says, happy to see a face. ‘Sorry it’s so quiet tonight. The Fleet’s out. Mind, it always fookin’ is these days! Are you a matelot? ‘No? What’s that you say? You’re looking for one? Aren’t we all, luv!’ he laughs, and gets me a bottled beer.

‘It was best when the frontier with Spain was closed,’ he reminisces, in his effortlessly camp but strangely butch Gibraltarian English, comically spiked with some coarse, regional Brit expressions he’s obviously picked up from his clientele. ‘When Franco shut the border in 1967 that was the beginning of twenty years of bloody bliss, y’know. When hundreds of sailors have been out at sea for weeks and they dock here, they’re not going to let the fact that there aren’t enough single women on Gib to make a football team stop them having a fookin’ good time, luv!’

‘And they didn’t mind their mates finding out; they’d just say, “I bet you had a fookin’ good time with Charlie gobblin’ yer last night!” and everybody would laugh. Of course, who gobbled whom wasn’t always the way they painted it – but that was something private between me and them. Things aren’t the same now. I still get offers – but they’re much more furtive; they’re afraid that everyone will think they’re gay just because they had a bit of fun with Charles. And then in 1987 they only went and opened the fookin’ frontier, didn’t they? Now most of the lads head off for the bright lights of Marbella. I can’t compete with dolly-birds and disco, can I luv?’

‘But it isn’t about sex,’ explains Charles, sipping a mineral water (he’s teetotal). ‘It’s the company. The camaraderie. It’s my duty to run this bar! I’m a legend in the Royal Navy, y’know. I’ve been to Portsmouth and Plymouth. They treated me like a real Queen. There was nothing they wouldn’t do for me. I was really moved. I was in Edinburgh once, and a lad came up to me and said, “It’s Lovely Charlie, isn’t it!’ He was very sweet. He whispered, “Look, Charles, you can’t wear that much jewellery around here. They won’t understand”.’

‘I’m passed down, father to son. I had an eighteen-year-old sailor come in here last month, his first time. He said: “That door’s new,” pointing to that door over there to the pool-room which I had installed about ten year ago. “How did you know that?” I asked. “Oh,” he said, ‘my dad’s got a picture of him sitting on your knee. It was the year before he met me mam.”

‘They like to tell the newbies that they’re going to sell them to me for a round of drinks, y’know. Of course, that doesn’t happen. I’d never take advantage. But they like to wind up the youngsters. One lad came here with his Dad – the Navy has a Father’s week where they fly fathers who were in the Navy out here to travel home on board ship with their sons. He said: “Well, ‘ere you go Charles, you can ‘ave your wicked way wiv ‘im if you keep the drinks comin’!” I laughed and said, “Well, you’re his dad, so I suppose that makes it legal!” You should have seen the poor boy’s face!’

‘Oh yes, occasionally you get trouble-makers. They come here saying how much they “’ate fookin’ queers”. Everyone goes quiet because they know he’s going to get a tongue lashing from me. I usually say something like, “And I ‘ate fookin’ ugly cunts like you, luv!” Everyone usually pisses themselves laughing. And usually,’ adds Charles, winking, ‘they end up staying the night…’.

‘I can’t go on forever, though y’know. I’m not as young as I used to be. But the matelots, bless ‘em, they don’t notice any of this decay! They always say, “Oh, Charlie, you never change!” and I say to them, “Well, no, but the wattage does!” Charles laughs. ‘Every year a bit less. I started off here with 100W bulbs. Now I’m down to 10W. And tinted!

‘What’s that? Why do the lads love me so? Oh it’s because they know I love them,’ he explains with a shrug. ‘And I’m always here. Unlike barmaids, I don’t regard them as a problem or as a meal-ticket. And, of course,’ he smiles, winking, ‘they do like my outrageous behaviour. They always insist that I wear all my jewellery when they come to visit.’

A few hours and a crate of beer later I’m staggering back to my hotel and can’t help thinking that the reason the sailors treat Charles like a star is simply because they recognise one when they see one. ‘Lovely Charlie’ is, well, lovely. And priceless. When he finally calls last orders, or runs out of wattage, a little but precious piece of British maritime and marytime history will be lost forever.

This piece was originally published back in 2000 (and collected here), but I’m very happy to report that Charles is still going full steam ahead, and so is a recently-refurbished Charles’ Hole-in-the-Wall bar – he’s even upped the wattage! (Castle Street, Gibraltar; opens at 9pm.) 

UPDATE Jan 2015:

After forty years quenching the thirst of the Royal Navy, Charles’ world famous Hole in T’Wall Bar is closing. But Charles’ matelot fans are giving it a jolly Jack tar send-off – and showing Charles how much they luv ‘im. GBC ran a feature on the closure, which includes footage from the bar – and a rather wonderful big framed photo of what looks a lot like Charles in drag (that I somehow seemed to miss during my visit):

 

Bisexual Men Exist! But Does Scientific Sex Research?

Those kinky penile plethysmograph fetishists at Northwestern University just can’t get enough cock.

Dr JM Bailey and his chums have been strapping a fresh batch of penises into their sex-lie detector machines again, showing them porn and feverishly twiddling their knobs. But this time – hold the front page! – their ‘scientific’ findings very kindly allow men who like cock and pussy to actually exist.

Which might not in the real world seem such a major finding – but it represents a major flip flop for this outfit. Six years ago, using the same cranky equipment, they claimed they had demonstrated that male bisexuality didn’t exist. That their data suggested that bisexual men were in fact ‘really’ homosexual.

A ‘finding’ that was trumpeted around the world. Because of course it told people, straight and gay, what they wanted to hear, and what common sense tells them to be the case. Gays have always wanted bisexual men to join ‘their’ team. While straights don’t want the dirty dogs on theirs. However liberal they might be. Especially in the devoutly monosexual USA. ‘Straight, Gay or Lying?’ was the infamous, shameful headline in the New York Times which greeted the 2005 paper from Bailey ‘proving’ male bisexuality doesn’t exist.

Just as all women are ‘really bisexual’, no men really are. Since virility is directly related to a man’s ability to perform compulsory heterosexuality, any man who is aroused by cock can’t be virile. He is, by definition, emasculated. Impotent. A fag. Or ‘gay’ if you’re liberal. No wonder the vast majority of men attracted to other men don’t advertise the fact.

All this despite of course the way hardcore ‘straight’ porn watched by most men when they’re not strapped to a plethysmograph in Northwestern University features pussies AND cock. Usually lots and lots of ENORMOUS cocks – and a sorely-tested pussy or two. By way of contrast, I’d point out that I’ve never seen a single pussy in gay porn. (Except once in the art-house porn of Bruce La Bruce – who was anyway only doing it to wind up The Gays.)

In my own private ‘researches’ I’ve come across – and over – scores of straight/bi-curious/bisexual men who want to re-enact the straight hardcore porn they’ve been watching. With them as the ‘greedy slut’. They tell me they decided that it looked like fun. And besides, they thought they could do a better job. (Probably correctly, since the ‘slut’ fantasy of straight porn is of course a largely male construction.)

But Bailey’s yen to strap penises into sex-lie detectors is much more respectable than my private perving. The jaw-droppingly dreadful recent C4 documentary series The Sex Researchers presented Bailey as some kind of sexual seer, rather than the highly controversial and frankly rather dodgy figure he is. Worse, it gave his favourite sex toy, the penile plethysmograph, a starring role in the first and last episode, presenting a contraption which is probably even less reliable than a non-kinky ordinary lie detector, as a pure, objective and accurate way of measuring and studying sexuality, in contrast to all that subjective tosh and ‘dirty data’ that Kinsey and Freud came out with. By listening to people.

Likewise, the series began and ended with the ludicrous but apparently highly reassuring assertion, based on this objective and scientific research, that most women are bisexual and hardly any men are.

