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Category: commentary (page 49 of 72)

Gay Men As Bad As Women (But Not As Bad As Psychobiology)

by Mark Simpson

(Guardian CIF, Sunday January 6, 2008)

It’s official. The scientists have finally proved it. Gay men are as bad as women.

Or as the Daily Mail puts it in a somewhat unnecessarily long headline: “Gay men are as bad at navigating as women“.

The Daily Telegraph headline was a little more direct: “Women and gay men are ‘worst drivers‘”.

Actually, this wasn’t what the researchers into spatial learning and memory at Queen Mary’s (no, really, that’s actually their name) College claimed at all, but I say why allow the facts spoil a good headline? Or Jeremy Clarkson column?

What the researchers did actually claim however was that both gay men and women appear to “share the same poor sense of direction and rely on local landmarks to get around”.

That would be cottages and shoe shops, I suppose.

According to the Mail, a study of 140 straight and gay, male and female “volunteers” by Queen Mary College, London claims to have found that “gay men, straight women and lesbians navigated in much the same way and shared the same weaknesses.” For South American Chardonnay and men’s buns, perhaps?

But hang on a minute. And lesbians? What are they doing lumped together with gay men and straight women? I thought that if gay men are women trapped inside men’s bodies, lesbians were supposed to be trapped inside an articulated lorry cab with their feet on the dashboard smoking roll-ups.

But as you read on it dawns what this sophisticated psychological test was really assessing. “The Queen Mary team, led by Dr Qazi Rahman, used virtual reality simulations of two common tests of spatial learning and memory developed at Yale University.”

Ah, so they played computer games. Not very good computer games, by the sound of it:

In one, the Morris Water Maze (MWM) test, volunteers were placed in a “virtual pool” and had to “swim” through a maze to find hidden submerged platform … The other task, the Radial Arm Maze test (RAM), involved finding “rewards” by exploring eight “arms” radiating out from a circular central junction. Four arms contained a reward and four did not, and participants had to avoid traversing an arm more than once.

Well, maybe it’s because I’m gay and dizzy, but you’ve lost me already. I want to log on and hunt for meaningless sex for hours via my scores of online profiles. You can keep your rather tedious reject Xbox game.

There may well be generalised differences between men and women when it comes to driving or other spatial based activities, such as computer games (men seem to play them rather more than women, though often with straight men this appears to be a way of getting away from women). And these may well have some relationship to sexual orientation, though what we mean by sexual orientation is a question in itself – after all, bisexuals are not mentioned in this survey. But it doesn’t appear that this study has shown it – instead it has merely shown up some cultural prejudices (e.g. that Telegraph “worst drivers” misleading headline).

Even the findings of this study appear to confirm gay men’s role as confusers of assumptions about gender. The leader of the Queen Mary team is quoted as saying: ‘”Gay people appear to show a “mosaic” of performance, parts of which are male-like and other parts of which are female-like”‘. So in other words, gay men watch porn, leave toilet seats up but also do a spot of dusting.

Perhaps though the disoriented gay men in the study weren’t gay men at all, but pissed-up fruit flies escaped from another scientific study published this week, which claimed to show that alcohol produces “homosexual tendencies” in male fruit flies. The researchers claimed the amorousness the flies showed one another after repeated exposure to alcohol is a model for how alcohol lessens inhibitions in humans.

I suspect this is one claim that isn’t terribly controversial.

It has been pointed out to me since this piece appeared that Dr Quazi Rahman, the man behind the study which claimed to have ‘discovered’ similarities between gay men and women’s brains, is the author of a book called ‘Born Gay’. If only snarky commentators like me could learn to be as objective as psychobiologists.

How I Fluffed Big Brother And My Chance to be REALLY FAMOUS

That shameless hussy show Big Brother will soon be spread-eagled across our screens again. The puddle-deep fame factory and test-tube celembryo hatchery starts it’s Summer-long domination of the TV schedules next week.

I have no intention of watching it – like most, I had my BB fling years ago and wish it would stop trying to woo me back. But I do have a slight curiosity about who the contestants are this year.  Why? Because they might have been my housemates this Summer. They might have been people I was arguing with over crumbs in the margarine, bitching with about other housemates, or pretending to have sex with under a duvet.

If only I wasn’t so precious. Or was a bit more of a masochist.

Late last year I received an email via this blog from Endemol, the makers of BB, trying to persuade me to ‘audition’ for BB 9.

I inititally dismissed it out of hand, of course.  But then I actually thought about it for a while – if only because I was trying to make sense of it.  Why me?  Am I so obviously mad and desperate and unknown?

