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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John McDonnell interview: "We’re going to destroy Osborne’s credibility"

The shadow chancellor on the Spending Review, Jeremy Corbyn's leadership and why trade unions will have to break the law. 

When I interviewed John McDonnell in March, before the general election, he predicted that Labour would be the largest party and confessed to a “sneaking feeling that we could win a small majority – because I think the Tory vote is really soft”. As the long-standing chair of the Socialist Campaign Group, McDonnell anticipated leading the resistance inside Labour to any spending cuts made by Ed Miliband. Eight months later, he is indeed campaigning against austerity – but as shadow chancellor against a Conservative majority government.

I meet McDonnell in his new Westminster office in Norman Shaw South, a short walk down the corridor from that of his close friend and greatest ally, Jeremy Corbyn. The day before George Osborne delivers his Spending Review and Autumn Statement, his desk is cluttered with economic papers in preparation for his response.

“The message we’re trying to get across is that this concept of the Tories’ having a ‘long-term economic plan’ is an absolute myth and they’re in chaos, really in chaos on many fronts,” he tells me. McDonnell points to the revolt against cuts to tax credits and policing, and the social care crisis, as evidence that Osborne’s programme is unravelling. On health, he says: “He’s trying to dig out money as best as he can for the NHS, he’s announced the frontloading of some of it, but that simply covers the deficits that there are. Behind that, he’s looking for £22bn of savings, so this winter the NHS is going to be in crisis again.”

Asked what Labour’s equivalent is to the Tories’ undeniably effective “long-term economic plan” message, he said: “I don’t think we’re going to get into one-liners in that way. We’ll be more sophisticated in the way that we communicate. We’re going to have an intelligent and a mature economic debate. If I hear again that they’re going to ‘fix the roof while the sun shines’ I will throw up. It’s nauseating, isn’t it? It reduces debate, intellectual debate, economic debate, to the lowest level of a slogan. That’s why we’re in the mess we are.”

Having abandoned his original support for the Chancellor’s fiscal charter, which mandated a budget surplus by 2020, McDonnell makes an unashamed case for borrowing to invest. “The biggest failure of the last five years under Osborne is the failure to invest,” he says. “Borrowing at the moment is at its cheapest level, but in addition to that I’m not even sure we’ll need to borrow great amounts, because we can get more efficient spending in terms of government spending. If we can address the tax cuts that have gone ahead, particularly around corporation tax, that will give us the resources to actually start paying again in terms of investment.”

He promises a “line-by-line budget review” when I ask whether there are any areas in which he believes spending should be reduced. “My background is hard-nosed bureaucrat . . . we’ll be looking at where we can shift expenditure into more productive areas.”

From 1982 until 1985, John McDonnell, who is 64, was chair of finance at the Greater London Council under Ken Livingstone. After vowing to defy the Thatcher government’s rate-capping policy he was sacked by Livingstone, who accused him of manipulating figures for political purposes. “We’re going to look like the biggest fucking liars since Goebbels,” the future mayor of London told him. McDonnell, who later described Livingstone’s account as “complete fiction”, has since resolved his differences with the man now co-chairing Labour’s defence review.

After his election as the MP for Hayes and Harlington in 1997, McDonnell achieved renown as one of New Labour’s most vociferous opponents, rebelling with a frequency rivalled only by Corbyn. His appointment as shadow chancellor was the most divisive of the Labour leader’s reshuffle. “People like Jeremy even if they don’t agree with him. People don’t like John,” one MP told me at the time. Mindful of this, McDonnell has sought to transform his image. He has apologised for his past praise of the IRA and for joking about assassinating Margaret Thatcher, rebranding himself as a “boring bank manager”. But there are moments when his more radical side surfaces.

He told me that he supports workers breaking the law if the trade union bill, which would limit the right to strike, is passed. “It’s inevitable, I think it’s inevitable. If the bill is introduced in its existing form and is used against any particular trade unionist or trade union, I think it’s inevitable that people will resist. We established our rights by campaigning against unjust laws and taking the risk if necessary. I think that’s inevitable and I’ll support them.”

