Skip to content

The Trouble With Men

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because they can.

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