Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Does Your Banana Measure Up?

Good news for those of you visiting Tapai shortly if you happen to have a 7.1 inch or above penis (18cm for metric types); a Tapai male only sauna is offering free entry (oo err) to those with slightly larger 'assets'.  Although it's not explicit, one assumes that the penis should be your own and attached.  Hurrah!

This is in itself a mildly interesting development, but it's earned a place on my blog because of an animation illustrating the story.  Brit political types might remember the animated cartoons produced by appledaily during the election campaign depicting Gordon Brown in a range of funny escapades? Newsnight even hired them to do one on 'Bigotgate' (watch it again here).  Rather wonderfully,  apple have produced a video for the sauna story intercut with footage from the actual sauna.  Yes, I am very easily amused.  Check it out below:


Mr Gay UK 2011 Finalists Announced

The Mr Gay UK Finalists have been announced, and despite my earlier pleas, I can exclusively reveal that I have once more been passed over as a judge.  On the plus side this means I can play the 'which one is likely to be a human cannibal?' game which I'm sure many other contest followers are engaged in (puzzled readers should see this).

The Pink Paper reveals that the finalists are Charlie Drummond (Bristol), Samuel Kneen (Cardiff), Greg Lumley (Middlesbrough), Nik Chapman (Newcastle) and Leeds' John Wheeldon (see above).  Frankly, it's a tough old contest! The annual competition offers the chance for someone from each region of the United Kingdom to win a professional photo shoot in Morocco, £2000 in cash and a chance enter Mr Gay Europe.

The winner will be announced on Saturday 10 December at the Mission nightclub in Leeds.  Good luck guys!  You can read my previous thoughts on the contest from back in September here.

GLBT Historical Society News

Brilliant news from the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. They report that thanks to a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission - an agency of the U.S. National Archives - the GLBT Historical Society is busy surveying its more than 600 manuscript collections.  Titled Hidden from History: Accessing the GLBT Past, the initiative also will involve processing half of the society's backlog of archival collections so the materials will be ready for use by curators, researchers, filmmakers, students and other patrons.

I've had first hand experience of using the superb archive.  It's an asset for sexuality researchers across the globe and this latest funding means there is potentially even more wonderful material that will now be available to researchers and enhance our collective understanding of sexualities and our lived experiences.

Moralising Teaching: Beware the Evil Porn Performer

Fox News Boston carries a truly depressing story concerning an exposé in which a teacher is revealed to have previously worked as a porn performer in three films. Fox named two of the films but said they couldn't reveal the name of the third as they claimed the 'title is not fit to reveal in a family news outlet.' They do reveal the titles 'Just Gone Gay 8' and 'Fetish World' (it's actually Fetish World 1).  The mysterious title that's apparently too shocking is 'Ass Fucked by a DILF 2'.

The man - whose alleged to be the porn performer 'Hytch Cawke' (not one the best names) - claimed to have no idea what Fox were on about.  All of this is a story for Fox because the man is now a school teacher as they revealed in this piece.   The school seems fine, noting the high standard of references received in the course of recruiting him.  They seem to be standing by their man but the state Department of Education is investigating so we'll see how long that lasts.  Fox also confronted parents who seemed shocked.  One provided the quote Fox were looking for when they answered whether the news worried them: “Very much so. Especially since he's teaching our children. Everyday. It does bother me a lot,” the parent replied.

Why silly parent, why?  You child is probably a result of you engaging in a spot of bonking with your other half, and they seem to cope with living in the same house as you despite your ignorant views.  You may still even get up to some shameful heterosexual activity when your child is merely feet away in the home.  Is it that your sex teacher is revealed to have a sex life that disturbs you? That he's gay, or simply that he was apparently good enough at sex to be paid as a porn performer in three films?  Would you rather the teaching profession was limited to unattractive people who are bad at sex? I'd such celibate member soy the clergy but that's generally not worked so well.  It's also striking to hear a parent praise the teacher, reporting how popular he is as a coach and teacher with students.  This is a guy who's apparently brilliant at his job and his previous work as a porn performer had not - until Fox stuck their nose in - impacted on that performance.

This sort of silly story seeks to explore the 'morality' of teaching, suggesting some sort of non-sexual purity which I genuinely find puzzling.  Nor is it restricted to the US, for we've seen similar stories in the UK.  Yet whilst I say it's silly, it is in fact devastating to this guy and similar teachers who find themselves 'exposed' in this way.  It's nothing short of a disgrace that journalists have carried on in this way, throwing lives and careers to the wind.  We also see towards the end of the clip that the reporting journalist admonishes teachers who also post pictures of themselves drinking alcohol on line.  This is the mentality of these moralising nuts.  Words fail me.

Read the story here, and check out the related video below:   

HIV 'Victim' Speaks

I meant to post this story a couple of weeks ago.  The Guardian published a moving piece from 'Susan', a woman whose boyfriend was sent to prison for infecting her with HIV.  Whilst lawyers in this area traditionally focus upon the policy and health implications or the doctrinal legal issues, it is rare that we hear from the parties at the centre of these difficult cases.  Read Susan's story here.

