Archive for February, 2011

This is the faggiest thing I have seen in a long while, and believe me I have been looking at some VERY faggy things lately- in particular as part of Mark Simpson’s current ingenius project, ‘Fag Up!’

‘But today, there are questions our genderless society has no answers for’… if only we were living in a genderless society. .


QRG has been getting her knickers in a twist, a bit lately, about the concept of ‘trisexuality’. You know, those people who say ‘I’m trysexual- I will try anything, me!’ Haha. I know someone who did actually say that. And he also called himself ‘heteroflexible’. I refer to him, though, with the more monosyllabic phrase: ‘Cock’.

But what is ‘trysexuality’? Does it mean anything beyond that silly play on words? Does it refer to  a sense of sexual freedom and experimentation? And if so how is it different for men, women, or people who identify as neither?

Over at Mark Simpson HQ, we have been debating these questions and more. Mark has taken the view that in general, women are presented with more options for being flexible over their gender roles, and their chances for sexual experimentation,than men, without getting ‘typecast’ as ‘gay’.


Mark has found  another concept, ‘flexisexuality’, which seems to be strictly for girls! But maybe that is because the ‘internet dating’ market is looking to recruit more women.  As far as I can tell, young men DO experiment with having sex with other men, just as young women do with women. These phenomena are treated differently, but, as the discussion above shows, there are complexities across the board.

Anyway, the video at the top of this post I think, is quite a poignant little illustration of ‘trysexuality’. I like how it blurs the lines of consent, as well. An issue that QRG is also getting her knickers in a twist about at the moment, and that she will return to very soon.

Our favourite Renaissance Fag has come up with a brand new project: to out America’s inner fag.  Mr Simpson has captured my imagination once more with this delightful idea:

‘Fear of The Fag Within still dominates most American media discourse about masculinity.  It’s what prompted the backlash against metrosexuality in the mid-Noughties, around the time America realised the sexual ambivalence inherent in it – and its queer provenance.  It’s why for the last few years the word ‘man’ and ‘he’ has been strapped on to anything that without them might look a bit… faggy.  Or not phallic enough.  Manbags.  Manscara.  Mandates.  As a way of saying, yes it’s a trend, men’s behaviours are changing and that’s why it’s newsworthy – but don’t worry!  Men are still MEN!  And this isn’t about a niche! It’s about NORMAL GUYS!!’

‘So here’s a red-blooded idea.  From now on, whenever you hear ‘man’ or ‘he’ strapped onto the front of something in a desperate attempt to try and butch it up and banish the inner sissy, just replace it with ‘fag’.

Fagbags.  Fagscara.  Fagvans.  Fagliner.  Fagdate.  Fagmance.  Fagfood.  Fagly fag.  Faggans.

You know it makes sense.

It’s a fun game, but you’ll also be doing everyone a huge favour by outing The Fag Within and letting him swish around giddily to his heart’s content.  Getting it over and done with so we can talk about other stuff, instead of fixating over not mentioning this fucking boring pink elephant in the room.

And who knows?  It might even finally make a man out America’.

Mark has promised a ‘fagbag’ of fagly goodies to the winner of this fagtastic game. But early entries are pretty impressive so you will have to come up with something of Action Fag quality if you want a chance of winning.


‘I love you fag’

‘Best fag’

‘It’s a fag thing’

‘The fag code’

‘Neanderthal Fag’

‘One small step for fag-but one giant leap for fagkind’

Mark missed this amazing  snickers advert though: ‘Quick! Do something manly!’

The Myth of the Female Gaze

Posted: February 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

Apparently today is LadyPornDay. Like Ladies Day at Ascot, but without the hats.

‘Porn for women’  is a contentious subject. According to Suraya, the editor of Filament Magazine, the lack of porn that suits women’s tastes is to do with the fact porn is on the whole made by men. She encourages women photographers to photograph men ‘erotically’.

Suraya on writing about LadyPornDay said: ‘A few re-occurring comments caught my attention, in which women agreed that finding explicit male photography online that involved an erection and was surely aimed at women was near impossible.

This is both disappointing as a fact, and comforting to hear. Half the time when I say ‘there’s sod all erotic photography of men out there that’s aimed at women’, I am told I’m obviously not looking very hard, or my absolute favourite, ‘Have you tried the internet?’’

Now. I don’t think the ‘female gaze’ or the ‘male gaze’ exist. I think people get turned on by a variety of different things, regardless of their sex, gender identity or orientation.

