The man is talking pell-mell, talking about how one of the managers threw an ashtray at him. "It hit me on the head and I fell. I started to come round and he was forcing his penis into my mouth."
A litany: the painful groping, the blunt threats, the punch-drunk terror of other employees, young men just embarked on that journey into who they were, chosen for their looks, chosen, who knows, for their vulnerability. More: the sexual violence visited upon one 18-year-old, a teenager everyone realised hadn't told his parents, how that knowledge meant open season. How the boy, angry, traumatised, wants to come forward, bring charges, but can't, because his family remain in the dark.
The voice gains strength, says 17 other victims, including customers, have been contacted by the police, then rewinds down memory lane: "I went back for my wages and had a pound coin thrown at me from the tips box. I said I was going to the gay press. I said they would expose him. He laughed in my face. He said he was too influential."
Maybe he was. Maybe he wasn't. Maybe the five begging letters this victim sent never reached the publications he posted them to six months ago. Maybe the fact that the gay free sheets exist solely because of advertising from bars and clubs has nothing to do with the systematic rape and abuse of other gay men going long unreported by the "guardians of the community"; those bottom-line businessmen who pose as a "press" without, generally, either hiring experienced staff or adequately training the low-paid enthusiasts who currently constitute the bulk of gay "journalists".
The editor of the Pink Paper, for instance, is - 21, 22, 23 years old? He undoubtedly works hard and long, but could it be possible that he and his colleagues may not have recognised that they had the inside track when the aforementioned victim rang some four weeks ago to ask why the Pink hadn't at least followed up what Time Out magazine had finally broken? And why had he had to go to Time Out anyway?
Whatever, the Pink still didn't do what a press is meant to - pursue - until last week, when it blandly reported the sacking of the accused. On the front page, though neutered rather than "neutral". The absolute minimum required in the face of probes launched into the previous blanket silence. And, no, none of the victims was contacted, so the intervening time presumably hadn't been spent in deep investigation.
It could be unprofessionalism. It could be the advertisers. It might be this: to acknowledge such suffering, and other gay men's obvious capacity to inflict that suffering, a capacity perhaps partially moulded by a "scene" that actively encourages its constituency to view others as instantly disposable commodities, not only spoils the non-stop party, it explodes a mind-set. A kind of sensibility that has, in the past, called for untested drugs to be given to those with Aids because they were dying, only later to scream "murderers" at the medical establishment when the inevitable side-effects occurred. That mindless-set is (sometimes for good reason) defensive - also babyishly blameless. After a lifetime of being told no, unnatural, shut up, it is free and has flown to the other extreme. It now cannot accept criticism, or argue or engage. It repels and attacks, as when the editor of Boyz, taken to task in the Big Issue, immediately decries the writer for catering to "straight liberals"; furthermore the writer is plain unhappy, possibly not even really gay - he should go see the film of Beautiful Thing immediately.
So how could this mindless-set see the contradiction in the denunciation from some quarters of damaged parties for telling tales out of school, or the hypocrisy of again charging Time Out with - here we go, here we go, here we go - homophobia for investigating the story while blithely ignoring the story itself. A story which has become a watershed in gay culture in this country - not that the "gay press" grasps even this, or that they have made it so.
Certainly, Thud, excusing itself for ignoring what "may be a serious matter for the individual, but not necessarily worth the devotion of a great deal of attention", can't understand why "allegations of sexual harassment [no mention here of rape or abuse] are so significant in news terms", as if the discovery of something rotten at the very heart of gay Britain had no resonance. But then this is a magazine that believes it can loom loftily over the Sun while headlining the lonely death of one gay man from eroto-asphyxiation with "Gagging For It". Always what "they" do to us, never what we do to one another: how neat. But the "gay press", in many, many ways, simply can't afford to look beyond, or gaze within, because it would have to remember that communities are made up of people, not customers, nor consumers, nor cattle.
But I could be wrong. After all, Comptons remains packed and the customers, consumers, cattle are merrily attaching their signatures to a petition demanding that a certain someone be kept on, because it just wouldn't be the same without him. He sets the tone, shows the way.
And if that sounds like contempt for other gay men, that's because it is. Well, they've worked so hard to deserve it, they really should have it. Especially as getting it is clearly out of the question.Reuse content