Straight Down the Hatch

As the 80s boy racer dre­am­boat the Peugeot 205 GTI turns 30 Mark Simpson remem­bers strok­ing its stick-shift.

peugeot205gtiblack

Hot. Hatch.

In the world of car porn there is no other con­jug­a­tion that raises the punter’s pulse more than that one – evok­ing as it does fuel injec­tion, tight hand­ling, firm sus­pen­sion, snug interi­ors and accom­mod­at­ing rears.

And amongst hot hatches, the Peugeot 205 GTI is the ulti­mate car porn star. This year the French stun­ner, launched back in 1984, when the miners were on strike and Frankie Goes To Hollywood were in the charts, turned an ancient and decrepit 30, but is still widely regarded as the hot­test hatch­back ever.

It’s cer­tainly my favour­ite car ever. I owned one in the early 90s, round about the time they stopped pro­duc­tion in 1994, and I still dream moistly about it in a way I don’t about, say, my old Golf Mk 1 GTI, even though I sus­pect the Golf was a rather bet­ter made car.

I had a 1.9, 205, intro­duced a couple of years after the 1.6. It simply had to be a 1.9. Not because it had a few more HP than the 1.6 (126 com­pared to 105), or because it did 0–60 in 8 seconds (instead of 8.7), or because it had disc brakes all round instead of just at the front. And cer­tainly not because it had more torque. But because of that ‘9’ on the badge. Who wants an aver­age 6 when you can have a whop­ping 9? Especially when you’re still in your twen­ties, as I was at the time.

Apart from the badge, there were other key visual sig­ni­fi­ers of your own­er­ship of more cubic cen­ti­metres: the alloy wheels were fat­ter, and you had sexy half leather seats, vs cloth. I became prac­tised at spot­ting these giveaways from a dis­tance, before I could get a good look at the badge on the side. I’m sure I wasn’t the only Peugeot 205 size queen, con­stantly dis­miss­ing 1.6ers as unworthy of my interest.

In fact, being so light­weight – or what safety engin­eers now would call ‘hor­ri­fy­ingly flimsy’ – either 205 GTI was a joy to drive, even though neither had power steer­ing (drivers back then were expec­ted to have shoulders when it came to park­ing). It would take bends with an alac­rity and eager­ness that was pos­it­ively arous­ing. Admittedly the ped­als were rather too close together, par­tic­u­larly if you had size ‘9’ feet – but you just had to be care­ful to oper­ate them del­ic­ately with pointy toes.

It was a great car for belt­ing around a city like London before ‘traffic calm­ing’ meas­ures were intro­duced, speed humps installed every few feet, and rat-runs closed off, turn­ing London’s roads into rail­ways for cars. In addi­tion to being great for enga­ging the ‘safety power’ and nip­ping around ‘obstruc­tions’, the 205 GTI would leave most cars stand­ing at the lights, watch­ing your sexy arse dis­ap­pear into the distance.

Peugeot-205-GTI-01 rear

It was remark­ably prac­tical too. Despite the fact that from the out­side it looked like the pro­ver­bial rocket-powered roller-skate, a road-legal single-seater with the driver crouched over the sports steer­ing wheel, head almost stick­ing out of the slid­ing sun roof, inside it was sur­pris­ingly spa­cious. People with legs could even sit in the back. If you owned a Peugeot GTI you could actu­ally have friends, or a family.

If, that is, you had any time for any­thing that didn’t involve zoom­ing around with a big stu­pid grin on your face.

GTi interior

But if I’m hon­est none of these were the real reas­ons I pos­sessed one. It was the 205 GTi’s scorch­ing looks that bowled me over. It was a very, very sexy piece of 1980s styl­ing – quite pos­sibly the defin­it­ive one. A kind of super­mini American Gigolo with black and red bumper car trim. The wheels were exactly where they should be, in the corners, and it had a very sexual shape­li­ness to it. I even loved the two-tone pla­sticky interi­ors that every­one mocks now. (Though admit­tedly most of the plastic bits did break off.)

I had a red one, but I wanted a white one, and black one, and a blue one, and slate grey one as well. I thought they were all good enough to eat.

The Peugeot 205 GTI: the tasti­est hot hatch ever.

205-1

Originally appeared on LeasePlan

Yes, I know he’s not driv­ing a Peugeot 205 GTI — but he so should have been 

Male Body Rolling

I’m really look­ing for­wards to this doc La Bare, about a male strip­per club in Dallas, released later this month. This single clip is more sen­sual than any­thing in Magic Mike. Except the bit where he goes to take a piss after a hard night’s party­ing. And that’s just acci­dental but­tock roll.

MagicMike

I have no idea how to body roll, and I sus­pect it would be med­ic­ally inad­vis­able at my age — let alone aes­thet­ic­ally — but it cer­tainly looks quite some­thing when mus­cu­lar men do it, as opposed to the teen girls on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.

h/t Dakrolak

From Metrosexual to Spornosexual — Two Decades of Male Deliciousness

In a devel­op­ment which will prob­ably have him run­ning to the mir­ror yet again to search anxiously for lines, this year the met­ro­sexual leaves his teens and turns 20.

How quickly your chil­dren grow up. Although it seems only yes­ter­day, I first wrote about him in 1994 after attend­ing an exhib­i­tion organ­ised by GQ magazine called “It’s a Man’s World”. I’d seen the future of mas­culin­ity and it was moisturised.’

Read my piece on the evol­u­tion of male van­ity at The Daily Telegraph

(And don’t worry, des­pite the alarm­ing head­line The Telegraph gave the piece, the metrosexual’s not really dead — just dead jealous.)

 

 

Bare Thrills’ Strips Masculinity Down To Its Skidmarks

Maybe I suf­fer from what Freud described as man’s tend­ency to devalue what he desires, but I find any­thing touched by TV sur­viv­al­ist Bear Grylls’ calloused-but-manicured hands dif­fi­cult to take too seriously.

