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The pop star who hated sex - Morrissey: The pop star who hated sex

2006-07-17 10:43

As Oscar Wilde put it, celibacy is the only real perversion; and in Morrissey's eyes, this was a good enough argument for practicing it. Like any form of Utopianism, reinventing sex requires you to renounce the thing you want to reinvent. Paradoxically, although celibacy is perhaps the least innocent sexual option -- renouncing sex makes everything sexual -- publicly it provided Morrissey with the innocence he needed to carry off his seductive-seditious project.

In order to be above sexuality, the prophet of the fourth sex had to be above sex. And in a world which can only, on a good day, conceive of two and a half sexes, the prophet of the fourth had to "take the vows" (and marry not Jesus but himself) to avoid being enmeshed in a dreary, mundane, mind-numbing parochialness. Whatever he did, whatever the mechanics and topography of his nakedness with another person, and the all-important, all-consuming details of whether their genitalia were internal or external, would be taken as the complete explanation of Morrissey himself -- what he was, how he wore his hair, how he tied his shoelaces and, of course, the rationale behind his whole oeuvre. He would, in other words, lose control of his own narrative, surrender his own authorship. He would cease to be his own special creation and become instead someone else's dirty joke.

"What do you like in your music?
I can't forgive anybody a bad lyric really. I like to think a singer is singing with a sense of immediate death. The Gallows Humour, lah de dah. That it's the last song I'll ever sing, quite literally. I like singers to sing with desperation.
Well you know, desperation, humour, what's the difference?
Well, yes, humour; we've mentioned sex."

-- NME, 1989

Celibacy massively enhanced Morrissey's stardom by turning him into a conundrum, a puzzle that had to be solved. As a highly sexual pop star who renounced sex, he made himself the Rosetta Stone of sex itself and found himself interrogated about his "sex life" like no other pop star had ever been before. (By way of contrast, Boy George's infamous "I prefer a cup of tea" remark was rather too eagerly believed.)

"Where does the anguish and the hate come from?
As with most things, I'm still trying to find out.
Why can you fall in love so easily with images, but not with people?
I'm still trying to find out."

-- Blitz, 1988

In an age fascinated with telling the secret of sex, over and over again, Morrissey had to be made to talk. In interview after interview the celibate star would be pushed up against the wall, bright lights shone into his eyes, and made to explain his alibi over and over again in the hope of catching him out. Tricks mixed with threats mixed with wheedling pleadings in an attempt to get this most uncooperative of witnesses to turn Queen's Evidence.

"You must get a few propositions these days ...
Not many! The shock of the whole thing to me is that not many situations do arise. I thought literally queues upon queues would form, but it's not the case. After the end of a sizzling performance, where people are simply eating each other to get close to the stage, I find myself back at the hotel with Scrabble and an orange. It's all very curious."

-- Jamming, 1984

"What is your ideal sexual experience?
I don't have a vision of it at all. Why do people ask me questions like this?
Because you ask for it. You're the only person who can seriously be asked those questions.
Oh, come now.
Is there any sex in Morrissey?
None whatsoever. Which in itself is quite sexy."

-- Blitz, 1988

"Well, I don't believe you haven't ever gone out with anyone, Stephen [sic].
Well, I haven't, so put that in your Sony cassette and ... [laughs sharply] I really haven't.
But you're a human being.
You've no evidence of that. Artists aren't really people. And I'm actually 40 percent papier mache."

-- Melody Maker, 1997

One biographer even announced that he was writing a book about Morrissey's "love life," an exceptional, if slightly disturbing, accolade (though, oddly, years later, there's still no sign of it). Clearly, by making his private life a tabula rasa, Morrissey succeeded in provoking everyone to write all over it.

"What is the greatest myth about fame? That someone somewhere consequently wants to sleep with you."

-- Morrissey

Interviewers frequently asked him point blank if he was gay. When this got nowhere, in their terms, some would resort to cutting out the question altogether and just going straight to the answer they wanted. One grilling him for an American rock magazine in the early Eighties announced: "Morrissey is a man who says he's gay" -- without providing any quotes to back the statement up. As a consequence of this, Morrissey and The Smiths were perceived in the US almost from the beginning as a "gay act," something which did not exactly help them, but rather more importantly it simply wasn't true. This journalist was merely doing his job, however. He was just simplifying things for his readers, just filling in the gaps, just helping Morrissey "out" -- as more and more people have been inclined to do as Morrissey's career has progressed. Since Morrissey was openly admitting, nay flaunting -- in his work -- the fact that he wasn't "straight," he must, therefore be "gay." Stands to reason, dunnit?

What these very helpful, very kind people forgot, however, was that the law "what's not one thing must be t'other," absolutely correct and inviolable as it is, is a law which only applies to stupid people. And journalists.

"Are you gay?
I feel that I am quite vulnerable and that's quite good enough because I wouldn't want to be thought of as Tarzan or Jane. ... I don't recognize such terms as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and I think it's important that there's someone in pop music who's like that. These words do great damage, they confuse people and they make people feel unhappy so I want to do away with them."

-- Star Hits, 1985

"There was that quote in ...
Here we go, here we go ...
that you were gay or something like that.
Yes I know.
How do you view that?
Well, I just think it's all so untrue and I think it's so unfair, I mean, obviously, any kind of a tag I'll dodge. I'll really dodge any kind of a tag, whatever it is ... I'm not embarrassed about the word 'gay' but it's not in the least bit relevant. I'm beyond that frankly."

-- Australian Radio, 1985

Next page: "You write a lot about the homosexual experience... 2 of 1 2 | 3

Was he gay? Bisexual? Or really just celibate, as he claimed? "I'm just simply inches away from a monastery," Morrissey once quipped.

By Mark Simpson

Of all the attention Steven Patrick Morrissey has garnered, he is perhaps best known for not doing the nasty. His abstinence is seen as symbol, proof and cause of his eccentricity. After all, in an age utterly obsessed with and possessed by SEX, such party-pooping is inconsiderate, anti-democratic, downright unhealthy, and,


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