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

Category: Sex Terror (page 1 of 1)

God Save The Sea Queen: Gibraltar’s Lovely Charlie

Gibraltar, otherwise known as ‘The Rock’, is the full stop to the sentence of Europe. It has been besieged no less than fourteen times. The Ancients thought it was a pillar holding up the end of the World. In the Middle Ages Jews fled here from the red-hot instruments of the Spanish Inquisition. Aeons ago, the last survivors of the ancestors of Homo sapiens also retreated to this toothy promontory of the Iberian peninsula, lasting a few, increasingly lonely, thousand years more in the dark caves that abound here, before being finally snuffed out by Progress.

Even today, rare and exotic creatures survive here that have long since become extinct elsewhere in Continental Europe. Off one of the narrow, steep, cobbled streets, down some worn steps, there’s a dark cellar bar, that holds out against not only the Twenty First Century but much of the latter half of the Twentieth. This is the domain and refuge of the last of the Sea Queens, Lovely Charlie, landlocked in the last corner of the British Empire.

The brick walls and vaulted ceiling of Charles’ domain are completely covered in battered Royal Navy Ensign flags. All of them have personal messages scrawled across them in Secondary Modern hands: ‘To Lovely Charlie, from the lads on HMS Sheffield – We think you’re magic!’ (dated 1981, the year before it was sunk by an Argentine Exocet in The Falklands); ‘Donkey Nob Was Here – 1979’’; and ‘Royal Marine Commandos do it in boats – 1989’. Signed photos of sunburnt, laughing young men with cans of lager in their hands and their arms around each other’s shoulders cover the wall next to the bar, together with postcards from Hong Kong, Belize, Brunei, Germany and Kuwait.

Tonight however Charles’ Hole in t’Wall bar – the finest bar on the Seven Seas – is completely empty, except for Charles himself, a well-preserved, handsome middle-aged man with glittery ear-studs and immaculate hair, sitting at the bar, and his snoozing big black labrador, heavy eyelids sagging. ‘Well, come in, luv,’ he says, happy to see a face. ‘Sorry it’s so quiet tonight. The Fleet’s out. Mind, it always fookin’ is these days! Are you a matelot? ‘No? What’s that you say? You’re looking for one? Aren’t we all, luv!’ he laughs, and gets me a bottled beer.

‘It was best when the frontier with Spain was closed,’ he reminisces, in his effortlessly camp but strangely butch Gibraltarian English, comically spiked with some coarse, regional Brit expressions he’s obviously picked up from his clientele. ‘When Franco shut the border in 1967 that was the beginning of twenty years of bloody bliss, y’know. When hundreds of sailors have been out at sea for weeks and they dock here, they’re not going to let the fact that there aren’t enough single women on Gib to make a football team stop them having a fookin’ good time, luv!’

‘And they didn’t mind their mates finding out; they’d just say, “I bet you had a fookin’ good time with Charlie gobblin’ yer last night!” and everybody would laugh. Of course, who gobbled whom wasn’t always the way they painted it – but that was something private between me and them. Things aren’t the same now. I still get offers – but they’re much more furtive; they’re afraid that everyone will think they’re gay just because they had a bit of fun with Charles. And then in 1987 they only went and opened the fookin’ frontier, didn’t they? Now most of the lads head off for the bright lights of Marbella. I can’t compete with dolly-birds and disco, can I luv?’

‘But it isn’t about sex,’ explains Charles, sipping a mineral water (he’s teetotal). ‘It’s the company. The camaraderie. It’s my duty to run this bar! I’m a legend in the Royal Navy, y’know. I’ve been to Portsmouth and Plymouth. They treated me like a real Queen. There was nothing they wouldn’t do for me. I was really moved. I was in Edinburgh once, and a lad came up to me and said, “It’s Lovely Charlie, isn’t it!’ He was very sweet. He whispered, “Look, Charles, you can’t wear that much jewellery around here. They won’t understand”.’

‘I’m passed down, father to son. I had an eighteen-year-old sailor come in here last month, his first time. He said: “That door’s new,” pointing to that door over there to the pool-room which I had installed about ten year ago. “How did you know that?” I asked. “Oh,” he said, ‘my dad’s got a picture of him sitting on your knee. It was the year before he met me mam.”

‘They like to tell the newbies that they’re going to sell them to me for a round of drinks, y’know. Of course, that doesn’t happen. I’d never take advantage. But they like to wind up the youngsters. One lad came here with his Dad – the Navy has a Father’s week where they fly fathers who were in the Navy out here to travel home on board ship with their sons. He said: “Well, ‘ere you go Charles, you can ‘ave your wicked way wiv ‘im if you keep the drinks comin’!” I laughed and said, “Well, you’re his dad, so I suppose that makes it legal!” You should have seen the poor boy’s face!’

