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How The Prostate Came Out of the Closet

Mark Simpson snaps on the latex gloves and gives men’s prostates a thorough examination

(Originally appeared in a shorter, more tasteful form in The Daily Telegraph, 12 Nov 2014)

‘Movember’ is upon us again, and so are the ironic and perhaps not so ironic upper lip pubes, reminding us of the very important, very worthy – and until recently very overlooked – issue of prostate cancer. A disease which affects 42,000 men in the UK each year, and kills 11,000.

But this is perhaps also a good time to remember that prostates don’t just get cancer – and they’re not just for November, or for producing an alkaline secretion which helps sustain ejaculated sperm in the vagina. They can also give a great deal of year-round pleasure. Mind blowing, leg-shaking, eye-rolling, neighbour-panicking pleasure.

While the very existence of the female G-spot remains a matter of hot debate, the male G-spot is mighty real. Situated just below a chap’s urinary bladder, wrapped around the urethra, the prostate is a walnut-sized button conveniently placed about a finger’s length from the anal opening – proof positive of ‘intelligent design’.

And more and more are being reached regularly – not just by medical practitioners looking for ‘enlargement’. The 21st century is shaping up to be the century of the prostate.

‘Reach’ it and you – and possibly your bedroom walls – will be left in no doubt as to its existence. As Seann Scott William discovered in the college comedy ‘Road Trip’ – released in 2000, around the time Movember was just getting bristly – when his arrogant frat-boy character ‘EL’ attempts to make a sperm donation, and is ‘helped out’ by a slightly sadistic, latex-gloved female nurse.

‘That was awesome!’ he says, dazed-amazed afterwards. And by the film’s end he’s instructing his girlfriend to ‘use three fingers’. Probably provoking many a young man’s interest in his own prostate.

2000 was certainly a busy year for that ticklish gland. In ‘Me, Myself & Irene’ another comedy released later the same year, Jim Carrey plays a split personality Jekyll and Hyde character – his obnoxious egoist half also turns out to enjoy anal insertion: this time in the form of an eye-wateringly XXL dildo during a night of passion with Renee Zellwegger.

Yes the male anality on display in these Millennium movies was largely at the expense of the males concerned, but because the men being prostatically pleasured were straight, both movies effectively told their audiences that in the new century men enjoying their rears being played with was not specifically ‘gay’. Just ridiculously intense.

Which seems to have been all the permission that straight men needed. A decade or so on from its Hollywood ‘outing’, that hitherto hidden gland definitely has no sexual orientation – and little or no shame. ‘I’m going to stick my whole thumb up your ass this evening’ says a newly-engaged women fairly randomly to her lucky boyfriend in the TV drama ‘Fargo’. [And a couple of months after this piece was published, the sit-com ‘Broad City’ featured an episode in which a man asks his female date to use a strap-on on him – after some initial uncertainty, she kindly obliges.]

‘Prostate massagers’ of all shapes and baffling sizes (vibrating and non-vibrating) fill the pages of on-line sex toy stores. Men’s mags such as Esquire and Men’s Health interrupt their guides to the mysteries of the female body to give advice on how to get your girlfriend to massage your prostate just right while giving you a blow job. Entire books are devoted to the subject, promising you ‘The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure’.

And a giant green butt plug was inflated in Paris last month – the city that in another epoch was famous for Mr Eiffel’s phallic Gallic tower.

Not wanting to be, ahem, behind the curve, Harvard University is now offering seminars on anal sex titled: ‘What’s What in the Butt: Anal Sex 101’, where you can learn ‘anal anatomy and the potential for pleasure for all genders!’

The back bottom is the new front bottom – as a peek at straight on-line porn will confirm. It’s possibly not without significance that the orifice that straight men seem most interested in women these days is one they share themselves. After all ‘anal sex’ is a highly reversible concept.

This was graphically and noisily demonstrated in the leaked vid of the pro footballer a few years back which appeared to show him being ‘scored’ by an ex female partner with a ‘strap on’. The tabs talked then of course about how ‘bizarre’ and ‘kinky’ his private past-time was – but as with William’s ‘Road Trip’, his loud enjoyment of it will have just made many football fans wonder what they’ve been missing by always playing up front instead of at the rear.

Certainly the possibility of male passivity is advertised everywhere you look now. After all spornosexuality, hard-core, body-centred, second generation metrosexuality, is as much about the lunge-sculpted ass as it is the tits and abs. Straight Essex boy Dan Osborne kindly offered the readers of gay mag Attitude his naked muscle butt recently in a generous double-page spread – with the strap line ‘Sex is fun. Be safe and enjoy it.’

Dan offers his bum (safely) to Attitude readers. 'Enjoy!'

Dan offers his bum (safely) to Attitude readers. ‘Enjoy!’

Posh boys are also at it. The male rowers of Warwick University have just released their latest nude charity calendar, aimed at women and gay men, and ‘fighting homophobia in sports’ – rammed with plenty of arse shots (because there’s no penis in their nude calendar, they’re all bottom). In these prostatic times the male derriere has been thoroughly sexualised. Mostly by the men attached to one. Or as one of the rowers puts it in their promotional video: ‘Regardless of gender or sexuality we are inviting you into that moment with us.’

Some stick-in-the-muds will of course harrumph that male anal play and passivity is ‘unnatural’ and ‘sodomitical’. To which I always reply: If God hadn’t intended men to try anal play he wouldn’t have given them prostate glands. Unless he just wanted to really mess with their heads.

And He – or naughty, naughty She – gave them to all men, whatever their sexual orientation and whatever their sexual hang-ups. Your prostate gland doesn’t care whether you’re straight, gay, bi or homophobic – just whether or not it’s loved.

But then, that quaint old homophobic rallying cry ‘Backs against the wall lads!’ was always a bit of a give-away. Ever so slightly hinting that if ‘the lads’ didn’t press their rears against something solid they wouldn’t be able to resist impaling themselves on the ‘poof’.

Yes, of course, despite some of the prostatic propaganda – including this article – not all men enjoy their prostates being massaged. Whether they are straight or gay. But the outing of the prostate gland as a potential organ of (passive) male pleasure – of male versatility – regardless of sexuality frees gay and bisexual men from the very heavy burden of representing all male anal pleasure. And straight men from having to be full-time ‘studs’.

So next time you see a Village People moustache in November, remember that the prostate is a gland men should be proud of. And in touch with. One way or another.

The Celebrity Sex Lives of Rats

Men brought up with women are less sexy

announced the headline in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph, the UK’s last daily broadsheet.  A headline which has, unsurprisingly, helped to make it the second most popular story on their website.  A headline which provokes a number of intriguing questions.  Questions such as: Men brought up with women are less sexy than… what?  Men brought up with wolves?  Or, men who attended Eton?

The Daily Telegraph’s Science Correspondent helpfully elaborates:

‘Having a large number of female siblings makes men no less heterosexual but their mannerisms and body language may be seen as less butch than those who have been brought up amid the rough and tumble of a male dominated household.’

‘Researchers discovered the ratio of male and females within a family growing up together can influence the sexual behaviour, rather than the sexuality, of a boy who is outnumbered.’

Now, I’ll resist the temptation to say something about that image of a man being ‘outnumbered’ by women for the moment. Because the most important thing to note here is that it isn’t until the fourth paragraph in this news item about ‘how men brought up with women are less sexy’ that we discover the psychobiologists aren’t talking about men and women.

They’re talking about rats.  They did some experiments on rodents.  The ‘men and women’ and ‘boys and girls’ the Telegraph article has told us about so categorically are male and female vermin.  The ‘households’ are rat litters.  The ‘butchness’ and ‘rough and tumble’ discussed is ratty.  The ‘heterosexuality’ discussed is rat rutting.

‘Male rats were taken from their mothers and redistributed in litters in which there was either more female pups or more male pups, or equally mixed.’

‘When it came to mating, the male rats brought up in a litter of mainly sisters, spent less time mating than those brought up among male rats or in an equally divided litter.’

In other words, even if we re-wrote the Telegraph headline to, say ‘Male rats brought up with female rats are less sexy’ it would still be inaccurate.  The headline should probably read: ‘Male rats brought up with more females than males get less sex.’ Though this would give the sub-editor a heart-attack.  Worse, it would mean that the piece had no chance of getting into the Telegraph’s ‘Most Read’ chart.

Apparently the number of mountings were lower, in part because:

‘…they were not being invited to do so by the females who signal their availability by wiggling their ears or ‘dart hopping’ – an established rodent come on!’

Which is nice.  But it’s only right at the end of this news story about how men brought up with women are less sexy that you get this statement from one of the psychobiologists in question, actually talking about humans – rather than, you know, rats:

‘And what applies to rats may have implications for humans too, he added.’

Hang on. What’s this wussy, pussy-footing MAY have IMPLICATIONS?  Was he brought up in a litter where he was outnumbered by women or something?  We already know exactly what it means for humans because the Daily Telegraph told us in the headline and the first three paragraphs.  But the psychobiologist just can’t grow a pair.  Instead he offers us this woolly, hopelessly girly statement:

“It tells you that families are important – how many brothers and sisters you have, and the interaction among those individuals.”  Families are particularly important in shaping personalities, he says. The environment where you were raised “doesn’t determine personality, but it helps to shape it.”

Now this isn’t exactly earth-shattering.  But even this statement is based here on unsubstantiated and somewhat dubious extrapolation from rat behaviour to humans.  Rats, for example, have litters of about ten pups that take five weeks to reach sexual maturity, while humans tend to only drop one at a time which take fourteen years or more to develop.  And female humans are generally less likely to wiggle their ears when they feel flirty.

But the general conclusion here would probably be that environment, even in the case of rats, whose behaviour was thought to be decided by genes and pre-natal endocrinology, is more important than was thought.

Mind you, The Daily Telegraph’s wildly anthropomorphizing reporting is a model of objectivity and accuracy compared to Time Magazine, which seems to lose its mind over the same story, giving it this bizarre title:

‘Why You’re Gay: A New Study Shows Why Boy Rats Like Other Boy Rats’

Er, no it doesn’t.  (And nor does it talk about ‘boy-rats’, whatever they are.)  But there’s no stopping Time:

‘Here’s the news: boy rats who have more sisters are less reliable heterosexuals than boy rats who have fewer sisters. That’s not to say having a sister makes you gay, but the boy rats with lots of sisters were significantly less interested than other boy rats in mounting girl rats.’

‘…less reliable heterosexuals’.  Whatever that phrase means, it isn’t in the abstract or the press release. Nor is there any discussion of male rats mounting one another.  It seems that the reasoning here is that if a male rat mounts female rats less often than other male rats then he must be, y’know, gay.  Which is an interesting insight into notions of compulsory heterosexuality at Time, but not so much into the sex lives of rats.

In fact, and this is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the study – which neither the Daily Telegraph nor Time reported – the male rats raised in ‘female dominant’ litters turned out to have just as many insertions and ejaculations with females as the other males. As the abstract tells us:

…the number of intromissions and ejaculations did not differ across groups, which suggests that males from female-biased litters mate as efficiently as males raised in other sex ratios, but do not require as many mounts to do so.

In other words, if you really want to anthropomorphize, the headline should read:

‘Men brought up with women better at getting it in’

But these wacky scientific fairy tales in Time and The Daily Telegraph are not completely without merit.  Both are really excellent examples of why you should treat any ‘sexy’ report about the ‘discoveries’ of psychobiology in regard to human behaviour very, very sceptically indeed, always bearing in mind that:

a) They’re probably talking about rats

And

b) You need to multiply the dubiousness of extrapolating rat research to human behaviour by the increasing need of scientific research to get publicity these days – and then again by the rampant projections of the media itself and its need to make an already souped-up story ‘interesting’ and ‘familiar’ to their readers.

Let’s Be Civil: Gay Marriage Isn’t The End of the Rainbow

by Mark Simpson (A shorter version originally appeared on Guardian CIF November 2, 2008)

“It’s better to marry than burn with passion,” declared St Paul. But now marriage itself seems to have become a burning issue – or at least, gay marriage.

