Archive for S-T


MCYPeople in our group were generally glad to have read it. It has fantastic episodes and intense descriptions of one’s inner life.

Here are also some loose ends – whom is the newe lover? How did he get here?

It’s essentially an allegory about identity, love, death, sex, and facing one’s fears, demons, and their past. It goes back and forth from the point of view of son, then mother, son, then mother, and by part 2, you somewhat lose whose voice is telling the rest of the story

It takes a while to work out who everybody is and how they are related to each other.

Despite a childhood history with ophidiophobic nightmares, he buys a boa constrictor and sets it loose in his apartment. The snake takes up residence under his sofa, driving away his few human visitors, and quickly adopts strangely companionable behaviors more befitting a dog than a reptile.

Emine is brought up in a quietly conservative village near the Kosovan capital of Pristina, she was married off to a man whose name, Bajram (“celebration”), belied his fierce temper, and it has taken her decades to pluck up the courage to leave him.

In the 18th and 19th century. British writer and Albanian advocate Edith Durham wrote High Albania in 1909, and described the customs she encountered amongst the Albanians of what is now northern Albania and Kosovo. The language she used to describe Albanians then calls to mind the trope of the noble savage today: men who kill for honour and women who spend their lives in childbirth or domestic servitude.

An urgent longing for love belies Bekim’s inscrutability. We find echoes of that same longing in Emine’s girlhood reminiscences. She is a fiercely intelligent daydreamer at odds with her strict and superstitious father. In one of the novel’s most affecting passages, she realizes that the objective of her education has always been to make her a more suitable wife.

There’s too much stereotyping – no Albanian man in My Cat Yugoslavia, apart from Bekim, is anything other than a rustic bigot, and no Albanian woman is anything other than a besieged housewife. The nuance and care afforded Bekim’s character doesn’t appear to be extended to his countrymen and women. It’s clear that Statovci means to depict the closed, conservative nature of Kosovar Albanian society when he describes Emine being sexually harassed in a marketplace and Bekim’s father beating his family

It’s a literal take on ‘crushing the serpent’s head’ in Christianity, though Islam doesn’t have a serpent in its fall myth.

The snake that Bekim brings into his apartment is both foreign and fear-inducing; most of his days he spends cooped up in a terrarium, just as many of the Kosovans in Finland felt penned in at their reception centres and gawped at when they stepped outside.

The pet serpent becomes a peculiar character in its own right, its reptilian coolness and shedding of skin reflecting Bekim’s progressive loss of his own warmth. The book’s most notable animal, however, is the one in the title: an anthropomorphic talking cat named Yugoslavia, whom Bekim meets at a gay club. The cat quickly charms Bekim, despite sharing so many of the hatreds that torment him: the cat is anti-gay, anti-immigrant, and as selfish and abusive as Bekim’s father. Even so—and much as his mother did, for years, with his father—Bekim caters to Yugoslavia, bringing the cat home and attending to its every need.

Is the cat really aloof or is it afraid of exposing its neediness? There is more than one cat. The first cat talks. The second cat was abandoned, uncared for, unloved in the native country until rescued and restored to health. And finally, there is the black cat in a litter, “just normal, mongrel kittens,” in the author’s words, to distinguish them from the black and white cat who speaks, and the orange cat who doesn’t. The talking cat so full of himself could be the author himself, and the follow-on cats could be those who’d suffered during the war, coming finally to the children, those ‘normal’ integrated ‘mongrels’ who’d adjusted to their new environment in their adopted country and married with locals.

These relationships are as visceral – the boa constrictor’s intimacy crushes, almost asphyxiates – as those of family and home country. War destabilises and mangles identity – “We were vagrants,” Emine says. “We were stuck between the truth and the lies. We no longer knew what was real” – and it’s in these bizarre, intense interactions with animals that the reader gets a feel for the hybrid nature of migrant life.

In his History of Albanian Literature, linguist Robert Elsie describes the Albanian literary canon as lacking in eroticism. I would argue that this has changed over the past two to three decades, as more Albanian women have begun writing about love and sex (and writing novels, period).

Year after year, Kosovo is ranked as one of the most homophobic countries in Europe, which is why we need more protagonists like Bekim to normalise queerness and forms of love divorced from domination

However, somebody knowledgeable has pointed out: Kosovar Albanian characters inexplicably use phrases that belong to the Toske dialect of Albanian, which is not spoken anywhere in Kosovo. Someone else pointed out that those who left kept their language whilst those who stayed developed it.

The author: “When I told people where I come from, instead of interest, I many times received pity.”

This (the cat) unusual relationship, Statovci told me, may represent, for Bekim, “a different kind of love” from the others he has known, “stronger and more powerful, because it has crossed borders and walls. Maybe he thinks that if he can get someone like that to give him love and acceptance, he will be O.K.,” Statovci added. “Maybe he needs to feel that it is possible for people who think in a similar way the cat thinks to see him as more than a refugee or as a gay guy—to fall in love with him.”

Statovci has long been haunted, he told me, by George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” particularly the famous line “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” which Statovci called “a beautiful analogy of the world we live in.” Yugoslavia the cat may also remind readers of Behemoth, the demonic feline in Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita,” who mixes his devilry with charm, though Yugoslavia seems more devil than charmer. And midway through Statovci’s novel Yugoslavia becomes a regular house cat, which Bekim carries around. The novel never explains how or why a talking cat existed or what to make of his disorienting return to ordinariness. Had Bekim imagined Yugoslavia into existence out of desperation? Had something in him shattered, and Yugoslavia emerged? The feline’s shift may contain a cultural metaphor: in Finland, Statovci told me, “cats are domesticated, whereas in Kosovo they are seen as dirty.” But this only says so much. Perhaps, the novel seems to suggest, this is how a mind can break, folding in on itself, elaborate as an origami swan, until it is torn apart.

My Cat Yugoslavia is a work of fiction – from start to finish, but I do make use of some autobiographical elements

I also wanted to show the different levels of discrimination and racism and how integral and automatic it often is, with characters that are guilty of doing it and with characters that are its victims and with characters that first suffer from violence and then act in a violent fashion. Bajram, who himself has suffered from racism, ends up acting racist towards Finns and being more and more violent towards his family. Bekim’s mother, Emine, who loathes working Finnish mothers, ends up landing a job herself. The cat in Bekim’s story is ruthless towards Bekim, at first for no apparent reason, but later on starts showing symptoms of being a victim of bigotry. It’s the saddest thing ever when people who have confronted intolerance and hatred end up being intolerant and hateful, but that’s how it goes. What hatred generates and what it calls upon is hate.

I’m actually just turning in my master’s thesis on animal representations in some selected short stories of Ernest Hemingway and Franz Kafka

MCY 2Quotations:

“Gays. I don’t much like gays… How repulsive. Men’s hands don’t move through the air like that, and men don’t talk the way women talk. And men don’t wear such tight tops and wiggle their bottoms like that – like a prostitute, a whore!”

“When people on the television talked about the disputes between the Albanians and the Serbs, I didn’t bother listening; the news anchor might as well have been speaking in Chinese.” (To suggest Emine would be unaware of the roots of the Albanian-Serb conflict in Kosovo is laughable.)