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But taken ser­i­ously he most cer­tainly has been by the UK media with his cur­rently air­ing C4 real­ity show The Island, in which thir­teen ‘ordin­ary men’ are marooned on a trop­ical island for a month to find out whether today’s softies can cut it as ‘hunter gatherer’ butch Bear Grylls types. Nothing very much hap­pens – the Gryllsettes grow beards, lose some pounds, drink a lot of boiled stag­nant water, get bit­ten by sand-flies, and fall out with one another and then back in again. Like Big Brother but more boring.

Though given the column inches devoted to this show you’d think Grylls was some kind of soci­olo­gist, anthro­po­lo­gist and cul­tural seer. Rather than an out­door cab­aret artist with prop­erly hydrated skin and really nice eyes.

So I hes­it­ate to add to C4’s already bul­ging folder of press cut­tings about Grylls’ sweaty island, but the Channel’s Chief Creative Officer Jay Hunt’s defence of the show’s decision not to include women last week was such a won­der­fully ser­i­ous and alto­gether inad­vert­ent admis­sion of where the actual ‘sex­ism’ of the show lies that it’s impossible to resist.

Hunt defen­ded her real­ity show from the straw woman argu­ment, aired widely in the media recently by female sur­vival experts, that it was sex­ist because it excluded women from the island by reit­er­at­ing the com­ic­ally pre­ju­diced premise of the real­ity show: that it was inten­ded as a ‘real test of mod­ern mas­culin­ity’. She went on:

Let’s be hon­est, what bet­ter way of find­ing out what British men were REALLY made of than leav­ing them to fend for them­selves in a fright­en­ingly trop­ical environment.’

Yes, let’s be hon­est. Real men don’t eat quiche, but creepy crawlies. Real mas­culin­ity is about being deprived of all cul­ture and civil­iz­a­tion and pot­able water. Real mas­culin­ity is all about trop­ical skid marks.

Bear-Grylls Island

Women are excluded from the delights of the island not because Ms Hunt didn’t think women would be able to cope, but because doing so would have got in the way of the ste­reo­type that men are ‘really’ sav­ages. Or ‘hunter gather­ers’ as she likes to describe them. The show is not about find­ing out what people are REALLY made of – but today’s men. Because we already know what men should be made of. It’s not sex­ist, in other words, because its sex­ism is dir­ec­ted towards chaps. Any sex­ism towards ladies is just unin­ten­ded blowback.

In fact this kind of bru­tish reduct­ive­ness about men applied to women by C4 would have brought a much big­ger back­lash than the one promp­ted by dis­gruntled female sur­vival experts. It would have cost Hunt her job. Can you ima­gine the out­cry, for instance, over a real­ity TV show which announced that it aimed to find out what British women, as a sex, were REALLY made of – by lock­ing them in the kit­chen? Or Mothercare?

Any attempt to talk about REAL and ESSENTIAL fem­in­in­ity – let alone apply­ing some con­trived ‘test’ of it – is gen­er­ally held up to fierce cri­ti­cism these days, now that women are, rather won­der­fully, encour­aged to believe they can be any­thing they want to be. Including Chief Creative Officers at C4 – com­mis­sion­ing shows about REAL and ESSENTIAL mas­culin­ity. ‘Women are every bit as cut out for this sur­viv­al­ist stuff as men,’ says Ms Hunt. ‘Women are stronger, more inde­pend­ent and more self-reliant than they have ever been.’

Quite so. But while women can be much more than sub­missive Janes nowadays, men are appar­ently still sup­posed to be forever anxiously com­par­ing them­selves to some myth­ical Tarzan that never exis­ted. And if you doubt it never really exis­ted, take a look at Mr Grylls, who is the most absurd and unbe­liev­able con­fec­tion of a human being ima­gin­able. A sur­vival porn star.

bear-grylls-o

In an intro­duc­tion to the series, in which Bare Thrills has, very unusu­ally, kept most of his clothes on, he opined: “I want to find out what hap­pens if you strip man of all the lux­ur­ies and con­veni­ences of mod­ern liv­ing and then force him to fight for his exist­ence.” By ‘man’ here Grylls means, as Ms Hunt has explained, not humans, but ‘men’.

The present­a­tion of the series as some ‘real test of mod­ern mas­culin­ity’ is, ‘nat­ur­ally’, com­pletely bogus even by the cranky stand­ards of real­ity TV ‘exper­i­ments’. You could have taken any group of unpre­pared British men of the last hun­dred years or so and dropped them in a trop­ical man­grove swamp equipped with noth­ing but some garden string, Elastoplasts and hand-held TV cam­eras with much the same res­ults. (Though it turns out that some of the con­test­ants, and indeed the island itself, weren’t so unpre­pared after all. But hey, that’s show business.)

But the under­ly­ing premise that mas­culin­ity has to be ‘tested’, to be proved ‘real’, is what shows up the, ahem, rigid expect­a­tions we can still have of men com­pared to women, even on groovy C4. This is why Grylls, pick­ing up on media chat­ter of the last year, has talked repeatedly about his show being about today’s ‘crisis of masculinity’.

That phrase is, like Grylls’ show, now much more of a prob­lem than the one it pur­ports to describe. As I’ve writ­ten else­where, when people talk about a ‘crisis of mas­culin­ity’ these days they’re usu­ally talk­ing about their own – in deal­ing with the fact that mod­ern mas­culin­ity isn’t what they want or expect it to be. Particularly when work­ing class chaps aren’t what middle class chaps like Chief Scout Grylls (edu­cated at Eton ) want them to be.

And has any­one noticed how no one ever seems to talk about a ‘crisis of femininity’?

Older men may miss some of the mas­cu­line cer­tain­ties of their youth, but most of today’s ‘soft’ young men seem very glad indeed that they’re not ban­ished to the desert island of ascetic old skool mas­culin­ity their fath­ers and grand­fath­ers were. Unless of course it gets them on telly.

