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Broadband Sodomy

The crusade against ‘fapping’ is eerily reminiscent of the anti-masturbation movements of the 19th century says Mark Simpson

(Originally appeared in the Daily Telegraph 29 April, 2016)

Those annoying porn ‘pop-ups’ are impossible to avoid these days. Especially when browsing serious newspapers. PORN HORROR! headlines zoom repeatedly into our sightlines, warning us that pornography is ‘addictive’ (despite an inconvenient lack of evidence), ‘ruins relationships’ and ‘rewires men’s brains’, turning them into sex zombie automatons.

Whether or not it’s addictive for people who watch it, porn certainly seems to light up the reward centres of the commentariat brain. Panics about porn are a habit that just keeps increasing alarmingly.

The UK Government itself is currently in the sweaty grip of this hysteria. With David Cameron’s controversial (and somewhat porous) ISP porn filters only recently installed, MPs are now turning their attention to the popularity of anal sex in online pornography. A recent consultation paper published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport pondered restricting access as a way of reducing the numbers of people wanting to try the back bottom instead of the front one.

“More young people are engaging in anal intercourse than ever before,” reads the paper, solemnly. “While the increase in anal sex cannot be attributed directly to pornography consumption, it does feature in a large percentage of mainstream pornography (for example, one content analysis found it featured in 56pc of sex scenes).”

The paper’s assumptions – as with all porn panics – appear to be entirely heterosexual, so much so that it doesn’t even bother to explicitly state them, even when talking about anal sex. Instead they just cite research which suggests that anal sex “is often not seen as a pleasurable activity for young women”.

In other words, the Government’s anxiety seems to be that straight porn is encouraging straight people to engage in ‘gay sex’.

It’s easy to forget, but just a couple of generations ago any sexual contact between two men, including of course anal sex – the sex act that male homosexuality symbolises for many – was completely illegal in the UK. It wasn’t until the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 that it became partially decriminalised in England and Wales (Scotland followed suit in 1980; Northern Ireland in 1982).

As late as 1986, the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (who also famously introduced the first anti ‘gay propaganda’ law, Section 28) demanded a mention of anal sex be deleted from a government Aids education leaflet.

Many at the time saw Aids as a divine punishment for the ‘sin of Sodom’. And the deep-seated resistance to ‘sodomy’ is of course religious in origin. But it’s important to note that the religious and legal definition of ‘sodomy’ is not restricted to anal sex – it is essentially any non-procreative naughtiness, whatever the shape of the genitals involved. Hence all same-sex sexual contact is sodomy – but so is hetero oral sex, for example. For monotheism, the point of sex is to make more uptight monotheists.

And here’s the rub. ‘Straight’ porn today is basically broadband sodomy – non-procreative sex acts piped into people’s hands for them to commit non-procreative sex acts over.

Current porn panics represent a digital-age, socially-concerned update of warnings about the terrible fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.Nowhere is this clearer than in the US, where (thanks to the First Amendment) most of our porn, and also most of our panics about it, come from. America is a complicated, conflicted country founded by Puritans, constituted by libertarians and built by salesmen.

Despite a Supreme Court ruling in 2003 that anti-sodomy laws violate the constitutional right to privacy, several US states still have them on their statutes. One such state is Utah, which just announced porn to be a ‘public health emergency’, five years after it was revealed to have the highest percentage of online porn subscribers in the US.

Indeed, one of the frontrunners for the Republican Presidential nomination race, Ted Cruz, tried in 2004 to defend a Texas law banning the sale and promotion of dildos and artificial vaginas on the basis that “there is no right to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship”. He failed, but it just goes to show that the right to stimulate your own genitals isn’t to be taken for granted.

Nor is onanism necessarily a fundamentalist obsession. The mighty Time magazine recently devoted its front cover to a warning about the supposed horrifying emasculating epidemic as a result of of online masturbation: ‘Porn and The Threat to Virility,’ read the terrifying headline on the feature story.

America, we were warned, faced an epidemic of impotence amongst young men caused by porn and ‘fapping’, slang for masturbation, coined on Reddit’s comment boards. (The sensationalist ‘science’ of this story and many other porn panics, including ‘addiction’ and ‘misogyny’ moralising, was nicely diced and sliced by Joanne Bagshaw at Psychology Today.)

The crusade against ‘fapping’ is eerily reminiscent of the anti-masturbation movements of the 19th century, when male ‘self-abuse’ was widely-seen by respectable right-thinking people on both sides of the Atlantic – and also medical science – as a scourge that led to impotence, weakness, effeminacy, insanity, and the collapse of the nation.

That great American medical man, salesman and devout Seventh Day Adventist Dr John Harvey Kellogg, was one of the most famous foes of the ‘solitary vice’. His bland cornflakes were supposed to save you from it – like porn today, an exciting diet was thought to lead to overstimulation. Other, even more unsavoury ‘cures’ included phenol dripped onto the clitoris and circumcision without anaesthetic.

Male circumcision eventually became dominant in the US – c. 81pc today – in part because of its perceived inhibition of masturbation. Though it seems to have been about as effective as corn flakes at getting men to stop ‘fapping’.

Likewise, today’s panics about online onanism are usually based on a cherished, quasi-religious ideal of ‘natural’ and ‘normal sex’. But instead of procreation, they often assume the ‘purpose’ of sex and sexual desire to be (hetero) ‘love and intimacy’ and cast porn as the satanic lubricant of the fappers’ sins.

The US’s ‘foremost relationship expert’ Dr John Gottman praised Time’s anti-porn crusade in a doom-laden ‘Open Letter on Porn’ which labels it a “serious threat to couple intimacy and relationships” and talks a lot about ‘normal sex’. Again, as in most porn panic texts, including the Time piece and the UK Government consultation papers, the presumption is entirely heterosexual. Same sex relationships don’t exist.

