Can heterosexuality be as tedious as our clergy and politicians believe?

Is Carey's concern that gay vicars will turn from the basses to proposition the altos in the choir?

OVER THERE, in illiberal Britain, they have been getting their (baggy and unrevealing) knickers in a right old twist. In the run-up to last night's vote on equalising the heterosexual and gay male ages of consent, the howls and growls of outraged moral majoritarians have filled the pages of the Mail and the Telegraph. They are not, of course, homophobes, perish the thought. Some of their best friends are gays, charming men - with a passion for tapestries and collecting Toby-Jugs - who wouldn't harm a fly (let alone open one).

I have passed forty, but the attitude of many on the right towards homosexuality still surprises me. Male right-wingers are personally affronted by lesbianism (perhaps it is the loss of opportunity they deplore), while both men and women seem to be fixated on anal sex. So, according to Lynette Burrows in yesterday's Telegraph, "the defining activity of homosexuals is buggery". The evidence for this is some study in which 92 per cent of male homosexuals were said to have taken part in anal sex. One might as well argue that the defining activity for heterosexual couples (as judged by St Valentine's ungay Day) is calling each other by ridiculous pet names like Wuggles and Rumpkin.

Perhaps the horror the authoritarian right feels for this one sexual act blinds them to the flaws in their arguments. Take Leo McKinstry, once a Labour councillor in Islington, who now writes, in the Sunday Telegraph, that the equal rights amendment is nothing less than "state sanctioned encouragement to embark on a gay sexual career in the mid-teen years".

This bonkers proposition (that if something is not banned, then it is encouraged) gives rise in my mind to a public service TV ad in which a boyish figure turns to the camera and whispers huskily, "Hi! I'm Tony. You've just turned sixteen and I bet you're tired of strumming your own guitar. Why not get another guy to do it for you? It's a whole lot of fun, and it's not even illegal any more. Thanks to New Labour".

Let us leave poor McKinstry for a moment and pop over to the Mail, where we find Labour stalwart Stuart Bell MP arguing that the amendment will "undermine family life". And goes on to ask whether, "if we adults reduce the age of homosexual consent, are we saying to teenagers it is OK to try it?"

Yep. That's what we're saying, Stuart. But are you saying that heterosexuality is so tedious, so unattractive that, given half a chance the more red- blooded of today's teenage boys would soon find themselves cracking whips over PVC-clad musclemen in Berlin night-clubs? Stuart and Leo seem to believe that most of us are repressed homosexuals, nailed with difficulty to the narrow board of conventional family life. Speak for yourself, boys.

Nevertheless S and L's little problem is still preferable to the arguments of those who see themselves as in loco everyone's parentis. Lynette Burrows (the very name suggests a pathological need to hide from the truth) is sure that only paedophiles and men in macs will benefit from the change in the law. "When I think of my own four boys," she writes, "who were slender and beardless for four years beyond the age of 16, I know that the law was right to protect them."

If they'd been fat and hairy (like many of my classmates) the little Burrowses would presumably have been fair game for every passing pervert. But here, of course, Ma Burrows is showing that delicacy of concern for her teenage sons' sexual innocence that only a person who has never actually been a late teenage boy can possibly feel. Take it from me, Lynette, in 20 years time one of the beardless ones will turn round and tell you stories that will make your hair curl.

After its passage through the Commons, the amended bill will go to the Lords where many are promising a fight. And joining them, apparently, will be the mitred ranks of the bishops of the Church of England, who issued a statement over the weekend, stating that, "we are concerned that the proposal ... may give wrong messages to young people and to our society as a whole."

What wrong messages? That we value gay teenagers as much as straight ones? That we believe that equality before the law will turn happy hets into homos? Or is George Carey's concern perhaps that a whole load of those notoriously gay vicars will suddenly - and embarrassingly - turn from the basses and begin to proposition the altos in the church choir? Much parentis, very loco.

Let me warn their Reverences not to fight it in the Lords. Many will wonder at the sheer cheek of C of E prelates in telling Jewish, Methodist or Zoroastrian wooftahs what to do. Tony Benn's campaign for disestablishment would find itself with millions of new supporters.

It could be that the church hierarchy secretly knows this, which is why they have been making such friendly noises about an amendment tabled by veteran Labour MP, Joe Ashton. This amendment (which was either passed last night, or was taken under the Home Office's wing for further refinement) seeks to outlaw sex between those under the age of 18 and people in a "position of authority, influence and trust". The suggestion is that the passage of this amendment would temper church opposition to the ending of age discrimination.

Odd, this, because the two things are completely unrelated. Ashton, taking his cue from the Utting report on Children Living Away From Home, is concerned that youngsters in circumstances that render them especially vulnerable should be protected against sexual predation by those appointed to watch over them. He cites 200,000 children living away from home, of whom 60 per cent are in boarding schools, and the rest are living with foster parents, in prison establishments, and in children's homes.

This is a genuinely difficult issue. If you are deemed to be an adult above the age of 16 then why are you less of an adult because you are at boarding school? Why should you, uniquely, require the protection of the criminal law? And are sexual relations with, say, a teacher or (most famous of all) matron, necessarily abusive? Long-term and relatively equal relationships are clearly imaginable between, say, 17 year old girls in care, and 22-year-old care workers.

Imaginable, but highly undesirable. The distinction is that it would be deeply unprofessional for a carer to indulge in such a relationship. Yet it is very important that the young adults should not see themselves as having taken part in a criminal act. Rather, the worker should be viewed as having transgressed a strict professional code. Doctors may be struck- off for sleeping with their patients, but there is no criminal trial. So those who look after teenagers could be dismissed and blacklisted, without the need for the police to be involved.

I may be wrong on this. But even if I am, it is surely worrying that such a complex measure should be being used as bargaining chip to neutralise opposition to a measure - equal rights - whose merits are so obvious to all but the purblind and prejudiced.

News

literature

News
Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.

television

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss