Guilty Pleasures, and Dogging

The curious thing about this piece in yesterday’s tehgraun is how few of the pleasures these intellectuals list — country music, Elvis Presley, Trinny and pro-wrestling, baseball, and so on — ought to induce guilt in any way, shape or form. (The odd inclusion is James Wood’s nomination of car magazines, but that stands out because it’s hard to see how they could be pleasurable.) Still, I don’t suppose that this crowd was going confess an interest in horse-porn or dogging to a random journalist.

Thinking of dogging, as I suppose we all do from time to time, is this still something that the Great British Public pursues at night in motorway laybys, or was it very much an early-millennium fad? And if it has faded from the scene, did fashions just change, or did the police develop some effective anti-dogging strategies when they weren’t investigating cash-for-peerages? Or something else?

More on Hair, But This Time on Biblical, Seventeenth-Century Hair

Jasper Milvain buys the Saturday edition of the Guardian, and has very kindly forwarded to me a discussion of hair that appeared there yesterday, and which was curiously suppressed from the online edition. John Mullan was reviewing Alastair Fowler’s new edition of John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Here’s Mullan:

“So if the longer notes at first appear digressive, they return you to the poem convinced that the editorial digression showed you the very by-ways of Milton’s imagination. Take the long paragraph of Fowler’s small print excited by Milton’s first description of Adam and Eve’s hairstyles — of Adam’s “hyacinthine locks” and Eve’s “wanton ringlets”. We start with Saint Paul’s strictures on when women should cover their hair, then wander through a mini-essay on the significance of hair in epic poetry, a parenthesis on Milton’s own hairstyle and hair-colouring, suggestive examples of the depiction of women’s hair in 17th-century painting and some speculation about Milton’s “special sexual interest in hair”. You might think this is like listening to an engagingly eccentric professor, free-associating, in the library of his mind, yet soon the clinching references to the ways the poem fixes on Eve’s “golden tresses” convince you otherwise. Her “dishevelled” hair signifies what is both lovely and vulnerable about here, and the poet is as fascinated as the devil who gazes at her from his hiding place.”

Here’s what Fowler wrote in the 1971 edition of his book (I think I’ve got a later edition at home, so I’ll post any of Fowler’s subsequent thoughts on hair before too long):

“iv.301-8. The hair-length proper for each sex follows directly from the statement of their hierarchic relation; for, according to St Paul, ‘a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man: for her hair is given her for a covering’ (1 Cor. xi 7, 15; cp. the A. V. marginal glass on 10, which explains the covering is a ‘sign that she is under the power of her husband’). hyacinthine locks] When Athene ‘shed grace about his head and shoulders’, Odysseus’ hair flower ‘like the hyacinth flower’ (Homer, Od. vi 231). If a colour were implied, it might be either blue, the colour of the hyacinth flower or gem (i.e., the sapphire; cp. l. 237n), or just possibly tawny (the hyacinth of heraldry, near to the colour of M.’s own hair), or black (Eustathius’ gloss on the Homeric passage) or very dark brown (Suidas’ gloss); in fact, almost any colour at all. But it is just as likely that a shape is meant (the idealized treatment accorded to hair in antique sculpture?), or an allusion to the beautiful youth Hyacinthus, beloved of Apollo but doomed to die. The elaborateness of the present passage lends some support to the theory that M. had a special sexual interest in hair. (In this connection cp. 496f, Lycidas 69, 175.)”

And here’s John Milton, Paradise Lost, iv.300-311:

“His fair large front and eye sublime declared
Absolute rule; and hyacinthine locks
Round from his parted forelock manly hung
Clustering, but not beneath his shoulders broad:
She as a veil down to her slender waist
Her unadorned golden tresses wore
Dishevelled, but in wanton ringlets waved
As the vine curls her tendrils, which implied
Subjection, but required with gentle sway,
And by her yielded, by him best received,
Yielded with coy submission, modest pride,
And sweet reluctant amorous delay.”

