Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Fry's misogynistic view is of women as evil temptresses

Most of my good gay friends truly like femininity. But I have known some phobic ones too

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Famously thick of body and thin of skin, the apotheosised Stephen Fry will be most, most displeased by this column. His Highness hates hacks (better to go into sewage clearance, he has said) and this one is triply blighted being of low birth, heterosexual and a woman. More about the last two anon.

At this point you need to understand how rare it is for anyone to arraign this conqueror of all before him. In a previous age, with his wit, intellect, ambitions and royal connections- best mates with Prince Charles for starters- Fry would have had a dukedom and private army and influence enough in the royal court to arrange beheadings for insolence and insubordination. Alas, in modern times all he can do is propitiously spin gold and golden words with ease and charm, rule the waves on the BBC and run an army of loyal followers using the latest gizmos and fads.

I am not saying his is undeserved success. There is no question that the writer, director, broadcaster, actor, and raconteur is supremely talented and he dazzles with his brilliance, as Oscar Wilde did in his day. Unlike the provocative Wilde however, Fry expects only to be adored. Nice life, nice chap, nice all round ( they tell me). But he can sometimes come up with balderdash, baloney, blarney, blather, embarrassing bilge. Take his latest communiqué on women and sex. In an interview in the magazine Attitude, he opines that straight men feel they "disgust" women, who only have sex because that "is a price they are willing to pay for a relationship".

I suppose Fry is absolutely sure that rich and famous gays like him pull young, beautiful boyfriends because there is mutual attraction and no more. Remember Caroline Aherne, as Mrs Merton, asking Debbie Daniels the immortal question: "So what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?". Old queens can be as self-deluding as the rest of us.

And gross too, as Fry is in this interview. We females, says the gay doyen, are sexual flops because we don't go off to churchyards saying to ourselves, in his words: "God, I've got to get my fucking rocks off". Nor do we cruise for satisfying gropes through the lavatories of our cities or lift our skirts for a quick shag with hidden strangers on Hampstead Heath or just play dirty much of the time. Immediate response: shut up Fry, why don't you, about stuff you can't know anything about? You clearly have odd and unhealthy feelings about the body and its needs. Sex to be good doesn't have to be really bad, filthy, grubby, disgusting and dislocated from the emotions.

In truth there are some young women doing exactly that and are having to pay for those adventures as they get pregnant, catch horrible diseases and sometimes end up being raped and violated. Most of us prefer intimacy with men who understand trust, respect and give time to the art of seduction. And the men who want us are not dupes or dogs on heat. Trust me. More erotic pleasure and excitement is experienced with a true love on clean sheets than a quick one with some sad, unwashed, unnamed bloke on a gravestone. I would rather be celibate over three lifetimes than follow Fry's dubious advice on the joys of sex. You do wonder why he chose to kick up the storm at this time, when he has established himself as a national treasure.

You can't dismiss this controversial interview as just publicity whoring to shift the latest instalment of his autobiography. That volume is already a bestseller. It must have been compulsion, something he had to say. Very worrying. What he expressed was the real, visceral repulsion felt by some gay men when they imagine what men and women do in bed: heterophobia in other words. Fry himself once said; "That one can love another of the same gender, that's what the homophobe can't stand." Now he shows his own irrational prejudices against the most common form of physical union between males and females. Most of my good gay friends truly like femininity. But I have known some phobic ones too. Richard, for example, a colleague, one of the first British victims of the AIDS virus, dead too young, who was wild and promiscuous and said he felt sick when he thought about "the juices and soft flesh" of a woman. There has never been much open conversation about these ugly attitudes.



Most disturbing is how Fry's odious tirade now makes it acceptable, even cool to express sexist views. To object is to be labelled a humourless politically correct feminist and who, besides me, wants to be one of those? He once said that it would not be at all difficult for him to kiss a woman on the lips, adding: "I'll kiss a frog if you like."(Will she, the lucky chosen one, kiss this frog back one wonders.) Our charmer endorses and authenticates the widespread view of women as evil, scheming, untrustworthy, materialistic, terrible temptresses - Succubus, Delilah – who entrap and misuse blokes programmed to have their rocks off several times a day. The only way the dear men can have access to those repeat pleasures is to surrender to commitment, marriage, vows and other cruel conditions imposed by the un-fairer sex. So he does. And she lets him have his way sometimes, lies there and thinks of the big wedding and blue waters of the Maldives.

You only have to look at the testimonies of wife-beaters and some of the decisions and statements made by judges during divorce cases to understand how these pernicious views are used against all of womankind, not only those who use their femaleness as currency to manipulate and control men.

We still have wife-beaters who get pity as victims of "unreasonable" women; husbands still get huge sympathy in courts if they argue for low maintenance payments and men playing around is, well only to be expected. Though we have gained more equality, we know sexist slurs and hatreds are the unseen mines on the road which blow up just when we think we are safe. We thought we were with the affable Mr Fry. Now we know.



y.alibhai-brown@ntlworld.com

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