Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage

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This article was written on 16 Feb 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Sticking a knife into the Erotic Review

I met Rowan Pelling once. A photographer I used to work with asked me to assist on a shoot she was doing before we got on with the serious business of taking pictures of me done up as a fat James Bond on the roof of a Soho car park. She was perfectly pleasant, affable and happy to put up with all the gratuitous mucking about that comes with being the subject of a photo shoot. And she seemingly knew a secret.

She seemed to know that being the kind of woman that older men want to shag will get you a half decent career in the media, which is exactly what she did. Moving smoothly on from the Erotic Review, she went on to have a career as the kind of pundit who gets asked for their opinion without ever having done anything to suggest that it’s coming from a place of great knowledge. But older men wanted to poke her, and gave her lots of column inches in which she wearily knocked out the kind of thing most people tell their diary.

And that, gentle reader, is my problem with the Erotic Review. It presents older men and the kind of ghastly little shite that should have been born at the age of sixty with the idea, dancing away behind the columns of prose, that when they tug away in the downstairs toilet, they’re participating in some great sensual carnival. You’re not, gents. You’re doing what we all do from time to time. You’re just having a wank. And worse that that, those women you’re wanking over wouldn’t even give you the time of day. Sorry, and all, but self-deception isn’t healthy.

For this illusion to work, it helps if the Erotic Review has a female editor. In that way, the downstairs toilet wankers can tell themselves they’re reading something that has come from the fragrant pen of a lady, written expressly for them. In their minds, they’re escaping from suburban Buckinghamshire to an erotic tryst in Paris with a mysterious lady when, in actual fact, they are, you guessed it, sitting in the downstairs toilet with their mustard cords around their ankles wishing they were 20.

This explains the appointment of the latest editor. I’m sure she’s a vastly more accomplished journalist than I’ll ever be and incredibly clever, but she’s also achingly on-brand for the magazine. Hair casually flicked back over her head, studiedly casual Twitter bio and, oh how surprising, she’s a sex anthropologist for GQ, a magazine intended for people who buy gold cigarette lighters at airports, or for junior managers who really, really want to. She is right up, in every sense, their alley.

What we have in the Erotic Review, then, is a magazine for every fat lecher who has ever lived, for the owner of every liver-spotted hand who has ever wanted to paw young flesh, every voice that hymned the joy of women wearing stockings when he was sat in the local pub, topping up the gut that means he hasn’t seen his cock since the mid eighties. When Betjeman wrote, in his poem, ‘Slough,’ about men who had a double chin, always cheat and always win, and wash their repulsive skin in women’s tears, these are the men who he was talking about.

I’ve seen exponents of the magazine talk about its ‘edgy’ writing and challenging new perspectives, aside from the wank fodder. These don’t exist. These are articles written by young Tories who would go off in their pockets if you so much as took their socks off, or by the kind of people – I was one for a number of years – who know that keeping these people happy is the key to payment or, if not to payment, then at least to the kind of exposure that you hope you might be able to trade in for money a little while down the line. I’ve been there, and done that. Show them what they want to see and they’ll be happy. Yes, if you want to believe it, she loves older men and loves taking it up the shitter. She doesn’t, of course. She’d rather watch Lewis and have a digestive, but you’re the one who pays. If you liked little green men rather than anal, she’d like that as well.

The comics creator Alan Moore, when asked if a comic he was creating was erotica, replied cheerfully that no, it was porn. He’s right. Porn is something for us, the enlisted men. Erotica is for the officers. Or that’s what the people who create the Erotic Review want you to think. The truth is that it’s all wanking. It all comes from the same place and semen is semen, whether it shoots from a working class cock or oozes from a posh one. You can call your desires erotic, if you want, but they are what they are – as mundane and dull as all the ones that everyone else has.

What you are, Erotic Review, is a lie. Not a great or vaulting one, but a sad and pedestrian one. Every time you make a sale and one of the toilet wankers goes home, you get that bit richer and they get a bit more deluded, down there in the toilet, while their wives or girlfriends roll their eyes. We all shamble on towards the grave, but at least we don’t all have tennis elbow and claim we’re suffering for art.

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