In keeping with this ‘Loaded’ ideology – and it really is an ideology, make no mistake – the entire series on sex research, lavishly illustrated with ‘ironic’ vintage soft porn footage of naked ladies playing with themselves and jiggling their boobies, the penis and the male body was almost completely absent – except when undergoing gruesome ‘corrective surgery’ or being subjected to ‘testing’ in the plethysmograph. We were repeatedly told that female sexuality is ‘complicated’ but men’s sexuality is… mechanical.

The denial of male bisexuality and bi-curiousness has its roots in a sexism that keeps men in their place even more than women.

‘Sex’ for the C4 documentary makers meant (a very particular kind of) ‘female body’. It was as if the documentary had been directed by Benny Hill, but without the laughs. The commercial breaks, featuring tarty half-naked men selling breakfast cereals and moisturiser were much more enlightened and realistic than anything in this series based on an already highly dated heteronormativity (which incidentally is the subject of an official complaint to Channel 4 about its inaccurate and misleading nature by several of the sex researchers interviewed for it).

So why the turnaround by Bailey? Well, it seems the loud and angry protests from bisexual organisations that Bailey’s 2005 findings understandably aroused has taken its toll -– and indeed one bisexual organisation even funded this recent research.

They got the result they wanted, but I fear they’re wasting their money and merely encouraging more bad science. Some of course will hold these findings up as proof that this Heath Robinson kind of bio-mechanical sex research can correct itself. But they would have to be true believers to see it that way. All that has been proven is that measuring penile blood-flow in a laboratory is a highly reductive and highly abnormal measure of male sexuality. Men are not just penises. They are also prostate glands. Perineums. Earlobes. Inner thighs. Brains. Nipples.

It also shows that you get the result you’re looking for. In 2005 Bailey wanted to prove that male bisexuality didn’t exist. In 2011 he didn’t. QED.

Perhaps the worst thing about this new finding is that Bailey et al will now try to turn male bisexuals into a ‘species’ to be studied and dissected. Bisexual men may quickly come to the conclusion that they were much better off when they didn’t exist.

Unless of course they themselves have a bit of a fetish for penile plethysmograph play.

 

The Bizarre World of the Bisexual

(For a longer, much less entertaining, prose version of this see my post ‘Curiouser and Curiouser: The Strange Disappearance of Male Bisexuality’.)

Tip: Dermod Moore

The End of Heterosexuality (As We’ve Known It)

By Mark Simpson

A bullet-pointed column in the NYT by Charles M. Blow examines a sea-change in attitudes towards homosexuality suggested by a recent Gallup poll which found that, for the first time, the percentage of Americans who perceive “gay and lesbian relations” as “morally acceptable” has crossed the symbolically important 50 percent mark.

Also for the first time, and even more significantly, more men than women hold that view. While women’s attitudes have stayed about the same over the past four years, the percentage of men over 50 who consider homosexuality morally acceptable rose by a by an eyebrow-raising 26% -and for those aged 18-49 by an eyepopping 48%.

What on earth has happened in the US since 2006? How did the American male lose his world-famous Christian sphincter-cramp and righteous loathing of sodomy? Have the gays been secretly putting poppers in the locker-room ventilation shaft?

Alas, Gallup doesn’t say.  So Mr Blow does what you do at the NYT when you’re stumped: ask some academics.  They came up with three theories:

    1. As more gay people come out more straight people get to personally know gay people which makes it more difficult to discriminate.
    2. Men may be becoming more ‘egalitarian’ in general, partly thanks to feminism.
    3. “Virulent homophobes are increasingly being exposed for engaging in homosexuality”.

Now, the first two of these theories seem to me fairly plausible explanations for increased acceptance of homosexuality at any time, but not especially in the last few years – let alone that whopping 48% rise for 18-49 year olds. But the third theory about public homophobes being exposed as secretly gay perhaps goes too far in the opposite direction and is too current-news specific. As if the discovery that famous homophobe George Rekkers hired a rent boy to give him ‘special’ massages could transform attitudes towards man-love overnight – rather than just change attitudes towards George Rekkers.

So I give them all just a C minus.

And, as Blow points out, none of these theories address the main finding – that men now are more accepting than women, reversing the gender split on this subject that has held since pollsters started bugging people with questions about ‘homosexual relations’.

In my own speculative opinion, none of these theories can see the rainforest for the trees. Of course young men in the US are much more accepting of homosexuality – because so many of them are now way gay themselves. It’s not really an issue of ‘tolerance’ or ‘acceptance’ of ‘otherness’ at all. It’s about self-interest – quite literally. About men being less down on the gays because they’re less hard on themselves now – in fact, rather sweet on themselves instead.

It’s about men in general not being so quick to renounce and condemn their own ‘unmanly’ desires or narcissism – or project it into ‘faggots’.

Which from the point of view of today’s sensually greedy male would be a terrible waste of a prostate gland. Probably most young men are now doing pretty much everything that freaky gay men were once abhorred for doing – from anal play (both ways) to no-strings fuck-buddies, to crying over Glee, and using buff-puffs in the shower while demanding as their male birthright ‘comfortable skin’ (as the recent massive ad campaign for Dove for Men puts it).

And the timing fits almost as snugly as a finger or three where the sun don’t shine. It was after all only in 2003 that the Supreme Court finally struck down the anti sodomy laws still on the statute books of some US states as unconstitutional. It was also in the early Noughties that metrosexuality really took off in the US.

Despite a mid-Noughties anti-metro, anti-gay marriage backlash that helped re-elect Bush, in the Tweenies the male desire to be desired, and his eagerness to use product – and body parts and practises – once deemed ‘gay’ or ‘feminine’ or just ‘wrong’ to achieve this, seems to have become pretty much accepted amongst most American males under 45. It’s consumerism and advertising of course not the gays that has been putting the poppers in the men’s locker room.

Along the way, many young men have twigged that in a post-feminist world of commodified bodies and online tartiness there is decidedly no advantage to them any more in an essentially Victorian sexual division of labour in the bedroom and bathroom that insists only women are looked at and men do the looking, that women are always passive and men are always active – or in the homophobia that was used to enforce it. Men now want it all.  Both ends.

And perhaps American women aren’t keeping up with men’s changing attitudes because some are realising how ‘gay’ their boyfriends and husbands are already and wondering where this is all leading.

There’s plenty to wonder about.  After all, it’s the end of the road for that holiest American institution of all: Heterosexuality. Not cross-sex attraction, of course, or reproduction – but that system of compulsory, full-time, always-asserted straightness for men which straying from momentarily, or even just failing to show sufficient respect towards in the past could cost you your cojones. What, you a FAG??

If metrosexuality is based on vanity, retrosexuality, it needs to be pointed out, was based partly on self-loathing. ‘Real men’ were supposed to be repulsed by their own bodies at least as much as they were repulsed by other men’s. (If they were really lucky they might get away with passionate indifference.)

After a decade or so of metrosexuality a tipping point seems to have been reached. Men’s self-loving bi-sensuality and appreciation of male beauty, awakened and increasingly normalised by our mediated world, seems to be here to stay. Even in the God-fearing USA. And might now, if it’s in the mood and treated right, choose to be consummated rather than just deflected into consumerism again.

When I first wrote about how the future of men was metrosexual, back in 1994, it was clear to me that metrosexuality was to some degree the flipside of the then emerging fashion for female bi-curiousness. I didn’t talk about this much at the time because I knew no one would listen if I did.  (I needn’t have worried – they didn’t anyway.)

In this regard, one of the academics in the NYT piece was (finally) quoted as saying something interesting, right at the end:

‘Professor Savin-Williams says that his current research reveals that the fastest-growing group along the sexuality continuum are men who self-identify as “mostly straight” as opposed to labels like “straight,” “gay” or “bisexual.”  They acknowledge some level of attraction to other men even as they say that they probably wouldn’t act on it, but … the right guy, the right day, a few beers and who knows. As the professor points out, you would never have heard that in years past.’

An A ++ to Dr Savin-Williams. Not so long ago, when Heterosexuality was a proper belief system that commanded round-the-clock obeisance, ‘mostly straight’ would have been a heretical contradiction in terms – like half pregnant. But in this Brave New World of male neediness it’s just a statement of where we’re at.