He starts to use false names, like Michael and John, simply to “avoid the next question, which is, ‘Where are you from?’ ” “It’s one thing to tell someone you are Swedish, German, or English,” Bekim says, “and quite another thing to say you are Turkish or Iranian. It’s only very rarely that someone’s home country is of no significance at all.”

“I noticed the cat across the dance floor”

I had never seen anything so enchanting, so alluring. He was a perfect cat” with gleaming fur and muscular back legs.

Then the cat noticed me; he started smiling at me and I started smiling at him, then he raised his front paw to the top button of his shirt, unbuttoned it, and began walking towards me.”

I didn’t answer. He glanced quickly out of the window where the evening was beginning to darken and turn red. What if I stopped loving him or what if he could no longer bring himself to say it, or what if he fell in love with someone else or got a job on the other side of the world? Anything could happen. He could die.

…“Don’t think too much. That’s your problem.”

He moved his hand on my stomach; his fingertips felt warm and soft and his skin smelled of sliced almonds.

Then I said it too, because it would have been sheer madness not to say those words to a man like that.

only pretty and good at housework, or so I’d been told,

never heard of a single female politician, a female teacher or lawyer.

All of a sudden tanks and soldiers were filling the streets. When Albanians started being systematically removed from their jobs, from positions in hospitals and the police, and when it became impossible to study in Albanian, the situation turned desperate. There was no room in the city to breathe. The caretaker in our apartment building didn’t bother to clean the floors with Albanian residents. The bosses at Bajram’s office were sacked and Serbs were appointed in their place, and eventually Bajram too lost his job. Local authorities gave Serb-owned businesses tax cuts while general taxation for Albanians was increased. Albanians had to study in basements and private apartments, in secret, and teachers caught teaching Albanians were routinely attacked, gas grenades were thrown into civilian apartments, and innocent people were beaten up in the streets.

The air became thick and damp, heavy with the smell of burning, because it was breathed in turn by the desperate and the insane. I worried that I would wake up to find our apartment building on fire or that my children and I would be kidnapped and taken away, that we’d never see one another again. How was it even possible to experience hatred to such a degree that you altogether lost your sense of right and wrong?

When war broke out in Bosnia and we heard about the bru­talities to which the Bosnians were subjected—they were driven out of their homes, their houses were bombed, pregnant women were tortured and raped and taken to concentration camps—I wondered what was happening to this planet. At what point had humans turned into beasts that mauled one another, that held their neighbors’ heads beneath the water?

“What? What did you say about religions?” he interrupted me angrily and slammed his coffee cup on the table.

“Yes, at school the children learn about all different reli­gions,” I said warily and breathed out as calmly as I could.

Bajram hit the table with his fist so hard that coffee spilled from the cup. He stood up and walked over to me. I didn’t dare look at him because I could feel his expression without looking. It was red-hot, like a ceramic burner turned on full.

“Why have you sent our children to a Sunday school?” he asked and hauled me to my feet.

“I haven’t done that,” I tried to assure him. “In schools here they teach children about all religions.”

I tried with all my might to calm him down, to escape the ensuing conversation. “It’s part of their basic education, part of their curriculum,” I said and tried to slip free from his hand.

Bajram looked at me for a moment with that same expres­sion on his face, that bloodthirsty expression, the kind of expres­sion you see only on the face of one who is about to exact the final, ultimate revenge. He held my shoulders with both hands, moved his right arm round my neck, and began to squeeze.

The very next day Bajram marched into the children’s school and forbade the teachers to teach them about religion. Accord­ing to Bajram, the teachers had stammered in response, trying to lie to him, and said that this was an optional course about life philosophy in which the students were encouraged to think about the world and its various phenomena, including religion. At first Bajram had scoffed at them, dug his fingers into his fore­head, and shaken his head as though he had a headache. Then he asked them why he hadn’t been told about this. Its as if you’re trying to steal my children from me, he said.

When he came home he told me how he had shown them what’s what. I couldn’t understand how he seriously imagined he would be able to change their ideas of life by talking to them about Islam. On some level I admired his determination and resolve. He blindly believed in his own world and trusted that his own faith would save him from all imaginable sins for which he feared divine retribution. It wasn’t a bad way to live your life.

The following month Bajrara lost his job. He was genuinely shocked at this—despite the fact that he knew his employers had found out that he had been deviating from the prescribed syl­labus. He had been talking to the.students about Islam and told them their life philosophy classes were a pack of lies.

He had been given two options: he could either resign or he would be fired. Upon realizing the difference between the two and the implications they might have, he took the former option. After this he seemed depressed for a long time because he truly loved his job and had wanted to do it full-time, not just in the afternoons and evenings.

His employment record arrived in the post. Bajram looked at it for a while and slipped it into his desk drawer. He took it out again, read it for a moment, then put it back in the drawer. He did this so often that one day, when he had gone out for a walk, I took out the sheet of paper and read it for myself.

Employment terminated at the employee’s behest due to dis­agreement over interpretation of the school’s aims and values regarding equality.

That’s what it said.

At times it seemed as though what we saw on television couldn’t really be happening. It was a mirage, an unreal reflec­tion of unreal events. But it was all truly happening, the lives of every single one of those people had ended, and I felt like a coward for refusing to die in the conflict. We will all die one day, I thought, and there will be nothing left of us. Wouldn’t it be nobler to die back home rather than to run away? To die in battle rather than of old age?

When the news reported the events in Ratak on January is, 1999, we began to question the existence of God. What had that woman, gunned down, ever done to the Serbs? What had that child done, what had those desperate men done, men who real­ized their village was surrounded by Serb troops? And when those men saw the soldiers shooting randomly at innocent peo­ple, where was God then? Where was he? When men who had been captured were suddenly told, Run away, and when those men ran away up the hill only to be cut down halfway there, where was he? And when after this skirmish they showed video footage of an orphaned little boy weeping, what did God do with that child?

I told the woman that I didn’t particularly care for cats either, I am like my son. They are too erratic, too quiet. I said I couldn’t understand why Finnish people kept them as pets because in Kosovo the cat is considered a dirty animal.

She was convinced that this was not about a fear of actual snakes but about things the boy associated with snakes, the images and memories he had of them.

She was convinced that this was not about a fear of actual snakes but about things the boy associated with snakes, the images and memories he had of them.

Bajram showed the imam into the apartment and the imam followed him after taking off his snakeskin shoes and leaving them in the hall. His socks, the same color as his suit, were damp at the toes.

All at once my cat started hissing. It had walked to the edge of the boulder, its teeth bared, and began to hiss at something moving around in the long grass below us. The cat was lean­ing forward—it looked almost as though it might topple off the edge of the boulder. Its fur had become bristled and restless, and its sharp shoulders stood unnaturally high and its mouth opened and now looked extraordinarily large compared to the rest of its body…..The snake was plump and must have been about a yard long. It was clearly a sand viper, Vipera ammodytes, the most poisonous viper in Europe.

“Wipe it away and you’re dead, they said, wipe it and you’re dead, you fucking parasite refugee.”