Whatever people’s inten­tions in invok­ing it, and whatever value it may have had back in the 80s and 90s when male roles really began to change, post Thatcherite-Reaganite crash con­sumer­ism and de-industrialization, the concept of a ‘crisis of mas­culin­ity’ all these years of change later merely per­petu­ates the notion that mas­culin­ity is one phal­lic thing only, and that thing needs to be kept up, and ‘hard’. Otherwise we’ll all have a nervous break­down. And not catch any fish.

In the end, for all the pre­ten­tious and pos­sibly sex­ist claims made for it, every­one knows that The Island is really just enter­tain­ment and voyeur­ism. But it’s cheer­ing to think that the use of the ‘crisis of mas­culin­ity’ to sell Bare Thrills’ latest instal­ment of sur­vival porn may finally do for the phrase.

Let’s leave its mea­gre car­cass on the island, picked clean of what little, stringy meat it ever had on it.

Bear Grylls mud bath

Ideas Above their Service Station

Motorway ser­vice sta­tions are toilets.

And I don’t just mean the repu­ta­tion they have for being dirty and unap­peal­ing places to linger, let alone eat. I mean lit­er­ally. A recent sur­vey of 2000 motor­ists found that 65% only stop at ser­vice sta­tions to use the toi­let facilities.

It wasn’t always that way. When the first UK ser­vice sta­tion opened in 1959 at Watford Gap on the M1 people would actu­ally make spe­cial trips just to visit them. Service sta­tions were space-age places to view the future whizz­ing past while enjoy­ing a soph­ist­ic­ated prawn cock­tail. For bored kids they were con­crete Tracy Islands.

tracey island

But by the 1970s the British had fallen out of love with motor­way ser­vice sta­tions, their high prices, poor food and com­mand eco­nomy aes­thet­ics. Since then the call of nature has been the prin­ciple, often only lure.

At Wetherby ser­vices, opened in 2008, situ­ated on junc­tion 46 of the A1M and lying on the bound­ary between West and North Yorkshire, they have incor­por­ated this toi­let fact into the fab­ric of the build­ing. A cheery if overly sug­gest­ive yel­low­brick road takes you past all the dif­fer­ent out­lets hawk­ing their wares before you finally arrive, blad­der burst­ing, at the ‘facil­it­ies’ – almost right at the end of the long build­ing (the Eat & Drink cafet­eria is the only out­let bey­ond the piss & shit).

eat drink

For the sake of hygiene and effi­ciency, the toi­lets dis­pense with doors – instead they have just a zig-zag open entrance. In archi­tec­tural fact, Wetherby ser­vices is a toi­let with shops. Outside the loo entrance are the inev­it­able kid­die mag­nets, machines full of stuffed toys wait­ing to be clawed – which one might be for­given for think­ing rep­res­ents the atti­tude of motor­way ser­vices towards their customers.

Today the toi­lets at Wetherby on a Sunday after­noon in March are very busy but appear to be cop­ing with the end­less ‘stream’ of people arriv­ing con­stantly to relieve them­selves of mat­ter con­sumed many, pos­sibly hun­dreds of miles away. They also look fairly clean – Moto, who oper­ate this and 57 other motor­way ser­vice sta­tions across the UK, have won the pres­ti­gi­ous ‘Loo of the Year’ award sev­eral times. Not some­thing to be sniffed at when you con­sider ser­vice sta­tion toi­lets by law have to be kept open 24 hours a day every single day of the year.

petrol station wetherby

To be fair, Wetherby ser­vices is try­ing very hard to be dif­fer­ent. Wetherby ser­vices employed the latest ‘green tech­no­lo­gies’ in its con­struc­tion, mak­ing it the UK’s first car­bon neut­ral ser­vice sta­tion. Another fun fact: the roof of the filling sta­tion is the largest single-span filling sta­tion roof in Europe. Unlike many of the older motor­way ser­vices it has a light and airy design: a large seating/eating area is spread in front of slop­ing floor-to ceil­ing win­dows along one (south facing) side over­look­ing the car park. More air­port depar­ture lounge than motor­way ser­vices, you can use the free Wi-Fi to Tweet a pic­ture of your ‘suc­cu­lent double chicken breast served with a sauce of your choice’ (£6.99)

moto-services Wetherby

Outlets avail­able here for the motorist’s delect­a­tion include M&S Simply Food, Costa Coffee, WH Smiths, Burger King, Upper Crust, and Eat & Drink, Moto’s self-branded res­taur­ant – and not one but two one-armed ban­dit arcades (with no one in them today).

M&S Simply Food and Costa are – aside from the toi­lets – the centrepiece of Wetherby ser­vices. The first thing you see when you walk in, they rep­res­ent the quiet revolu­tion in the motor­way ser­vices exper­i­ence that has been going on since M&S first opened a Simply Food out­let at Toddington Southbound a dec­ade ago. There are now 36 M&S Simply Food out­lets on the UK motor­way net­work forever ban­ish­ing the curse of curled sarnies.

At Wetherby, once you’ve unfilled your blad­der, you can get your spicy chicken and sweet red pep­per wood-fired M&S pizza (£5.25) for when you finally get home and put your feet up, and then pop over to Costa and grab a moz­zarella tomato and basil sour­dough Panini (£4.79) and a Cappuccino Medio (£3.35) for now – and fill your blad­der again.

The Costa out­let at Wetherby dom­in­ates the space and is con­struc­ted like a chapel of caf­feine – fenced off with dec­or­at­ive wrought iron, a two-tone tiled floor and inspir­a­tional sky­lights. How appro­pri­ate: caf­feine and urine are the twin pil­lars of the mod­ern, met­ro­pol­it­an­ised ser­vice area. There are now a whop­ping 53 Costas in motor­way ser­vices in the UK. The UK’s new-found chain caf­feine addic­tion is a habit that motor­way ser­vices are happy to exploit.