For today’s young men the fear of faggotry is fast being replaced by the fear of missing out.

Tip: Dermod Moore

MM4W – No Dudes! Not Gay!! We Don’t Touch Each Other!!!

Some amusing – and possibly disturbing – MM4W Craiglist personal ads spotted on the rather fascinating NattySoltesz.com (not entirely office safe).

My personal favourite is the one headlined: ‘Probably the 2 Best Looking Men You’ll Find On Here‘, which insists:

‘No trannies, no dudes, none of that creepy stuff — we’re straight!’

The pictures attached of the two buffed, preening male tarts are indeed a testament to where straight men are at these days. The state of straight.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with some buddies wanting to re-enacct the gang-bang, several-outsized-penises-pester-one-pussy porn that is so popular with straight men these days.  And if they’re buffed — even better. It doesn’t mean they’re gay. It doesn’t even mean that they’re particularly bisexual. It just means that, like most men, they’re rather keen on cocks.

But the hysterical lengths men still feel they have to go to to refute any of ‘that creepy stuff’ — even as they spit-roast or DP an obliging lady together, admiring each other’s sweating, flexing muscles and perhaps enjoying the sensation of their buddy’s erect penis hammering away on the other side of the pelvic area — or perhaps in the same orifice — is a bit sad. If understandable. Because of course, if you’re male and ‘touch one another’, even just once, then you are GAY!!!!! Forever. Whereas if you’re female and touch one another you’re… HOT!!!!!

The slightly, how shall I put it, impenetrable French Freudian feminist Luce Irigary (impenetrable even by the standards of French feminism) wrote back in the 1980s about the ‘masculine homosexual economy’ (of heterosexuals) in which women are merely objects and tokens to be exchanged between men — men in patriarchical systems being supposedly far more interested in other men than in women.

In the 21st Century we have moved on from that, of course. Now men appear to be using women as double-ended Fleshlites.

Banana-Curious: Why Men Throat Curved Fruit on YouTube

Male bi-curiousness may not be as ‘cool’ as The Daily Beast thinks, but banana-curiousity is clearly all the rage.

There has been a bit of a vogue for young men videoing themselves greedily downloading curved phallic fruit and uploading the sometimes messy, sometimes awe-inspiring results to YouTube. I’ve collected a few examples which may put you off your packed lunch. Or make you want to get to know it a whole lot better.

Because it’s a fruit that looks like a penis and is not an actual penis, fruit fellatio is something you can perform for your helplessly sniggering male buddies on buses, in barracks and canteens and post on YouTube for the world to see without age restrictions or, apparently, any embarrassment.

Nor does it tell us anything about your sexuality – save that you’re probably ridiculously heterosexual. Though it may suggest that, like most straight men nowadays, you spend rather a lot of time masturbating furiously over porn featuring gargantuan penises while wondering – just before you shoot all over the monitor again – whether or not you could do a better job of swallowing it than the lady porn star ‘slut’.

It’s a shame that male bi-curiousness couldn’t be treated the way banana-curiousness is by most people: just an eye-watering laugh that doesn’t mean anything, still less revealing some ‘inner truth’ about who or what you really are – or aren’t.  In other words, a bit like female bi-curiousness.

In fact, let’s just scrub the word ‘bi-curious’ for men, since it is apparently such a charged term, and replace it with ‘banana-curious’. Banana-curious guys could discretely flag up their interest to other banana-curious males by including a picture of them eating a banana on their online profiles.

Sadly though, such is the stigma still attached to men’s interest in other men and their bits that even banana-curiousness will sometimes get you flamed as… FAGGOT!!!!!  And even lads who like to throat twelve-inch ‘cock bananas’ on camera will fall over to prove themselves fag-haters because that of course proves their heterosexuality.

There’s a furious exchange on YouTube between the young chap above, who manfully attempts what he describes as ‘a cock banana’ (of Holmesian proportions that would have me hiding under the bed, quaking like a wet chihuahua) and a clearly envious if somewhat conflicted commenter who starts off by screaming:

‘GAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY !!!!!!!! ‘

The banana-throater responds wittily:

‘your the gay one fuck head ‘

Which leads inevitably to the riposte:

‘your gay for makin’ this video ‘

Fascinating epistemological question, that. Who is gayer? The uptight straight boy throating a twelve inch ‘cock banana’ on YouTube or the straight boy watching it and working himself into a homophobic froth about it?

‘your the faggot who searched for it ,if you like men youtube aint the place’

‘you’re gay for makin’ the video for us to search for,and I never searched for it. It came up when I was lookingh for something of a completely different category.’

Yes! That’s exactly how I came across this clip too!

Maybe it’s just me, but whenever I come across this kind of exchange between young males it always seems clear as day that such passionate denunciations of one another as ‘faggots’ is only possible – in fact only makes any kind of sense – if ‘faggot’ thoughts are extremely common amongst young males and they are forever fretting that they’ll be found out.

The banana-throater’s girlfriend makes a somewhat convenient appearance to prove he’s not gay – which of course in itself proves he couldn’t possibly be interested in penises – and to shoo away the gays that are circling around her talented boyfriend in language suspiciously similar to that used by him:

‘sorry gay boy its only a banana if you want to see cock why dont you go buy a poofs magazine’

Mind you, dear, as one of the posters points out, your boyfriend did title his charming video ‘cock banana’, so you can hardly blame the gay boy poofs can you? Your boyfriend, like you, does appear to have ‘issues’.

Here’s the banana-cock-throating boy’s own response to another poster’s offer to let him try out his skills on the real thing:

‘no thanks gay boy, women are suppose to do that kind of thing. its adam and eve not adam and steve.’

Whereas deep-throating bananas is of course entirely natural and normal and as God intended.

But the really important, urgent question, er, ‘thrown up’ by these clips is of course: who has the best technique? No.2 looks to have the most capacious throat, but I’m tickled by No.5’s enthusiasm, while No.6 has a very cheeky finish. Please post your reviews….

And to all you banana-curious lads out there wondering how to suppress that tricky gag-reflex: try taking a deep breath before swallowing. Poppers, relaxing music and a hand around the back of the head helps too.

Health and Safety Notice: if you really are going to try this at home I should probably point out that an actual penis or proper plastic dildo is probably less dangerous down your throat than a banana as they’re both somewhat less likely to break in two and choke you to death.

3.

“I hurt my throat!” (Yeah, right.)

4.

“It’s a big dick!” Not really, dear….

5.

Lots of eye-contact here.

6.

A cheeky finish.

 

UPDATE 1/4/12

A few years on and it seems one or two of the banana-throaters posted above have become a tad shy about their talents and pulled their clips. So I had a quick look on YouTube and found a new banana star – a cute blond jarhead who deep throats curved fruit in the barracks for a dollar. “Will you go out with me?” jokes his clearly impressed bunk buddy.

Meanwhile someone has kindly collected a ‘bunch’ of YouTube banana-throating vids and spliced them together:

 

Bisexuals Musto Be Gay

Michael Musto, a very gay man, had this to say in The Village Voice recently about those perfidious, untrustworthy bisexuals:

Everyone always says they’re bisexual, blabbing on and on about how “sexuality is fluid, and I don’t really like labels”–but usually I find these are just gay men who are afraid to come out. I know there are real bisexuals out there–mainly because I’ve heard that there are–and I do think it’s a lovely idea to actually crave sex with people regardless of gender. I’m just wondering how real a phenomenon this is, as opposed to a smoke-and-mirrors coverup designed to keep antsy gays in the closet.

‘Most of the guys I know who say they’re bisexual end up doing Bette Davis impersonations after a few drinks, and when you invite them to an all-girl bar, they get excited, thinking you mean Splash. But do you know anyone who REALLY is equally attracted to both men and women and effortlessly glides between those two dating pools without a second’s thought or self-consciousness? If so, do you ever suspect they’re full of shit?

Musto was perhaps being deliberately crass, but he should probably be thanked for voicing what many gay men think about bisexual men (and note that he starts talking about ‘bisexuality’ but it quickly becomes clear that, like me, he’s only interested in bisexual men).

