BREAKING NEWS

Friday, 29 April 2011

Arise James Middleton

I am somewhat tickled that one of the emerging Royal Wedding stories of the day concerns the brides brother, James Middleton (pictured right). As Pink News reports, 'the search engine Google has begun to auto-suggest “James Middleton gay” following a surge in searches on the younger brother of Catherine ‘Kate’, Duchess of Cambridge.'

I'd engaged in some exchanges regarding his sexuality earlier in the day (I thought he was gay on the basis of stuff I've read), but Pink News shows a lawyer-inspired cautious approach, neither confirming or denying JM's sexuality and instead resorting to the Daily Mail-esque reference to him being a 'cake maker'. Cake Maker (allegedly) being well known code for liking a bit of cock. Oh yes. It's also an indicator that he runs a cake making business (apparently £16 a pop), but anyone that fond of fondant is apparently incapable of being heterosexual.

There's also a picture of JM naked with a beer bottle in front a fire doing the rounds on Twitter, which can also be found (in very very small form) on the web. This seems to have further cemented JM's status as a bit of well-connected totty.

The Telegraph also featured a slightly bitchy piece with him early in the week in which they do a bit of a profile on the cake making entrepreneur. All of which smacks of an ambitious young man who could be the first media casualty in this marriage. Whether he is gay or not is secondary to the fact that it is significant we want to know if he is gay or not. Sexuality clearly matters, and I suspect we've not heard the end of Mr Middleton and talk of his sexuality.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Calm Down Dear?

During Prime Ministers Questions yesterday I tweeted that David Cameron's line "calm down dear" line was poorly judged. I had little idea that it would blow up into an almighty row that featured in news bulletins throughout yesterday afternoon and evening, and is covered throughout the papers today. First off, if you missed the remark, watch it below (as it appeared on BBC news yesterday):



The line is from a series of insurance adverts featuring the film director and Sunday Times restaurant reviewer, Michael Winner (I can't find the famous one, but here's a shorter weather one from towards the end of the run):




Labour has gone on the attack in response, suggesting the remarks were indicative of sexism. Angela Eagle, to whom the remarks were initially focused, writes in the Guardian that 'it is becoming increasingly clear that this government has a problem with women. Despite promising to lead the most family-friendly government ever before the last election, the PM has shown scant regard for the needs of the 51% of the population who are women since he walked into Downing Street.'

I can only conclude that both Cameron and Eagle have spent too much time in the sun (both seem to be looking a little more coloured than their usual selves), and it's gone to their head. The comments were not, I think, a reflection of a sexist attitude by Cameron. However, nor were they merely a 'joke' as Downing Street has since suggested. The remarks were reflective of a public school arrogance that seems so common in the current Tory ranks. It is more Flashman than Winner. It was unbelievably patronising, and I'm pretty sure that Cameron didn't even realise it was that. However, trying to whip this up into a sexism row is equally silly and detracts from the real battles that need to be fought.

To anyone outside the UK, this whole thing probably looks ridiculously camp.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

US Casebook on Sexual Orientation and the Law

Daniel Pinello, a Professor in Political Science at the City University of New York has shared a rather wonderful resource featuring key us cases relating to sexual orientation and the law. Cases can be viewed by name, court, subject matter or year (150 cases in total). Check it out here.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Queer Truth(s) and the Gay Media

I've just had another webzine published on the brilliant FIAPA site. It's called 'Queer Truth(s) and the Gay Media' and you can read it here. As ever, please comment/forward the link on etc.

Ego

It's been said to me on numerous occasions that this blog is really just about ego. Perhaps so, and given those assumptions I've little to lose in flagging up this recent press release about me and research in the Faculty I'm based in at Sunderland. It's also a rare example of a photo of me that I don't want to instantly destroy. Read it here.

What happened there then?