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The Sins of the Cities of the Plain by Jack Saul

Written 12 years before Teleny, The Sins of the Cities of the Plain purports to be the memoirs of Jack Saul, a young rentboy or “Mary-Ann”. In the book Saul is picked up on the street by a Mr. Cambon. After they have dinner, Chambon invites Saul to recount his life story.

While some have accepted it as a genuine account, it is more likely to be an early form of the non-fiction novel. It is certainly pornography and even praises pederasty.

John Saul, also known as Dublin Jack, certainly existed. Although he managed to by-pass involvement in the trial of Fanny and Stella, he featured in two of the other major gay sex scandals of the Victorian era, the Dublin Castle and Cleveland Street affairs. The Cleveland Street scandal involved telegraph boys engaging in extra-curricular activities and at one of the ensuing trials in which the Earl of Euston sued a newspaper editor for libel, Jack’s testimony against his lordship was so frank as to be deemed “not fit to print” by the Times. Not surprisingly the jury preferred the word of a peer of the realm over that of a self-confessed and very cocky rentboy and the editor got jailed. Jack was lucky to escape prosecution himself but perhaps this was because he knew too much about the sexual peccadilloes of those in high places. In his memoirs Jack seems to be having a whale of a time relieving toffs and aristos of £50 notes and enjoying a champagne lifestyle. But his testimony at the Cleveland Street trial, which took place about ten years after the publication of Sins, suggests a somewhat harsher reality – £8 from his punters in a good week and at the time of the trial a mere ten shillings a week pocket money from a detective agency (presumably for agreeing to spill the beans about Lord Euston) which he was sending to his mum in Ireland. By then Jack would have been about 36 and was perhaps starting to lose his boyish looks.

Gamahuche = To perform oral sex, especially cunnilingus


it appeared as if a tremendous length of sausage had been stuffed down along the thigh of his right leg’ and ‘was it natural or made up by some artificial means?’

“ready for a lark with a free gentleman at any time.”

“On 19 August, the police burst into a house at 2 Howland Street just off the Tottenham Court Road, hoping to find George Daniel Veck. The self-proclaimed Reverend gentleman was not at home, but his ‘secretary’, seventeen-year-old George Barber, was lying in bed. Interrogated, Barber said that his employer was in Portsmouth, where Veck had probably been visiting his family. The police went to Waterloo Station and arrested Veck when he came off the train.

In his possession were various documents including letters from Algernon Allies, asking for money and mentioning a ‘Mr Brown’. This was the youth whom Lord Arthur Somerset had taken under his wing after the burglary at his club (or at the residence of Lord Colville of Culross, whichever one prefers) and put up at 19 Cleveland Street. Allies was much addicted to writing letters asking for money.”

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The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

(We have not discussed this in the group but it was a ‘spin off’ from one of our meetings and this review is in a personal capacity.)

Crime readers are on such friendly terms that they conflate books from Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland under the banner of “Scandi”. The author gained some fame in the UK with his TV series London Spy.

Daniel believed that his parents were enjoying a peaceful retirement on a remote farm in Sweden, the country of his mother’s birth. But with a single phone call, everything changes.

Your mother… she’s not well, his father tells him. She’s been imagining things – terrible, terrible things.In fact, she has been committed to a mental hospital.

Before Daniel can board a plane to Sweden, his mother calls: Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad… I need the police… Meet me at Heathrow.

Presented with a horrific crime, a conspiracy that implicates his own father, Daniel must examine the evidence and decide: who is telling the truth, his mother or his father? And he has secrets of his own that for too long he has kept hidden…

The picturesque but boring village ringed by isolated farms; a district dominated by a strong but taciturn patriarch; the disappearance of a vulnerable young woman, which is uncovered by an unreliable female investigator; the veneer of respectability that readers soon begin to suspect masks something rotten in the state of Scandi. But Smith, whose mother is Swedish, is playing a long game. The world he has created may initially appear full of enjoyably restful conventions, but any cliches in The Farm exist to wrongfoot us. This is a neatly plotted book full of stories within stories, which gradually unravel to confound our expectations.

The great bulk of the book is a two-hander between Daniel and Tilde as she sets out the evidence for her claims. It becomes a sort of therapy session: Daniel listens patiently as his mother brings forth notes and exhibits to back up her claims.

We hear very little about Dan’s partner.

In real life: Smith’s parents had retired from their careers as antique dealers in London to live on a farm in Sweden. As far as Smith knew, all was going well until the day his father phoned to tell him he suspected his mum was mentally ill. Hours later, she arrived in Britain.

‘She was slightly more animated than usual,’ recalls Smith, ‘but she would have been if she really had gone through a terrible conspiracy as she claimed. Otherwise she seemed normal. I was bewildered.’


I’m sure your father has spoken to you. Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad. I don’t need a doctor. I need the police. I’m about to board a flight to London. Meet me at Heathrow.


“In the service station …I washed my face with a dollop of pungent pink soap from the dispenser, straightening my hair, taming the wild strands.”.


“I was seated next to Mark, who was seated beside my dad, seated beside Anders, the four of us side-by-side…

If you refuse to believe me, I will no longer consider you my son…

“You mistrust that word?


You think it sounds unreal?

Villains are real. They walk among us. … ”

“Here’s the crucial point. As the fact of isolation sinks into our consciousness we change, not at first but slowly, gradually, until we accept it as the norm. … It alters our notions of how we should behave, of what is acceptable, and most important of all, what we can get away with.”


“It was increasingly apparent that the way in which I listened to her story changed the story itself, and I reaffirmed my intention to present a neutral front, giving little away.”


“Do I even know my parents? My fondness for them had drifted into a form of neglect.”


“…Except when I was alone. I’d hate myself. It’s how we feel about ourselves when we’re alone that must guide our decisions.”
“Let me quickly remind you that the allegation of being mentally incapable is a tried and tested method of silencing women dating back hundreds of years, a weapon to discredit us when we fought against abuses and stood up to authority.”
“Standing at the point where these photographs were taken, you’re immersed in the most unbelievable quiet. It’s like being at the bottom of the sea except instead of a rusted shipwreck there’s an ancient farmhouse. Even the thoughts in my head sounded loud, and sometimes I found my heart beating hard for no reason except as a reaction against the silence.”
“I’d mistaken familiarity for insight and equated hours spent together as a measure of understanding.”
“cycling down the road. Her movements were erratic, almost out of control, pedaling at alarming speed as though she were being chased. As she passed the gate, I caught sight of her face. She’d been”
“You crave security, Daniel. You always have. Let me tell you. There is none. A great friendship can be swept aside in an evening, a lover changed into an enemy with a single admission.”
Children rot when they’re indulged in too much love.

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Sex training in the home; plain talks on sex life covering all periods and relationships from childhood to old age by Hall, Winfield Scott, b. 1861

stith(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

Remarkable for its time though obviously rather dated now. Separate beds and sex no more than fortnightly. It ends with eugenics, much in vogue at the time. No mention of homosexuality, though there is a warning that there can be ‘lewd boys’ even at Grammar School.


From what source would you prefer your child to receive his knowledge of the sex functions of life?