Stripped down and lubed up, here’s what Musto was really saying about those flakey bi guys:

  1. They’re lying
  2. They really want to be Michael Musto
  3. Real bisexuality is about ‘craving’ men and women because bisexuals are greedy
  4. If they’re not greedy and equally attracted to both men and women – and of course Musto gets to decide whether they are or not – then we’re back to where we came in – 1.

Funny how many gay men appear to want to exterminate male bisexuality as a category even though they often find the idea of bisexual men a big turn on. Each man kills the thing he loves….

Of course, for some men declaring themselves ‘bi’ is a way of edging out of heterosexuality into full-time all-singing, all-dancing homosexuality and evenings out with Michael Musto. But that’s not why gay men are often so hostile to male bisexuality. The real reason is that, like most straight people, they want every man who touches another man’s pee-pee to have to join the gay team. They want to own mansex. And they want all those who have mansex to be just like them.

Sorry, but I’m going to quote myself again, this time from three years ago when the NYT ran a much worse article than Musto’s musings called ‘Gay, Straight Or Lying?’:

Fear and loathing of male bisexuality is something that tends to bring heterosexuals and homosexuals together. Instead of pondering the possibility that public attitudes towards male bisexuality are a truer, less censored indication of what many people actually feel about male homosexuality in general and its enforced incompatibility with masculinity, gay men too often rush to condemn bisexual men and reassure heterosexuals: Don’t worry! You’re not being homophobic when mouthing off about bisexual men! Coz we hate them too!!

Male Bisexuality: Is it Cool?

Rachel Kramer Bussel at The Daily Beast thinks that male bisexuality has become ‘cool’.

‘…whereas bisexual women had their fling with pop culture in the 1990s-when everyone from Drew Barrymore to Madonna messed around with women, not to mention the famous Vanity Fair cover showing Cindy Crawford shaving k.d. lang-“bromances” are now the driving force behind Hollywood comedies and Style section features, as men find more ways to play for both teams, or at least act like they do.

Examples are everywhere. In John Hamburg’s recent movie, I Love You, Man, the gay guy who unwittingly goes on a date with Paul Rudd isn’t just played for laughs, but to some degree, sympathy. This summer will also see Lynn Shelton’s buzzed-about Humpday, in which two straight male friends decide to make a homemade porn video. And Brody Jenner’s reality show Bromance blurs the line separating friendship and attraction in what Videogum’s Gabe Delahaye calls “basically the gayest thing ever, made more gay by everyone’s desperate attempts to provide chest-bumping proof of their heterosexuality.”‘

For my part however, I’m not entirely convinced that male bisexuality has become ‘cool’, not least because most of the bisexual guys I meet are still terrified anyone will find out – and I still can’t name off the top of my head a single out male bisexual celeb in the UK (aside from my friend the novelist Jake Arnott – but as a self-described ‘gay bisexual’ he is rather exceptional).

Whereas almost any female star under the age of 40 has to pretend to be bi-crazed or else risk that Nuts/FHM cover.

And the recent trend for ‘bromance,’ far from proving the hipness of male swinging is, as the name suggests, almost defined by its incest-taboo-driven need to purge the male love affair of the possibility of anything physical, any trace of erotics whatsoever – to a degree which male buddy flicks in the past didn’t, and in fact often went out of their way to suggest: e.g. Top Gun, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Thunder & Lightfoot, Midnight Cowboy.

By contrast these modern buddy flicks make me think ‘bromance’ is just another word for ‘bromide‘. Or lesbian bed-death for straight men without the honeymoon. (The arthouse movie Humpday seems to be another story – and precisely because it is another story, it is highly unlikely to be a hit.)

But we are certainly living in interesting times, and the culture is slowly – and frantically – trying to negotiate, however ineptly, however deceptively, the thing staring them in the face like the outsize erections in the mandingo gang-bang porn so popular with straight guys these days: male bi-responsiveness is probably very common, rather than the deviant, bizarre, incredulous exception. (It certainly was at my boarding school.)

The metrosexual is also, of course, part of this journey – and also sometimes perhaps part of the attempt to deflect it.

But there’s a long, long way to go before male bisexuality is even approaching the same level of acceptability let alone coolness as female bisexuality. A recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality found that the famous ‘sexual double standard’ has now reversed polarity and shifted in the direction of inhibiting men’s sexual adventurousness while encouraging women’s. According to The National Post men are:

‘…more limited by what is considered taboo in the bedroom; hit by a new double standard that expects men to be highly sexual, and yet expects them to be less experimental – while the opposite is true for women.

The study, published in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, found that society accords men less “sexual latitude” than women, deeming it abnormal for a man to be disinterested in sex, to engage in homosexual fantasy, and to engage in submissive sexual acts.

“The double standard used to give men more sexual freedom than women, but these findings indicate that the dynamic is changing” said Alex McKay, research coordinator for the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada. “Men are forced to abide by a certain gender role, while women are today more free to be themselves. In this sense, the standard actually works against the man.”‘

I came to the same conclusion three years ago in a piece posted on here called ‘Curiouser and Curiouser‘ – based on my own very private ‘research’:

‘That women are being encouraged to talk about their bisexuality as an enhancement of their femininity and sexuality is rather marvellous – but it also heightens the double standard about male bisexuality, one as pronounced than the double standard about promiscuity used to be (men were ‘studs’ and women were ‘slags’), and makes it more inevitable that male bisexuality – by which I simply mean ‘straight’ male sexuality that doesn’t fit into heterosexuality, and boy, there’s a lot of that – will have to be addressed candidly sooner or later.

The tidy-minded inhibitions which keep male bi-curiousness under wraps are still powerful, but have largely lost their social value, their attachment to anything real; they are mostly remnants from a Judeo-Christian (re)productive, world that doesn’t exist any more, except perhaps in Utah, every other Sunday…. When enough young men realise this – or maybe just the desperate preposterousness of the prejudice and ‘science’ deployed against male bi-curiousness – the change in attitudes will occur very quickly and dramatically indeed.’

As the Canadian report suggests – and Canada is about as liberal and relaxed a country as you could conceive – that day is not yet here. However, the fact that such a study exists at all is perhaps a sign that that it’s coming closer.

Either way, more research is needed. And I need a grant to conduct some more ‘interviews’….

Bummed Up The Arse & Overheard At Dinner

dinner

The world of straight trade may have long since disappeared from the streets of London but if you still hanker after that lost economy of boisterousness, straight nightclub toilets might be a fruitful place to loiter. Preferably with a line or two of coke (Colombia’s own version of the Gay Bomb).

Though you might have to be Arthur rather than Martha when it comes to doing the dirty. At least judging by this story related by Mike a mutual friend of Dermod who insisted he passed this anecdote on to me on the grounds that it was ‘such a Mark Simpson story’.

Mike was recently having dinner with a special chum at cheap Thai restaurant in London. They were trying manfully to mind their own homo business. This was a little difficult to do since at the – indecently close – table next to them a beefy blond Cockney wide-boy and a huge fit Nigerian began having an argument about some business deal that had gone tits up.

Things become somewhat heated and they start slagging off, as you do, each other’s birds, for several minutes.

Provoked beyond endurance, Beefy Cockney finally blurts out, ‘Well, at least I don’t get BUMMED UP THE FUCKIN’ ARSE IN CLUB TOILETS!!’

Outraged, Huge Nigerian hotly denies this terrible slur for ten whole minutes. Before finally conceding, under his breath, ‘Ok, Ok, it was just the once though, and you know I was off my head.’

‘Besides,’ he adds, ‘it’s not like you never done it yourself!’

‘THAT’S A FUCKIN’ LIE AN’ YOU KNOW IT!’ retorts Beefy Cockney, really angry now.

Five minutes later they had both conceded that they’d been done up the arse regularly.

Finally, Beefy Cockney turns to Mike (who has been pretending for the past twenty minutes not to be hanging on every word of this exchange) and asks, straight-faced: ‘Mate, can you settle somefink for us? If you saw both ov us walking down the street, which one would you say looked a bit bent?’

