Sunday, 26 September 2010

WALES OF A TIME

You guide me round Bangor, opening the city up like ripe fruit, and I'm lost in the Wordsworthiness of it all. Spreading blue skies, clear as hotel pool waters, pour down wide-yawning sunshine, and I am speechless.

At the pier we eat sandwiches, gradually emerging from hangover, and gaze out at yachts like they might be our dreams, bobbing just out of reach, promising warmth. Never mind that we fucked for three hours the night before.

We take tea in a poetry café, and talk about study, migration, growing up. There comes a time when the carefree dissolves to responsibility; when we must lay down the accoutrements of rebellion and join society. I shiver.

Your friend calls. She has locked herself in her back garden, and though she lives in a sprawling shared house, there are no communal areas and she knows none of her housemates. This is what life, out of necessity, becomes. Living with strangers we never see; being rescued from our own back gardens by best friends interrupted over cinnamon and ginger rooϊbus, on dates with men four hours away by train we picked up when drunk.

Now three of us, we wander shops for fancy dress. Cowboys and the American South, although you can't take out a toy gun. We sit at the foot of the cathedral after making do with some plasticky tat and talk about my hometown and why I could never live in London. Soon you'll be moving to Reading for work, and you were the one that chased me.

When the time comes to leave, you take me to the train station and tell me to sit on the Western side of the train so I can see the sun setting over the sea. I smile. We might've worked, even if just for a day, but we both know we'll never see each other again.

At high school I chose History over Geography, and I'm still living with that choice now.

[Originally published in Bent: http://mag.bent.com]

Sunday, 19 September 2010

MAD BROMANCE

Best friendships can be complicated. But complicated is beautiful. There's something about a best friend: a possessiveness, a passion, a closeness, a curiosity. Sometimes the relationship can be so intense it's easy to mistake it for something it's not. Because we rely so much on best friends, it can be easy to think your best friend is your perfect match. Maybe they are, but probably not like that.

This is the problem friends have when relationships seem a distant memory and love is something that only happens to other people. Sometimes we get tangled and can't see things like we should. It can be easy to rely too much on each other and get lost in that reliance. But when you think about it, and allow yourself to look away, is the friendship really what you want it to be? Giving all your love to a best friend, someone you trust and know will never hurt you, can be seductive. But seduction isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Between straight best friends, when the boundary between love and friendship blurs, they call it a bromance. With gay best friends, it can be even trickier. There can be undercurrents of sexuality in any friendship, usually because of the emotional intimacy, but with gay best friends there's more of a likelihood of something happening. The tangles can get worse. But sometimes the tangles get too tight, to breaking point, and you find yourself set free. Other times you just get sick of not being able to move and take to the tangles like Nicky Clarke in an advert for scissors.

Sometimes it takes sex to simplify things, to clarify them. If in the heat of the moment you find yourself thinking just a little bit too much, actually just going through the motions, then it can straighten out the queerer parts of any friendship. What comes after can go back to basics. Back to the start. You can shake off those too-close-moments of underlying unease and get closer (emotionally closer) than you realised.

Best friendships can be complicated, but it's better when they're just beautiful.

[Originally published in Bent: http://mag.bent.com]

Sunday, 12 September 2010

BOY STORY

People think men are complicated. Even men think other men are complicated. Let me let you in on a little secret: men aren't complicated at all. Men are really rather simple.

So he doesn't call you back? Then he's not interested. Or maybe he does call you back, but only once in a blue moon? Then you're a booty call. A fuck buddy.

If a guy's interested, you'll know.

If you want to survive the dating world, here are my simple rules to getting what you want and wanting what you get.

Be honest

If you just want a shag, make it abundantly clear. True, when your first words to him are 'Are you top or bottom?' it might seem obvious—but some guys really are dumb. Or maybe just naïve. But if you're honest, they'll likely shag you anyway and if they do get all clingy, it's their fault not yours. If you're not honest and you promise to meet them for a romantic dinner (which you watch as he calls the restaurant and books) but don't, you can hardly be surprised when he rings you calling you a bastard.

Don't be afraid to ask

If you're into something kinky, don't be afraid to ask. In all likelihood, they'll respect your honesty even if they're not game. But if you phrase it the right way, with a cheeky smile and a knowing wink, they might give it a go anyway just for the fun of it.

