Silliness

This year has been one where, whether I like or not, I have been hugely in the public gaze. A big book, goodness knows how many TV programmes and a slew of concatenating public appearances have combined to make me look like a publicity hungry media whore of the worst kind. My god have I been aware of that. Well I shan’t overdo it. If you combine the lecturing and appearing and speaking and chat-showing and launches and lunches and award ceremonies and everything else you get a severe case of Too Much Fry. I have a strong suspicion that even my mother thinks there’s a superfluity of Stephen. And who can blame anyone for wishing I wouldn’t pop up quite so much?

So, to return to the business of Women and Sex. I kept to my rule and consented to no print interviews earlier this year when my book came out. I did however agree to do one profile for a small gay glossy called Attitude. I thought it was a harmless way of supporting a specialist periodical. The fact is, and there are witnesses to it, I only agreed out of kindness. What an idiot I am. A misplaced sense of community spirit that went ludicrously awry…

The Hippo with Attitude

Anyway, I did a photo-shoot for the magazine, during which and after which I conversed with a profiler. I can’t remember his name and I haven’t actually read the article he wrote as a result. They sent me three copies of the magazine and I looked at the photo on the front cover and now the magazines lie piled up somewhere. However vain, smug and self-worshipping you may think me, and I’m aware that many think me a revolting compound of all those things, I can promise you that I almost never watch the programmes I make nor do I read articles about me or interviews that I’ve given. Nor would you if you were me. Well, I chatted to this fellow on the day; he seemed very nice and very charming and we had a pleasant, relaxed and easy conversation. That’s the word, a conversation. I remember very little of it, but I can picture the narrow little room in which the latter part of it took place. At some point we chatted about gay sexuality – well, you would wouldn’t you, for a gay magazine? – and as part of that conversation I repeated the old canard about how men, unlike women, were cursed with their uniquely pressing and annoying libidos. Straight men I have known have often (of course mostly in a kind of bitter jest) said how much they envied gay people the simplicity of their erotic lifestyles (cottaging and cruising and so on) and I vamped for a while on that theme. I do not believe it as some kind of eternal gender truth, I was simply taking a thought for a walk, I was “playing gracefully with ideas” to repeat Oscar’s great phrase, or at least attempting to do so. But the important thing to remember is that the subject was not straight female sexuality, but gay male sexuality. It’s the only sexuality of which I have direct experience and how could I presume to speak of any other?

Was it naïve in me that it never for a second crossed my mind that this conversation would be sold on to other papers? That it would be “picked up” and make a disastrous move from being a conversation to some kind of public “declaration”? “Stephen Fry declares that women don’t enjoy sex.” It was as if I had called a press conference in order to give the world the benefit of my wisdom. For heaven’s arsing sake. Aside from anything else, the whole exchange was a steal from a book I wrote almost twenty years ago called The Hippopotamus in which a rancid, cantankerous old poet called Ted Wallace (loosely based on a compendium of Simon Gray, Kingsley Amis, John Osborne and others) bewails his inability to get his end away as easily as his gay friends appear to and so goes on about how women don’t really have the same urges as men. That was the whole point, it was a comic silliness aimed at a gay readership.

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13 comments on “Silliness”

  1. Piglette says:

    I am female, fifty and no fool. At first the comments took my breath away and then 2 seconds later I thought what a load of rubbish. Stephen Fry would simply not say such things. His humanity and kindness shine through in everything he does. I follow his work and Tweets in a casual way but I have to say if I was having a dinner party…. no I grew out of entertaining but if I was organising a picnic I would choose to have Stephen Fry there 100 times over than all his screeching detractors and media nitwits. I know Stephen’s too busy for a picnic and besides the weather at the moment is so dreadful the rain would soak the sandwiches. But it is his ‘good eggness’ that makes you feel you could a: ask him and b: enjoy it when he came along. I am pretty certain that the hot air merchants chastising him could not pass the same picnic invitation test.
    So please keep entertaining and drawing us into your life I don’t believe you would deliberately offend us; although Mrs Stephen Fry’s hat does come close.

  2. Mandi M says:

    I’m female, I’m a feminist, and I’m also rather fond of sex when it’s on the menu.
    Fortunately, I have not had my sense of humour surgically removed.