‘Hmm… I think it would be hard to tell,’ Mike replies, in all honesty. Then he turns the question around: ‘Do you think I look a bit bent?’

‘Nah,’ replies Beefy Cockney. ‘But your mate does.’

Trading in the past: Queer London

Once upon a time the streets of the capital heaved with jolly sailors and guardsmen looking for gentlemen to have fun with. Then gay liberation came along and ruined it for everyone, complains Mark Simpson

(Independent on Sunday – 11 September, 2005)

I consider myself something of a traditionalist. I enjoy traditional activities, such as cruising the Dilly, picking up guardsmen, sailors, dockers and young working men.

I am, in other words, a hopeless romantic. For ‘trade’, the masculine erotic economy which girded the loins of the greatest city in the world, lubricated the pistons of the greatest Empire and made saucy sense of the British class system is gone forever. The docks have gone, the sailors and guardsmen are all but gone – and, criminally, don’t wear their uniforms on the street any more, making them very difficult to spot. And as for the working men, well, they all live so far out of town these days and drive so fast in their white vans that it’s almost impossible to collar any.

All that’s left is a gay disco in the East End called, mockingly, ‘Trade’, where you can find shirtless gay lawyers on horse-tranquilizers eyeing one another up while dancing frantically at 5am. If you really want to.

Gone too are the painted queans, such as Quentin Crisp, and the respectable gentlemen in evening dress who pursued trade – trade who, for sex, for violence, for love, for money, for a few beers, for something to tell their mates about, frequently allowed themselves to be caught. Gone are the jostling, smoke-filled “known” (not “gay”) pubs. Gone is the whole vibrant and complex pre-gay bachelor world of male-male intimate relations that meant that perhaps most sexual activity between men before the 1967 decriminalisation involved men who were not queer. What we now call “homosexuality” or “the gay scene” was a much, much bigger business before so-called liberalisation.

Contrary to received wisdom, today’s out-and-proud gay world is in some ways a marginalised, airless, incestuous one compared to what went before in the “bad old days”. It’s only in the last 30 years or so, in other words, the period corresponding to the rise of “gay liberation”, that we have begun to believe that to have sex with another male you have to belong to a separate species; that, regardless of your interest in the ladies, if you wake up in bed with another male you have to move to Old Compton Street or the Castro, pronto.

As Houlbrook’s Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis 1918-1957 makes remarkably clear, just a few decades ago, significant numbers of (working-class) young men were not only moving freely between male and female partners but were happy to brag about it. So long as they were “butch” and active – or claimed they were – it would merely enhance their reputation with the lads. It certainly didn’t mean that they were “confused about their sexuality”.

Though you, dear reader, may be about theirs. It is, after all, a world that is almost unintelligible to us today. Even my nostalgia for “traditional” activities is precisely that: nostalgia. A slightly perverse, contemporary projection on to the past – a past that is now too “queer” and unfamiliar to grasp fully, possibly even by those who are still alive to remember it. As Houlbrook puts it: “Working class encounters with the queer transcended contemporary understandings of ‘homosexuality’ or ‘homophobia’. Intimacy, sex, blackmail, theft, and assault constituted a continuum…” A rather more exciting continuum than most homos today can handle – or would want to.

Perhaps this is why many gays today simply refuse to believe such a world existed, except as some failed prototype for the wonderful, self-contained, self-centred gay world they now live in: “God, all those sad, oppressed, self-hating homos chasing after straight men – why didn’t they get themselves down to the gym and buy some camouflage trousers?”

Thankfully, Houlbrook isn’t one of those gays. He’s a historian. “The world mapped out in this book is not a ‘gay’ world as we would currently understand it,” he writes. “The places are different. Soho has retained its importance, but today it seems almost impossible that Waterloo Road or Edgware Road could have been the site of equally important, diverse, extensive, and vital queer enclaves between the wars.” Edgware Road was the site of a large barracks; Waterloo Road the home of the Union Jack Club, a hotel for hundreds of randy young sailors on leave. As one contemporary put it: “The Waterloo Road was awash with seamen, most of whose bodies… were not only able but willing.”

Queer London, with chapters on “Geographies of Public Sex” and “Piccadilly Palare: the world of the West End poof” (spot the Moz reference) goes out of its way to present a map of London’s queer past that doesn’t merely see it as a world that was struggling to turn into Soho during Pride Week: “In exploring the history of queer London in the first half of the 20th century, we should lament possibilities long lost as we celebrate opportunities newly acquired.”

Obviously, it is the lost possibility of sex – and loving relationships – with sailors, soldiers and young working men men that I most lament. So does Houlbrook; or, at least, he sees this as the crucial difference between London’s contemporary gay world and its queer past. Unlike many other recent urban gay histories, this book gives equal attention to those who considered themselves “normal” but nonetheless socialised with, had sex with, and often loved other men. In other words: trade. The men who were at the very centre of the queer erotic economy and without whom Saturday nights in 1930s Soho would have been very dull indeed.

So we learn that “the most distinctive venues” were either military pick-up joints like the Grenadier (Wilton Place), Tattershalls Tavern (Knightsbridge Green), the Alexandra Hotel (Hyde Park Corner), and the Packenham and Swan (I’ll be visiting them all very soon, just to make sure they’re no longer “in business”); or those in working-class neighbourhoods in east and south London: dockside pubs like the Prospect of Whitby (Wapping Stairs), or Charlie Brown’s (West India Dock Road). In these venues, dock labourers, sailors from across the world, and families “mingled freely with flamboyant local queans and slumming gentlemen in a protean milieu where queer men and casual homosexual encounters were an accepted part of everyday life”. Perhaps Houlbrook is a little nostalgic too, after all.

To regard London’s trading scene as merely “prostitution” or “exploitation”, as many are inclined, is again to impose modern, patronising values on transactions: “Working men’s desires were more complex than the term ‘prostitution’ allows.” Money was not always exchanged (especially with sailors), but even when it was, most of the “normal” men trading themselves had jobs. For the most part, trade was an enjoyable and rewarding past-time activity that could also become a lasting emotional attachment.

Guardsman were notoriously rough renters (very capable of blackmail and violence, which was perhaps part of their appeal), but as one interviewed in 1960 admitted: “Some of us get quite fond of the blokes we see regularly… they’re nice fellows… and interesting to listen to. As for the sex… some of the younger ones aren’t bad looking…”

Or like the newly married Jim writing rather sweetly to his gentleman friend, John Lehmann: “I wish I was still seeing you Jack as you were the best friend I ever had… you were always such a good friend to me we had good times together Jack and I hope I shall see you some time.” Trade was a young man’s game, which usually lasted only for the period between adolescence and marriage. Once married, working-class men and their unruly erections would “move on”.

Why did the world of trade end? In part, because, like Jim, it got married. The post-war years saw a rise in prosperity which not only undermined the economic rationale for trade, it also made marriage possible much sooner. Rather than getting married in their late twenties and early thirties, young men were marrying in their late teens and early twenties. The rough and tumble world of “raucous male homosociality” was disappearing. Young men were socialising much more with women, who were now entering public life with money to spend themselves (and today, if the tabloid stories are to be believed, are lining up to be smuggled into Knightsbridge Barracks). Trade ended because the bachelor-culture of pre-war London ended.

Ironically, the final blow to trade and the public world of queer sex was delivered by Wolfenden Report of 1957 and the Act which decriminalised sex between consenting adult males in private 10 years later.

Key Wolfenden witnesses, Patrick Trevor-Roper (a Harley Street consultant) and Peter Wildeblood (diplomatic correspondent for The Daily Mail) pleaded for homosexual respectability in the language of the private middle-class home (sounding uncannily like gay marriage lobbyists today). Wildeblood claimed: “I seek only to apply to my life the rules which govern the lives of all good men; freedom to choose a partner and… to live with him discreetly and faithfully… the right to choose the person whom I love.”