It's share

There's been quite a bit of blog and twitter buzz surrounding a new campaign ad for same-sex marriage in Australia.  On a personal level, I didn't find myself too excited by the advert but then again, I live in a country with a comparatively high level of so called 'gay rights'.  The advert is carefully designed to promote commitment, and stray away from the legal rights debates elsewhere.  Nor will you see protesting, pink triangles and rainbow flags.  It's about promoting the 'normality' of same-sex relationships.  Those of you who read my HuffPo piece last week will see the anger that questioning this argument can evoke within the self-styled gay community where those rights do not presently exist.  Indeed - and I've said this before - it's a product of my privileged position that I can now criticise/analyse these issues.

The advert comes in the week that the Nigerian Senate used law to criminalise same-sex marriage and those who attempt to enter into it.  Homosexuality is already punishable with 14 years imprisonment but in a clear recognition that they don't currently lock-up all Nigerian homosexuals, this new law punishes those who try to enter into marriage with 14 years imprisonment and 10 years for witnesses.   Meanwhile, Russia continues to debate a new law which would - it is argued - prevent gay rights activists from assembling, protesting and discussing gay rights issues.  The Russian government intervened today to express puzzlement at the global criticism of these proposals - arguing that discrimination laws are in place.  It seems, in an eerie echo of the UK's very own Section 28 (now repealed) the law is designed to prevent the 'promotion' of homosexuality.  A law, which we know from Section 28, has wide implications in reality.  Is it 'to promote' homosexuality to say that homosexuality isn't bad, that there should be same-sex marriage? Services protection? Employment protection? Where is the line drawn?

From the privileged position of the UK, I found myself wondering if there's more we should be doing.  The British government has already said it won't send aid to countries such as Nigeria which reject rights for homosexuals (although where the line is drawn remains unclear).  More generally, we're pretty good at interfering in other countries  - sometimes with diplomacy, sometimes as we still see today, with jets, bombs and drones.

Concomitantly, campaign adverts are often about saying, let's change and this is why we should do so.  Rarely do they celebrate the complex reality of life after legal reform.  Here's a challenge for the UK - let's interfere.  Let's show the world the modern lived experiences of gay men, women and those who reject such labels.  Let's spend some of the international aid budget (which is currently funding the BBC world service among other things) on a low-cost advert that shows that the sky doesn't fall in when gay rights are introduced.  Let's show that's it's more complicated than the happy-clappy images of the Australian advert, but that life is complex, and still works well.   Yes, it's time; it's time to share our story.

Bareback Lover Graces GT: Meet Mason Wyler

Hurrah, another excuse for a gratuitous picture of Mason Wyler.  Regular blog readers will know I've long found Mason a fascinating figure in the gay porn world (who is coincidentally as hot as a hot curry with extra hot hot stuff on a hot day).  He was said to be a fan of bareback sex, then he was diagnosed as HIV positive, and came out as positive and also celebrated his sluttyness and fondness of bareback sex.  He also confirmed post being diagnosed as HIV+ that he still (dun. dun. dun) enjoyed bareback sex.

For many gay and sexuality activists, it would have been less offensive to have literally crapped in their ears (I'm excluding Scat enthusiasts for the purposes of this discussion).  Mason's career appeared to take something of a nose-dive with his exclusive porn contract being cancelled.  His career, people thought, was already in decline and HIV was the final bug in the coffin.   Mason himself declared his career over, and despite a brief 'come back' appearing in a bareback film (yes, he's positive) declared it to be a one-off.  Nonetheless, his continued web profile suggests someone still looking for a porn career.  He's also completing degree studies in Texas (destroying the old adage 'cute but stupid') so he packs a lot in (as it were).

Pour into this my ongoing criticism of mainstream 'gay' media for ignoring the nuances of bareback sex, and you'll see why I was pleasantly surprised to see Mason Wyler gracing the pages of the new January issue of GT (Gay Times) magazine.

John Marrs deserves credit for a piece which dispassionately explores the issues (although it's stillv try cautious).  The subheading for the piece declared: 'Being diagnosed HIV+ once meant the abrupt end of a career in gay porn but not any longer.  More and more studios are now willing to use actors with the virus - as long as it's kept quiet'.  The suggestion is that had Mason kept his mouth shut (in a non cock gobbling way) then he would have been OK.  Because the world knows he's HIV+, he's finished as far as a career in porn is concerned...or is he?  Moreover, the article acknowledges that US bareback studio Hot Desert Knights does use openly HIV+ performers.  So too does fellow US bareback studio, Treasure Island Media (TIM), but these porn bad boys puzzlingly go unmentioned in the piece.  Whether that's GT or Wyler not wanting an a article in which he's linked to Treasure Island Media and their brand of proud barebacking is a question unanswered but very much in my mind.  Unlike Hot Desert Knights bareback offerings, TIM's porn is also available from Prowler - see here.

