marksimpson.com

The 'Daddy' of the Metrosexual, the Retrosexual, & spawner of the Spornosexual

Menu Close

Category: commentary (page 1 of 73)

Funny Men & Lover Boys

I’ve yet to see it, but the just-released Stan & Ollie film about Laurel and Hardy’s disastrous, almost-posthumous tour of postwar Britain seems to be about their love for one another – or our investment in the idea of it.

STAN & OLLIE – OFFICIAL MAIN TRAILER [HD] Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly

Back in the no-homo early 1990s me and my pal Nick Haeffner wrote a newspaper piece on the ‘queer’ appeal of their touching on-screen relationship and of male comedy duos in general – but it was cruelly spiked. I expanded it and included it as a chapter – ‘Funny Men’ – in my 1994 book Male Impersonators (which is, clutch the pearls, twenty five years old this year).

To celebrate the release of Stan & Ollie and also a quarter of a century of Male Impersonators, ‘Funny Men’ is available in full on my Patreon page, unlocked for a short time so non-patrons can access it. (Apologies in advance for the mention of Judith Butler – it was the early 90s and Male Impersonators was commissioned by an academic publisher.)


Unable to hold down a job for the length of a film, irresponsible, cowardly, living in the shadow of their Amazonian wives and regularly given a good pasting by them, our heroes are wonderfully, thrillingly catastrophic failures as men. Which is of course why we love them — gay or straight.

I’ve made liberal use of stills and gifs, but unfortunately Patreon doesn’t allow embedding of videos, so here’s what may be my favourite Laurel and Hardy Clip Of All Time. It’s a scenario I think we have all experienced at some point:

There's a mans hand holding on to the foot of the bed – Laurel And Hardy

Also currently unlocked on Patreon is ”Oneymoons & Bloody Deviants’ an extended essay on how gay love stories lost their way at the movies – and how a tiny ‘for schools’ film made three decades ago was much more worthy of the praise and plaudits heaped on spectacularly mediocre films like Call Me By Your Name and God’s Own Country.

A sentimental, soapy love story isn’t enough to carry a movie now, just because your lovers both happen to have penises. Or are highly unlikely characters. No matter how beautiful or brooding or straight acting they might be, or how impeccably metropolitan and liberal the sympathies of the impossibly rurally-located film might be.

‘It’s OK. You don’t have to watch gay films if you don’t want to.’

Oh, and remember, for as little as $1 a month you can become a patron and get access to my premium postings, early access to work and news about new projects. I can’t promise you a Scudder will climb a ladder to your bedroom for that kind of money – but hopefully you’ll get an occasional treat or two.


Glenn Or Glennda?

Last month I spent a stimulating and highly satisfying weekend with Glennda Orgasm.

Or rather, the artiste formerly known as Glennda Orgasm, my old (but forever youthful) pal Glenn Belverio, who wise-cracked and bang-flicked his way to fame in the early 1990s, his svelte frame clad in couture frocks  on a NYC cable TV public access show, asking thoughtful and provocative questions while gripping an unfeasibly large microphone.

Glenn was so YouTube long before YouTube existed.

Glenn pulled the plug on his TV show in 1996, and mothballed Glennda in 1997 – drag was getting far too popular – and turned himself into a fashion writer and author. But not before he and the cheeky Canadian queer filmmaker Bruce LaBruce contributed to Anti-Gay, the ‘incendiary’ 1996 collection of essays by non-heterosexuals critiquing lesgay identity politics I edited. It was a transcript of an asthma-inducingly funny episode of Glennda’s show titled ‘A Case For The Closet’.

By way of thanks (there wasn’t much of a fee) I hosted him in London the same year when he had a Glennda Orgasm retrospective at the ICA. I met him at Heathrow Arrivals with my loud-and-proud MTF friend Michelle  holding a card scrawled in magic marker: ‘MISS ORGASM’.

I still have fond memories of his wig menagerie that took over my living room. It was the beginning of a long friendship, though quite why Glenn even speaks to me when I’m so unkind to him I don’t know

The last time I saw Glenn, more than two years ago in Rome we were surrounded by naked fascist bubble butts. Somehow we survived the ordeal. 

So back to our weekend together. Glenn was visiting the UK last month for the launch of ‘Still I Rise’, an exhibition ‘exploring the role that women have played in the history of resistance movements and alternative forms of living’ pegged to the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the UK at the Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery.

