God Save The Sea Queen

An excerpt from Mark Simpson’s Sex Terror: Erotic Misadventures in Pop Culture’, now avail­able on Kindle

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 Charlie’s 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-the-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 Charlie. 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 Charlie, 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 Charlie, 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!” Charlie 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 Charlie 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 writ­ten back in 2000, 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.) 

Sex With Someone You Love

To cel­eb­rate National Masturbation Month HuffPo have pos­ted a ver­sion of an essay of mine col­lec­ted in Sex Terror on how ‘self-abuse’ came out of the cubicle, tis­sue stuck to its shoe:

You see, wank­ing is a nor­mal form of human sexual beha­vior, and inter­course is the devi­ation. Most men, even those in long-term rela­tion­ships — sorry, espe­cially those in long-term rela­tion­ships — have orgasmed alone more times than they have done with oth­ers. After all, we peak sexu­ally long before any­one will go out with us.

And if God hadn’t wanted us to wank, would he have put our hands at crotch level? (Of course, maybe he just wanted to make things really dif­fi­cult for us.) As any anthro­po­lo­gist will tell you, when Homo erectus stood up, the first thing he reached for was his tool.

Read it here.

Sex Terror’ Now Available on Kindle — Sweet Dreams.



Erotic Misadventures in Pop Culture

Mark Simpson

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


Amazon.com * Amazon.co.uk * Amazon.de * Amazon.fr * Amazon.es * Amazon.it Amazon.co.jp * Amazon.com.br * Amazon.ca * Amazon.in * Amazon.com.au

 In his full-frontal follow-up to his widely acclaimed It’s a Queer World, Mark Simpson dis­penses with the mon­key busi­ness of sexu­al­ity and gets to grips with the organ grinder itself: SEX.

Subjecting our saucy new god to his sac­ri­le­gious satire, Simpson sins against every con­tem­por­ary com­mand­ment about doing the nasty: It must be hot. It must be fre­quent. It must wake the neigh­bours. And it must be Who You Are.

Simpson argues that we all put far too much faith in sex these days, and that in actual fact sex is messy, con­fus­ing, frus­trat­ing, and ulti­mately disappointing.

Especially if you’re hav­ing it with him.

Along the way he gets worked up with Alexis Arquette over Stephen Baldwin’s bubble-butt, gets intim­ate with Dana International, Aiden Shaw and Bruce LaBruce, and – very gingerly – con­fronts Henry Rollins with those ‘gay’ rumours.


Praise for Sex Terror:

MARVELLOUS… open Simpson’s book at any point, as many times as you want, and you’ll find the sort of gem-like sen­tences that Zadie Smith would give her white teeth for.”

- Suzi Feay, Independent on Sunday

A chain­saw cock of wit… blis­ter­ingly, endear­ingly hon­est… insight­ful and valu­able.  VERY FUNNY INDEED.”

- Dermod Moore, The Hot Press

Setting com­mon sexual sense on its ear, Simpson’s Swiftian pro­pos­als strike at an emo­tion dear to us: sexual desire. His anarchic mis­sion is to free sex from ser­mon­iz­ing, con­ven­tion, ego­ism, and cul­tural bias. But unlike Foucault, his decon­struct­ing weapon is built of rib­ald humour and pot­shots at pre­ten­sion. Simpson’s essays pro­duce ran­cour and HILARIOUS LAUGHTER, DISBELIEF AND DELIGHT. Some call him won­der­ful, and some call him out­rageous, but I call him A TRUE ORIGINAL and YOU SHOULDN’T MISS THIS BOOK.”

– Bruce Benderson, author of Pretending to Say No and User

BRILLIANT… With sur­gical pre­ci­sion Mark Simpson peels away the lay­ers of mod­ern mas­cu­line cul­ture, leav­ing few iconic fig­ures un-scarred. This book is cer­tain to pro­voke and likely to offend; we would expect noth­ing less from one of the most import­ant voyeurs of con­tem­por­ary life.”

– Bob Mould, Musician and Songwriter

When the cul­ture of sex breathes its final breath, Mark Simpson will be there to deliver the eulogy with great zeal. And what a GLORIOUSLY SARDONIC AND INSIGHTFUL farewell it will be!”

– Glenn Belverio, Dutch magazine

“One of those books that bounces up and down on your knee yelling ‘read me, read me…. Brutal hon­esty and razor wit  — a per­fect feast. QUOTABLE GENIUS.”

- RainbowNetwork.com

BLOODY GOOD…  every out­rageous insight is just that – an insight into the mod­ern  con­di­tion that often makes you laugh out loud and, if you are not entirely bey­ond hope, think. Simply some of the best writ­ing on mod­ern cul­ture around.”

