Really Rucking Funny: Best Manlove Video of 2011 (SFW)

This clip by Irish com­edy out­fit Dead Cat Bounce called ‘Rugby’ has to be my favour­ite video of 2011. Even if it strongly sug­gests that, in Ireland at least, my work here is done and it’s well past time to retire to the touch-lines.

There’s much to admire here: the light­ness of touch, the hil­ari­ous blend of the accur­ate and the absurd; the josh­ing, ban­ter­ing, boy­ish affec­tion — both for rugby and man­love. I even like the tune. But I find myself espe­cially mes­mer­ised by the lead singer’s vast, match-winning gob. He could swal­low that giant, muddy testicle he’s pre­tend­ing to lick without it so much as touch­ing the sides.

It seems I’m not the only one who rated this man­love bal­lad. Originally broad­cast on their state TV sta­tion RTE, it’s the fifth most pop­u­lar YouTube clip in Ireland this year. Oh, and you can down­load the song from iTunes too.

Below the YouTube clip are scores of com­ments by self-identified straight rugby play­ers and fans, most of whom seem to love it as much as this old homo does:

im a rugby player. i play lock.. which makes me the guy who sticks his head between the guys’ thighs. i still think this is fuck­ing hilarious.’

It’s dif­fi­cult to ima­gine a sim­ilar skit about soc­cer get­ting the same good-humoured response. But then, as sev­eral rugby fans have poin­ted out, soc­cer is for poofs.

Tip: Dermod Moore

Traditional Masculinity Has a Stroke: ‘Burly Rugby Player’ To ‘Gay Hairdresser’


My friend Michelle, formerly the male strip­per known as ‘Stud-U-Like’, aler­ted me to this ‘freaky’ tale of trans­form­a­tion repor­ted in this week’s Daily Mail:

Burly rugby player has a stroke after freak gym acci­dent… wakes up gay and becomes a hairdresser
  •  Chris Birch loses eight stone and trans­forms him­self from skin­head to ‘preened man’
  • Gives up job in bank and retrains as a hairdresser

Colin B After 196x300 Traditional Masculinity Has a Stroke: Burly Rugby Player To Gay Hairdresser Chris Birch before 177x300 Traditional Masculinity Has a Stroke: Burly Rugby Player To Gay Hairdresser

Cutting to the chase:

Mr Birch recalled: ‘I was gay when I woke up and I still am. It sounds strange but when I came round I imme­di­ately felt different.

I wasn’t inter­ested in women any more. I was def­in­itely gay. I had never been attrac­ted to a man before – I’d never even had any gay friends.

But I didn’t care about who I was before, I had to be true to my feelings.’

Before the acci­dent Mr Birch, of Ystrad Mynach, South Wales, had spent his week­ends watch­ing sport and drink­ing with his mates.

But he said: ‘Suddenly, I hated everything about my old life. I didn’t get on with my friends, I hated sport and found my job boring.

I star­ted to take more pride in my appear­ance, bleached my hair and star­ted work­ing out. I went from a 19-stone skin­head to an 11-stone preened man.

People I used to know barely recog­nised me and with my new look I became even more confident.’

The copy and a sup­port­ive quote from a neur­os­cient­ist seems to sug­gest only two explan­a­tions: ‘he was gay all along but didn’t know it before the stroke’; or ‘his stroke made him gay and good with colours’.

I’m not a neur­os­cient­ist, but it seems to me that there are more than two pos­sible explan­a­tions here.

Maybe Mr Birch was just fed up with being the big Welsh boyo every­one wanted him to be and when it almost killed him he decided: ‘Sod THAT for a game of sol­diers! Life’s too short. I’m gonna be a FLAMER!!’

Maybe Mr Birch simply resolved, albeit uncon­sciously, to be about Mr Birch from now on, not what his fam­ily, friends and fiancée expec­ted of him. Maybe he chose to reject het­ero­sexu­al­ity because it made too many demands on him. And what bet­ter way to escape its demands in a small Welsh town by wak­ing up from a near death exper­i­ence as the only gay in the village?