Bravely – and admirably, given an increasingly censorious climate – the exhibition’s organisers had included his hilariously incorrect 1993 caper with the anti-feminist feminist motormouth Ms Paglia at the peak of her global fame and alarming energy. Called Glennda And Camille Do Downtown it memorably features them running into feminist anti-porn protesters picketing an adult book store.

The activists suddenly become very camera shy, moving away and actually hiding behind their placards. Paglia goes 60s streetwise nuclear on the ‘anti sex, anti art, anti-everything’ protestors (flanked by her big black bodyguards):

‘YOU FINALLY HAVE SOMEONE WHO CAN DEAL WITH YOU AND YOU ARE SHRINKING!! YOU PEOPLE ARE WIMPS!!’

Glennda is less confrontational, resorting to humour that even has some of the protestors smiling:

‘A day without porn is like a day without sunshine!’

Needless to say, twenty five years later the anti-porn demonstrators are now running everything. Even Tumblr.

I joined Glenn in Nottingham, the city of Saturday Night, Sunday Morning – tormenting him with my dietary requirements (I can’t eat onion – which is essentially the basic ingredient of all food) and my dyspeptic opinions. Glenn for his part entertained me with his wickedly funny mimicry of mutual friends and spooked me as he always does with his quite monstrous ability to remember everything. He has total, terrifying recall. I really had better stay on the right side of Glenn.

Due to inclement weather, we spent an afternoon in the National Justice Museum, on the site of the former County Gaol. Though I’m sure quite a few people think we should have spent rather longer there than an afternoon. It was fun inspecting the dungeons and the oubliette – every home should have one. But even more fun watching the re-enactment of an 18th Century trial of a lady pickpocket and a public hanging (they have the last working public gallows).

I think part of our fascination was because Glenn and I had little doubt that if we’d been around a couple of hundred years ago this is where we would have ended up.

I liked the way the ‘Still I Rise’ exhibition included resistance and rebellion (something Nottingham has a long history of) as a motif and especially appreciated the 70s-80s poster agitprop section by the See Red Women’s Workshop, some of which was familiar to me from my early 80s Brixton squat days. One poster in particular caught our attention – depicting the drudgery trap of marriage. Glenn and I of course immediately and selfishly reinterpreted it as a Pythonesque satire on the false promises of gay marriage. 

Glenn recorded dozens of shows between 1990-1996 but, criminally, only Glennda And Camille Do Downtown is available online. All the other shows still need to be transferred from video to digital format. Apparently Glenn’s distributor Lux are very keen to undertake that task. Let’s hope they get cracking soon.

Glennda needs to rise again.

You can read Glenn’s write up of his visit, the exhibition and the launch here

Glennda and Camille Do Downtown (featuring Camille Paglia)

Still I Rise: 27 Oct 2018 – 27 Jan 2019, Nottingham Contemporary; 9 Feb – 2 Jun 2019, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea

Shag Night

Mark Simpson probes the twilight world of heterosexual stag parties – with a heavy-duty rubber glove

“They aren’t usually stiff, but sometimes they do surprise you,” says Penny, and then turns to her partner, Sarah. “Remember that one at the rugby club which whipped past my nose when I pulled his pants down and slapped you in the face? That was a bit scary, that was.”

“But,” Sarah confides to me, “usually they’re too frightened or pissed to get them up.”

I’m in the dressing room of a pub in Farnborough, Hampshire with Penny and Sarah, two stag show strippers, whose job it is to make boys into men before their wedding day by getting their tackle out in front of their pals, whipping them, spraying their genitals with shaving foam, and conducting impromptu proctological examinations.

But, you’ll be pleased to hear, no actual sex—no”normal” intercourse—is permitted. You have to draw the line somewhere.

“We’re straight girls,” explains Penny, confusingly. She’s just come offstage and is sitting on a stool in front of me completely starkers. An “irrepressible” brunette, she has been in the business for twenty years.

“We’re not blue,” she insists, “unlike some of the girls, who will do anything. We don’t let them touch our privates, we don’t touch their willies, and we never do ‘extras.’ We use kitchen tongs on them and tie them up, but we never touch them.”

Ah, so that’s what “straight” means. It seems a fair enough distraction to me, but some men, excited at the prospect of seeing their best mate in full penetrative action, feel cheated.

Recalls Penny, “I remember one show where afterwards this geezer came up to me shouting, ‘I thought you was going to get my mate! You didn’t do nothing to ‘im.’ He was so angry that we hadn’t done more blue things to his mate that I really thought he was going to hit me.”

Perhaps you should have asked him why he didn’t do it to his mate himself, if he was so keen?

