The 'Daddy' of the Metrosexual, the Retrosexual, & spawner of the Spornosexual

Tag: masturbation (page 1 of 1)

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 front runners 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 a supposed 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 over-stimulation. 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.

Long Hot Punter: Paul Weller’s Topless Video Revisited

Scourge of The Eton Rifles Paul Weller was sending out quite a statement to his die hard Jam fans in this video for his 1983 Style Council single ‘Long Hot Summer’, shot on the River Cam in Cambridge. Acting the big posh pooftah in a punt.

Like almost everyone in the UK in the early 80s the young Modfather had fallen madly in love with the beautifully-shot 1981 ITV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited – much like today’s Downton Abbey, but with believable, interesting aristos, a script, and an actual point.

Sometimes a pole is just a pole. But not this time.

Oh, and a seductive homoerotic storyline in which two young hetero men fall for one another surrounded by the Baroque splendour of Castle Howard, North Yorkshire. Charles Ryder’s long hot summer with the decadent Sebastian Flyte opened up a whole new realm of sensation for a generation emerging from the concrete rubble of 1970s Britain. Even for the son of a taxi driver and a cleaner from Woking like Weller.

I sometimes wonder, considering the bathetic comparison between Brideshead and Downton, and the general, glorious queerness of early 80s pop culture, whether the notion of ‘progress’ is just a illusion we cling to make the diminishing returns of life more bearable. (And by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’ of course.) Though much less technically sophisticated, Weller’s Brideshead tribute video ‘Long Hot Summer’ video knocks LMFAO’s ‘Sexy and I Know It’ into a banana hammock.

Rather wonderfully, wanking seems to be the focus of this promo, along  with the attendant narcissism and homoeroticism of Paul’s display of topless, oiled-up self-pleasuring for the camera – lying on his back for most of the video whilst his fully-clothed chum labours behind him. Thirty years on, and after all the slutty, spornographic advertising campaigns of the last decade, Paul’s petulant passivity in this video is still jaw-dropping.

Understandably, Style Council keyboardist Mick Talbot is driven to playing with his pole and gnawing passing willow trees in frustration. Fortunately for him relief is at hand – a little later pretty Paul allows himself to be spit-roasted in his punt by the drummer and the guitarist.

Whether lolling on his back, fingers travelling down his flat abdomen, or dancing barefoot, Weller’s whippet thin body reminds us of what British young men looked like before Ronald McDonald and Mens Health redesigned them.

Or maybe I’m just falling prey to the intoxicating nostalgia for a better, more golden time that permeated Brideshead.

UPDATE 15/04/2017

In case anyone thinks the above reading was just the product of my overheated imagination, it seems there was a ‘hardcore’ version of the ‘Long Hot Summer’ homo promo – in which Mick and Paul lie on the picnic blanket with their heads together, fondling each other’s hair and ears.

This version was only aired once on Top of the Pops before the offending scene was cut, though it’s not clear whether it was because of pressure from the BBC or outraged blokey fans. Unfortunately, I can’t find the original, uncut filth online. Does anyone have a copy?

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 Montmartre 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)

Wanking On: How Masturbation Became Aspiration

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


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’ , using ‘wanker’ as a term of abuse is a tad self-incriminating. (Unless you happen to actually live in Thebes.) 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 1960s 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 .

(Attitude, 1999, collected in Sex Terror)