Magazine article The Spectator

Notes towards an Explanation of Why Straight Men like Watching Lesbians

Magazine article The Spectator

Notes towards an Explanation of Why Straight Men like Watching Lesbians

Article excerpt

For five years I served on the Broadcasting Standards Council, and there I encountered a riddle whose resolution has eluded me.

The BSC has passed into history.

Its function was really just to exist, and by existing to provide politicians and broadcasters with a plausible answer to complaints of the kind made by the late Mary Whitehouse -- a responsibility now assumed by other regulators. Our job was to censure rather than censor. We took it seriously. The required monitoring was hard work.

But not always dull work. Ministers were at that time bothered by newspaper indignation about TV porn channels beamed from Europe -- Red Hot Dutch was lately famous -- and so for summer viewing members of the Council were asked by our staff to take home with us hundreds of hours of video-recordings of the output of such stations. We divided these among ourselves. At home, pencils in hand, we ticked boxes on pro-forma sheets listing questions like 'NUDITY: [] partial; [] total; [] frontal; [] rear'; or 'PENETRATION: [] simulated; [] actual; [] vaginal; [] anal'. I was frequently unsure.

Some of this was fun, some offensive. But some was less interesting than might appear -- at least for me, the statutory homosexual on the Council. Over those five years I must have played, paused, fast-forwarded, rewound, freeze-framed and reviewed hundreds of hours of lesbians (or pretend-lesbians) rolling around on mattresses.

And not just mattresses. Sometimes it was tiger-skin rugs before blazing fires in baronial castles; sometimes it was grassy knolls in woodland glades; sometimes it was on yachts, sometimes sand-dunes. The background was more diverting than the foreground where, whatever the context, the action was always the same: rolling around endlessly and pointlessly, kissing, writhing, licking, caressing -- on and on for hours and hours without serious incident. . . can you imagine the ennui?

Some of you can. I suspect that many, perhaps most, female readers can; and no doubt some male readers too. But not other male readers. For surprisingly (to me, anyway) the market for this kind of thing is not lesbian women, but heterosexual men. Apparently you straight male readers, many of you, find this thrilling. Many such men have confirmed this to me.

In heaven's name why? I ask in a spirit not of censure -- I can imagine little more harmless than two nude ladies wrestling, with their tongues out -- but of bewilderment. What is it in lesbian sex (or their idea of what lesbian sex might be) that straight men get off on? I really want to know.

For reverse the polarities and consider the mirror-image: think of heterosexual women watching male gay sex. They don't.

I've asked. It does nothing for them; it just isn't the kind of thing they want to look at.

The expected symmetries are not there. In the absence of male gay pornography, many gay men will watch heterosexual pornography -- to observe the men, not the women -- though a minority of gay men I've questioned will not watch such material, being put off by the presence of any women at all.

And no gay man I've ever questioned has the slightest interest in female homosexual sex. When it comes to lesbianism, we gay men have -- naturally -- all the right attitudes on the political questions; and the obvious fellow-sympathies too. …

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