“That was a bad evening,” muses Penny, sensibly ignoring my remark. “There was a huge fight—a four-ambulance number.”

What are the worst nights?

“Oh, football clubs are usually very bad,” says Penny. “They’re so rude and unhelpful and get very rowdy. So are police clubs—they know they can get away with murder. Rugby clubs are the best. They’re usually very polite—they treat you special; somehow I don’t think they get to meet very many women.”

The compere’s voice introduces Sarah over the PA and she rushes out, blonde hair “up” and clad in the leather bondage kit she’s been struggling into during my conversation with Penny. She’s quite a “stunnah”—and this is underlined by the huge cheer that goes up after she leaves the dressing room. A diplomatic few moments later, I follow her.

The pub is full of drunken men with ruddy faces in Armani jeans and loose-fitting shirts. They’re cheering wildly, but good-humouredly, clinging to their pints protectively as Sarah picks on individuals, teasing them, getting them to play with her breasts. Watching them, I’m struck by how many straight men, even when very drunk, have a tension about their bodies, a determination not to let knees touch, wrists sag, hips swivel. It’s as though they want to convince the world that they have fewer joints than other kinds of human beings.

As Sarah struts her stuff, they laugh and show off to one another. She licks a lollipop with an unorthodox part of her anatomy and pops it in the mouth of one of the blokes sitting in the front row, who eagerly sucks it, looking around proudly, before thoughtfully handing it to his mate who also sucks it and passes it on.

Penny did a similar routine earlier, but instead of a lollipop she just used her fingers. Confectionery did, however, make an appear­ance in another part of her act where she made a couple of punters suck some Polo mints for her. She then stuck them over her nipples and made the men kneel either side of her and suck them off.

Sarah “climaxes” her solo act by spraying shaving foam on her crotch and rubbing a stocky farmhand’s grinning face in it. The lads seem to like this especially, cheering even more loudly.

In the interval, the compere does his homo jokes. “Are there any poofs here tonight?” he asks. Silence. “Well, they say one in four blokes are gay,” (where does he get his statistics?) “so if you are out with three mates and none of them are gay, that means you’re the poof!” Uneasy laughter.

After a few more jokes in this vein, the “straight” girls come onstage together and perform a lesbian duo—no simulation. The men are so rapt that they forget to laugh and crack jokes. This is serious. They look like stray dogs at a butcher’s shop window. If it wasn’t for the backing track, the only sound would be the swallow­ing of Adam’s apples.

Afterward, Sarah is changing out of her bondage kit backstage and telling me how popular their lesbian number is.

“I tell you, we could be rich if we marketed this number proper­ly,” she enthuses. “The guys really go wild for it—they can’t get enough.”

Why do you suppose that is?

“Well, because we don’t simulate it. They can see everything.” But why are lesbian numbers so popular with straight men?

“I don’t know. All I know is that I really enjoy doing it—maybe that’s what they pick up on.”

We’re joined by Rick, the husband-to-be, and his best mate John, both in their early twenties. They have brought the girls some drinks as their backstage pass (they probably have a bet with their mates that they can screw the act). John, who is tall and dark-haired, has organised this stag night for his pal and smokes those horrid little Panatela cigars that young “men of the world” smoke in pubs to impress their mates. Fair-haired and pint-sized, Rick is getting married in two weeks. He’s wearing an L-plate round his neck and he’s as drunk as . . . , well, someone on his stag night.

I ask them what is so exciting about lesbian scenes for straight men. John, the “dominant” one in this duo, looks at me blankly. He’s clearly never thought about this; no one was stupid enough to ask him this question before. At last, he says, “Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?”

No. “Well, it’s because, well . . . ” he trails off. ‘Cos it’s two birds together,” he says exasperatedly. Yes, that’s a working definition of a lesbian act, but what’s the appeal? “I dunno. It’s just exciting.”

Rick appears to have thought about it a bit more. A bit too much, actually.

“It’s like catching your mum in bed with her best friend,” he offers.

Before I can explore the implications of this particularly rich fantasy scenario, Sarah cuts in: “But what about two blokes together? Doesn’t that turn you on?”

The boys look like they’ve been goosed.

“Nah, that’s not a turn-on at all. It’s a total turn-off,” asserts Panatella man.

“Why?” Sarah perseveres.

“Because it is,” he replies, with impeccable masculine logic.

“But I really enjoy doing the lesbian numbers,” says Sarah. “I find that a woman knows best what makes you feel good. It must be the same for blokes. A bloke must know best what you like, since he’s got the same bits and pieces.”

