Lez Miserable: "I’ve never been turned on by a vagina picture from a stranger"

Perhaps mystery is overrated - the LGBT sexting/Snapchat instant sexual gratification craze can only lead to more gay sex, which can only be a good thing.

“Where would you even put that?” I ask my gay guy friend, Flossy.

I’m gazing at a penis that wouldn’t be too badly dwarfed by a Pringles tube. Another friend, The Austrian, Germanic logician that she is, always refers to erect penises as “erected”. And this one looks as if it has been, like a gazebo. Thankfully, I’m not looking at it in person; it’s just a daunting collection of pixels on Flossy’s phone. I have so many questions.

“Does that, you know. . . turn you on?”

“Yeah, sort of,” he says.

“Did he send you a picture of his face as well?”

“Of course.”

Flossy swipes to a picture of a glistening, tanned Adonis with, I shit you not, a 70s porn moustache. He “met” this guy on Grindr, a smart phone app that gay men use to hook up and/or exchange photographs of their fluffed manhood. I can’t help being transfixed by penises. I have a similarly visceral emotional response to seeing a cock as I do to, say, seeing a blackhead being squeezed. It’s repulsive, but strangely compelling. Earlier this summer, I was in Central London at the same time as the Naked Bike Ride. I stood in Trafalgar Square, hypnotised by a thousand willies waving in the breeze like a rude cornfield. Although cornfield suggests uniformity. The variations in shape and size were astonishing; great, pendulous cucumbers, to short, fat chilli peppers. Maybe more of an unholy salad than a rude cornfield. So mystified was I by my first experience of mass public nudity, that I retrospectively refer to it as The Day of A Thousand Schlongs.

“Don’t women send each other fanny pics?” Flossy asks.

I have to think for a bit.

“Yeah, sometimes, but it’s quite rare.”

There are lesbian versions of Grindr (namely Brenda and Dattch) but I’ve never used them. My friends who do have never mentioned anything about genital snaps. And, in my experience of internet dating, women tend not to be so forthcoming with their junk (at least when it comes to messaging people they’ve never met). When Chatroulette first started a few years ago, I remember going onto it with my housemates one evening. After what seemed like hours of clicking through men doing things to their knobs, a vagina appeared. I screamed. It was just so unexpected. But girls have sent me pictures of their vaginas through online dating sites. In fact, in terms of sexual frankness, I went through an anomalous period where I was getting regular messages from women who were openly into everything from golden showers to cannibalism.

“Do you like it?” asks Flossy, re: receiving vag pics.  

Again, I have to give the question some consideration. I’ve never been turned on by a vagina picture from a stranger. But I suppose, in principle, I could be. It would depend on a lot of factors. Obviously, a picture of private parts belonging to someone I found very attractive would have some appeal. Then again, where’s the mystery? Seeing someone’s vagina before you sleep with them is a bit like sitting on top of a pile of prematurely and secretly opened Christmas presents, letting out a big sigh and not knowing what to do next.

“Hmm. Not especially,” I say.

The LGBT community has entered into the sexting/Snapchat instant sexual gratification craze with great zest. The way I see it, the more avenues for gay sex, the better. If this means firing off pictures of our genitalia into the digital ether, like rounds of AK-47 bullets, then so be it. Perhaps mystery is overrated.

It’s just so abstract though – a faceless picture of someone’s genitals. I don’t love women purely because they have vaginas, in the same way that I don’t find men sexually uninteresting just because they have penises. I’ve been asked a few times if I’m “scared” of penises. I’m not. I don’t like them very much, but I’d say that my relationship with them is complicated. For example, I’m not averse to sex with strap-ons. My sexuality isn’t about reducing people to their genitals. And sure, I like vaginas a lot, but I like the people attached to them more.

“So, have you ever sent anyone a picture of your minge?” asks Flossy.

This, however, I don’t have to think about.

“Oh God, no.”

 

Sexting looks a lot like this. Photo: Getty

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The UK press’s timid reaction to Brexit is in marked contrast to the satire unleashed on Trump

For the BBC, it seems, to question leaving the EU is to be unpatriotic.

