Archive for October, 2010

English Country Cottaging

Posted: October 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

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’

http://twitter.com/salihughes/status/29262910741

‘By the way, I still love @stephenfry Plenty of good people have shitty unexamined misogyny to be called on. Let’s do it respectfully’.

http://twitter.com/PennyRed/status/29281470572

‘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!’

http://twitter.com/danielmaier/status/29275096941

‘AND this RT @AitchStewart some of his best friends were sebastian horsley, remember. #burythenationaltreasure

http://twitter.com/rowandavies/status/29265794632

‘But look at lesbian sexuality. It’s more about pairing up and settling down than fucking anonymously in a toilet…’

http://twitter.com/giagia/status/29264131450

‘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…

http://twitter.com/giagia/status/29264365573

‘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…’

http://twitter.com/mistertumnus/status/29263762839

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’

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/oct/31/hephzibah-anderson-stephen-fry-sex

* ‘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:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gents-Warwick-Collins/dp/1905548761

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…

 

‘Knowledge is not for knowing; knowledge is for cutting’  Michel Foucault  The Foucault Reader

It is a hot night in Paris. The city is never totally quiet. She lies in bed with just a sheet draped over her, listening to the sounds of cars in the distance, and the occasional group of late-night revellers. What do adults do at night? But she might come to regret such idle questions. She is not ready for the answers. The girl is only six.

This is her father’s appartment. She knows it well but it doesn’t feel like home. At her mother’s house she could sleepwalk her way to the kitchen or the bathroom and back to bed. Home is part of her. Here she has to stop and think. Remember where light switches are. Tiptoe over loose floorboards. Try not to wake her papa. Not that he ever does. Her maman’s nerve endings are attached somehow to her daughter, even six years after she gave birth. If her child wakes in the night her mother stirs and worries. Sometimes the woman will find herself alert, in the middle of the night, thinking she heard her cry or move, and then remembers her daughter is with her father. But she still worries.  She worries even more when she is with him.

The girl is thirsty but she doesn’t want to get out of bed and disturb the equilibrium. She lies awake a little longer, thinking about nothing. In the end she turns and switches on the bedside light. She reaches out and tugs at the curtain to look at the street below. It is empty except for two men, walking along, talking animatedly, arguing maybe. She can’t make out the words, just the timbre of their voices. They don’t sound angry, just, she doesn’t know the word. It’s the middle of the night and her throat is dry.

So the girl gets out of bed and tiptoes out onto the corridor. She walks gingerly towards the kitchen. She feels like a burglar. As she passes her father’s room she hears sounds. She hopes she hasn’t woken him up. He is always grumpy when he doesnt sleep enough.

The sounds she can hear are strange, as if there is an animal in there with her papa. Grunting, and then a kind of yelp, as if the animal is in pain. She stands still as a stone in the darkness and listens with all her ears and mind.

But it can’t be an animal because then she hears voices, men’s voices. One of them is her father. They are speaking quietly, almost whispering, and as if they are out of breath, like they have been running or something. The door is closed firmly. She cannot see anything. Why would her father go running in the middle of the night with another man? Did he leave her here on her own?  That thought makes her feel anxious, upset. She remembers why she got out of bed in the first place and goes to the kitchen for the drink of water. Gulping it down, standing by the sink in her night dress, she gets that familiar feeling in her stomach. That the world is turning too quickly, and she is being left behind again.

Suddenly a loud cry emenates from one of the men in her father’s room. It startles her so much she drops the glass, still half-filled with water, onto the stone kitchen floor. It dutifully smashes into pieces. And one of the pieces lodges itself in her bare foot, causing her too, to cry out, immitating the noise she has just heard. After some scrambling, whispering, fumbling, stomping, her father appears, red-faced, half-dressed, in the doorway of the kitchen.

He sees his daughter, the glass, the water, the blood trickling from her toe.

‘Merde’ says the great philosopher, profound as ever.

Then they hear the front door slam. The ‘animal’ has gone, leaving father and daughter alone to clear up the mess. To dress her wound. Knowledge is for cutting, and it makes us bleed.  Is this what learning will always be like? Accompanied by pain?