The one large pull-out quote in the piece suggests an article of traditional GT style: 'It's a disease you can't blame anybody else but yourself for getting.  Being a gay man, and one who has bareback sex on a regular basis, I guess it was inevitable'.  Although the quote is from Mason, Wyler also indicates that whilst he still has bareback sex, it's only with HIV+ folks (really Mason? Do you ask for evidence?) but he is aware of the risks, saying: "I only hook up with people who are HIV+ but I still don't use condoms...there are doctors who say that's dangerous because of different strains of HIV but there are other that don't agree.  I know there are more risks of getting other diseases or STIs."

Mason further supports his poz only guy policy (or, I would suggest, guys who say they are poz) through praise for bareback: "Anyway, if they re HIV negative, I'm turned off.  I associate negative people with using condoms and as horrible as that sounds, I still don't like using them if I'm the bottom - which is 99 per cent of the time.  In my mind and my body I can tell the difference between condoms and bareback."  Yes folks, he can tell the difference.  This one of those great statements that so many know from their own sexual experiences to be true but is one of the un-utterables of the bareback debate.

Unusually, the article doesn't follow that 'admission' up with a moralising paragraph, bitchy one line or scary stat/link to death etc.  In fact, the piece notes a survey of 100 gay porn stars by The Sword website which discovered 30% were either HIV+ or didn't know their status and the article neither suggests this is a good or bad thing.

So, we have some media coverage for Mason in the UK (who would only want this for cash and/or a boost to his porn career - it doesn't count for degree credit I'm guessing), but more importantly this is - I think - the first time that a 'mainstream' gay magazine like GT has adopted a neutral approach on the issue of bareback sex - allowing someone to effectively say they'd rather be HIV positive than have to use condoms because you can tell the difference - and continues to engage in bareback sex whilst HIV+.

The willingness of companies such as Millivres Prowler (the company behind GT and Diva magazines along with the popular Prowler stores) to sell bareback DVDs/material whilst condemning it has long smacked of hypocrisy but this more open and honest article suggests a move towards a more open and honest debate about bareback sex and the apparently inseparable issue of HIV transmission and policy.  That GT put this in an issue sent to subscribers in the week of World AIDS Day makes it all the more staggering.  Well done GT, but I fear I'll be among the few cheering this development.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Now for something completely different...

For those of you who might be interested in the other research/policy work I get up to, you may be interested in this piece which quotes me and talks about legal apprenticeships.  British academics focused on REF Impact statements will understand why these things are helpful at the moment!

Check out the article to be published in the new issue of Lawyer 2B here.

Family Finance

Earlier today British Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his Autumn Statement - a sort of mini-budget/update on how the economy is doing.  I'm struck at these moments by the emphasis politicians give at these moment by 'families'.  It was particularly striking in George Osborne's speech today.   It goes to the heart of how a political class views society at any given time.  Osborne's speech makes it clear that this society is comprised of businesses and families.  There are no individuals.

This is significant if through choice, or outside forces you find yourself single, or without children.  When society seeks to dis-incentivise and punish these choices, it enforces a heteronormative view of the family that fetishes a model of parents (more than one, fewer than three) and children (knock yourself out, but after one, we reward you less).

Osborne was particularly impressive for how the family crow-barred it's way into this statement.  
According to Osborne, the plans of the Government have thus far ensured that: 'low interest rates are passed on to families and businesses.' He added that 'at every opportunity [the Government are] helping families with the cost of living.' We will not take this risk with the solvency of the British economy and the security of British families.

On homes...

The Chancellor stated:

'The Government can use the low interest rates we’ve secured to help young families too, who want to buy a home but can’t afford the very large deposits that banks are now demanding. We will use mortgage indemnities to help 100,000 such families buy newly built homes. Families in social housing will be able to buy their own homes at a discount of up to 50%. And we will use the receipts to build, for every home purchased, a new additional affordable home. So new homes for families that need them. New home ownership for families who aspire to it.'

Can individuals not aspire for such things?  Of course, individuals get the benefit of this message but it is striking that the government is not interested in promoting it in those terms.

On water bills...

The Chancellor stated:

'And for families across that region facing the highest water charges in Britain, the Government will cut the household bills of all South West Water customers by £50 a year.'

So, if it was just individuals he wouldn't bother?  If you have children, that necessitates specific water 'relief'?  Other cynics might note that this also targets the affluent Tory South West but I shall resist going there...

On superfast broadband....

The Chancellor stated:

'The Government is funding plans to bring superfast broadband to 90% of homes and businesses across the country, and extend mobile phone coverage to 99% of families.'

Really?  Are we to see mobile phones handed out at birth?  Baby hats and cell phones for all?

Council tax... 

The Chancellor stated:

'I have already offered councils the resources for another year’s freeze in the Council Tax. That will help millions of families.