As con­clus­ive proof of the met­ro­pol­it­an­isa­tion of motor­way ser­vices, lah-dee-dah Waitrose are hard on M&S’s qual­ity heels with 22 out­lets on the UK motor­way net­work and another three open­ing this month alone. Even Bolton Services West, the dis­mal M61 dis­aster area immor­tal­ised by Peter Kay as man­ageress ‘Pearl Harbour’, and once held up as the epi­tome of how low motor­way ser­vices had sunk, has had a multi-million pound makeover and been renamed ‘Rivington’. Fancy.

No Waitrose yet, but they do have a Starbucks, land­scaped grounds offer­ing ‘relax­ing out­door din­ing’ and, most impress­ively of all, accord­ing to one vox pop­per, ‘toi­lets like a hotel’s’

Motorway ser­vice sta­tions are still toi­lets. But they’re dead classy ones now.

This essay ori­gin­ally appeared on the LeasePlan blog

Dude, Where’s My Objectification?

These ‘jokey’ Veet ‘Don’t risk dude­ness’ ads in which a ‘sexy lady’ turns into an ‘unsexy dude’ because she hasn’t used the smelly depil­at­ory cream have pro­voked an e-flurry of out­rage for their sex­ism and sham­ing of women who aren’t always smooth, so much so that Veet had to issue an apo­logy and with­draw them.

But what’s truly ‘funny’ about these ads is that in some ways they strike me as actu­ally being the advert­ising world’s ver­sion of those ‘gender flip’ click-bait posts that many of the people lam­bast­ing the Veet ads pro­fess to love. You know, the ones that pre­tend that men are never objec­ti­fied – des­pite male (self) objec­ti­fic­a­tion being hard to miss these days unless you’re try­ing really, really hard not to notice flag­rant, flam­ing evid­ence like this. And this.

And this:

Zac Effron shirtless award

 

Zac

Instead of look­ing around us, we’re sup­posed to listen to blather like this:

For some reason, as soon as you put a man in there … it’s an entirely dif­fer­ent thing that we aren’t used to seeing.”

Only if you’ve been jam­ming your eyes shut for the last twenty years, dear.

So, hav­ing pre­ten­ded that male objec­ti­fic­a­tion doesn’t exist, it’s now ‘really rad­ical’ and ‘chal­len­ging’ to ‘flip’ the roles. But in an ironic and uncon­vin­cing way, usu­ally mak­ing sure that the men adopt­ing the faux ‘sexu­al­ised’ poses are unat­tract­ive. (And not wet­ting their vests.)

o-BONDI-HIPSTERS-570

The ‘anti-sexism’ of many of those ‘gender flip’ memes strikes me as com­pletely bogus, impli­citly depend­ing as it does on the entirely (hetero)sexist pre­sump­tion that sex­i­ness is a female qual­ity. The ‘ludicrous­ness’ of the man adopt­ing ‘sexy’ poses requires a world­view that insists men just aren’t meant to be objec­ti­fied. That simply doesn’t see male objec­ti­fic­a­tion because it’s not sup­pose to hap­pen.

So the ‘gender flip’ actu­ally tends to rein­force the very thing it hypo­crit­ic­ally pre­tends to undermine.

Worse, people pre­tend, over and over again, to be impressed by daggy male hip­sters pre­tend­ing to do sexy while pre­tend­ing to sub­vert sex­ism – as a way of get­ting atten­tion. Which is the only really sin­cere part of the whole charade.

Instead of ditch­ing the dreary fuck­ing irony and just doing this. Or this.

By con­trast, these crass Veet ads are at least refresh­ingly hon­est and out of the closet in their hor­rendous het­ero­sex­ist revul­sion at ‘dude­ness’, and the ludicrous­ness of male sex­i­ness. And of course the thing that is always hov­er­ing behind that revul­sion, par­tic­u­larly in the US: that dudes might get it on with other dudes.

In stub­bly fact, this obses­sion ends up swal­low­ing their whole cam­paign, no gag reflex, to the point where it has little or noth­ing to do with women at all – des­pite them being the tar­get market.

It ends up being about two dudes in bed.

h/t Dr Petra

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

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.

1983: The Last Great Year of Pop

From the gender-bending antics of Eurythmics and Culture Club to the propuls­ive syn­thpop of Depeche Mode, New Order, and the Human League, was there ever, asks Mark Simpson, a more spec­tac­u­lar time for music?

Lennox

(Originally appeared on Out.com, 18 Feb, 2014)

IN 1983, THE YEAR that McDonald’s intro­duced the Chicken McNugget and the second Cold War was at its height, the world very nearly ended when large NATO exer­cises were mis­taken by an extremely jit­tery USSR for pre­par­a­tions for a new Barbarossa.

More omin­ously, com­pact discs went on sale in the United States and Europe, the first com­mer­cial mobile tele­phone call was made, and the Internet as it’s known today came into exist­ence. Oh, and Carrie Underwood was born. In other words, while the world itself didn’t end in 1983, all the neces­sary means were inven­ted for bring­ing about some­thing much worse: the end of pop music.

Which, rather like the best pop itself, is a bit­ter­sweet thought to savor, since 1983 was unques­tion­ably the finest year for pop music ever.

1983 was also — per­haps not so coin­cid­ent­ally my final year at high school, and instead of study­ing for my exams and think­ing about what I wanted to actu­ally do with my life, I’d taken to hanging around hi-fi shops on my way home, hyp­not­ized by the LED and LCD equal­izer dis­plays on the latest sound sys­tems. I fell head over heels in love with a Technics SL-7 turntable. There were vari­ous reas­ons for its quasi-sexual appeal: The total sur­face area was no big­ger than an LP sleeve, and the turntable had a really cool lin­ear arm track­ing inside the lid that was auto­mat­ic­ally oper­ated with but­tons at the front. It was very futur­istic; like a giant, clunky, ana­log CD player, before any­one I knew had a CD player.