There’s a very good reason for this. As gay therapist Joe Kort points out in this breezy, plain-talking riposte to Dr Gottman and the way discussions on porn as a ‘public health crisis’ and ‘addiction’ always exclude same sexuality relationships, the vast majority of gay and lesbian couples simply don’t have a problem with porn. It’s not rewiring their brains; it’s not destroying their relationships.

How can this be when porn is such a ‘serious threat to couple intimacy and relationships’ – along with the nation’s hard-ons?

Kort thinks it’s because same sex couples are less likely to believe that their loving relationship should forever satisfy the need for outside sexual stimulus for both partners – and less likely to hide their interest in porn.To that I would add that same sex couples probably have less investment in the notion of ‘normal sex’ than most hetero ones – usually having had to overcome social and religious stigma attached to their ‘abnormal’, ‘unnatural’, ‘sodomitic’ sexuality.

To put it bluntly, perhaps when you get over shame about sex there’s sweet FA to panic about.

Tongues at the Ready – Tom’s Tarty Men Appearing on Finnish Stamps

Tom stamp

 

Tom of Finland’s drawings are to appear on Finnish stamps this September. What better way to mark the global triumph of his kinky redesign of the male body?

After all, Tom’s men were made to be licked from behind.

Straight Sausagefests: The Slutty, Passive Pleasure of Porn

‘What do women want?’, is the title of a long feature by Amanda Hess at Good Magazine, based around a 25 year-old male (straight) porn star called ‘James Deen’, illustrated with some long-shot snaps of him fully-clothed, lounging around his ‘porn mansion’, looking like a young Roman Abramovich. 

Despite ‘Deen’ turning out to be somewhat less interesting than he’s billed as being (he likes burritos, apparently), the piece nevertheless throws up some interesting questions about what women want from porn. And also, along the way, what men might want too.

Essentially, Deen is a nerdy twink. (A ‘twerd’, if you will.) It seems this is big news in straight porn.

‘Deen has carved out a niche in the porn industry by looking like the one guy who doesn’t belong there. Scroll through L.A.’s top porn agency sites and you’ll find hundreds of pouty women ready to drop to their knees, but just a few dozen men available to have sex with them. These guys all have a familiar look—neck chains, frosted tips, unreasonable biceps, tribal tattoos. Deen looks like he was plucked from a particularly intellectual frat house.’

In other words: Deen doesn’t look vulgar and low-class and thus is worthy of Ms Hess’ and Good magazine’s interest.

‘It’s not that more normal-looking guys don’t want to be in porn, it’s that the industry isn’t exactly looking for them. Within the major porn talent agencies, female performers outnumber male ones almost 5-to-1. The directors and producers hiring them are mostly men. They’re staffing porn’s workforce with an eternally refreshed slate of female bodies, and a handful of guys who look like what men think women want: Big arms. Big abs. Big dicks.’

Hang on. The reason the directors and producers hiring them are mostly men is because the audience for porn as you have admitted is – overwhelmingly – men. And so it follows that the men who become porn actors are not chosen because it’s thought they will appeal to women (though this may be the ‘no-homo’ rationalisation that goes through some men’s heads).

They’re chosen because – in addition to being able to maintain a large erection for hours in front of a camera and crew, something which most mortal men can’t manage – they appeal to men. Most men like and admire big arms. Big abs. And big dicks. Men are so low-class.

‘The porn machine churns out performers to satisfy every fantasy, be it MILF, dwarf, fat, granny, or gang bang. But if you’re interested in watching a young, heterosexual, nonrepulsive man engage in sex, James Deen is basically it.’

So every male porn model doing straight porn, apart from your twinky, slightly dull, and frankly rather homely-looking Deen, is repulsive? Fine. More for me then….

Once upon an 80s time, in the early days of hardcore straight videoporn, when men were first negotiating their anxieties about masturbating over another man’s penis, it was often the case that male porn actors tended to be deliberately ‘repulsive’ – or at least, their appearance was heavily signalled to be ‘completely unimportant’.

But in recent years the appearance of male porn actors is no longer unimportant. It’s expected by the men that consume porn who have themselves become more image and body-conscious that male porn models will take care of themselves. They are not always just a self-propelled penis. More of their body and even their face appears on camera, and hence the body is usually worked on to make it ‘worthy’ of display.

At the very least, the guys watching porn today expect to see male performers who reflect their own metrosexual preoccupations. More than that, I think many young men expect that male porn actor’s bodies should give them visual pleasure. (Deen complains that he gets hate mail from men – who frequently tell him he ‘needs to work out’.) Though it’s true that at the moment there isn’t exactly much variety in that visual pleasure.

You can of course though watch lots of ‘young, heterosexual non-repulsive men’ engaging in sex – but gay-for-pay sex. While the same kind of worked out, tattooed male bodies Hess finds repulsive dominate in gay porn too, because it’s catering mostly to men who have a preference for their own sex it naturally has a much larger range of ‘niche’ ‘types’ available. Which is perhaps part of the reason why some women like it. And I’ll wager there’s at least a dozen gay websites specialising in Deen-ish ‘intellectual frathouse’ twerdy types. (And as this article states further down, they’ll be paid up to ten times as much for it as they would for doing straight porn.)

Then again, I know lots of gay men who only watch straight porn – because they say they prefer the guys in it. And because of course, no matter what kind of male models are used, or however you disembody them, or try to disavow it, hardcore straight porn is by voyeuristic definition bisexual. Gay porn on the other hand is determindedly monosexual. Sexual difference simply does not exist. You never, ever see a vagina in a gay porn flick. Unless it’s in an arthouse movie made by Bruce LaBruce (whom I suspect only puts them in to piss off The Gays).