It also helps single occupancy households but I guess we matter less.

Fuel prices... 

The Chancellor stated:

'But millions more use their cars to go to work, and pick up the children from school. Families will save £144 on filling up the average family car by the end of next year.'

How much will I save?  I don't have to do those school runs so I suppose I'm laughing already in the eyes of the Government.  Here towards the end of a speech we have the vision made clear.  Work and family.  Work and family.  A very Conservative message.

What would I say instead? Well how about 'households', 'citizens' and 'Brits' (if you want to throw in  a bit of informality).

Read the statement in full here.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

After Equality

Apologies for the shameless plugging but you might be interested in a piece I've had posted at the Huffington Post.  It was written a month ago and other writers - Suzanne Moore and Mark Simpson for example - have since tackled the same issue but this does try to knit together the debate on both sides of the Atlantic and ever brings my own unique approach (*cough*) to the subject of where now for equality law.  Check it out here.  Do please also feel free to post a comment on the original post.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Occupy My Throat...

I've noticed in recent weeks that my twitter followers divide between those who wholly support the occupy movement and those who want the grubby layabouts swept aside.  There does seem truth in the presence of a significant affluent liberal minority (i.e rich people spending all day moaning about how terrible it is to be rich) which does rather spoil things.  All of which harks back to Nixonian cries of "damn Hippies" but I digress.  How, I hear you wonder can I link this mass protest movement with the subject of law and sexuality?  Well, there have been major clashes with the police seeking to remove them - principally it seems because they are redefining space - whether that be in Oakland California, Wall Street, New York or St Paul's London.  In much the same way as the queer space of the ghetto or the cruising and dogging site can raise questions as to the way space is regulated and controlled, so too does this movement.  The ownership and purpose of space is at the heart of this movement - is it for the 'masses', or corporate aims, can the two be divorced and so on.

It was with particular interest that a new stone was thrown into this petrifying pool of politics.  It emerged last week that the US porn company DirtyBoyVideo had used the whole plot line of the occupy movement as a backdrop for a quick porn flick film din one of the Occupy Oakland tents (if only the Daily Mail had caught that on camera).  Rumours are unconfirmed about a cheeky little video of a Saif al-Islam and an LSE PhD supervisor.  

So, we can see some of the (safe) images below but I do find it interesting that here we have a space that is re-defined, re-owned, and then another group re-own the space, layering with additional sexual purpose.  The video is called 'Occupy My Throat'.  Well, quite.

You can read a little more on LeFag here but NakedSword added another brilliant angle to this story (some NSFW images at the side of the linked page), when they reported that the company sent out an open appeal to Brandon Watts -whose bloodied face at the Occupy Wall Street protests became a key image.  Here's the letter they sent:

Dear Mr. Watts, We are vocal supporters of Occupy Wall Street and the statement it makes. Your energy, commitment and drive have directly contributed to the success of the Occupation movement. As I watched the police drag you away in handcuffs, your face covered in blood, I could only think, “Wow, he’s hot!” Later, I learned you were among the first to pitch a tent in Zuccotti Park, making the movement a literal occupation. The NY Daily News reports you even lost your virginity in that park. Congratulations! Dirty Boy Video has long encouraged young men like yourself to pitch tents in parks. I offer you the opportunity to perform on our website, an opportunity to express yourself and your politics freely and without censor. Working together we can create a sexy, fun platform that inspires you, be that with other actors, actresses or both. Whether you choose to work with us or not, I salute your dedication and your courage. 
Andy Fair President

Nope, you couldn't make it up, and here's the bloody Brandon Watts...

Follow Friday Double Whammy

Life has been hectic and then I've been a little ill, so the blog has been neglected.  Whenever I say I'll blog more, it inevitably results in fewer posts.  Anyhow, you might have seen a couple of lovely mentions on David Allen Green's blog on The Lawyer.  You can check them out here and here.  Proof that I sometimes talk about things other than sex can also been seen in this week's Solicitors Journal.  You can read the article (and see a smiley PR photo of me if you dare) here.  All of which brings me to my special Follow Friday mentions.  I've shockingly missed two weeks, so here's a double whammy of fabulous follow fridays.

First off, the NSFW account linked with the Men of Color blog.  This US based feed talks about porn, sex and gay culture and is always entertaining.  You can follow @MOCBlogger here.

If explicit images and naughtiness are not your cup of tea, I also recommend the wonderful @gaydio tweet feed.  This is linked to the Manchester based Gaydio radio station which is a wonderful LGBT radios ration you can get listening to right now via their website.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Gender, Sexuality and Law, SLSA 2012: Call for Papers

Academic readers may be interested in this call for papers, which I am once again organising:

Gender, Sexuality and Law Stream, Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference, De Montfort University, Leicester, April 3-5 2012

The stream seeks to draw together socio-legal scholarship from across the globe, featuring scholars from a range of disciplines relating to the broad theme of gender, sexuality and law.