John now looks like someone who ordered egg and chips and got nouvelle cuisine.

“Nah,” he says. “That’s wrong.” Clinching his argument, he adds, “If you’re a bloke you like shagging birds and they like being shagged, so it stands to reason that a woman’s going to know best what you like and a man’s going to know what a woman likes.”

“But I’m a woman,” counters Penny, “and I have a boyfriend, but I enjoy sex with women more. I don’t understand why straight men don’t try it out with one another, I bet they’d really be surprised how much they enjoy it.”

“Yeah,” says little Rick, apropos of nothing and everything. “I went home with a girl and her boyfriend a while ago. But, of course, I said to him, ‘If you fucking touch me, I’ll fucking kill you.'”

The boys, who initially thought I was the strippers’ “minder” and were buying me drinks all night, now know that I’m a journalist and want to know who I am writing for. I tell them. They ask what kind of magazine it is; I tell them. A pause. Both of them are a little thrown, but try to look cool. John is better at this than Rick, who can’t stop himself asking, “What, are you gay yourself?” I toy momentarily with refusing the dreadful little “g” word, but then think better of introducing more queer theory to the discussion than the stripper Sarah has already done, and answer in the affirmative. Rick’s eyes widen.

“But why is it, then,” he asks, with a burning curiosity which betrays years of frustration, “that whenever you see gay men on telly they always have handlebar moustaches and leather caps?” Before I can tell him that he’s a little confused (he’s talking about lesbians not gay men), John realises the conversation is getting out of control and inter­venes.

“I hope you don’t think this is a normal stag night, ‘cos this is seriously twisted,” he half jokes. Before I can ask what is “normal” about stag nights, John is busy trying to persuade the girls to give him their numbers so that he can call them direct, instead of going through their agent, to arrange a “private show” for him and Rick. But I understand.

After all, it’s Rick’s stag night and the stripper they want to shag is trying to persuade them to shag each other and a poof is asking them why they like watching lesbians. I suspect that working out my relationship to Sarah is also doing their heads in. Before they hurriedly leave the dressing room, Rick turns to Sarah, gestures towards me, and asks, “So, do you like the fact that he’s a challenge, or what?”

Now it’s Rick’s big moment. Onstage he is stripped bare by Sarah and Penny. They slap his face with their breasts, lower their crotches on to his face repeatedly, giving new and graphic meaning to the expression “pussy-whipped”; shave his pubes, wank his willy with kitchen tongs, and then tie it up with cord and lead him around the room by it (in symbolic imitation of married life).

Everyone laughs and has a good time, especially Rick, who is such a good sport. Then Sarah makes him bend over, bum to the audience, while Penny draws a smiley face on his buttocks. She lights a cigarette and puts it where the sun doesn’t shine. Everyone laughs. Panatella man laughs. Rick laughs. His dad, standing at the back with a “that’s my boy” beam on his face, laughs. Sarah removes the fag and sprays shaving foam in his bumcrack; Penny puts on an industrial rubber glove and, with a theatrical flourish, cruelly jabs a finger up Rick’s poor abused ringpiece. Rick laughs even more than when he had a fag up his arse. (Well, what else can you do?).

Unfortunately for Rick, sitting as I am at the side of the stage, I’m the only person he can see when he looks up, laughing, to check that everyone else is laughing. Our eyes lock.

This soon-to-be-married lad, this initiate into heterosexual, monogamous, holy wedlock who is losing his bum cherry in front of his mates, happens to catch the eye of the one admitted homo in the room. For a ghastly moment, which seems to last an age, our smiles freeze and our laughter turns hollow.

Then Penny sticks another finger up his poop-chute and we’re all laughing heartily again.

Originally appeared Attitude, August 1995 – collected in It’s a Queer World

Bro Tea

Fuckin' Tea: a SKETCH by UCB's Pantsuit

I’m a little late to the party, but this sketch tells you everything you need to know about America’s attitude to tea – it’s luke-warm quaint effeminacy, which is never ever brewed in a pot. And also, more particularly, America’s Hummersexual advertising to men.

It’s funny precisely because it’s barely parody.

(h/t David S)

Making Men: Navy Recruiting Ads

“Join the Navy and feel a man!” exhorted the famous Royal Navy recruiting slogan from the early 1980s.

Or at least, the famous RN recruiting slogan according to us Air Cadets when we were trying to score banter points over the Navy Cadets at my school. Even though I thought the slogan probably made up, it still made me wonder if I’d chosen the wrong service to spend Tuesday afternoons parading around with.

