Sunday, 15 June 2008

136: Cottaging - David Austin

And here are a few cartoons dancing around the idea of cottaging by David Austin (March 29 1935 - November 19 2005)

in "The Spectator" 30 October 1982

Note the jeans, cropped haircuts and moustache. Unlike Heath, whose “The Gays” strip was running at this time, Austin has got the casual clone-about-town look of this time down. “W.C”. is water-closet, another name for toilet, if you don’t already know. And we’ve seen a similar take on the same joke in Not the Nine O’Clock News’s “Gay Christian Sketch” – since of all the possible malapropisms or verbal stumbles, “come out of the toilet” is too close to an allusion on cottaging to be accidental.
The tension in the joke lies in the use of the phrase "coming out of the closet", the strong allusion to sx sex in toilets, and the overall mood of the piece as harmless wistful nostalgia.

in "Private Eye" 18 June 1982

There did indeed used to be a height requirement for policemen in the UK. My father's friend was a bit too short and it's aggravated him for the last forty years.

What cottaging also does in the public mind is take homosexuality from a realm of having been theoretically criminal, as it was in the past – just to be homosexual was illegal - and now gives it a description as a criminal activity which can monitored and judged. Pre-1968 it was all a little too metaphysical as crimes go, and polite society wasn’t paying attention to what was going on in toilets. The cartoons we saw by Larry from the 60s about police chasing down gay lovers were rather ridiculous. Now that the condition of homosexuality is legal, it is those specific activities taking place in toilets constituting “gross offences” which can be policed. Complementing its illegality, as far as public distaste goes, sex and toilets only heighten the unpleasantness of each other.
And so starting from here we have gay men and policeman tied together for comic effect for the next decade or so.

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