Being a bloke’s bloke isn’t always as much fun as it looks. And being hon­est, it usu­ally doesn’t look that much fun any­way. You don’t have to be a ‘secret gay’ to find it miser­able and oppress­ive. And more often than not you’ll be pun­ished if you try to escape. Look at what happened to Shane Warne, whose own trans­form­a­tion from beer-bellied Aussie ste­reo­type to flam­ing met­ro­sexual has been reg­u­larly pil­lor­ied in the papers, includ­ing the one in which this latest sport­ing trans­form­a­tion story appeared.

Though of course nowadays it’s some­times pos­sible to be a rugby-playing Welshman and some­thing of a flamer too. Maybe Mr Birch should have taken a leaf out of fel­low Welshman Gavin Henson’s bach­elor book and con­tin­ued play­ing with odd-shaped balls but as a ‘preened’ rugby player. But then again, per­haps he didn’t have the legs for it.

And as for Mr Birch’s new-found interest in chaps. Well, I’m sorry but I don’t think it very sur­pris­ing when males find other males sexu­ally inter­est­ing. Or some­thing that needs to be explained by a stroke. At least not the kind the Daily Mail reports.

There is though yet another pos­sible explan­a­tion for all this. That this story is com­plete twaddle. It did after all appear in the Daily Mail. And the writer is the same one who repor­ted pretty much every import­ant fact about this infam­ous ‘gay orgy in the bushes’ story incor­rectly, appar­ently pan­der­ing to the ima­gined Daily Mail reader’s worst fantasies.

Also, the stroke that ‘turned him gay’ (instantly, appar­ently), happened in 2005. Why wait six years to tell the national press? Especially if you told your par­ents and fiancée when you came round in the hospital.

And I seem to recall that when I first read this story about Mr Birch online yes­ter­day it men­tioned that he and his fiancé/girlfriend were ‘tak­ing a break’ before the acci­dent. The piece was ‘updated’ today and this detail is nowhere to be found.

And then we have the ban­ner head­line which talks about a ‘freak gym acci­dent’ caus­ing his injur­ies but the copy talks instead about ‘him attempt­ing a back flip in front of friends on a field when he fell down a grass bank, break­ing his neck and suf­fer­ing the stroke.’ Or the way the ‘before’ pic­ture appears to have been manipulated/squashed to make him look burlier.

But my favour­ite dodgy pas­sage is this one:

He was taken to hos­pital where his fiancée and fam­ily spent days wait­ing anxiously at his bed­side before he delivered the shock­ing news.’

What? More shock­ing than break­ing his neck, suf­fer­ing a stroke and nearly dying?

UPDATE 18/04/12

Last night BBC3 aired ‘I Woke Up Gay’, a doc­u­ment­ary about Mr Birch. It was an hour long, but apart from some local Welsh col­our, some more snaps of Birch pre-stroke when he was straight and very chunky (“Oh! That’s AWFUL!!’” was today’s slim­line Birch’s hor­ri­fied response to them) and more close-ups of Birch’s remark­able hairdo, which looks like a badly ironed dead badger, the doc didn’t really add any­thing to the Mail’s story. Or really cla­rify the ‘con­fu­sions’. (Birch says he ‘can’t remem­ber’ much of his pre-stroke past.)

It did how­ever leave you feel­ing that the whole thing wasn’t just cooked up by the Mail, and that Mr Birch seems to believe his own story. Or per­haps needs to believe it. Though it’s still not entirely clear when exactly he decided on it. His fam­ily were not­able by their absence in the doc — appar­ently he has become estranged from most of the people he used to know before the stroke.