Besides, historic naval recruitment posters promised so much….

And then there was this famous US Navy recruiting ad from 1979:

Village People– IN THE NAVY, OFFICIAL Music Video (1979) HD

I’m only half joking. The US Navy provided the Village People with a frigate and some decorative seamen for the ‘In the Navy’ video in exchange for the rights to use it for recruiting purposes. Reportedly the admirals changed their mind when they saw the finished product. Nevertheless, the song and promo continued to be a toe-tapping recruiting sergeant for them in the charts.

Come on and join your fellow man
In the navy.

Part of the appeal or the marketing of male military service, in addition to uniforms and camaraderie – and regular scoff and dough – has long been related to the idea of a kind of male finishing school. Or, to use the more traditional terminology: a rite of passage. About selling the prospective recruit a more desirable image of themselves in the future. Their dream version of themselves.

Where can you find pleasure, search the world for treasure
Learn science technology?

Despite currently being smaller than at any point in its history, the Royal Navy has been airing on UK television some extremely well-made and cleverly manipulative – well, they brought a tear to my eye – recruitment ads titled ‘Made in the Royal Navy’. They promise today’s young chaps that the Navy will make men of them. Better men. Fitter men. More popular men. More successful men. Celebrities.

Joining the RN in the 21st Century is still sold as a way to make a young lad feel manly, and become part of a (patriotic) ‘team’. But this is a century of reality TV and social media, so joining the RN has apparently become less about serving, than a kind of full makeover that turns you into a star.

The ads profile an actual serving (photogenic) RN sailor, and his ‘story’ – going back to his gritty, no prospects hometown, X-Factor backstory style, showing how joining the Navy rescued him and helped him realise his true potential – or ‘his dream’ as reality TV would put it. And become the subject of an affecting TV mini-movie. The RN as your very own selfie-stick or Facebook memories timeline. (Contrast with this 1979 RN ad for submariners in which none of the serving seamen are allowed a face and everything is about ‘the team’.)

Though part of the task modern RN recruiting ads have, ironically, is to persuade today’s young men to apply for a job that will severely restrict their access to uploading selfies on social media for months on end.

As ‘Michael’ tells us (with some help from the ad agency copywriters and, I assume, an actor voice over) in the latest ad:

“Helping to turn him [shot of sullen young tearaway in hoodie] into – HIM [proud young rating in uniform on deck, sun glinting off his chin] … This is the new me… introducing the true me.”

Made in the Royal Navy – Michael's Story
“turn him into… HIM”

The ad finishes with the line: “I was born in Blyth, but made in the Royal Navy.”

As with X-Factor, authentic, gritty-but-charming North Eastern accents are popular – and it’s certainly true that a lot of lads from the NE do join the the Forces as a way of escaping some of the highest male unemployment levels in the country – or under-employment in a pub.

If you like adventure, don’t you wait to enter
The recruiting office fast

Though in the case of ‘Ben’s Story’ (below), a similar tale to ‘Michael’ – except that joining the Navy also gave him fashionable face fur (something RN  regulations permit, damn them) – the advertising agency gave a Durham accent to a lad from Carlisle. This caused understandable outrage in Carlisle, which is in the north, but west of the Pennines and endowed with a completely different accent. Apparently the bearded matelot (whose real name is Gareth) gets asked all the time why it isn’t his voice in the ad, he explained to his local paper:

“Basically, we had a short amount of time to film, about three weeks. And I don’t think they like our accent.

“I knew it was going to happen – while I was filming they were away doing the voice-over.

“I know for a fact there were a couple of lads from Carlisle who auditioned for it.

“They changed it from a lad from Chester to a lad from Durham at the last minute.”

You just know the (London based) ad agency decided that the bit between Manchester and Scotland should all be Big Brother Voiceover Land so as not to confuse the punters.

But apart from the wrong accent – and a different name – most of the biographic details seem to have been accurate. And I don’t doubt, by the way, that the RN is a great way for some young chaps to ‘better’ themselves, learn a trade, make some mates, see some sights, get drunk and into some epic scrapes.

(Speaking of which, several RN seamen were arrested for drunken fighting in Jacksonville, Florida recently on a run ashore from the HMS Queen Elizabeth. A local police officer was baffled by the behaviour of our Jolly Jack Tars:

“The sailors seem to beat the mess out of each other and knock their teeth out, but once they pick up their teeth off the ground they hug and then are best friends again.”)