The re-banning of gay marriage in California earlier this month with the passage of Proposition 8 has been presented by gay marriage advocates as a vicious body-blow for gay rights. Angry gay people and their allies have protested across the US, some reportedly even rioting. The timely release of the Gus Van Sant movie Milk, about the murder in 1977 of Harvey Milk, the US’s first out elected official, has fuelled the sense of gay outrage and defiance. Surely only a hateful bigot like the one that gunned down Harvey would be opposed to gay marriage?

Gay marriage is the touchstone of gay equality, apparently. Settling for anything less is a form of Jim Crow style gay segregation and second-class citizenship.

But not all gays agree. This one for instance sees gay marriage not so much as a touchstone as a fetish. A largely symbolic and emotional issue that in the US threatens to undermine real, non-symbolic same-sex couple protection: civil unions bestow in effect the same legal status as marriage in several US states – including California. As a result of the religious right’s mobilisation against gay marriage, civil unions have been rolled back in several US states.

Perhaps the lesson of Proposition 8 is not that most straight people think gay people should sit at the back of the bus, but that if you take on religion and tradition on its hallowed turf – and that is what marriage effectively is – you’re highly likely to lose.  Even in liberal California.

Maybe I shouldn’t carp, living as I do in the UK, where civil partnerships with equal legal status to marriage have been nationally recognised since 2004. But part of the reason that civil partnerships were successfully introduced here was because they are civil partnerships not “marriages” (the UK is a much more secular country than the US, and somewhat more gay-friendly too – but even here gay marriage would almost certainly not have passed).

At this point I’d like to hide behind the, erm, formidable figure of Sir Elton John, who also expressed doubts recently about the fixation of US gay campaigners on the word ‘marriage’, and declared he was happy to be in a civil partnership with the Canadian David Furnish and did not want to get married. Needless to say, Mr John wasn’t exactly thanked for speaking his mind by gay marriage advocates.

But amidst all the gay gnashing of teeth about the inequality of Proposition 8 it’s worth asking: when did marriage have anything to do with equality? Respectability, certainly. Normality, possibly. Stability, hopefully. Very hopefully. But equality?

First of all, there’s something gay people and their friends need to admit to the world: gay and straight long-term relationships are generally not the same. How many heterosexual marriages are open, for example? In my experience, many if not most long term male-male relationships are very open indeed. Similarly, sex is not quite so likely to be turned into reproduction when your genitals are the same shape. Yes, some gay couples may want to have children, by adoption or other means, and that’s fine and dandy of course, but children are not a consequence of gay conjugation. Which has always been part of the appeal for some.

More fundamentally who is the “man” and who is the “wife” in a gay marriage? Unlike cross-sex couples, same-sex partnerships are partnerships between nominal equals without any biologically, divinely or even culturally determined reproductive/domestic roles. Who is to be “given away”? Or as Elton John, put it: “I don’t wanna be anyone’s wife”.

It’s increasingly unclear even to heterosexuals who is the “man” and who is the “wife”, who should cleave to the other’s will and who should bring home the bacon. That’s why so many today introduce their husband or wife as “my partner”. The famous exception to this of course was Guy Ritchie and his missus, Madonna – and look what happened to them. Pre-nuptial agreements, very popular with celebs (though not, apparently, with Guy and Madonna), represent the very realistic step of divorcing before you get married – like plastic surgery, this is a hard-faced celeb habit that’s going mainstream.

If Christians and traditionalists want to preserve the “sanctity” of marriage as something between a man and a woman, with all the mumbo jumbo that entails, let them. They only hasten the collapse of marriage. Instead of demanding gay marriage, in effect trying to modernise an increasingly moribund institution, maybe lesbian and gay people should push for civil partnerships to be opened to everyone, as they are in France – where they have proved very popular.

I suspect civil partnerships, new, secular, literally down-to-earth contracts between two equals, relatively free of the baggage of tradition, ritual and unrealistic expectations, would also prove very popular with cross-sex couples in the Anglo world at a time when the institution of marriage is the most unpopular it’s ever been among people who aren’t actually gay. Yes, cross-sex couples can have civil marriage ceremonies, but they’re still marriages, not partnerships. If made open to everyone, civil partnerships might eventually not just be an alternative to marriage. Marriage might end up being something left to Mormons.

Perhaps my scepticism about gay marriage and marriage in general is down to the fact that I’m terminally single. Perhaps it’s all just sour grapes. Or maybe I prefer to burn with passion than marry. After all, St Paul’s violently ascetic world-view which regarded marriage as a poor runner-up to chastity, also ensured that the Christian Church would burn sodomites like kindling for centuries.

Either way, I think it needs to be mentioned amidst all this shouting about gay domesticity that, important as it is to see lesbian and gay couples recognised and given legal protection, probably most gay men (though probably not most lesbians) are single and probably will be single for most of their lives. With or without civil partnerships/unions.

Or even the magical, symbolic power of gay marriage.

Postscript: The Voice of Gay America responds – loudly.

Epic Illusions and Metrowarriors

Achilles, Alexander, Jason, Odysseus – the fabulous scrapping, rutting warriors of the Ancient World fulfil every boy’s own fantasy. Now, says Mark Simpson, Oliver Stone’s spayed movie ‘Alexander’ and the recent crop of ‘epics’ confirms that Hollywood has abolished heroes – past and present.

(Originally appeared Independent on Sunday, 19 December 2004)

For some, the entry “Double Classics” in their school timetable might have been an ominous omen. For me and my classmates however it meant 80 minutes of bliss listening to a wonderful old gent called Mr Field recount, and frequently re-enact with his walking-stick, fantastic stories of male derring-do from the Ancient World. Spellbound and wide-eyed we listened to the adventures of Jason and the Argonauts, Achilles and Odysseus. So great was the pull of the past in the mouth of Mr Field that hardly anyone fidgeted or played with their chunky 1970s LED digital watches.

Of all the epic tales recounted it was that of Alexander the Great that most gripped my pubescent imagination. The story of a scrappy, muscular little blond boy from the provincial Greek state of Macedonia who took on the world and won, carving out an unprecedented empire that stretched from the Adriatic to India. The story of a boy who never quite grew up; who quite probably assassinated his father; who certainly surpassed his extraordinary achievements, establishing himself as the greatest cavalry captain who ever lived, whose tactics are still studied today. A boy who never really cared for any woman except his terrifying mother Olympias (so terrifying that once he left home, Alexander never returned); whose great and constant loves were Bucephalus, his legendary war-horse, and Hephaestion, his legendary comrade in beefy arms. What boy wouldn’t love Alexander? What boy wouldn’t want to be Alexander?

The story of Alexander the Great (356BC -323BC) is the best boy’s own story ever told -the Trojan Wars may never have happened: hence the posters for Oliver Stone’s new movie Alexander announce: “The Greatest Legend Of All Was Real”. Alexander’s is a tale of passion, adventure, really big fisticuffs, masculine camaraderie, and running away from girls. And also, drunkenness, debauchery, mass murder and madness. His 12-year tour of the known (and unknown) world, and his long list of battle honours – Thebes, Heliocarnassus, Issus, Gaugamela, Tyre, Hydaspes, to name but a few – represent dates on the greatest rock ‘n’ roll tour in history.

Alexander is the timeless, ageless hero of boyish psychosis – a romantic disease which affects all men, though admittedly some more than others (well, I was at boarding school). Boys brim with enough energy to change the world, or destroy it – it makes no difference to them. This dangerous, sexy, passionate indifference is the basis of the mixture of fear and envy that causes adults generally to treat them so badly.

Alexander’s ambition was literally global, shaping the Ancient World; his Eastern crusades ended the ancient dynasties of Persia and Egypt. Alexander effectively invented the Western idea of Empire, globalisation and stamped his face on our idea of fame and success. He wanted nothing less than the whole world to be Alexander. For a while he came shockingly close to achieving just that, boldly going where no man had gone before (another boyhood hero of mine, William Shatner, played Alexander in a TV series before landing the role of Captain James Tiberius Kirk – which he played of course, in his wonderfully limited way as Alexander again). In part, his success was due to the way he succeeded in portraying his own ambition and self-interest as being for the benefit of Macedonia, pan-Hellenism or humanity itself.

In this Alexander could be seen as the ancient template for a neo-con America; he even invaded and conquered what is today Iraq and Afghanistan – as well as Iran. But like the neo-cons he could conquer but he couldn’t or wouldn’t administrate: rebellions broke out frequently and his Empire dissolved immediately after his death; Alexander, like contemporary audiences, had a short attention span. Certainly Stone’s epic new biopic could be subtitled: “Operation Persian Freedom”: his Alexander mouths platitudes about liberating Asia; the turbaned, bearded King Darius looks oddly like Bin Laden and, after his decisive defeat at Gaugamela, he is hunted down by Alexander in the mountains.

Obviously this, in addition to the rediscovered fashionability of sword-and-sandal epics (Gladiator, Troy, King Arthur, The Last Samurai), is why Hollywood has rediscovered this chippy little man and remembered his story as the ultimate road move, the classic story of boundless boyish all-American ambition, lighting out for the territory. In addition to Oliver Stone’s effort, Baz Luhrmann is rumoured to be developing his own version, with Leonardo Di Caprio in the title role. Even The World’s Only True Catholic, Mel Gibson, is planning to make a 10 episode HBO TV series about this pagan arse-bandit who whipped the world’s butt. Suddenly, Alexander really does appear to be conquering the world again.

There is another reason why the epics are back though: they offer reassuring, if utterly fraudulent, nostrums about masculinity in an uncertain, metrosexual world. The Ancient World was a time when men were men (and boys were nervous). In fact, warrior chic has been the fashion statement of 2004. This is the same year, after all, that a US presidential election was fought largely on the basis of who would make the best warrior president – and won largely on the grounds of who saluted best on camera and looked most fetching in 1960s uniform.

And likewise, what Hollywood is really offering us in these modern epics is not hairy retrosexuality but just more metrosexual pleasures, this time in a rather gorgeous, ancient setting; models playing at being rough boys – metrowarriors. In The Last Samurai, the Tom finally grows facial hair, and renounces the unmanly military machinery of modernity for the harsh-but-tender camaraderie of Samurai life – but only to make him more glamorous; Mr Cruise’s Western otherness actually makes him the female lead of the movie. In Troy pretty boys Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom are the real beauty pageant entrants and Diane Kruger (Helen) – and the audience – sit in judgement. The fields of Ilium become not a backdrop for the glorious feats of ancient warriors, but an expensive pretext for ogling Brad Pitt’s body, and also a half-hearted attempt to make it look practical, purposeful: when in fact his flawless, untested physique is the very definition of look-don’t-touch. In Alexander Irish boy-band actor Colin Farrell, with bottle-blond hair and eyeliner, stands in for charisma and passion.

The main reason for the return to the epics is this: Hollywood is emasculating the past. It isn’t raiding it, but paving it over. Telling us there never were any heroes. What other explanation could there be for foisting Pitt as Achilles and Farrell as Alexander on us in the space of a year? These stars who have risen without a trace are stars because of their bland insubstantiality not despite it. We live in a crowded world which is offended by talent, terrified by genius. The Irish pipsqueak Colin Farrell was destined to become King of the Knowing World, aka Hollywood, because he is so inoffensive. He’s the anti-Alexander. Like Robbie Williams doing an album of Frank Sinatra songs, Farrell as Alexander, or Pitt as Achilles, serves to reassure a generation that might have some dim, uneasy ancestral memory of a time before the mediatisation of everything – relax! – there were no great men and there was no era of greatness. There are just different styles, man. Masculinity is a game of dressy-uppy. Like the CGI armies of modern epics, and the digital wars of Pentagon planners, contemporary masculinity is simulation and number-crunching technology. Shock and Awe without the draft.

Hence Farrell’s Alexander isn’t haunted, or driven, paranoid, or threatening, terrifying or charismatic: his eyes are just too close together. When wearing his giant war helmet in the battle scenes his beady little eyes look blinking out like Marvin the Martian. He is utterly lost in Stone’s movie. Farrell’s face is as blank and thoughtless as the world that has made him a “star”. It’s difficult to believe that anyone would follow him to the corner shop let alone the edge of the world.