Past papers have considered sexuality and education law, queer theory, same-sex marriage, gender and parenthood, trans identities, sex work, domestic violence, public sex, sexuality and the media, religion and sexuality, international comparisons, and theories of gender but papers pertaining to any area of gender, sexuality and law will be considered.

Previous years have also featured screenings from new film-makers (Susan Potter’s An Ordinary Person in 2009 and Ileana Pietbruno’s Girlfriend Experience in 2010). The stream is keen to maintain a space for film in 2012. In recent years the Gender, Sexuality and Law Stream has filled up very quickly and a number of would-be presenters were sadly unable to be accommodated within the stream. Early submission is therefore suggested and aids with conference planning.

Submission of abstracts must be made by Word document e-mail attachment to:

Abstracts must be no longer than 300 words and must include your title, name and institutional affiliation and your email address for correspondence.

Please state clearly in the subject section of your e-mail that you are submitting an abstract for the SLSA Conference 2012. The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 16th January 2012. Abstracts submitted by this deadline will receive a decision to enable early registration by 31st January 2012.

You can also contact me to informally discuss your proposal at

More  information can be found on the conference website here.

Monday, 7 November 2011

National LGBT Bar Association Appeal

Here's an appeal that American readers might be interested in responding to (fantastic possible prize for an important contribution):

Help ensure that the National LGBT Bar Association continues its work to increase LGBT diversity in the legal profession. Your contribution — be it $10, $25, $50 or $100 —will allow us to continue to fight for the fair treatment of LGBT individuals in the legal profession, and the inclusion of our issues and our community.

Make an online contribution to the National LGBT Bar Foundation Individuals who make a contribution of $10 or more by December 1st will be automatically entered to win a three-night stay at Alexander's Guesthouse in Key West, Florida. Located in the historic Old Town district of Key West, Alexander's offers luxurious tropical amenities and easy access to the Caribbean lifestyle. The package also includes your choice of a snorkeling adventure or Champagne sunset sail for two and two tickets for the historic Gay and Lesbian Trolley Tour.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Centre for Sex, Gender and Sexualities: Inaugural Lecture

North East based students, scholars and thinkers will be interested in attending this.  I would encourage my own students to attend - it will be relevant to your assessment!  I'll also be going along so hope to see some of you there.

Thursday 17th November
6:15 – 7.30pm Appleby Lecture Theatre
Durham University Science Site, South Road, DH1 3LE

We know that Durham has sometimes had the image of being something of a blue stocking among universities – well, not any more. On 17th November in Durham, the University’s new Centre for Sex, Gender and Sexualities is holding its inaugural lecture.

Titled ‘Equality, Diversity, Queer Theory and Children in the Modern Age’, the lecture will explore the issue of sexuality, queerness and children. It is being given by celebrated queer theorist, Professor Kathryn Bond-Stockton of the University of Utah. 

Professor Jo Phoenix is the Director of the new Durham-based Centre. She says: ‘The Centre for Sex, Gender, and Sexualities will be unique in the UK, so its creation is a break-through moment both for queer studies nationally and for the University. The Centre is going to shape, inform and influence the often contentious debates surrounding sexuality, gender, identity, equality and politics, while the fact that it is being created by what some might regard as a more traditional, establishment university shows how forward-thinking Durham really is.’

 Please arrive from 6.00 pm for registration. The lecture will start at 6.30 pm and will be followed by a drinks reception and nibbles from 7.30 pm. If you have colleagues or associates you think would be interested in attending, please let us know via your RSVP and we will be happy to include them on the guest list. Please note that places are limited and it is wise to reserve your place. RSVP to by 10th November.

Military Hunks

Another fascinating photography page that has emerged o the web in the last week, and caused a bit of a  stir is 'Military Hunks'.  It's a Tumblr blog run by a chap who describes his blog in the following terms:

'Pics from Iraq, Private Collections of My own and Friends, My time in the Navy and as a Civilian Contractor for the DoD. Thank God for Gay & Gay Friendly Soldiers, Marines, and Sailors! We Rock!'

The blog features various nude 'military hunks' (clue in the title) and that's probably enough for most people to get clicking away.  The ever-excellent Sword blog (NSFW) notes that the mere posting of these images reflects the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell (although none of the photographs indicate homosexuality - although I'm not sure an image can denote that, beyond an act), but given names are used, The Sword speculates whether this could still land the guys in the photos in a  spot of bother.  I'm really not sure why but we strangely seem to be shocked as a society when confronted that people we thought had penises, are confirmed as being in possession of the sizable asset in question.

Anyhow, beyond the frivolous titillating photographs that will no doubt brighten many readers Sunday the photographs do document in a fascinating and compelling way life in Iraq and the complexities that can mean.  Naked, sexualised images in these spaces are a reminder of the humanistic set against the humanistic, and law - whether it be the permission to kill that war grants, or the morality that is imposed pom those who do the killing is ripped open and displayed through these images.