However, as Houlbrook points out, both witnesses glossed over the queer spaces in which they were going to meet that partner. Wildeblood famously met the airman McNally in a Piccadilly Circus subway; Trevor-Roper was cautioned by a policeman in St James’s Park, a veritable bazaar for strapping Guardsman during the war.

To which I might add that for Wolfenden the “real perverts” were not the “congenital inverts”, but the “otherwise normal men” who took part in these aberrant activities, often in public. This is why prosecutions for indecency actually doubled in the 10 years following “decriminalisation” in 1967 (many of those convicted were married). Wolfenden, which was also a report into street prostitution, encouraged the law to go after the “real perverts”. All male sexual contact involving those under 21, those staying in hostels or hotels, rooming houses or prison, meeting in parks and public toilets (they were not “in private”), or while serving in the Armed Forces and Merchant Navy, remained illegal. In other words, probably the vast majority of homosex in the earlier part of the 20th century.

Even the consensual activities that led to the Montagu Scandal and public backlash which prompted the Wolfenden Report and eventually the 1967 reform itself would still have been illicit after ‘decriminalisation’ as they involved members of the RAF and were not conducted ‘in private’ – and would remain so for much of the next 40 years.

It’s probably just more sour grapes on my part, but it’s tempting to conclude that the law reforms of the last few years, such as the equalisation of the age of consent, ending the ban in the Armed Forces and Merchant Navy, and relaxation of the laws on ‘soliciting’ and “indecency” in public, happened not so much because of the tireless campaigns by gay equality reformers, or even the intervention of the European Court of Human Rights, but simply because, one or two cruisey parks aside, most “traditional activities” in London had already come to an end.

Copyright Mark Simpson 2007

Sexual Outlaws: ‘Gay For Pay’ Paratroopers

newactivedutytrim.jpgThis month’s Details magazine carries a letter (which Details strangely neglected to show to me) by veteran gay writer John Rechy, author of the cult 60s hustler novels ‘City of Night’ and ‘Numbers’, and the 70s plea for homo tolerance ‘The Sexual Outlaw’ (books I enjoyed as teenager in the 80s). He takes issue with my recent story on the gay porn scandal involving the 82nd Airborne.

After agreeing that it was wrong for the young enlisted paratroopers to be punished so severely by the mighty US Army for what they did in their own time and with their own bodies – literally out of uniform – he gets to the main business of his letter:

‘…Simpson is entirely naive when he upholds the absurdity that “straight” men who perform – for pay or otherwise – consensual gay sex are still straight, despite being aroused to the point of orgasm. This is strictly a lure by the cunning operators of these sites to their gullible clients who want to believe the fantasy. Those seven paratroopers should not have been prosecuted, but they should not claim to be “straight” either. By doing so, they compound the dishonesty of the whole situation.’

In other words, they shouldn’t be punished for appearing in a gay video – but they deserve to be horsewhipped in the letters pages for their ‘dishonesty’.

I’m grateful to Rechy for clarifying matters. For years I’ve laboured under the naive and absurd delusion that I was homo because I preferred males. Now I realise my dishonesty: how can I be homo? I’ve had sex with women! ‘To the point of orgasm’! And I wasn’t filmed. Or even paid.

It is perhaps too easy to make fun of his argument. Lots of people have difficulty today accepting the idea that when two males have sex with another this does not necessarily mean that, before the spilled semen has even had time to cool, they have to book their own float at Pride. Once upon a Kinseyian time, probably most male-on-male sex involved men who were otherwise heterosexual. In the 1940s Dr Sex famously found that 37% of his interviewees admitted to sex ‘to orgasm’ with other males. (Though he was of course attacked for this finding by those who claimed he was entirely naive and hadn’t interviewed enough ‘normal’ men.)

As recently as the 1960s, a panicked British Navy called off an investigation into homosexuality on Her Majesty’s ships because it was found that at least ‘50% of the fleet have sinned homosexually.’ Understandably, the authorities hastily decided they would rather have a fleet than kick out every man who had ever engaged in spot of sodomy, with or without the lash.

Though some gays seem unwilling to be as pragmatic or tolerant as the 1960s Royal Navy. They seem, like Rechy, to want to press-gang any man who touches another man’s penis into the gay identity. Or, as a fall-back position: ‘bisexual’ – in the sense of ‘nearly-gay’.

Obviously a proportion of ActiveDuty models must be gay or bisexual. After all, I appeared in an ActiveDuty video – and in fact not all of them are presented as straight. And of course a certain amount of scepticism is understandable, advisable even. As I reported, Mr Active Duty himself told me that he thought that quite a few of his models were probably ‘bi-curious’, and that ironically, appearing in his videos for cash was for them a ‘safe’ way of exploring this.

But what is remarkable is just how religiously certain Rechy et al are that these chaps can’t be straight. None of them.

My sense however, as someone who has actually met some of them – and er, performed with them – is that many of them are probably otherwise heterosexual. I can’t of course prove this, and perhaps it really is my gullible fantasy – but then neither can Rechy prove they’re not. And the onus of proof is with the prosecution. Besides, if you really do think that having sex with another male means you de facto can’t be straight, then you are effectively saying that any and all male-on-male sex automatically consigns you into a separate, abnormal species of male.

Alas, male-on-male sex is not some magical, irresistible ju-ju that robs hetero men of their preference for pussy should they ever experience it. Even when it’s me they have sex with (I like to think my dick is magical, but nonetheless…). For quite a few straight men, especially those who aren’t schooled in bourgeois niceties, like the country boys who become paratroopers, ‘cock fun’ is much less of a deal than it is for many gays. It’s just a naughty giggle. Or a quick way of earning some cash. Something Rechy should know from his hustler novels – though as I recall they were usually about hustlers who thought they were straight but eventually realised that they were actually John Rechy.

I suspect that part of the reason so many homos want to see straight guys having sex with one another – and will pay good money for it – is the paradoxical appeal of seeing innocence ‘corrupted’, and corruption rendered ‘innocent’. Straight gay porn, when it’s done right, looks like a fulfilment of the fantasy of much of gay porn: a carefree, smiling, laughing, rascalish discovery of masculine erotic pleasure – free of shame and pride, free in fact of ‘sexuality’. Tom of Finland drawings, pre 1970s, brought to life. Ironically, straight guys are sometimes better able to embody the gay ideal than gays.

Speculation aside, the ‘bottom’, slightly counter-intuitive line here is that the fact that someone appeared in a gay porn video, even with an outsized membrum virile in one or both of his orifices, doesn’t tell you what his sexual preference is. All it tells you is that he appeared in a gay porn video. And perhaps that he can take it like a trooper.

As one of the paratrooper models replied when confronted, post-scandal, by a shell-shocked Fayetteville waitress who’d recognised him on the ActiveDuty site demanding to know how he could have done such a thing:

‘It was no big deal,’ he replied laconically. ‘And besides, I got paid.’

A perfect response to the military, to offended/confused straights and gays alike. And to explanations in general. Foucault would have approved – even if it does somewhat undermine the need for three volumes of ‘A History of Sexuality’.


Salon vs Details: James Collard of The London Times speaks to Salon.com editor Kerry Lauerman about his decision to spike Simpson’s original piece because it was deemed ‘too risque’ for Salon – two years before the Active Duty scandal became a major international story – and a major feature in Details magazine. [link removed as page no longer active.]


Curiouser & Curiouser: The Strange ‘Disappearance’ Of Male Bisexuality

The recent spate of media reports of the commonness of female bisexuality – and the ‘non-existence’ of the male variety – prompts Mark Simpson to wonder why we seem to be kidding ourselves about the real, red-blooded nature of the ‘bi-curious’ times we’re living in

Male bisexuality doesn’t exist. Or it’s very, very rare. Or it’s really just gay men in denial. Yeah, it’s official: bi guys are freaks and liars as well as non-existent.

Female bisexuality, on the other hand, is almost universal. It’s as natural and as true as it is wonderful and real and… hot!

