Fag hags could play sexual tourist while gay men could play with dolls - this dress, this hairstyle, this lipliner

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I would love to claim I noticed first, but Paul did. Which is amazing when you consider he has spent the evening grooving to techno techno techno, keeping his arms rigid and waving them up and down - which means either he has been inhaling the Real Thing again or his nail varnish is taking a very long time to dry. Smashed or not, his analytical eagle eye scans the black-on-black low-lit room. And he ignores the crop tops, Muscle Marys and leather queens and instead remarks how fag hags have changed.

I follow his gaze and, ah ah, there are a scattered handful of obviously heterosexual women roaming this heavy duty environment. And they come on ... erotic. Not like the goody-time girls who sweep through the officially mixed atmospheres of London's Love Muscle and Friday Night at Heaven. They are ... charged. And in charge. Hot. Hotter than the guys. Less studied.

Paul continues: "They used to come to gay clubs to get away from straight men. Now they're here for the sexual energy." Well, I nearly say, the blonde over there needs all the energy she can absorb, to propel her through all that bleaching and backcombing. And is that a serious patchouli habit I smell? And then, I confess, I say: "When did fag hags start looking like Gazza's girlfriend? Didn't we teach them better?" and Paul, a tad pitying, says something along the lines of actually, we don't mould any more, John, new rules, new balls, new game.

He's right. Once upon a time a gay man could, almost, be guaranteed to give a girl what her buttoned-up boyfriend could not: a bit of the Other. Floods of male emotion and attention, without having to worry that it was all a ploy to get into your knickers (all right, certain gay men might want to wear your knickers, but that's a different story). If there wasn't sex, there was definitely scope for bittersweet, pristine romance - so flattering - not to mention tripping to places where the music was better, the threads were classier, the people more fun and the chances of a customer getting glassed minimal: come last orders, homosexuals prefer a good kissing to a good kicking.

At first it was not a bad trade-off; fag hags (awful term - how about "friend of a friend of Dorothy"?) got to play sexual tourist -"Go on, snog him - snog anybody," my friend Julia used to command - while shallow gay men got to play Professor Higgins and with dolls again. Walking, talking, living dolls. Try this hairstyle, this dress, this lipliner, and remember not to frown because that way lies wrinkles, you great big Barbie you.

It's possible fag hags realised gay men were not so different from straight men - both groups said they loved them as they were, yet each wanted to change them - at the same time they a) found feminism, and b) discovered straight men were, you should pardon the expression, moving closer to gay men. For suddenly their boyfriends, too, had started to tone with Clarins and were making baby noises about their feelings, nothing more than their feelings.

Yes, let's hear it for our Old Friend, New Man and his descendant, the Stray or Gay Acting Straight Man. That little capitalist plot managed to strip gay men of much of their traditional glamour - the Queen has No Clothes! - just as the deluge of Eighties Aids information managed to evaporate the mystery - the world's longest-running, bar The Mousetrap - of what we did under the duvet ("Oh, is that it?"). What price sexual tourism when everyone has a holiday brochure?

The bald fact was that gay men were no longer market leaders; not the sort a swinging lass would care to be seen dangling on the arm of. While gay men were still getting pissed - and in the Eighties there were plenty of reasons to be smashed - the former fag hag and her touchy-feely fella rode the forefront of fashion. They discovered Rave (more exciting than High Energy) and E (more exciting than poppers). And E, the lurve drug, had an amusing side-effect. It temporarily turned bullish straights into gay sweeties: we can be homos, if just for one day. Except, when the Methylenedioxymethamphetamine wore off, strays would do what gay men would not and tumble for ya.

The rise of the "mixed" club was also a tacit admission that one subculture had overtaken another. The fag hag vanished into a posse of ambiguous, blurred boys and girls and that once special relationship lost its potency. Only ... the wheel turns. Over there: Gazza's girlfriend is on the dance floor fine-tuning her libido; she looks as if she wants fetish, not friendly. She has certainly updated. Pick'n'mixing has made her no one's plaything and, in the mandatory fluidity of now, she can cut across gay territory in search of not sex, but sexuality; not the thing, but ways of presenting and representing the thing: the apt pupil succeeds the teacher. It still remains platonic, but more sophisticated - hard core and cheap thrills rather than cosy chats and make-up tips.

Which is a relief. Fag hags may be the only ladies left who want a male for his mind, not his body.

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