The Lawyer blogger, David Allen Green may be once more impressed at my ability to connect law and sexuality once again (see his comments on The Lawyer last week) but given my fundamental view that law shapes, reflects and re-makes society, it isn't all that surprising to me :-)

I've posted just a handful of the (safe!) captivating images.  The full picture collection can be viewed (including the full nudes) here.  I strongly recommend this wonderful collection.  I hope someone has the vision to turn it into a book!

Something Dark(er)

Mucho excitement at the launch of issue two of Something Dark.  This a fantastically experimental magazine with truly mesmerising photography and imagery.

The team behind the magazine set out their mission as:  SDk02’s range of analytical and critical writing challenges conventional interpretations of the cultural, economic and political norms that rule and ruin our individual lives and our societies. Two feature articles work together to scrutinise not only the civilisation-degrading tabloid culture that blights the contemporary media landscape, but also the more extensive and insidious system that we dub the “tabloid ecosystem”.

This issue contains a number of sexuality and identity related  stories that focus on the 'dark', often hidden and under-discussed identities.  The photography and images reflect this.  It's a must for anyone interested in sexuality, identity and creative ideas, but defies simple labelling and pigeonholing.

The magazine also takes an innovative approach to structure.  Unlike most news, magazine- and journalstyle websites, which depart from their print-published counterparts in format, look and feel because they were developed with by-now conventional website design in mind, SDk has been developed with the format, look and feel of a print magazine. Yet, being fully htmlcoded and pushing the limits of that technology, it also offers the full dynamism of the internet, especially in a complex system of internal linking, that flash sites cannot deliver. The editorial team argue that intensive editorial preparation for SDk02 allowed for extensive refinement of SomethingDark’s technical development and a presentation that now delivers an even more unique web-based magazine experience.  It certainly does that, and I found it a joy to navigate on both my iPad and iMac desktop.

Check it out here.

Troll On: Women Bloggers Get Sensitive

Inevitably, when one is is honest on a blog like this, you're always going to annoy someone.  Rather than tone down to some dreary level of consensus, I plough on and hope that people can read things without losing their heads.  I say this because some of you are not going to like what comes next...

The Observer carries a piece today featuring a number of female bloggers/tweeters/writers who are feeling increasingly discouraged -they claim - due to 'trolling', unpleasant and critical remarks that they receive.  Penny Red (I always think of Penny Crayon  - a thought that would possibly annoy her, I don't know) leads the charge noting criticism she's received because people don't like her brand of lefty views and attack her appearance and past.  I confess, I don't have a huge amount of sympathy.  In this regard, I am apparently a terrible human being, or indeed, a typical man.

I appreciate I'm meant to say "oh how terrible", but when you get into expressing a view, you'll annoy some people.  When Julie Bindel had a go at me for criticising her, I was on some level upset - I felt misunderstood, and also alarmed that I'd caused more upset than intended.  I could quite easily have got into some nutty cyber way (as some do) claiming hurt, and firing back with both barrels.  Instead I recognised that on some things we disagree, and on others we do actually agree.  I came to the view (this will upset more people) that she is not the devil, but has some views that are offensive, and I no doubt have some views that she thinks need enlightening.  This is the nature of debate.

It is not uncommon in the course of expressing passionate views that we point to the personal; we are after all, firing off rounds and we're determined to make a hit, determined to create some impression, force some some shift in position.  I wonder how many of those now distressed, have had a pop at Eric Pickles for being fat or John Prescott for his working class language?  I find the cries of hurt from a liberal elite of women genuinely puzzling.  In saying "get over it", I know that I am being some terrible cliche of a nasty man, that I don't get it and that if it was happening to me, I'd be upset  -and the truth is, I would be.  Whenever I hear someone say, "you're stupid", "you don't understand", "you're wrong", it hurts (although happily, such comments are rare).  Academics frequently invest years researching and thinking an idea through for someone else to come along and blow it apart in an instant, so perhaps we're trained for this abuse more than most.

That said, I can not, will not, defend threats of sexual violence, but I do find it problematic when these writers equate rape with someone saying something should be shoved up their arse.  Stick it up your arse is a common phrase and this sort of OTT reaction merely serves to devalue the horrific threats that some people no doubt do face.  So yes, let's take serious threats seriously, but let's also be realistic that there are unpleasant people who say unpleasant and nasty things.  There are also pleasant people who sometimes say things that are ill-tempered and perhaps unwise (maybe this post is one) but that doesn't render them terrible people, or even threatening.  Vigorous, heated, passionate debate means that sometimes nasty, rude and unpleasant things get said.  I don't think these feminist writers are above that.

Read the Observer piece in full and judge for yourself.