I quickly stopped asking myself those questions… and began to think practical instead. Yes, the whole notion of appearing on BB filled me with horror and terror, but perhaps I was just being snobbish, and cutting off my own snooty nose to spite my face.

Was there any way, for instance, that I could make something nice and vulgar like money out of it?

But then I realised that the only way you make money out of BB, aside from winning – which, along with surviving more than a couple of weeks would be completely out of the question for Nasty Mark – is through tabloid interviews and provincial club appearances.

Somehow, I don’t think tabloid readers or clubgoers anywhere are going to get very excited over me.

I very briefly thought about the ‘inside the belly of the beast’ pop-cultural angle, but realised that the so-called serious press wouldn’t really be interested in that either. They’d just want wordy, hypocritical pieces about the girl with the big knockers who kept fellating bottles.

Besides, imagine agreeing to a BB audition and being rejected?

So I replied to Endemol:

‘Whilst it’s always nice to be asked, I think I’ll have to turn down your offer because:

a) I don’t do telly for free (terribly old-fashioned, I know, but that’s me)

b) Although I do have prison fantasies, they don’t usually involve Davina McCall’

Queer Eye of the Tory Guy Headed For Number 10

After yesterday’s disastrous Nantwich by-election defeat for Gordon Brown by David Cameron’s resurgent, re-branded, made-over, moisturised Tories, which came hard on the heels of the drubbing the Brown One received a few weeks ago in the English local council elections, the media – and a substantial part of the Labour Party itself – is now baying for his head.

I hate to say I told you so.

But I told you so.

Twenty months ago, in the dying days of Tony’s Premiership, when the media was getting all excited about Leader-in-Waiting Brown and giving rave reviews to his dreadful speech to the 2006 Labour Party Conference – and dissing Cameron – I predicted that His Brown-ness couldn’t win the next election:

The delivery of his speech yesterday was full of visual proof of this. I have no idea what Brown is like in the flesh, but on telly – i.e. the real world – Brown looks like a loser. Dead, hooded eyes which offer no contact with the audience or the camera, choreographed but strangely ill-timed, clawing hand movements and weird goldfish-like gulps at the end of each line. After nine years of Tony’s glamorous drag queen charisma, he looks like a particularly deluded punter auditioning for X-Factor while Simon Cowell pulls faces.

Brown may well, as he says, ‘relish’ the opportunity to ‘take on Cameron’, but Cameron looks increasingly likely to simply sweep him aside. After a couple of years of Brown-ness the electorate will stampede to elect the smooth, moisturised, green-ish manipulator Cameron, someone who knows exactly what we want to hear and how to coo those sweet nothings in our ears. By then he’ll be seen as Tony Blair without Iraq. Tony Blair without the TUC. Tony Blair without the haggard face.

Tony Blair without Gordon Brown.

Of course, Brown has been rather unlucky of late. But then, politicians are supposed to make their own luck. Or at least tell us stories we want to hear – and want to believe. Brown has proved singularly, catastrophically unable to do this. And it was staggeringly, appallingly obvious all along. True, things could perk up for Brown before the General Election in a year or so.

But I don’t think it very likely. Do you?

Cuba’s Metrosexual Revolution Continues

This weekend Communist Cuba held a large government-backed rally against homophobia, the first of its kind in that country, presided over by Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela.

“This is a very important moment for us, the men and women of Cuba, because for the first time we can gather in this way and speak profoundly and with scientific basis about these topics,” said Mariela Castro, director of Cuba’s Center for Sexual Education.

Cuba’s metrosexual revolution, the modernisation – perestroika even – of attitudes towards sexuality and gender after decades of stagnation and embargo, seems to be picking up speed after hirsute, retrosexualist revolutionary Fidel Castro’s official departure from the scene (in a tracksuit).

I’m sure Mariela is sincere in her motivation and goals, however it should be pointed out that this new, enlightened approach is also a rather good, relatively inexpensive way of ‘rebranding’ Cuba after years of bad press. Being nice to gays is after all one of the ways in which all sorts of out-of-touch and oppressive institutions such as the British Army, the BBC, The New York Times, and even the Guardian have attempted to update their fusty, daggy image in the past decade.

As part of the new drive to change attitudes, Brokeback Mountain was also aired on prime-time Cuban TV over the weekend.

Which just goes to remind us that all revolutions have downsides.

German Soldiers Shave Their Pubes

An ad for Braun in Germany.

I have nothing to say.

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