Oh dear, what a crazy few weeks. First, I was whacked by this flu-like big that seems to be going around, then I revered enough to go to the Socio-Legal Studies Association (SLSA) Annual Conference, and then the Association of Law Teachers (ALT) Annual Conference, and now I'm home, once again struck down by the dreaded lurgy. My immune system appears to have taken a holiday. Anyway, I thought it time I added a few brief posts, so whilst the Paracetamol appears to have kicked in, that's what I'll do.

So, a quick re-cap of my little jaunt to Brighton and the SLSA. I have (amazingly) never been to Brighton before, but I fell instantly in love with the city. The conference went brilliantly well. I should declare that I'm on the executive of the association and organise the gender, sexuality and law stream so you might well think "he would say it went well". Well, it did. As fellow academic, John Flood, noted on his blog, the building we were based in had these crazy automatic (and noisy) windows that randomly opened and shut - supposedly when the temperature was at a certain level. It was a regular indicator that quite literally, two much hot air had been generated.

As the GSL stream was once again full (yey), I didn't get chance to visit the other streams but it was a nice opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues, and I left feeling v.perky. It was brilliant to see so many early career academics in my stream, suggesting a really positive future for GSL scholarship.

One trend caught my eye; references to Hannah Arendt. When I attended my first SLSA conference back in 2002, I was struck by the constant references to Foucault. It seemed as though you couldn't do a paper (in any subject) without name checking the great man (something I can't help thinking he'd find ironic).

As time has trickled on, references remain but it's become a little more balanced and Butler probably features just as much in GSL scholarship. Yet this year, Hannah Arendt, the twentieth century theorist, appeared to be getting cited in several papers (something I'd never seen before). She's also cropping up int he work of some folks I talk to on Twitter, especially Gary McLachlan, whose blog you'll find here.

Marco Goldoni and Christopher McCorkindale are also publishing a book entitled Hannah Arendt and the Law later this year, with Hart Publishing. More info on that can be viewed here.

It's too early to be sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if we are about to see the domination of scholarship by Arendt. You heard it first here.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Event: Girls, Sexuality and Sexualisation: Beyond Sensationalism and Spectacle

Readers may be interested in the following event:

Girls, Sexuality and Sexualisation: Beyond Sensationalism and Spectacle

Date: 30th June 2011

Venue: Cardiff University (School of Social Sciences, Glamorgan Building, Committee Rooms 1&2)


PROGRAMME

10.00-10.15 Registration

10.15 – 1030 Introduction and welcome

(Meg Barker, Ros Gill, Emma Renold and Jessica Ringrose)

10.30-11.30 Theorising and researching teen-girls’ sexual cultures in an era of sexualisation: beyond the moral panic

(Dr. Emma Renold, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University and Dr. Jessica Ringrose, Institute of Education, University of London)

11.30-12.30 Sexualisation, Splitting and Innocence as Reparation

(Danielle Egan, Professor and Coordinator of Gender and Sexuality Studies

St. Lawrence University, New York)

12.30-1.30 LUNCH

1.30-2.30 “Don't do what I did”: parental sex education, memories and 'sexualisation'

(Laura Harvey, Department of Psychology, Open University)

2.30-3.30 “Studying sexual desire and expectations in girls and young women: Methodological dilemmas and opportunities.”

(Dr. Sara McClleland, Psychology & Women's Studies, University of Michigan)

3.30-3.45 Refreshments

3.45 – 4.45 Definitions, discourses and dilemmas: policy and academic engagement with the sexualisation of culture

(Dr. Maddy Coy, Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit, London Metropolitan University)

4.45 – 5.30 Discussion

(Discussant: Professor Valerie Walkerdine, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University)


Participation details:

Places are limited for this event and need to be booked in advance. Please contact socsi-events@cf.ac.uk for further information.