The Shareef Don't Like It

The Sunday Times carries a wonderful little piece about living as a Western white gay man in the city of Dubai.  The UAE is a country in which homosexuality is illegal, reduced to clandestine activity and knowing glances.  Yet, as this piece reminds us, it continues to attract many gay men who live fulfilling lives, and foster gay networks - as in many other Arab nations - despite the law.  The piece is (annoyingly) behind the Sunday Times paywall but if you do have access, it can be viewed here. Alex Richardson, the journalist in question summarises the environment below:

'The gay community here is secretive and close-knit. It’s not as drug-fuelled and bitchy as back in London, though apparently STDs are rife — because these dangers are never advertised, it’s assumed everybody is clean, so people are a bit looser. Unlike in Europe, where you have different groups of gays — the arty ones, the lawyers, the clubbers — here you have just one: the materialistic, body-beautiful type. They are in their twenties or thirties and have come to Dubai for escapism, money or career opportunities.'

Curiously, despite the influx of Westerners  - gay and otherwise - into spaces such as Dubai, there doesn't seem to be the pressure for change in the same way that were the UK government to turn the legal clock back to pre-1967.  I'm not sure entirely why this is but I suspect it owes a lot to the mobility of the players involved.  Rather than an all engaging homosexuality, the account of homosexuality in Dubai by Richardson matches accounts from others I've heard regarding Arab nations - including Egypt and Dubai - in which the affluent and mobile can enjoy a type of homosexuality that other sections of society don't.  Those who are working in Dubai are paid good wages, enjoy an affluent lifestyle and can always pop on the next flight the moment things start getting a bit sticky.  As long as this remains, there will be no pressure to change, and the UAE will entrench this situation as the status quo.  This, it seems to me, is deeply undesirable.

This Stupid Little Street

Off to Manchester tomorrow for our annual field trip (steady the buffers, we're on our way).  Hugely excited to be hearing from Greater Manchester Police and their approach to policing in the Village - and the priorities that they currently face (I understand sex work/prostitution to be a key 'issue' at the moment).

The Lesbian and Gay Foundation have also been generous enough (mad enough?) to have us back to their gorgeous HQ at the heart of the Village for a chat about their work.  I will as ever be giving the students my socio-legal walkabout around the village (so if you see us, say hello), and my optional more general walkabout on history, culture and sexuality (Hacienda, raves, Marxism, Liberalism, the Suffragettes, Coronation Street).   Some of us will also be off to Canal Street on Monday night but I feel far too old and fat for such escapades these day (a theme that Stephen Whittle has written about more generally).  Yes, I am essentially a mildly intoxicated tour guide for two days.  Fun times.

I ask my students to watch the UK series' of Queer as Folk before the trip, because the series was so important and it offers so many strands of discussion.  A scene towards the end of Queer as Folk 2 encapsulates so much about the Village, but I can't find any video clips of it to embed (if you can find it, please add a link in a comment).  Instead, I offer the quote below which makes up the key scene:

"What, come back to this? The ghetto: alleyways stinking of piss, beggars in every doorway, straights and students coming to look at the freak show, and all the idiots saving all week, saving their stupid money from their stupid idiot jobs so they can come and shoot their load with some stranger. And just you look after it, this stupid little street. It's the middle of the world. Cos on a street like this, every single night, anyone can meet anyone. And every single night, someone meets someone."

- Stuart Jones, Queer As Folk 2

UPDATE - located the you go (1.29 onwards is they key bit)


Friday, 4 November 2011

Follow Friday: Canal Street

This week my special Follow Friday mention goes to @canalstmancs - the Twitter account for Canal Street.  It includes lots of brilliant information about events/venues on and around Canal Street, Manchester.  Next week also sees the annual Manchester field-trip for my law and sexuality class - look out Canal Street!

Don't forget, you can see all my special Follow Friday mentions by clicking the 'follow friday' tab below.

Melanie Phillips voted Stonewall’s ‘Bigot of the Year’

Hurrah.  What more can I say?  A much deserved award for Ms Phillips.  The Annual Stonewall Awards took place at a swanky do held in the V&A.  A Pie and Pea supper this wasn't.  In many ways, the event was perfect fuel for those who see Stonewall as a luvvie-orientated celebrity homosexual group which has become out of touch with the 'grass-roots'.  Whilst I've certainly been among those who have criticised Stonewall int he past, this Annual Awards ceremony is an important way of a) garnering publicity for the group - and the fund-raising that can follow, and b) a way of networking with the great and good.  Influence comes from contacts and so drawing people in to this event and making them -and the event - visible is important.  To do that, a nice (and expensive) venue is needed.  A few glasses of wine or champagne are mandatory and so it creates the impression of begin aloof.  It needn't be.   Stonewall has an obligation outside of these events to really engage with dissenting and diverse voices, explaining their own strategy and vision together with listening to the desires of those who are more likely to clean up at the V&A the morning after than attend a champagne bash the night before.

Stonewall is an amazing group that does some terrific work.  It's a sign of how important they remain that people are exercised about how and what they should influence when it comes to social and legal change.