One of the main discussions on #ladypornday has been around how ‘gay porn’ doesn’t cater for women. It says ‘it is not for you’ according to quite a few women. As a lover of gay porn I find this weird. I can’t think of any other porn I really want to watch to be honest. I have been told I can watch it but it is not meant for me, I cannot ‘feel’ what a gay viewer would, because I don’t have a cock. Well that may be true. But I have all the other equipment required to enjoy gay porn. Including eyes. I think the ‘porn for women’ idea forgets as well that many gay men have had to watch visual material for many years, that ignores their ‘gaze’. And one of the wonderful things about changes to our culture, recently, is that gay men and straight or bi or whatever women, can see more material they all enjoy (and I don’t mean Sex In The City Films). Mark Simpson has pointed out how even James Bond, that macho figure of ‘heterosexual’ manliness, has become an object of desire, available to men and women. Even though he seems to think Bond belongs to him. I know thousands of women would fight Simmo for ‘Bond’s Blond Bollocks’… (but he still might win)

Simpson’s writing also brings into focus how we forget, when talking about looking, and desire, the existence of ‘bisexuality’. If some people are attracted to both men and women, surely ‘all’ porn is for them? And if some people are able to watch all kinds of porn, surely … er… anyone can? It seems so obvious to me. I know Filament magazine is partly about encouraging women photographers of men’s bodies. I think this is great. But when I asked her about Sporno-an area full of men’s bodies, she thought it wasn’t the kind of thing her readers would be interested in. So she is only interested in encouraging women to produce particular types of photography of men.

Today I chatted online to someone who said their mother had an electrician round who happened to be a woman, and she referred to her as a ‘lady electrician’. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? So does LadyPorn to my ears.
Here are some images of men. Do you think they are ‘aimed at women’, men, or anyone else in particular?


I have just started reading The Naked CIvil Servant it has broken my heart already.
That kind of honesty is so rare. I can’t think of one  person who is alive today who is that honest.

I worked out why these ‘compartments’ irk me a little. It is because when you compartmentalise sex/love/principles/secrets etc you also have to compartmentalise your politics/theory

Monogamy needs secret lovers to survive; it is what it is built on.

So arguing against monogamy whilst shoring it up, helping it survive, is contradictory.

My relationships and sex life have transformed my politics, which have then caused me to change my approach to relationships and sex.

Like you said, this way of doing things ‘ruins the sex’. But  I think for me, sex needs to be ruined if I want to change anything. I think Foucault was coming round to that idea too- with his ‘end of the monarchy of sex’.

I am ridiculous I know. To have such ‘standards’ of myself, others and my ‘heroes’ Roland.
It doesnt make me happy. But it helps me think more clearly than I did when I have been more immersed in those compartments.

The thing is it easier for me because I am a woman. And the fact is, when you are a woman- sex is a bit crap. If I was a fag I think I’d spend more energy ‘preserving’ the monarchy of sex. But being a woman means, as Mr Crisp said, you are basically screwed. All those stupid feminist ‘sex positive ‘ bitches are really just stamping their feet and wailing ‘it’s not FAIR!’ I used to myself. But I  got over it. And that really really pisses them off.

That is my sermon from my wooden box with the airholes.


Four Chambers

1985. Biology class. Our young hormonal bodies are trapped under the bell jar of our schooling. We want to escape outside and explore our own biology. We are fascinated by the differences between ‘Boy’ and ‘Girl’, ‘X’ and ‘Y’, ‘Sex’ and ‘Love’. But we are stuck behind big wooden tables, forced for the next painful 90 minutes to listen to the droning of the teacher.

Today’s lesson is about the heart. Apparently, the heart has four chambers. The two ventricles (right and left) are muscular chambers that propel the blood out of the heart (the right ventricle to the lungs, and the left ventricle to all other organs). The two atria (right and left) hold the blood returning to the heart, and at just the right moment empty into the right and left ventricles. The four heart valves (tricuspid, pulmonic, mitral and aortic) keep the blood moving in the right direction through the heart. According to our dog-eared text books, Life itself is dependent on the efficient running of the heart. Should the walls of those chambers dissolve or move and let the blood and love and emotions, mix, we would surely die.