‘C’etait qui, papa? L’homme dans ta chambre?’ Who was it Dad? The man in your room? She asks, her voice beginning to shake a little. She is not ready for the answer but she cannot help but ask the question. She does not know it yet, but she will never be able to keep herself from asking the question, from picking the scab. Her ‘curiosite’, just like her father’s, will lead her through her life, sometimes into terrible trouble, and there will be nothing she can do to stop it.

Michel Foucault sighs. He knows they are cut from the same cloth, his curious daughter and him. He knows where this can lead. He adjusts his spectacles which are falling down his nose. He wishes he was anywhere but here.  He goes to the placard to find a plaster for his daughter’s cut.

This is going to be a long night.

I just found out about  Fuck Yeah Menswear

via an article in Slate

I don’t think this makes me ‘on point’, but it means I have at least some tiny comprehension of who, or what is.

Go look. It is hilarious and terrifying at the same time.

My conclusion is: women’s fashion has died, along with Carrie Bradshaw and The Sex in The City Franchise.

And when I say died, of course I mean ‘has been murdered’. And we all know who the killer is don’t we?

Yes, he is better looking than us, better dressed, and more knowledgeable about clothes, style, language, music, showbiz, everything really. We may as well all just go round in sack cloths and ashes. Or kill ourselves. Whichever is less shameful.

Here is the kind of thing the modern metro man might be talking about, if he would ever stoop to talk to us:

‘Late last night I had a vision.

A world with no blogs.

No Tumblr.

No Twitter.

Not even fucking elbow patches.

It was horrible.

In a world without swag how does one stunt?

How does one stunt in a world without swag?

A cycle perpetuated by clearance racks at Kohl’s.

The finest men of my generation.

Those known for the crispyest kits.

Those known for the sickest fits.

Those known for tweeting the most ridonkulous sample sales.

Those known for taking pictures of themselves in public restrooms.

Those known for reblogging the steeziest street skeezers.

My heroes.

My brethren.

My bros.

Were suddenly different.

An entire generation lost in space.

And time…’

You see what I mean? All that and he even knows Ginsberg.

Where is my .38 I am out of here.

http://howtotalktogirlsatparties.tumblr.com/ has linked to this post. I don’t know whether to be flattered, or scared…

A Novel Idea

Posted: October 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

I have made a commitment to join the nation’s scribblers in November’s National Novel Writing Month:

http://www.nanowrimo.org/

The idea is you write a whole novel in a month. This sounds crazy to me. But I am going to do it.

I have already started and though it sounds impossible, I do  like the thought of actually producing a draft in such a short space of time.

There is a quote by a writer that has stuck in my head ever since I first read it:

‘If you want to be a good writer, write‘.

And so I write. I am not sure how this will affect my blogging. I might put some excerpts up as I go, or just use this space to moan about how awful writing is. Or I might use it to procrastinate and carry on with my usual ramblings and not write a novel at all. I don’t know! I am nervous, because I am arrogant. And I hate to fail. And this is the kind of project that is eminently failable. It took me four years to write my PhD and that didn’t even have a story.

SO if things start to look a little ragged out here you will know why.

If any of you are also joining National NowriMo, add me as your buddy: Quiet Riot Girl.

How hard can it be, eh?

XQRG

Photo taken from http://www.sexgenderbody.tumblr.com

Barbie Boys

Posted: October 28, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

I agree, it is hard to look like Ken. But would any man want to?

UPDATE: It looks like Matthew McConaughey wants to look like Ken! or at least the ad-people at D and G want him to. Or they want men to want to look like McConaughey looking like Ken! Anyway. Click this link from Jezebel:

http://jezebel.com/5675854/matthew-mcconaughey-sadly-airbrushed-to-look-like-pubescent-boy

h/t Broken Bottle Boy, my favourite Ken Doll Man ;) http://brokenbottleboy.tumblr.com/

Riot Grrl Loves You

Posted: October 28, 2010 in Uncategorized

A brief note from your resident Riot Grrl:

THANK YOU to everyone who reads this blog, whether you comment on the posts or not.

THiS is an extension of, part of ME! It’ s not just words and pixels on a screen.

I  AM insipired by and touched by everyone who passes this way. Even the haterz.

I went to a gig by the Canadian band The Dears a few years back. They were having a total nightmare: most of their gear had been stolen or broken and they had to beg borrow and steal to put on the gig.

The lead singer, who is very HOT (I will find you a pic when I get a chance) explained all this and then stretched out his arms, looked at us all, in the eye and said:

‘But we’re here, and you’re here, and that is what counts’.

