Archive for August, 2011

‘Gavin Henson and a female friend exchange vacant stares (Picture: Channel 5)’ – Metro

The reality TV dating show format is dead. The Bachelor is its funeral.

The Bachelor is very very difficult to watch. I only managed it in five minute bursts, with breaks in between to regain my sanity. I have found it harder to watch than any ‘reality’ sex/dating oriented show so far. Here are the reasons why I think it marks the end of ‘love’ on the box:

1) It is so orange.

Yes, Geordie Shore may have been the most orange show on TV in terms of the bodies on display, and it was sponsored by a fake-tan company. But somehow the gritty north-eastern context brought a bit of light and shade to proceedings. The Bachelor is set in a tropical ‘paradise’ which is all sunshine and sea and swimming pool blue, and the orangeness of the people, but especially Gavin, is illuminated and exaggerated to tacky extremes. You can’t focus on anything else but the tans! Aaagghh.

2) The contestants are so young

There is one token ’33 year old’ woman on the show, but she is surrounded by what seems to me to be  teenagers.  So watching these young women vie for the hand in marriage of the bachelor, is a bit like seeing St Trinians Go Forth the movie, with extra nail varnish and bleached hair. I feel kind of well,  voyeuristic obviously, but  like I am witnessing child-brides lining up to be bought by the lord of the manor.  I know they know what they are letting themselves in for- they have seen The Bachelor USA – but I still think the word ‘exploitation’ could be relevant here. And the word ‘ icky’ – a word I do not use except in very extreme circumstances.

3) It is too lesbian

I watched a similar show from America a while back, about a young woman singer looking for love, and I got quite into the ‘homosocial’ bonding and fighting (sometimes literal fights) between the men competing for her attentions. It was actually very homoerotic in places, with the men – very buff fit boys- stripping off at every opportunity and physically showing off their assets- to each other. Their friendships and love/hate relationships were far more exciting than the manufactured ‘romance’ with the young woman. But this show, though it is ostensibly about ‘the bachelor’ – really mainly features  a bunch of girls on holiday, wearing as many different swimming costumes as they can, and bitching about each other. They really could be on the island of Lesbos, with Gavin stumbling onto the beach, lost, smiling inanely, not realising where he is.

In the Lads’ Mag Top Gear mythology of heterosexual masculinity, the myth is that it is every red-blooded man’s dream to be surrounded by a bunch of half-naked sexy chicks. But we all know that really, in Top Gear, in GQ, in Loaded, ‘chicks’ are just accessories to enable men to be homos(ocial) together. So, when The Bachelor show presents a situation where one ‘lucky man’ is actually surrounded by adoring and adorable girls,  rather than fulfilling every hetero man’s dreams, it just looks like a bit of a nightmare.

I don’t know for sure, but I expect Gavin may in ‘real life’ indeed be a bit of a ladies’ man. But I also expect he is used to playing the field with his buddies. He looks like he really misses his ‘wingman’ and doesn’t really know how to pick up girls without him, even when they are there for him on a plate. Or  how to enjoy it. Because for many lads, chasing women is all about the fact you do it in a group, and tell each other about your conquests afterwards. It is almost as if he just can’t see the point of ‘birds’ if there are no guys to share them with.

‘Every man needs a wing man’ …

Metrosexy culture is all about the self-love of men. Henson was chosen for the show because he is particularly and perfectly self-loving. But he doesn’t quite pull off the narcissism, here, and maybe it is partly because he is used to adoring himself, and being adored, in the company of men.

4) There is no sex

Big Brother, Jersey Shore, Geordie Shore- they are all going to go down in TV history as mediated gang bangs, aren’t they? But, these shows have revealed the uncomfortable truth: the problem with making a whole reality TV series about sex, is that it is actually decidedly unsexy. Mediated, performative sex, without the production values and professionalism of porn, is just bodies in mundane motion.

So programmes like The Bachelor seem to be trying to rekindle the Reality TV sex format, by bringing back some old-fashioned ‘romance’.  This is traditional heterosexual ‘courtship’. The drama is all about the ‘will-he, won’t he’ ask for her hand.  Not ‘when will they shag?’ Dating in the Dark is another one of these shows, which is trying to revive the dying swan of heterosexual relationships in this age of recreational sex and internet porn and voyeuristic TV.  There, people fumble in total darkness on ‘dates’ then have to see each other in a fully illuminated ‘reveal’. And if they survive that, they might agree to meet and go on an actual date. Both shows are positively medieval in their values. Once we have seen real people fucking on TV for the hell of it, however dull this may be to watch  in reality,  the very concept of The Bachelor  becomes obsolete. None of the girls even get it on (so far). What’s the point of a heterosexual  ‘lesbian’ show if there is no girl on girl action?