To illustrate her point, the teacher fetches a real cow’s heart from behind her desk and places it on the table at the front. We crowd round expectantly, waiting for her to cut it open with a scalpel. The heart that has been ripped from a poor dead cow is purple and bloody and dark. The teacher looks nervous as its blood stains her hands, and her own blood rushes to her reddening face. More blood spills onto the desk and the tough tissue of the beast’s vital organ resists the slicing of the scalpel. Girls scream and boys hide their eyes. Our hearts leap to our throats. I suddenly think of Warren Chapman as I do approximately every four minutes. He is the first boy to take my heart, and turn it into a mess of blood and love and emotion. Thinking of him, his long dark hair, and big eyes, his manly hands on the fret of his bass guitar, makes my heart turn somersaults and causes me to feel nauseous. That time he kissed me on New Year’s Eve, the room spun and my heart left my body and flew into the air. I swear it. This ‘four chambers theory’ is not working for me. One last glance at the bloody, chopped up remains of that cow and I feel sick. I run from the room.

Now I have accepted science for what it is. A rigourous and honourable method that only partially explains the world and how it works. But some folk have taken science too much to heart. I meet grown men who cling on desperately to that notion of four chambers. They move very gingerly, scared that the delicate balance of their hearts will be disrupted. Their hearts’ chambers are labelled precisely: ‘wife’, ‘love’, ‘sex’ ‘fantasy’. They focus all their energies on keeping the compartments intact. They seem to actually believe that when they use one chamber of the heart, no-one knows the others exist. It is this kind of belief system that causes incidents such as a married man to search the internet for a woman to fulfill his sexual fantasies. It does not even matter to him whether his wife understands him or not; she is safely locked away in chamber one, while he is off playing out his fantasies in chamber four (hoping they might be realised in chamber three).

I am very careful with how I approach these men. They can be dangerous, especially to themselves. I know that when I speak to them, I cannot tell them about the cow, about Warren Chapman, and how the heart really flourishes through its mixture of love and blood and emotion. I can’t tell them that reality is in fact much messier than our science teachers told us. If I did it might kill them, as their hearts exploded in a bloody mess of mixed up fucked up feelings. They survive on the delusion that ‘Life itself is dependent on the efficient running of the heart’. My heart knows different.

Sex Without Love

by Sharon Olds

How do they do it, the ones who make love
without love?  Beautiful as dancers,
gliding over each other like ice-skaters
over the ice, fingers hooked
inside each other's bodies, faces
red as steak, wine, wet as the
children at birth whose mothers are going to
give them away.  How do they come to the
come to the  come to the  God  come to the
still waters, and not love
the one who came there with them, light
rising slowly as steam off their joined
skin?  These are the true religious,
the purists, the pros, the ones who will not
accept a false Messiah, love the
priest instead of the God.  They do not
mistake the lover for their own pleasure,
they are like great runners: they know they are alone
with the road surface, the cold, the wind,
the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-
vascular health--just factors, like the partner
in the bed, and not the truth, which is the
single body alone in the universe
against its own best time.

Human Impersonators

Posted: February 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

S Moore wants to know ‘how did we get here’?I will return to her question later. But first to explain what she means by ‘here’.

According to Moore’s latest Graun column, ‘here’ is ‘this new aesthetic of femininity where everything is meant to look as fake as possible.  Hair, nails, tan, teeth, tits. Sure, I know the rules: that we are born naked, and “the rest is just drag”. Sure, I get the hyper-femininity of the big queens and the game old birds such as Dolly Parton and Cher. What is strange is that a parody of femininity is now what many ordinary women are aspiring to.’

As the title of her article says, the big question in terms of gender identity that Moore wants answering is ‘why does nobody want to feel like a natural woman anymore?’

My response would have to be in the form of another question: did anyone ever want to feel like a natural woman? From the geisha girls of Japan to the Dandizettes of 19th century England, from  flapper girls to cowgirls, from the  Pussycat Dolls to Babes In Toyland, I don’t believe that the ‘natural’ woman has ever been a popular concept in culture.

But if Moore is determined to paint contemporary society as one where the ‘falseness’ of femininity has reached new heights and industrial consumerist proportions, I still have some problems, some major problems with her argument.

‘The political language of empowerment about reproductive rights and equality in the workplace has itself been given a makeover’ says Moore. ‘Gok Wan makes women feel better not by giving them more actual control, but by giving them control pants’.

So it seems as if she is saying that the fetish women have for ‘working’ on their bodies, cosmetically, sartorially and even surgically, is a way that consumer culture is convincing them they are ‘empowered’, whilst they continue to suffer gender inequalities at the hands of…. who? Men? Capitalism? Suzanne doesn’t say.

But her article gives us a clue as to what she means.