To find out more about this seminar series see: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/humanities/depts/cci/events/sexualisation.html

For details of the forthcoming 2011 international 2 day conference, Complicating Debates About the 'Sexualisation of Culture' see:

http://www.ioe.ac.uk/research/50360.html

HIV and the Law: An Activism Opportunity

Edwin Bernard's HIV blog reveals that following on from last month's suspension of Denmark's HIV-specific criminal law, advocates are now working hard to persuade the Government's working group not to simply rework the law, but to abolish it altogether by avoiding singling out HIV.

He includes in his post a letter that people can add their name to achieve three core goals:
  • in congratulating the Ministers on their recent decision to suspend the Danish Penal Code that criminalises HIV exposure and transmission
  • to ensure that during the revision process the Danish Government takes into due consideration whether the particular section singling out HIV should exist in the Penal Code at all.
  • It is our hope that a successful revision of the Danish Penal Code will allow for other countries to follow suit.
If your organization wishes to endorse the letter (which you can read here), please send an email to laura@aidsfondet.dk and include the NAME OF YOUR ORGANISATION and COUNTRY before 29th April 2011.

I'll be forwarding my name as a signatory. I hope you will too.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Mothers Day

Mothers Day is a curious day. It's being celebrated today in the UK and it positions women as the bearers of children, and as appreciative of a limited series of gifts - flowers, chocolates and perfume. After all, that's what all mothers want right? We don't see newspaper and television ads for drills and gadgets. Of course, mothers might be appreciative of a decent vibrator but that's still off limits for most people in our culture (despite Pat Califia's optimistic hopes for such gift-giving in the 1980s). I've opted for Lush gifts and perfume (I was directed as to what perfume).

So, it's probably worth taking some time amidst this motherhood euphoria to look at women in roles beyond some Nigella-esqe yummy mummy ideal. On Friday, the Guardian explored the Cabinet of Spain's prime minister José Zapatero. His government has nine women in cabinet. Zoe Williams asked if it has made a difference. Read that story in full here.

It's also worth reading a short piece from the same day exploring the suffragettes response to the census in 1911. Check that out here.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Willetts and the Trouble with Nuance

My Twitter Feed and Facebook became rapidly filled with much grumpiness about David Willetts yesterday but it took until today for me to realise what vexed so many of my feminist friends. Read the full story about his remarks here, which were interpreted as saying that feminism was to blame for the lack of social mobility.

The excellent Heresy Corner blog explores the story, noting that 'Naturally, his argument is somewhat more subtle than that. But nuance means nothing when an opportunity to kick a Tory, especially one burdened by a longstanding imputation of intelligence, presents itself.'

Wise words. He then makes a reference to Keith Jospeh which I suspect few under the age of 40 will get, but the post is very much in line with my initial thinking about this story. Read the full post here.

The Pirates of Porn

I was sorting through some files and I came across this piece I'd forgotten all about. I wrote it for a magazine last year but they found it a bit too pro-barebacking, and controversial. It also seemed to the editor a bit too specific, suggesting some level of knowledge of bareback/porn (although I'm not sure this is true). I wrote a much more neutral (and duller) piece about bareback sex that was then never published but this earlier piece was left forgotten on my hard-drive. I've therefore decided to share it here so at least somebody reads it.

The Pirates of Porn

The recent screening of Ryan Sullivan’s film, Island at the Paris Porn Film Festival made quite an impact on the blogging and gay porn world. The 67minute film is a re-edit of Sullivan’s video blog of updates on his journey as a film-maker seeking to document the goings on at the self-styled most controversial bareback gay porn company in the world, Treasure Island Media (TIM). The San Francisco based company brands and views itself more of a cult than a porn studio with its founder, the rich and reclusive Paul Morris as its twisted messianic master.

Its skull and cross bones brand image, which some TIM models and fans have tattooed upon themselves is emotive of marauding pirates – as is the central brand name and its distribution arm, New Barbary Coast. In the world of porn, the TIM pirates are simultaneously the bad guys and also a desirable, perhaps even, romantic ideal. Forget the bad boys, these are the bad men.

