Preference, Prejudice, Perversion – Or Common Failing?

An answer to all those who complain of their ill-treatment by the gay world because of their age or plainness – and a few thoughts about why.

Take a look at the personal ads page. Read the ads there. It’s clear that words like ‘young’, ‘dolly’, etc are used frequently. ‘Same age or younger’ is a common turn of phrase employed. Yet many times I hear complaints that the younger guys are only interested in one another, and not in their older gay brothers. Lots of people see this as something wrong in the gay scene — as though this rejection were something one had to suffer if you’re a gay man. A part of our ‘difference’.

Well, it isn’t. It’s a normal reaction that one finds in every situation, gay, straight or twisted. Its power, however, is increased greatly by the myth-machine which produces adverts, films, books, plays.

How the wig-makers, cosmetic firms, car manufacturers, boutiques must laugh sometimes – all the way to the bank with your money! After all, a gay man, by the time he’s thirty-five or so, can reasonably expect to be earning a reasonable wage – he can also reasonably be expected to be spending a large proportion of that income on trying to convince himself and others that he’s younger than he is. Clothes, toiletries, cars, furnishings – the middle-class, middle-aged gay must be an ad-man’s idea of a perfect consumer. Put a pretty boy in a pair of coloured underpants in the Y-front ads and watch sales figures soar in Kensington and Earls Court!

But … it doesn’t make you any younger, or prettier, really, You’ll still look the same when you drop ’em.

But … the biggest but of all . . . take a look around and you’ll see that we aren’t the only ones to fall for it. Look at the ads for ‘body-belts’ (one firm has renamed them sexi-belts), wigs, bronzers. The straight male buys just as much of this sort of thing as some of us do – he’ll buy a sporty looking car, bronze his skin, adjust his toupee, and drive off up West to try to ‘pull’ a dolly bird.

His wife will have an even more comprehensive range of creams, powders, clothes and sprays to appeal to her desire to look and be young again. And when she’s put it all on she will invite that nice young milkman in for a cuppa. Honestly, everyone admires and chases young and pretty sex-objects.

And if you’re young but not very pretty – Johnny can sit all night in a. club – whether it’s Bumpers or the Masquerade doesn’t matter, but unless he’s traded in his hornrims for contacts, his pimples for ‘bronzer’, and his grey flannels for tight jeans, he’s quite likely to go home alone.

Vera can sit there all night, but unless she’s either nude or in heavy clogs, striped tights, peek-a-boo pop eye make-up, teenform bra, Tampax, Femfresh, Mum Rolette (etc) gaucho pants and a smock, sit is all she’ll do.

Both of them will quite likely get talking to some nice girl/boy (perm any two from four) at work, or on the tube, or anywhere, and eventually settle into a relationship. But they won’t hit it off with anybody in the sort of situation where you have to be a sex-object all the time – like a gay pub or club.

If we were all known as who and what we are at all times in all places, the same might happen to all of us — in fact I’m sure it would.

But most of us are only able to openly be gay in the hothouse atmosphere of a pub – and if you aren’t young and/or beautiful, that sort of thing doesn’t really suit you. You’re looking for HIM – while all we youngsters are looking for IT. Undue emphasis gets placed on this young-and-lovely because it looms large when you don’t come out and you don’t know who is and who isn’t. Try it and see.

It’s hiding away like this that makes this natural phenomenon look much more cruel and unnatural than it really is.

Right – having established that the youth and beauty cult isn’t a special ‘hang-up for gays’, where does it come from?

It is forced on your attention all the time in the form of ads – posters, telecommercials, on the sides of buses, shop windows – the message is the same everywhere. Buy this and you’ll be irresistably sexy.

‘Things happen after a Badedas bath’ croons the dripping young lady with a towel almost making her decent.

‘We’ll make you blush whatever kind of cheek you’ve got’ says the Woolworth lady peeping from behind her lace curtains.

‘You too, can have a Morley like mine’ grimaces the straining hulk in a tight blue tee shirt.

But you don’t judge a book by its cover – so why should you judge what degree of sexual stimulation/satisfaction you’re going to get (if you must look at people that way) by who’s teeshirt, bra or aftershave he/she’s wearing?