“Chaos” might be how McDonnell describes Osborne’s position but the same term is now daily applied to Labour. The party is riven over air strikes in Syria and the renewal of Trident and MPs are ever more scornful of Corbyn’s leadership.

While Corbyn has so far refused to offer Labour MPs a free vote on Syria, McDonnell says that he favours one and would oppose military action. “My position on wars has always been that it’s a moral issue and therefore I veer towards free votes . . . We’re waiting for Cameron’s statement; we’ll analyse that, there’ll be a discussion in shadow cabinet and in the PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party] and then we’ll make a decision. I’m still in a situation where I’ve expressed the view that I’m opposed to the bombing campaign or engagement. I think the history of the UK involvement in the Middle East has been a disaster, to say the least . . .This isn’t like the Second World War where you have a military campaign – you defeat the enemy, you sign a peace agreement and that’s it – this is asymmetric warfare. In addition to the risks that are in the battlefield there’s a risk in every community in our land as a result of it.”

Would he want any of the 14 former shadow cabinet members who refused to serve under Corbyn to return? “All of them, we’re trying to get them all back. We’ve got Yvette [Cooper] helping us on a review we’re doing about the economy and women . . . It’s an open door policy, I’m trying to meet them all over these next few weeks.”

Livingstone, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, recently called for Simon Danczuk, who revealed details of a private meeting with Corbyn in the Mail on Sunday, and Frank Field, who told me that MPs should run as independents if deselected, to be disciplined. But McDonnell takes a more conciliatory line. “With Simon [Danczuk] in particular and the others, it’s just a matter of saying look at the long-term interests of the party. People don’t vote for a divided party. They’ll accept, though, that within a party you can have democratic debate. As I said time and time again, don’t mistake democracy for division. It’s the way in which you express those different views that are important. All I’m saying is let people express their views, let’s have democratic engagement but please don’t personalise this. I think there’s a reaction within the community, not just the party, against personalised politics. It’s not Jeremy’s style, he never responds in that way. It’s unfortunate but we’ll get through it. It’s just minor elements of it, that’s all.”

McDonnell disavows moves by some in Momentum, the Corbyn-aligned group, to deselect critical MPs. “What we’re not into is deselecting people, what we want to try and do is make sure that everyone’s involved in a democratic engagement process, simple as that.

“So I’ve said time and time again, this isn’t about deselection or whatever. But at the same what we’re trying to say to everybody is even if you disagree, treat each other with respect. At the height of the debates around tuition fees and the Iraq war, even though we had heated disagreements we always treated each other with mutual respect and I think we’ve got to adhere to that. Anyone who’s not doing that just lets themselves down, that’s not the culture of the Labour Party.”

In private, the 90 per cent of MPs who did not support Corbyn’s leadership bid speak often of how and when he could be removed. One point of debate is whether, under the current rules, the Labour leader would automatically make the ballot if challenged or be forced to re-seek nominations. McDonnell is emphatic that the former is the case: “Oh yeah, that’s the rule, yeah.”

McDonnell’s recent media performances have been praised by MPs, and he is spoken of by some on the left as a possible replacement if Corbyn is removed or stands down before 2020. His speech to the PLP on 23 November was described to me by one shadow minister as a “leadership bid”. But McDonnell rules out standing in any future contest. “No, no, I’ve tried twice [in 2007 and 2010], I’m not going to try again, there’s no way I would.”

Despite opinion polls showing Labour as much as 15 points behind the Conservatives, McDonnell insists that the party can win in 2020. “Oh definitely, yeah, you’ll see that. I think this next year’s going to be pivotal for us. We’re going to destroy Osborne’s credibility over the next six months. But more importantly than that, we can’t just be a negative party . . . we’re going to present a positive view of what Labour’s future will be and the future of the economy.

“Over the next 18 months, we’ll be in a situation where we’ve destroyed the Tories’ economic reputation and we’ve built up our own but we’ll do it in a visionary way that presents people with a real alternative.”  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.