Anyway, I’m not terribly convinced by Hess’ idea of ‘normal’. She talks a lot in the Good piece about how ‘normal looking’ and ‘naturally-muscled’ Deen is, and how unlike other male porn performers he is. But then mentions, almost as an afterthought, ‘His penis is 9 inches long.’

Assuming this has been, er, fact-checked, statistically this makes Deen literally a fucking freak. Only 0.1% of white males have a penis that ‘normal’.

According to Hess, ‘nonrepulsive’ and affectionate Deen is helping to inflate young women’s interest in porn. Maybe. But then again, young women’s interest in Deen as presented in the piece is often about anything other than the fact that he fucks women on film for a living. They treat him more like a boy-band star who happens to be working as a porn model while waiting for Simon Cowell to notice him.

“I think he is really cute (not in a sexual way),” one woman writes. “I want to talk to him and tell him why I like him,” another says. “It’s not only cause of his amazing talent, it’s because of his personality.” One woman shares a video that “doesn’t have James fucking her but he is there and he is being sweet so I think it’s cute to watch anyway.”

With their animated gifs and collages and focus on the way he gazes into the eyes of his female partners, or holds their hand, you get the impression his women fans are making a kind of fan-fic out of his back catalogue.

Perhaps Deen really does signal the beginning of a sea-change in hardcore porn consumption and production – involving women much more as consumers not just (well-paid) performers.

But probably not with porn producers like Joshua Lehman in charge:

“I get 300 dick pictures sent to my phone every day. I don’t want to see your penis. That’s not how you get into porn.” He advises straight men to “get the hottest bitch you can and make her your girlfriend,” then “go into a producer’s office and have her tell him that you’re the only guy she’ll fuck.”

So if you look like shit and you have a four inch penis you’ll have a career in porn because your girlfriend is a ‘hot bitch’? Yeah, right.

I think the guys sending Mr Lehman pictures of their cocks may have a better idea – or a more honest one – of what straight porn is about than the chap making it. After all, if you watch ‘straight’ online hardcore porn today you will probably see at least 300 (very large) penises in the space of an hour or so’s browsing. And considerably fewer vaginas. I know some working class straight guys who like to send one another pics and vids of especially large penises they’ve found in straight porn to each other’s phones. Which is sweet.

And of course, in the typical porn viewing scenario we have to always add at least one more, very, very important penis to however many there are on screen. The one in the hand of the chap watching it.

But the female porn models are undoubtedly the stars of straight porn – and get paid handsomely, compared the small change thrown at the male models. Partly because loads of gents would do porn for nothing. Partly because straight (and bisexual) fellas are, of course, very keen on the ladies. And partly because the ‘hot chicks’ are what keeps all this penis from being… GAY. Which would, ironically, spoil the virile pleasure of the penises for many of the men watching it (including my gay friends).

‘All of this changes, of course, when there are no girls involved at all. Gay porn stars make “a ridiculous amount more,” Lehman says. “The best male performers make $1,000 a scene on average. Some of the male performers in gay porn make up to $10,000 a scene. That’s why guys do it.” According to Lehman, “some of the guys who do gay for pay would rather be in straight porn,” but if you turn up in gay porn, “we don’t really want you on the straight side,” Lehman says.’

No, because that would let the cat right out of the bag, wouldn’t it? It would suggest some kind of well-lubed continuum between gay and straight porn – both of which are sausagefests. Lehman sounds like his job is keeping straight porn… straight. Less of a porn producer than a porn policeman.

‘Lehman tells me he was recently approached by “two well-known male performers” floating a DVD of their sexual exploits with women. “The box is basically them. Huge pictures of them. In the background, there’s a couple of hot chicks, but it’s real small,” he says. “I looked at it and said, ‘Is it gay porn? Because that’s what it looks like.’” Lehman cannot imagine a future in which this rule does not hold. “Even James Deen. You may see him in every movie, but do you see him at the center of a box? I don’t think so,” Lehman says. “If you put a man in the foreground on a box cover, male and female customers are going to assume it’s gay porn.”

This anxiety is, Hess suggests, part of the reason why (straight) porn doesn’t appeal to women very much.

‘The straight male performer must be attractive enough to serve as a prop, but not so attractive that he becomes the object of desire. As Curry puts it, “No one wants to alienate the male audience.”’

Of course, despite all this careful policing and presentation of hardcore male/female porn as rigidly, conventionally ‘hot chick’ heterosexual, male viewers, just like the female James Deen fans, are very capable of reading it their own kinky way.

I’ve lost count of the number of bi-curious straight men who have told me they were turned on to the joys of sucking or riding penis by watching straight porn. Never ever underestimate the greediness of male voyeurism. In the privacy of their own filthy minds men don’t conscientiously restrict themselves to identifying with the male ‘stud’. They also identify with the ‘slut’ who is ‘getting it’ – from all directions. Particularly since in straight porn she’s the one who is actually allowed to enjoy herself.

Whilst the men have to busy themselves with their ‘work’, like naked gymnastic car mechanics in a hurry to finish their ‘service’, in the centre of all this activity the female porn actress enacts and vocalises – very loudly – the slutty, passive pleasure of sex.

And judging by the number of men they’ve turned into sluts they’re doing a very good job of it.

Tip: Tobias

Why Straight Soldiers Can’t Stop Acting Gay on Video

Way back in the last century, before the Interweb swallowed everything, my friend and accomplice in literary crime Steve Zeeland were visiting, as you do, Camp Pendleton, the giant US Marine Corps base in Southern California with some jarhead friends.

We spent the afternoon watching the Marine Rodeo – scores of grinning fit Texan boys in tight Wranglers and high-and-tights bouncing up and down on broncos and slapping each other’s butts. Perhaps you’ll understand why, after having seen this, the Details fashion shoot that was Brokeback Mountain left me cold.