Just as I and countless other generations of boys before me worshipped Alexander, Alexander hero-worshipped Achilles. It is said he kept two items under his pillow at all times: a dagger and a copy of the Iliad. He yearned to emulate flame-capped Achilles’ achievements; in fact he far surpassed them (Farrell, by contrast, turns in a performance below even that of Pitt’s Achilles). He was terrified that his father would leave nothing left for him to achieve, and is one of the reasons why he is suspected of a hand in his assassination. Alexander wanted fame – but he wanted it for his worldly achievements not his profile. There was another reason why Alexander was fascinated by Achilles: he was interested in the story of his warrior-lover Patroclus (Homer doesn’t actually say they were lovers, but by the time of Alexander they were widely regarded as such). Patroclus was a year older than Achilles, just as Hephaestion was a year older than Alexander; Alexander must have worried that the world might think him Hephaestion’s boy.

At Ilium, Alexander and Hephaestion laid wreaths on Achilles’ tomb, stripped naked, anointed themselves with oil and ran races around the grave. Strangely, this scene didn’t make Oliver Stone’s movie. We do however hear Aristotle lecture the young Alexander on how Achilles and Patroclus were lovers and how such a friendship between men “produces virtue” and is “the basis of the city state”. But this dry history lesson on Greek patriarchy isn’t quite what the teasing tagline “Alexander was conquered only once: by Hephaestion’s thighs” might lead you to expect. In fact, we never really see Hephaestion’s thighs let alone Alexander between them. Stone hints heavily they were lovers, and uses Alexander’s life-long devotion to Hephaestion – Alexander was besides himself with grief when Hephaestion died and lay on his corpse for a day and a night – to make him more sympathetic, but can’t quite bring himself to show sex, kissing or even very much affection. By contrast, the on-screen romance between Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Ringpiece is positively pornographic.

There is only one sex scene in the film – but it is a wedding-night tryst with Roxanna, a wife that Alexander took after invading Persia (but didn’t get around to impregnating until years later, and only after Hephaestion’s demise). Alexander, by the way, was not “bisexual” in the way that publicity for the movie has carefully suggested. Stone’s Alexander is bisexual in the way that Elton John was “bisexual” in the Seventies: Stone is worried about losing his mainstream, American audience and wants to give them at least half of Alexander to identify with/desire. Of course, terms such as “heterosexual”, “homosexual” and especially “bisexual”, with its sixties ‘free love’ associations, are anachronistic and misleading in an Ancient context where the gender of a male’s partner was of much less importance than the public observance of certain rules of engagement based on age and rank (adult male citizens, for instance, were officially forbidden sexual relations with one another but encouraged to have them with unbearded teenaged youths).

Nevertheless, according to many accounts Alexander’s preference was for the same sex; and there is evidence that in regard to Hephaestion at least he disregarded the ban on sexual relations between adult males.

His mother and father were so frantically worried about the teenage Alexander’s lack of interest in ladies and what this augured for the royal line that they hired a beautiful and famously talented courtesan. The fact that his mother is recorded as pleading with him repeatedly to sleep with the courtesan suggests that this approach wasn’t very successful (and a mother’s pleading, let alone Olympias’, was likely to have been slightly counterproductive). He was to marry, more than once, but mostly for political reasons, or to satisfy demands for an heir. For most of Alexander’s life, boys were for pleasure; Hephaestion was for love; women were for heirs and alliances – and effeminates like Paris. Though, perhaps to confound our modern interpretations, or at least mine, there is evidence he took a mistress towards the end of his life.

Alexander disdained a chance to inspect Paris’ famous lyre, dismissing it as having been used for “adulterous ditties such as captivate and bewitch the hearts of women.” But, he added, “I would gladly see that of Achilles, which he used to sing the glorious deeds of brave men.” This early example of the public school mentality seems to us now like a kind of queeny misogyny, and perhaps it was, but the fearsome queeniness of hyper-masculinity, a queeniness that literally subjected the world (arguably not once, but three times: under Alexander, under the Romans and under the Brits). Alexander’s father Philip may have invented the modern state with his innovation of a standing army, but it was his Empire homo son who proved to be his most potent martial innovation of all.

According to some, possibly mischievous accounts, Macedonia – even by Greek standards – sounds like a giant, jumping, open all hours Ancient leather bar. In fact, the Greeks were scandalised by the “barbaric” and “beastly” behaviour of the Macedonians. Sniffy Greek sources complain that the members of Philip’s court were selected for their prowess at drinking, gambling, or sexual debauchery. “Some of them used to shave their bodies and make them smooth although they were men, and others actually practised lewdness with each other although bearded… Nearly every man in the Greek or barbarian world of a lecherous, loathsome, or ruffianly character flocked to Macedonia.” Actually, Macedonia was the kind of place that most leather queens would be terrified by.

Needless to say, it scares the bejesus out of Hollywood. In Stone’s film (financed mostly by German money), we get occasional, almost subliminal flashes of the real, raucous nature of Macedonian masculinity, with warriors and their boys glimpsed in the background almost necking each other. But despite these hints, the pre-Christian, barracks erotics of Macedonia ultimately defeats Stone precisely because it is too masculine, too pagan. Stone is a liberal Judeo-Christian pussy. Stone the macho director of films about macho men in which women are very thin on the ground wimps out in Alexander. Macedonian masculinity is just too… masculine. But then, this is the contradiction of all these metrowarrior epics: the Ancient World is just too  rough and real and beastly and male – and, well, Ancient – for contemporary America.

So the warrior sodomy of Alexander is turned into something modern and harmless, something simulated: Queer Eye for the Macedonian Guy, as one critic dubbed it. In addition to the creepily spayed relationship between Alexander and Hephaestion, which is presented as a kind of contemporary gay marriage (sexless, boring, respectable), there’s a strong smell of Sixties unisex androgyny, like rancid jossticks: Stone has Hephaestion portrayed by the spoilt-girlish Jared Leto, complete with hippy-chick wig, plastered in eyeliner applied by Dusty Springfield. The masculine side of male love is as taboo today as the effeminate side is popular.

There is a strange kind of poetic irony here: after all, in JFK Stone told us that his virile Irish Catholic hero Kennedy was punked by the hissing conspiracies of New Orleans fags. Here Alexander and its director are punked by Stone’s own fear of masculine homosexuality.

But there is, admittedly, a lot to be afraid of. An entire season of Jerry Springer couldn’t come close to one evening’s male jealousies, passions and intrigues in Macedonia. Although Stone makes much of Philip’s assassination he draws a veil over the details. The assassin, one of his bodyguards, was a spurned lover called Pausanias. Noted for his youthful beauty, he had been usurped in the royal bedchamber by another attractive young soldier. Pausanias denounced Philip’s new lover as a male tart and “whore”. The boy then proved his virility and virtue by saving Philip’s life in battle, at the cost of his own. His brother and friends then, as you do, drugged Pausanias and gang raped him before handing him on to their grooms and muleteers who also raped him and then gave him a good beating as thanks. For political reasons Philip refused to punish the wrongdoers and restore Pausanias’s honour. Olympias and Alexander probably then used Pausanias’ fury as an instrument for removing daddy and gaining power. Alexander became king and Emperor of the World because his father was murdered by a neglected male lover. Warrior sodomy is a terrifying, fearsome-fearless thing – don’t mess!

It’s tempting to see this current obsession with the Ancient World as a function of our search for new pagan lights in a chaotic, darkened, post-Christian, post-ideological world in which Posh and Becks have replaced the Holy Family. Tempting, but probably mistaken. None of these films have any gods – except the pathetically democratic, earthbound ones: the celebs that star in them. Real worship, whether of heroes or gods is definitely not on offer. It’s just too messy and dangerous for our safe, sterile, simulated modern lives. Boys today don’t worship or want to be Alexander or Achilles, who both regarded themselves as sons of gods. They want to be Colin or Brad. Or their stylist. Although it is difficult for someone like me to accept, maybe this isn’t all bad. After all, as we’ve seen in present-day Mesopotamia, there really isn’t much room in the world for Empire building these days.

Besides, we’re all too busy playing with our digital watches to care about warrior virtues.

Copyright Mark Simpson 2008

Is There Sex After Marriage?

A remarkably, refreshingly reasonable treatment of the Spitzer scandal and the indispensable social role of prostitutes by a woman, Minette Marin, in The London Times (if a straight man had written this he would probably have faced a lengthy free sex ban):

Right up and down the scale, a man can rent a girl a great deal better and more cooperative than the woman he lives with. She will be probably be much more sexually experienced and more accomplished than most wives too. In plain English, or so I am told by perfectly nice men, prostitutes tend to be better at it. They tend to be younger and more energetic. They are also prepared to do things which her indoors might draw the line at. Some prostitutes provide tender loving care, too; the famous madam Cynthia Payne provided her suburban clients with comfort food after the act in the form of poached eggs on toast.

The other awkward fact, which most people must know, but somehow prefer to ignore, is that men often prefer sex without a relationship. Perhaps that is wrong of them, but one must concede that relationships can be wearing, particularly marriage, and sometimes a man just wants time out, and sex without strings is clearly a source of great pleasure, at least for men. If you were an evolutionary biologist you might argue that unfettered sex is entirely natural to men. One might at least agree that hogamous higamous, man seems to be a bit polygamous.

Prostitution, like cruising, is something that makes the institution of marriage tolerable for many men who otherwise wouldn’t be able to meet its rather exacting standards. No strings, slutty sex outside marriage might, for many men, be the only kind of sex there is. For them, sex inside marriage is perhaps the abnormality. ‘Where they love they do not desire and where they desire they cannot love’, as Dr Freud put it. Such is the nature of much male sexuality – for which, of course, quite a few women wish to condemn men as a species.

Gay marriage may have had a lot of press lately, along with the consoling idea that homos are becoming homebodies, but what is rather less publicised is that gay male marriage is, by definition, a much more ‘realistic’ arrangement than the traditional variety. Because it involves two men, they usually don’t hold each other up to such exacting sexual standards. They can’t kid themselves – or each other. Truth be told, the easygoing attitude of many gay partners towards sex outside the relationship – and the use of online cruising sites like Gaydar – would be intolerable for most heterosexual women, and many heterosexual men for that matter.

Male cruising produces even more hysteria and hypocrisy than prostitution – when it involves a man married to a woman. In the midst of all the loudly proclaimed sanctimony over Spitzer’s use of call girls, no one is suggesting that the former NY Governor is obviously a congenital visitor of prostitutes and this this is the truth of who he is and hence his marriage must have been a complete sham from day one and in fact his whole life has been a lie.

No, that’s something reserved for Senators busted in dubious airport rest-room entrapments.

The Sex Terror Revisited

Yesterday’s London Times ran a three page piece called ‘Oral History’ interviewing some of the ‘players’ (or perhaps ‘chancers’ would be more accurate) in the Monica Lewinsky ‘scandal’ that was to engulf the Clinton Presidency for more than a year, lead to his impeachment and, very nearly, to his departure from the White House.

The piece was pegged to the tenth anniversary of the surreal crisis and also, of course, to the Presidential Primaries in which Hillary Clinton, energetically supported by her husband Bill is trying to secure the Democratic nomination.

After all that has happened in the intervening decade, Bush’s disputed election, 9-11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo, Paris Hilton, it’s difficult to believe that the US worked itself up into such a frenzy back then over whether or not Clinton had a blow job. But, boy, did it.

If Hillary wins the Democratic nomination, then we can bank on some of that frenzy being revisited. In fact, it’s already happening, as both this article and it’s introduction with its regurgitation of that myth about Hillary’s Senatorship and thus her Presidential bid being based on the ‘sympathy vote’ for the ‘wronged woman’ shows. A myth that is, strangely enough, most popular with those who used the ‘wronged woman’ angle ten years ago to try and destroy her husband – when they hated her even more than him.

Here’s a piece I wrote in early 1999 at the height of the scandal about what I believed was really at the heart of the brouhaha: sexual hypocrisy. Not Clinton’s – ours.

The nur nur nur nur nur! response in both the media and in the blogosphere, liberal and conservative, to Senator Larry Craig’s recent entrapment in a men’s rest-room by a pretty, tap-dancing policeman, and the religious certainty that everyone, gay and straight, has expressed about a) what happened and b) exactly what this reveals about the Senator from Idaho’s ‘real’ sexuality and c) his political fate (he should resign), has shown that we haven’t come very far.

