Amongst the many embarrassments, humiliations and accidents of my life, one key factor has prevailed in all of them: my taste in men. I have to confess, dear reader, that both men of the title are somewhat within my bracket. As anyone who has ever had the misfortune/honour to live with me can attest to, my ‘type’ has a pattern that is so irregular that it can only be accurately narrowed down to ‘not women, when not drunk’. However, I recently discovered yet another issue with it prevails, and not just my affection for ballroom dancers with distressingly monotonous intonation, or for tactless scouse baking judges. Masculinity it seems, is a bigger issue than both.
In a recent discussion with a friend, we came to the grim realisation that for all our feminism, for all our defiance of the toxicity of British maleness and the misogyny it often denotes, if one of these men we eschew were to actually approach us, our knees would be weak and swoon we would. After all our moral and intellectual prophesising, a broad-shouldered baritone in sportswear is still no less sexually appealing.
Similarly, the gay world (of which I am a passive but committed member) has had a weird injection of masculinity as of late. Expectations and stereotypes are emerging for people based on their sexual position. For example, tops are now occasionally expected to pay for a bottom’s meal or drinks, and the ‘Masc4Masc’ trend on Grindr is quickly becoming something sinister, rather than a parody. Gay men seem to be imitating gendered stereotypes, the very thing that being homosexual so beautifully robs us of. Trust men to go and ruin it.
This presents an interesting dilemma for feminism. How rooted are our sexual desires in gender stereotypes, and how much of this is natural and innate, and not learned? Good questions, these. However, they are for people of science and clever subjects, not a mere English student such as myself – I am here to talk about bums and puberty.
Let’s start with bums, as indeed all good reads do. I find it interesting that straight-acting, blokey men are so nervous about theirs in two ways: nervous for it to look toned, attractive and… stern? And secondly, nervous that anyone should go anywhere near it. This insecurity, and I hope I am being brave to admit this and not just weird, is oddly attractive. It carries an air of secrecy and subversion with it that I find quite nice.
Bums are attractive to women too, but I don’t exactly know why, given sexually they have less scope with it than the gays. Maybe it’s simply another place on the body for muscular demonstration – another reason I am partial. But also, I suspect women enjoy this Carry-On film, will they/won’t they tease with male insecurity, an insecurity particularly focused in that region. Maybe it’s because straight guys still, depressingly, have most of the power and this bum-insecurity (yes, a real term) is a slight, joyfully deviant way of usurping it. Whilst this is, I admit, rather a lot of lefty-student-nonsense, I don’t necessarily mean power in the political sense. Sex, I am assured, is all too frequently seen by men as a way for them to express power and control, and for women to lay there and obey. Certainly, when I am around a large group of men (yes, it does happen) I often hear a dominant tone woven into their discussions about women. This power dynamic is also especially prominent in straight porn. Apparently.
So, bums are a way to get around this. We find them sexy because men don’t want us to. This is revenge attraction and is gleefully naughty. We get to temporarily defy stereotypes in the bedroom, leaving room for us to surprise ourselves. This is something about sex I’ve always thought – normal is boring. But I do not encourage you, my long-suffering reader, to don chains, just to be more frivolous and outrageous – laugh and be confident, unafraid. In the words of Naked Attraction’s (hopefully soon to be Dame) Judith, “no inhibitions”. It tends to work.
This brings me neatly onto puberty. We’ve all done it, and we do it when in school, unarguably a hotbed of gender stereotypes. I have long thought that my undeniable attraction towards masculine men has been a by-product of my school days, where the only example of men to me was the L.A.D.S., and the rugby instructor who visited occasionally, much to mine and the girls’ excitement. I remember fondly how I would be praised for being ‘built for rugby’ by the instructor, something which I later depressingly realised was just a euphemism for ‘not thin’. But I took it as a sign of interest and I’m sure it planted some seed of masculinity within me (don’t). These experiences, particularly ones in PE, seem to be familiar to the gays I have consulted. We latch onto large, prominent male role models as a reference point, a starting place, for our sexuality as we develop through puberty, so it is no wonder that we end up here, writing sordid filth like this. And it is here that I must, however begrudgingly, return to the men of my title. Love Island‘s Curtis Pritchard was my type from day one: a bit camp, tall, muscular (when he entered the villa, anyway), and cheesy in an 80s telly kind of way.
He combined my interests of masculinity (I agree with St Maura, he is manly in his own style) and of campiness. That fiesta lap-dance moment was infinitely sexy. If he wasn’t such a cunt, I would still say he was my ideal.
In stark contrast, we now turn to the deep, dark recesses of masculinity in Britain – that Liverpudlian minx who sleuths about the tent alongside the indomitable Prue Leith – Paul Hollywood. As strange and bewildering a choice this may be, Mr Hollywood is a man’s man: a total womaniser, into his cars, rigid in posture, never allowing an inch of frivolity to enter his gestures.
However, he is famous for a stereotypically womanly activity – baking. He is proud of this and ignores the irony as irrelevant, doing for cakes what Curtis did for ballroom dancing and this only makes me want him more. The ideal man then, seems to rest somewhere between these two. Feminism has found its answers to this question of attraction, and I have found mine. I do get the creeping sense that both these men don’t, at the back of their minds, take themselves entirely seriously and would ask for you to slide a finger up whilst they were ejaculating– an image I find both hilarious and attractive in equal measure.
If we are to overcome this issue of manliness in sex, I think that we must combine and come to peace with this seeming conflict between the desire to laugh at masculinity and the desire for it. Laughing, getting into it, keeping the lights on, staying naked afterwards, the odd slap – are all much needed to forget the inhibitions of gender norms, and to fully enjoy the moment as we ought, as human beings. We can unite masculinity and femininity, and in doing so produce a more rounded and theatrical experience for both partners.
You heard it here first.