We then headed to the enlisted men’s club for a much-needed and, I’d like to think, well-earned drink. While we were there, some Marines came in from a week’s exercise in the field, still in their combats, camouflage paint still on their young sunburned faces. They were in high spirits, enjoying their first beer of the week, and when the DJ played the opening fanfare of The Village People’s ‘YMCA’, like Pavlovs’ dogs they instantly and instinctively understood what was required of them.

They flocked onto the dance-floor, scrambling to outdo one another in their 1970s disco dance moves, and joyously spelling out the letters of the camp classic extolling the pleasures of getting clean and hanging out with all the bo-oys. ‘Hey buddy,’ one jarhead shouted to me, slapping me on the shoulder and grinning in my face, ‘you having a good time?’

Oh yes.

At this point Steve produced his mid 1990s, large, cumbersome and very, very obvious camcorder and started filming the jarhead hi-jinks. ‘Steve,’ I hissed in his ear, palms moistening. ‘Don’t you think this might, er, get us into trouble?’

We escaped unscathed – though we did hear reports a year or two later that the Commandant of Camp Pendleton had ordered, like an angry Old Testament God, that enlisted men’s club be razed to the ground because it was ‘a cesspit of sodomy’.

I needn’t have worried about Steve’s camcording. But the Commandant did have reason to worry – and his Biblical efforts proved in vain. In just a few years time, military boys would be enthusiastically filming themselves acting way ‘gayer’ than dancing to YMCA – and posting it on YouTube for the entire world to see.

You’ve probably already seen the video tribute to Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ made by US soldiers in Afghanistan, which has gone virulently viral.  It’s part of a well-established craze by dusty, bored and stressed military boys letting off steam, taking time out from buttoned-down masculine norms and channelling a little glamour instead. Having a scream, in other words. But the fact they are videoing it and putting on YouTube suggests that, like most like most young people in a mediated world, they want to draw attention to themselves.

Way back in the Twenieth Century again I wrote, only slightly tongue in cheek: ‘The problem with straight men is they’re repressed. The problem with gay men is they’re not.’ In the metrosexual 21st Century I think it’s pretty clear that even straight soldiers aren’t that repressed any more.  While of course gays are getting married and becoming Tory MPs.

I don’t know about you, but the scene where the soldiers are standing around admiring one another’s home-made House of Gaga outfits will stay with me forever. There’s something about Lady Gaga that seems to make funny, flaming flamboyance – Gagacity – irresistible to men, women, children, civilians and soldiers and small animals. Gay or straight.

Quite rightly, hardly anyone has suggested that these soldiers being hyper and hilariously camp are ‘really gay’. Some might be, of course. But their appearance in a video of this kind doesn’t prove any such thing. Even the gay-banning US Army put out a statement approving the video, or at least trying to exploit its popularity.

Compare this with what happened a few years back when it emerged that some US soldiers had been ‘acting gay’ on video for private consumption rather than YouTube. Gay porn videos made by a company called ActiveDuty. A global scandal errupted and several young soldiers were arrested, courts martialed, fined and dishonourably discharged.  A lot of people – particularly gays – seemed convinced that the soldiers ‘must’ all be gay because they appeared in such videos. When in fact many did it like the soldiers in the ‘Telephone’ video – for giggles, for fun, for a dare. And, in this case, also for the not inconsiderable sums money they were paid.

Like the discharged soldier said to the shell-shocked waitress who recognised him from the ActiveDuty website and demanded to know how he could have done such a thing: ‘It was no big deal. And besides, I got paid.’

If you think my comparison far-fetched, consider that the soldiers courts martialed for ‘acting gay’ on video (Certificate 18) were paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne based in Fort Bragg. The same elite unit that the chaps ‘acting gay’ in the ‘Telephone’ video (PG) are from.

The latest YouTube video of soldiers ‘acting gay’ called ‘The Army Goes Gay’ (below) has been curiously claimed by some gay blogs as an example of straight soldiers ‘ridiculing’ Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  There isn’t really any evidence for this reading however – and in fact it could be more easily read as an endorsement of the ‘Gay Bomb’ fears of the Pentagon.

Almost certainly it doesn’t have any  message at all.

It’s just soldiers being silly and naughty. And ‘gay’.

Bear Grylls – Nature Gimp

I’ve often thought that Bear Grylls’ ‘survival’ programs with his frequent nakedness and subby eagerness to put all sorts of eeeurgh! things in his mouth in extreme close-up while generally putting his body on display and in harm’s way are really a form of fetish porn. Bear Grylls: Nature Gimp.

Yes, it’s true that I see porn everywhere – especially if it involves fit young chaps – but in this instance I think it’s quite deliberate.

The clincher is Grylls’ terrible acting.  It’s passionately unconvincing.  Acting so bad that almost by itself it renders what you’re watching pornography, even on the rare occasions he keeps his clothes on.  And as in porn, his bad acting is a major part of the sadistic pleasure of voyeurism.

I would describe Bear as taking the role of the bottom in gay porn but this probably isn’t accurate enough. Bottoms in gay porn generally don’t make nearly as much noise as Bear: it would be a bit of a turn off. No, Bear makes as much noise as women in straight porn. Bear’s job, like female porn stars, is to act out (very, very badly) the pain, pleasure and degradation – and glamour – of being on the receiving end.  Of being ‘the bitch’.  For the male viewer.

Every time Bear the rufty-tufty ex-SAS explorer jumps naked into an ice hole or eats dung the ridiculous noise he makes lets us know that we’re watching something much kinkier than a survival programme.

But this clip in which he gives himself an enema ‘Only as a last resort’ takes everything to a whole new level. The noise he makes as he ‘lies back and thinks of England’ should get him an Adult Video Award. I’m sure that giving yourself an enema with seagull poo-flavoured water in a chunky plastic hose is a trifle uncomfortable, but Bear manages to make it sound like he’s being fisted by a Rhino.