The Sex Terror

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(Originally published in The Seattle Stranger, January 1999)

by Mark Simpson

In the midst of all the over-discussion – and all the over-exposure – of the Republican show-trial of William Jefferson Clinton, the real charge against him remains curiously under-reported. In fact, it’s not reported at all. Oddly, the media is thunderously silent to the point of discretion about it.

What is this crime of crimes that can lay someone so high so low and which can’t even be mentioned? It isn’t perjury, the obstruction of justice, or the betrayal of his Oath of Office. It isn’t even being a successful Democrat President.

No, it’s having the effrontery to resist the most magisterial, sovereign and powerful force in the land – the ‘sex’ terror. Clinton is being made an example of – one that everyone, even editors of academic journals, should fear.

Last week [15 Jan 1999] the American Medical Association impeached George Lundberg, editor for seventeen years of the AMA journal. Lundberg’s High Crime and Misdemeanour? He included in this month’s issue of the AMA journal research from 1991 which showed that 60% of college students did not define oral intercourse as sexual relations. A spokeswoman for the AMA explained his sacking: ‘Through his recent actions he has threatened the integrity of the journal by inappropriately and inexcusably interjecting the journal into a major political debate that has nothing to do with science or medicine’.

Who can blame the AMA for purging Mr Lundberg’s heresy? Everyone, of whatever political hue, whether they think Clinton should be censured, impeached or impaled, seems to be agreed on one thing-that Bill Clinton is a liar, that he did have sexual relations with ‘that woman’, and that his distinction between sexual intercourse and ‘inappropriate intimate contact’ (in this case fellatio) is pure sophistry and legalese.

In fact, this point has become the crux of the whole scandal (which, as I’m sure the AMA know, has everything to do with science and medicine). Clinton’s ‘crime’, the justification for all those ‘LIAR!’ banner headlines, the approval of the articles of impeachment and now his constitutionally unprecedented Senate trial has boiled down to his refusal to agree that fellatio constitutes ‘sex’.

After the broadcast of his four hour inquisition in the Starr Chamber, in which he admitted ‘inappropriate intimate contact’ with Lewinsky, many liberal papers cautiously applauded his forbearance but still called on him, for the sake of Mother’s Milk and Western democracy, to either throw himself on the Republican’s sword and resign, or admit to Congress ‘what we all know’-that he lied, and that oro-genital contact constitutes a ‘sexual relationship’ (in other words, fall on his own sword).

But is Clinton really a ‘liar’? Is it really absolutely clear what ‘sex’ is? Isn’t ‘common sense’ a fickle, not to say tyrannical mistress? Aren’t we just joining in the shouting because we want to distract from the necessary hypocrisies and disavowals that make our own lives bearable – and because we don’t want the Sex Terror to come for us? Isn’t Clinton’s trial more than just a farcical accident of history? Isn’t it perhaps the clearest sign anyone could ask for that no-one is safe from the Sex Terror?

It is a measure of how bad things have got that this has to be said at all: Everyone makes distinctions about what ‘sex’ is. Prostitutes, for example, know very well that most married men distinguish between ‘full sex’ and fellatio and ‘hand relief’, often opting for the latter two because it doesn’t feel like they’re really cheating on their wives; while the prostitutes themselves don’t even acknowledge vaginal intercourse as ‘a sexual relationship’: they regard it as ‘business’. Good Catholic girls in Latin countries often masturbate or fellate their boyfriends or even allow them bugger them, so they will remain virtuous virgins on their wedding night.

Of course, nowadays we smirk at their ‘naiveté’ and ‘denial’, and congratulate ourselves on our sophistication and honesty, but who are we to say they’re wrong to make that distinction? Isn’t it a form of erotic totalitarianism to insist that all sensual contact is ‘sex’? To refuse to acknowlede that the ‘meaning of sex’ isn’t actually incoherent – that it might even be occult?

Perhaps the only indisputable ‘fact’ about sex is that the meaning of it changes with the context. What happens in private, in the dark between two people takes on a different meaning – or just a meaning – when put under the spotlight. The ‘Oh boy was I drunk last night! I don’t remember a thing!’ line is not the recourse of someone who did something they regret the night before, but someone who doesn’t wish to regret, or even think about, what they did the night before. Yes, this can be the refuge of a scoundrel or worse, but the difficulties prosecuting so-called ‘date-rape’ cases merely demonstrates the difficulties in trying to draw one unambiguous meaning out of an intimate exchange between two people in the dark (or windowless, locked corridors off the Oval office).

Clinton occupies the most sober, most brightly lit office in the world. In a sense, he’s not so much the victim of his own stupidity, mendacity, promiscuity or even Republican hostility, but of the late Twentieth Century mania for dragging everything private out into the open. The more the meaning of that private activity changes once it is put in the public sphere, the more imperative it is to expose it. And what could be more private and therefore more worthy of being made public than the sex life of the President of the United States? The Starr Report was a $40M, half-ton tabloid scandal sheet, though, alas, not so well-written.

But this is not to down-grade its importance. As tabloid editors and Kenneth Starr know very well, despite the protestations of the public to the contrary, everyone wants to know the ‘truth’ about sex and in particular the ‘truth’ about celebrity sex lives. More than this, everyone thinks that the ‘truth’ about sex is the most important truth about us.

This is why pretty much everyone, except the Pentagon and Pat Buchanan, seems to want private homosexuals to come out as public gays these days-after all, gays are the living proof that the truth about our sex lives is the most important truth about us. They are literally defined by it; Telling the Truth About Sex is what they’re for. Even the uptight, soul-of-discretion Brits, for goodness sakes, want them to ‘come out’.

Disgraced British Minister Ron Davies’ crime wasn’t cruising for sex on Clapham Common but refusing to ‘come out’ as ‘gay’ after this emerged, and give the public what they wanted. He was berated by a sneering press for being ‘hypocritical’ and ‘dishonest’ (the tabs) and ‘in denial’ or ‘mentally ill’ (the broadsheets). However, if he had been caught in a red light district visiting prostitutes would he have been called upon to announce to the world that he was a congenital visitor of prostitutes and confess that this ‘truth’ about his sexuality was more important than, say, his relationship with his wife and children? (Prostitution and male cruising grounds are both age-old, ‘secretive’, ‘hypocritical’ institutions which have made the public virtue of marriage tolerable to millions of men who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to meet its demands).

By way of contrast, George Michael, ever the showman, knew exactly what the public wanted after his entrapment by the Beverly Hills PD’s finest and gave them full confessions which earned him the approval of the press for co-operating with their enquiries. The outing of Michael happened despite the fact that for several years George Michael had been fairly open in his work and interviews about not being straight. What the world wanted was for him to come out as ‘gay’; to stop being equivocal about sex and recognise instead its irresistible sovereignty in all our lives.

Interesting that many gay activists in the US have been largely silent about the Lewinsky affair, despite the fact that they know all too well the vicious, violent hatred of pinched pious people like Kenneth Starr, a hatred barely hidden behind a smiling respectability and constant invocation of The Law. As the shock troops of Telling the Truth About Sex, who originally elected Clinton so they could go on telling the Truth even more, they are ideologically hamstrung.

Barney Frank the outspoken and openly gay Senator, who is a close political ally of Clinton’s, exemplifies this dilemma. Although, unlike many others in the Democratic Party, he has consistently fought his President’s corner, he has nevertheless called on him to be ‘truthful’ about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and abandon his pedantic ‘sex’ distinction. In other words, to ‘come out’.

Frank has however pointed out one of the curious paradoxes of this whole affair-that those leading the inquiry into Clinton’s sex life and publishing their findings on the Internet are the very people who told Frank to shut up about his sex life and keep it private.

Putting Clinton’s behaviour into the context of America’s history and his own Baptist background the charge against him that he is a ‘liar’ because he didn’t consider having non penile-vaginal relations with Lewinsky ‘sex’ becomes even more confused. The Starr Report effectively brands Clinton a ‘sodomite’. Under the anti-sodomy laws still on the statute books of many US states [at time of writing], ‘sodomy’ is defined as oro-genital or anal-genital contact between members of either sex. That is, pretty much anything that isn’t penile-vaginal intercourse. Everything that isn’t potentially baby-making is a perversion, or ‘inappropriate intimate contact’ to use Clinton’s telling phrase. This is why gay marriage is so fiercely resisted in the US – including by Clinton who signed into law a bill banning gay marriage – because it bestows recognition and respectability on an act which is, by definition, un-respectable.

Sodomy was, until quite recently, not only unlawful but a crime against the American State. J. Edgar Hoover, who along with Senator Joe McCarthy, begat (spiritually) Kenneth Starr, kept secret files on public figures that were reported to engage in ‘oro-genital contact’, as he considered this meant they were subversive and ‘un-American’. McCarthy’s hysterical – and probably jealous – view of oral sex as a form of treason is echoed today in the repeated shrieks of a Republican spokeswoman on a recent TV debate: ‘HE WAS HAVING A BLOW JOB WHEN HE SENT TROOPS INTO BOSNIA!!!’

Since Hoover, we have had Kinsey, the Sixties, gay liberation and feminism and the meanings of what is ‘sex’ have been widened enormously. Hoover himself has been ‘outed’ posthumously as a ‘closet gay’, allegedly. But the effect of this ‘sexual liberation’ is not unambiguously ‘progressive’ or ‘liberating’ as most liberals seem to think. You don’t have to be Michel Foucault to see that the old imperative to control people’s erotic lives by prohibition has not been abolished. Instead it has been supplanted by a compulsory, puritannical transparency in people’s erotic behaviour – and indeed their whole sense of themselves is controlled, defined and produced through the ritual of public confession (i.e. Protestant rather than Catholic confession). Everyone must submit to ‘sex’ and ‘sexuality’, even and especially Presidents.

The modern, ‘scientific’ discourse of ‘sex’, a la Kinsey and Masters & Johnson, which demands that sex be confessed, exposed and measured allied in the Sixties with the explosion of personal politics. That alliance was in turn given an irresistible momentum by the exponential increase in media, and exponential decrease in respect for privacy since then. The rise of political correctness and battles over sexual harassment has only intensified the need in the Nineties to confess ‘sex’ in the courts, the workplace, the television studio.

Now, at the end of the Twentieth Century, this Sex Terror has made it’s way into the highest office in the land. It has become a Scylla to America’s Puritan, scolding, sodomy-hating Charybdis. With ‘Elvis’, the Sixties baby-boomer liberal Baptist telegenic talk-show President in the middle. The supreme irony is that the Republicans, who believe that the distinction between sex and sodomy should be maintained in life and law, are trying to impeach a President on the grounds that he made that very same distinction in life and law. The Grand Old Party which once was the Party of discretion in matters of Eros is now a party of sexual Jacobins in the service of the Sex Terror, branding popular Presidents Enemies of the People for not confessing every detail of their private life – even outing themselves as adulterers on the steps of Capitol Hill – and turning American public life into one gigantic, insane Denunciation Box.

Prophetically, ironically, Clinton whose Presidency began with an attempted coup over his intention to lift the ban on sodomites serving in the military, now seems to be ending with another attempted coup over his own (heterosexual) sodomy. The compromise solution he came up with for that first crisis has turned out to be the most apt – if most hopeless – solution for what may turn out to be his last, as well as a romantic resistance slogan in an era where ‘sex’ is a sign we must all submit to: ‘Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Don’t pursue’.

Cyclesexuals – a Silent Menace

A 51-year-old man caught by cleaners ‘simulating sex’ with a bicycle in his locked room in a hostel in Ayr, Scotland has been sentenced to three years probation and has been added to the Sex Offenders Register. bike.jpg

“In almost four decades in the law I thought I had come across every perversion known to mankind,” opined the presiding judge (talking I presume about the cases he had heard rather than other judges).

“But this is a new one on me. I have never heard of a ‘cycle-sexualist’.” Reportedly the cleaners used a master key to unlock the door and they then observed the offender “wearing only a white t-shirt, naked from the waist down… holding the bike and moving his hips back and forth as if to simulate sex.”