Face it, you lifelong bachelor uncles of this world, he might not be the bang of the century but your old school chum is a lot more likely to be able to talk on your level about things that interest you both/has spent as many years as you have collecting hints and tips for use around the bedroom and kitchen, and is probably as well off as you are. He won’t deafen you with the stereo, won’t cost you nearly as much in nights at the club, and he won’t perpetually be calling you grandpa when you’re cross. Not, like our little chickens, however, pretty.

Don’t get too conned by the adman and his sexopohstic world – they even try and sell fire extinguishers on sex appeal now. It’s lying there, on fancy-wrapping and ribbon, with a romantic lovey-dovey message on a card – and what does the slogan say?

‘TAKE ONE HOME TONIGHT – ITS MUCH MORE THOUGHTFUL THAN FLOWERS’. How romantic – he/she will fall into your arms in rapture and you’ll have the world’s foamiest bed that night. Oh yes, I can see it now. Soft lights, sweet music and a quick squirt on the sofa!

And where else in the world do you find rose-tinted youths skipping into impossible sunsets with demure young blossoms draped in their arms? That one is perpetuated by the Barbara Cartland School of Smarm and others. Think of the unreal way ‘love’ is presented in all the kids books you ever read – no sex, white weddings, and intense conversations on the library sofa. No wonder everybody chases the common idea of beauty (which is just another sort of fashion) and supposedly carefree youth. Everyone, mind you, gay and straight. Like other pressures, we feel it more in our isolation.

Of course some people are more attractive than others – but that’s a matter of personal taste and preference. Of course it’s nice yo taste a little youth, both literally and vicariously, by the company of young people. But, I’m afraid there’s nothing odd about youngsters prefering their own company in the bedroom.

Just remember that it’s much nicer to grow old gracefully than to try and look, act and be younger than you are. After all, age ought to have its pleasures too. It makes a lot more sense to pursue them than to try to regain what has gone, I’m atraid, for ever.

Doug Pollard

ED: Doug’s article on ageing can only cover a single aspect of one of the most important subjects in gayness. So, if you agree with him or disagree with him, write to Gay News and tell us what you think. We want to give all points of view an outlet, that’s the policy of independent GN.

Your Letters

19720901-02Dear Brothers and Sisters,

WHY I AM OPPOSED TO WEARING FROCKS AS A POLITICAL ACT

The argument used by the “Frock Brigade” for wearing drag is that it challenges male privilege and is therefore aiding the liberation of women in our society. I wonder what privileges they are referring to? Neither men nor women in general have any privileges. The majority of “privileged” men have to work hard at monotonous jobs for low pay and have generally unsatisfying existences. It is not by men that women are oppressed, but by the System which oppresses both men and women. Men are often the unwitting agents of women’s oppression. The working man dissatisfied with the conditions of his work will vent his frustration on his wife When he comes home.

Hence it is a question of changing the system by which women are oppressed, that is by being given the opportunity to explore ways of relating other than the restrictive monogamous heterosexual relationships based on mutual tolerance rather than mutual love.

As a political act within GLF it is very damaging as the majority of gay people do not, cannot, and do not wish to identify with men wearing frocks. If a man WANTS to wear drag, that is a perfectly valid reason for wearing it, but it is folly to think of it as a POLITICAL act. It re inforces a stereotype image of gay people which can have a shattering effect on gay people who still feel ashamed or guilty about being homosexual, making it more difficult for them to accept themselves. The Frock Brigade (I do not use the term Radical Feminist as they are neither radical nor feminist.) should realise the amount of harm they are doing to the gay movement and, more importantly, how much unhappiness they must be causing to thousands of gays who become alienated by their tactics.

Apparently, as the Spare Rib incident would indicate, the Frock Brigade will only accept women’s liberation on their terms i.e. on men’s terms. If that isn’t patronising, I wonder what is. How can these men (even though they pretend they are not men) be aware of what being a woman is like, of producing and caring for children and of being brought up from infancy as a woman.

As a LIBERATION movement, let us not forget that liberation is about people. Let us not forget the people we’re trying to liberate.

P Waldschmidt.