I don’t wish to sug­gest as many have done that Birch is ‘lying’, or was a ‘closet queen’ before the stroke. Or that he’s simply attention-seeking (though he cer­tainly doesn’t seem to mind it). I do think though that he may be deceiv­ing him­self — but then, we all do that. To some extent prob­ably most com­ing out stor­ies are fic­tional if neces­sary nar­rat­ives. What’s inter­est­ing is not what his story says not about dubi­ous ‘brain sci­ence’ but about how dif­fi­cult it can still be for some to accept them­selves in places like the Valleys as gay, or just not a boozy rug­ger bugger.

In that kind of situ­ation a stroke might even be a stroke of luck. At least in the sense of giv­ing you a chance to rein­vent yourself.

The ‘high­light’ of the doc was when Birch travels up to London to see the Wizard of Oz — or rather, a highly con­tro­ver­sial sci­ent­ist called Quazi Rahman who believes that gay men’s brains are innately dif­fer­ent to straight men’s (this in turn is based on dubi­ous assump­tions about ‘men’ and ‘women’ that are increas­ingly being ques­tioned). The nar­rator told us that Rahman has tested “hun­dreds of les­bian, gay and straight volun­teers” (no bisexu­als, note — and for the pur­poses of this entire doc­u­ment­ary they simply don’t exist) and “can tell if a per­son was born gay or straight, des­pite their cur­rent lifestyle”.

In other words, Rahman is God.

The nar­ra­tion con­tin­ues, cheer­fully telling us:

“Though con­tro­ver­sial, some sci­ent­ists believe that our genes and hor­mones may determ­ine sexu­al­ity before birth and per­son­al­ity traits too. These traits can be tested and this means that Dr Rahman can work out whether or not a per­son was truly born gay.”

Truly born gay.

In other words, Rahman is even big­ger than God. He’s Jeremy Kyle.

(Note how BBC3 throws in a reluct­ant ‘con­tro­ver­sial’ at the begin­ning of the first sen­tence but by the end of the second, know­ing most BBC3 view­ers have already long for­got­ten it, seems to be express­ing noth­ing short of a divine revelation.)

So it was touch­ing to see two people who both fer­vently believe in ‘gay brains’ come together — but unfor­tu­nately for Birch, it wasn’t a mar­riage made in heaven. Rahman talks to Birch about test­ing him to find out “how gay your brain is” (no, really, that’s actu­ally what he says), but was clearly dis­ap­poin­ted with his own res­ults, which showed that half Birch’s responses fell within the ‘nor­mal range’ for a gay man and the other half within the ‘nor­mal range’ of a straight man. Whatever that means.

Birch though is delighted with the res­ults because he sees it as an endorse­ment of his nar­rat­ive of the stroke ‘turn­ing his brain gay’. But Rahman seems set against the idea, des­pite his mixed find­ings. Perhaps this is because for the gay neur­os­cient­ist (who is the author of a book called ‘Born Gay’) the whole point of ‘gay brains’ seems to be that you’re born with them, rather than being some­thing you can acquire, even by acci­dent. Like I said, every­one has their own neces­sary com­ing out fiction.

Birch’s boy­friend, who accom­pan­ied him to the Gay Brain Detector’s lab, seemed to be the only one who had his head screwed on. He was  gently scep­tical of his partner’s belief that the stroke made him gay, but  was patiently sym­path­etic to the psy­cho­logy of it. “He’s based his whole life on the stroke mak­ing him gay,” he said whilst Birch’s brain was being ‘tested’ for ‘gayness’.

If he wasn’t, it would almost be like hav­ing to start from scratch again.’

Touching Another Dude Dudely

I’m not sure I entirely believe the pre­amble from the overly dudey — if very easy on the eye — presenter and star of this ‘exper­i­ment’ in ‘touch­ing dudes softly’. Particularly the bit about ‘noth­ing makes me uncomfortable!’

But it is inter­est­ing to watch the responses of the men he decides to mon­ster with ‘inap­pro­pri­ate’ ten­der­ness — or ‘touch­ing another dude softly’.

