Stephen Fry did an interview with ‘gay’ pop culture magazine Attitude recently (Isn’t Attitude a brilliant title for a gay magazine?). I thought it might ruffle the feathers and rattle the tea cups of middle England a little. But I didn’t think quite why.
His comments about sexuality were re-enacted in that wonderful post-modern way that the contemporary media is so good at, like Viking and medieval re-enactments, but without the costumes or the sense of fun, first in the Observer and The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/oct/31/stephen-fry-sex-women-relationships-attitude and then in the theatre of the English gentry that is Twitter.
And for all the huffing and puffing and crying ‘misogyny’ at Fry for allegedly uttering the idea that women might be less driven to fuck on a regular basis than gay men seem to be, I couldn’t help notice something.
The thing that everyone wanted to mention in referring to this faux pas by the Liberal classes’ Mr Nice, was ‘cottaging’. Fry mentioned that amongst the environments in which gay men have sex are public spaces including parks and toilets*. The twitterati choked on its Chardonnay and dropped its Sunday brunch soufflees. Because really in polite company it is de rigeur to have gay friends, and promote gay marriage, and be into gay ‘culture’. But if anyone, especially a gay man, should talk about the actual physical, social, sometimes not exactly pretty acts of men having sex with other men, with no reference to women, or The Guardian, or Love or The Pet Shop Boys, the word that starts to secretly, dirtily form on people’s lips is… perverts.
Being a proud pervert myself this pricks up my ears and pisses me off. Here are some examples of the twitterati reacting to Fry’s alleged comments. I think that again, what they are saying is men, especially gay men, are dirty dogs.
‘As a woman, I tend not to cottage because I’ve got this crazy fear that I might get attacked/robbed/raped’
‘By the way, I still love @stephenfry Plenty of good people have shitty unexamined misogyny to be called on. Let’s do it respectfully’.
‘Ohh, THAT’S why women don’t screw strange men in bushes. Thanks, Steve! I was worried it might just be dignity, safety, or lack of need!’
‘But look at lesbian sexuality. It’s more about pairing up and settling down than fucking anonymously in a toilet…’
‘Also, I feel bad for some of my gay male friends who never settle down and know the deep love of a long term relationship…
‘I know a fair amount of straight men who’d rather have sex in a bed than a park. But maybe that’s just coincidence…’
Perhaps the most telling statement came, predictably from a woman writing in the Guardian. If we are going to accept gays she seems to be saying, they need to accept that some of us have a bit more class than them, and like to have sex between ‘smart sheets’.
‘If we can allow for different sexual orientations, we should also allow for the fact that while some get off on al fresco risk, security and smart sheets do it for others’
* ‘Cottaging’ actually specifically refers to having sex in public toilets. The Guardian and the feminists confused this with ‘cruising’ which traditionally meant having sex in public spaces such as parks and wastelands.
This is a novel about cottaging. It looks good:
P.s. The only reason I haven’t done it in a public toilet is that I never find any men I fancy in the Ladies’. One day this may change and then our work will be done…
See also Mark Simpson, e.g. http://www.marksimpson.com/?s=cottaging