‘Oh yes, occasionally you get trouble-makers. They come here saying how much they “’ate fookin’ queers”. Everyone goes quiet because they know he’s going to get a tongue lashing from me. I usually say something like, “And I ‘ate fookin’ ugly cunts like you, luv!” Everyone usually pisses themselves laughing. And usually,’ adds Charles, winking, ‘they end up staying the night…’.

‘I can’t go on forever, though y’know. I’m not as young as I used to be. But the matelots, bless ‘em, they don’t notice any of this decay! They always say, “Oh, Charlie, you never change!” and I say to them, “Well, no, but the wattage does!” Charles laughs. ‘Every year a bit less. I started off here with 100W bulbs. Now I’m down to 10W. And tinted!

‘What’s that? Why do the lads love me so? Oh it’s because they know I love them,’ he explains with a shrug. ‘And I’m always here. Unlike barmaids, I don’t regard them as a problem or as a meal-ticket. And, of course,’ he smiles, winking, ‘they do like my outrageous behaviour. They always insist that I wear all my jewellery when they come to visit.’

A few hours and a crate of beer later I’m staggering back to my hotel and can’t help thinking that the reason the sailors treat Charles like a star is simply because they recognise one when they see one. ‘Lovely Charlie’ is, well, lovely. And priceless. When he finally calls last orders, or runs out of wattage, a little but precious piece of British maritime and marytime history will be lost forever.

This piece was originally published back in 2000 (and collected here), but I’m very happy to report that Charles is still going full steam ahead, and so is a recently-refurbished Charles’ Hole-in-the-Wall bar – he’s even upped the wattage! (Castle Street, Gibraltar; opens at 9pm.) 

UPDATE Jan 2015:

After forty years quenching the thirst of the Royal Navy, Charles’ world famous Hole in T’Wall Bar is closing. But Charles’ matelot fans are giving it a jolly Jack tar send-off – and showing Charles how much they luv ‘im. GBC ran a feature on the closure, which includes footage from the bar – and a rather wonderful big framed photo of what looks a lot like Charles in drag (that I somehow seemed to miss during my visit):

Charlie's Hole In The Wall Closes - GBC News - 19.01.16


Sex With Someone You Love

To celebrate National Masturbation Month HuffPo have posted a version of an essay of mine collected in Sex Terror on how ‘self-abuse’ came out of the cubicle, tissue stuck to its shoe:

You see, wanking is a normal form of human sexual behavior, and intercourse is the deviation. Most men, even those in long-term relationships — sorry, especially those in long-term relationships — have orgasmed alone more times than they have done with others. After all, we peak sexually long before anyone will go out with us.

And if God hadn’t wanted us to wank, would he have put our hands at crotch level? (Of course, maybe he just wanted to make things really difficult for us.) As any anthropologist will tell you, when Homo erectus stood up, the first thing he reached for was his tool.

Read it here.

‘Sex Terror’ Now Available on Kindle – Sweet Dreams.



Erotic Misadventures in Pop Culture

Mark Simpson

This book will change the way you think about sex. It may even put you off it altogether.

NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE * * * * * * * * * *

In his full-frontal follow-up to his widely acclaimed It’s a Queer World, Mark Simpson dispenses with the monkey business of sexuality and gets to grips with the organ grinder itself: SEX.

Subjecting our saucy new god to his sacrilegious satire, Simpson sins against every contemporary commandment about doing the nasty: It must be hot. It must be frequent. It must wake the neighbours. And it must be Who You Are.

Simpson argues that we all put far too much faith in sex these days, and that in actual fact sex is messy, confusing, frustrating, and ultimately disappointing.

Especially if you’re having it with him.

Along the way he gets worked up with Alexis Arquette over Stephen Baldwin’s bubble-butt, gets intimate with Dana International, Aiden Shaw and Bruce LaBruce, and – very gingerly – confronts Henry Rollins with those ‘gay’ rumours.

Praise for Sex Terror:

“MARVELLOUS… open Simpson’s book at any point, as many times as you want, and you’ll find the sort of gem-like sentences that Zadie Smith would give her white teeth for.”

– Suzi Feay, Independent on Sunday

“A chainsaw cock of wit… blisteringly, endearingly honest… insightful and valuable.  VERY FUNNY INDEED.”