I’m also per­son­ally inter­ested in why I found it very uncom­fort­able to watch. Is it because I’m wor­ry­ing the men will freak out? Or is it just because I’m very uptight about phys­ical ten­der­ness myself? Or is it simply because of the pain­ful self-consciousness of the setup?

I’ve watched drunken straight lads do much ‘worse’ things to one another and not felt in the least bit uncom­fort­able about it. And nor did they, apparently.

I atten­ded a gay rugby tour­na­ment some years ago and was struck by the way that there was on the whole rather less in the way of phys­ical affec­tion and ten­der­ness between men than you’ll find at ‘straight’ rugby matches. I still remem­ber watch­ing a sozzled young chap at the Army & Navy match bat­ting his mate’s gilfriend’s hand away from his chum so HE could hold his hand as they left Twickenham.

In fact, many of the play­ers I spoke to at the gay ruby tour­na­ment seemed to be dis­ap­poin­ted that the gay rugby teams were miss­ing one vital rugby ritual: post-match homo­erotic horseplay.

Sometimes being straight means that you can get away with much more. Because it’s all ‘a laugh’. Dude.

Tip: Pug Bear

Homoerotic Horseplay — Not Gay Just Guy

afghanistan embassy guards 2 300x245 Homoerotic Horseplay   Not Gay Just Guy

A column of mine on, ‘Men At Play in Afgrabistan’, gal­lantly defends the free­dom of the derided (and now dis­missed) secur­ity guards at the US embassy to get naked with one another and eat potato chips from each other’s butts in their spare time — even if they’re out of shape.  I also point out how every­day and ‘nor­mal’ homo­erot­ics is for many if not most men — but we don’t want to see it, and when we can’t ignore it because it’s thrust in our face by digital cam­eras and the Interweb we patho­lo­gize or crim­in­al­ize it:

…the furor is another reminder that we live in a cul­ture where female bi-curiousness is routinely regarded as nat­ural and almost uni­ver­sal while male bi-curiousness is seen as non-existent — or else it is just “sexu­ally con­fused” (i.e. they’re really gay, but laugh­ably repressed), or it is “devi­ant haz­ing” con­duc­ted by “sexual pred­at­ors” that needs to be eradicated.

In real­ity, to any­one who opens their eyes on a Saturday night on either side of the Atlantic, there’s scads of evid­ence that plenty of “nor­mal” young men who aren’t par­tic­u­larly “sexu­ally con­fused” — espe­cially the most, er, phys­ical types — have a healthy appet­ite for highly homo­erotic beha­vior after a keg or two. It’s what beer seems to have been inven­ted for. In the Middle Ages they thought the cause of sod­omy was drunk­en­ness — they weren’t wrong. By con­trast, I’ve hardly ever seen such homo­erotic horse­play amongst straight women, even des­pite the inven­tion of alco­pops (though admit­tedly I per­haps wasn’t look­ing as closely.)

Some people have a more viol­ently neg­at­ive response to the every­day evid­ence of male homo­erot­ics, lit­er­ally try­ing to stamp it out.  In the UK a straight female Canadian mar­tial arts expert attacked and knocked out a couple of drunken British sol­diers at a disco for kiss­ing and ‘pre­tend­ing to be gay’, scream­ing ‘THIS SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED IN THE BRITISH ARMY!!’.

Living in a gar­rison town I’ve seen plenty of sim­il­ary steamy beha­viour from drunken squad­dies in pubs and on dance-floors, snog­ging and hump­ing and grop­ing one another, so I can under­stand her frus­tra­tion — I’ve wanted to get phys­ical too, but not in quite the same way she did.