Manly not boyish; these are men who fuck raw, whose bodies come in a range of shape and sizes, for whom body hair is not feared and removed. These are so called ‘real men’ and TIM seeks to present them in what it regards as a natural habitat.

Sullivan’s Island began in December 2008 and sought to survey this habitat of TIM. Over the course of fifty episodes to date, the series follows Ryan’s early tentative steps within the company, his guarded reception, and his initial introduction of key TIM characters before ultimately signing a contract with TIM as a pornographer, and his own personal journey and development following the signing. The films intercuts raw footage by Sullivan – sometimes introspective footage of local landmarks and locations in San Francisco- together with porn footage, footage of porn being shot and ‘back-story’ footage of TIM projects, model interviews and so on. Sullivan is never heard in the films and uses the device of text on the screen to indicate moods and key story elements, reminiscent of old silent pictures.

The films also play with our own perception of truth and authenticity, with viewers questioning if what we are seeing is real. We are introduced to Sullivan’s brother – John Sullivan. John left home at an early age after coming out and became estranged from his family. Ryan found a video among his belongings after he had left, a TIM video, What I Can’t See, released in 1999. The film sparked Ryan’s interest with the company, believing that if he understood that film and what it depicted, he could in some way be closer to his brother. The announcement in 2010 by Ryan Sullivan that Island would be an extra on What I Can’t See 3 together with earlier TIM porn footage of John wearing a blindfold suggests that Johns Sullivan will feature in the new film and this extra is part of the elaborate marketing. That said, it may equally be nothing more than a logical point to release Island to a wider audience; providing additional value to TIM customers in much the same way that Cole’s Wild Breed features extras of Cole’s drawings, animation, and even a music track as part of furthering the TIM culture or cult.

As Island progresses we learn that John Sullivan has come to TIM to work and that he is HIV positive, and we follow Ryan as he processes these discoveries. In one scene we see a blindfolded John be kissed by Ryan – although apparently John does not know it’s his brother. In the most recent episode, we learn that John’s father sexually abused him as a child. In other episodes we see Ryan playing around with depicting death on camera, whilst others feature ‘out-takes’ from porn, blood pouring from an overly fucked arse, a cock smeared with blood from a burst lip mid blowjob and in one particularly affecting scene, we witness a model breaking down and crying that he’s not sure he can continue on a porn shoot due to problems with his boyfriend and his relationship. His apparent reluctance to take part it intercut with his arse being pounded by another guy, suggesting coercion or desperation to perform, and further cementing TIMs reputation as twisted and fucked up.

At a time of rising HIV rates globally, the presence of a gay porn company that does not use condoms is one thing, that it revels in it’s presentation of raw hard fucking is another. It’s use of the language of barebackers – and sometimes that of bugchasers adds to the controversy of the brand with film titles such as Breeding Season, Knocked Up, Plantin’ Seed, and Loaded whilst many of the films also celebrate semen with titles such as Cumsloppy Buttholes and Sperm Bank. Other films simply celebrate sutty fucking with TIM exclusives Brad McGuire, Christian and Dawson seemingly competing for how slutty they can appear in their films. The film Dawson’s 50-Load Weekend would seem to place him in the lead.

Morris is seeking to present men as wild creatures, reflected in the title of London Director, Liam Cole’s latest work for TIM: Wild Breed. These are men presented as authentic, raw stripped down masculine butch guys. In contrast to the styled, trimmed and tanned scene queen twink, TIM’s films seek to present something more ‘authentic’. Cole’s Wild Breed features men cruising on Hampstead Heath and scenes shot in London’s sex club, Playpit and thus the more private aspects of modern gay sexuality. It seems we can admit to enjoying a Friday night orgy, but we can’t quite admit to getting fucked at Hampstead Heath. TIM’s films therefore seek to explore and expose raw gay sexuality.

This is men as we would seemingly be if all of society’s constraints were lifted. If we were liberated from expectation and notions of ‘correct’ behaviour and simply gave way to instinct, this is how we’d fuck. It is founded on the belief that in our ‘natural’ state we fuck hard, fuck raw, and fuck often.