From the lips of the parents, toward whom he naturally leans for advice, and from whom he has the right to expect love, care, education and preparation for life’s struggle, or


Indecent and vulgar stories; 2. Degenerate companions; 3. Advertisements by quack doctors; 4. Signs in toilets advertising quack cures; 5. Drug-store displays of aids to the sexually weak; 6. Quack doctors’ booklets; 7. Suggestive acts at theaters; 8. Vulgar postals and obscene literature.

the mother must gently bathe away the accumulations which adhere to the inner surface. When she bathes the little boy she must draw back the foreskin and carefully wash away that which accumulates and irritates.

Between the age of ten and fifteen the boy possesses the qualities essential to the barbarism of the race. He is barbarically crude, barbarically rude, barbarically vulgar, barbarically blundering and blustering. He glories in war and the chase. He is a hero worshiper. He has no use for girls, even being restive under the mild restraints of his mother.

At fifteen all this is changed. The boy begins to ^^slick up.” He wishes to impress the girls. His rudeness to the girls now disappears and he becomes a society young gentleman.

stith2The child who learns obedience at home is more easily handled at school, and is still held by a strong power under the influence of his mother. After a child has entered his adolescent period and begins to feel the dawning of individuality is no time to teach him obedience. If by that time he has learned the lesson of obedience the tension of government may be loosened and with his own consent he will follow the advice of his parents. If he has not learned it, extra pressure brought to bear upon him is likely only to make him the more restive. He has then passed the age for learning obedience except with the greatest difficulty.

The best and easiest time to tell a child his origin is when a new baby has arrived in the family, and when one day the older child is standing at the bedside looking at the wonderful new baby. Her eyes are full of wonder at the miracle and her heart full of love. She feels the tiny fingers and laughs at the pretty toes, and then in wonder she asks, ^^Where did you get him?” You reply, ”1 am glad you asked, for it is a story that I want to tell you. He grew in mother’s body. God made a room in mother’s body purposely to hold a baby and this room is so arranged that no harm can come to him, but he can get food and air until he has grown big enough to handle and perfectly ready to live.

‘baby was made out of very precious material that is drawn out of the mamma’s blood. So you see, little daughter, why it is that the mother loves her baby so, because she has given her own life blood for it.”

The mature corn plant furnishes good material for teaching sex in plants because the parts are so large and the process so apparent. The tassel that grows on the top of the cornstalk is the father part, i. e., the male organ which develops the pollen or fertilizing substance. The corn silk at the end of the ear of corn is the receiving part of the female organ. One may speak in a general way of the tassels as the father and the silk as the mother. The wind blows the pollen when it is ripe and has fallen and scatters it in the air where it reaches the corn silk and fertilizes it. Without the pollen there would be no kernel of corn at the end of each thread of silk. The kernels on the cob are the seeds for a new generation of plants, the cob is the ovary, or contains the ovaries in which the seeds develop.

Teach the child that the sex apparatus is sacred to the future womanhood or manhood.

Coming once every month, as it does, it is frequently referred to as the monthly period. When a girl really crosses the threshold from girlhood into womanhood, the experience which marks this change is her first monthly period. It happens about the time of the maturing of the first egg that leaves her ovaries. As this egg passes down the ovarian tube into the uterus the uterus is itself modified — more blood flowing through it and the inner lining changing somewhat. After the girl has developed into womanhood there are a number of years, during her unmarried young womanhood, during which the eggs will come down one each month into and through the uterus, or, as mamma used to call it, when she was explaining to her little girl, the little ^mother-room/ or ^mother-nest/ These eggs, not being fertilized, pass out. They are very tiny, so small that one of them could drop through the eye of a cambric needle without touching the sides, so there is no special loss in the passage of one or two ova per month.

^’Listen/’ said his father, *^this big bass that you have caught is a father fish or a male fish. After the mother fish has laid her eggs in her pebble nest the father fish must deposit over those same pebbles the fertilizing fluid from his testicles, or the eggs will not develop. It’s just as necessary for the father fish to deposit the fertilizing fluid as it is for the mother to deposit the eggs in this nest. Both are necessary if new life is to start.”

“They don’t ever castrate boys, do they, father.?”

“No,” said his father, “not these days, but the time was, two thousand years ago, when they castrated boys. That was an age of barbarism, and it was the custom of that barbaric age that when one nation went to war with another the victorious army would batter down the gates or scale the walls of the vanquished city and having gained entrance would massacre the men that had not already fallen in battle and take away the women and children into captivity and sell them into bondage. The boys thus sold into bondage were as a rule castrated, just as Dick the gelding, and for the same purpose really, because they were slave boys and the men who bought them wanted them to be just docile, beasts of burden, easily managed and controlled, so they had them castrated.

In every school, as for example the grammar school, there are a few boys who, misled by some vulgar minded older boys, are taught by those boys to play with their sex organs, irritating and exciting them. This habit, which we call ‘self-abuse,’ seriously interferes with the boy’s development of the manly qualities. He is almost sure to grow into a little namby, pamby sissy boy if he becomes a slave to the habit of self -abuse.

“While a little boy does not lose any fluid, he will, when he gets about fifteen years of age, begin to lose fluid. This fluid which the fifteen-year-old boy loses when he does this act of self -abuse is the fertilizing fluid or semen, which ought to have been retained in his testicles. After it is lost the testicles must prepare some more, and to do that they draw upon the blood of the youth for material from which to build this fertilizing fluid. This makes the blood of the boy thinner and poorer as the weeks and months go by so that he doesn’t develop as big, hard muscles or as active a brain as he would have developed if he had not been the victim of this bad habit.”

The urinary bladder must be emptied every few hours. These little bladders that I have just described usually empty every few weeks, perhaps the period may be a two weeks’ period or it may be four or six weeks with different men; and in the same man under different conditions of life, the length of the period will differ.

“Now, there’s a curious thing about the emptying of these little bladders. When the urinary bladder empties, we are conscious of it before it empties — we are conscious of a *call of nature’ and we consciously prepare for the emptying of the urinary bladder, but these little albumin sacks empty without any warning, and, curiously enough, perhaps wisely planned for on the part of the Creator, they empty right in the middle of the night as a rule. The young man suddenly awakens from sound sleep or perhaps from a restless, dreamy sleep and finds that something is pouring out of his sex organs. The first time that he has this experience, he may wonder if the fluid is from his urinary bladder, but he usually has no difficulty in making up his mind that it is not from the urinary bladder at all. Then he naturally thinks of his sex apparatus and assumes that the fluid comes direct from his testicles. As a matter of fact, only a small portion of it comes from the testicles, most of it is from these little albumin bladders.

Now, during this day, before the emptying of the bladders relieve the tension in the sex organs, the young man is restless and perhaps irritable and lacking in power of concentration. He feels like a caged lion. It is very important for him to understand about this because at such times he is very likely to have his thoughts directed to sex matters. He may even have sensuous thoughts come into his mind. If he harbors these sensuous thoughts he is sure presently to experience sexual excitement or even sex desire, which the young man in his middle teens or we might say any unmarried young man, should carefully avoid. Now here are two simple and practical little rules, my son, that your father and many other men have put to the test, and we want our boys to have the benefit of our experience in this matter.