WARNING
Brixton Hill
London

Dear Gay News,

Piggery alas at yet another cottage. On August 16 at Strawberry Vale cottage, Finchley, on the North Circular Road near the A 1000 intersection. I arrived to find a cute looking fuzz in fetchingly butch mufti – leather jacket and lovely black hair and moustache – taking down the particulars of several gay brothers whilst a colleague with an alsation dog looked on.

In early May the same cottage was invaded by-two Security Express guards, again complete with alsations. Whether the London Borough of Barnet had hired them for this purpose or they decided just to have a little go at any fucking poufs they might find whilst passing I can’t say, but clearly this is a terrifying precedent.

Love and strength, Jim Scott
Upper Richmond Road,

Putney Sw15


Dear Editor,

The negative comments in your column about Biograph Review are somewhat misleading.

Reviewing in national dailies has become a specialised art, obscurity is deliberate, and the writing seems purposely directed towards the comprehension of an elite few, not the total readership.

Biograph Review is informative without being stuffy. It is written in an extremely individual style. No profession lends itself to individuality more than journalism.

It is youthful. There is a two-fold place in modern journalism for youthfulness: first; to atone for past prejudice against young writers as “immature” second; because, as even the establishment has come to realise – youth has something to say.

The art of the critic is not easily attained.

George Copeland’s letter (Gay News No. 4) illustrates that. Especially if one aspires to the ponderous, overwritten, heavy material so often enountered.

Julian Grinspoon’s column easily achieves what it proposes – communication. It radiates friendship.

At his trial, Oscar Wilde was asked if the conversation of one of his young men friends was “literary”?

“No. On the contrary,” replied Mr. Wilde, “quite simple and easily understood.”

Fred G. Green
ex: Arts Committee
Gay Activists Alliance-New York

This is a letter sent to OZ magazine in reply to Felix Dennis’s criticisms of the Biograph Review. Julian says “right on and all that sort of thing” to Fred, and “hard sucks” to Felix.


Barons Court W 14

Dear Collective,

Notwithstanding the paranoia with which Bob Mellors consistently gives ‘sisters’ priority over ‘brothers’, there is much in his letter (GN no 4) to commend. At one point he might almost have been quoting me. I have always longed to be regarded as a sex object. Even when I was a pretty young chick (and I can substantiate that claim with documentary evidence) I was singularly lacking in that animal magnetism which attracts other gay guys into bed. Admittedly, over the years, this has been compensated for by a series of prolonged and searching relationships culminating in an ecstatic and richly rewarding love affair I had with a young man I met through the columns of IT (vide my “Sunday Times” letter reprinted in GN 3), but this doesn’t alter the fact that I am, and always have been, welcomed with something less than warmth on the sex conveyor belt that your eighteen-year-old writes about with such (feigned?) boredom.

This brings up the whole question of sex-appeal and psycho-sexual empathy in the gay world. Even in maturity, if I might euphemise middle-age as such, I am not a bad proposition. My teeth and legs are good, my sexual appetite voracious, and I give as good as I get. My IQ is not quite up to Bobby Fischer’s but my field of reference is much wider and I am not a nonentity having a certain recognition in my own field. My kinks are such that they give as much pleasure,to their recipient as they do to me. Above all, I am interested in the people I go to bed with. Yet all my life, these desperate months between affairs have been spent fruitlessly in pursuit of sex partners, whilst other people with no overt sexual appeal that I can recognise, seem to exert an effortless attraction for other gays. It is definitely not, as Bob suggests, a question of youth and beauty.

It is a much more elusive quality that I find impossible to analyse, or even to detect. How I envy those guys who wearily, and quite sincerely, sigh “Jesus, I must have a night off, for once.” This constant rejection has a debilitating effect on one’s psychological resilience and one’s sexual competence, which in turn are mutually demoralising.

