Posted: July 31, 2010 in Desire, Identity, Masculinities

I have wished I were a boy, at various times in my life, secretly, furtively. The thrill I got from watching Orlando, when I was in my early twenties, was visceral. I felt myself transform with her/him. I stared at that new body in delight and fear. I left the cinema feeling different from when I walked in.

But if I were a boy, I don’t know how happy I would have been. Some women go on about the pressures on girls, to fit certain roles, look a particular way, be just sexy enough but not too much. I’ve had those pressures. But I think the pressures on boys are just as bad. Growing up as I did, in a feminist household, I don’t know for sure, but I have a feeling my maleness might have been more problematic than my sometimes tomboy, sometimes uber-feminine, girlhood. I sometimes wonder if, as a boy, I would have been gay.

Is it that I just can’t imagine desiring anyone else other than men? I don’t know. I used to fancy Annie Lennox and Debbie Harry. Or am I romanticising gay men’s rights of passage with all that alienation, self-analysis, Smiths’ Records and suffering? Maybe. Though I had my fare share of all of those myself. William, it was really nothing.

One of the first writers to strike a chord in my adolescent girl’s heart was E.M. Forster.

I know he wrote ostensibly of heterosexual romance and relationships, in the books I loved most such as A Room With A View, A Passage To India and Howard’s End, but the homosexual subtext wasn’t difficult to uncover. I didn’t read his more overtly gay novels such as The Longest Journey and Maurice till later. But I knew what was going on. I identified with those introverted, floppy-haired men, and their solemn friendships. I wanted their story to be my story. And then, when I was 24, it suddenly was.

My floppy-haired blue-eyed boy might have walked straight out of one of those turn of the century tomes. His earnestness, his passionate loyalty to his male friends, their evenings spent in intense conversation about James Baldwin, Mean Streets, William Blake. I was a girl, sat quiet in the corner of the room, suddenly finding I’d made it into the inner sanctum of masculine, ‘homosocial’ life.  When I remember my love for him, I recall it as  a love for them. A recollection of being one of the boys. Even if they didn’t think of me as such.

It was a double-edged sword of course. On one hand I adored the feeling I got when I was with him, of our differences disappearing, of the fact of our contrasting bodies evaporating, as our minds met and our pints were drunk. I have never felt so close to another human, or as similar.

I even felt some kind of belonging, via the right of passage of buggery. I never spoke to my female friends about it, but I knew they probably didn’t take it up the arse, definitely not with the willingness and awe that I did.  As I went down on all fours and felt his cock pounding into me, it was as if I was no longer a woman at all. I didn’t need those parts of my body which had appeared as if from nowhere when I was a teenager. I had my anus and he had his dick and we were joined, welded together. I felt like I was earning my stripes.

On the other hand, I wasn’t a boy at all. And very often I’d be reminded of my exclusion from the group, based solely on the fact of my genetic make-up. It didn’t matter how well I learned my Foucault, how patiently I sat through their lectures on the vital importance of Springsteen’s Nebraska in the contemporary male working class American psyche (even though they were all middle -class nerdy English lads).  I was a girl and didn’t quite belong.

I also became more isolated from my own, straight, female friends. They’d ask me how it was going, and I would struggle for the words to describe the situation I was in. My boy got buggered himself you see. And sadly not by me. There was this  authoritative figure that lurked in the background of his, his brother and their friends’ lives. An intelligent, inspirational man, who had taught some of them at sixth form. He buggered them all, with, or without their consent. What is consent anyway, when you meet someone in a position of power, when you are only 15?  And how could I tell that story when my girlfriends asked innocently about our relationship? In the end they stopped asking.

So I learned that being a boy, surrounded by boys and men, wasn’t always quite so romantic as I had imagined it could be. It didn’t matter how intellectual they all were, how much they loved to smoke and drink, and quote Derrida in loud voices, or watch Hud, for the tenth time. They knew that at the end of the night, one of them was bound to be fucked, for no other reason, than that the man who’d seduced them with all this amazing cerebral stimulation, needed his own stimulants. And knew how to get them.

So when I wasn’t walking hand in hand with my boy, talking about poetry, and wanting him to throw me into the bushes and hold me down. I was wandering round in a deep rage, hating myself for staying in this stupid, fuck-ed up situation, hating him. And most of all hating that bastard buggering bully. And all the while I knew deep down my hatred was a result of this man’s allure. I was as enthralled by him as they were: I just didn’t have to prove it by bending over by their side. I even felt guilty about that. I may even have felt ‘left out’.

I have a lasting memory, of a couple of years after I’d finally walked away, at seven in the morning, (after a night of sobbing and holding onto him, tears streaking down my face) stumbling, blind. It is me, sat on my therapist’s couch. The tears and the sobs heaving through my body again. And I’m saying to her, that if there was a God, as my boy believed with all his heart to be the case, he must be some kind of sick fuck. That brought me so close to someone, who enabled me to learn what it means to love and be loved, and to have my mind expanded and challenged, my brains and my body blown. But who did so on the condition that I lived a secret life, scared and jealous of my boy’s weird connection to a horrible old parasite. That if I was to be buggered, then so was he, until none of us knew if it was what we wanted anymore. That’s quite a clever, nasty joke, if it was God’s joke.

I don’t know how my boy is. I know he is a man now. I know we are still linked somehow, by our inability to be anything other than who we are. I have inherited his way of seeing. And I think he inherited mine.