And then they played a blinding set that knocked us all out.

It has stayed with me that statement, and the human warmth that was conveyed on that night, despite technical difficulties and physical setbacks. It was all about people in a room. Making music and loving life.

This is our room.

I’m here and you’re here and that’s what counts.

QRG xxxxxxxxxxx

The Dears: VERY SEXY MAN SINGER (They are utterly obsessed by/influenced by The Smiths. Morrissey fans would/do love them) …. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0zRxxBKZ1A

(Life is hard. Here is someone – Amy Hempel)

This rather evocative image is taken from an article linked to on Laura Augustin’s site: http://www.lauraagustin.com/sex-on-sunday-5

These young men work in Prague’s blossoming gay porn sector, but as they put it quite poetically, they are straight young men; they are only Gay For Pay. I love how relaxed they look, how the one lad’s knee brushes against the other lad’s thigh, in a post-coital? moment of not thinking about their body language, the way straight men normally do when they are in close proximity with other men.

‘Gay for Pay’ reminds me of Keanu Reeves’ character in My Own Private Idaho. Sat by the fire, in an echo of homo-erotic scenes from cowboy films, Scott tells Mike (River Phoenix) that ‘two men can’t love each other’. If a man loves another man, he ‘would grow wings and fly off like a fairy’.  But he does have sex with men for money, ‘if they pay me, then hell yeah’. Mike’s doleful reply is one of the most heartbreaking moments I can think of in modern cinema:  ‘but I love you and you don’t pay me’ *  he says to his friend.

I have been chatting recently to someone who works in international development, particularly on projects supporting HIV health and sex education interventions. He works with a lot of men and women for whom sex is not defined in terms of romance, but in terms of necessity. Some of the men he works with loosely define themselves as ‘gay for pay’.

The term used by policy makers for men who do not identify as gay but do have sex with other men (and so can be at risk of HIV) is ‘MSM’  – men who have sex with men. I smiled when my friend told me that one of the men he worked with said:

‘I do have sex with men, but I am not ‘a man who has sex with men’.’

‘I wish’, said my friend, ‘ I wish he had said ‘ I fuck men, but I’m not a fucking faggot’. Which of course, is exactly what he did say.

Basically, just as there are many and new ways of saying ‘gay’, until ‘faggot’ doesn’t mean anything negative, in terms of a man’s identity, there will always be new and exciting ways of saying ‘I’m not a fucking faggot’.

I am waiting to receive a book about The Down Low,**, a word used mainly by black Afro-American men who have sex with men, but who aren’t ‘men who have sex with men’. I will tell you all about what I learn.

*There is no published final screenplay of Idaho. I transcribed it all by watching the film frame by frame on VHS when I studied it for my undergrad dissertation, to make sure I got the words right. I may be the only person on earth who has done this. Be impressed or pity me.

**It’s not the famous one by the guy who seems to say that men on the DL are nasty AIDS carrying adulterers. It’s another one.

…and this time he puts the knife into women’s upper hand, when it comes to judging men by their dress-sense.

According to a (woman) journalist in New York, All Dudes Learned How To Dress And It Sucks !!!

Here she explains why the newfound sartorial know-how of New York Men is a blessing and a curse:

”I swear to Christ, whatever happened when the “Urban Woodsman” alpha rolled the Metrosexual and hugged him super tight until they made a beautiful, beautiful baby is seriously doing it for me. I maybe want to make love to this baby. I CANNOT DEAL. Men dressing too well is gross, right? I want SO BADLY to think it’s gross. On one hand I think it’s hella Niles Crane and a little murderer-y to curate a “look” but on the other, I’m seeing purrrrrrrfect slender micro-patterned ties with gingham shirts, the SICKEST olive M-65 parkas, shawl collared cardigans, chambray, twill, toggles, perfect-length Henley plackets, non-dickhead bowties, epaulets, and even slight club collars (GAH) on dudes who up until turning thirty thought it was maybe OK to wear skate shoes. I can’t believe I don’t even know what this new thing is called”

Her main problem is she can no longer ‘read’ men like she used to:

I can’t figure out how old anyone is. I can’t figure out how gay anyone is’

And she never knows if a guy is within her ballpark or totally out of her league:

”The most middling guy will never have to tell me that my haircut works for my broad shoulders ever again because he can just wear the right fish tail parka with the absolutely correct sweater and I’ll think they’re enough out of my league that I’ll spazpanicmakeout with him on GP. I just hope when he dickrolls (rickroll + dickpic) me that his penis is carrying a wee little Filson. I WOULD DIE”

Her conclusion is worrying. This rather sharp young journo has realised the unthinkable, that men are actually talking to each other about clothes, fashion, personal style:

‘they’re all obviously in cahoots. They’re all telling each other what works for them and being constructive and honest and the result is just so much more effective/destructive than any Neil Strauss edict ever.’