The presentation of bareback sex is itself an act of authenticity. It challenges the fiction of most porn that features condoms. It seeks to say “this is what you really want, and this is what many of you do”. If rubbered-up condom sex is the ideal, it is also the fantasy. Bareback sex is in contrast a presentation of ‘true’ sex.

The continued demand for bareback porn – outstripping it’s ‘safe sex’ rivals lends credibility to those who argue that bareback porn is gay men’s true desire. Whatever our public declarations, it seems on some level we still want it raw.

Ryan Sullivan’s Island can be viewed at: http://www.ryansullivanisland.com/ Please note, the site is NSFW.

Event: Feminism in Action

Readers might be interested in this event:

Feminism in Action

A One Day Seminar Hosted by the UWE Gender Studies Research Group and POWS 11 July 2011

10am-5pm: Room 4E13 (E Block), Frenchay Campus, University of the West of England

Programme
Kabul-Reykjavík-Gaza: Feminist transnational dialogue in action
Dr Annadis Rúdólfsdóttir, Studies Director, The Gender Equality Studies and Training Programme, University of Iceland, Reykjavík, Iceland

Feminist adventures beyond the ivory tower: The New View Campaign Dr Virginia Braun, Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, The University of Auckland, New Zealand

Feminism in action in Bristol
Dr Helen Mott, Coordinator, Bristol Fawcett Society

Feminist activism today and its future
Anna Brown and Sian Norris, Bristol Feminist Network

Sexual violence prevention and the problem of pornography
Dr Nicola Gavey, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, The University of Auckland, New Zealand

For more information on the seminar, including information on how to get to the Frenchay Campus and a campus map, see: http://www.uwe.ac.uk/research/groups/gender-studies/index.shtml. If you are parking
.
This is a free seminar open to all. Refreshments will be provided; lunch can be purchased from various shops and cafés on the Frenchay campus.

To register, please contact Victoria.Clarke@uwe.ac.uk

Friday, 1 April 2011

An Eastern Gaylaxy: Resource Focus

The magazine Gaylaxy was launched back in 2010 but I'm ashamed to say I've only 'discovered' it today via the joys of Twitter. The magazine started out with a focus upon, and readership based around, India, although it has now grown beyond that. It's a really well put together magazine, available for free and well worth a read, not least to gain an Eastern perspective on sexuality. As well as fascinating and serious stories, the current issue also features a fictional story about love in a coal mine. Now, you don't see that in Attitude or Gay Times.

East End Troubles

As a northerner, gay man and also as an academic I often feel an outsider on the inside. Too often, our media is London-centric and panders to internal liberal angst. The various stories concerning East London pride over the last few months were a reminder of this situation. It seems odd to me that (with possibly the exception of Manchester), the London-based LGBTQ media too often appears concerned with the ins and outs of stories that do not affect vast swathes of their readership. As such, I more or less ignored the East End pride stories as stories that don't directly affect me.

I'm sure I wasn't alone in this response, but I'm also sure that it was a mistake. Our media have been useless at translating a 'local' story into a national one and assumed that simply palcing it in a national outlet does that. It doesn't. Yet, as we see in a blog post by the controversial feminist writer, Julie Bindel, we should sit up and examine what's been going on in the East End of London.

In a nutshell, and as Bindel notes, Last autumn, stickers began to appear all over the East End proclaiming that the area is now a “Gay-Free Zone.” “And Fear Allah: Verily Allah is Severe in Punishment.” After that, it all gets complex, and you should go read the excellent summary by Julie Bindel here (then carry on reading...). You don't have to agree with Bindel on anything to find the commentary useful and interesting.

I'm quite sure the post will annoy some, but it needs to be read and debated. Our failure to do so, and opt instead for a conspiracy of silence, serves only to create an environment perfect for the incubation of ignorance and hatred. We must not allow that to happen.
 
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