It's All About the Willy?

Men are often accused of thinking with their willy. The penis becomes a powerful symbol of something less human, of an animalistic, un-thinking, reflex orientated existence. The Gender Recognition Act 2004 was significant for defining the existence of men without a penis, and women with a penis. This is a concept that every year drives my students at the start of the course to near mental collapse. Yet, even though the penis serves as an important cultural marker of identity, it is rarely divorced from the man. Perhaps an exception to this is in the context of public sex.

Even in dogging, the man becomes a 'penis', the woman a 'mouth or vagina', and collectively, they serve to observers, pikers, as a 'display', a 'show'. In cottaging/tearooms, where a glory hole might be used - the hole acts to anonymise the encounter, reducing a player to a penis, anus, or mouth. Law has - and continues -to challenge this behaviour at the same time as privileging marriage and civil partnerships which bring with them a social, if not a legal expectation of a context to sexual activity which comprises of the whole human being. All of these meandering thoughts were in my head as fascinating new Tumblr was flagged up to me which features a man presenting his large penis. That's it. It's photographs of his willy. He does not reveal his name, job, sexuality or face, reducing himself to a penis with the Tumble name of Calboner (so I'm guessing he is based in California and these are pictures of err, well you can work it out).

This is who he is defining himself as. More than that, he is celebrating this appendage. His penis is something to visually share, rather than remain hidden from view. When one ponders this for a moment, it is rather fascinating. It is of course familiar to those who use gay networking sites in which many men define themselves first by their penis, and secondly by their face, although in conventional sexual coupling rituals, the reverse is true. This Friday evening, millions of people will engage in a social dance smiling, displaying interest with their face in a bid to find a mate, whilst millions more will be online seeking to entice people will an attractive penis. In both settings, the primary aim for many will be a one-off sexual encounter, and yet, when we are freed from the conventionalities of public corporeal space, and emersed in the alternative values of the virtual, males seeking same-sex partners commonly choose to re-prioritise our identity along genital lines.

Sharif Mowlabocis explored many of these fascinating themes in his 2010 text, Gaydar Culture which I strongly recommend.  earlier this year, former New York Congressman, Anthony Weiner (rather unfortunately named) had to resign after it was revealed he had sent a photograph oh his penis bulging through underwear (a picture that would be too tame for Calboner), once again highlighting the transgressive nature of an image crossing from the virtual to the corporeal world.  You can encounter Calboner and his strictly NSFW, explicit, not inconsiderable penis here.

This Never Happened on Saint and Greavsie...

Many boys growing up in late 1980s Britain will be familiar with Ian St. John and Jimmy Greaves.  This duo of ex footballers presented a weekly football show on ITV - and despite the best efforts of their enthusiastic endeavours, did little to persuade me that football was nothing more than a rather pointless use of 90 minutes.

Had their footage more closely resembled Iranian football coverage, I might have taken more of an interest.  First of all, yes, there is such a thing as Iranian football coverage (I was surprised too) but - as you might expect - they must follow Iran's strict rules of public chastity.

A congratulatory hug seems to be OK, but, based on a decision this week, the grabbing of buttocks is not OK.  Two footballers have been fined and face the threat of imprisonment and/or lashings.  Looking at the footage, it looks as if one player accidentally/on purpose appear to slid his fingers in the anal cavity of another player after a successful goal.  Check out the footage below:

In order for decision to have been made, it means that officials must have sought to interpret the chastity law - creating visions of deeply religious men watching and re-watching the above scene and debating the extent of anal probing, and the 'probity' of such a gesture.

It is tempting to re-post this video on Facebook and Google+, to regard it as nothing more than a humorous incident but it's a reminder of the fear that innocent brushing/misinterpreted gestures, and un-intentioned physical contact can result in harsh punishments within the Iranian regime.  Law remains a tool of sexual oppression in Iran, and it's important that we don't lose sight of that.

Goin' to the chapel and we're gonna get errr...civil partnered

The Equalities Office (based within the Home Office) made international waves with a landmark announcement this week - yes, sons and daughters will have equal right to the throne.  It's curious what amounts to modernisation at times.  US networks - thrilled at the opportunity to show more Will and Kate footage - gave these tory prominence and looking at the Equalities Office press release pages you might think it's the only thing they've done this week.  It's not.

Pink News reported that the government has confirmed religious premises will, from the end of 2011, be able to seek approval as venues for civil partnerships.  The government doesn't need to pass a law to do this -despite the original Civil Partnership Act 2004 excluding religious premises as sites for civil partnerships.  Instead, the government will 'activate' through a regulation, section 202 of the Equality Act 2010.   It does not of course mean that religious organisations must offer their premises for such ceremonies but it means that they can - enabling groups such s the Quakers to begin offering these ceremonies.

The move creates a further layer of complexity to the marriage/civil partnership divide - a divide which the government may well sweep aside next year - and it will be interesting to see how this latest move evolves.
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