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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.

14 thoughts on “The Trouble With Men”

  1. Yes, sorry, there was some kind of glitsch with my blog that changed the date-stamp for this post from five years ago to today, and as a result the Networked Blogs bot posted it on my FB page.

    I’ve changed the date back to 2006.

  2. I remember the first time I saw Fanshaw. Or should that be Featherstonehaugh? It was on Saturday Live in the 80s, with Ben Elton, Fry & Laurie etc.

    Halfway through his act he awkwardly came out to the audience…and stood there waiting for them to applaud and cheer. Long seconds of silence.

    I think Fanshaw really wants to be a rebel, so when he thinks it’s rebelliously cool to come out, he does so. And when being gay, taking drugs and having lots of fun sex isn’t an issue for anyone with a functioning brain…he rebels against that.

  3. Mark, you seem to forget all the work Simon has done for the rights of gay men in the UK over the years. He was one of the founders of Stonewall and continues to campaign. Why not breathe a little, and allow him to be a little shocked by slings and watersports.

    Simon was simply raising questions about the sex-centred nature of the gay scene, and we’re all allowed to respond to his comments however we like. But your response is a loveless personal attack on Simon, Who’s really being judgmental here?

    The trouble with gay men…

  4. WOW. This will get deleted no doubt, but talk about ignorant. Yes this is an old article I know, boo hoo, cry me a river.

    First off, i’m a bisexual 22 year old guy from the north west. I grew up in inner city liverpool, surrounded by beer louts and football nuts. Not exactly a middle class upbringing, you might say.

    My first encounter with the gay scene was at 16 (at the time I belived I was gay, rather than bi), at Canal Street… and I was disgusted. NEVER in my life had I met such shallow sacks of meat. People who pushed drink after drink on the new young boy just to try and get in his pants got to me eventually, so we changed bar… and then this happned in multiple bars

    All this is rather shocking to the virgin eyes of a 16 year old: Sex in the toilets. What boils down to porn mags left on the seats of the bar area. Condoms handed out from behind the bar – for free!

    So while i’m there, trying to see my friends over the mountain of cheap alcohol some desperate loser is shoving onto me, I can’t help but realise the ENTIER gay scene is based around one thing, and one thing only: Sex. And not meaningful sex, cheap, dirty, nasty and quick sex with no strings attached… Its no wonder every gay scener I know is now an emotional mess. If all these people want to do is fuck and thats it… I have to wonder what could be missing in your life to make you so fixated. Yes I like sex, my boyfriend of nearly seven years likes sex too… but theres more to our lived than basing it on sex, and everything ‘gay.’

    Though this is the way you chose to live you life. I can’t change that no more than you can change mine. If vapid, shallow sex with vapid, shallow people is all you want from your extended youth, then so be it. But one day, when you’re touching 45, still single, not having sex with anyone cause the gay scene now thinks your “too old” and “too ugly” and missing your nose from drug abuse, maybe then you’ll look back and think “God… maybe I shouldn’t have done that.”

    I am not here to preach of convert you. Enjoy your life, but always look forward.

    For the record, don’t go saying “LOL MIDLECLASS STUCK UP LOL!” about the guy who made this show, it makes you look ignorant to people like him, MORE than it made him look ignorant to you.

  5. The programme was indeed audacious, and contrived. However, what’s the fuss about being a “domestic” gay? Who is to say that men who choose that lifestyle are drab or boring? You? Just like Fanshawe’s programme was a stereotypical whinefest, so is your assessment of gay men who live in the burbs and “choose their chocolate cake for their registration reception.” My goodness! They couldn’t possibly be content, because they don’t hit the pubs! There is no RIGHT way to live, only what works for YOU. Your comments are no more valid than Fanshawe’s falsely naive perspective.

  6. As ever, slick and funny Mr S. I rememeber reading a Fanny Shaw Q and A article in The Guardian some years ago and his answering the question “Where and When Were You Happiest?”. He responded, “Kissing another man on the dancefloor of a nightclub fo the first time”. I can only imagine the mis en scene of such a horrid pairing, and Simon’s rolling eyes- dreaming of gifts of Eternal Beau toasters and a Vauxhall Corsa on shared HP- but its rather disingenuous in light of his dreary, plastic beliefs today. It’s always the mingers who have such a big deal with us party people. Fun sucking, four eyed nob.

  7. P.S. Good to see that it increased business at the featured sauna. Maybe they should give SF a season ticket

  8. Ha! I’m with you on this hlariously pompous ass. I had mates screaming down the phone, all a-splutter at his cod respectability and judgemental posing. I could not take him seriously once I saw him slaver all over a posing twink while upbraiding him for being shallow.

    Thankfully I like men with minds so Fannyshawe is a non-person to me in both senses. If I meet him sometime I hope he remains so obliviously and naively funny.

  9. could someone please tell the name of the sauna in London Simon Fanshawe visited in his documentary. Thnaks

  10. I instinctly gave this sad programme a miss and now this like Brokeback Mountain avoidance(well maybe when its on the telly in a few years time!and it turns on women I hear so maybe not all bad!)was proved right.Another incisive piece like the first one I read of yours re Michael Barrymore(me and other MB fans dont see many like that one around).Sounds like this bloke has a thing for police unforms even if MB understandly does not!

  11. Thank you for writing this. I am from North Yorkshire so enjoyed. I laughed so much when you said we were probably lying a sling being peed on whilst we watched the programme because you are not far from the truth. Seriously, for us the programme was shit. It was badly edited and poorly researched but we knew what we were letting ourselves in for. Our sauna web site has been hit over 12,000 times and we’ve had the busiest two weeks on record. Who was it that said there’s nothing worse than being talked about…..?

  12. Haha! That was fantastic. I was told to take a look at this after my own rant upon watching that programme. Good work.

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