^^Control the thoughts. — Do not permit the thoughts under such conditions ever to dwell upon sex matters. Always divert them by sheer will power, if necessary

No chivalrous, honorable young gentleman would touch the person of his girl friend with his hands or in any other way subject her to undignified familiarity. He will always be deferential and courteous, protecting her from danger, if necessary by endangering his own life.

One of these diseases called syphilis has been known and feared for ages past. A young man may catch that disease on his first contact with a lewd girl. She may herself have recently caught the disease and may not realize that she has it. One symptom of the disease is sore throat, a peculiar kind of sore throat with white mucous patches. During the time a person has this symptom, the moisture from the lips is as venomous as the poison of a rattlesnake. If a fellow at a public dance, for example, were to kiss such a girl just in fun and have no other physical contact with her than that, a bit of moisture from her lips gaining access to a weather check or ^’chap” on his lip could easily give him that terrible blood disease, syphilis, which would not only wreck his life but might unfit him absolutely and irretrievably for home building and fatherhood. Such a calamity would of course be far worse than death. The usual way in which this terrible disease is caught is in sexual intercourse, but whether caught in that way or in a kiss, the final result is the same.”

‘Why, father, I should think that a person with the mucous patches of syphilis might contaminate a public drinking glass or a public towel so as to make them dangerous for a well person to use.”

^’That is quite true, my son,” said Mr. Brown. “And in several states of the Union the public drinking glass and the public roller towel have been outlawed. Furthermore, now that we are discussing this point of public sanitation, every person who uses a public water closet should take pains to protect himself against touching the seat. This can be easily accomplished by laying strips of toilet paper upon the seat.

There is always the danger that young people after marriage will be influenced by their intimate relationships and license that marriage gives them, to indulge very frequently in sexual intercourse. Some young people carry this to such excess that in a few months the wife is in a condition of neurasthenia and the husband is consciously depleted in his powers and his business efficiency noticeably decreased.

Nature has pretty definitely set the time for these relationships. It is a law of nature that the female has a period of heat periodically. In women this period comes every twenty-eight days and is closely associated with their menstrual period. It may come just before or just after, perhaps both before and after. Now, there can be no question on the part of anyone who has studied the physiology of all the higher animals, including man, that the Creator when he planned man and woman, planned them for sexual intercourse about once a month. At the very upper limit twice a month.

Dr. Dawson and his wife have even occupied separate though adjoining rooms all these years, but I supposed that was because Dr. Dawson was so frequently called out at night in his practice and that this was a device for enabling him to respond to the night call without disturbing Mrs. Dawson/’

The full text is here

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Children of the sun by Max Schaefer

COTS2(We have not discussed this in the group but it was a ‘spin off’ from one of our meetings and this review is in a personal capacity.)

1970: Fourteen-year-old Tony becomes seduced by Britain’s neo-Nazi movement, sucked into a world of brutal racist violence and bizarre ritual. It’s an environment in which he must hide his sexuality, in which every encounter is potentially deadly.

2003: James is a young writer, living with his boyfriend. In search of a subject, he begins looking into the Far Right in Britain and its secret gay membership. He becomes particularly fascinated by Nicky Crane, one of the leaders of the neo-Nazi movement who came out in 1992 before dying a year later of AIDS.

The two narrative threads of this extraordinarily assured and ambitious first novel follow Tony through the seventies, eighties, and nineties, as the nationalist movement splinters and weakens; and James through a year in which he becomes dangerously immersed in his research. After risky flirtations with individuals on far right websites, he starts receiving threatening phone calls—the first in a series of unexpected events that ultimately cause the lives of these two very different men to unforgettably intersect.
I had never understood the Hindu nationalism if the BJP in India until I read of the belief in the Four Yugas being used as a justification. There’s also a pagan interpretation – the rolling hills of ye olde English countryside.

Plus loads of violence and racist jokes: ‘Bloke walks into a pub with a crocodile, goes up to the bar and says, “Do you serve niggers in here?”‘

To the blacks’ almost dutiful sounds of outrage, Steve climbs inside with his mates following.

`Governor goes, “Course we do, we’re not racist.” So the bloke says, “I’ll have a pint of lager and a nigger for the crocodile.”‘


….sees himself repeated in every direction like a hall of mirrors, and  understands that this will not wreck him, he is not distinct from it and floating fragile on its surface, but rather it is him, of him and he is part of it, the shouts, the salutes, the sieg heils coming from within and around him alike. With one force, one voice, he fills the courtyard.

(a skin is) able to walk anywhere, his passport the astonishment of the sharp mind in the brainless stereotype…

…This animal’s only secondary sexual characteristics are his braces, worn up to exaggerate the width of his shoulders, down to emphasise the curve of his bum.

“This whole sub-skin thing. You get your rocks off by dressing on the ne plus ultra of the lumpenproletariat and pretending you’re powerless. It’s classic English guilt.”

“Tony wraps his legs around the bundled sheets and murmurs to them in the dark, as if they were Chris, staying.”

She leans back her head, closes her eyes, and recites: ‘When justice is crushed, when evil reigns supreme, then I come. For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the evil-doers, for the sake of firmly establishing righteousness, I am born, age after age.’

She tells him of the cycle of ages, the Yugas, as laid down in the great epics of the Aryans, which repeats through all eternity. She traces the inexorable decline from the Krita Yuga, the Age of Truth — the Golden Age, whose memory all cultures, from the Greeks and Japanese to the Sumerians and Romans, some­how preserve — to the current, fourth, Dark Age, the Kali Y uga, the Era of Gloom, in which human selfishness and con­ceit allows man to overrun the planet while its once-thick mantle of forest declines. Whole species of proud wild crea­tures are killed off, replaced by an obnoxious and expanding stream of dreary, vulgar, worthless two-legged mammals, and everything is done to encourage that mad increase in number and loss in quality. Everything is done to keep the sickly, the crippled, the freaks of nature, unfit to work and unfit to live, from dying. Thousands of innocent, healthy animals are tor­tured in search of ‘new treatments’, so that deficient men, whom Nature has anyhow condemned to death, might last a few more months. The healthy are made unhealthy through joyless work, overcrowded homes, lack of privacy, unnatural food, their brains softened by advertising and propaganda. Lies are called truth and truth falsehood, and the speakers of truth, the God-like men, are defeated, their followers humbled, their memory slandered, while the masters of lies are hailed as saviours.

And she tells him of Kalki, the last One, the Destroyer, des­tined to clear the ground for the building of a new age of truth. It was Kalki of whom, with that unfailing cosmic intuition, the Fiihrer said, ‘I know that Somebody must come forth and meet our situation. I have sought, and found him nowhere; and therefore I have taken upon myself to do the preparatory work; only the most urgent preparatory work.’ She tells him that Kalki, unlike Hitler, will act with unprecedented ruthlessness. He will spare not one enemy of the divine cause: not one out­spoken opponent, nor even one of the heretical, the racially bastardized, the unhealthy, hesitating, all-too-human: not a single one of those who, in body or in character or in mind, bear the stamp of the fallen Ages.