Faced with arguably their biggest political-cum-constitutional ­crisis in half a century, the press on either side of the pond has reacted very differently. Confronting a president who, unlike many predecessors, does not merely covertly dislike the press but rages against its supposed mendacity as a purveyor of “fake news”, the fourth estate in the US has had a pretty successful first 150-odd days of the Trump era. The Washington Post has recovered its Watergate mojo – the bloodhound tenacity that brought down Richard Nixon. The Post’s investigations into links between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s associates and appointees have yielded the scalp of the former security adviser Michael Flynn and led to Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from all inquiries into Trump-Russia contacts. Few imagine the story will end there.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has cast off its image as “the grey lady” and come out in sharper colours. Commenting on the James Comey memo in an editorial, the Times raised the possibility that Trump was trying to “obstruct justice”, and called on Washington lawmakers to “uphold the constitution”. Trump’s denunciations of the Times as “failing” have acted as commercial “rocket fuel” for the paper, according to its CEO, Mark Thompson: it gained an “astonishing” 308,000 net digital news subscriptions in the first quarter of 2017.

US-based broadcast organisations such as CNN and ABC, once considered slick or bland, have reacted to Trump’s bullying in forthright style. Political satire is thriving, led by Saturday Night Live, with its devastating impersonations of the president by Alec Baldwin and of his press secretary Sean Spicer by the brilliant Melissa McCarthy.

British press reaction to Brexit – an epic constitutional, political and economic mess-up that probably includes a mind-bogglingly destructive self-ejection from a single market and customs union that took decades to construct, a move pushed through by a far-right faction of the Tory party – has been much more muted. The situation is complicated by the cheerleading for Brexit by most of the British tabloids and the Daily Telegraph. There are stirrings of resistance, but even after an election in which Theresa May spectacularly failed to secure a mandate for her hard Brexit, there is a sense, though the criticism of her has been intense, of the media pussy-footing around a government in disarray – not properly interrogating those who still seem to promise that, in relation to Europe, we can have our cake and eat it.

This is especially the case with the BBC, a state broadcaster that proudly proclaims its independence from the government of the day, protected by the famous “arm’s-length” principle. In the case of Brexit, the BBC invoked its concept of “balance” to give equal airtime and weight to Leavers and Remainers. Fair enough, you might say, but according to the economist Simon Wren-Lewis, it ignored a “near-unanimous view among economists that Brexit would hurt the UK economy in the longer term”.

A similar view of “balance” in the past led the BBC to equate views of ­non-scientific climate contrarians, often linked to the fossil-fuel lobby, with those of leading climate scientists. Many BBC Remainer insiders still feel incensed by what they regard as BBC betrayal over Brexit. Although the referendum of 23 June 2016 said nothing about leaving the single market or the customs union, the Today presenter Justin Webb, in a recent interview with Stuart Rose, put it like this: “Staying in the single market, staying in the customs union – [Leave voters would say] you might as well not be leaving. That fundamental position is a matter of democracy.” For the BBC, it seems, to question Brexit is somehow to be unpatriotic.

You might think that an independent, pro-democratic press would question the attempted use of the arcane and archaic “royal prerogative” to enable the ­bypassing of parliament when it came to triggering Article 50, signalling the UK’s departure from the EU. But when the campaigner Gina Miller’s challenge to the government was upheld by the high court, the three ruling judges were attacked on the front page of the Daily Mail as “enemies of the people”. Thomas Jefferson wrote that he would rather have “newspapers without a government” than “a government without newspapers”. It’s a fair guess he wasn’t thinking of newspapers that would brand the judiciary as “enemies of the people”.

It does seem significant that the United States has a written constitution, encapsulating the separation and balance of powers, and explicitly designed by the Founding Fathers to protect the young republic against tyranny. When James Madison drafted the First Amendment he was clear that freedom of the press should be guaranteed to a much higher degree in the republic than it had been in the colonising power, where for centuries, after all, British monarchs and prime ministers have had no qualms about censoring an unruly media.

By contrast, the United Kingdom remains a hybrid of monarchy and democracy, with no explicit protection of press freedom other than the one provided by the common law. The national impulse to bend the knee before the sovereign, to obey and not question authority, remains strangely powerful in Britain, the land of Henry VIII as well as of George Orwell. That the United Kingdom has slipped 11 places in the World Press Freedom Index in the past four years, down to 40th, has rightly occasioned outrage. Yet, even more awkwardly, the United States is three places lower still, at 43rd. Freedom of the press may not be doing quite as well as we imagine in either country.

Harry Eyres is the author of Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet (2013)

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder