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Manlove For Ladies

Mark Simpson on the crossover of female man-on-man fantasy – or ‘slash’ – into the mainstream

(‘The London Times, December 29, 2007)

When Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt of the hit BBC comedy The Mighty Boosh snogged on air the other week, it may have looked as if they were pandering, tongues literally in cheeks, to gay male fans. At first glance the swarm of comments on the YouTube clip (now removed) of the clinch seemed to confirm this: “The hottest thing I’ve ever seen!” and “Oh sweet baby Jesus!”, being typical examples.

Until you get to: “I broked my ovaries!!” – and then you realise that most if not all the posters perving shamelessly over this man-on-man action are actually female.

Welcome to the wonderful, if sometimes slightly perplexing world of ladies who love men loving men. Once, this scene was confined to obscure online groups of fanfic “slashers” – women who subversively outed a homoerotic subtext within the “buddy” genre for one another. So Starsky played with Hutch’s clutch, and Sam fingered Master Frodo’s ring.

But as we’ve increasingly seen, virtual day-dreaming has a way of infiltrating traditional media. In a sign of the crossover of slash – fashslash if you will – that Mighty Boosh snog seems to have been directly inspired by the online frenzied feminine fantasising about this male comedy duo’s close friendship.

Meanwhile, the semi-secret reason so many, from Desperate Housewives to Coronation Street, have boy-on-boy romances now is not so much political correctness, but a growing awareness that a large segment of their mostly female audience rather like seeing pretty boys getting it on.

This, after all, has been the implicit erotic dynamic of all those screamingly successful gay-managed, gay-flirty boybands from the Beatles to Wham to Take That. The huge success of Queer As Folk on both sides of the Atlantic was in part down to it’s slashy ‘Take That on Canal Street’ feel. Brokeback Mountain was essentially posh slash fiction that became a massively successful fashslash movie.

Sometimes though, today’s ladies’ overt and sometimes over-eager interest in manlove – the Queer Eye of the Straight Gal – can make men rather… shy. Earlier this year, a gay bar in Melbourne had to go to court to get an order banning women. Apparently they were descending on the club en masse to ogle the canoodling men.

Read what the slashers themselves have to say about this article.

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17 thoughts on “Manlove For Ladies”

  1. Hi Mark Simpson,

    I just discovered your work recently and I’m so happy about it. So interesting to read!
    I wanted to say that I’m just like the reader “L” above. Reading slash, loving gay storylines, adoring men on men action… etc. the whole thing. Maybe it’s a fetish but it feels like more to me. Have you ever encountered the term Girlfag in your research? You have to look at their livejournal page. I identify as a girlfag, even came out to some people including husband 3 years ago. Would love to read something about it in mainstream media eventually, so I don’t have to feel I have to hide that part of myself.

  2. That’s true Mark. They got it just right, hopefully next years will continue with the same welcome to all attitude.

  3. It makes sense that straight women find two men together as erotic. I think your right that ‘ Queer as folk’ played a more recent part. I suppose been a admirer of James Dean, Monty Clift, Cary Grant from a little girl made the idea of two man together back then romantic as it was forbidden and career destroying. More importantly Mark, eventhough I was unaware these books created by women for women( probably one of the only media outlets that is) about gay sex. You should tell them to move other as you are to write from the prospective of a gay man. Regarding Canal Street, I think it very hen parties that parade around probably because they feel safe. Liverpool’s Pride was aimed at family and friends not exclusive.

  4. The main reason I didn’t watch SATC very much was because I believed they had that much money to spend on clothes.

    A couple of years ago, me and a TV producer pal tried to interest the ‘groovy’ UK TV channels in commissioning a documentary about manlove for the ladies and its (highly influential) secret history – presented by a suitably feisty lady. I believe someone from SATC was suggested.

    All the commissioning editors approached turned it down. I was told they all, male and female – but mostly male – refused to believe it really existed.

  5. Dear Innocents!

    Anyone of a ‘sensitive disposition’: Turn your head away from the screen. Right now. I’ve just ‘remembered’ a lyric from the ‘delightful’ Mr Slim Shady.
    Caution! Quite possibly N.S.F.W if you follow the lyric link.
    Which I don’t advise if you’re either Andrea Dworkin or Catherine McKinnon!

    “She said “Come in, its unlocked!”
    I walked in and all I smelled was Liz Claiborne
    And seen her spread across the bed naked watchin gay porn
    She said “Come her big boy, lets get acquainted”.
    I turned around to run, twisted my ankle and sprained it”

    Lyric copyright: Eminem

    Or if your political preferences dictate as you sit at your P.C p.c [sic] Hic!
    ‘Mr In Dire Need of a Lyrical Enema’ : e-m-i-N-e-n-e-M- E !
    Like he (I, We: MPD) give a fc-uk!
    No! he (I, We: MPD) still don’t give a fc-uk!

    Oh, dear! I’m ‘morphing’ again…. Another ‘alter’, surely it‘s not possible! Nurse, quickly! The screens!

    Regards, Marshall, er ….Andrew.G.Mooney, aka:
    The Ultimate ‘Lyrical-Satirical-Surrealist Terrorist‘.

    ‘Disturbed’ of Malvern Wells, England. 2000 + HATE!

    PS: Please don’t tell my neighbours about this post! I never talk 2 my net-twitchin’ runny- nosy neighbours: I’d rather not get involved, and so on and so forth.

    PPS: Copyright…..? Does such a thing still exist? Well, if it does, this is. And everything else, Mark or I chew your scrotum off with my bare teeth.
    Got it? Good. Now fc-uk off ‘n’ Fc-Uk y’all!

    Thank you and Goodnight!