5) Nobody even pretends to mean it

At the beginning of The Bachelor, Henson tells us unconvincingly that he is looking for someone to fall in love with and spend the rest of his life with. Because that’s what reality TV is for isn’t it? Then, when one of the young women –  a vixen who looks devilish in a leopardskin swimsuit brandishing a whip on one photoshoot they do –  starts to play him up quite stylishly. He and his ego don’t seem to like it, and he confronts her, saying

‘It looks to me like you are playing a game’.  Well yes, Gavin, of course she is! The difference between this ‘psycho’ as you kindly call her, and you, though, is she is honest about the ‘game’. But thanks to her honesty, the game is up, and your attempts to make it seem ‘real’ are looking more and more lame by the minute.

That’s as far as I got.  I don’t fancy Gavin Henson. I find him incredibly wet.  And this show just brings out his wetness. And the obsolescence of the reality TV dating show genre. And the fact that ‘heterosexuality’ is defunct. And my age. And my lack of swimwear wardrobe.  I won’t be tuning in next week. But I already know the ending anyway: he gets the girl. But it doesn’t last. What does?


The Guardian reports on a ‘very muscular brand of Christianity’ and tells us that Jesus has had a ‘macho makeover’.

‘When you hear the name Jesus, is the first image that comes to mind a dewy-eyed pretty boy with flowing locks? If so, think again. After 2,000 years, the Messiah is getting a makeover. This time he’s less “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” and more of a kick-ass action hero – a Chuck Norris in sandals.’

But as usual, The Guardian misses the point when it comes to masculinity- this is not a macho makeover at all for The Messiah, it is a metrosexual makeover. And Jesus is looking prettier than ever. With flowing locks and dewy eyes, and the compulsory manly beard.

‘It’s artist Stephen Sawyer, whose paintings of the Son of God as a tattooed biker and boxer have captured the imagination of Christian men searching for a more manly role model. As Kentucky-based Sawyer, 58, points out: “I scarcely think Jesus could have overturned the tables of the money-lenders and driven them from the temple if he was a wimp. The model I use for my paintings is a surfer guy who’s built like a brick shithouse.’

Yes dear, and are not surfers as self-regarding and image conscious as any man? I find it funny that people who believe in something as metaphysical as God, suddenly need to make images of his Son ‘realistic’. This dude walked on water and turned water into wine and cured the sick and the disabled. I don’t think he needed a six pack to do all that did he? The change to the images of Jesus are cosmetic. Like the changes to masculinity in general.

But the new buff, tatooed pretty boy Jesus seems to be trying, like The Church itself, to be a vision of retrosexual ‘muscular’ masculinity. As  MS wrote, in relation to a very macho, very whiny, very homophobic pastor in America:

‘I’m grateful to Mr Anderson and his Xstian fundamentals for making it quite clear where much of America’s problem with metrosexuality and the ‘gender neutral movement’ as he calls it (fingers interlocking, intimating the horror of a world of mutuality) comes from.

God hates metros.’

So the worrying thing for me, is that this new-look Jesus is just another re-incarnation of that now familiar trope – ‘macho’ metrosexual denial. And that it is not just an American disease but is spreading to the UK. As The Guardian notes (or rather doesn’t), this metro-anxiety is illustrated by

‘the rising number of conferences and sermons aimed at men that present a more muscular version of Jesus, along with the continuing success of Christian lad’s mag Sorted.’

Real Men Love Jesus.

The Guardian have presented this story as comical. And I can see the funny side. But it is an example of what I consider to be a serious problem in contemporary culture- the association of ‘manliness’ with ‘goodness’. And the ridiculous contortions men get into to prove that association, whilst still maintaining a religious devotion to their metro skincare and grooming routines.

I quite liked this comment though, from below the line on the Guardian piece:

‘Wow Jesus Christ……is hot!!

I think i’ve been re-born…’

h/t @FennerPearson – REACH OUT AND TOUCH ME!