    From the moment this latest song & dance exploded I was sure that it was a huge storm in a teacup, entirely innocent from your side with no offence intended beyond a little light humour. But sadly, as you well know, the media loves to anoint folk as “national treasures” only to tear them to shreds at the first opportunity.

    Please pay no attention and put all this nonsense behind you and carry on being the same old Stephen we know…

    …oh, and for the record (purely academic for you, I know), we DO like sex. But then chocolate ranks pretty high on our sensual Top 10 too http://shemeanswellbut.blogspot.com/2010/11/chocolate.html

    Hoping to see you back online with us again soon.

    Mandi.

  3. RoxieDiva says:

    Never explain–your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway.
    Elbert Hubbard

    Kind of sums it up – but I get why you posted this

    I do wonder if people dont get carried away by their own indignancy (sorry long day and I am sure that isnt a word but you know what I mean) and forget that behind it all is a person who still has feeling and can be hurt just like everyone else.

    Chin up babe xx

  4. adamdv says:

    Non illigitamus carborundum!!

  5. Aidanthingy says:

    Dear Mr Fry,

    I am appalled to learn that you have been loudly insisting that the Pope does not enjoy having sex. You scurrilous deviant!

    Cancel my subscription immediately.

    “Disgusted of Dublin”

  6. Ophiuchus says:

    I noticed the story in the media and thought ‘he’s been got at again’! I have just registered to say what a complete non story this was from the start. And yes, sure it causes upset and it won’t be the last either. The whole thing is such an idiotic proposition that no one would surely believe it came from anyone with a cubic centimeter of brain tissue, let alone you? One would hope…

  7. in-this-light says:

    Dear Sir,

    I read one of the aforementioned articles and discussed it with my girlfriend. We came to the conclusion that it seemed out of character and wondered if there had been a falling out with Edna over the matter (perhaps involving her at number 38?).

    We hope that if that was the case, that things have been sorted out and any cracks papered over, for the sake of your offspringand would like to wish you the very best for the future.

  8. bertyboy says:

    A little tale to hopefully make you smile.
    When I left school at 16 about to start an apprenticeship as a silversmith,my local rag – The Basingstoke Gazette came down to interview me.
    I said when asked if any of my friends were doing unusual jobs,I replied ” no,most of my mates are doing ordinary jobs” this was quoted as – “Dave says most of his friends are in dead end jobs” ! you can imagine how popular I suddenly become !

  9. hdiamond says:

    There is one positive to your having to post a reply, people like myself get to read more of your words.

    Personally I’ve had one experience with journalists which scarred me for life. Speaking with The Sun (I was just shoved in their general direction at the time) about a mass-nude photograph I did many years ago, the man (not gentle) managed to twist my simple straight answers into something that fit their agenda. The last question for example: do you have a boyfriend? At the time the answer was no. From this they turned me into a sex-crazed stripping harridan, desperate to snare a man under any circumstances. I just thought it would be a laugh. Oh well!

    The point I’m getting to is most of your admirers will be well aware of the twisting nature of the press. Welcome back.

  10. dansumners says:

    If only one person learns from reading this post that all is often not as it seems, that one should withhold judgement until appraised of all the facts and respond in a measured, rational and generous manner, it was not at all an ‘ill-judged’ conversation. In any case, as you say yourself, it was simply not judged, but undertaken in a spirit of humour and honesty. And we must not be deprived of the pleasure of such conversation, especially in public. It would reduce us to uttering the hollow, calculated and passionless statements, soundbites and scripts with which we are so familiar thanks to our front bench politicians.

  11. lugubrioustide says:

    Hi Mr F. I have just checked with my wife and she says that she doesn’t enjoy sex. It’s not because of her gender…I’m just rubbish apparently ;(

  12. ashleymills says:

    Wow, first time I’ve read your blog. Really nice writing style, I’ll be back :)

  13. Edward says:

    Regarding lessons:

    1. Seems entirely reasonable, but very difficult.
    2. As above.
    3. I recommend the opposite: explore the limits of the most outrageous and self-evidently untrue things you can convince the press that you earnestly believe.

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