`And we like to hope,’ she says, ‘that the memory of the One-before-the-last — of Adolf Hitler — will survive, at least in songs and symbols, in that long Age of earthly Perfection which Kalki, the last One, is to open. We like to hope that the Lords of the new Time-Cycle, men of his own blood and faith, will render him divine honours, through rites full of meaning and potency, in the cool shade of the endless regrown forests, on the beaches, or on inviolate mountain peaks, facing the rising sun.’

`Everything’s fucking connected. We know that by now, surely? Chaos theory: you have a wank and there’s an earth­quake off Sumatra. Doesn’t tell us anything, apart from maybe you should wank less. I think I’m drunk. Come on, darling,’ he said to Tom. ‘Let’s go.’

The houses lining the road had gone; it led now between wild grass and trees. I had the intense feeling that I was walk­ing back through history and might never see a town again, before I realized this was Hampstead Heath. The sun made occasional low winks through the trees to my left, and shone off the bodies of passing cars, which I took as confirmation that I was still in the same time after all. There was a strange, mounting silence, less an absence of noise than a thing itself, swelling thickly into space. I could feel its substance as I stepped into it: it shivered, as if living. I felt the need to get away from the road; I thought that way I might longer pre­serve my grasp on this palpable silence-thing, and somehow examine it. I stepped off the path into grass and mud, lurched a little as I remembered to attend to where I walked. What I saw ahead could have been the entrance to a forest: it was not a London park of level surfaces and formal plans; it was barely London at all. As I stepped between the trees I had the vague idea of news reports, the bodies of lone ramblers, victims of malefic rituals or damaged minds, and wondered if now was the best time to be doing this; but if there was a threat I could not feel it. Yellow light rippled across me in patterns; the bark of trees was damp and scarred; my boots churned the mud, where water glinted in tiny pools. The land rose sharply and took effort to climb. The sun came through gaps, heating patches of air like puffs of breath warm on my face. I passed over whole dioramas of labouring insects, with their vast appalling discipline, and there was a scent building, rich, sweet and heavy, as if it were summer and this a field of flowers. Ahead of me, on the crest of the rise, the sun glowed through bare branches so vividly they thinned into absence before it; as I walked they moved across its surface, and it pulsed. I didn’t have the vocabulary to tell myself what I saw; I had never paid attention to the garden at home, didn’t even know what trees these were. I grasped at names: oak, elm, hazel, ash; fern and ivy; peonies, dandelions, daffodils. What did you call these bright yellow autumn flowers? The silence was unbroken and yet also filled with the manifold hum of bees — was this even the time of year for bees? I felt them anyway, an impromptu retinue, rustling the air at my neck. The sun that waited at the top of the slope was full in my face and gave off an unexpected heat. Dark green needles of grass wove vivid carpets on the higher ground. So this was how it felt, revelation: shimmering light on the beckoning crest of a hill, the colours of things sat­urating, a fine accruing surface detail, as if looking close at a familiar painting and seeing for the first time the texture of the oils. That inner intensity you knew as a boy and had since for­gotten spilling and flooding into the physical world, into warmth and colour, the vibrant thrum of awoken nature. I stumbled up, found the summit, swayed in place as the sun­light pounded me. The land fell away ahead, and all across it I could see meadows unfurling in emerald and gold, thick mantles of trees, their dense canopies merged, falling and rising over distant hills. A vast flock of birds swirled in the sky; a squirrel nudged my feet without fear; a pair of dogs, their fur thick and black, and the size, it seemed, of donkeys, lumbered from nowhere up the path towards me, smelled something on the wind, gave a laughing bark, were gone, plunging through waist-high stalks like the waves of the sea: I walked forward in their wake; the ground dipped and rose; I bobbed in the tall grass. I knew what vision I had been granted: Imperium, the new dawn, the Satanic aeon; the return of the golden age long lost to algebra, industry, abstract thought, foolish insistence on the pre-eminence and commonality of man. The dogs were wolves, the wolves what men could be, and they chased the power to conquer galaxies.

Nicky Crane was alive, and before me, now, the city burned: I had reached another crest and there it was, far below and tiny, its dull anaemic greys glistening with the reflected red of the flames consuming it, the air, even here, thick with the caramel taste of burning flesh. And through its smoke, the risen sun. The old age never died; it was in retreat; it slept, while all the time its ancient guardians, LOKI OKKULT GESELLSCHAFT, LUPINE OPERIE GERULI, LEGATI ORDINIS GALAXICI, tended it with secret rites, sacrifice magnified by powerful relics passed on in unwritten rituals of initiation

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Beijing Comrades by Bei Tong

bcThis is the second book, in as any months, that our group has read that has a powerful mother. The context of the book is more interesting than the content – the lovers don’t do very much and the insensitive lead character is surely a stereotype. If Lan Yu was the main character it would have been psychologically more interesting. One of our members has a Chinese husband who read it online in China at the time of ‘publication’.  He thinks that the introduction in this book is worth reading because it gives some background as to the context in which it was written and how it was intended to be received by the reader.  At the time of it being put online the internet had taken off in China and gay networks established themselves across China and at that time people could express themselves in relative anonymity. Many novel length stories (built up in episodes) appeared in the chatrooms. It enabled fictional characters to act out many of the issues facing gay people at the time whilst the general population (including the emerging middle class) remained largely ignorant of the concept of ‘gay’ as opposed to ‘homosexual’. It also became an expectation that these stories would have a sexual content to them, indeed, to the Chinese gay man on the net, this was often the main hook into the story; the sexual exploration. Indeed, to many men with homosexual inclinations, the main aspect of their sexuality was one of play and pleasure and so this exploration of a doomed love affair and conflict with Chinese family values would have possibly stood out. Sean has quite a few friends who themselves wrote semi autobiographical series onto the net with varying levels of skill. But even the poorest of stories may have been read or at least clicked on by many thousands of people.  He liked the flawed nature of the ‘I’ character: he was honest and confused and not that nice in comparison to the noble savage from the countryside. The pace of the story was good too.  Many Chinese gay men looked for ‘love’ abroad partly not to end up in one of these relationships where they are just the man on the side, a pleasurable add-on to the normal family structure. Whether that was out of the frying pan and into the fire in many cases is up for debate! It reminded him a little of thoughts of Victorian England in this sense.

The translator was criticised for not improving the banality of some of the text, its prosaic descriptions –  but is it the job of a translator to make a purse out of a sow’s ear?

Do we get cliff-hangers because it was serialised?

The importance of reciprocity is strongly evident.

It’s quite erotic but it’s really about love, not sex.

It ends in a church with statements about God being all-loving and the question as to why he doesn’t love gays.

I had to look up ‘myrmidons’ = a follower or subordinate of a powerful person, typically one who is unscrupulous or carries out orders unquestioningly.

Was the writer a woman? Surely, if so, she would have concentrated on the characters rather than their context.

Myers (the translator):

“It defined a generation.  For many gay men in China, reading Beijing Comrades was a powerful experience because it was one of a small number of texts in which they could see themselves reflected.”

While the plot isn’t groundbreaking — cold and affectless Handong initially sees Lan Yu as a cheap fuck, he falls for him, and then life inevitably intervenes — the story was hugely influential.