Sometimes the response is more gen­teel, but just as vehe­ment.  During the last Rugby World Cup a couple of years ago I was invited on Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio Four to talk about homo­erot­ics and rugby.  I thought it a bit odd that Woman’s Hour wanted to cover this sub­ject, but the pro­du­cer enthused: ‘The presenter Jane is really keen to talk about it’.  It turned out that neither the presenter, a former female sports journ­al­ist, or her guest, another female sports journ­al­ist, wanted to talk about it at all. 

Both of them refused point blank to coun­ten­ance the pos­sib­il­ity that a game that involves men with large thighs wrest­ling in the mud over odd-shaped balls, or tak­ing com­munal baths, or kinky nude drink­ing games that would shock the guards at the American Embassy in Afghanistan, could be in any way homo­erotic.  Only a homo would say such a thing.

Of course you would say that Mark,’ she said at one point, ‘because you’re gay.’

I paused.  Several things occured to me to say to that.  I could have said that droves of gay men were prob­ably rush­ing at that very moment to dis­so­ci­ate them­selves from what I was say­ing (they usu­ally do).  Or I could have said, ‘Well, of course you would say that Jane, as an uptight middle class woman’ (and I wished I had).

Instead I said, ‘It seems that some people have a prob­lem with the word “homo­erotic”.  They think that it means some­thing ‘for gays’.  Perhaps some people would be hap­pier with the word “male bonding”.’

Yes!’ they chor­used, ‘it’s male bonding!’

But,’ I con­tin­ued, ‘it’s male bond­ing with an erotic com­pon­ent so we’re back where we came in.’

They didn’t like that. 

And this just a few weeks after this show had gone out on national UK TV, in which a team of north­ern rugby play­ers had been filmed get­ting drunk and naked with one another, snog­ging, lick­ing each other’s nipples - and play­ing with their captain’s ‘don­key dick’.  Of course, I couldn’t even men­tion it, as on radio — espe­cially Radio Four — you’re not allowed to acknow­ledge that TV exists.

Again, being radio, and posh radio at that, a nice voice whispered in my head­phone just before we went on air. ‘Remember Mark, this is a fam­ily show so please try not to be too rude!.’   This did hamper my case some­what, as rugby homo­erot­ics are meant to be rude.  Though it didn’t stop me from leav­ing some­thing tan­tal­ising hanging in the air: ”The soggy bis­cuit game, for example, isn’t entirely a myth.…’.

I think we’d bet­ter move on,’ said Jane rather quickly.  Apparently the Radio Four switch­board was jammed with retired lady callers demand­ing to know what the soggy bis­cuit game was. 


(This fea­ture of mine from a couple of years back, ‘Assume the pos­i­tion’, offers a more in-depth invest­ig­a­tion of the culture’s crack­down on haz­ing and male horse­play in general.)

Tim ‘No Acorn’ Oakes

tim oakes Tim No Acorn Oakes

I seem to have some­how missed the not entirely shock­ing news that Tim ‘No Acorn’ Oakes of Sandbach RUFC, the spunky rugger-bugger cap­tain who was so keen to show off his impress­ive semi-tackle on national tele­vi­sion — and very kindly let his team mates play with it — has since gone the whole hog and stripped off for, teas­ing the gay­ers with his no longer semi but fully erect assets. has some safely doctored snaps from the FamousMales shoot (albeit with the wrong kind of ball  — please try to remem­ber you Yanks: rugby play­ers’ balls are odd-shaped). Here’s how the shoot went accord­ing to Ethan:

Completely at ease with being naked, Tim recently stripped down for Famous Males and stood stark naked in front of them, his proud, strong nude form — beau­ti­ful and stun­ning. “I’ve got quite a few scars now,” Tim said. “I get well bashed about on the field. God knows what the lads will think of this when they see the pictures…hee…hee.” “JUST LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU WANT ME HARD.”

I’ve seen the pics sans stra­tegic­ally placed foot­ball and let’s just say Tim is not only a shower, he’s also some­thing of a grower.  That said, I per­son­ally hap­pen to think his ‘ham­mer’ is even more fetch­ing than his ‘nail’.