Bear Grylls: Use only as a last resort – if you can’t find any proper porn.

Banged Up in the Orgasmatron

death-star-firing

By Mark Simpson (Originally appeared in Manner magazine)

“Do you have any HUNG mates? I want to be GANGBANGED by several DONKEY DICKS and just TOTALLY USED! Oh, and do you have a videocam to record it all? You see, I want my first time to be really special.”

Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining, and probably I shouldn’t have Photoshopped the pic on my profile, but I seem to be hearing this kind of request more and more these days from young men online. Men who, like most of us penised people, have been watching far too much porn.

And it doesn’t seem to matter much whether the porn they’ve been watching too much is ‘straight’ or ‘gay’. Nor, in fact, does it seem to matter much whether they are straight or gay – tops or bottoms. It’s all the same now. When it comes to porn, all men are nymphomaniac size queens. Gargantuan, mortifying, Death-Star penises devastating tiny, defenceless chocolate starfish — in extreme, key-hole surgery close-up.

(Admit it, I’m turning you on, aren’t I?)

Xtube’s ‘Most Watched’, gay or straight, is just reams and reams of unfeasibly large pee-pees ramming relentlessly, pitilessly, where the sun don’t shine and where God definitely didn’t intend.

Even if men do occasionally find themselves having to settle for something slightly less apocalyptic on the rare occasions when they actually have sex instead of the real thing – i.e. watching porn – this is what is playing in their heads when they come. It certainly is in mine.

It was Edward Albee who famously said that when we are young we use porn to substitute for sex, but when we are adults we use sex as a substitute for porn.

Of course, this maxim is laughably out of date. Thanks to the internet, which has uploaded all men’s filthy, fetishistic thoughts, multiplied them by the power of IT, then downloaded them, no Vaseline, back into our sore, over-stretched little heads – and then uploaded them back onto Xtube, usually without password protection. In an Xtubed world there’s no substitution, or in fact distinction between sex and representations of sex any more. There is only pornsex.

In Woody Allen’s 1973 classic ‘Sleeper’ he postulated a future in which we would all have a machine called the Orgasmatron, that within seconds of using would electronically induce an orgasm. Well, we’re in the future already, and Allen turned out to be exactly right: the internet is after all the Orgasmatron, but with Windows Messenger.

Though Allen was exactly wrong to think that it would take a few seconds. While the speed of the technology and bit-rates get faster and faster, we’re getting slower and slower, spending more and more time not less in the Orgasmatron. Pretty soon, we’ll all have a chip in our skulls that will mean we’re permanently logged on with a lob on. But when that happens it will just be a kind of technical elaboration of where men, gay and straight – but especially gay – are at mentally already.

Is it humanly possible, I wonder, to summon up more energy/time/bodily fluids/eye-strain than we are already doing? Can ‘sex’ continue to bear the weight, heft, length and girth of our ever more penetrating gaze? Or will sex just decide to stay in and wash its hair instead, thanks for asking?

It’s almost as if we want to wear sex out. Use it up. Overexpose it. Leave it gaping, slack and flapping in the wind. Perhaps I underestimate the ingenious power of the male psyche – and also the suppleness of the human sphincter. We’ve all seen those Xtube clips of men taking ever-bigger traffic cones up their arses – over and over again. Maybe in ten years time they’ll be sitting on the London Gherkin. Who knows what’s possible with an early start, enough determination and really good poppers?

Or maybe the only way forwards is backwards. Maybe we will decide that when everything is permitted, and where you’ve literally seen everything, there’s no point in actually doing any of it. Maybe in a world of e-jadedness, repression will make a comeback. A clampdown, if you will. As the director John Waters once said, ‘Every day I get down on my knees every day and thank God I’m a Catholic, because it means I have really great sex!’

One of the truly wonderful things about repression is that you don’t need much friction to bring you off. A mobile phone set to ‘silent’ can do the trick, as opposed by the nuclear-powered jack-hammers required by today’s young men.

I suspect though that most blokes probably won’t find the idea of the His Holiness looking over their shoulder while they’re wanking online terribly appealing.

Unless, of course, the Pope has a REALLY BIG COCK – and some DONKEY HUNG Cardinal mates.

death star explosion

From Finland With Lust: How Tom Re-Designed the Male Body. For Pleasure.

The teenage Tom of Finland’s gay fantasies from the 1940s of muscular men have come to define a mainstream view of masculinity, argues Mark Simpson

(The London Times, Nov 2008 and collected in Metrosexy)

The first time I saw a Tom of Finland drawing was in a well-thumbed, seventh-hand issue of Fiesta, a top-shelf favourite of schoolboys in the 1970s. The image, buried at the back, was in a small ad for more “specialised” publications, probably missed by most of my schoolchums who had thumbed the issue before me. But it jumped out at me like an outsized erection.

It depicted a pair of muscular butch young men with big chins and broad grins grabbing each other’s bubble butts and straining packets while winking at the reader. I immediately rushed out to the post office to buy as many postal orders as my pocket money would allow.

Although I was sorely disappointed with the ‘Biker Boy’ lame leather fetish magazine – with no Tom of Finland drawings – that eventually turned up, I have spent much of my adult life and a fortune on gym membership fairly ‘fruitlessly’ trying to recreate that Tom of Finland image that I glimpsed as a teen.

I needn’t have bothered, however, because as it turned out the whole world was going to become a Tom of Finland drawing. His sensualised, cartoonish über-male body and its endless potential for pleasure and pleasuring has become commonplace. Think of the rugby player Austin Healey pulsating on BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing in tight pants and a sleeveless top. Or all those footballers keen to strip off and show us their assets on the sides of buses.