- Brian Dempsey, Gay Scotland

One of England’s MOST ELOQUENT AND SARDONIC commentators.”

– Bay Windows

Mark Simpson won’t be every reader’s cup of tea, but those who enjoy a biter blend of DARK HUMOUR AND KEEN SOCIAL OBSERVATION will want to drink deeply.”

– Washington Blade

…never fails to amuse, bemuse, stun and stir… a writer at his peak, a SHAMELESS SUMPTUOUS SERVING OF SOCIAL SATIRE you’ll be digest­ing long after you put the book down”

– All Man Magazine















English author and journ­al­ist Mark Simpson is credited/blamed for coin­ing the word ‘met­ro­sexual‘. Simpson is the author of sev­eral books includ­ing: Saint MorrisseyMale Impersonators, and Metrosexy.


Sex Terror cover image taken by Michele Martinoli.

Melts in Your Mouth: Eminem’s Shady Sexuality


By Mark Simpson 

(Nerve.com, February 22, 2001)

Eminem, aka Marshall Mathers, may have won only a few con­sol­a­tion prizes at the Grammys yes­ter­day, but clearly the white rap­per behind The Marshall Mathers LP has cre­ated the Album of the Year in every other sense. Em is the hot­test prop­erty not just in the music busi­ness, but in pop cul­ture itself, and, like Big Gay Al, aka Elton John, who sang a duet with him on stage, no one — the fans, the press, the crit­ics, the police, the Vice President’s wife — can leave him alone.

Especially, of course, the gay rights act­iv­ists, two hun­dred of whom pick­eted the Staples Center in protest at his “viol­ently homo­phobic lyr­ics” (and what they saw as gay Elton’s “betrayal”).

Afterwards, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation sol­emnly expressed “grat­it­ude” that Em was not awar­ded Album of the Year, but com­plained that the three minor Grammys awar­ded Eminem showed that “Academy mem­bers were will­ing to place their stamp of approval on lyr­ics that pro­mote hate, pre­ju­dice and violence.”

Amen. But the rather import­ant point that the protest­ors appear to have over­looked is, Sure, Em’s music is viol­ently homo­phobic. It also hap­pens to be viol­ently homo­sexual. The two facts are not neces­sar­ily in con­tra­dic­tion of each other. Actually, in the world bey­ond the Care Bear sexu­al­ity of GLAAD, they’re insep­ar­able. It might even be the case that the Grammy didn’t go to Em pre­cisely because his lyr­ics are too queer.

To under­stand this you just have to pay atten­tion to the music instead of the press releases. Sodomy never soun­ded so seduct­ive, or sedi­tious. When fel­low Detroit rap­ping duo Insane Clown Posse ‘wit­tily’ renamed Slim Shady “Slim Anus” on their last album, the squeaky blond bomb­shell respon­ded quickly and expli­citly. “Slim Anus? You damn right Slim Anus / I don’t get fucked in mine like you two little flamin’ fag­gots,” he retorts on a track on Marshall Mathers, the CD that lost the Grammy.

But then in the track “Ken Kaniff,” he all-too-enthusiastically imper­son­ates the voices of the ICP front­men enga­ging in lip-smacking fel­la­tio com­plete with very con­vin­cing grunts and groans and backed by cheesy porno Muzak: “Fuck yeah! Suck it! That’s good!” (ICP have since placed a down­load­able track on their web­site fea­tur­ing an Eminem-on-poppers-soundalike get­ting reamed by his hip-hop pro­du­cer, Dr. Dre.)

Am I the only one who got aroused by all this “homo­pho­bia”? I sus­pect not. After all, sod­omy — and graphic sod­omy at that — is really the only sex you’ll find on Em’s record-selling CD, whether in the form of invit­a­tions to the listener to “suck my fuck­ing dick, you fuck­ing fag­got” or dis­miss­ing his crit­ics as bit­ter queens: “He’s just aggrav­ated because I won’t ejac­u­late in his ass.” If Em really is the “New Elvis,” it seems that Jailhouse Rock is his start­ing point (which would at least explain his prison punk look). Even when he leaves the viol­ent sod­omy alone for a moment and turns to romance, it’s of a rather queer kind, as in the hit single “Stan,” in which a fan sends a series of unre­quited love let­ters to his rap-star hero — the song Eminem chose to duet with Elton John with at the Grammys.

Em him­self “comes out” and acknow­ledges his obsession/passion in another skit on Marshall Mathers in which a furi­ous record exec com­plains that he can’t sell his records because instead of rap­ping about his wide-screen TV, Eminem is “rap­ping about homo­sexu­als!” (Of course, the joke here is that Eminem’s records “about homo­sexu­als” could hardly sell better.)

