All you need to know about gay sex

Bedtime reading for men seeking spiritual union - and an education for the I-wonder-how-they-do-it brigade. Andrew Tuck and partner curl up with the Gay Kama Sutra
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Next month sees the publication of The Gay Kama Sutra. "Ha, " I hear you sceptics mockingly laugh, "Must be a pretty short book, lift up your shirt and bend over!" Well that's where you are wrong.

Written by author-cum-playwright-cum-journalist Colin Spencer, it's a tome for gay men concerned about their place in society and the cosmos, men who want to achieve a spiritual union with their significant others, men who want to find out what the "Pillar and the Ivy" position entails (Olympian thighs, judging by the illustration). It may even intrigue the I-wonder-what-they-do-in-bed brigade.

Spencer has written about perverse, anti-social minorities before: he's the author of The Heretic's Feast: a History of Vegetarianism (yes, he's swapping vegetables for fruit this time round). His latest book takes as its starting point the ancient Indian Kama Sutra, which Spencer praises for its timeless advice on sexuality and which he claims can be applied to men making love (for example, all sex is promoted as a means of getting in touch with "deeper layers of consciousness, and thereby understanding the mysteries of existence"). Yet, as Spencer is the first to acknowledge, the Indian classic is scant on specific references to gay men. Indeed, gay sex acts only get mentioned on "don't" lists and practitioners are dismissed as "silly and hesitant".

Like the original, Spencer's Kama Sutra aims to provide advice on "how a man may conduct himself in society". Obviously, it's pointless turning to a text compiled between the second and fourth centuries AD for top tips on social etiquette, so here Spencer is forced to come up with his own rules. There are six chapters in all, taking you from "The Art of Love Making" and "Amorous Advances" to "Sexual Games and Risks" and "Stimulants and Relaxants".

The book is illustrated with a mixture of classical Indian images and supposedly recent photos (when did you last see a gay man wearing a pair of baggy strides?). Then there are the drawings. While the men depicted are certainly not characters out of Tom of Finland cartoons (where the men have such enormous phalluses, it's amazing that they don't fall flat on their faces every time they try to stand up), they certainly have nothing to fret about in the trouser department and their bottoms are the definition of pert. The only real problem with drawings is that they can make the impossible look simple (just like those deceitful leaflets you get with self-assembly furniture).

However, Paul Burston, editor of Time Out's gay section and himself the author of several books on gay life, salutes Spencer's work. "It's great when books have a more holistic approach to gay life and are not just about sex. But that said, there is a market for books like these because of the pressure on gay men to be good - and versatile - at sex."

James Collard, editor of Attitude, a magazine aimed at gay men, believes that his readers are increasingly dissatisfied by "the scene" and standing around in sweaty discos - "They want something more spiritual." He also believes that books like The Gay Kama Sutra are useful for young gay men in need of a "how to" manual.

But enough of the lit crit, does The Gay Kama Sutra work? In the name of investigative journalism, me and the loved one spent last Thursday night in a state of undress and frighteningly short of breath. We skipped over all the spiritual stuff (sorry Colin). We also averted our eyes from the section on stimulants - no Class A recommendations - that suggests spices and vegetables to get you going. The unfortunate reference to fennel put me off this section; Spencer claims it can aid sexual vigour, but it has a history of making me want to heave. I have to confess that in my younger days many of the positions would have been a doddle, but what with the dodgy knees and a passion for getting an early night, The Gay Kama Sutra was something of a challenge. Add to that a boyfriend who regards any midweek advances as "funny business" and is reluctant even to take off his socks before going to bed, and the task before me would have defeated Jeff Stryker.

Anyway, the "Twining of the Creeper" or Jataveshtitaka turned out to be a cinch, involving little more than a tangle of legs and some lolling around. We skipped the "Flower Duet", deciding that it just didn't sound butch enough. I was warned by my co-teste, in no uncertain terms, to miss out the section on all eight varieties of love bites ("If you think I'm going to work looking like some 14-year-old slapper, think again"). "Beating with the Prick" didn't seem a very midweek thing either. Page 57 was nothing short of heavenly and by the time we got to Page 62 there was sweat on the forehead. In the end, however, we settled for a nice bit of Page 69 (where the fella in the illustration looked worryingly like the man who runs our local off-licence). What's more we were finished in time for Newsnight.

Our final verdict? Slightly mixed. Many of the intriguingly named positions turned out to be old favourites and it was off-putting consulting a DIY manual during sex. But, in this age of ambition, it did help in setting some goals. Hey, we even got used to the man from the offie popping up, so to speak, on every page. And if only I could learn to love fennel, and find a good physio, perhaps I'd even have the stamina for the "Pillar and the Ivy". Well, you gotta dream.

'The Gay Kama Sutra' by Colin Spencer, price pounds 14.99, is published by Allen & Unwin on 15 October, when it will be available from all good booksellers. It is available in advance by mail order direct, telephone 01903 736736, VISA and Access accepted.

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