Magazine article The Spectator

Fancy That

Magazine article The Spectator

Fancy That

Article excerpt

When women lust after blokes on telly it's funny, not seedy

Stand by your remotes, girls: the second series of Poldark is under way. Filming has started -- yes, he's out there somewhere, wearing those trousers, not wearing that shirt, swinging that scythe. You've only got to wait for someone to edit it all together and then Sunday nights can be special again. You'll be able to gaze and sigh and imagine. Us blokes, meanwhile, will be considering an anomaly: why is that women can express lust without sounding seedy, but men can't?

I didn't watch the first series. About three weeks in, when the Twitter drums had really started beating, I asked a female friend if it was that good. 'He's good,' Catherine replied, so quickly and insistently that she might as well have just said 'phwoar!' Later I told my partner what had happened. 'He is good,' said Jo, with an excited shiver.

'Hang on,' I protested. 'If I said I fancied a woman on the telly, you'd go spare.'

She denied it, but we both knew this was at least partly untrue: Jo wouldn't go spare, but she would point out that I sounded like a dirty old man. For a while I mused on the injustice of this. How come Jo was allowed to lust after Aidan Turner and I was expected to laugh about it (which I did -- there was something very funny about her response, as there had been about Catherine's), but were I to convey my keen physical admiration of an actress the conversation would get closed down pretty smartish? (See -- I'm not even naming a particular actress. I wouldn't want the grief next time she was on TV.)

After a bit of thought, however, I realised there was no injustice. Males expressing lust do sound like dirty old men. You'll note that 'dirty old woman' has never become a phrase. Somehow female desire comes out sounding clean. The woman might sound silly -- in fact something about the way they lust shows that they know they sound silly. This in itself takes the sting out of proceedings. Down the years, when women have said they fancy Omar Sharif or George Clooney or Benedict Cumberbatch, the 'shooting for the moon' element has come as a given. Even when they comment on a guy in the street, women retain a lightness of touch, a sense almost that they don't really mean it. …

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