The notes for artist retrospectives usually make extravagant claims, and those for a major retrospective of Tom of Finland in Liverpool, part of that city’s annual Homotopia queer culture festival, make some very extravagant ones indeed: “Tom had an effect on global culture unmatched by that of virtually any other artist,” we are told. But for once, there’s something to this hyperbole, despite the artistic merit of his work being very debatable.

Tom was born Touko Laaksonen in Kaarina, Finland, in 1920 and his work is literally the masturbatory fantasies of a lonely young homosexual Finnish boy – he began drawing in his locked bedroom in the 1940s, pencil in one hand, penis in the other. His fetishised, overobserved, long-distance gay appropriation of masculinity has in a mediated, long-distance world become… masculinity.

It’s often said that Tom’s greatest achievement was in drawing gay men who were masculine, happy and proud at a time when they were supposed to be effeminate, neurotic and shameful. This is certainly the reason why so many gay men are Tom devotees, wittingly or not. Today’s gay porn is merely filthy footnotes to Tom, endlessly replaying the narrative of “regular guys” with very irregular-sized penises and pectorals having spontaneous, shameless sex at the drop of a monkey wrench.  (And it’s entirely apt that one of the sponsors of this retrospective is Gaydar, the gay ‘dating’ site where gay men post Tom-ish pictures of themselves looking for other Tom-ish men to have Tom-ish sex with.)

However, the out-and-proud gay biker look – identity even – that Tom perfected after seeing Marlon Brando in The Wild One (Brando was a Tom drawing in 3D) and which became so popular in the pre-Aids 1970s and early 1980s, reaching its peak with the climactic success of the Liverpool band Frankie Goes to Hollywood, has become a dated cliché. See, for example, the tangoing, mustachioed leather men in the Blue Oyster basement bar in Police Academy – and few if any young gay men today aspire to it.

But when you look at Tom’s drawings in this retrospective, which features 25 of his works in the basement (predictably) of the Contemporary Urban Centre in Liverpool, it becomes apparent that his achievement goes much further than just making gay men feel good about themselves or love the snugness of leather harnesses. Tom, who worked as an illustrator in the Finnish advertising business until the early 1970s, when he became a full-time gay propagandist, sold the male body as a pleased, pleasuring and pleasured thing several decades before Calvin Klein thought of it. In the middle of the 20th century, Tom was effectively sketching the blueprint of 21st-century man. And boy, was he blue.

Before Tom almost no one drew men like he did, making them such unabashed sex objects and sex subjects, giving them such exaggerated male secondary – and primary! – sexual characteristics: big chins, strong jaws, full lips. Masculinity, and virility end up looking so… nurturing. Buxom. Busty. Tom’s men have round firm breasts, saucer-like aureolas and nipples you can adjust your thermostat with. One (from 1962) struts down the street, biceps bulging, chest literally bursting out of his shirt, and dressing very much to the left: no wonder he’s being followed.

His saucy curvaceousness a testament to the way in which aestheticised hyper-masculinity is oddly androgyne. And while Tom’s men may have had their tits out for the lads, the kind of Tom-ish male body he helped to invent is nowadays getting them out for lads and lasses, gay or straight, online or in real time.

Likewise Tom’s drawings also reveal the male derrière as a sexual organ: not just in some of the more hardcore examples, but the way that Tom-ish buttocks are so spherical, so sensual, so inviting. One of the most striking and prescient sketches, from 1981, is also one of the tamest: a row of bedenimed male bubble butts sticking out at a bar – awaiting perhaps the attentions of the hugely powerful Abercrombie & Fitch photographer Bruce Weber (a big Tom fan), or perhaps the vaselined, wide-angled lens of a Levi’s commercial.

Tom’s big break came in the 1950s from Physique Pictorial, an underground, semi-legal gay American fanzine disguised as a straight men’s bodybuilding magazine, which frequently put Tom’s men on the cover. Half a century later, and 17 years after his death in 1991, the world is inverted: flesh-and-blood men who look like Tom’s drawings appear on the cover of bestselling corporate mags such as Men’s Health. Flick one open, and you’ll find it full of advice on how straight men can turn themselves into something Tom-ish.

POSTSCRIPT Feb 2011

Compare the 1960s Tom of Finland sketch of the pneumatic young man swaggering/sashaying down the street at the top of this essay, with the one below of 21st Century Jersey Shore star Mikey ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino (Mikey’s face isn’t quite the Tom-ish ideal, but boy, his tits and abs are):


Toughs, Low-Life, Drag Queens – Genet Was The Daddy of Them All

Mark Simpson on how Jean Genet invented the internet

(Independent on Sunday, June 2003)

`I had already wondered what would become of the meeting of a handsome young guard and a handsome young criminal,” wrote Jean Genet in his 1943 debut prison novel, Our Lady of the Flowers, penned while he was himself serving a life sentence as a persistent petty criminal, one that would only end when he received a State Pardon arranged by Jean Cocteau’s lawyer. “I took delight in the following two images: a bloody and moral shock, or a sparkling embrace in a riot of spunk and panting…”.

Well, you would Jean….

But then so would the rest of us, judging by contemporary popular culture’s obsession with bloody moral shock, sticky panting and general low-life passions, whether it’s an episode of the TV prison drama Oz, movies by Guy Ritchie, rap music by Eminem, or surfing for voyeuristic thrills on the net.

Genet’s famous 1950 short Un Chant d’Amour, released by the BFI for the first time on DVD and the only film made by this most cinematic of literary talents, seems to be a visual exploration of Our Lady’s daydream. Set in a French prison, this silent, black and white 25 minute “porno” movie intended for sale only to rich homosexual private collectors, Un Chant d’Amour now looks like one of the most influential modern films ever made. Or at least, one of the most visionary.

