23 June 2009

Lads and Losers

Imagine a group of drunk men sitting round, watching pornography together. Imagine the jokes they tell to distract from the fact that they’re sitting in a room full of other men, all with erections. Now imagine 150 illustrated pages of it. This is known as a “lad-mag”. Not only is the writing shit, they can’t even publish their artistic photography without putting a joke caption on it. Not a funny caption. Not even a caption intended to be funny. A caption that readers will simply recognise as a joke, therefore rendering any semi-on sustained by the reader ironic. What I’m trying to say here is, I don’t really like lad-mags. My old flatmate’s Maxim still ranks as the worst document I’ve ever read. I don’t like them. They’re shit. Really shit.

So Feminazery. Brace yourselves. You’ve got an open goal here. Please don’t fuck it up. I mean, look who you’re up against: Piers Hernu, who says his teenage readers are being
slowly broken in, as it were, to the harsh realities of the sexual world
The harshest thing I’ve ever seen in a lad mag was the revelation that not every woman will have anal sex with you whenever you want it, and, well, I don’t think reality has ever really featured in his publications. So not only are we playing with a tennis ball here, he’s throwing it very gently to you, under-arm. And don’t think this is going to be an allusion to girls being rubbish at sports. This isn’t really cricket. This is intellectual debate. You’ve got Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler and Monique Wittig waiting in the pavilion, he’s got a plastic bat from Woolworths, held upside-down. You can do this, Feminazery, you can do this. And with 98% of the population on your side, you could even get away with cheap “you-wish” gags, snobbishly writing stuff in a plebeian accent, confusing ‘sexually explicit’ with ‘sexually arousing’ and mocking your opponent’s body-shape. You could even save quality one-liners like “me tarzan, you fuckbucket” for the comments section and you’d still be doing fine.

Oh, but you trod on your stumps. Nice one:
An airbrushed, submissive, surgically-enhanced, Aryan model flaunting her knickers and knockers isn’t sex; it’s wank-fodder. Wank-fodder, no less, for the spotty teenager who can’t get a real girl because he doesn’t know how to – and Nuts and Zoo sure as hell aren’t going to teach him.
Pretty much everybody masturbates. I had one friend at school who claimed, claimed not to. And if someone tugs one out over Nuts it’s probably not because they can’t get a real girl, it’s probably because they can’t get better pornography. So, why the cheap dig at spotty teenagers who don’t know how to pick up girls? Is it so hard to maintain a light-hearted, humorous tone without laying into some outsider or other? Would you respect them more if they were better at procuring the use of a vagina? And let’s be honest, “How to Make Every Girl in the Room Beg for It” and “How to Make Her Come like a Steam Locomotive Using Only Your Knees” run in alternate issues. While that might not get you the kind of woman who writes Feminist media blogs, I’m guessing they must have a reasonable success rate to get churned out so regularly. So even the expression of sympathy tacked on at the end doesn’t work.

I boggled when I saw that quote, I really did. And I almost never boggle. Is a so-called ‘Feminist’ blog really using “can’t get a real girl” as a casual insult? Is its supposedly progressive author really equating male social worth with sexual conquest? Because it looks an awful lot like it. And this isn’t just stupid in terms of theory, it’s a colossal strategic blunder. The involuntary celibates who the writer, Who Knows, looks down on from the privileged position of ever having had a sexual partner, are natural allies of the Feminist movement. They’re not only outsiders to the system, they’re conscious victims of it. Really conscious, trust me. Feminists and Daily Mailists might worry about teenage girls with low-self esteem seeing the women in FHM, but I rarely see concern for the teenage boys being indoctrinated to go through bisexual lingerie models like James Bond, or their self-esteem when they inevitably fail to do so. Because lad-mags abuse men, and especially boys, too. More so in fact – as well as bombarding us with fantasy images of women we can never have, they push an ever-narrowing definition of masculinity on us, limited to guns, cars, sports, gadgets, fucking and drunken banter. What’s oddest is that Who Knows goes on to say that
if we really had a problem with “sexually repressed morality”, we might have less of a problem with teenage pregnancy
Now come on: do you want your teenage boys fucking or not? Will you chastise them for losing their virginity too early or disdain them for losing it too late?

Anyway, speaking from experience, us losers can go either way as regards gender equality. On the one hand, we end up resenting other men as competitors: successful, undeserving and secretly, if not openly, disdainful of our failures. Even other losers become rivals, as we hope and pray they don’t find happiness before us, leaving us still further behind. On the other hand, after repeated rejection you can find yourself hating women more than life itself. So we don’t really feel we have any allies. Now do you see what this is Feminazery? This is a group of people, disgruntled with the state of things, hostile to typical masculinity, resentful of the effect binary gender identity has had on their lives, feeling largely under-represented and, to be honest, with a lot of extra time on their hands to read stuff and think about the world. This is another under-arm tennis ball sailing slowly towards the middle of your bat. You just have to pick your approach. You can argue that prescriptive norms of gendered behaviour are the root of our frustrations, or you can use potential allies as an offensive byword for male inadequacy. But just remember, we’re emotionally fragile creatures, not to mention horny, and your opponent’s offering pick-up guides and naked breasts.


  1. Is this a very long winded chat up line, or are you genuinely upset that da laydez are so self-absorbed with dealing with their own problems that they haven't considered you and your needs?

  2. That's not exactly what I the post was about on either count. Maybe you should read things more carefully in future. I could set you some comprehension questions if you think a bit of structure would help.

    1. Hi, I thought I commented on this at the time a friend linked it to me last August, but perhaps not. I've found this article really useful for stopping myself resorting to an easy insult, and have sent it to a number of friends. I linked to it again on twitter today re: the uni lad debate & the quietus's otherwise thoughtful article on it. Thanks for writing such a smart post.

    2. I saw. Thanks a lot for the plug.