Theo Hobson

Why can’t men write about sex?

Why can't men write about sex?
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Not long ago I was a regular Tinder user. Having heard that gingers were romantically incompatible, I decided to mix work and pleasure and put this controversial claim to the test. I set up a sort of interview-date with a nice young lady called Laura, a former international gymnast who was working as a waitress, but looking for more permanent work. She sported a lovely glossy dark ginger mane. We weren’t getting on too badly, but not much of a story there. Luckily there was scope for deepening the research: we went back to mine, and a bit of horizontal research definitively established that the alleged incompatibility of gingers is utter nonsense, doubtless put about by jealous eugenicists.

None of the above is true. I just wanted to see what it looked like to transpose Lucy Holden’s article in the Times today to a straight male voice. She is wondering whether people can successfully date across a language barrier, and tells us that while on Tinder she set up a ‘sort of interview date’ with a Portuguese former tennis player, now working as a delivery driver. When conversation dried up they ‘went back to mine. Being in bed was a relief because emotion here was readable.’ It’s fascinating stuff.

I would love to have Holden’s journalistic freedom and flair, but I feel that the cruel gods of gender have scuppered my chances. A male lifestyle journalist has to write about being nagged to take the bins out, and being teased by the kids for dad-dancing. Not fair! Last week, I ruffled a few feathers when I hinted that Emma Raducanu’s appeal to men went beyond her backhand. My wife nagged me not to repeat such sexist tripe, and my kids teased me for dad-letching. A female journalist is allowed to admire Jack Grealish’s legs, I lamely countered.

There’s a fairly serious point here. It has become fairly normal for female writers to speak about their racy personal lives, and to point out that sexual attraction is part of life. Their male counterparts don’t even think of writing such things: they have installed self-censorship software into their brains that makes such articles unthinkable. 

Yes, I know, it’s a healthy corrective from the days of Martin Amis-ish boasting. (I recently read Paul Theroux’s memoir In Sir Vidia’s Shadow and was amazed by the brazen sex-boasting, seemingly tied up in his mind with being a big literary beast.) But things have gone too far if straight male sexuality is vaguely seen as a shameful thing, and only other varieties of sexuality are deemed worthy of celebration.

Let’s decide whether we want to hear sexy stuff from everyone, or a bit less of it from Lucy and co.