This is a worrying situation indeed. Women are losing their ability to ‘read’ (and for ‘read’, read ‘manipulate’) men, because men are all upping their game when it comes to how they look. There is something very ‘New York’, very ‘Carrie Bradshaw’ about this piece. It reveals an obsession with social status and who is on whose ‘league’ when it comes to heterosexual sex and dating. But I think it has wider connotations about metro-heterosexual-relations.

The world has changed, girls. It may look much, much prettier. But it is also a helluvah lot more confusing.

Goodnight and Good Luck.

 

Nothing is fundamental. That is what is so interesting about the analysis of society. That is why nothing irritates me as much as these inquiries – which are by definition meptaphysical – on the foundations of power in a society or the self-institution of a society, etc. These are not fundamental phenomena. There are only reciprocal relations, and the perpetual gaps between intentions in relation to one another.’

Michel Foucault. (1991). ‘Space, Knowledge and Power’. In Paul Rabinow, (ed.), The Foucault Reader. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, p. 247.

‘So you’re a Modernist, then?’ he asks. Though it sounds more like a statement. She nods.

‘Yes’.

It is kind of a relief to admit it. You don’t go round saying things like that in polite ‘post-modern’ company. She doesn’t think many people know what modernism is. Or was. It certainly makes her a throw-back, to identify with such old-fashioned ideas.

She smiles inwardly, picturing him picturing her in some cold, white modernist appartment somewhere, a single Mondrian on the living room wall, reading To The Lighthouse.  If only life mirrored art so aesthetically.

When she speaks she sounds as post-modern as you can get. She is her father’s daughter after all. She finds it difficult to open her mouth without a qualification. She’d start all her sentences with ‘But…’ if she didn’t think it was bad grammar. ‘Nothing is fundamental’ . Meaning is as nebulous as the ocean, crashing against the shores of our consciousness with complete abandon, and certainly no respect for order. There are no straight lines.

In matters of  identity her post-structural mind goes into overdrive. She will sit and tell you over and over how the self is a site of conflict, creating and moulding multiple identities every day, every moment. She is not the same person now as she was five minutes ago. ‘Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same’. Whoever said that one was born just once? Certainly not Derrida.

The postmodern view of the self is perfect for people who want to enjoy multiple identities and experiences. They don’t have to make one aspect of their existence match up with another; all they need to do is create another identity, another mode of being. The internet makes this as easy as logging in.

We can be whoever we want to be. She knows this in theory. We can invent and re-invent ourselves, weaving webs of intrigue like wires at the backs of our computers. We can have a job and a wife by day, and then launch ourselves into a parallel virtual universe by night, where our hyper-real libido roams free. We can act out that splitting of the self in ‘real life’ aswell. (Yes, it needs inverted commas these days). It can’t be so hard, as everyone is acting all the time anyway. And how can you lie when there is no longer such a thing as ‘truth’?

But when she walks into the room to meet him. When he sits down beside her on the sofa. When their arms brush against each other, they can only ever be one person each.

So she watches and listens, amused, as he tries to maintain the split personality he presented to her online. This man is married, and also a casanova. An academic, and also an ‘anonymous sex blogger’.  He talks about his ‘lives’ as if they are two separate existences. But sat here beside her, sipping his pint, a  little nervous, all she sees is a man. Yet another man who heard her surname and wanted to meet her, to split the daughter up from her father, to take the ‘Foucault’ out of her, to rip her famous heart from its moorings and touch it, see it, know it, discarding the rest of her identity altogether. But sat there beside him, sipping her pint, a little jaded, all he sees is a woman. A slightly awkard, serious-eyed, beautiful, admittedly, woman. Not Foucault’s emissary. He can barely hide his disappointment.