“Most of the fictional works from late-1990s China are tragedies, and this perhaps reflects the feeling of the hopelessness of gay relationships, that gay relationships were something that could not last,” says Myers. In the book, Handong never fully embraces his homosexuality. He marries a woman, the beautiful and ambitious Lin Ping, but he spends the entire marriage fantasizing about Lan Yu. Within 18 months, he is divorced and alone. As Handong says, “I didn’t completely stop sleeping with women. I went to bed with them not because of physiological need, nor even because I liked them, but because of a need that was psychological: I wanted to prove to myself that I was a normal man.”

“Normality” is culturally defined, and though it ceased to be considered a mental illness, homosexuality still exists in a gray area in China. Official government policy is typified by the three nos — no support, no opposition, no promotion — which is loosely analogous to the now-defunct “don’t ask, don’t tell” of the U.S. military. Clinics offering cures for homosexuality still exist, though they are under increasing pressure from activists and are being forced to temper some of their more extreme practices.

In cities like Beijing and Shanghai, the LGBT community, while far from receiving the visibility and legal recognition common in the West, is vibrant. This year Shanghai Pride, though parade-less because of government regulations forbidding mass gatherings, took place across a series of venues. It included a fun run, lectures, and a queer film festival. LGBT activists are agitating for greater rights and have seen some small legislative victories — Chen Qiuyan, a student, won a case in August over the description of homosexuality in textbooks. While not ending in victories, other cases, such as the one brought by the activist Xiang Xiaohan after he was unable to register his LGBT charity, are notable for being heard at all.

China is still not an easy place to be out, and many choose not to come out to families or colleagues. In a recent survey by China-based NGO WorkForLGBT, which asked nearly 19,000 LGBT people whether they were out, only 3% of men and 6% of women identified as completely out. However, half the men and three-quarters of the women said they had come out to friends. This shows that private tolerance exists and that people are able to carve out spaces in their lives where they can live freely.

Handong narrates the book, and thus controls how we see him. He is a man accustomed to carefully managing his relationships and everything else he touches. He lets us see his control begin to crack, when his love for Lan Yu surprises and even frightens him, and our understanding of his panic catches us off guard. Unlike most control freaks in literature, he earns our empathy. – See more at:

One blog said:

China is, to me, a very contradicting country. Apart from Korea, I can’t think of many countries that have changed so much over such a short time period, yet stayed the same in other aspects. Family is China’s cornerstone. It seems there is nothing quite as important. Coming from a Confucian background, it is moreover expected from the children to honour and please their parents. The highest goals are to marry, have children, take care of the parents, and have a good job and reputation.

You probably already see the problem with that. Now bring into account China’s (now abandoned) 1-child policy and you can imagine how much more pressure lies on the only-child.

 Handong’s and Lan Yu’s love story is as beautiful as it is ugly, as hopeful as it is hopeless

In comparison to Western culture, it seems that ethics like honesty, faithfulness, and integrity are of lesser importance. It is way more important how things look like than how they really are, and help is taken in any form possible. It’s a constant bargaining in favours and being connected to important people is an advantage that is used for personal gain and protection.


Beijing Comrades is among mainland China’s earliest, best known, and most influential contemporary gay novels. It is also a pathbreaking work of what may be called tongzhi or gay fiction from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). It came into being when a young Chinese person living in New York City—absorbed by the world of the Internet, lacking direc­tion in life, and bored by the titillating but artistically vapid Chinese-language gay erotica available at the time—decided she would try and write her own homoerotic fiction

The author’s choice of pen name, Beijing Tongzhi (liter­ally, Beijing Comrade),8 may have been an auspicious one, for it likely helped to attract an intended audience while escaping notice of those who would wish to impede the novel’s circu­lation. Consisting of the Chinese characters for tong (same) and zhi (will, aspiration, or ideal), the word tongzhi was widely used in the socialist era (and earlier’) as a signifier of revolu­tionary camaraderie,” equivalent to the English word comrade or Russian word tovarisch.

Hastily executed and with no shortage of typos, this sexually graphic e-novel bursts with an exuberant and spirited amateurism that, far from blem­ishing the novel, is precisely a part of what makes it a pleasure to read.

Even the urban topography of China’s capital city is hazy and elusive; an underground gay quanzi (circle) is hinted at but never directly shown. Indeed, most of the place names in Beijing Comrades are fictitious,

Eventually we broke up. From then on I had a different girl on my arm every week and the inventory of notches on my bedpost grew. I quickly learned that there was nothing partic­ ularly difficult about getting girls. The hard part was getting rid of them.

“I’m not a girl,” he said, putting down his drink and standing up to leave. Somehow that impressed me, but I was also annoyed that he was leaving so early. Whatever. The whole night had been a waste of time.

Lan Yu smiled with a kind of calm resignation. “You businessmen don’t know a thing about friendship.”

“Wake up, Lan Yu! Business isn’t about friendship, it’s about profits.”

“What if it’s someone from outside the business world? What if it’s a friend?”

For the first time in my life I didn’t have an answer. Lan Yu must have sensed this because he kept going.

every time I had sex with my wife, I thought only of him. My hands caressed her soft white skin, her thick, heavy thighs and breasts. She was so gorgeous, so loving, but none of her beauty provoked my desire, and when I closed my eyes, it was Lan Yu I saw. There were times when I almost managed to trick myself into believing it was him I was touching: dark and firm, a radi­ant sheath covering a strong back and two broad shoulders. Only then would I slowly start to get hard.

There were some things I wouldn’t let myself think about: the touch of my tongue against his neck, the euphoric excite­ment he showed when I kissed him. These thoughts were off limits, outside the scope of the fantasy world I allowed myself to create during sex with my wife. I couldn’t do those things with Lin Ping, and trying them would have caused nothing but disappointment and grief. She wasn’t Lan Yu. She would never be Lan Yu.

I forced myself to have sex with her, but it was nearly impossible for me to come. Each time, I had to close my eyes and think about having sex with Lan Yu or, sometimes, with other men I had seen on the street that day, usually with Lin Ping on my arm. Only then was I able to climax. Pretty soon I started asking Lin Ping to let me fuck her on her hands and knees like I used to fuck Hao Mei. It worked at first, but in time even that wasn’t enough. More and more, I found myself jerking off when she wasn’t around, fantasizing about the men I wanted to be with.

It was one of those rare mornings when Lan Yu and I awoke in the same bed. We were at Tivoli. He had told me the previous night that he was looking forward to sleeping in late because he didn’t have to be at work until eleven. I woke up before him and got out of bed to look out the window at the beautiful fall scenery. Then I turned back toward the bed to look at Lan Yu, who was still asleep on his stomach. He loved that position. Right cheek pushed up against the bedsheet-covered mattress, a tiny pool of spit quivered in the lower corner of his mouth. He rolled onto his back, using his foot to push the blanket down to the base of the bed, and I noticed that the underwear he’d put on before going to sleep had somehow disappeared. He was naked now except for the calm serenity that enveloped him after the untamed frenzy of our lovemaking the night before. For a long time I stood there by the window, scrutinizing him and wondering if I was really going to do what I thought I was going to do. Quietly I stepped across the floor back to the side of the bed and gently pulled the blanket up to his chin.