But the real reason for my infatu­ation with the turntable was the 12-inch of Eurythmics’s “Love Is a Stranger” that its cun­ning sales­man slapped on at full volume. Not only did the oth­er­worldly, driv­ingly sequenced synth sounds and Annie Lennox’s oper­atic range superbly show­case the sound dynam­ics of the product, the lyr­ics Lennox breathed, seem­ingly in the back of your mind, were the ulti­mate hard sell:

And I want you / And I want you / And I want you so.”

Pop music in the early ’80s was a stranger in an open, gilt-edged, glam­or­ous, sleekly designed car, tempt­ing you in and driv­ing you far away. And not only in Eurythmics songs; the Smiths’s second single, “This Charming Man,” also released in 1983, fea­tured that same car-driving stranger offer­ing Morrissey a ride. This year was a pre-Fall moment when everything and any­thing seemed pos­sible — because it was. The neck-strainingly rapid devel­op­ments in music-making tech­no­logy meant that no one really knew what they were doing until they’d actu­ally done it. Every record was a rev­el­a­tion. A mir­acle. There were no rules because there was no manual. Invention was king.

Eurythmics recor­ded their sopho­more album, Sweet Dreams, for example, on a simple TEAC eight-track in an attic, without any of the fix­tures of a pro­fes­sional stu­dio. The title song was recor­ded in a single take, with Lennox impro­vising most of the lyr­ics on the spot and David Stewart tap­ping on half-filled milk bottles to pro­duce that chim­ing sound as Lennox sings “Hold your head up / Keep your head up.” In this new land­scape, record com­pan­ies had little choice but to indulge their prodi­gies in their pixie boots with their pixie powers. (Although that didn’t stop “Love Is a Stranger” from being yanked off the air dur­ing an early trans­mis­sion on MTV by exec­ut­ives who con­fused Lennox for a transvestite.)

This was also the era of the wiz­ard pro­du­cer: industry legends like Martin Rushent, who fash­ioned the sound of the Human League, and most fam­ously Trevor Horn, former lead singer for the Buggles, who pro­duced ABC’s stun­ningly beau­ti­ful 1982 album, The Lexicon of Love, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s pound­ing 1983 single “Relax,” a siren call to closeted young gay teens if ever there was one. Horn, who deftly deployed the dark magic of the fam­ous Fairlight sampling syn­thes­izer, was noth­ing less than a cre­ator of brave new sonic worlds. (Appropriately, Horn’s 1979 Buggles single “Video Killed the Radio Star” was also the first to be aired on MTV when the chan­nel launched in 1981.)

Early ’80s British syn­thpop — or “new wave,” as it was known in the United States — was madly ambi­tious and uto­pian, offer­ing an ana­log dream of a digital future. And it soun­ded gor­geous. In fact, it soun­ded much bet­ter than the prop­erly digital future did when it actu­ally arrived, with greater pro­cessing power, a few years later. It was also much bet­ter than drugs or sex, which turned out to be piss-poor sub­sti­tutes for pop music when they finally showed up at the end of the dec­ade in jeans at an acid house rave some­where in a field near Manchester. Synthpop — or “new pop” as the genre was more broadly dubbed by the music journ­al­ist Paul Morley at the time — was the glor­i­ous cul­min­a­tion of the 1970s’ aes­thetic revolts of glam and punk rock. It was pop music at its most fun, its most dance­able, its most pre­ten­tious, its most gender-bending, and its most fashionable.

The 12-inch single was a main­stay of syn­thpop, which in many ways car­ried on where disco (for which the 12-inch was inven­ted) left off after America murdered it at the end of the ’70s. The greater treble and bass response afforded by 12-inch singles demon­strated the new record­ing, mix­ing, and lav­ish pro­duc­tion tech­niques all the bet­ter — and made it hip-twitching. Today, if you listen to exten­ded mixes from that era, espe­cially the ones with the long intros with, say, a single sampled snare drum play­ing for sev­eral minutes, you often won­der where people got the time. But back then, before the Internet and mobile phones ruined everything, they were the height of indul­gence. They were a way of mak­ing the bliss­ful per­fec­tion of the pop single last forever, instead of just three minutes.

Our sixth-form com­mon room didn’t have a Technics SL-7, but it did have a battered 1960s mono Dansette record player. Undoubtedly, the most played record on it in 1983 was New Order’s epoch-making, four-to-the-floor new wave disco track “Blue Monday,” which was, in a cal­cu­latedly haughty ges­ture, only avail­able as a 12-inch single and infam­ously not included on the album Power, Corruption & Lies (though with a trans­port­ing track like “Your Silent Face,” whose final kiss-off lyric is “You’ve caught me at a bad time, so why don’t you piss off?” I wasn’t com­plain­ing about the album). It became the best­selling 12-inch single ever in the United Kingdom. It’s dif­fi­cult, in a post-“Blue Monday” world, to under­stand the seis­mic impact of that New York hi-NRG sound recycled glor­i­ously through Manchester mel­an­choly. We played it so many times we had to weigh the ancient chisel of a needle down with putty to stop it from jumping.

Other 1983 syn­thpop singles that got played to death either in the com­mon room or in my bed­room included the deli­ciously silly “Blind Vision,” by Blancmange; the sur­pris­ingly polit­ical “Bad Boys,” by Wham!; the sub­limely whiney “Everything Counts,” by Depeche Mode; the cutesy-funky “Rip it Up,” by Orange Juice; the fant­ast­ic­ally pre­ten­tious and pom­pous “Visions in Blue,” by Ultravox; the hair-prickling “Song to the Siren,” by This Mortal Coil; the tan­trummy torch song “Soul Inside,” by Soft Cell (their last hur­rah); the toe-tapping, fringe-flapping “Too Shy,” by Kajagoogoo; the plaint­ive but insist­ent “Come Back and Stay,” by Paul Young; the rev­ving synth-reggae of “Electric Avenue,” by Eddy Grant; the beat­ing beauty of “All of My Heart,” by ABC (released in 1982 but so big that it hogged much of 1983, too); the delight­fully absurd synth-goth of “The Walk,” by the Cure; the stolen kisses of “Our Lips Are Sealed,” by Fun Boy Three; the bitter-sweet “Church of the Poison Mind,” by Culture Club; the exhil­ar­at­ingly obscure “Burning Down the House,” by Talking Heads; the lip­sticked charm of “(Keep Feeling) Fascination,” by the Human League; and, of course, David Bowie’s Nile Rodgers–produced smash “Let’s Dance,” a record that man­ages some­how to be both crim­in­ally dance­able and strangely aus­tere, like the White Witch of Narnia on roller skates.