We have been having an interesting discussion about ‘privilege’ – and the delusion that an individual can ‘possess’ privilege as an innate, personal trait, and then use it against specific groups of people- here at QRG HQ.

In the light of our discussions I returned to Mark Simpson’s recent post, about a YouGOv (UK) survey that looked at men’s facial and body hair. Though the researchers  interviewed men and women,  they only asked the women if they preferred men to be hirsute or hairless. They treated the men as ‘objects’ and merely asked them to say if they had body/facial hair or not.

‘I read with interest this YouGov survey published this week which provides some confirming data on the fashionability of face fuzz and its accessorization by males today: ‘stubble’ is reportedly the most popular form of facial hair today – especially with 18-24 year olds (51% say they have facial hair and 80% of those describe it as ‘stubble’). Stubble of course being the most easily adopted and discarded form of facial hair.

But the survey – called ‘Let’s Face It’ — is much less interesting for what it reports than for what it doesn’t. What it’s not facing. At all. The assumptions behind it and the way that compulsory heterosexuality is used to deprive all men of a voice, even about their own bodies.

Here’s the first paragraph of the YouGov press release/summary:

‘Are you male and looking for a date? It might be a good idea to shave beforehand, our survey suggests, as we discover that two thirds of British women prefer the appearance of a man without a beard, compared to less than one in ten who like the more hirsute type’

The first assumption of course is that the date a male is looking for is necessarily with a woman. (And as I say, if you’re gay you have to have a Captain Haddock to get a second look.) The second, and closely-related assumption, is that men’s affinity for facial hair is naturally to be measured entirely in terms of what women want.’


Mark’s post asks that question that he, I and others ask regularly: No, seriously, what about the men?

Because in our current culture which I described in the Privilege discussion as ‘feminist orthodoxy’, it seems as if men’s voices are rarely heard.

In the context of the facial and body hair survey, Mark says that:

compulsory heterosexuality is used to deprive all men of a voice, even about their own bodies.

I agree and disagree with this statement.  I agree because yes, men are denigrated and reduced to objects, on matters of the body/personal life/relationships/sexuality/feelings in our culture. They are often presented as ‘thugs’ (the recent UK riots), ‘rapists’ (DSK/Assange), ‘bad parents’ (the riots again) or reduced to penises (the recent ‘bisexual’ ‘science’ using penile plesmographs).

But I disagree because saying ‘compulsory heterosexuality is used to deprive all men of a voice’ sounds like men are not involved in ‘compulsory heterosexuality’. It sounds as if it is women who run the  ‘compulsory heterosexuality’ show and just don’t listen to men’s views.

It also seems to suggest that compulsory heterosexuality is somehow ‘worse’ for men than women, because men’s voices are not heard, and their relationship to their own and other men’s bodies is not acknowledged.

I don’t think Simpson meant that. But it sounded a bit like he did.

Also it may be worth wondering if compulsory heterosexuality is used to deny all men of a voice, or if all men are denied a voice in order to reinforce compulsory heterosexuality? Which way round is it? (or is it both?)

The bald fact about gender inequality, as the bald guy pictured above might say, is it is about power. And power is everywhere.

Men and women invest in compulsory heterosexuality, because most men and women get some dividends out of it. Some of those men and women designed and conducted the yougov survey, and some of them responded to the questions without asking why they didn’t consult men about their preferences, but only asked them to describe their bodies.

Why do men invest in something that denies them a voice? What’s in it for them? I am interested in the answer to that question.

I am interested in resistance. And how we resist ‘compulsory heterosexuality’.

I know how Mark Simpson resists it. I know how Foucault did. And I know how I do.

What about the rest of you, men, women, bearded or not? I don’t care what you look like or how you identify.  I care about what you have to say.

p.s. If Foucault had grown a beard, he’d have been Lenin. I am glad he didn’t.

Something In The Way

Posted: August 28, 2011 in Desire

‘It’s ok to eat fish, ’cause they don’t have any feelings’…


I am currently reading and digesting another epic blogpost by the inimitable Elise Moore, at Autobiography Of A Soul. Her writing always sets me off at a tangent of thoughts and this post, looking at The Angry Woman is no exception.

Her discussion of Courtney Love as Angry Woman par excellence mentions Kurt Cobain in passing. But I identify with Kurt much more than Courtney, whose monstrous feminine, though impressively trashily grotesque, just isn’t me.