Both cleaners, who were “extremely shocked”, told the hostel manager who called police. Some bleeding-heart louche metropolitan types have whinged that this case is a ridiculous over-reaction and waste of judicial resources – or even a worrying invasion of privacy and attack on personal liberty!

What a load of inner tubes. Thank goodness someone has had the courage to take a stand against this evil vice threatening the very lycra of our society. Not to mention undermining attempts to combat Global Warming, obesity and urban congestion.

Personally, I think the fiend should have been given a lengthy custodial sentence and banned for life from being within 100 yards of a bike-stand. Contrary to the ridiculous arguments of liberals, the wicked exploitation by sick perverts like this of innocent, helpless bicycles to gratify their twisted lust is NOT a victimless crime. How can a bicycle give consent? By pinging its own bell? Changing gear? Increasing tyre pressure? Obviously not. Any sex act with a bicycle is by definition unconsensual. Not to mention rather uncomfortable.

And what about the corrupting effect of this pedalistic depravity on those unfortunate enough to view it, even if they have to barge into someone’s locked bedroom to do so? Or the wider effect on society? The vile degradation and contamination of the entirely clean and pure pleasure of riding a bike to work, firm leather saddle chafing between thighs, pressing insistently, teasingly, against one’s freshly-talced but now nicely moistening Perineum?

If these cyclesexual monsters aren’t stopped, we’ll have to pixelate the TV coverage of the Tour de France and even episodes of Miss Marple.

Come to think of it, for the sake of even-handedness, the authorities should also arrest self-confessed petrosexual Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson. After all, he doesn’t even have the decency to conduct his perversion in private: those close-ups of Jezza all glassy-eyed and foam-flecked in the latest Ferrari, playing with its chunky gear-lever moaning and sighing how much he really, really LOVES, no, LURRRRRRVES, this SEXY, FRISKY, FOXY, BEAUTY… go out in prime-time.

OK, I’ll admit there are some very minor details of this case that could perhaps be slightly clarified. What, for instance, does the court mean by ‘simulating sex’? Does it mean that the man was pretending to have sex with the bicycle, or that he wasn’t enjoying sex with the bicycle? If the former then perhaps he and the bike were just having a laugh after the pub like lads do, if the latter then he isn’t much of a pervert but rather kind-hearted.

Or does ‘simulating’ mean that, yes, he was having some kind conjugation with the bicycle, but the court calls it ‘simulated’ because, of course, you can’t actually have proper, natural, godly, man-woman baby-making sex with a bicycle – unless it’s had some major modifications. Like a vagina fitted under the saddle.

And why on earth did the hostel allow its residents to take bikes up to their bedrooms after dark? I also wonder somewhat about the hostel cleaners. They claim they ‘knocked several times’ before using their master-key to open the door, but I find that difficult to believe.

I mean, how many of the cleaners in five star hotels give you enough time between knocking and opening the door to allow you a chance to disentangle yourself from the Corby Trouser Press?


NB to protect the innocent, the bicycle pictured is not the unfortunate victim.

Tip: David H

Dogging Firemen: The Naked Truth About That ‘Disturbing Gay Orgy’

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What a carry on in the dark!

The very widely-reported story of the Avon firemen disciplined for bringing the Fire Brigade into disrepute and unauthorised use of their fire engine (and torches) is both fnarrr funny and funny peculiar. But the most peculiar aspect of it, and certainly the most serious, is the light it casts on the minds of newspaper editors.

The ‘bare’ facts that can be ascertained from the various reports are these: on their return to their fire station, four on-duty firemen from Avonmouth Fire Station’s ‘Blue Watch’ (no kidding) drove out of their way at night in in a fire engine to a remote cruising/dogging area and shone their powerful Fire Brigade torches into some bushes, supposedly revealing a group of four men involved in ‘a gay sex act’.

According to the newspaper reports, one of the participants in this night-time tryst in the bushes illuminated by the firemen’s torches complained to the Terrence Higgins Trust who then contacted Avon Fire Brigade. Avon Fire Brigade suspended the men on full pay for three months before finding them guilty of bringing the service into disrepute, demoting, fining and moving them to different stations and compelling them to undergo ‘gay awareness’ training.

The Sun, for whom the story was almost tailor-made, devoted most of a page to it: Firemen expose gay doggers, with the strapline ‘Four firemen have been carpeted after disturbing an outdoor gay sex romp.’ The Sun suggests of course that the case was an example of ‘political correctness gone mad’ (and some of the details, such as the ‘re-education’ of the firemen appear to lend themselves to this). It also makes a meal of the ‘criminal’ nature of the acts these public-spirited firemen witnessed.

However, perhaps surprisingly, The Sun, unlike most other newspapers, made some effort to avoid whipping up indignation at the very idea of men having sex with other men outdoors – e.g. the use of ‘gay romp’ (‘romps’ used to be strictly hetero in the Sun; gay sex was ‘sordid’ or ‘sleazy’ or ‘perverted’) and the interesting phrase ‘gay dogging’ (when dogging, a very recent phenomenon, might actually be described as straight cruising).

Funnily enough, The Sun’s sister-with-a-degree-paper The Times, the UK’s paper of record, ran a report that was much more misleading, right down to the headline: ‘Firemen are disciplined for disturbing orgy in bushes’, which in its very ambiguity (are the fireman having the disturbing orgy?) is rather ‘revealing’. The piece failed to make it clear that the firemen had quite literally gone out of their way in council taxpayer’s time, in a fire engine bought and fuelled with taxpayers money, to shine their powerful FB torches on this ‘criminal activity’ – when they should have been back at the fire station awaiting a call from a member of the public whose chip-fan was on fire.

More importantly, like most reports, it also conveyed the impression that the (disturbing) act the firemen witnessed was of course illegal and seemed founded on the absurdity that they should be punished rather than the uppity criminal ‘gay’. (If you think I misread the piece, see the indignant comments about ‘criminal gays’ posted at the end – e.g. ‘I am astounded. Fine upstanding citizens, hardworking firemen who risk there lives to help people, disturb people in an ILLEGAL act and it is they who get into trouble, not the individuals who are behaving in an ILLEGAL and immoral way. This country is going to the tubes’.)

The Daily Telegraph, which doesn’t pretend to be as metropolitan as The Times does these days, managed a better fist of it, despite their equally confusing/revealing headline: ‘Firemen reprimanded for disturbing gay sex act’. The article seemed like the others to presume the ‘illegality’ of the disturbing gay sex act, and the outrageousness of the uppity gay who complained, but, crucially, included (in the print version) a small box at the end by their legal correspondent which contained the rather important point – neglected from all the other reports I saw – that reforms to the law in recent years, doing away with discriminatory laws that criminalized only sex between men, and introducing the concept of ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’, mean that consensual sex between men – or anyone of any gender – in a remote place (in the bushes, at night) isn’t illegal.

So the angle presented in the Sun, The Times, the Telegraph (main story) and the Mail, and in countless Richard Littlejohn style ranting blogs – criminal gays get off (arf) while heroic, upstanding straight firemen are punished – wasn’t an angle at all. Or at least, a highly debatable one.

Even the ‘gay-friendly’ Guardian, in a lengthy report, failed to mention this rather salient fact and conveyed the same erroneous impression, despite quoting prominently, as most if not all of the reports did, an ‘unnamed firefighter’ (who wasn’t present on the Downs that evening) complaining: “This is a complete farce. All four officers have been let down by their senior officers when they needed their support the most. They have been treated as the criminals in this case and it has been completely forgotten that they witnessed criminal activity occurring in a public place.”

Umm, nice try mate, but they didn’t. And they didn’t report what you now say they claim they saw, either.

The Telegraph’s useful little box also mentioned that unwanted voyeurism was potentially illegal. In other words, if you want to get all hoity toity and talk about ‘criminal acts’ the firemen should perhaps consider themselves lucky that they weren’t disciplined and prosecuted.

It’s difficult not to conclude that the firemen, homophobic or not, were in that place at that time of the night shining their torches around in the bushes because they wanted a cheap thrill. They were dogging themselves – but on our time. (Though of course we now get to dog as well by reading the newspaper reports.) If they had observed the usual etiquette of such places and not shone their bloody torches in everyone’s eyes to get a better butchers no one would have rung the THT and they wouldn’t have got into trouble.

As someone who has been cruising in such places myself in the past I know how long it takes to get your night vision back after being blinded by some idiots un-dipped headlights. I think they deserve everything they got.

But the newspapers deserve much, much worse for their dereliction of duty.

As part of the same misrepresentation of the story, most of the reports refer to the (anonymous) four men supposedly involved in the public sex scene unequivocally as ‘gay’ or (in The Times) ‘homosexual’.

How do the newspapers know this as a fact? Were they there in the bushes themselves? Would this have even helped? This was, after all, a pick-up area, we’ve been told, popular with ‘gays’ and ‘straight doggers’. Even exclusively ‘gay’ cruising areas, if there are any left now that straight dogging has become so popular, are not that gay, which is, after all, the point of them: they appeal to married and bisexual men, and men who regard themselves as straight but like a bit of cock every now and again.

And from what I’ve seen of dogging, quite a few ‘straight doggers’ will get involved to some degree with the all-male action if it’s a slow night – or at least have a good look if someone’s putting on a show. Dogging by its very nature tends to wander outside the the usual boundaries of ‘straight’ and ‘gay’.

Besides, the claim that the firemen witnessed any sex at all, let alone a ‘gay orgy’, is just that, a claim, not a fact as presented by the newspaper reports. A claim which seems to have been made only after the firemen were disciplined – and by a disgruntled firemen chum who wasn’t even present that evening. In other words, it’s about as dubious a claim as you could imagine.

So the widely-reported ‘fact’ that it was one of the ‘gays’ taking part in the ‘illegal’ ‘public’ ‘gay orgy’ who contacted the THT – and the basis of all the torrents of righteous indignation – is actually pure fantasy.

Absolutely nothing is known about the man who wanted to know what the firemen where doing there at that time of night other than what the THT has put in the public domain as they were the only people to speak to him and the ones who presented his concerns to the Avon Fire Brigade. They (confirmed in an email to me) have made no statement about his sexuality – and the THT doesn’t ask anyway. He didn’t say anything about what he was doing on the Downs. And he didn’t report any sexual activity to them.

There was never a ‘complaint’ about the firemen made to the THT – a member of the public (we do not ask questions about the sexuality of individuals) merely enquired via the THT as to why the fire engine was at that location.

None of the officers at the time of their disciplinary made reference to seeing anything (illegal/sexual activity) taking place.

There was no ‘gay orgy’ or indeed any sexual activity reported by either a member of the public, the firemen, the police or the THT.

So two facts finally emerge from the bushes:

a) the sexuality of the ‘gay’ who rang the THT and was subjected to national villification is in actual fact as unknown as his identity and

b) the only source for the ‘fact’ that he was part of a ‘gay orgy’ is the disgruntled chum of the disciplined firemen who wasn’t there that evening. And even if he had been, how the blazes would he know who had contacted the THT?

It seems to me that on this one, everyone’s in the dark, thrashing around the bushes with their pants down.

—–

An excellent piece by Rachel Johnson dissecting the farrago, setting the legal record ‘straight’ and and going some way to restoring The Times’ honour appeared the day after I posted this blog.


UPDATE 2008: PCC Complaint

I decided to shine a torch of my own around and referred this widespread misreporting to the Press Complaints Commision. Surprisingly, the secretariat took up my complaint. They don’t usually do this if you are not the party concerned (in this case the party concerned would be the alleged doggers and/or the anonymous man who contacted the THT).

But I explained that as someone who has visited such places in the past the widespread misreporting of the state of the law in regard to outdoor sex criminalised me – and made me and others more likely to be attacked by vigilantes and queerbashers. As a result, a few offending newspapers including Metro and The Yorkshire Post printed letters from me correcting their reporting. The Daily Mail of course refused any such resolution. Despite being the biggest offender – and running a column by Littlejohn on the matter which stated as fact that ‘outdoor sex is illegal’ and essentially encouraging attacks on men who have sex with men outdoors.

The Executive Managing Editor of the Daily Mail Robin Esser’s reply to  the PCC began:

‘First of all the Daily Mail is not homophobic, nor, I believe, is our columnist Mr Littlejohn.’

