Sunday, October 31, 2010

Has Stephen Fry been taking lessons from Jan Moir?

Harsh, maybe - but you have to wonder what on earth possessed the nation's favourite raconteur and wit to comment with breathtaking ignorance on the dynamics of straight and gay sexual relationships.

"If women liked sex as much as men, there would be straight cruising areas in the way there are gay cruising areas. Women would go and hang around in churchyards thinking: 'God, I've got to get my fucking rocks off', or they'd go to Hampstead Heath and meet strangers to shag behind a bush. It doesn't happen. Why? Because the only women you can have sex with like that wish to be paid for it."
"I feel sorry for straight men. The only reason women will have sex with them is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want," he said. "Of course, a lot of women will deny this and say, 'Oh no, but I love sex, I love it!' But do they go around having it the way that gay men do?"
[Update: Stephen Fry has since tweeted that:
So some fucking paper misquotes a humorous interview I gave, which itself misquoted me and now I'm the Antichrist. I give up.
His next tweet was a rather ominous "Bye bye". I'd actually be interested to know what he did say and what he meant and it would be good if he could engage in the debate rather than go off in the huff. I disagree with my best friends all the time but that doesn't mean to say I love them any the less - and so the Twitterverse will have its say for a few hours and move on, and we still love him no matter what.]

Jan Moir bitterly offended most people I know with similar unfounded and ignorant generalisations about gay relationships just after Boyzone star Stephen Gately died suddenly of natural causes last year. She continues to make it her raison d'etre to pick on all sorts of other groups of people from breastfeeding mothers to women who stay at home to look after their children to mothers who go out to work. You get my drift.

I tend to think that because everybody's different, they'll find their own way of dealing with relationships and sex. People's lives are their own and, as long as we're talking about consenting adults,  we just need to live and let live.  Fry's approach is one of sweeping generalisation which shows that he has no understanding of the pressures facing women in today's society.

My first thoughts when Nick Clegg had his "30 women" moment with Piers Morgan (although he never actually said he'd slept with 30 women) was that if he'd been a woman, he'd have had every single tabloid publication in the country calling him every name under the sun and suggesting that he was not fit for public office. The old double standard, that there are nice girls and girls who sleep with men is still alive and well in the 21st century. Still, men can do as they like, but if they choose to do it with women, guess who gets the blame? I'm bemused by the number of fathers I know who would be happy for their sons to get out there and sow their wild oats but still want to keep their daughters locked up until some time in their mid 50s..

Fry also asks us to believe that all gay men find sexual gratification from late night anonymous encounters on heaths or in bushes which is an equally ridiculous assumption.

Oh, and not that hanging around in the cold and dark is my thing anyway, I, in common with every other woman on the planet, don't have rocks. That's probably why we don't use that phrase.

The notions that wanting sex to be within the context of a relationship is a purely female idea and that a dislike of casual sex equates to a dislike of sex itself are completely wrong and show no understanding of the cultural context. Stephen Fry should think more about that before he opens his mouth on this subject again.


Jeff said...

Honestly not indulging in another stereotype, but I think
you're overeacting Caron.

Stephen's is a perfectly valid, quite unremarkable and commonly held viewpoint, as is yours.

lizw said...

I, in common with every other woman on the planet, don't have rocks.

Some trans women do. But apart from that, I agree with you. David also has a good post on this at

Douglas McLellan said...

I only know 9 gay men (or at least know that they are gay through being 'out'). Stephen Fry just described 8 eight of them.

They all use Gaydar to facilitate casual encounters and all those with an iphone (6 of them) have Grindr which is an app that helps cruising.

I think he is describing behaviour that is more common than some people like to think.

The developers of Grindr have said the problem of developing a straight version is not enough women want it.

There are differences in the approach to sex by men and women as well as differences in the straight and gay communities. All Mr Fry was doing was attempting a humorous comparison.

He may have failed but he is no Jan Moir.

Caron said...

Jeff, I think he's wrong for all sorts of reasons. Much as I love him, I don't agree with the way he's presented his argument.

Liz, you are of course right on that one.

Douglas, some of my gay friends I know go cruising, some don't. That's up to them and none of my business. What I object to is the argument that if you don't indulge in that sort of behaviour, then you don't like sex - which is completely wrong.

One of the funniest moments in recent tv history was watching Stephen Fry explain Grindr to an incredulous Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear. Unfortunately, the BBC seems to have cut that bit out of the repeats of that programme.

Douglas McLellan said...

Ah. I see what the problem is. He should have said 'uncommitted, casual, physical pleasure, non-intimacy only sex' as opposed to 'sex'.

This from Germain Greer - “Stephen Fry is clearly possessed by the illusion that he is an authority on female sexuality. Well, if he thinks that women are not interested in genital encounters with total strangers then he is absolutely right. But to conclude that we are therefore uninterested in sex is madness.
“It is true that men have an interest in a kind of sex which women find infinitely depressing, and it’s true that women really don’t want to go to the cemetery and hang around hoping that someone will play with their bits. That is not what passion is about for us and we couldn’t live with ourselves if it was.
“Women have an idea in their heads which men can’t even begin to imagine, and that idea is intimacy. The fact that we value closeness and commitment and respect doesn’t mean we are any less interested in sex simply because it means more to us than genital contact.”

As I said it was a difference between the sexes and the different sexuality.

Bolivia Newton-John said...

Hi, see this week's Private Eye for the true events. He did say all those things, verbatim, and was honestly and accurately quoted by the magazine, then claimed to have been misquoted, without even having read the article himself, when there was a backlash. After temporarily quitting twitter, he then returned, claiming that the magazine had been ungrateful for such an important person giving them his precious time, and without apologising to the magazine for his libellous statements. Even notwithstanding the content of what he said, I think that makes him a pompous arse!


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