Now I am not coming out here as a depressive heroin-chic nihilistic, passive (passive aggressive?) male cardigan-wearing grunge singer.

But I am/was/have been a Nirvana fan. And I do identify closely with a lot of the mood and the lyrics of Kurt’s songwriting.

Something In The Way really sums up my understanding of what desire is. No romance, no longing even, no sex, just this obstacle. It is mundane, bare, true.

I have personal stories to tell in relation to Nirvana, and to Something In The Way, the track. But I don’t think they can illuminate its meanings. That’s what good pop songs do isn’t it? They say it all for us.

The Privilege Delusion

Posted: August 27, 2011 in Blogging, Feminism, Identity

“Having privilege isn’t something you can usually change, but that’s okay, because it’s not something you should be ashamed of, or feel bad about. Being told you have privilege, or that you’re privileged, isn’t an insult. It’s a reminder! The key to privilege isn’t worrying about having it, or trying to deny it, or apologize for it, or get rid of it. It’s just paying attention to it, and knowing what it means for you and the people around you. Having privilege is like having big feet. No one hates you for having big feet! They just want you to remember to be careful where you walk.

I hate the current discourse around ‘privilege’. It is a lazy, thoughtless way of examining and identifying ‘power’. Did Foucault use the word privilege all the time? NO.

Saying that telling someone they are privileged ‘isn’t an insult’ is a bare-faced lie.

I have seen so many feminists, gay and queer and trans activists use the single word ‘privilege’ to dismiss an individual and their arguments I have lost count.

No one hates you for having big feet! Until you step on someone’s toes? Then they really hate you.

‘Privilege’ seems to be a way of  at once blaming individuals for complex situations, and then also maintaining a ‘group’ identity of those who are not privileged.

Take trans politics for example. I am continually labelled as ‘privileged’ as a ‘cis’ woman. And this enables trans people to always be the victim in discussions, the victim of my privileged viewpoint. But I don’t think I have any ‘privilege’ in terms of gender identity. I fail at being a ‘woman’. My sexuality is closest to that of homos, with no access to the physical experiences of homo-men. I have no gender ‘advantages’ I can think of at all, except that I am not going through the pain of transition. Just the pain of a lifetime of ‘not fitting’ to my supposed gender identity.But in conversation with trans people, they can always claim the ‘privileged’ position of the powerless.

I think privilege is used as a weapon in identity politics.

And just because a statement is ‘reblogged’ nearly 600 times on tumblr, does not make it true. Chris at the marvellous Law and Sexuality blog, seems to have the hots for Philip Oliver, actor, ‘gay mag pin up’ and as Chris calls him, ‘metrosexual cock tease’. He is fit it’s true though I remember him as a scrappy kid in Brookside with a whiny voice which ruins the metro macho image for me, a bit. Anyway, Chris seems a little bit disgruntled that this ‘straight’ young buck is ‘playing with the gay boys’ but not actually, you know, playing ball.

‘He’s repeatedly said he’s straight in all the gay magazine interviews (of which there are many) that he’s done. In 2005, he was a national judge on Mr Gay UK and he’s appeared at various gay pride events and in 2010 appeared in a BBC soap, Doctors, playing a gay yoga teacher so he’s a straight guy who likes playing with the gay boys.

This is a metrosexual who has apparently made some money from the gay community and so it perhaps helps if men keep thinking there’s a possibility of some sexual liaison. In that sense, he is the professional cock tease. He is very very good at it.’
I responded to this particular remark by reminding Chris that the ‘gay community’ (is it a community of shopkeepers and bar tenders by any chance? It is certainly commerical) has also made money from metrosexual men’s ‘desire to be desired’. The gay magazine and gay porn industries profit from men’s narcissism and from their  newfound ability to show off their assets without automatically being labelled as ‘gay’.
Chris continued: ‘It wasn’t therefore a total surprise to learn of his latest ‘escapade’ (pictured below). He’s on Twitter as @officialoliver and had been interacting with out gay Coronation Street (huge Brit soap tv show) actor Charlie Condou via twitter. A curious thing to do you might think, but happily the Charlie Condou fan site ‘Charlie Condou Confidential’ caught the relevant tweets.
Oliver later tweeted: ‘Noooooooo! Note to self. Stay away from twitter when intoxicated. Noooooooooooooooo! xx’.
Condou replied: Charliecondou: @officialolivier ‘Mate, can’t wait to see that photo in Heat xx’.