With records like that as the soundtrack to our teen­ager­dom, is it any won­der that we thought ourselves the cat’s meow?

Bowie had, in many ways, made the glam­our and swish of syn­thpop pos­sible; he was cer­tainly the styl­istic inspir­a­tion for the romantic wing of new wave (many of whom, how­ever, chose to sing like Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry), fam­ously bestow­ing his bene­dic­tion on Steve Strange and assor­ted Blitz Kids in the video for 1980’s “Ashes to Ashes,” dressed in a Pierrot cos­tume, being fol­lowed by a bull­dozer. By 1983, Bowie had finally achieved the stateside suc­cess he had longed for through­out the ’70s with his “Serious Moonlight” tour, becom­ing part of the “second British Invasion” of new wave acts.

The second British Invasion — which, by the way, was almost cer­tainly the last — was more suc­cess­ful than the first, chan­ging the American aes­thetic as well as musical land­scapes. Schooled by ’70s Bowie, British new wave acts like Duran Duran were mas­ter­ful at draw­ing atten­tion to them­selves onscreen and got sat­ur­a­tion expos­ure on the newly foun­ded MTV. Although their hit single “Girls on Film” was released in 1981, it wasn’t until an MTV-friendly “day ver­sion” was reis­sued in March 1983 that the video became a staple on the chan­nel, along with “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “The Reflex.”

The syn­thpop sound and kooky styles of those quirky Brits became the hall­mark of ’80s MTV, and even­tu­ally made its way into the clas­sic ’80s high school movies of John Hughes. British new wave was espe­cially pop­u­lar on the West Coast and with Los Angeles’s KROQ sta­tion — and con­tin­ued to be long after new wave had been rolled back in the U.K. (When I vis­ited Los Angeles for the first time in 1990, I couldn’t quite believe that all this British syn­thpop was still being played so much — and in such a sunny place.)

It didn’t hurt that many of the Brit syn­thpop bands were also very easy on the eyes. The women, like Lennox, could be very hand­some, and the boys could be very pretty — Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet cer­tainly were, with the pos­sible excep­tion of their lead sing­ers. In the promo for “Everything Counts,” the seem­ingly sweet Essex boys of Depeche Mode look like they’re in a Bel Ami video, albeit with clothes.

For my part, I had a crush on the fresh-faced Edwyn Collins from Orange Juice and Bernard Sumner from New Order (it was a long time ago), who I always thought sang like a boy cry­ing in his bed­room with the win­dow left delib­er­ately open. Also Curt Smith from Tears for Fears, who was pre­pos­ter­ously pretty, even with those mini pig­tails. There was some­thing about the boy­ish vul­ner­ab­il­ity and sen­su­al­ity of syn­thpop that went with their kind of looks — there was def­in­itely a sexual ambi­gu­ity in the sequenced air.

Unfortunately for Smith, he also looked a bit like a lad at school I was hope­lessly in love with. It was a requited but uncon­sum­mated affair — which meant, of course, that it was end­lessly orgas­mic. I listened to the Tears for Fears album The Hurting, par­tic­u­larly the heart­felt yearn­ings of “Pale Shelter” — “You don’t give me love / you give me cold hands” — much, much too much, and heard things that weren’t really there. I even wrote to them via their record label, thank­ing them for dar­ing to write such openly homo­erotic lyr­ics — and received a dip­lo­matic let­ter of acknow­ledge­ment back from a PR agent inform­ing me that Curt and Roland would be very pleased to hear their music “meant so much.”

But of all of the pretty early ’80s boys — or girls — Marilyn, a.k.a. Peter Robinson, was per­haps the pret­ti­est. A star of new romantic stomp­ing ground the Blitz club when his mate Boy George was work­ing in the coat check there, he finally got a record deal in 1983 and had a hit with the catchy single “Calling Your Name.” Finally the pop charts had a male gender bender who was sexy instead of mimsy, fam­ously describ­ing him­self as “Tarzan and Jane rolled into one.”

But a line had been crossed. Sadly, the story of Marilyn is also the story of the end of the high sum­mer of synthpop/new wave. We had traveled too far and too fast in that stranger’s open car — the brakes were being applied. Margaret Thatcher, whose much vaunted “Victorian val­ues” were to include a ban on gay pro­pa­ganda, was reelec­ted by a land­slide in June 1983, thanks largely to the vic­tory of the British armed forces over Argentina in a far-flung colo­nial out­post. Her bosom buddy Ronald Reagan had mean­while essen­tially put the West on a war foot­ing against the “Evil Empire,” as he dubbed the Soviet Union. And Dr. Robert Gallo had isol­ated a virus he named HTLV-III, which had snuffed out Klaus Nomi and Jobriath in that same year. We now know it as HIV.

The deli­cious “art fag” dec­ad­ence of new wave — or “that queer English shit” as it was some­times known — was clearly doomed in the mil­it­ar­istic, mater­i­al­istic, AIDS-terror cli­mate of the mid-1980s. Male vul­ner­ab­il­ity and sexual ambi­gu­ity were now fatal weaknesses.

Marilyn’s second single, “Cry and Be Free,” a bal­lad released in 1984, was doing well until he appeared, pout­ing, on Top of the Pops in a glit­tery off-the-shoulder num­ber. There was a vis­ceral reac­tion as a nation recoiled from its own arousal. His single plummeted. His third, the iron­ic­ally pres­ci­ent “You Don’t Love Me,” stalled at num­ber 40 on the U.K. charts. The career of the most beau­ti­ful boy in British pop was over.