Now, if all this “fuckin’ homo” stuff seems adoles­cent, that’s prob­ably because it is. It’s meant to be. Adolescence is a time of hor­monal anxi­ety about iden­tity for boys, but nowadays it’s not just a phase, it’s a career. And what is it that boys are sup­posed to grow into these days any­way? Masculine cer­tain­ties have van­ished, in many cases, along with dad, fam­ily and blue-collar jobs. The only cer­tainty left to bas­tard boys like this is that they are “not a fag.” It’s a neg­at­ive iden­tity that can’t sus­tain a sense of self, let alone sus­tain one in a world which has made boys use­less — i.e. fag­gots — by mak­ing tra­di­tional, mature mas­culin­ity redundant.

Rapismo like Eminem’s artic­u­lates that frus­tra­tion, then soothes the anxi­ety the artic­u­la­tion pro­duces. Eminem’s own story (now the stuff of legend) is instruct­ive. A poor, pretty, blue-eyed white boy grow­ing up in a depressed black area of Detroit without a dad, he left the house the defin­i­tion of “dif­fer­ent.” He claims that he was neg­lected by his mother, which she vig­or­ously dis­putes. Perhaps the truth is that he was spoilt and fussed over and then ended up hat­ing his mother for as he saw it turn­ing him into a sissy: “I used to be mommy’s little angel at twelve” he sings in “I’m Back.”

To avoid com­plete emas­cu­la­tion, he rebelled against his mother and chose to be fathered by pop cul­ture, in the form of hip-hop and the humong­ous phal­lus of black street cul­ture. To Eminem (and other “shady” white boys of uncer­tain patern­ity from bet­ter homes) the world seems like a post-feminist night­mare where Mom is the law — and polit­ical cor­rect­ness is merely “wash your mouth out with soap” writ large. He’s South Park’s Kyle, ten years down the line plus plenty of drugs and disappointment.

In this car­toon­ish world, homo­sexu­al­ity isn’t only emas­cu­la­tion and weak­ness, it’s also the ulti­mate mach­ismo, and the ulti­mate rebel­lion against “bitches” — as well as a con­tra­dict­ory solu­tion to the prob­lem of being fath­er­less, eas­ing as it does the ache for male intim­acy. But eas­ing that ache means acknow­ledging it. And that means weak­ness. So homo­sexu­al­ity has to be con­stantly “stabbed in the head,” to use one of Em’s more infam­ous lines, even as it is con­stantly being evoked.

Every stab just leads to another tar­get. After all, homos are every­where nowadays in pop cul­ture. And the blatancy of male passiv­ity in a world where males are sex objects only makes this “stabbing” more imper­at­ive — even when you’re not, like Eminem, a pretty bottle-blond boy with “cock-sucking lips” (to quote ICP) and more than a passing interest in hav­ing your pic­ture taken. “All I see is sis­sies in magazines smilin’” groans Eminem. “Staring at my jeans, watch­ing my gen­it­als bul­ging / (Ooh!) That’s my mother­fuck­ing balls, you’d bet­ter let go of ‘em / They belong in my scro­tum, you’ll never get hold of ‘em.”


Look at the pic­tures of him in his book Angry Blonde (inter­est­ing spelling, that), skim past the one of him in blond pig­tails to the ones where he is sur­roun­ded by a crowd of bleach blond Shady male clones gaz­ing at him with shin­ing, hungry eyes. Has pop cul­ture ever looked more dis­turb­ingly queer?

Slim Shady is fam­ously a char­ac­ter Em inven­ted to express his “dark thoughts.” But maybe Slim is him­self just a screen. This is not to say that Mr. Mathers is “really gay” (just as he clearly isn’t “really straight”), but just “really fucked up.” Perhaps the “real” Em is as neur­otic, mother-identified/mother-hating, home­less, vul­ner­able, nar­ciss­istic and pass­ive (aggress­ive) as the lyr­ics and the pic­ture of him on his album cover sug­gest. In other words, all the things that make a great star, from Elvis to Lennon to Cobain.

And, alas, he’s all the things that can make young men these days who will never be stars sad and sul­len, and some­times sui­cidal. A seventeen-year-old white Eminem fan in Devon, England recently threw him­self in front of a train. Apparently he was depressed by the “diss­ing” he’d exper­i­enced from friends after a gay boy said he fan­cied him at a party. The lib­eral cor­oner thought the lad’s anxi­et­ies fool­ish and mis­placed: “He appears to have been unusu­ally wor­ried over his sexual ori­ent­a­tion which really should not affect people a great deal either way.”

Maybe. But Eminem and the sexu­ally shady, not to say con­fused, world of white hip-hop show that such a pre­oc­cu­pa­tion is any­thing but trivial for too many boys today. It’s all they have left.


This essay is col­lec­ted in Sex Terror: Erotic Misadventures in Pop Culture