Or so you would be forgiven for thinking if you had read the effusive reports in the papers about California State University’s recently published sex-research which claims that women are 27 times more likely to become attracted to their own sex than men. I haven’t yet been able to study the research quoted, but any sex survey that claims to have interviewed 3,500 people and show that 0.3% of men are attracted to the same sex compared to 8% of women (as quoted in the Independent on Sunday 12/2/06) is difficult to take seriously. Except as a measure of social attitudes rather than sexuality.

Maybe it’s because some of my best shags are bisexual men, but I’m beginning to get a bit teed off with this drive to make male bisexuality disappear, either into statistics smaller than a micro-penis or obscured behind a flurry of girl-on-girl action. A few months ago The New York Times published an article called ‘Straight, gay or lying?’ which seemed to be a press release for the hilariously cranky research of Dr J. Michael Bailey at Northwestern University.

Apparently this research involves wiring up people’s genitals and showing them dirty pictures and then claiming to have ‘proved’ that male bisexuality doesn’t exist – while the female variety is commonplace. Which seems a much more tenuous conclusion to reach, rather than, for instance: psychologists at Northwestern University are very strange indeed. (Amongst other extraordinary omissions, the article neglected to mention that Dr Bailey has more than one ‘previous’ in his area: he thinks transsexuals are also ‘really’ gay men).

I hate to break it to you guys, but most of the evidence, historical, anthropological and sexological, suggests that if anything, male ‘bisexuality’ – it’s a terrible word, almost as bad as ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’, but it will have to do for now – is much more common than the female variety. After all, entire civilizations such as Ancient (and according to some accounts, Modern) Greece have been based on it. Not to mention public schools, the Royal Navy and Hollywood….

It’s unquestionable that female bisexuality is today much more socially acceptable than male bisexuality, and in fact frequently positively encouraged, both by many voyeuristic men and an equally voyeuristic pop culture and also, perhaps slightly paradoxically, by women’s new-found desire to assert themselves sexually. What’s more, female homosex has never been legally or socially stigmatized to anything like the same degree as male homosex.

It’s a fond myth that the Victorians exempted female homosex from legal censure because Queen Victoria couldn’t conceive of it (apart from anything else, the young Victoria was a fan of the poet Sappho). Woman-on-woman love action wasn’t legislated against because, unlike male homosex, it simply wasn’t considered of much consequence. It may be difficult for feminists to grasp, but ‘patriarchy’ was always much more concerned about where men’s penises went than women’s tongues.

Straight women now have something to gain and little to lose by admitting an interest in other women. Rather than exile them to the acrylic mines of Planet Lesbo, it makes them more interesting, more adventurous, more modern… just more. For the most part, however, straight men still have nothing to gain and everything to lose by making a similar admission. It renders them considerably… less. Unlike women, men’s gender is immediately suspect if they express an interest in the same sex.

What’s more, any male homosexuality still tends to be seen as an expression of impotence with women. In other words: men’s attraction to men is equivalent to and probably a product of emasculation. A straight man admitting that he finds masculinity desirable – as so many clearly, thrillingly do – threatens to cost him the very thing he values most: not only his own manhood and his potency, his reputation with the ladies, but his lads-together homosocial intimacy with other men.

It’s a nasty, vicious, bitchy trick to play on millions of red-blooded men, but this is what passes for common sense in the modern, Anglo-Saxon world. When a male in public life is outed as bisexual – and, with the exception of controversy-courting David Bowie in the 1970s, who now denies he ever was, they almost never come out willingly – he is immediately represented as ‘gay’.

For a man, unlike a woman, there is no such thing as ‘half gay’. It’s tantamount to being half pregnant. Exhibits A and B: the recent outings of British Lib-Dem Members of Parliament Michael Oaten and bachelor Simon Hughes by the press as ‘gay’ – or rather ‘GAY!’ This despite the fact that Oaten is a married man with children and Hughes’ own careful presentation of himself in his (clearly arm-twisted) admission as bisexual.

All those witty ‘LIMP-DEMS’ headlines illustrating once again that any male homosexuality is seen as emasculation. If a male celeb’s sexuality is ‘questioned’ (a tellingly popular phrase, suggesting his genitals have been taken down the police station) by the tabs, they frequently run front page headlines by some tart claiming ‘HE’S NO GAY! HE’S ALL MAN! WE ROMPED SEVEN TIMES A NIGHT!’

Naturally, a man’s prowess with the ladies is proof positive that he couldn’t possibly be ever interested in men. Hence the popularity of the expression ‘red-blooded heterosexual male’. It goes without saying, doesn’t it, that non-heterosexual men have pink blood. Real men don’t do dick; and if they do, well, they’re not real men. Can I have my professorship at Northwestern University now, please?

Speaking of unreal men, Robbie Williams, the drag king of Britpop, was recently awarded large damages over newspaper reports that he had GAY HOMOSEXUAL SEX with ANOTHER MAN!. Many pointed out his libel action of his over accusations of GAY HOMOSEXUAL SEX was rather odd, hypocritical even, given this former member of gay disco dancing baby Chippendale troupe Take That’s careful cultivation of his ‘ambiguous’ sexuality over the years, and its crucial role in making him seem much more interesting that he actually is. However, Williams’ flirtation with ‘gay rumours’ was probably more a I’m-so-secure-in-my-sexuality postmodern strategy for dispelling the possibility that he was homo at all.

Williams spent a great deal of time and money publicising his affairs with the ladies. This careful investment threatened to be rendered worthless by this story. In keeping with their reflexive denial of male bisexuality, the newspaper allegations of his ‘homosexual affair’ also suggested that his very high profile relationships with women were a sham and that he was a GAY HOMOSEXUAL really. Hence Robbie ‘red-blooded’ Williams had to sue.

When men have sex with one another it is never sex – it is, you guessed it, GAY HOMOSEXUAL SEX! Last week British scandal sheet the News of the World ran a story about a ‘secret’ (i.e. unlawfully obtained) film of two bisexual English Premier League footballers… having sex. The headline for the story used the word GAY in font so large it covered more than half the page. (The words ‘sordid’ and ‘perverted’ and ‘obscene’ were also much in evidence; in a story about bisexual women the words would be: ‘saucy’ ‘steamy’ and ‘sexy’.)

Likewise, Brokeback Mountain was popularly dubbed the ‘gay cowboy’ movie, but in fact both the protagonists are bisexually active, and there’s rather more straight sex than gay sex in the film. Actor Jake Gyllenhaal has felt obliged to tell interviewers how ‘uncomfortable’ it was for him to perform the ‘gay sex’ scenes – despite there being almost none and that this is a film that likes to lecture us, rather tediously, on how awful homophobia is. I suppose some would say we should commend his honesty; but then, this is a guy, remember, who lives in LA and works in a profession where everyone smooches whenever they meet, when they leave, and when they’re feeling especially emotional – like when they win an Oscar.http://www.marksimpson.com/blog/wp-admin/post.php?post=30&action=edit#

And I’m not even mentioning that one of the problems with Brokeback was that Jakey boy was just too gay looking. If you’re a man who loves women, admitting a sexual interest in other men – or even failing to mention how uncomfortable/ill the very idea of it makes you feel – can apparently cost you your virility, and expose you to public ridicule of a kind that people might think twice about if you were actually gay. Partly because a degree of political correctness now protects gays, and partly because gays, unlike bis, ‘can’t help themselves’. And at least you know where you are with them.

You won’t even be praised for your ‘honesty’ as everyone will think you’re ‘really’ gay anyway. Why do bisexual men not come out? Because when a bisexual man comes out people shut their minds. Fear and loathing of male bisexuality is something tends to bring heterosexuals and homosexuals together. Instead of pondering the possibility that public attitudes towards male bisexuality are a truer, less censored indication of what many people actually feel about male homosexuality in general and its enforced incompatibility with masculinity, gay men too often rush to condemn bisexual men and reassure heterosexuals: don’t worry, you’re not being homophobic when mouthing off about bisexual men coz we hate them too!