And so, essen­tially, was new wave, ban­ished by a mid-’80s coun­ter­re­volu­tion of guitar-led rock. Disco sucked again, and it gave you AIDS. And Bruce bloody Springsteen was the biggest thing on the U.K. charts in 1984. Yes, it’s true that Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s spunk­tacu­lar dance track “Relax” finally hit num­ber 1 in January 1984, but it had been released in 1983 and was banned by the BBC in 1984. Frankie went on to have more hits that year in the U.K., includ­ing, most fam­ously, ‘Two Tribes,” which sat­ir­ized the threat of the Cold War turn­ing hot, and cer­tainly sold a lot of T-shirts. But for my pocket money they def­in­itely peaked with “Relax.”

My school days ended in the sum­mer of 1983, and with them my exquis­itely doomed love affair. Synthpop, as it turned out, was also doomed. So you see, con­trary to what the his­tory books tell you, the world really did end in 1983 — but at least I got the Technics SL-7 turntable for my 18th birthday.

I ended up play­ing the Smiths on it a lot — and their eponym­ous first album, released in January 1984, com­plete with young Joe Dallesandro’s naked torso on the sleeve, was very def­in­itely the homo­erotic bon­anza I’d mis­taken Tears for Fears’s The Hurting for, albeit a cel­ib­ate one.

In a sense, the Smiths were the ulti­mate new wave/new pop band, one who eschewed syn­thes­izers for gui­tars, which lead singer Morrissey, an über fan of glam and punk, pro­fessed to hate. This turned out to be a smart move that kept them in busi­ness until 1987 — and Morrissey, as a solo artist, to this day. But I sus­pect the Smiths were only allowed to hap­pen at all because, des­pite their enorm­ous fame today, they were a very well-kept secret in the ’80s, barely troub­ling the British top 10 and effect­ively banned from day­time radio airplay.

The Smiths were semi-underground new wave, oth­er­wise known as indie.

You’re as camp as a Brighton bus queue!” — The Bön Mots of Benidorm

I’ve snob­bishly held out against the sun-damaged charms of ITV’s pack­age hol­i­day sit­com Benidorm, set in the ‘all inclus­ive’ Hotel Solana, for sev­eral series. But the sixth one — which sadly this week pours the sand out of its shoes and packs its bags for another year — had me sur­ren­der­ing to it more legs akimbo than the Solanas’ Mrs Slocombe-esque man­ageress Joyce Temple-Savage for Matthew Kelly.

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Created and writ­ten by Derren Litten (co-writer for The Catherine Tate Show), Benidorm is Carry On meets St Trinians meets Are You Being Served? meets Lady Windermere’s Suntan — and gets an ‘all-inclusive’ hangover and runny tummy. A proper char­ac­ter actor ensemble, rather than a vehicle for some jumped-up stand-up’s over­ween­ing ego, and with some lines that glisten like an obese Brit’s back in the Costa Del Sol noon-day sun, it’s very old-fashioned com­edy — which is to say, actu­ally funny instead of just sneery-cringey.

No won­der the crit­ics hate it. (See also that other recent ITV com­edy tri­umph Vicious.) Benidorm is tacky and trashy and stuck in the past but doesn’t mind who knows it, thank you very much.

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Kenneth Du Beke (Tony Maudsley)

Everyone is a cari­ca­ture but instantly recog­nis­able. Well, every­one is a cari­ca­ture except for Kenneth Du Beke (Tony Maudsley) the over­weight chain-smoking gay man­ager of the Solana’s salu­bri­ous hairdress­ing salon Blow ‘n’ Go who with his rather ‘young’ and ‘cheery’ styl­ing was mis­taken by Philip Olivier (aka ‘Tinhead’ from Brookside) for a children’s enter­tainer. He’s just doc­u­ment­ary.

Tacky and trashy and trapped in the past it may be, but Benidorm is also often well-written and sharply observed. The whole of epis­ode three (below) is quite bril­liant and takes on a very con­tem­por­ary sub­ject — judgey gay assump­tions about the rela­tion­ship between mas­culin­ity and sexu­al­ity — that most ‘ser­i­ous’ dra­mas wouldn’t dare.

The scene at 21:38 between love­able Liam Conroy (Adam Gillen) , the swishy Tenko and Dynasty fan and hairdresser who has fallen in love with a girl, and his narrow-minded tight-clothed gay boss who knows bet­ter and insists Liam is ‘really gay’ and is going to end up ‘liv­ing a lie’ deserves an Oscar:

Liam: “You need to learn to accept people for who they are! Just because I don’t fit into YOUR ste­reo­type of how a man should be doesn’t give you per­mis­sion to call me names! I am what I am and what I am [swings arm and pirou­ettes, badly] needs no excuses!!”

Likewise Benidorm is what it is and needs no excuses either. And as Liam’s cross-dressing dad Les/Lesley from Wearside would say: “Thank fook for that!”

Oh, and in case you think that Liam’s dilemma could only exist in a silly sit­com and never in real life — have a read of this heart­felt post by the young bal­let dan­cer Chehon Wespi-Tschopp about the way too many gay men treat him because he doesn’t fit into their ste­reo­type of how a man should be.

I Spy an M-Way Onanist

Mark Simpson on the motor­way drivers we all love to hate
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 Statistically the safest roads to drive on, there’s nev­er­the­less some­thing about motor­ways that seems to bring out the very worst in drivers. Other drivers, that is. Never you or me, of course.

Some would argue it’s because there’s no motor­way driv­ing required in the UK driv­ing test. But I think it’s because M-ways aren’t really any­where. They’re a limbo-land of anonym­ous bore­dom where people’s darkest per­son­al­ity defects come out to play – mag­ni­fied fright­en­ingly by the horsepower they’re barely in charge of. A motor­way is a three lane, high speed Rorschach test.

Here’s a list of some of those that fail it. Badly.