And that was probably the least absurd part of his letter. In a later one responding to my rebuttal of his, turning down the resolution option of publishing a letter from me, he came out of the closet about the Daily Mail’s political agenda in its misreporting of the story – and exploitation of it:

‘I do not think the Editor would be in favour of a letter which encouraged the pursuit of ‘dogging’, either heterosexual or homosexual, legal or illegal.’

The PCC Commission, a panel of national newspaper editors, chaired I think at that time by Paul Dacre the editor of the Daily Mail, ruled against me – stating that there was not a ‘significant’ breach of their regulations. And anyway, I was a ‘third party’.

In other words, they couldn’t deny that the story and the legal position had been misreported, but it wasn’t ‘significant’ enough to piss off their chum Paul Dacre over.

The Daily Mail did however very kindly agree to ‘put a note in our files’ regarding the story. The PCC declined to explain to me what this actually translates into in terms of accurate reporting in the future and how I would test this statement.

Oh, and in its judgement the Commission insisted on referring repeatedly to the ‘gay men’ taking part in ‘an orgy’, despite my having made it quite clear to them with documentary evidence that neither of these statements were fact but merely loaded opinion/prejudice. I complained about this to the secretariat who took it up with the Commission. The response of the most powerful newspapers in the land to that was to state that ‘because these men were men having sex with one another [sic] it is reasonable to assume they were gay’.

Fallacy based on falsehood is an irresistible force. At least when it comes to the great British press.

UPDATE 14/02/13

Thanks to Chris Park for drawing my attention to this excellent article in Flagship the Fire Brigade Union magazine – which strongly suggests that the anonymous quote from a colleague of the disciplined firemen is bogus too.

Another liberal loses his mind over Larry Craig

An eloquent, but quite unhinged example from SFGate.com columnist Mark Morford of American liberal hysteria over the Craig affair:

‘In fact, Craig’s classic case of GOP hypocrisy, of the chasm between his homophobic public persona and his homosexual personal lusts is simply so blatant, so undeniably grotesque, he becomes a bizarre case study, a cultural curio, a deeply fascinating — albeit largely nauseating — archetype, full of obvious but still mandatory lessons for us all. ‘

What a veritable flurry of irresistible adjectives: ‘Undeniable’, ‘blatant’, ‘nauseating’, ‘grotesque’, ‘obvious’, ‘mandatory’. Very persuasive. Very reasoned.

Now go and have a lie down, dear.

Fortunately SFGate.com have provided the anti-dote to this shrill self-righteousness in the form of a less exciting but much more pertinent piece by Jonathan Zimmerman.

A Hiding to Nothing: In Defence of Female Masochism

 

A good sadist is hard to find.

But, I can reveal, a good masochist is even harder to find. Whenever I hear the words, ‘Use me, abuse me, do anything you want with me!’ my heart and my manhood always sinks. Not because I have any problem with the idea of using someone. Rather it’s that I know that not far behind this invitation to selfishness are always the words, ‘Not that! This! Not there! Here!’

And Anita Phillips, author of In Defence of Masochism, wonders why masochists have such a bad name. It’s a word that promises so much but then woefully fails to deliver. Far from being a slave to your desires, it turns out to be their pleasure that they’re interested in – just like everyone else.

Worse, not only is their pleasure even more tediously exacting than most people’s, you also have to pretend that it is your pleasure. While the idea of having someone around the home to clean the toilet and bathroom floor with their tongue might appeal in an abstract kind of way, it always, always turns out to be much more work and take much longer than doing it yourself and conducting a common-all-garden, non-masochistic, missionary-position, under-the-floral-duvet-every-other-Sunday-morning relationship. As Phillips admits, the best partner for a masochist is not a sadist, but another masochist.

Sado-masochism, when all’s said and done, is a bit of a con and should be prosecuted under the Trade Descriptions Act.

Nonetheless, there’s plenty of it about these days – and it’s selling like hot candle-wax. Madonna’s early Nineties flirtation with s/m chic seems to have sent it squeaking and creaking up and down the catwalks and into advertising ever since – to the point where a stilettoed heel threatening a man’s bum-hole on a billboard hardly provokes any comment, let alone the rear-end pile-up it might have done just ten years ago.

And while David Cronenberg’s Crash, a film about people who take pleasure being on the receiving end of mutilating car accidents, did provoke outrage and censorship from some quarters, many found it rather banal. Meanwhile the recent film Sick: the Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist seems to have elevated masochism to a kind of super-heroism; how long before we hear little boys whining: ‘Mum, can I have a leather harness and cling-film cape for Xmas, please?’.

Which almost begs the point of a book with the name In Defence of Masochism. However, a recent European Court ruling asserted that assault cannot be consented to (which means, of course, an end to boxing, surgery and supporting Arsenal) suggests that there is still an argument to be made. And, even if most people who don’t wear wigs and suspenders for a living are more laid back about the issue, there are still a number of common misconceptions and prejudices about masochism – most of which Anita Phillips dispatches here with aplomb.

Most notably, the idea that masochism is always someone else’s perversion. Phillips investigates, via Freud and American academic Leo Bersani the universality of masochistic impulses, the thin line between pleasure and pain, and shows how the curdling of these impulses into a condition and a type changed what it means to be human.

‘Masochism’ is one of the inventions of late nineteenth century sexology in the Gothic shape of Baron Dr Richard Von Kraft-Ebing. It was only ever intended to apply to men; women were ‘naturally’ masochistic, so pleasure in pain on their part was not ‘perverse’ and therefore not a problem to be explained or pathologised. This was part of a shift in gender roles in the West in the Nineteenth Century which was concerned with, we are told, institutionalising women’s subjugation. As Phillips points out, ‘Dante’s ordeal in the Inferno to be reunited with Beatrice, to John Donne’s love poetry, sacrificial masculine love has been a crucial theme, only in this century has what for many centuries seemed the natural, desirable form of male love been redefined as effeminate perversity, masochism.’

Phillips believes that this reformulation of male identity that excluded masochism made masculinity ‘blatantly misogynistic, emotionally inept and homophobic’. She also believes that it was this new masculinity which led in part to the ‘corrective’ of feminism. Ironically, the exclusion of masochism from the male psyche has produced a public scenario of their punishment and chastisement by women which continues today. The feminist is Ms Whiplash.

To be sure, we can see that male masochism is now making something of a comeback – what else could explain The Verve and the tortured, feel-my-stigmata ‘soft lad’/’Emo’ tendency? And while this rise of male self-dramatisation/self-obsession may or may not be good news for women in general, it is definitely good news for women like Phillips who enjoy masochistic sex. Paradoxically, now that men are relinquishing their grip on the whip handle, women need no longer feel like they are betraying their sex by expressing fantasies of domination.

But as with most cases of special pleading, Phillips’ argument often slips into evangelism. We are told that masochists are ‘imaginative risk-takers’ and that ‘real eroticism’ requires a certain ‘shattering of the self’. In other words, masochists are on a higher sexual plane to those poor souls who don’t want to get whipped, trussed up and locked in a cupboard for three days. Apparently, ‘the shattering quality of sex needs to be diluted for those who cannot fully handle it…. {and they} make a kind of civic virtue from their own necessity to retreat from the challenge of a full-blooded encounter.’

Perhaps. But those who prefer their sex weak and thin, with the gore and entrails strained out are not necessarily lily-livered. Maybe most people refuse to indulge their masochist leanings any further than a spot of slightly embarrassed spanking or coy nipple tweaking because they have better things to do with their time than trying to ‘discover their limits’ remaking Hellraiser.

 

Originally appeared in the Independent on Sunday, 1997

Gay science

scienceofgaydar.jpg

Lady America seems to be pinned between the thrusting theocracy of St Paul and the passive-aggressive pseudo science of Karl Ulrichs. Not a good look.

I understand that many American gays, most of them middle-aged and no longer with hair whorls of their own, are keen to prove they’re an immutable/congenital minority who can’t help themselves, that Mom isn’t to blame and they need their own reservation – where the Christians can’t be beastly to them. After all, who wants to take personal responsibility for liking Cher?

But if you’re going to look to science to further your pet political project (i.e. yourself) then it does, I’m afraid, make it somewhat tricky criticising those on the right who do the same thing. Surgeon general nominee James Holsinger’s Godly science of the Holy Rectum is as convincing and as objective as the weird science of the Third Sexers.

And that’s without even considering how, whatever the professed aims of the gay scientists involved, talk of congenital conditions always raises the spectre of eugenics. To be honest, if I was to have kids I’m not sure I’d want a gay one. I mean, he might grew up to be a scientist with a chip on his shoulder harassing people on Pride parades wanting to look at their hair whorls.

I think the only way to describe this science is ‘gay’ – in the sense of ‘lame’.

That said, after looking at my my hair whorl, my index finger, my penis length, my head bumps, my underwear and my record collection, I had a revelation on the road to the gymnasium about Who I Really Am.

The results are conclusive, categorical and as clear as the hand in front of my face: I’m definitely a lesbian trapped in a straight man’s gay body.

Tip: Uroskin

Bummed Up The Arse & Overheard At Dinner

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The world of straight trade may have long since disappeared from the streets of London but if you still hanker after that lost economy of boisterousness, straight nightclub toilets might be a fruitful place to loiter. Preferably with a line or two of coke (Colombia’s own version of the Gay Bomb).

Though you might have to be Arthur rather than Martha when it comes to doing the dirty. At least judging by this story related by Mike a mutual friend of Dermod who insisted he passed this anecdote on to me on the grounds that it was ‘such a Mark Simpson story’.

Mike was recently having dinner with a special chum at cheap Thai restaurant in London. They were trying manfully to mind their own homo business. This was a little difficult to do since at the – indecently close – table next to them a beefy blond Cockney wide-boy and a huge fit Nigerian began having an argument about some business deal that had gone tits up.

Things become somewhat heated and they start slagging off, as you do, each other’s birds, for several minutes.

Provoked beyond endurance, Beefy Cockney finally blurts out, ‘Well, at least I don’t get BUMMED UP THE FUCKIN’ ARSE IN CLUB TOILETS!!’

Outraged, Huge Nigerian hotly denies this terrible slur for ten whole minutes. Before finally conceding, under his breath, ‘Ok, Ok, it was just the once though, and you know I was off my head.’

‘Besides,’ he adds, ‘it’s not like you never done it yourself!’

‘THAT’S A FUCKIN’ LIE AN’ YOU KNOW IT!’ retorts Beefy Cockney, really angry now.

Five minutes later they had both conceded that they’d been done up the arse regularly.

Finally, Beefy Cockney turns to Mike (who has been pretending for the past twenty minutes not to be hanging on every word of this exchange) and asks, straight-faced: ‘Mate, can you settle somefink for us? If you saw both ov us walking down the street, which one would you say looked a bit bent?’

‘Hmm… I think it would be hard to tell,’ Mike replies, in all honesty. Then he turns the question around: ‘Do you think I look a bit bent?’

‘Nah,’ replies Beefy Cockney. ‘But your mate does.’

The Crapsex Guide

‘Most Britons are unhappy with their sex lives’, according to a recent sex survey. Apparently they don’t enjoy it very much (nearly half don’t orgasm every time – and their partners don’t even notice).

Most of all, they complain that their ‘busy lifestyles’ mean they don’t have enough time to have ‘really satisfying sex’.

No wonder. After all, it takes a lot of planning and a whole day of filming to record just one porn scene. Editing can take weeks. Especially if, like me, you have to use a lot of CGI.

And getting a body like the ones sported by the pneumatic couple used by the Sun to illustrate this feature, or in fact any article on sex, relationships, or mortgages, is a full-time occupation. You certainly don’t get one by redeeming your tabloid Family Basket KFC vouchers.

But perhaps you’re bored with all those newspaper and magazine articles, videos, TV shows and nursery school classes on how to have Better! Bigger! Hornier! Hotter! SEX!!! Maybe you’re sick of worrying whether your flexibility and muscle control would get you into the circus or not. Maybe you wonder whether things have gone too far and too blue in consumer culture’s relentless, obsessive, insatiable-inflatable pursuit of eye-popping, bed-slat-snapping, whorish HotSexTM.

If you are you’re probably as over the hill as me.