– Dermod Moore, The Hot Press

“Setting common sexual sense on its ear, Simpson’s Swiftian proposals strike at an emotion dear to us: sexual desire. His anarchic mission is to free sex from sermonizing, convention, egoism, and cultural bias. But unlike Foucault, his deconstructing weapon is built of ribald humour and potshots at pretension. Simpson’s essays produce rancour and HILARIOUS LAUGHTER, DISBELIEF AND DELIGHT. Some call him wonderful, and some call him outrageous, but I call him A TRUE ORIGINAL and YOU SHOULDN’T MISS THIS BOOK.”

– Bruce Benderson, author of Pretending to Say No and User

“BRILLIANT… With surgical precision Mark Simpson peels away the layers of modern masculine culture, leaving few iconic figures un-scarred. This book is certain to provoke and likely to offend; we would expect nothing less from one of the most important voyeurs of contemporary life.”

– Bob Mould, Musician and Songwriter

“When the culture of sex breathes its final breath, Mark Simpson will be there to deliver the eulogy with great zeal. And what a GLORIOUSLY SARDONIC AND INSIGHTFUL farewell it will be!”

– Glenn Belverio, Dutch magazine

“One of those books that bounces up and down on your knee yelling ‘read me, read me…. Brutal honesty and razor wit  – a perfect feast. QUOTABLE GENIUS.”


“BLOODY GOOD…  every outrageous insight is just that – an insight into the modern  condition that often makes you laugh out loud and, if you are not entirely beyond hope, think. Simply some of the best writing on modern culture around.”

– Brian Dempsey, Gay Scotland

“One of England’s MOST ELOQUENT AND SARDONIC commentators.”

– Bay Windows

“Mark Simpson won’t be every reader’s cup of tea, but those who enjoy a biter blend of DARK HUMOUR AND KEEN SOCIAL OBSERVATION will want to drink deeply.”

– Washington Blade

“…never fails to amuse, bemuse, stun and stir… a writer at his peak, a SHAMELESS SUMPTUOUS SERVING OF SOCIAL SATIRE you’ll be digesting long after you put the book down”

– All Man Magazine


English author and journalist Mark Simpson is credited/blamed for coining the word ‘metrosexual‘. Simpson is the author of several books including: Saint MorrisseyMale Impersonators, and Metrosexy.

Sex Terror cover image taken by Michele Martinoli.

Hot Hitchhiker

Mark Simpson picks up more than he bargained for

A couple of miles past Newark, bored and hot and top down, I zoom past a crop-haired sexy young lout in a T-shirt and jeans with his thumb out. I eye him in the rear-view mirror as he shrinks into the distance.

I don’t give lifts to hitchhikers. It’s asking for trouble.

OK, so I used to hitchhike everywhere myself years ago when I didn’t have the price of a bus ticket to my name. But now I have my own car, things have changed. I now realise the Daily Mail was right: hitchhikers are layabouts and bad news. Only loonies, drug addicts and convicts hitch-hike these days. Letting a complete stranger into your car and your nicely ordered life is a bad idea. It’s dangerous. It’s messy. It’s daft. Unless of course, they’re cute.

I brake. Hard.

In the rear-view mirror the lad sees me pull over but seems hesitant. I twist around and shout: “Well, c’mon then mate! Do you want a lift or not?” He finally runs up to the passenger-side window.

“Where are you headed?” I ask.

“London, mate,” he says.

I look him up and down. In his mid-twenties, he’s not bad looking, but he isn’t as cute as he was at 75mph. But then, who is? He could do with a bath. And he definitely looks like trouble.

“Get in,” I say, leaning across and opening the door. “I’m headed for Cambridge,” I lie. “I can take you another thirty miles.”

“Nice one!” he says with a wide grin, jumping in.

Rejoining the flow of cars headed south, we chat the casually polite chat of hitchhikers and drivers. I introduce myself; he introduces himself as “John, but me mates call me Jonno”. He tells me he was in Newark “visiting relatives” and now he’s on his way back home to Dover: “I’ll catch the train in London”.

He tells me about his wife and his three-year-old daughter in Dover: “I love that kid to bits – I live for her mate”. We pass a sign:

London: 60 miles

“I’m really glad you stopped mate,” he says for the third time.

“Yeah?” I say. “S’funny. You seemed a bit reluctant at first. Thought you were going to run away.”

Jonno looks a bit sheepish. “Well, thing is mate, to be totally honest wiv you, there are some people after me. I owe money to some geezers in Newark. I thought you might have been sent by them – not being funny, but you look a bit of a bruiser mate!”

“Don’t worry,” I reassure him. “It’s just for show. What do you owe them money for?’