 

It’s well known that Un Chant d’Amour influenced underground film and Queer Cinema directors such as Derek Jarman and Todd Haynes. However, the impact of Chant – and of the Genet sensibility it’s soaked in – goes much further and deeper, and is rather more, shall we say, perverse. In a twist that would no doubt have revolted him, Genet’s marginal sensibility, his outsider love for hoodlums, drag queens and low-life – and most of all, his passion for sweet-and-tender murderous hooligans – has become normal.

What happens in Chant? Very little – in fact, absolutely bugger-all by the standards of contemporary porn. Boredom and frustration reigns – and so does the desperate, itchy-but-lyrical eroticism that comes with seclusion, for both the imprisoned and the imprisoner. A listless prison guard happens to notice a bouquet of flowers being swung from a cell window, the neighbouring prisoner’s hand, extended between the bars, repeatedly trying and failing to catch it. He investigates, peering through spy-holes and witnesses one male prisoner after another masturbating in different fashions, some dancing frantically, some languorous on their bunks, some standing, some washing. Aroused, either by the scenes or the sadistic thrill of his powerful position, the warden grabs and rubs his own packet.

 

Nearly half a century before everyone had a peephole in their bedrooms called the internet, Genet had envisioned a webcam world of alone-ness and voyeurism, mass separation and observation, tedium and fascination.

We see an older prisoner knocking on the wall, which is tattooed with graffiti and a huge phallus, trying to attract the attention of his younger neighbour who is seen jazz-waltzing with himself in a dirty vest with a face as tender as it is tough – anticipating by a few years Marlon Brando’s Stanley Kowalski, and by several decades the face that Colin Farrell wishes he had. The lad, as lads must, seems uninterested and continues jazz-waltzing with himself, caressing the tattoo on his shoulder.

The older man, understandably, works himself into a frenzy, hugging and licking the wall, pressing his genitals against it. Finally he lights a cigarette, inserts a straw through a tiny hole, and blows smoke through it into the next cell. The boy studiously ignores this flirtation. The older prisoner withdraws, stubs out the cigarette. And begins the whole process again.

This time, as the straw probes, the lad responds, kneels at the wall close-eyed and open mouthed and receives the billowing white smoke, in what Jane Giles, author of ‘Criminal Desires: Jean Genet and Cinema’ has described as “one of the most erotic scenes in cinema”. But it is the tattooed, impassive wall itself and its tight, unyielding hole that is the real star. Genet knows that romance – and even desire itself – is only really possible when it’s impossible (and is perhaps why the visual longing of Chant seems to anticipate so much advertising that puts the commodity – the jeans, the DVD player etc – in place of the wall). The only “sex” we see in Chant is very brief, shadowy glimpses of masturbation – and the erotic reveries of the prisoners and the guard, in the form of oddly chaste tableaux of longed-for but never realised clinches.

Although ostensibly made to excite 1950s homosexuals, Chant has nothing in common with contemporary gay porn which is all about brightly lit consummation; telephoto-lensed operations without anaesthetic which, oddly, end up showing nothing at all. Chant’s endless longing is arguably much more “obscene”. Even as recently as 1989 the film was banned by Hull City Council for being, in their own confused yet perhaps not so confused words, both “boring” and “shocking”. (Which also happens to be a pretty good description of the condition of contemporary culture.)

None of the participants in this “gay film” were actors. Nor were any of them homosexual. Lucien Senemaud who played the young convict, was a lover of Genet, but he was also married (his wife didn’t seem to mind the relationship, especially after Genet bought them a house). The older prisoner was played by a Tunisian Montmarte baker and pimp with a family of eight children. In fact, the only true actor in Chant is the erect penis briefly glimpsed striking the wall – reportedly a stunt double belonging to a professional performer.

Authenticity was paramount for Genet, who, unlike most contemporary low- life merchants, was himself the real deal: an orphan raised by the French State who spent most of the first 40 years of his life in homes, borstals and prisons. Guy Ritchie, on the other hand, the “geezer” director who made a great play of the fact that many of the men in his lovingly-shot hoodlum movies were not actors but “real tough guys”, spent most of his youth in public schools and baronial homes. Nonetheless, a spayed version of Genet’s worship of beautiful bastards has become one of the ruling passions of contemporary culture.

The general life-sentence of solitary confinement depicted in Chant is not something that Genet felt great sorrow over. In his last TV interview in 1985, a year before he died, a heroic performance of scornful arrogance, he was asked by his earnest young interviewer, “Do you always feel apart – alone?”

“Yes,” he replied, matter of fact. “I’m apart now. You’re over there, I’m over here.”

“Does this not distress you?”

“Not at all. What would be distressing would be if there were no distance between me and you!”

In Chant, it’s only as the guard is walking away from the prison that the flowers swung between the windows are finally caught. But the guard, with his back to the prison, doesn’t see it

You can view the film and read a thoughtful review of its ‘gestures’ by John Calendo at the thinking onanist’s website Nightcharm (NSFW)

Keane Fury Over Roasting Romp

I don’t blame Keane for being furious. I’m positively seething myself that no one invited me either.

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‘Stars in sick orgy’ (strapline to the print version – doesn’t appear online)

Another example of how sporno is fast becoming porno – or is porno becoming sporno?

Tabloid newspapers in the UK can’t get enough of these faux-outraged ‘roasting’ stories about the ‘scandal’, ‘disgrace’ and ‘sickness’ of several fit young professional footballers sharing one consenting ‘busty female fan’, simultaneously. Illustrated, if possible – as in this case – with tantalisingly blurry shots from the (no doubt dodgily acquired) home-made porno movie.

Why? It sells. The tabloid readers, male and female – but particularly male – love it. It delivers to them the realisation of the fantasy at the heart of so much sport today: the sports star as porn star. Porn that is, like team sport itself, ever so slightly homoerotic.