Running away to sea is also a way to escape from the post-code/class lottery of prospects lads are born into. (Though sadly, nowadays they’re unlikely to meet RN legend Lovely Charlie on their Gibraltar run ashore.)

Made in the Royal Navy – Ben's story

The end-line for ‘Ben’s Story’ is: “Sure, I was born in Carlisle. But I was made in the Royal Navy.” The “sure” here sounds a misstep – or giveaway – on the part of the copywriters: it suggests that being from Carlisle isn’t something to be proud of. This formulation seems to have been dropped for the more recent ‘Michael’s Story’, which just ends with him saying: “I was born in Blyth, but made in the Royal Navy”.

In ‘Gareth’s Story’ (below) it seems the matelot has been allowed to voice the ad himself in his fine Welsh accent – the script is also more naturalistic. Though the same, rather endearingly, can’t quite be said for some of Gareth’s movements in front of the camera: being natural, as Oscar Wilde said, is such a very difficult pose to keep up.

But obviously he really can move when he’s not thinking about the camera or being told by the director to walk slowly so as to stay in shot – seeing as he made the RN rugby team. (Though his opposite squaddie number as he enters Twickers stadium for the Army & Navy rugby match [0:48] made this viewer want to join the Army.)

Made in the Royal Navy – Gareth's story

Another, more recent ad in the series stars ‘Modou’, a black lad who is also given the mini-movie treatment about bettering himself – ‘Born in Blackpool. Made in the Royal Navy’. Though he isn’t given much of a biography or even copy-written lines and an inaccurate accent – instead we hear the voice of a posh, old-fashioned, very charismatic chap, talking about self-improvement:

“It all comes down to this basic question: can I improve me?”

It’s actually surprisingly effective – ‘Modou’s Story’ is perhaps the most emotionally powerful of all the RN ads. It’s also the most homoerotic.

Made in the Royal Navy – Modou's Story

Although all the ads sell the Navy as a kind of floating Crossfit, where you will harden your body and get fighting fit as one of its many attractions, ‘Modou’s story’ emphasises this much more. Handsome, muscular Modou appears shirtless for much of the 1.20 min ad – the camera zooming in for an extreme close-up on his sweat-drenched back muscles rippling as he does pull-ups (0:54), even joining him in the shower.

As the posh chap on the soundtrack tells us:

“There is this urgent feeling that I must improve me. Now you may say I need some help in this process…”

At this very moment the very inspiring RN Physical Training Instructor’s encouraging hand touches Modou’s exhausted naked shoulder in the romantically-lit gym (0:37).

Modou’s story is one of mind and body – but mostly body:

‘Apprentice. Qualifications. Personal bests. Modou got them all.’

The posh bloke speaking in spellbinding fashion is the late Alan Watts, an English philosopher and prominent Buddhist in California in the 1950s-60s. Yes, that’s right: a Buddhist is being used to sell the Royal Navy as a career option – and a free personal trainer. (You can hear Watts’ fascinating and frequently hilarious original lecture ‘Improving Yourself’ used for this ad here: though be warned, there’s not a lot of diet or dead lift technique advice.)

Women have been allowed to serve on board RN ships since 1993 (and submarines since 2013) – much to the distaste of some Navy wives. But male RN personnel still vastly outnumber women by a factor of nearly 10 to 1 and the RN is clearly targeting young male recruits much more than women.

There are though recruiting ads in this series specifically aimed at women – and perhaps at advertising the RN’s modern credentials. ‘Tammi’s Story’ (‘Born in Croydon. Made in the Royal Navy’) doesn’t go for a biographical storyline but instead sells her desk job of Writer (the RN title for HR) as almost an amalgamation of the jobs done in the other ads – “While the crew are looking after the ship, I’m looking after them”. A kind of action-packed maternalism.

Made in the Royal Navy – Tammi's Story

Finally, as a reminder of what joining the Navy used to actually entail and perhaps where the ‘Join the Navy and feel a man’ jibe came from, here’s a documentary about the actual as opposed to advertised living conditions on board a 1950s USN destroyer: “70 men and their personal effects and miscellaneous ship’s equipment are accommodated in 800 square feet – 11.5 square foot per man”.

They certainly don’t make men like that any more.

USN USS Saufley DD465 1952 Living Conditions
In the navy
Yes, you can sail the seven seas
In the navy
Yes, you can put your mind at ease
In the navy
Come on people, fall an' make a stand
In the navy, in the navy
Can't you see we need a hand