Be respectful

Even if they're the worst shag in the world, or even if they were a one-off, you had a private moment together. Sex is highly personal and whilst sharing it with your friends (or readers) is fine, it shouldn't be used as a tool to humiliate or hurt someone. If they have a really small cock, only your best friends should ever hear that—and only then on the express promise they keep it a secret.

Don't be too easy or too difficult

If you're too available, he'll get bored very quickly. Just because you've been together a week, it doesn't mean you'll get married. Whilst it can be very easy to get carried away with the excitement and fantasy, remember you live in the real world.

Conversely, don't be too contrary. Mess someone about on purpose and they will get wise and they will move on. Keeping your cool is not the same as playing mind games. Even if the other person doesn't get sick of you, any relationship that results will be flawed because you've already established an unequal power dynamic. The result is that whether you like them or not at the beginning, you'll soon begin to despise them for putting up with your shit. Love isn't special when it's given willy-nilly. You won't respect them unless you feel their love is genuine and that they're with you by choice, not because they're codependent.

Be open-minded

Love might not look like you thought it would, but that's no reason to be scared. We only see the Clinton's Cards version of love—but there are as many different types of love out there as there are people. Every relationship is unique. Compromise is overrated in some respects: you need to compromise on when you have dinner and where you go shopping, but you needn't compromise on your morals, beliefs and lifestyle. Anyone who loves you will love you because of (or in spite of) those things. Just be willing to come at things with an open mind, which is far more important. Be willing to try new things, but don't be afraid to say no if you're uncomfortable. Accept that people are different and may have conflicting ideas, but if they love you they'll respect you anyway.

If you look at life as a game and love as play, it all becomes a lot less serious and as a result much more fulfilling

[Originally published in Bent: http://mag.bent.com]

Sunday, 5 September 2010

NO ROOM TO RENT

Anyone who's looked in the back of a gay magazine has seen them before, but soon adverts for escorts may become a thing of the past if Equalities Minister Harriet Harman gets her way.

As amendments to the Policing and Crime Act come into force on 1 April, which give police increased powers to crack down on brothels, Ms Harman has announced she would like to put a ban on all escorting ads in her next party manifesto. If brought into effect, the ban could see magazines that print escorting ads fined £10,000.

A similar law was brought into power in Ireland 15 years ago, but despite this, prostitution is on the rise and trafficking of young women to become prostitutes is still a major problem in many cities.

The proposals, which treat all sex workers as if they were smuggled into the country to be beaten by pimps, may work against prostitutes, and especially gay males in the industry.

Catherine Stephens from the International Union of Sex Workers said: 'I don't know of any gay escorts that have been trafficked. I'm sure there are illegal immigrant gay escorts but they're not being trafficked. There's a big difference between being an illegal immigrant and being trafficked.

''If you stop people going into the office of a magazine to advertise then they're going to be driven into the hands of third parties and intermediaries as a way of getting work and they're much more likely to be exploited then.'

Banning escorting ads could push vulnerable sex workers into the hands of pimps or force them to work in brothels for lower prices and less choice over who they select as clients.

'I think the sex work scene is pretty quiet the moment and one of the things that happens when there's a crackdown is that there's even less punters and so less ability to negotiate price. We see a decrease in safe sex because people are more likely to do things they don't want to do,' said Stephens, warning about the increased risk of STIs falling prices and fewer clients may cause.

The International Union of Sex Workers and Terrence Higgins Trust have long argued that there are a range of different types of sex worker, from so-called 'rent boys' to the glamorised Billie Piper variety. Because of this, the issues facing one set of sex workers may vary greatly from those facing another, and a blanket ban on escorting ads may will actually penalise those prostitutes who prefer not to engage in streetwalking, brothel-work or the services of a pimp.

While prostitution would still remain legal, it would be the prostitutes themselves who would suffer, rather than those who exploit them. This seems like a sly way to criminalise those whose sexual behaviour doesn't match the 'norm' rather than fixing the real problems of trafficking, prostitution by coercion and abuse of sex workers by pimps and certain clients.

Perhaps the next series of Secret Diary of a Call Girl will see Billie Piper forced to hang out in dingy alleyways instead of luxury hotels, charging 20p a ride instead of £300 an hour?

[Originally published in Bent: http://mag.bent.com]