The Tailgater

Everyone’s favour­ite M-way psy­cho, the tail­gater is the driver who insists you admire their shiny BMW badge in your mir­rors. Before you both meet a sud­den, mangled, sticky end.

Responsible for the very worst motor­way acci­dents by ingeni­ously turn­ing the two second rule for the min­imum safe dis­tance into a two inch max­imum one, on-the-spot fines of £100 and three pen­alty points were recently intro­duced to deter the tail­gater (and also the lane-hogger). Though no one really expects them to work. Tailgaters live – and die – to tail­gate. You just can’t put a price on sadism.

Diagnosis: Fuel-injected sociopath. With a penis smal­ler than the gap between your bumpers.

The Bonnetgater

Overtakes you and then cuts you up, for­cing you to slow down so as to main­tain a safe dis­tance. Hilariously, the bon­net­gater will often actu­ally decel­er­ate after they’ve plonked them­selves two inches in front of you. They’ve achieved their object­ive – mak­ing you taste their exhaust – so why waste fuel while pick­ing their nose?

The worst thing about the bon­net­gater isn’t their thought­less­ness towards other road users, who no longer exist once they’re no longer in the way. No, it’s because they turn you into an uncon­sen­sual tail­gater. You’re on their bumper and you haven’t even been introduced.

Diagnosis: No sense of per­sonal space. Or sense.

The Undertaker

Decides that the min­imum safe dis­tance you’ve left between you and the car in front as you over­take traffic on the left is in fact reserved for them and over­takes you at 100 MPH — on the inside lane — to occupy it, while on the phone and eat­ing a bur­ger and smoking.

To get you in the mood, this charm­ing manœuvre is usu­ally pre­ceded by a spot of espe­cially aggress­ive tail­gat­ing and light flashing.

Diagnosis: Probably a former chair­man of an eth­ical Bank.

The Brake-Light Flasher

Hasn’t worked out that if you drive prop­erly on a motor­way, leav­ing a safe dis­tance, and actu­ally look­ing through the rather use­ful device called ‘a wind­screen’, the accel­er­ator is of much more use – and much less bloody annoy­ing for every­one else – than the brake pedal.

Diagnosis: They’re using morse code to spell out: ‘I-NEED-A-RETEST’

The Outside Lane Kamikazi

Literally can­not leave a motor­way from any lane other than the out­side one – brak­ing as they swoop across three lanes because they’ve left it far, far too late. Not because they for­got their exit but because they have to over­take as many cars as they can before they leave the motor­way OTHERWISE THEIR LIFE IS A TOTAL FAILURE.

Diagnosis: A total failure

The Slip-Road Kamikaze

This is in fact the Outside Lane Kamikaze when they join the motor­way. Instead of ‘giv­ing pri­or­ity to traffic already on the motor­way’ and match­ing their speed ‘to fit safely into the traffic flow in the left hand lane’ as dic­tated by the Highway Code, they treat the slip road as an over­tak­ing lane – or a pit-stop exit ramp.

Once again, they have to over­take as many cars as pos­sible before swerving in front of you just before they run out of slip – and then fin­ish­ing the manœuvre with a mas­ter­ful swerve across two lanes into the out­side lane, sans indic­ator, natch.

Diagnosis: Still a total failure

The Dozy Racer

Accelerates while you’re over­tak­ing. Can be a delib­er­ate tac­tic of boy racers show­ing off their torque, but more usu­ally a sneaky applic­a­tion of the throttle by someone wak­ing up to the hor­ri­fy­ing fact there are other people on their motorway.

An annoy­ing dilemma. If you refuse to rise to the bait and don’t accel­er­ate, pulling in behind them instead, they’re bound to slow down and you’ll find your­self in the same situ­ation again. But if you give in to tempta­tion and accel­er­ate you may then have to keep up the same excess­ive speed as you find your­self both locked in a battle of pre­tend­ing that you’re not racing.

Diagnosis: Passive-aggressive night­mare. Probably your ex.

The Lorry Driver from Duel

Pulls out their eight­een wheel rig faster than it takes their indic­ator to flash once – while you’re just begin­ning to over­take. Will also some­times tail­gate you to pass the time, espe­cially when you’re alone together in an aver­age speed check con­tra­flow at night, in the rain, dazzling you with head­lights the size of your rear win­dow. (Lorry drivers seem to know some­thing the rest of us don’t about aver­age speed cameras).

Diagnosis: Misunderstood gentle giants (PLEASE don’t tail­gate me again!)

The Whiner

Passes the time by com­plain­ing end­lessly about other motor­way drivers and com­pil­ing whinge­ing lists of their fail­ings – while hypo­crit­ic­ally prac­tising some of the very same out­rages him­self from time to time.

Diagnosis: Journalist.

(A ver­sion of this art­icle ori­gin­ally appeared on LeasePlan)

What Exactly Was Heterosexuality?

 

1975-What-exactly-is-heterosexuality-poster

This clas­sic Gay Liberation poster from 1975 by Alan Wakeman mock­ing mid-century het­ero­sex­ist plat­it­udes remains very funny indeed. It’s also still per­haps the best response to those — straight and gay — still seek­ing to find the ’cause’ of homosexuality.

Though obvi­ously the ‘Cultural Deprivation’ bal­loon at the bot­tom is no longer true:

Heterosexual men… think them­selves “ugly”, beauty being ascribed only to women. Many psychic dis­orders stem from this self-rejection.’

Three dec­ades on, male het­ero­sexu­al­ity has been pretty much phased out and replaced by met­ro­sexu­al­ity — spec­tac­u­larly abol­ish­ing the sexual divi­sion of look­ing and love­li­ness. Men nowadays clearly think them­selves irres­ist­ible, thank you very much.

In fact, if it was drawn today this chart would be titled: ‘What Exactly Was Heterosexuality?’

The revolu­tion­ary, uni­ver­sal prom­ise of Gay Liberation has been real­ised — at least in the bath­room and bed­room. By non-gay men as much if not more than gay ones.