opinion

Letter from the Editor: 'As queer people we get to write own rules when it comes to sex, bodies and well-being'

Cliff Joannou reflects on attitudes towards queer sex and bodies in the Attitude Body issue - out now.

2020-02-03

Whenever I visited my (now ex) boyfriend in Berlin I was always surprised by the difference between Germany’s attitude to nudity and that of the stuffy UK.

One time, we went to Liquidrom sauna (the non-sexual kind, I hasten to add) for a spa day. There was no separation of genders beyond the changing rooms — men and women would sit in the same cabins, with all their bits and bobs on show.

I’d always considered myself a free spirit until one day when the ex suggested we go to a famous luxury countryside spa with his parents as my birthday present.

It wasn’t the Tiffany ring that I was hoping for.

Sami Outalbali, shot by Jenny Brough exclusively for the Attitude Body Issue, out now

Anyway, my Britishness kicked in and I politely declined. His parents are lovely people, and I’m quite the liberal thinker, but I wasn’t open-minded enough to share a sweaty cabin with his mother’s fou fou on show and his father’s paraphernalia on full display.

I did wonder where my sudden conservativeness had sprung from. But then we Brits are famous for our rather prudish perspective on nudity.

When I was a kid, the only nakedness you’d see on the telly was either a flash of Barbara Windsor’s boobs in a Carry On film or Benny Hill chasing scantily clad women around a field.

Then we had Page Three in The Sun newspaper. It was always women being objectified. The only male nudity I experienced was fingering through the men’s underwear pages of the Next catalogue, or in summer when The Sun would feature its Page Seven Fella. Fuck, I feel old.

Ryan Beatty, shot by Noah Dillon exclusively for the Attitude Body Issue, out now

The internet transformed everything. Free porn served any fantasy you wanted. Gaydar delivered contact with men within clicks.

Then Grindr served them in a matter of metres. Instagram transformed the landscape, further tapping into our neuroses.

For better or worse, bodies are no longer hidden away. People of all ages have more agency around their body than ever before.

I’ve learned to find the beauty in so many different body types: bigger, smaller, shorter, taller, slimmer, chunkier, hairier, smoother.

Aitor, shot by Leo Adef exclusively for the Attitude Body Issue, out now

Maybe I’m just easily pleased. But I find it extraordinary how many people still think they have a vested interest in what we do with our body.

And the government still doesn’t quite know how to speak to young people about the flesh, bones and chemicals that work together to carry us from A to B, and help us sleep, speak, see and (most shockingly of all) have sex.

God help you if you’re LGBTQ and brought up in a world that assumes your sexuality from birth is fixed into a rigid male-on-female combo, or your gender has to slot into one of those two forms.

It’s shocking that the single most relevant point of information about sex today for young (and older) people comes from a Netflix TV series: see this issue’s cover interview with Sex Education star Sami Outalbali.

From an LGBTQ perspective, we’ve had to write our own rules and stumble in the dark (rooms) to find answers to the myriad sexual dynamics that queer sex presents.

Dancer Busola Peters (front) and Francesco Migliaccio, shot by Francisco Goez de Villaboa exclusively for the Attitude Body Issue, out now

In a world of hook-ups, ghosting and open relationships, how can we preserve our physical, social and mental well-being as we liberate our queer sexuality?

This year, in association with Attitude magazine, Student Pride is hosting an open and inclusive conversation to debunk myths surrounding sexual (and mental) health.

I’ll be leading the discussion with Dr Ranj Singh, Charlie Craggs and others joining in.

Please do come along on Saturday 22nd February for what will no doubt be a rather revealing session of shared stories about fumbled hand jobs and awkward sexual encounters, coupled with some hopefully genuine insights into what makes queer sex also quite special. (Get your tickets at studentpride.co.uk).

Attitude's Body Issue is out now in print and to download instantly.

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