‘I am not saying that men do not objectify the female body’ she writes, ‘but now the gaze we direct at ourselves, at each other and in the mirror is a harsh one, too. It is sexualised in that we see what the body could become, as well as what it is. It is the gaze of search and destroy, and it certainly affects the inner lives of those who are not perfect. Which is a fair few of us’.

This is really a souped-up silicone-enhanced version of Naomi Wolf’s Beauty Myth of 1991:

“The more legal and material hindrances women have broken through, the more strictly and heavily and cruelly images of female beauty have come to weigh upon us…During the past decade, women breached the power structure; meanwhile, eating disorders rose exponentially and cosmetic surgery became the fastest-growing specialty…pornography became the main media category, ahead of legitimate films and records combined, and thirty-three thousand American women told researchers that they would rather lose ten to fifteen pounds than achieve any other goal…More women have more money and power and scope and legal recognition than we have ever had before; but in terms of how we feel about ourselves physically, we may actually be worse off than our unliberated grandmothers.”

I know Moore doesn’t rate Wolf, particularly since Naomi came out in support of Assange, and made statements calling for accusers in rape cases to lose their anonymity. But their versions of how women’s oppression functions at the level of the ‘beauty industry’ seem pretty similar to me. Wolf may think women have ‘come further’ economically than Moore does, and that their physical, bodily oppression is a result of their actual ‘empowerment’ in the public sphere. Whereas Moore seems to think this quest of women to be faker than fake is a way of keeping women down across the board, economically and in terms of human rights as well. She doesn’t say it specifically but I think she suggests that ‘fakery’ affects women from the lower classes even more than middle/upper class women. Or that it damages them more.

I think they are both wrong. My real objection to Suzanne Moore’s argument is hinted at by this sentence:

‘Increasingly, surgery cuts across race, gender and age alike.’ That’s it. That is all Moore says to give any suggestion that ‘the beauty industry’ and notions of ‘fake femininity’ effect anyone else other than ‘natural’ born females. What about trans women? What about intersex or gender queer people? What about er… yes… men?

To speak of oppressive models of female beauty, exclusively in terms of how those models oppress women, in 2011, is as outdated as Gok Wan’s camp queen act. They both belong in 1970s musical theatre.

Enter Mark Simpson, clutching his manboobs.

Mark Simpson has been telling us since the early 1990s, which was, yes, twenty years ago! That when it comes to idealised versions of beauty, to body modifications, to ‘fakery’ and ‘hyper-femininity’, men and women, and anyone who identifies as neither, have been subject to the industrial ‘transexy’ metrosexual  make-over:

‘Looking around at our sexually transparent, stimulated-simulated, implanted-imploding cam-fun-anyone? world, it’s difficult not to conclude that most of us are going tranny but without the, er, balls to actually change sex or even properly cross-dress. We’re all becoming male-to-male and female-to-female transsexuals: transexy.’

So, placing this situation as one in which women are the ‘objects’ , the victims, and men are the perpetrators seems incredibly off beam to me.

Suzanne concedes ‘it is the entire culture, not a male conspiracy, that is making impossible demands. Yet none of this is simple’.

Well it is nice to know it is not a ‘male conspiracy’, and as Suzanne says, ‘none of this is simple’. But when it comes to essentialist arguments of feminine v masculine, fake v natural, male v female, the complexity of gendered identities gets rather lost in feminism’s binary onslaught.

‘Artificially enhanced femininity is on display everywhere’ writes Moore. ‘Older women pay to look younger. Young women start altering themselves very early on. One result is a kind of glazed uniformity. You see it in porn. You see it in all those late-30s, Botoxed faces that look neither old nor young, just done.’

Comparing that paragraph to this one by Simpson about men taking steroids, I don’t see much difference:

‘The vast majority of males taking “the juice” are not doing so to be stronger or faster or scarier, all traditionally masculine ambitions, but simply to look more attractive in the gym, on the dance floor, at the beach, or in their online profiles — to look, in other words, like male strippers: Stud-U-Like. Or what is much the same thing, Vin Diesel.But steroids, like transexiness itself, can have a paradoxical effect. In addition to testicle shrinkage and erectile problems, in large doses they can turn into estrogen in the body, which causes “bitch tits” and female fat distribution: Stud-U-Like into Chick-U-Love. Perhaps this is why Sylvester Stallone looks more and more like his mother, Jackie. Given his recent steroid scandals, the tagline for his new Rambo movie, “Heroes never die…they just reload,” probably refers to syringes rather than ammunition’

I have picked a small section of one article by Mark Simpson, out of a large and impressive -ahem- body of work, that shows, over and over again, how when it comes to things like ‘objectification’ ‘sexualisation’ ‘drag’  and the ‘beauty industry’, men are just as much affected if not more so, than women these days. And that the concepts of ‘men’ and ‘women’ as we have come to know them are becoming as useless to our understanding of gender as a load of tissues stuffed in your bra. The female ‘beauty myth’ is just that. It is a myth.

