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
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Saudi Arabia is a brutal and extremist dictatorship – so why are we selling it arms?

With conflict in Yemen continuing, it’s clear that we’re failing to moderate the actions of “our despots”.

This year, during Pride week, I noticed something curious on top of the Ministry of Defence just off Whitehall. At the tip of the building’s flagpole hung the rainbow flag – a symbol of liberation for LGBTIQ people and, traditionally, a sign of defiance, too.

I was delighted to see it, and yet it also struck me as surprising that the governmental headquarters of our military would fly such a flag. Not only because of the forces’ history of homophobia, but more strikingly to me because of the closeness of our military establishment to regimes such as Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is a sin punishable by jail, lashing and even death

That relationship has been under the spotlight recently. Ministers writhed and squirmed to avoid making public a report that’s widely expected to reveal that funding for extremism in Britain has come from Saudi Arabia. The pressure peaked last week, after a series of parliamentary questions I tabled, when survivors of 9/11 wrote to Theresa May asking her to make the report public. At the final PMQs of the parliamentary term last week, I again pressed May on the issue, but like so many prime ministers before her, she brushed aside my questioning on the link between British arms sales and the refusal to expose information that might embarrass the Riyadh regime. 

The British government’s cosy relationship with Riyadh and our habit of selling weapons to authoritarian regimes is “justified" in a number of ways. Firstly, ministers like to repeat familiar lines about protecting British industry, suggesting that the military industrial complex is central to our country’s economic success.

It is true to say that we make a lot of money from selling weapons to Saudi Arabia – indeed figures released over the weekend by the Campaign Against Arms Trade revealed that the government authorised exports including £263m-worth of combat aircraft components to the Saudi air force, and £4m of bombs and missiles in the six months from October 2016.

Though those numbers are high, arms exports is not a jobs-rich industry and only 0.2 per cent of the British workforce is actually employed in the sector. And let’s just be clear – there simply is no moral justification for employing people to build bombs which are likely to be used to slaughter civilians. 

Ministers also justify friendship and arms sales to dictators as part of a foreign policy strategy. They may be despots, but they are “our despots”. The truth, however, is that such deals simply aren’t necessary for a relationship of equals. As my colleague Baroness Jones said recently in the House of Lords:

"As a politician, I understand that we sometimes have to work with some very unpleasant people and we have to sit down with them and negotiate with them. We might loathe them, but we have to keep a dialogue going. However, we do not have to sell them arms. Saudi Arabia is a brutal dictatorship. It is one of the world’s worst Governments in terms of human rights abuses. We should not be selling it arms.”

With Saudi Arabia’s offensive against targets in Yemen continuing, and with UN experts saying the attacks are breaching international law, it’s clear that we’re failing to moderate the actions of "our despots".

The government’s intransigence on this issue – despite the overwhelming moral argument – is astonishing. But it appears that the tide may be turning. In a recent survey, a significant majority of the public backed a ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and just this weekend the Mayor of London denounced the arms fair planned in the capital later this year. When the government refused to make the terror funding report public, there was near-universal condemnation from the opposition parties. On this issue, like so many others, the Tories are increasingly isolated and potentially weak.

Read more: How did the High Court decide weapon sales to Saudi Arabia are lawful?

The arms industry exists at the nexus between our country’s industrial and foreign policies. To change course we need to accept a different direction in both policy areas. That’s why I believe that we should accompany the end of arms exports to repressive regimes with a 21st century industrial policy which turns jobs in the industry into employment for the future. Imagine if the expertise of those currently building components for Saudi weaponry was turned towards finding solutions for the greatest foreign policy challenge we face: climate change. 

The future of the British military industrial establishment’s iron grip over government is now in question, and the answers we find will define this country for a generation. Do we stamp our influence on the world by putting our arm around the head-choppers of Riyadh and elsewhere, or do we forge a genuinely independent foreign policy that projects peace around the world – and puts the safety of British people at its core?

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.