Either way, I say it’s time to stop skipping to the whip of aspirationally slutty HotSex and drain that water bed, cancel that Viagra bulk order, turn the lights off and take some pride in sex that is not hot.

Otherwise known as crapsex.

To that end I’ve come up with eight semi-erect reasons why lukewarm crapsex is better than horny HotSex (and it only took me three minutes):

  1. You don’t have to worry about your appearance.
    During crapsex you’re covered the whole time by your duvet. During HotSex, you’re forever stopping the action in order to reapply your body make-up and adjust the position of the arc lamps and the camcorder.
  2. Crapsex is quick.
    Because crapsex doesn’t take much time, or effort and, frankly, isn’t very satisfying, there’s always plenty of time and energy left over for important things like over-eating, building ships inside bottles, depression, masturbation. And affection.
  3. Crapsex is cheap.
    No Internet bills, no year-round tan, no gym-membership, no silicone implants, no vacuum-pump, no hay bills for the goat in the backyard. All you need for crapsex is a slightly raised pulse. Well, a pulse.
  4. Crapsex is easy.
    HotSex is an endless competition – with yourself. Each lay is meticulously compared with the last, and rated on a personal-best score-sheet. Crapsex cuts out this grinding stress-cycle with the relaxing reassurance that sex can’t get any worse. HotSex, on the other hand, is bound to.
  5. Crapsex keeps you faithful.
    If you’ve been having lots of a crapsex, otherwise known as ‘monogamy’, it’s sensible to avoid new partners because they might have been having lots of HotSex and will laugh at your untrimmed pubic hair and unsuppressed gag reflex.
  6. Crapsex won’t wake the neighbours.
    Or your partner.
  7. Crapsex doesn’t have to be with someone who is your ‘type’.
    Or acceptable to your personal fetish chart. Instead it can be sex with someone you’re almost quite fond of, when the lights are off and they haven’t been eating onions. And it’s their birthday.
  8. Crapsex is the real world.
    But this is also the reason why most of us these days will choose HotSex every time.

Finally, a condom for butter-fingers…

Is this the end of frantically trying to tear shiny foil with lube-covered fingers while your arousal ticks ever downwards and your partner admires the wallpaper?

Consumerism, in its endless quest to make everything oh-so effortless, does also tend to make things somewhat pointless.

Here however it actually helps you to maintain your pointyness.

All in all a gadget Mr Bond would have found rather more useful than most of those Q foisted on him over the years.

Slick Willy – A Bite-Sized History of Fellatio

Mark Simpson on why God gave (most) men backbones longer than their penis

Once upon a time, becoming a rock star was the only way a young male could be assured of getting free blow-jobs from females. This, not private jets or yachts or tax havens or leather trousers is the reason why so many young men aspired to be Mick Jagger.

Or so it was until Monica Lewinsky got under President Clinton’s desk to do some French polishing, and the Oval Office became the Oral Office. Since then, teenage boys everywhere are practising making speeches, shaking hands with bewildered people in shopping malls and kissing babies

Fellatio is the way to a man’s, well, if not exactly heart then at least his gratitude. Even if, as many women will tell you, men are not always grateful enough to actually return the favour. The ‘sixty-eight’, or I’ll owe you one’, is apparently a very popular position with straight men. (Come to think of it, it’s a very popular position with me.)

But learn to suppress your gag reflex and you will be invited to all the best parties, even if no one will share your glass.

Most sex surveys show that the favourite sexual practice for straight men is receiving head. This is slightly odd, since it’s not ‘normal’ – it’s passive and it’s perverse. Not to mention lazy. Biblically speaking, oral sex is ‘sodomy’ as it doesn’t make babies. Legally speaking, oral sex of any kind was until very recently technically an offence under the Puritan anti-sodomy laws of many US States. J. Edgar Hoover apparently kept a list of public figures who were suspected of engaging in ‘oro-genital’ contact because he considered it a sign of subversiveness – and in case he found himself at a loose end of a Saturday night.

To some people a bit of a lick round the family heirlooms can be more shocking than other, more pungent perversities. After a surprisingly frank sex education class for the 1970s, in which we’d been told ‘what gays do in bed’, including ‘sucking one another’s penises’ (I think our biology teacher had a bizarre view of homosexuality as some kind of mutuality), my best school chum Jim, sputtered: ‘It’s so, so, so… dirty! I mean, I can understand putting it up someone’s arsehole,’ he said shaking his head in disbelief, ‘but… THAT!

Looking back on it, his remarks made a certain kind of sense. Willies are dirty, bums are dirty, so: a bum + a willy = something still dirty. On the other hand, mouths are supposed to be clean, so a mouth + a willy = angry mummy.

Perhaps it was the ‘now wash your hands’ dirtiness of pee-pees that caused the lad that used to toss me off in the Fifth Year in a darkened deserted Geography classroom every Tuesday afternoon after Games to make an intriguing offer. ‘I’ll suck it for you next time,’ he promised, in response to my increasingly frantic suggestions. ‘But only,’ he added, ‘if you bring some toothpaste to put on it.’ Maybe I just hadn’t yet got the hang of foreskin hygiene. Whatever, to this day I still get an erection every time I brush my teeth.

The idea of what is natural and what is perverse is not always as obvious as a knob in your gob. In Renaissance Florence they encouraged their citizens to denounce one another for crimes against God and Nature anonymously on bits of paper slipped into a ‘sodomy box’ (today, of course, this would be the name of a fashionable restaurant). Tens of thousands of denunciations were made every year. Apparently most of the population of Florence, male and female, was accused at some time or other. Clearly Renaissance Florence was a little bit like being in today’s US Republican Party.

Some academic who doesn’t get out much has spent years sifting through the records and discovered that there was a hierarchy of sodomy back then. Interestingly, and contrary to the mores that hold sway today (Presidents excepted), it was thought a greater offence and shame to receive a blowjob than to give one – whatever the sex of the participants. Being a suckee rather than a sucker is what really sucked.

Gore Vidal would have agreed. He mocked the fond notion that the sailor receiving a bj from a fag is in control. In fact, Vidal observes, the ‘subservient’ fag literally has the sailor on the tip of his tongue. And this is a very vulnerable position to find yourself in, bearing in mind how sharp the tongues of fags in general – and Gore Vidal’s in particular – can be.

Interestingly, until the Seventies, homosexuals in the US tended to be known as ‘cocksuckers’. Which suggests that a) American women were even less interested in playing the hairy oboe in those days than they are now, and that b) fags were probably much more popular after closing time than they are today – ‘cocksucker’ being less a term of abuse perhaps than a user’s guide.

The great and incontrovertible truth of oral sex that many find difficult to swallow is that no man, however adamantly hetero he may be, would turn down the opportunity to suck his own penis. Which is, of course, exactly why God placed it where most men can’t reach it with their own mouth. Homosexuality is a sin because it’s a form of cheating. Getting your cock sucked isn’t supposed to be so easy.

In his Infinite Wisdom Our Lord gave every man except Jeff Stryker a penis shorter than his backbone to make sure that men expended an awful lot of energy doing other things to get blow jobs, things that would seem rather daft and pointless otherwise, but without which the world would be a duller place. Things like rock ‘n’ roll, politics, cunnilingus and odd-jobs around the home.

If homosexuality hadn’t been discouraged, most of human history would have been nothing more than a man leaning against the wall in the back-room of a gay bar in San Francisco with his leather flies unbuttoned.

This 1998 essay was collected in Mark Simpson’s Sex Terror: Erotic Misadventures in Pop Culture

Michael Barrymore’s Big Brother Comeback

‘Shamed TV entertainer’ – as he was re-Christened by the British press – Michael Barrymore’s new autobiography ‘Awight Now: Setting the Record Straight’ has just been published by Simon & Schuster.

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I’ve yet to see a copy, but the title and the blurb, the publicity, the large publisher behind it and the reports of a C4 series later this year suggest that Barrymore’s remarkable fight-back from being depicted as the most reviled figure in British light-entertainment history, if not British public life, and exiled to the penal colony of New Zealand, continues. It was dramatically kick-started earlier this year by his surprise appearance on Celebrity Big Brother and, even more surprisingly, not only somehow surviving right to the end but being voted the most popular actual celeb in the house. This in the teeth of a vicious hate campaign against him in the press.

It was a rather reckless move – it could easily have ended very differently, especially given his erratic behaviour – but perhaps it was entirely of a piece with our times that the victim of a (press) media show-trial should have volunteered to appear in another (TV) media show-trial as a way of rehabilitating himself. Particularly a man who had once been the nation’s favourite TV entertainer.

Almost everyone loves a winner, it seems. Especially The Sun, which didn’t spare him anything when he was in the House, making endless ‘jokes’ about ‘swimming pools’ and stirring up ‘outrage’, but then performed an impressively shameless volte face after his victory. The week after the series ended they finally printed the facts of the case instead of the fantasies, and presented Barrymore as a man wrongly blamed by the press for Lubbock’s death and injuries – cleverly stealing a march on its rivals, who were still peddling the tired old story of Barrymore the anal-rapist-murderer, or, sorry, ‘morally responsible’ anal-rapist-murderer.

All this was of course presented as a ‘scoop’ and the result of The Sun’s own ‘special investigation’ but, as was pointed out by at least one media commentator, much of what they ‘revealed’ as ‘new evidence’ was to be found in a three-year-old Independent On Sunday article by yours truly (posted below) – which I had based on the fiendishly clever stratagem of simply reading the transcripts of the public inquest into Lubbock’s death. The same inquest at which all the major newspapers – including The Sun – had staff reporters.

I predicted at the end of the piece that this scandal could turn out to be Barrymore’s last and biggest hit show and that the British public would never be able to forgive him or themselves for the crimes he committed in their minds, rather than real life. CBB seems to have proved me wrong about the first part and Barrymore seems to be doing his best to prove me wrong about the second.

Sexual Outlaws: ‘Gay For Pay’ Paratroopers

newactivedutytrim.jpgThis month’s Details magazine carries a letter (which Details strangely neglected to show to me) by veteran gay writer John Rechy, author of the cult 60s hustler novels ‘City of Night’ and ‘Numbers’, and the 70s plea for homo tolerance ‘The Sexual Outlaw’ (books I enjoyed as teenager in the 80s). He takes issue with my recent story on the gay porn scandal involving the 82nd Airborne.

After agreeing that it was wrong for the young enlisted paratroopers to be punished so severely by the mighty US Army for what they did in their own time and with their own bodies – literally out of uniform – he gets to the main business of his letter:

‘…Simpson is entirely naive when he upholds the absurdity that “straight” men who perform – for pay or otherwise – consensual gay sex are still straight, despite being aroused to the point of orgasm. This is strictly a lure by the cunning operators of these sites to their gullible clients who want to believe the fantasy. Those seven paratroopers should not have been prosecuted, but they should not claim to be “straight” either. By doing so, they compound the dishonesty of the whole situation.’

In other words, they shouldn’t be punished for appearing in a gay video – but they deserve to be horsewhipped in the letters pages for their ‘dishonesty’.

I’m grateful to Rechy for clarifying matters. For years I’ve laboured under the naive and absurd delusion that I was homo because I preferred males. Now I realise my dishonesty: how can I be homo? I’ve had sex with women! ‘To the point of orgasm’! And I wasn’t filmed. Or even paid.

It is perhaps too easy to make fun of his argument. Lots of people have difficulty today accepting the idea that when two males have sex with another this does not necessarily mean that, before the spilled semen has even had time to cool, they have to book their own float at Pride. Once upon a Kinseyian time, probably most male-on-male sex involved men who were otherwise heterosexual. In the 1940s Dr Sex famously found that 37% of his interviewees admitted to sex ‘to orgasm’ with other males. (Though he was of course attacked for this finding by those who claimed he was entirely naive and hadn’t interviewed enough ‘normal’ men.)

As recently as the 1960s, a panicked British Navy called off an investigation into homosexuality on Her Majesty’s ships because it was found that at least ‘50% of the fleet have sinned homosexually.’ Understandably, the authorities hastily decided they would rather have a fleet than kick out every man who had ever engaged in spot of sodomy, with or without the lash.