‘It can only be a matter of time before such confident heterosexuals start posting pictures of them being mounted by a very well endowed porn star whilst fellating his best mate. “Just for the craic like”

I said I didn’t find Oliver’s ‘No Speedo’ antics very surprising, when men have been proving their heterosexual credentials by doing very homosexual things, ever since those categories were invented. It looks to me like good old-fashioned hazing, mediated by postmodern social media and metrosexual exhibitionism.

I suggested teasingly to Chris that he may have been jealous that he was not in the position of Oliver’s gay friend, receiving the naked pic. He replied:

‘I’m not jealous of the scenario actually. I hate teases. I like things that actually happen (so if he had been viewing Mr Oliver’s bottom int he flesh, yes, but a picture no) :-)’

I found this response odd as I have always thought that metrosexual imagery and indeed gay porn is one big cock tease. The viewer of the porn, or the sporno advert doesn’t actually get to suck David Beckham’s cock, or fuck Jeff Stryker up the arse (does anyone?) does he? Isn’t that what visual stimulation is? The promise of something that will not happen? Isn’t that the definition of desire itself?

But I think Chris may be saying that what Oliver is ‘teasing’ us with is the idea that he might, might be up for some homo action. And Chris seems to be suggesting that if he is not, then that is one tease too far. At least porn actors actually get it on and out. Even if the ‘gay for pay’ ones don’t really mean it.

Metrosexual culture is confusing. I am the first to admit that! But in that confusion there is some potential for men to stop ‘going round with one hand tied behind their backs’.  I see some playful sense of ‘freedom’ in Oliver’s photo. And if it is as far as he goes down homo lane, that is his own business. In comparison to the modern metroman, gay men could be seen to be more constrained in many ways, in terms of their sexual identities.  I sense some jealousy of that freedom from many gay men.

As for ‘No Speedo’. That has given me an idea…

Penis Discourse

Posted: August 24, 2011 in Blogging, Freedom of Speech, Identity

Often, when crap ‘studies’ like this occur, their only ‘value’ is the discourse they generate, good, bad, and ugly.

Here is a choice comment from Below The Line on the article at the Daily Beast about the research (I do not know who ‘Ron White’ is):

‘A quote from Ron White:

I told him, “We’re all gay, man. It’s just to what extent are you gay.” He says, “That’s bullshit, man, I ain’t gay at all!” I said, “Yes, you are and I’ll prove it.” He says, “Fine, prove it.” I said to him, “All right- do you like porn?” He says, “Yeah, I love porn, you know that.” I said, “Do you only watch two women doing it?” He said, “Naw, I’ll watch a man and a woman make love.” I said, “OK, do you want the guy to have a tiny, half-flaccid penis?” He said, “Naw, man, I like big, hard, throbbing co- (stunned pause)  …  I did not know that about myself.” ‘

– – – – –

I think Mark Simpson’s latest post was excellent, and I have not read anything anywhere else on the subject of this latest piece of ‘sex science’ that even begins to cover the territory he does. (I noticed Guardian CIF were looking for ‘bisexual males’ to write something about it and so far no dice. Maybe they do not need to prove they exist by writing for The Guardian).

That’s why I wanted people to know about Simpson’s post. Especially academics. Because it is not just ‘scientists’ and it is not just Americans who believe in the power of science to determine and measure our identities. The ‘born this way’ discourse is very powerful and pervasive in culture as a whole. I’d like to dismiss it out of hand but I can’t. I see and hear it everywhere. eg coming out of Dan Savage’s pert little sourfaced mouth.

So  [redacted]  is vital as a resistance to that glib yet pernicious rubbish. AND the fact the quote above resonates so closely with Mark’s point about how all men like porn and all men like porn with COCK in it, demonstrates the ‘rigour’ of his research. It is not just  ‘personal experience’ but also ‘participant observation’ in the ‘field’. His is a form of ethnography. Like that of WF Whyte or Steve  Zeeland.



(the ‘bisexual’ of the internet, trying not to offend people *too* much by the fact she not only exists, but actually quite likes who she is and even likes the fact that who she is really really gets up certain people’s noses)