Thoughts raced through my mind as I looked down at him. Did I really want nothing more from him than his body? Was I with him for no other reason than to satisfy my sexual desires? If I ended our relationship, would I be losing anything?

Well, let me tell you something,” he continued. “It’s not worth it, okay? A man only gets so many chances in this life­time to get serious in a relationship. And when he does, he damn well better be sure there’s a future in it. It has to lead to some bigger picture. Family. Kids.” He lit a cigarette. “But you know what? With this kind of thing, there is no bigger picture. This is it! You can’t even tell people about it without ruining yourself.”

“We had nothing. No recognition from the outside world. None of the pressures keeping couples together, but all of the ones keeping them apart.”
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Coming on Strong: Gay Politics and Culture ed. S. Shepherd and M. Wallis


(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

The original publishers, who commissioned this work, pulled out because of Section 28, despite the fact that it only applied to local authorities, not to universities. So pernicious was this section. However, it did galvanise hitherto unpolitical or conservative gays.

This may well sound a bit snobbish but bear with me – many of the authors are from polytechnics rather than universities – that shows how the establishment disregarded gays as a subject for academic discourse.  One particularly fine essay, probably the best in this collection, is by an 18 year old who spent his entire childhood in care and if only his words were heeded. It is not until very recently hat the scale of abuse in care homes has been discovered yet he wrote this decades ago.

I hadn’t realised that gays were effectively barred from working as psychoanalysts because they were considered to be ‘mentally ill.’

Gay men were thought unreliable as spies because they told lies but few people seem to ask what it was about a homophobic society that meant that people had to tell lies in the first place.


The concept of gay culture in this book comprises more than heterosexuals might want: more various, more divided and more politicized (which partly comes from the process of working out how to live together, to articulate and then to resolve differences). A concept of ‘gay culture’ that is an autonomous thing, inhabited by a mystical ‘gay sensibility’, is one that merely fulfils a heterosexual category.

In the debate on the Clause in the House of Commons, the Tory MP Elaine Kellett-Bowman was reported to express her approval of a fire-bomb attack on the offices of Capital Gay. (She later became a Dame in the 1988 New Year’s Honours List.) The wording of the Clause was taken from similar initiatives in the United States, the most recent, in November 1987, being Senator Jesse Helms’s successful attempt to ban all federal funding for Safer Sex education (the North Atlantic alliance has given Britain more than cruise missiles). Helms and his supporters depict sodomy as the sole cause of the spread of AIDS, and they require AIDS education to emphasize `abstinence outside a sexually monogamous marriage’. The Helms amendment, even more nakedly than Section 28, not only assaults the lifestyle of gays but also engineers the likelihood of their deaths.

The Section 28/Helms wording is intentionally vague enough to allow plenty of space for extremely vicious and bigoted interpretations. In Britain this wording alone fur­thered the effect of the Clause in that it promoted self-censorship, even before the Clause became law (as in the case of MUP). It precisely encouraged the implementation of and submission to attitudes moulded by the venomous hostility of the tabloid press, which also furnishes and enshrines the language spoken by queer-bashers as they carve up the faces of lesbians and gays with sharpened screwdrivers. (If heterosexual readers find such images oversensational, it is because their presses do not report the attacks, which are regular, organized, and on the increase.)

Perhaps what is needed is a policy of compulsory quarantine for all hetero­sexuals, accompanied by a massive national therapy cam­paign conducted by lesbians and gay men, which might help them to become a little less frightened of their own sexual desires. For they have so much more than us to learn about the workings of repression, and they are tragically far less well prepared to accept the unconditional and absolute necessity for Safer Sex.

Closer to home (if we may call it that), there were the attacks on sodomy in general, and on homosexuality in the church, at the Church of England Synod in December 1987. The inference constructed was that the ‘liberalism’ of the Archbishop of Canterbury had permitted homosexuality to thrive in the church. An attack on homosexuality was part of, and justification for, an attack on liberals by a govern­ment engineering a right-wing take-over of the church hierarchy. The church had challenged the authority of the Tory state by, for instance, its refusal to celebrate the Malvinas/Falklands ‘victory’ and its ‘Marxist’, i.e., critical, report on inner cities: the combination of national dis­loyalty and ‘Marxist’ intellectualism begs for the emergence — in this model — of the ‘explanatory key’, homosexuality.

As I noted earlier, the convenient thing about sexuality is that it is a ‘private’ matter, which means not that govern­ments leave it alone but that they can use ‘appropriate’ administrative or moral, rather than legal, structures to deal with it. In recent years, especially in the States, it has become the target of moral and religious groups (whose real links with big business and far-right politicians are undeclared, because it’s all ‘private’ anyway). In October 1987 Margaret Thatcher gave an interview to Woman’s Own in which she encouraged the churches to be more outspoken about AIDS (and homosexuality): ‘Parliament isn’t the great institution of life; churches are your great institutions, as are your great voluntary associations. And you’re entitled to look to-them and say “Look, there are certain standards, and if you undermine fundamentally these standards you’ll be chang­ing our way of life”‘ (report in Capital Gay, 30 October 1987). The choice of magazine shows she is talking only about ‘private’ personal matters, and therefore it seems appropriate that she can use the interview to downgrade the authority of the major elected body of the land. In place of its mandated legislation, she encourages the voice — and pre­sumably actions — of those non-elected, ‘pro-family’ moral and religious groups whose stance and membership embody some of the more reactionary thoughts of the Tory Party.

Insidiously, almost imperceptibly, the perverts have got the heterosexual majority with their backs against the wall (the safest place, actually …). The freaks proclaim their twisted morality almost nightly on TV … where will it end? Where it may end, of course, is by natural causes. The woofters have had a dreadful plague visited upon them, which we call AIDS, and which threatens to decimate their ranks. Since the perverts offend the laws of God and nature, is it fanciful to suppose that one or both is striking back? … Little queers or big queers, Mills has had enough of them all — the lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals, the hermaphrodites and the catamites and the gender benders who brazenly flaunt their sexual failings to the disgust and grave offence of the silent majority. A blight on them all says Mills. (9 September 1986)

the rapid politicization that was taking place among formerly ‘conservative’ gay men (who had felt snug enough in the ghetto, very properly valued it as one of the few safe and sociable spaces in their lives). Some white men were for the first time recognizing racism when they saw what immigration officials were doing to Blacks from parts of Africa especially affected by AIDS.

The ghetto was changing, dissolving and spreading under other pressures anyway. Other safe and sociable places were being found in addition to the few pubs and clubs (though not very rapidly outside the metropolitan centres). The AIDS crisis and our response to it sped this process. Our culture and our politics broadened. In January 1988 Clause 28 was sharpening our politics as we defended our culture and possibly our lives.

Through our concrete struggles some of our perceptions have changed and new connections been made. Perhaps sentimentally (I am, as you will remember, a Radio 4 listener), it’s sometimes possible to feel that our building of practical solidarity and common perspectives with others in struggle – together, that is, with the ‘public’ promotion of those perspectives – might be one of the many sources of what the Communist Gramsci might have called a new socialist hegemony.

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