  6. Women have been getting off on gay men since men have been getting off on lesbians. Why wouldn’t they? At the very least, (gross generalisation alert) gay men tend to look after themselves better. But the fact that this seems to be a surprise – but not to you, I don’t suppose! – is much more to do with the notion that women are only supposed to have sexual desires within the context of “committed relationships”. Unless they are weird, child-hating, society-destroying perverts.
    Anyway, I don’t think the Sex and the City women looking at gay porn has anything to do with “Samantha laughing at men”. Any fule kno that lots of women, died in the wool lesbians included, like watching gay male porn.
    A lot of the comment at the time that the women in sex in the city weren’t realistic because the scripts were written by gay men is crap. The main bit of their lives I didn’t believe was the fact they had so much money to spend on clothes! Their sex lives seemed entirely plausible. But lots of people don’t like the idea that women can pursue sex like they did.

  7. Ma-a-a-rk…

    Haven’t visited in a while, to my shame. Your calling yourself this ‘lesbosexual’ father makes me think you’ve…abandoned your fire for cliches. Stop categorising!

  8. It must have made quite an impact on me then seeing this one particular instance of their shared joy. Yes, I’d have loved to have been there, although certainly not as ‘one of the girls’ – on my own or with other men, gay or straight, certainly. I got the impression that it was another (probably deserved) example of empowered women, especially Samantha, laughing at men generally and enjoying the added bonus of extra ‘prickage’ to boot.

  9. Neither was I. But I believe they watched gay porn in one episode and admitted to one another that they found it a turn on. This was one of the first acknowledgements of the phenomenon on TV, but it seems to have been largely overlooked/disbelieved: ‘Oh, Sex in the City – aren’t they like Gay Men anyways?’

  10. I was never a big watcher of Sex and the City but didn’t Samantha et al watch gay porn for a giggle all the time?

  11. I’ve been saying for years that then ladies’ into boy-on-boy action is a more widely spread phenomenon than most people think. Look at authors like Patricia Highsmith and Barbara Vine who seem to be fasinated with gay males. And in Japan there’s a whole genre of manga comics with romantic stories about gay men written by women for women.

  12. I’ve had this “fetish” for as long as i can remember, I am now a woman in her thirties and I’m so thankful for youtube and all the freedom it has brought about.
    I’ve been called faghag, pervert, weirdo,and much worst, I have a dvd library that a gay man would be proud of and I have aquired the ability to sniff out a gay storyline , be it in a soap or a movie a mile off.
    boy on boy action is girl porn, and long may it last.

  13. Ann, you’re absolutely right. I am terrific.

    And, yes, slash hasn’t created women’s real-world enjoyment of seeing hot manlove action. I meant to suggest online slash is helping to alert the traditional media to many women’s non-traditional sexual sensibility. But I probably didn’t make that clear.

    It was a much smaller piece than I would have liked to have written about the subject, which I find endlessly fascinating.

    Especially when it involves watching drunken straight lads snogging one another in clubs because they’ve been ordered to by a lass, which seems to be increasingly common, at least round these rural parts.

    Sexual equality never looked so good.

  14. Mark, you are terrific! You’ve been on top (sorry, pun intended) of this issue from the beginning.

    The one quibble I have is your assertion that the online “daydreaming” of slash fiction created women’s enjoyment of seeing hot man-on-man action. I think it’s the other way round. Many women have always adored seeing two hot guys get it on. Slash fiction helped us open up about what we like, to admit it and not be ashamed. Men are very open about liking “lesbian” action. Why should we women have to deny that we like seeing “gay” men in action?

    As for the shy boys in Melbourne, I do sympathize. Perhaps gay bars will have to start having front rooms and back rooms again–the front for men who like being watched, the back for men who want privacy.

  15. Thank you for that, Mr Simpson.

    ‘Str8’ males have been ‘OUT AND PROUD!’ about their wank-athons ‘over volcanic Vulva on Vulva action for…how many thousand years?

    Alexander and various Caesar’s tossed all kinds of salads on their ‘adventures’. As, I’m sure did Cleopatra, as she opened one more cask of Timothy Taylor’s ale….Fnar! Fnar!!

    Isn’t this just another sign of all the ‘wonderful equality’ we are all now enjoying?

    That the ladeez can ‘Come Out’ about their curiosity. Re: What, exactly, goes on in the showers when hubby’s ‘playing away’?

    Oh, and weren’t those ‘gays’ in Melbourne just ‘defending a gay space’? You’re supposed to be the expert. Not me.

    Overall: Doesn’t it make you happy to be alive as we ‘enter’ 2008, metaphorically and/or actually? Good grief! Take that knob out of your mouth, boy – I’m talking to you!

    I regret to inform you that I have targeted your site as part of my ongoing ‘experiment’ with this new-fangled Interweb thingy – which has just arrived here in Middle Englande: Along with electricity and The Royal Mail!

    Keep this quiet! Don’t tell anyone I’m an ‘invert’! I don’t want it all over ‘The Malvern Gazette’!!! Discretion, please.

    Confused by your lexicon. What, exactly, is a ‘gay man’? I’ve tried to find out ‘The Rules’ but no bookshop seems to stock it here. Perhaps you could write a definitive guide as to how to ‘make the transition’ for ‘normal’ to…where exactly?

    How do you start? Where do go? Who do you need to know? Etc.

    Is there an on-line correspondence course on how to distinguish between ‘gay’ and ‘str8’? Let’s not talk about those terrible bi – sexual -ists. They’re the worst! By a long shot. Shot by both sides?
    How very dare you!

    Happy New Year, Mr Simpson and thanks 4 all the ‘Amuse – Bouches’ on your delicate and flavoursome site.

    Kindly yours:
    Disgusted of Malvern Wells, England.

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