This is never far from my consciousness. But someone’s words I have been reading, recently, (just a little  more intently than other girls  might read them), have brought my boy back into sharp focus again. They have found me wishing I was ‘one of the boys’ again, even though I know the trouble that desire can lead to.  I suppose my own words show that I am a boy in some ways, and that I probably always was.

    • Thanks Olga. I am a bit drained after writing that! i made a commitment to myself to keep telling my own stories partly to combat the crap that gets sold to us as women’s ‘universal experience’, especially in relation to men.


  1. Kimboosan says:

    I read this yesterday but had to pause before replying, because my first instinct was just to type “AWESOME SO VERY PERFECTLY AMAZING” in the comment box, which is still how I feel but isn’t the main thing I want to say.

    What I want to say is how much I admire the way you intercut the issues of gender and sexuality with your own story of longing; how you portrayed a monster as yet still a person, without negating the horror of what he did to those boys; how you needed something that did not exist, and in trying to create it, changed yourself.

    A very beautiful piece of writing, and so very thought provoking. It has made me go back and look at some of my own social choices as a girl and young woman, in the context of gender identity. Thank you.

  2. Thank-you KimBooSan. It is good to get feedback on my more personal posts as sometimes I hesitate a while before I push the ‘publish’ button…

    I think we all make each other think round here!


  3. as a post script. I think I have come to realise that the very intimate, intensive and seemingly ‘closed’ world of those young men that I felt so delighted to be a part of, was really just some very vulnerable and hurt boys sticking together in the face of something quite terrifying to them all. That’s what I misguidedly romanticised I think, not homosexuality itself.

  4. Heresiarch says:

    He wasn’t a priest, was he, this erastes (“if there was a God, as my boy believed…”)? Or a Classics teacher? This account had me thinking of Donna Tartt’s Secret History.

  5. No he wasn’t a priest. He was a sociology lecturer as it happens! But religion was an influence on him and on my boy. And it is definitely a story filled with secret history (and the history of secrets).

  6. Mark says:

    I’d like to write something witty, but all I can manage is: blimey.

    A very thought-provoking-provocative piece of writing, QRG.

    • Thank-you Mark.

      My boy nearly always had something witty to say, (but often stolen from some of the great wits such as Capote, Orton and Crisp). But he, too, might struggle to come up with a witty remark in this instance.

  7. richard64 says:

    “I even felt some kind of belonging, via the right of passage of buggery. ”

    This an interesting admission. A rite of passage is a ritual, usually endured, and often with the person receiving the rite unaware of the significance. Usually consent is only tacitly given and sometimes the person partakes in the rite with little knowing of what will happen. Perhaps the spelling you used is significant whose “right” was it?

    In ancient times buggery may have been an accepted rite it passage, but not in these days when we have more control and ownership of our bodies. What you describe is a rite of passage for sodomites, not of men in general.

    If you had described it as an erotic experiment, curiosity, discovering what feels good, then it would be just another memoir blog post, but describing the experience as a “rite of passage” shows a deeper affinity to an abused man who had to share his abuse with you, to make you as broken as him.

    “they probably didn’t take it up the arse, definitely not with the willingness and awe that I did.”

    That’s not necessarily true, but by not asking, you lost the opportunity to find out if your female friends enjoyed anal sex too. Indeed, since you felt that the act had initiated you into the select club of your boy’s buggers, you decided that it was something that you female friends could not experience, since they were clearly not part of the group.

    Your experience of buggery was to be part of your damaged man’s group “joined, welded together”, and not for the pleasure. Indeed, although you say that you partook with “willingness and awe” you did not say “with pleasure”. perhaps that is what separated you from your female friends?

    Your story told me of a damaged man desperate to overcome the abuse he had suffered and since words were enough to ask for the help he needed, he damaged you too.

  8. “I even felt some kind of belonging, via the right of passage of buggery. ”

    This an interesting admission. A rite of passage is a ritual, usually endured, and often with the person receiving the rite unaware of the significance. Usually consent is only tacitly given and sometimes the person partakes in the rite with little knowing of what will happen. Perhaps the spelling you used is significant whose “right” was it?

    Thanks for your comments Richard. I will make another admission. That spelling mistake was a (Freudian) slip. You will have to ask my subconscious what it signifies for I do not know!

    I don’t accept your psychoanalysis of my story in its entirety but this kind of topic always makes people lurch for the Freud book. Myself included. I should have looked up the term ‘rite of passage’ while I was there!

  9. Old Karl Jung had a number of things to say about all this, particularly that we all have some qualities of both sexes in us, but it seems clear that confusion about sexual identity is one of the main products on offer in our effed up society. This comes home to us particularly when young people think that whatever they do ‘is ok’ and that they will not ever wake up sick over it.

    There are of course always some consequences of letting others do what they will with you. Your grief over this is not wasted. Life needs to be celebrated – and also grieved. If not for yourself then for others.

  10. Thanks Harold. I think.

    I have grieved and celebrated this experience in equal measure.

    Sometimes even once it is all over and grieved for, there is an echo. I was writing as a result of the echo in my head.

  11. […] Boy by Quiet Girl Riot […]

  12. wong elana says:

    I see your story come from your deep heart

  13. alfiesaden says:

    hi there – is it just me !! can any one explain why when i type in the bing browser “” i get a different site yet whe i type it in google its ok? could this be a bug in my system or is any one else having same probs ?

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