Male-only spaces and why I feel queasy

The Garrick Club in London has just voted to stay only for men. Well, in fact its members voted by a tiny majority to allow women, but the majority wasn’t enough to satisfy club rules. So this pretty posh private members’ club in central London will stay male (and, I bet, wealthy and white).

The columnist Martin Daubney has been celebrating the decision. In a blog post, he says it’s great for men to have spaces away from women so they can open up about their feelings and not feel the need to pose and preen. Daubney implies that when women are in the room, men shut down emotional talk and instead stand around flexing their muscles for the benefit of the women. I don’t doubt that this happens for some men (maybe many men). But I don’t think we should celebrate the continuation of that. I think we should be asking why men can’t open up around women and why they can’t be around women without a sexual undercurrent.

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More and more men are sexy, and why that’s OK

It’s hard to feel sorry for Kit Harington. He’s beautiful, he’s good at his job, and he gets to wear a jacket made from crow feathers to work. Here he is as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones:


I called Harington beautiful, but he might not like that. He recently said that being labelled a hunk is demeaning. Poor lad. But I don’t think that’s what’s going on. I don’t think that a few people saying he’s a hunk strips him of his dignity and respect. He’s not objectified like a woman on Page 3 is objectified. (Kit got me thinking about objectification and my own body and my experience with desire—see this post.)

When it comes to men, what we have is not objectification. Not in a systematic way anyway. What we have is this: some men play characters on TV and bring joy to some people who find those men attractive. The men we’re talking about, like Harington or Aidan Turner who plays Poldark, are in fact rarely naked or sexualised in the way they’re presented. I can only think of once in four whole years that Harington has been playing Jon Snow when he actually got his top off, and that was in a murky pool in a cave. (You didn’t get to see much, even if you paused your DVD.) Continue reading

Desire, somewhere between me, you and the billboard

Being desired took me by surprise. It happened later for me than for most people. I’m 30, so I’m just a little bit too old to have grown up taking selfies and posting them online. Like most young men I worried off and on about my stomach, which isn’t flat, and my paleness, which stops below my upper arm and then becomes freckles. These worries were off far more than they were on. ‘On’ has never lasted for more than a second; I am always more interested in reading another chapter or having some ice cream. I honestly don’t care: I am not desperate for love or sex, I prefer thoughts over clothes, laughter over straight teeth.

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