Sunday Penguin Blogging (don’t worry, this won’t become a regular feature)

There’s a story in today’s Observer about the children’s book, And Tango Makes Three, based on the true story of the love of Roy and Silo, two male penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo. We bought a copy in San Francisco’s A Different Light last year for one of our nephews, and it’s a pretty good book, with lots of pictures of penguins in it.

The Observer article, however, does rather overdraw the contrast between “liberal Manhattanites” and “small towns in the American heartland”. Tango is basically a conservative text, which strongly implies that the gay penguins’ relationship is legitimated through the baby-penguin-rearing activity that transforms them into a family unit deserving of respect. So it’s basically an Andrew-Sullivan-inflected gay penguin children’s book.

What America needs is a book to celebrate the lives of queer and sluttish non-baby-penguin-rearing male penguins. This is a group that is strikingly underrepresented in America’s lucrative and high-profile children’s book market.

In addition to its pair-bonded lesbian geese (Alice and Gertrude, I think), San Francisco Zoo used to have a nymphomaniac lady penguin. I wonder what happened to her.

The Issues That Matter

The Mail on Sunday devoted a lot of space to Mr Prescott’s difficulties, and printed excerpts from the diaries of Ms Tracey Temple, and one entry refers to “phone sex” with Mr Prescott. But in the “news” article that accompanied these extracts, “phone sex” had become “coldly sordid phone sex”. So is it that in the world of the Mail on Sunday all phone sex is coldly sordid, by definition, so that “coldly sordid phone sex” is tautologous (and therefore redundant), or was the paper suggesting that there are (at least) two kinds of phone sex, the coldly sordid kind and (let’s say) the warmly uplifting kind, but that they had reason to think that this was the former variety (even though the diary remained strictly neutral on this point)?

So Farewell Then…

… Paul Marsden, who probably strutted and fretted his final hour upon the public stage yesterday, and, with luck, will be heard no more.

To mark his passing from public consciousness, if not from bloggers’ memory, I’ll reprint both his finest piece of sex-verse, “She Came In The Night”, together with my own response, hastily written when a commenter at the Stoa suggested that we should be more impressed by the rhyme scheme than in fact we are.

(It is a great shame that Mr Marsden’s collected poems are no longer available on the web. If anyone ever archived a copy of “Grand Old Man” in particular, please get in touch.)


Dark hair, alive billowing as a trapped kite
Marching forward, confident and right,
Her hips swaying and her red lips tight
Then that smile so devastating in its might,
Tongue rippling across teeth so white.
Breasts rising as I feel the urge to bite.
Eyes stalking its prey, she’s relishing the fight.

Who would mess with this amazing sight?
In awe of womanhood so sexual and bright,
A wondrous sweet smell exacerbates my plight,
Arching her back, stretched to its full height,
I am captured forever, dazzled by feminine light.
As she came in the night.


“She came in the night” —
This erotic poem by Paul Marsden might
Be one to set my dullard’s soul alight,
Thrill my mind and make my world more bright,
Fill my heart with parliamentary verse delight
And end MPs’ collective literary blight
With sexy words that intrigue and excite —
So shall I give this sonnet a big green light?

It’s strongly tempting to remain polite
To change the subject, not be quite forthright,
Refrain from judging it as black or white.

But no, this time I’m going to pick a fight:
The MP should be quite contrite:
The trouble is, his rhymes are shite.

Tories and Sex

Not a pretty combination, I know, but Peter the Great links to this fun story about how some Welsh Tories from a place I’ve never heard of called Delyn are trying to wrest their website domain name back from the clutches of evil pornographers.

(Why is it that Welsh Tories are vulnerable to this kind of thing, anyway? Lots of the spam messages that appeared at the VS over Christmas allegedly contained links to some Vale of Glamorgan Conservatives site, which was presumably going to sell me viagra or phentermine or low cost meds or something equally useful.)

Anyway, the detail I like is the “Email Alerts” box in the middle of the CNN page, which allows you to request notification about stories that appear about the “British Conservative party”, on the one hand or “Porn”, on the other. It’s a nice binary, though perhaps not quite the exclusive-and-exhaustive kind of non-deconstructable binary we like over here at the Virtual Stoa.