It's everything. The glossy pages; the elegant design; the rich colour reproductions of Cesi, Tuke, Flandrin, Grant (Duncan, not Russell); the utter lack of stroke material. Pierce my ears and call me draughty but shouldn't something titled The Gay Kama Sutra make its target reader spring a woody or five?
Unfortunately, author Colin Spencer's holistic mix of body maintenance, Eastern philosophy, mental health and Miss Mannered prose is primed to educate not elevate, though you can peruse suitably artistic etchings of boys doing it tenderly and meaningfully with boys and ask yourself the first of many burning questions i.e. is my sex life that boring too?: "The third kiss is when such tender touching of the lips has begun ... but now the head is moved a little this way and that, so a motion starts, moistened by saliva." The fourth kiss is, of course, when the pick-up is told to stop dribbling, get dressed and go, walk out the door.
Getting my drift? What we have here is less print run and more pastel propaganda; 192 touchy-feely pages marketing the New Gayness, so similar to the triumphant middle-classiness of New Labour, New Feminism and the New Seekers. We're talking neat, clean, well spoken and averagely hung, because we're ready to leave that sort of cliche behind, aren't we? (No.) The Gay Kama Sutra is for the sort of gay man who's only ever been tied up by mortgage commitments, the guy you haul home to Mama: the outlaw as in-law. He's not exactly political - he chants mantras, not slogans - but he is a nice man. A very nice man. A very, very nice man. And one horribly suspects that niceness is meant to gain him that damned elusive equality. Which isn't particularly Eastern but is terribly, terribly British.
Actually, the New Gay may not even exist. Which is to say he may not be an exploitable market yet. But Colin - one feels one can call him Colin - has aspirations and quite possibly a middle-parting. Perhaps wishing will make the New Gay so. And how better to coax the timid wee beastie forth than with a supposed sex manual that turns out to be an etiquette guide? An etiquette guide that requests gay men to stop thinking about self self self and start thinking about ... self self self.
Now, I should be the last prim little Madam to object to any alternative to waning, whiny bar culture. Gay men should get in touch with their Inner Adult. But I have doubts that redecorating the interior world will alter the outside universe much and I worry if Colin is clear about this: "if a man is true to himself and well educated in the arts and sciences ... he will have the respect of his society." See? Colin's Inner Adult is a wanky liberal, an old hippy, Michael Jackson: start with the man in the mirror. Colin believes if he's good, good things will flow to him. And being good here is taming and retuning selfish male sexuality. And isn't that the rage, hetero and homo. Colin says: "Seduction should be gentle and subtle; never go too far too quickly." I say: tell that to a bit of council estate rough who just wants a shag and the bus fare home.
Colin graciously nods to every lifestyle option yet mostly ignores what you might imagine he's in opposition to: the commercial scene. But, as I say, he's polite. Polite enough to blot out the fact that like the poor the promiscuous are always with us, usually attempting to slip all eight wandering hands into your gusset. If they are to forgo fast love baby and begin regarding their bodies as temples rather than bouncy castles it behoves one to be honest about the dubious rate of exchange.
Not that anyone has to buy into it. Even if they wanted to. That bit of council estate rough not only lacks the refinement but the moola to be New Gay. This is a coffee table book and Mr Rough can't even afford the new paperback, let alone a coffee table. Or massage. Or therapy. Cheap sex really is cheap sex for him. The Fairyland Colin presumes a certain income as well as a certain outlook. He has brave hopes for the 'better' in 'better off'. But what if you're not earning big and don't wish to be Sandra bleedin' Bullock? What if you're having a bad hair day and society's deeply disappointed in you for not being as advertised, bitch? Doesn't New Gay set an impossible standard of behaviour? How can I achieve inner peace when I'm so bloody tense?
Let's put it this way. It's possible to be glad The Gay Kama Sutra comes from a mainstream publisher (Allan Unwin) and to agree with every other word: moderation in all things, shave closely, be wonderful in and out of bed. But as a breakthrough TGKS is a true sign of these times: a thing that appears to be an advance but is actually a spiritual retreat.Reuse content