Gays, when they’re not eagerly cruising bisexual men in lay-bys, saunas and chat-rooms, are too often keen to denounce the ‘dishonesty’ and ‘double lives’ and ‘repression’ of bisexual men – because they have the temerity to not be just like them, and instead lead ‘normal’ lives that happen to include a discreet, ‘deviant’ sideline, rather than order their lives and their wardrobe around their deviation.

In fact, the fetish might be on the other foot. The very existence of male bisexuality threatens to put exclusive homosexuality into a negative rather than a positive light: perhaps you’re not gay because you love men but because you don’t love women. Another, perhaps more elitist gay response to male bisexuality is to insist that men are not ‘really’ bisexual unless they take it up the arse. This seems to me to be a peculiar requirement. Would they also insist that a woman not be considered ‘really’ bisexual until she had fucked a woman with a strap-on? Why privilege some practices above others? Many homosexual men are exclusively active; are they not ‘really’ homo? Besides, it’s not for heteros or homos to define what is ‘really’ bisexual. If it were left to them, there would be no such thing as bisexuality at all.

After all, bisexuality is ‘really’ the parts of human behaviour that undermine the very idea idea of ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’ – of ‘sexuality’ itself. Male bisexuality may be still officially invisible, but chat lines, mobile phones, chat rooms and the general fragmentation of modern identities has made it much easier for otherwise heterosexual men to discreetly explore their ‘bi-curiousness’ (a recent, erotic paddling-pool coinage which attempts to avoid the plunge-pool identity of ‘bisexual’). There are vast and growing numbers of these ‘bi-curious’ men, especially those under 35 (some of them are probably cruising the chat rooms and rest rooms of California State University).

These are, after all, a generation of men who have grown up with frank discussions of homosexuality in the media and, more crucially, glossy, glamorous images of male desirability rammed down their throats, on billboards, magazines, films, pop music, TV and even and especially on the playing field. Metrosexuality was in large part a response to this – and a socially acceptable, commodity-focussed male complement to the media-generated trend towards female bisexuality which many men, while appreciating enormously, felt somewhat short-changed by. If the sex roles have broken down – nay, been battered down – why should women be allowed to maintain the monopoly on sensuality and men be forced to continue to merely perform? Why the anachronistic division of labour in the High Street and the bedroom? Why shouldn’t men experiment as well, and discover, for example, their own profile – or their own G-spot? Why should Adam not be as curious and as vain as… Eve?

Especially since the arrival of that boon to boundless curiosity as the Internet. This is a generation of men who have grown up with easy access to hardcore porn; which, by the way, means: masturbating over images of pussies and dicks. In fact, dicks are frequently the only constant. Anyone claiming that men simply don’t have a bisexual responsiveness should be made to watch the porn consumed by straight men today. Not only do all the most popular scenes (anal and vaginal penetration, blow jobs and ‘money shots’) star – very large – penises, but more and more frequently, they are attached to young, attractive, smooth, worked out men that the camera lingers over much more than in the past.

Forget the sex-researchers with their clunky electrodes; the porn industry knows what today’s males like. You might counter that the metrosexual male porn model phenomenon is simply a result of the industry’s mostly fruitless attempts to encourage women to consume more porn; if you did you’d be even wider of the mark than those who have tried to explain away metrosexual advertising entirely in terms of marketing to women and metrosexual men entirely in terms of pleasing women. Most ‘bi-curious’ men I’ve met – usually very anonymously and very discreetly – express a very strong desire to try oral sex with a man, often as a result of watching so many women enjoy it.

Or maybe just because most men would suck their own penis if they could, but most can’t, so have to ‘phone a friend’. Or rather, a stranger. More often than not they have had these fantasies for an achingly long time before acting on them; and they definitely haven’t spoken to anyone, especially sex researchers, about them. In fact, they are usually terrified that anyone might find out and this has been the main reason why they haven’t yet acted on these fantasies.

And these, remember, are the most adventurous bi-curious men; the unadventurous bi-curious men simply stay curious. This is probably the opposite for bi-curious women, who, it seems, tend to talk about it a lot before trying it. The most ludicrous aspect of today’s ‘sexist’ taboo on male bisexuality is that, after all, is it really so strange that males who are very interested in masculinity quite often end up interested in men. This is part of the reason why it used be thought of as a ‘phase’ that all male youths went through. There seems to me to be something rather prissy and effeminate about a masculinity that refuses any physical intimacy with men, ever. (Well, that’s what I say to straight men I fancy.)

At its most basic, most ‘rudimentary’, male ‘homosexuality’ is nothing more than a shared wank. All men, however straight, know how to please a prick and have been doing so regularly, for most of their lives – many times more often than they’ve been pleasing pussy.

As for buggery – if God hadn’t intended men to get fucked he wouldn’t have given them a prostate gland. I don’t have any doubt that most of these bi-curious men really love women and always will, and in most cases rather more than they will ever love men. They are not making their first steps ‘out of the closet’ into a gay identity. Many will lose their interest in having sex with another male. And there are, it is abundantly clear to me from my own exhaustive sex-research, several ‘bi-curious’ straight men for every gay man. Exclusive, life-long male homosexuality is the exceptional, not the normal form of male-on-male desire.

Male bisexuality as a phenomenon is here already and is something that society is going to have to get used to, or at least stop pretending doesn’t exist – except when it wants to make money out of it in the form of advertising, fashion, pop-promos, movies and porn. If I was Herbert Marcuse I might argue that reaching for your buddy’s shorts instead of your wallet – choosing the Real Thing over Diesel and Nike – is still verboten because corporations are making so much money selling straight men ersatz homosexuality.

That women are being encouraged to talk about their bisexuality as an enhancement of their femininity and sexuality is rather marvellous – but it also heightens the double standard about male bisexuality, one as pronounced as the double standard about promiscuity used to be (men were ‘studs’ and women were ‘slags’), and makes it more inevitable that male bisexuality – by which I simply mean ‘straight’ male sexuality that doesn’t fit into heterosexuality, and boy, there’s a lot of that – will have to be addressed candidly sooner or later.

The tidy-minded inhibitions which keep male bi-curiousness under wraps are still powerful, but have largely lost their social value, their attachment to anything real; they are mostly remnants from a Judeo-Christian (re)productive, world that doesn’t exist any more, except perhaps in Utah, every other Sunday. Dr Bailey with his terrifying sex lie-detectors is the (slightly camp) voice of the Superannuated Super-Ego. When enough young men realise this – or maybe just the desperate preposterousness of the arguments and ‘science’ deployed against male bi-curiousness – the change in attitudes will occur very quickly and dramatically indeed.

Not least because the ‘bi-curiousness’ of some women seems almost bi-curious enough for both sexes. Women are beginning to talk about their interest in boy-on-boy bonking as loudly as men have for years bragged about their interest in girl-on-girl action. Some are even trying to persuade their boyfriends to return the ‘lesbian’ favour so often requested of them in the past.

A separated ‘bi-curious’ fireman in rural England I met a few times before he went back to his wife recently contacted me to tell me something rather alarming. ‘She found out about you,’ he said. ‘She hacked into my Hotmail account.’ ‘Oh, shit,’ I said. ‘What did she do? Throw you out?’ ‘No,’ he said. ‘She got turned on! She wants to watch.’ The poor guy had to tell her that that this really was a kinky bridge too far for him. That he was too much a traditionalist to go down that path….

However the media tries to deny it, or obliterate it with another feverish discussion of female bi-curiousness, it’s just a matter of time before male bi-curiousness goes mainstream. These are interesting times. What we mean by ‘straight’ is changing so rapidly that the straightest of straight men might soon find themselves having to at least flirt with bi-curiousness – just to lay women.

UPDATE

In 2011 Dr Bailey recanted and very kindly allowed bisexual men to exist.

It's a Queer World

Deviant Adventures in Pop Culture

Saint Morrissey

The acclaimed ‘psycho-bio’ of England’s most charming – and alarming – pop star.

Metrosexy

A biography of the metrosexual.

By his dad.

End of Gays?

What’s left of gayness when the homophobia stops?

Male Impersonators

The book that changed the way the world looks at men.

Sex Terror

This book will change the way you think about sex. It may even put you off it altogether.

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