Moore ends her article with one pertinent point about Lady Gaga’s particular brand of ‘fake femininity’:

‘Lady Gaga may sing Born This Way, while clearly demonstrating with her hard body – complete with internal shoulder pads/prosthesis/spare ectoplasm – that she wasn’t, that this is all an act.’

This is true. But I think Suzanne Moore’s eulogy to the ‘natural woman’ is an act as well. Her final paragraph reads:

‘A look that has comes to us via porn, ladyboys, transsexuals, queer culture and high fashion is a look I now see on the bus. This excess of femininity may compensate for endless anxiety about appearances. There is nothing natural going on here, and some women are not hiding that fact. To become a woman is to become a female impersonator. How, in such a world, can we say to any young girl: “You are fine just as you are”?’

To become a woman is to become a female impersonator. I know. And back in the 1990s, Mark Simpson said the same about ‘male impersonators’ and masculinities. Maybe that is even where Moore got the idea from. But to try and take the complex issues around masculinity, femininity, transgender identities, drag, ‘queer’ and gender performance, and turn it into a Guardian-friendly, feminist dogma-strewn dirge about ‘women’ and ‘girls’? In this day and age I think that is a sad (transphobic at the very least and possibly misandrist too) kind of show.

Moore asked ‘how did we get here?’

Well. When it comes to feminist theories of gender identity, I think we got here by a series of manoeuvres. Feminists in the late 1980s-1990s had a choice-they could either get involved in the exciting changes to gender theory that were occurring, mainly in ‘queer theory’ but also that were acted out in the form of movements such as ‘riot grrl’ and ‘Queer Nation’, the art of figures such as Leigh Bowery (top image) and the literature of writers such as Jeanette Winterson and Jackie Kay. And in every day arguments and activities in people’s households and workplaces. Campaigns against Clause 28, AIDS awareness movements, the explosion of the fanzine culture, actions by trans people which led to increased visibility and improvements to their  legal status, the inclusion of ‘male rape’ on the statute books, the lowering of the homosexual age of consent, all related to a breaking down of the traditional gendered order. Or, they could stick their heads in the sand (whilst simultaneously consolidating their middle class power base in the media, politics and legal institutions) and wait until it was ok to come out again, when the crisis had passed, when a more conservative, essentialist feminism would tickle people’s (Tory?) tastebuds once more.

In fact, if you look at who is allied with feminism these days, you will find a surprising number of Big C and little c conservatives, from the ex-Tory lawyer and ‘skeptic’ David Allen Green, to the anti-pornography campaigner and pal of radical feminist Julie Bindel, Gail Dines to the Conservative feminist MP who argued with Naomi Wolf on newsnight- Louise Bagshaw

On twitter earlier today, Moore told me that in politics you have to take ‘sides’. But judging by feminism’s bedfellows at the moment, I think it is legitimate to wonder which ‘side’ she (not to mention feminism, and The Guardian) is actually on.

‘Certainly, the way to counter what is going on here has to be strategic.’ wrote Moore. I think her article shows that feminism does have strategies, strategies which, despite all its incoherence and ridiculous posturing, have kept it in the ‘game’ of media, politics and gender discourse, long after it should have shuffled off the stage, its false eyelashes wilting.

That’s fine Ladies, because  I have some strategies of my own.

Whip Me

Posted: February 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

I would.  Whip you. If I really had to. I have tried to imagine hurting someone, consensually, picking up some implement a crop or a whip or a cane. And even in my imagination I find it hard. My hand gets heavy and when I pull my arm up everything slows down and I can’t bring myself to strike the blow. And I think of how I have found it so easy to be the recipient, whether or not it was my choice or my agreement it was still easy. It is easier in a way not to consent to violence. The responsibility is totally taken out of your hands. But I can’t even then remember the other person and what they did the moment they moved and aimed and struck. I only remember the sound and the pain. I don’t think I will ever manage to do it the other way round. Unless someone makes me. But that defeats the object.