The age of reason

Misdirected male

By Julie Burchill
The Guardian
Saturday, August 28, 1999

I still remember the day I first read the amazing quote by that society broad who turns down a suitor with the words, "No, darling, I only sleep with the first 11." I remember running to my friend, Viking Ann, to ask her with a tremulous voice, "I only slept with the first 11, too, didn't I?" Viking Ann roared, "Course you did, darlin'! The first 11 that asked you!"

This was, perhaps, the one time in my life that I have been forced to admit that women can be as evil as men. Most of the time, there's no competition. No matter how rabid a masculinist he is, I do not believe that any father of small children has not said to them at some point, "If you get lost, go and tell a LADY!" No parent, not even David Thomas, says, "Go and tell a MAN!" It remains a statistical fact that a girl child is safer, sexually speaking, sleeping under the roof of two strange lesbians (though not too strange) than she is sleeping in the same house as her blood father.

Women may not be nicer than men, which was always used in the past as an excuse for men to behave like beasts and women to put up with it, but there can be no doubt that they behave better. Despite all the tired gags about PMT, they do not seem half so ruled by their emotions as men - for what is a murderer but someone who has completely lost control of himself? Men are far less capable of objectivity than women: when a judge, say, lets off a rapist with a pat on the head, you just know that, nine times out of 10, he's looked at the victim, fancied her and thought, "Cor, I'd rape her myself if I thought I could get away with it!"

You know it's silly season when the newspapers start banging on about how much more violent women are getting: invariably, the headline will be the reekingly cheesy Deadlier Than The Male (question mark optional). This searingly original query also raises its head whenever a cold-blooded female killer is sighted - though, of course, the fact that we can recite the unholy canon of Myra Hindley, Mary Bell, Beverley Allitt and Rosemary West simply demonstrates how rare such women are. If we tried to recall the list of cold-blooded male killers who've been brought to justice over the past 40 years, we'd still be here at Christmas. Christmas 2005.

Last week, The Daily Mail ran a piece about how the female prison population has doubled in five years - that is, 17% of prisoners are now women, in for shoplifting, fraud and dropping fag ends out of moving car windows, while men, the veritable little peace pledgers, remain steady at 83% with rape, murder and child molestation. Attaboys! Why can't a woman be more like a man?

We have become so used to men being rapists, murderers and child molesters that we - least of all the Daily Mail - never question why they feel the need to do these things. But I'm old enough to remember the 70s, before the Daily Mail became the champion of our "dusky" brothers via the Stephen Lawrence case, when the headlines came thick and fast as to how black youth was driving a violent crime wave that would one day engulf the country. We can only surmise that the accused's families read them, too. Questions are constantly posed by the right wing about race and criminality, but no one ever sees fit to ask why 83% of all prisoners are male, and what can be done to stop men raping, murdering and molesting.

I'd like to point out here that I am not speaking with my feminist hat on, but rather my Responsible Citizen chapeau. It is a fact that young men are more likely to be victims of violent crime at the hands of a stranger (women are lucky: they get killed by their nearest and dearest) than any other group. On behalf of us all, women and decent men, it would behove right-wing pundits to tackle the sticky problem of why a minority of men are so responsible for wreaking such havoc on society.

I think I have the answer. I've known lots of gay men and lots of genuinely straight men, and most of them were absolute angels. However, I have also had the misfortune to come across a large number of men who pretended to be straight - worked overtime at it, in fact - but who, in their heart of hearts, were profoundly gay. This made them misery buckets when sober, dangerous when drunk and a thoroughly unhealthy influence on society in general. I'm not going to name names, but we all recognise those men who have what can be politely called "a tormented masculinity" built on sexual confusion. (Hemingway was one.)

The novelist who takes karate lessons. The actor who says that being in borstal was the best time of his life. The rastafarian who won't let his girlfriend into the kitchen when she's "on the rag". The wife-beating footballer who never seems happier than when he's got his tongue down the throat of his equally repulsive "mate" (that word is such a giveaway). Any man under the age of 50 who loves football or boxing - though not,

paradoxically, all footballers or boxers. Men who talk about 'ard men or geezers, or who read books by violent criminals, or who liked Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels. Benders, benders, benders.

It is the desire and fear of a large minority of men when it comes to bending that, I believe, causes so much upheaval and misery in our society. Earlier this month we were warned by the boys in blue that the blessing of live football on TV several times a week would damage the level of policing generally as more resources were poured into keeping the peace around various hotspots. Can you imagine women's hockey causing such bother to any civilised society, or that society putting up with it? Just so a bunch of pencil-dicked dickheads can have an excuse to get pissed and grope each other.

If women think they may have lesbo tendencies, they get merry on Babycham and fall giggling into bed with their second-best friend; we're brought up with so much soft-core, girl-on-girl eroticism that it doesn't seem a big deal. Men, though, have still got this ludicrous, operatic solemnity about their "manhood", and not being made a "woman" of. So they bottle it up, and it makes them ugly.

Eventually, they are violent one too many times and get sent to jail. Where - hey presto! - it's acceptable to bend, blow and bugger to kingdom come. It's very clever, what these geezers do, when you think about it; like a dog eating grass to make itself sick. They end up with exactly what they want. It's the rest of us who have to suffer.