Saturday, 14 June 2008

135: Cottaging - Michael Heath

I haven’t really got much to say about these. Here are some cartoons about wanting or having sex in toilets.

The ‘70s in Britain had seen two contradictory trends about homosexuality develop together. The first was the burgeoning of a forthright sexual identity asserted by openly gay men. The other trend, picking up at the end of the decade was a succession of immense scandals, in which the homosexuality of the individuals involved was not merely a salacious spice, but some integral element which had underpinned their other actions (Thorpe, assorted spies). These two conflicting concepts of sexuality and shameful furtiveness combine to find some magical expression in cottaging. Suddenly, being a gay man means you enjoy hiding yourself away in toilets, not gay clubs, looking for immediate and anonymous sexual gratification.

Of course I do simplify, and it’s in the nature of cartoons to want to look for the most extreme representation. And indeed, how much is a straight cartoonist really going to know about gay clubs. Harvey Kurtzman’s “Annie Fanny” instalment wasn’t terribly successful, although Christopher Browne’s “The Baths” in “National Lampoon” will do a slightly belated but better job.

Well, maybe I had a little something to say after all.

Michael Heath in “The Spectator” 4 July 1981

“The Romans in Britain” was a contemporary play running at the National Theatre. It featured a notorious but simulated male rape which incensed Mary Whitehouse into provoking a case against the National Theatre for “procuring an act of gross indecency”. “Gross indecency” being the legal term for what the two chappies in the toilet cubicle might otherwise be engaged in if they weren’t having a consenting conversation about contemporary drama.

Michael Heath, “The Gays” in “Private Eye” 29 January 1982

Michael Heath in “Punch” 9 February 1983

And this one is about the absolute absence of sex. A typical downtrodden, miserable dumpy sad-sack Heath-man gets a valentines slid under his cubicle door. Possibly some association between anonymous sex / anonymous Valentines.