“Oh. This and that.”


Jonno shifts in his seat and shakes his head. ‘No – no way mate!’

“Look, it doesn’t matter to me.”

Jonno looks down at his hands. “Well, to be totally honest wiv you mate, it was drugs. But only speed, and a bit of hash. Nothing hard. I’m trying to get off the shit, you know? I’m trying to get clean. I’ve gotta think of the kid, man. I can’t be fucked up around her, can I?”

“No, mate. Not a good idea.”

London: 30 miles

“Mark mate, haven’t we passed the sign for Cambridge?”

“Yeah. To be totally honest with you, I’m going to London, not Cambridge. I usually don’t tell hitchers how far I’m going in case we, er… don’t get on.”

“Oh, right mate. I understand.” Jonno grins at me. “So you’re going to London? Sorted!”

“So…” I probe, “what were you really doing in Newark?”

“You’re not stupid, are you? Well, to be totally honest wiv you I was on remand there for a week.”

“Really?” I say casually, trying not to look too interested.

“Yeah. Nothing serious though. Just non-payment of a fine, like. Never again. It was disgusting in there mate. Hottest week of the year in a shithole with no showers or change of clothes. I fucking stink mate.”

“Yeah, I noticed! So what was the fine you didn’t pay?”

“Well, to be totally honest wiv you mate, I was done for breach of the peace and criminal damage. I kicked my ex-wife’s door down because she wouldn’t let me see my kid. I was really drunk at the time, I didn’t know what I was doing.”

“So, you’re not with your wife any more?”

“No mate. We separated a couple of years back, and she lets me see my kid once a week. But she wouldn’t that night coz I was steaming. I ‘ate prison. I was sent to borstal when I was thirteen and had the shit kicked out of me. It was that bad I tried to top meself.” He holds out his hands, wrists uppermost, revealing a pair of ropy white scars across his dirty wrists.

Jonno continues: “I only ended up in borstal coz me stepdad used to knock me about. He used to kick the shit out of me mum and I tried to stop ‘im, and so he turned on me. The worst of it was, she was egging ‘im on! Didn’t spend much time at home after that. Fell in wiv a bad crowd.”

London: 20 miles

“I’ve got some mates who live in London,” Jonno announces, as the sun lowers itself into a red bath on the Western horizon. “They live in Soho. Is that anywhere near you?”

“No,” I say. ‘I live a very long way from Soho – as far as you can get without actually leaving London. Your friends must pay a lot of rent to live there.”

“Yeah, but they don’t care. They make a packet.” Pause. “To be totally honest wiv you, they’re on the game, if you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.”

“They’re gay,’ he adds, driving the point home. He looks at me anxiously. “You don’t mind gay people do you?”

“No, I don’t mind gay people,” I lie. “Actually, some of my best friends are gay.”

“Really? Sorted. I was a bit worried there, coz some people really hate gays.”

“Terrible isn’t it?” I say.

London: 10 miles

“Are you sure you don’t mind gay people?”


“OK. Well, to be totally honest wiv you, right, I swing both ways.” Jonno steals a sideways look at me.

“Yeah?” I say.

“Yeah. That’s not a problem is it?”

“Nah,” I say. “Not at all. Everyone’s thought about it, at least once, haven’t they?”

“I like women and that, but I also like, y’know a really good seeing to by someone who takes control. Well,” he laughs, “in the bedroom, not in real life like me mum does!”

Like your true destination, you don’t tell a hitch-hiker your real orientation until you’re certain you want to go all the way with him. But I can see that this lad has the measure of me and where this car journey is headed. It’s a balmy evening; it’s sort of spontaneous. He’s rough, he’s certainly ready.

But I’m not. And not just because he’s not washed for a week. I’ve heard much too much for it to be casual. We’ve come too far.

It’s dark when we arrive in London – without any unplanned stops at bushy lay-bys. I drop him off. He shakes my hand firmly looking me in the eye: “Cheers, Mark, thanks for the lift,” he says, a faint flicker of disappointment in his face. “It was good talking to you.”

And he’s gone.

I drive off. A minute later I suddenly feel I have to speak to him again. I turn the car around. Maybe to lend him some money – I’m sure he hasn’t got any for the train to Dover. Maybe to be ‘totally honest’ with him. Maybe to offer him a place to crash. Or have a bath.

But there’s no trace of Jonno. He’s dissolved into the warm, unfriendly London night.

Like I said, it’s a bad idea letting a complete stranger into your life.


Some details have been changed to protect the innocent.

(Originally appeared in Attitude, 2000. Collected in Sex Terror)