His face isn’t bad either.…

(Shame about the hair­cut, though.)

Sporno on Steroids

nakedborthwick Sporno on Steroids

Now that’s what I call push­ing back.

Taking the sporno trend to parts it hasn’t yet reached — and what parts! — while spread­ing the fam­ous French ‘pro’ tarti­ness of the Dieux du Stade cal­en­dars to these shores, the latest ad cam­paign for Powerade’s ‘InnerGear’ iso­tonic sports drink fea­tures sev­eral UK pro rug­ger bug­gers in the buff snapped by the pho­to­grapher Alan Clarke. Including, most spec­tac­u­larly, most spher­ic­ally, England Rugby Union Captain Steve Borthwick (above), keep­ing his spor­no­graphic end up for the Queen.  And nicely stuck out.

Or as the gay porn legend Dink Flamingo would say, ‘Arch your back, bitch!’

Once again, it seems that it isn’t just me who is undress­ing ath­letes with my eyes and giv­ing them filthy dir­ec­tions.  Advertising is doing it too.  But unlike me, advert­ising can actu­ally afford these tarts.

But I’m not bit­ter. Honestly. I’m sure that Borthwick was rewar­ded hand­somely by his sugar daddy Coca Cola (who own Powerade) for his bare-faced cheek, but nev­er­the­less he also deserves, as Julian Clary would put it, a warm hand on his entrance for his bravery.  Apparently his mates have been roger­ing him — sorry -  rib­bing him.  ‘It is one of the most dar­ing shoots I’ve been involved in,’ he told the ladies and gen­tle­men of the press,  ‘but it has been loads of fun, even it it has given my team mates plenty of ammuni­tion for chan­ging room banter.’

I can’t help think­ing though that the shoot would have been even more dar­ing and fun if Borthwick had been por­trayed along with his ban­ter­ing naked team mates in an actual scrum instead of doing a mus­cu­lar Marcel Marceau.  For the pur­poses of real­ism, of course.

The InnerGear for an ath­lete — how we train, what we eat and drink — is as import­ant as what we wear,’ says Borthwick, clearly read­ing here from Coca Cola’s script. ‘And it’s great that this cam­paign brings it to life’.

Gear’ of course is also the street name given to ster­oids, that hot com­mod­ity more and more rugby play­ers these days look as if they’re tak­ing, man­dat­ory drug test­ing or no.  According to vari­ous reports, epi­demic num­bers of young men who aren’t ath­letes but who, like today’s sports­men, also want to look like porn stars are down­ing them like, well, soft drinks.

I’m sure Coca Cola chose the name ‘InnerGear’ for entirely inno­cent and pure reas­ons, and that none of their mod­els would ever use banned sub­stances, even if it is quite easy to do so and avoid detec­tion, but if young men think that by drink­ing an over­priced sugary-salty drink inves­ted with magical, virile prop­er­ties by advert­ising they’ll get buff instead of fat, and look as desir­able, as shag­gable, as these pro ath­letes, that can surely only help sales.

Below, England International Paul Sackey and Welsh International Shane Williams who also fea­ture in the InnerGear cam­paign, prove that really fit bubble-butts can fly. Williams, who looks a little like a Welsh statue of Eros with a rugby ball let loose instead of an arrow, also proves that really fit bubble-butts can arch and look over their shoulder at the same time.

It’s true that this pub­lic cam­paign, unlike the DDS cal­en­dars (which are for private con­sump­tion, after all), avoids frontal nud­ity, but then Freud thought that in dreams fly­ing had a phal­lic symbolism.

So with InnerGear’s fly­ing rugby but­tocks you really can have both.

nakedsackey 666x390 717915a Sporno on Steroids

nakedwilliams 350x4 717878a Sporno on Steroids

Welsh International Shane Williams. Your flex­ible friend.