I sometimes wonder what I am doing, helping the gay reform movement, be it in the press, on the box, or simply in my everyday affairs. It is many years since I gave up my hang ups about my homosexuality and my friends and associates accept me on my own terms, and I do not differentiate between my straight and gay friends. Nor have I cultivated, nor been able to cultivate, an exclusively gay circle. Perhaps the reason for my exclusion is my lack of exclusivity. I find bilateral society attitudes are still, and regrettably, very much the norm in gay circles. How often is one asked to parties with the qualification that one must not camp because it will be ‘straight’ or ‘mixed’ or introduced to someone with a whispered warning that ‘he is not queer?’ I have never subscribed to these partisan attitudes. Does this make me undesirable? Or is there some intuitively perceived aspect of my sexual quirks that people find distasteful? Or is it simply my profile?

Is there anyone else as gorgeous as me who is equally underdesired? If so, could we between us, discover what the psycho-sexual barriers are? Failing that could we not by-pass the A & B jet set, the Coleherne Miss World contest, the GLF chauvinists, the CHE mums, the Holland Walk perambulating circumnavigators, and get on with the fucking?

Sororally yours (if I might redress Bob’s balance)

James Stevens

P.S. I Love Grinspoon.


Julie Andrews
Monday Market St
Devizes
Wilts

Dear Gay News,

I am donating £1 to your Good Gay News magazine. I hope that many many people will come to read it and that many of us Gay lonely people may find that they have many friends.

Love and Peace
to all Gay Brothers and Sisters

Julie


Rosary Gdns.,
South Kensington,
London S.W.7.

Dear ALL,

I am writing to tell you, how I enjoy your paper, or should I say our paper, I got the first issue from the Colherne, and really enjoyed it, I then tried to get the second copy by doing a rather unsuccessful tour of the newsagents, W.H. Smiths, Menzies, etc. Although I had little joy in obtaining a copy, it was compensated for by seeing the faces of some of the newsagents when asked for it. And when they said ‘no’, the mouthful they got from me, it was very amusing, I heard one ‘straight’ remark as I left the shop – “Fucking Poof” – I haven’t been called that in ages, I felt quite nostalgic.

Anyway I got number two in the end from Virgin Records, long may their ‘Y’ fronts not hamper them.

My third copy was obtained from the ‘Boltons’ (outside — I’m not too keen on the interior) whilst mincing along one night.

I am pleased to say issue no. 3 is great, I really enjoyed reading it in bed the other night, although my old man wasn’t so happy, he had other plans for the night. I think no. 2 was a low, keep on having highs like no. 3, power to your elbows duckies.

Why not a column on make-up and beauty and clothes. Heaven knows there is so much crap on the market we need a good guide to colourful make-up and good bright clothes.

Please print my little ad as I can’t afford the rent for much longer. If you do print this letter, then anyone is welcome to my place for a chat and a little wine.

Will send you a subscription when I get someone to share my place.

Andy


WATCH OUT

Dear Gay News,

Readers who use the contacting facilities of Clapham Common may care to note the following experience of mine.

Recently I went to the Common and there met a seemingly rather pleasant man and agreed to return to his flat. On leaving the Common I saw it was very late, so decided to defer the pleasure to a weekend. Whereupon my companion became threatening, demanding money and my wristwatch. Largely to avoid drawing attention I got rid of him by giving him a small amount of money I had with me.

Next day I took legal advice, which was that the police, though they might prosecute me, most certainly would take no steps whatever to pursue my assailant – my best course was to try to raise a stink.

So I wrote to that noble custodian of the British liberal conscience, ‘The Observer’, then running a service of leading articles on public confidence in the police. Back came the reply that the matter was of interest to only a minority of readers (this from a paper that purports to care about minorities), that to criticise the police on the basis of a solicitor’s experience was ‘unfair’, and that although ‘The Observer’ had (of course) no sympathy with queer bashing, anyone trolling Clapham Common really 2 was asking for it.

So Gay News readers, should any of you ever be tempted to take a late-night constitutional in Clapham’s perfumed groves, watch out, there’s a thug about. He’s about 35, 5’9″ and fairly stocky with medium length dark wiry hair, receding slightly over somewhat lined features. Scottish, probably from Dundee, but now believed to reside in Clapham. On first impression he is a decent working-class bloke. He’s not, and if you meet him, avoid him and tell your friends to do likewise.

Love and strength,

James J Scott

Would Charles G. Brown, who had a letter of his published in Gay News No. 5, please contact us. Thanks.