This is after all, porn involving rather more sporting pricks than groupie pussy – in this case, three or four footballing studs on one accommodating lady, and some male spectators, cheering them on.

It’s not exactly ‘gay’ – but it’s not terribly ‘straight’ either.

But I wouldn’t want to suggest that these footballers were any different to most lads today. They seem quite normal to me. The footballing lads are probably recreating the ‘straight’ gang-bang many-penised porn increasingly popular with young men – and which more and more features, like most hetero porn, attractive and athletic young men instead of merely a fat hairy penis attached to a fat hairy faceless fuck as in the past.

Footballers are certainly not short of enough groupies to go around – but the deluge of these tabloid ‘roasting’ stories would indicate that they often prefer to share.

And why not? If you spend all that time training and playing and showering and partying with fit mates then why shouldn’t you want to seem them in action? And film them on the job as well? Especially when they’re so keen to show off.

All things considered, it’s just as well that male bisexuality and bi-curiousness ‘doesn’t exist’.

Sporno gets even more spornographic

Ooo-la-la! The 2007 Dieux du Stade calendar is upon us and it seems to be even naughtier, even saucier — and somehow even more graphic — than last year’s. How do they do that? Without actually using those rugby balls as sex toys instead of just holding them that way?

Even I — even I — hesitate to reproduce some of the more explicit locker-room snaps — so you’ll have to visit the link for the full sauce. How long before sporno becomes just porno? Oh, give it about a fortnight at this rate.

Truth be told, the ‘making of’ Dieux du Stade DVD has pretty much already found the boundary between sporno and gay porno and crashed through it. Scottish rugger bugger Sean Lamont (below) reveals himself a ‘well rounded’, talented and very versatile sporno star — whichever way you look at him.

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Not to be outdone in the sporting/spurting male stakes, Australia has muscled in on the sporno industry with the very impressive Naked Rugby League Calendar.

Perhaps the only surprising thing about this venture into out-of-the-closet sporno by Aussies is that it took them so long. After all, Australia is the country that brought us the Speedo and the Lifesaver, as well as Aussie Rules Football (I know it gets hot in Oz but really, is there any excuse for those skimpy shorts and sleeveless tight vests other than showing off and generally being a tart?). Australia is also the country which, with it’s extremely powerful, innovative sports media, that practically invented the commodification of the sporting male body and perhaps for that very reason is a global leader in metrosexuality.

But lovely and eager to please as they are, the Oz sporno stars are going to have to be a little less coy and show a little more in the way of vital assets if they want to keep up with Dieux du Stade. This shouldn’t be a problem: Australian men are anything but shy in real life — or reality TV. But then, perhaps Jamie Brooksby’s famous ‘metrosexual knob’ is the reason the Australian Rugby League pin-ups are hiding their tackle. Thanks to Jamie, Australian males are now held to very stretching standards indeed.

While beefy British rugby players may be lining up to tart themselves out to the public in French calendars, our home-grown sporno lags behind that of both France and Australia.

Mind you, Nike’s use/exploitation of the England Rugby Squad in its advertising campaign for its stretchy top ‘Nike Pro’ is very encouraging indeed. Note how the muscled, glowering hunks have been photographed from a kneeling position — i.e. packet-level — lit from above, the better to show off their shoulders and pecs, as any gay porn director will tell you. The rugger gods themselves look down masterfully at the supplicant rugby fan. Perhaps the ‘Pro’ part of ‘Nike Pro’ stands for something other than ‘Professional’.

‘England’s secret weapon’, despite those baggy shorts, is not so secret after all. It’s spornographically obvious.

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Now, if you think that, once again, my overheated brain is polluting with a filthy imputation to something as pure and unstained as England’s rugby shorts well, you’d probably be right.

But this doesn’t actually mean I’m wrong. Not just because advertising is, of course, never pure or unstained, but because of these eye-popping, shorts-straining pictures of what appears to be of a giant orange blow-up doll of Josh Lewsey (second from the right in the ‘Secret Weapon’ ad above — the one with the least secret packet and best six-pack) outside Twickenham Rugby Ground. And no, I didn’t take them myself: they appeared on the England Rugby Union official website.

Now we seem to be not just kneeling but grovelling on the floor gazing straight up at Josh’s powerful naked thighs and straight at his towering (and noticeable less baggy) packet. Plus he seems to have, very kindly, taken off his skin-tight Nike lycra top and is instead just wearing his skin-tight skin. As part of their ‘Pro’ campaign in the UK Nike very kindly commissioned this enormous (plastic) statue of Mr Lewsey.

Here’s another pic, snapped half-way through Josh’s ‘erection’. He looks more Greek, more Apollonian — slightly less Jeff Stryker.  But he also looks as if he’s engaging in one of those charming post-match locker-room games rugby players are famous for.

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)

Sporno: where sport and porn meet and produce a spectacular money shot

Just in time for the World Cup the July issue of the re-launched OUT features an essay by yours truly on the post-metrosexual pornolization of sport – or what I dub ‘sporno’.  Here’s a (breathless) taster:

‘Sportsmen on this side of the Atlantic are increasingly openly acknowledging and flirting with their gay fans, a la David Beckham and Freddie Ljunberg (the man who actually looks the way Beckham thinks he looks). Both these thoroughbreds have posed for spreads in gay magazines and both have welcomed the attention of gay fans because they “have great taste”.

More than this, they and a whole new generation of young bucks, from twinky soccer players like Manchester United’s Alan Smith and Cristiano Ronaldo, to rougher prospects like Chelsea’s Joe Cole and AC Milan’s Kaka, keen to emulate their success, are actively pursuing sex-object status in a post-metrosexual, increasingly pornolized world.

In other words: they’re not just sports stars, but sporno stars’

You can read the full essay here.

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

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