Though some gays seem unwilling to be as pragmatic or tolerant as the 1960s Royal Navy. They seem, like Rechy, to want to press-gang any man who touches another man’s penis into the gay identity. Or, as a fall-back position: ‘bisexual’ – in the sense of ‘nearly-gay’.

Obviously a proportion of ActiveDuty models must be gay or bisexual. After all, I appeared in an ActiveDuty video – and in fact not all of them are presented as straight. And of course a certain amount of scepticism is understandable, advisable even. As I reported, Mr Active Duty himself told me that he thought that quite a few of his models were probably ‘bi-curious’, and that ironically, appearing in his videos for cash was for them a ‘safe’ way of exploring this.

But what is remarkable is just how religiously certain Rechy et al are that these chaps can’t be straight. None of them.

My sense however, as someone who has actually met some of them – and er, performed with them – is that many of them are probably otherwise heterosexual. I can’t of course prove this, and perhaps it really is my gullible fantasy – but then neither can Rechy prove they’re not. And the onus of proof is with the prosecution. Besides, if you really do think that having sex with another male means you de facto can’t be straight, then you are effectively saying that any and all male-on-male sex automatically consigns you into a separate, abnormal species of male.

Alas, male-on-male sex is not some magical, irresistible ju-ju that robs hetero men of their preference for pussy should they ever experience it. Even when it’s me they have sex with (I like to think my dick is magical, but nonetheless…). For quite a few straight men, especially those who aren’t schooled in bourgeois niceties, like the country boys who become paratroopers, ‘cock fun’ is much less of a deal than it is for many gays. It’s just a naughty giggle. Or a quick way of earning some cash. Something Rechy should know from his hustler novels – though as I recall they were usually about hustlers who thought they were straight but eventually realised that they were actually John Rechy.

I suspect that part of the reason so many homos want to see straight guys having sex with one another – and will pay good money for it – is the paradoxical appeal of seeing innocence ‘corrupted’, and corruption rendered ‘innocent’. Straight gay porn, when it’s done right, looks like a fulfilment of the fantasy of much of gay porn: a carefree, smiling, laughing, rascalish discovery of masculine erotic pleasure – free of shame and pride, free in fact of ‘sexuality’. Tom of Finland drawings, pre 1970s, brought to life. Ironically, straight guys are sometimes better able to embody the gay ideal than gays.

Speculation aside, the ‘bottom’, slightly counter-intuitive line here is that the fact that someone appeared in a gay porn video, even with an outsized membrum virile in one or both of his orifices, doesn’t tell you what his sexual preference is. All it tells you is that he appeared in a gay porn video. And perhaps that he can take it like a trooper.

As one of the paratrooper models replied when confronted, post-scandal, by a shell-shocked Fayetteville waitress who’d recognised him on the ActiveDuty site demanding to know how he could have done such a thing:

‘It was no big deal,’ he replied laconically. ‘And besides, I got paid.’

A perfect response to the military, to offended/confused straights and gays alike. And to explanations in general. Foucault would have approved – even if it does somewhat undermine the need for three volumes of ‘A History of Sexuality’.


Salon vs Details: James Collard of The London Times speaks to Salon.com editor Kerry Lauerman about his decision to spike Simpson’s original piece because it was deemed ‘too risque’ for Salon – two years before the Active Duty scandal became a major international story – and a major feature in Details magazine. [link removed as page no longer active.]


Wanking On: How Masturbation Became Aspiration

Mark Simpson gets to grips with a man’s favourite bad habit

‘WANKER!’.

A bastard blue van has just cut me up, pulling out suddenly from a side-street right in front of me, forcing me to brake. Hard. So I respond in the customary English way: winding down the window, leaning out and calling him, at the top of my voice, an Onanist.

Tasting his oil-seasoned exhaust while rolling the window back up I feel a warm sense of satisfaction.

After all, calling someone a wanker is a great pleasure. A full-bodied Anglo Saxon word, ‘wanker’ can be relished in its pronunciation. Especially if you deliver it – as most people south of Watford seem do nowadays – with an Estuarian twang: as in, ‘WAN-KAH!’.

Even better, it’s possible to drive this insult home visually, by making that cute jacking gesture with your half-closed fist. Though admittedly, when I do this to other men I sometimes get a bit confused whether I’m offering an insult or an invitation.

The best thing about calling someone a player of pocket pool though is that it’s a crime you’re just as guilty of. As the jigging fist does rather hint, the man accusing another man of being a hand galloper is no stranger to Mrs Palm and her five daughters himself.

Unlike, say, ‘motherfucker’ (unless you happen to actually live in Thebes), using ‘wanker’ as a term of abuse is a tad self-incriminating. It’s a bit like calling someone a ‘nose-picker’. Everyone does it. You might as well be calling someone ‘HUMAN!’.

For males ‘wanking’ is the normal form of sexual behaviour and intercourse is the deviation. Most men, even those in long-term relationships, have orgasmed alone rather more times than they have with others – after all we peak sexually long before anyone will go out with us.

And if God hadn’t wanted us to wank, would He have put our hands at crotch level? Unless he just wanted to make things really difficult for us?  As any anthropologist will tell you, when Homo erectus stood up, the first thing he reached for was his tool. (The original Obelisk scene in Kubrick’s 2001, in which an apelike man grabs his ‘bone’ for the first time was cut by the 1970s censors and had to be re-shot in its current, symbolic form).

Once upon a time having a Jodrell Bank was somewhat shameful. Not any more. Nowadays, there’s a whole TV channel devoted to it: it’s called Channel Five.

Wanking has finally come out of the cubicle – with some tissue stuck to its shoe. George Michael might have been arrested for it, but then he did turn it into a hit pop single celebrating it.

In the good old days, masturbation was regarded as a sin and a sickness, an enervation of the nation’s manhood, and a waste of its precious jism.  Boys were solemnly told that it would make them go blind/deaf/grow hair on their palms – which of course was all true, they just forgot to mention that it would take about fifty years.

All these warnings and threats may have made lads a bit anxious, but you can bet it made the slightly sad business of auto-eroticism – or ‘self-abuse’ – much more fun because it made it naughty and dangerous.

These days however, masturbation is as rebellious as a side parting. On their eleventh birthday boys are given videos by their mothers called ‘How To Pull Your Pud Properly’ featuring Toyah Wilcox in surgical gloves. Not masturbating is now considered pathological. (The NHS now recommends that men masturbate at least twice a week to avoid prostate cancer.)

Public schools in the Nineteenth Century were as obsessed with preventing their boys from jerking their gherkin as we are today with encouraging them. They developed a whole way of life which we called ‘Britishness’, designed to stamp out ‘self-abuse’. Cold showers, thin blankets, bad food, soccer and rugby football were all deployed to ward it off. This approach may not have been terribly successful, but we did at least get an Empire out of it.

Crackdowns on monkey spankings were not however exclusive to Britain. One reason why American men are circumcised is because it was thought that circumcision would discourage masturbation by removing that naughty, oh-so-slidey bit of skin. A notion that was for some inexplicable reason promoted most enthusiastically by the Crisco vegetable oil company.

But neither cold showers nor genital mutilation can stop boys playing with themselves. Male adolescence is just too irresistible a force. When you’re fourteen, everything gives you a hard on: sitting on a bus, fizzy drinks, strong breezes, the smell of pencil shavings (oh, was that just me?). And almost anything can bring you off.

I shagged pillows, mounted my mattress, and even managed to turn the cold showers so beloved of my boarding school into a masturbatory device by allowing water from the shower head to drip onto the end of my dick, in a pervy variation on Chinese Water Torture. Each large drop of water brought me tantalisingly closer to the edge. The only problem was that by the time I came, I’d usually caught a cold.

It goes without saying that this method of self abuse wouldn’t work for me today. Now I’m in my thirties and the hormonal frenzy has long-since receded, it would take a water cannon to bring me off. If boyhood was a time when you masturbated four times a day, despite your best efforts to curb your habit, adulthood is when you masturbate only once a fortnight, despite your best efforts to do it more often.

Understandably, one of the reasons why masturbation used to be so heavily discouraged was because it was rather too close for comfort to homosexuality. After all, at its minimum, ‘homosexuality’ is no more than a wank shared with a friend. All men, however straight they might consider themselves know what it is to feel a hard cock in their hands and how to please it.

Come to think of it, at its maximum, homosexuality is no more than a shared wank….

Not so long ago, adult men with girlfriends or wives would rarely admit to having a Barclays, unless they were separated from their missus by war or the Law. The whole point of being an adult – being a man – was that you didn’t have to play with your pee-pee any more: you now had a woman to do that for you.

Or else you were too busy and too grown up for such things. Hence the insult ‘wanker’. It means: ‘useless’, ‘worthless’, ‘contemptible’. But these days hen-pecked, feminist-badgered men want to advertise, or at least pretend to, their independence from women, and also their immaturity. Wanking is now aspirational.

So all those seedy top-shelf wank-mags I remember from my youth which were full of fantasies about women giving them hand shandies on buses, have been replaced by big-circulation middle-shelf men’s glossies like FHM and Maxim full of pieces by men bragging about giving themselves hand-shandies. It’s not just cheating on the girlfriend, you see – it’s cheating on the whole female sex.

The much-touted next evolutionary leap for humanity, the Interweb, is of course all about wanking too. Though it has been described as a fulfillment of the Protestant vision of each man at home alone with his God, I think the Net is more a case of each man at home alone with his cock. Which of course amounts to much the same thing.

And yes, people in sex chat-rooms do actually use the word ‘wanker’ as an insult – even when they have to type it with one hand.

a nd i sho uld knw .

(This essay is collected in Sex Terror: Erotic Misadventures in Pop Culture)

Mark Simpson’s Inside Story on the US Army’s Gay Porn Scandal

Details May

The current (May) issue of the proudly metrosexual Details magazine includes an ‘undercover’ exclusive by yours truly on the globally-reported gay porn scandal involving paratroopers from the elite 82nd Airborne, ‘America’s Honor Guard’. (Billed on the front cover as: ‘INSIDE THE SORDID PORN SCANDAL THAT’S ROCKING THE ARMY‘.)

A couple of years ago my buddy and The Queen is Dead co-author Steve Zeeland tipped me off to the existence of activeduty.com, the then little-known military porn website now at the centre of the scandal. Ever the over-keen observer of masculine trends, metrodaddy travelled to North Carolina to meet Dink Flamingo, the man behind ActiveDuty and find out more about straight men ‘acting gay’ – this time in the form of mansex rather than manicures.

For contractual reasons I can’t reveal more about what happened here: if you feel the need to know you’ll have to buy, beg or borrow a copy of the highly fragranced men’s fashion magazine to find out all the (slightly less fragranced) ‘details’. Or, if you’re feeling brave, try a Google search. Let me just say that Dink is a real character and his military models real friendly.

The piece also looks at why mostly straight, in some cases married, elite military men would get involved in gay porn, despite the US military’s explicit ban on appearing in skin-flicks – not to mention your actual homosex. And why they might actually have less of a problem with it than straight civilian men.

Why, in other words, fighting men might not be pussy about dick.

Most significantly, it also reveals that there have been numerous gay porn scandals involving the US military since the 1970s, and uncovers evidence that the seven paratroopers charged by the US Army over the scandal have been unfairly scapegoated – that this has been going on for many years, probably with the Army’s knowledge, and involves many more than the seven paratroopers, ‘isolated to one unit’, claimed categorically by the Army as the ‘only ones’ involved.

Homos and soldiers, it seems, can’t stay away from one another. Certainly homos can’t get get enough of soldiers. It was Marcel Proust who observed a hundred years ago that: “A homosexual is not someone who likes other homosexuals, but someone who on seeing a soldier immediately wants him for a friend”.

Perhaps in this less literary, less innocent, more mediated age this should now be modified to: “…immediately wants him for a porn star.”

Army Recruiting

Brokeback Mountain on Ice

Apparently, Brokeback Mountain is now available on DVD.

Save yourself some money and watch this clip instead. It’s free, it’s a lot more fun, you get six cowboys instead of two, they don’t age, none of them get tyre-ironed, they have a lot more sexy moments and there’s no mumbling dialogue. Plus the soundtrack is a little more upbeat.

Oh, and it lasts about thirty years less than that tedious, mawkish film.

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