What really gets your gears going? It is a question a million sex-obsessed women seem to be thrashing out in public every day. Who’s got the hottest smile, the fittest abs? Who gives the most to charity; who’s got the waistcoat you most want to rip off with your teeth? Scan any part of the internet and it is the same: a frothing sea of volcanic female fantasies about footballers, tennis players, even, in extremis, politicians. It is oestrogen city.
“I’m so old that I’ve now fancied two generations of Schmeichels,” moaned one woman during the Denmark match on Wednesday. “There are two?” yelled another. “I’ve just left a little puddle of drool.”
Looking at the hundreds of gushing responses, I wondered: what has happened to these deranged women? I don’t remember women previously behaving like a bunch of horny, leering 1950s golf-loving bankers in a strip club. But last week the internet felt like a vibrator having a stroke.
It isn’t just sport: on Netflix, for example, one of the most viewed shows is currently the extraordinary Sex/Life, a dreadful soft-porn eight-parter in which a middle-aged mother of two cannot decide between the nice, dependable father of her children and her moth-eaten “bad boy” ex-shag. Barely a minute goes by when she isn’t being railed, to use Love Island patois, in a nightclub or across the edge of some billionaire’s rooftop swimming pool. The premise is, and I don’t want to make this sound too sophisticated: which man has the bigger penis? The defining scene is the moment one reveals the improbable size of his manhood to the other in a communal gym. I think, and I’ve seen it many, many times, that on balance it must be CGI. It’s some serious Walking with Dinosaurs stuff.
What’s interesting isn’t the show, or any of its many improbabilities — a friend also angrily condemned its lack of “tits continuity”, showing the heroine, for example, nursing a newborn with her soft, milky boobs one minute before ripping off her clothes to reveal rock-hard, match-ready Kate Moss nipples the next. It’s how, in the space of less than a decade, the power dynamic has shifted from men in charge to women in charge. We’ve gone from a quiet secretary wondering whether she’ll ever tame the handsome billionaire who loves to thrash her, to wondering which of the show’s mute male sex slaves will finally be picked by the hot housewife. There was Fifty Shades, and now there is this.
I cannot imagine any of these situations with the sexes reversed. If the manager of England were, inexplicably, a woman, would she ever be subjected to the panting objectification suffered by poor Gareth Southgate? Why must we constantly hear how delicious and “humble” and desirable this strange-looking man is, when I don’t even think his own wife believes he is her own “ultimate middle-aged crush”? Who on earth sexualises a “buttoned jerkin”? It is pathetic.
Mention, by contrast, as a man that you so much as find any woman attractive, and these same women will immediately take you out and fling you from the highest tower.
It happened to Boris Becker on Wednesday: the cameras were panning hungrily over the crowds at Wimbledon. Every year it’s the same, bored pundits searching for something to say about Roger Federer’s ankle socks. As our eyes settled on some Hungarian player’s girlfriend, Becker offered, “They do say they have the most beautiful women in Hungary.” He knew he’d made a mistake: not even Viktor Orban says stuff this stupid. So he waffled that he “wouldn’t know” whether Hungarian women were hot or not, but “she is certainly very pretty”.
But it was too late: there were screams for the BBC to apologise, for Becker to be taken off screen. Didn’t he know what a disgusting, objectifying thing it was to call anyone “pretty”? “When two men are comfortable talking about women in this way, never mind on live TV, it shows there is still more to do,” sniffed one hopeless Corbynista. It was bonkers.
At some point we’re going to have to ask ourselves: where do we actually stand on any of this? Is it OK to lust over Southgate’s waistcoat or the way Patrick Vallance talks about Covid, while attacking Becker for simply paying a compliment? Five years ago I’d have said women rising up the pecking order would mean a blossoming of soft power, but I’m not sure now.
It turns out that when women get in power, we’re just as lusty and aggressive as men. The question is: is that, really, a bad thing? Perhaps we should just stop claiming moral superiority.
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