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.

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Inside the progressive alliance that beat Zac Goldsmith in Richmond

Frantic phone calls, hundreds of volunteers, and Labour MPs constrained by their party. 

Politics for a progressive has been gloomy for a long time. On Thursday, in Richmond Park of all places, there was a ray of light. Progressive parties (at least some of them) and ordinary voters combined to beat Ukip, the Tories and their "hard Brexit, soft racist" candidate.

It didn’t happen by accident. Let's be clear, the Liberal Democrats do by-elections really well. Their activists flood in, and good luck to them. But Richmond Park was too big a mountain for even their focused efforts. No, the narrow win was also down to the fast growing idea of a progressive alliance. 

The progressive alliance is both a defensive and offensive move. It recognises the tactical weakness of progressives under first past the post – a system the Tories and their press know how to game. With progressive forces spilt between Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Women’s Equality Party and more – there is no choice but to co-operate, bring in proportional representation and then a whole new political world begins.

This move opens up the wider strategy – to end the domination of the City, and right-wing newspapers like the Mail, so Britain can have a real debate and make real choices about what sort of economy and society it wants. A pipedream? Well, maybe. But last night the fuse was lit in Richmond Park. The progressive alliance can work.

Months before the by-election, the pressure group for a progressive alliance that I chair, Compass, the Greens, and some Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP MPs and activists, began considering this. The alternative after Brexit was staring into the void.

Then the Tory MP Zac Goldsmith stepped down over Heathrow. To be fair, he had pledged to do this, and we should have been better prepared. In the event, urgent behind-the-scenes calls were made between the Greens and the Liberal Democrats. Compass acted as the safe house. The Greens, wonderfully, clung onto democracy – the local party had to decide. And they decided to stand up for a new politics. Andree Frieze would have been the Green candidate, and enjoyed her moment in the autumn sun. She and her party turned it down for a greater good. So did the Women’s Equality Party.

Meanwhile, what about Labour? Last time, they came a distant third. Again the phones were hit and meetings held. There was growing support not to stand. But what would they get back from the Liberal Democrats, and what did the rules say about not standing? It was getting close to the wire. I spent an hour after midnight, in the freezing cold of Aberdeen, on the phone to a sympathetic Labour MP trying to work out what the party rule book said before the selection meeting.

At the meeting, I am told, a move was made from the floor not to select. The London regional official ruled it out of order and said a candidate would be imposed if they didn’t select. Some members walked out at this point. Where was the new kinder, gentler politics? Where was membership democracy? Fast forward to last night, and the Labour candidate got less votes than the party has members.

The idea of a progressive alliance in Richmond was then cemented in a draughty church hall on the first Tuesday of the campaign – the Unitarian Church of course. Within 48 hours notice, 200 local activist of all parties and none had come together to hear the case for a progressive alliance. Both the Greens and Compass produced literature to make the case for voting for the best-placed progressive candidate. The Liberal Democrats wove their by-election magic. And together we won.

It’s a small victory – but it shows what is possible. Labour is going to have to think very hard whether it wants to stay outside of this, when so many MPs and members see it as common sense. The lurch to the right has to be stopped – a progressive alliance, in which Labour is the biggest tent in the campsite, is the only hope.

In the New Year, the Progressive Alliance will be officially launched with a steering committee, website and activists tool-kit. There will also be a trained by-election hit squad, manifestos of ideas and alliances build locally and across civil society.

There are lots of problems that lie ahead - Labour tribalism, the 52 per cent versus the 48 per cent, Scottish independence and the rest. But there were lots of problems in Richmond Park, and we overcame them. And you know, working together felt good – it felt like the future. The Tories, Ukip and Arron Banks want a different future – a regressive alliance. We have to do better than them. On Thursday, we showed we could.

Could the progressive alliance be the start of the new politics we have all hoped for?

Neal Lawson is the Chair of Compass, the pressure group for the progressive alliance.

Neal Lawson is chair of the pressure group Compass, which brings together progressives from all parties and none. His views on internal Labour matters are personal ones.