For she will not be deluded. It is only one heart that beats inside her rib cage, and one set of lungs that drags the air in and pushes it back out of her body. If somebody killed her there would only be one corpse. Even her father, the daddy of multiplicity, could only produce one pathetic, disease-ridden corpse.

Knowing what she knows, she tries to  live in such a way that honours the limitations of the body that carries her. This means she attempts some kind of moral and narrative  consistency, going through her like the words in a stick of English rock. She may not succeed. But she tries. She thinks of how she might explain this to him, but decides against it. He seems so attached to his double-life, the illusion that he can split himself in two, half of him disappearing before her eyes. If she speaks her mind, he might disappear altogether.

So instead she just nods. Yes, she is a  modernist. It’s dreadfully quaint, she knows. It takes the fun out of meeting and fucking these international postmodern men of mystery for a start (though she doesn’t tell them so). And it makes her look at this world like an outsider might, coming from a previous age, peering into the LCD screen, reeling  in wonder and in horror at what she sees.

Shit List

Posted: October 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

Sometimes seeing two pieces of information next to each other, or one immediately followed by the next is enough to send bolts of lightning of cognition through your brain. This happened to me today.

First I read this post by Broken Bottle Boy, the journalist Mic Wright, about a very interesting discussion he had with some other writers about the difficulties involved in gaining access to paid work in the mainstream media.

Then I saw this thread on Guardian’s Cif website, about the moderation of comments on articles.

One of the comments on the discussion included the following list, of where many Guardian journalists were educated:

George Monbiot – Brasenose College, Oxford

Jonathan Freedland – Wadham College, Oxford

Catherine Bennett – Hertford College, Oxford

Zoe Williams – Lincoln College, Oxford

Tanya Gold – Merton College, Oxford

Marina Hyde – Christ Church, Oxford

Bidisha Bandyopadhyay – St Edmund Hall, Oxford*

Melanie Phillips – St Anne’s College, Oxford

Emily Bell – A. N. Other College, Oxford

Allegra Stratton – Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Peter Bradshaw – A. N. Other College, Cambridge

David Mitchell – Peterhouse, Cambridge

Riazat Butt – A. N. Other College, Oxford

David Shariatmadari – King’s College, Cambridge

Timothy Garton Ash – St. Antony’s College, Oxford

Simon Tisdall – Downing College, Cambridge

Andrew Osborn – Oriel College, Oxford

Jane Martinson – A. N. Other College, Cambridge

John Hooper – St Catharines College, Cambridge

Ian Black – A.N. Other College, Cambridge

Sam Leith – Magdalen College, Oxford

Peter Preston – St John’s College, Oxford

Andrew Rawnsley – Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge

Simon Jenkins – St John’s College, Oxford

Alexander Chancellor – Trinity Hall, Cambridge

Alan Rusbridger – Magdalene College, Cambridge

Paul Sagar – Balliol College, Oxford

Richard Norton-Taylor – Hertford College, Oxford

Clare Armitstead – St Hilda’s College, Oxford

Janine Gibson – St John’s College, Oxford

Martin Wainwright – Merton College, Oxford

Victoria Coren – St Johns College, Oxford

Simon Hoggart – King’s College, Cambridge

Nick Cohen – Hertford College, Oxford

Ben Goldacre – Magdalen College, Oxford

Seumas Milne – Balliol College, Oxford

Rowenna Davis – Balliol College, Oxford

Hadley Freeman – St Anne’s College, Oxford

Paul Lewis – King’s College, Cambridge

John Harris – Queen’s College, Oxford

Madeleine Bunting – Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

Jackie Ashley – St Anne’s College, Oxford

Polly Toynbee – St Anne’s College, Oxford

Next time you hear a Guardian journalist moaning about  ‘privilege’ and ‘inequality’ have a think about this list. I know I will.

Update: Mic Wright went to Homerton college, Cambridge. But he was the first in his family to go to university at all, and he says that Homerton is a relatively ‘new’ college in Cambridge, not a Kings or a Clare… Still this is an interesting way of looking at The Guardian and especially writings by journalists on social inequality.

(I didn’t go to Oxbridge. I went to an inner city comp and an ex-poly. My Dad went to Cambridge on a scholarship, the only member of his family to go to uni, till his sister got a degree this year aged 50 something.)

* I mean, FFS!!