Monday, 28 February 2011

Home Truths, Chapter 16 (the end)

A 21st century tale
By Eve’s Rib

16: LA VIE EN ROSE

As much as he wanted to deny it, Leo discovered that being the inferior partner wasn’t bad at all. The fear of ‘feminisation’ had been worse than the reality. He really didn’t mind the skirts and blouses, the makeup and perfume. His trad-male identity fled quickly, like a scared cat. When he found himself making to sweep his skirt aside when he sat down, even when he wasn’t wearing one, he knew that he was settling into a new role.

Gina said it was up to him how he dressed, so long as he knew the score for nights out or for when they had guests. But she prodded and teased him into his trouserless world, and was so obviously delighted when he wore a skirt that resistance already felt churlish.

If Gina ordered me to do it, Leo thought, then I would be free of shame, because I’d just be obeying my wife. As it is partly my choice, however, what does that make me? A gender traitor? As a boy, I thought of girls as strange creatures that we males could try to date, screw and maybe make a life with. Now, it’s my turn to play the girl. My turn to be mysterious and complicated, fretful, frivolous and fickle. Thank God dad is dead. How could I have told him? He came from a generation of men who still didn’t cry and never displayed their feelings. To have a son who wore pretty skirts and kept house would have killed him! Leo was part of the transitional generation, for which the handover of power would be painful and humiliating — at least the boys and men who would come after would take their inferiority for granted and be spared the worst.

There were other things that bothered him. For instance, why did Gina find him attractive and rediscover her libido? They were having sex again, every other night, in fact. Worse, why did he submit to her? He struggled in vain to deny the fact that deep down, he liked being the inferior partner. He liked the way Gina looked at him: proprietorial, powerful, protective. He enjoyed looking into her eyes and reading in them the mystery of female power. He could find no reason to resist. He would be giving up the traditional male fallback — the assumption of his superiority to women — but then he knew that was baloney, and so did Gina.

And so Leo settled into his new role. His wardrobe was slowly transformed and became a fascinating, bouffant place: skirts tight and swirly, long and short, pleated and silky smooth, full fifties-style filled out with layers of petticoats; dresses slim and bouffant; tops with sleeves, with straps, with polka-dots; a pork-pie hat, a flamboyant one with a chic little gauze veil. His underwear drawer rustled with basques and knickers and stockings and suspenders and slips and petticoats. He acquired a dressing table laden with lipsticks, eye-makeup, little nail files, chiffon neckscarves, small fragile tissues and elegant bottles of perfume. His boots and trainers were replaced with charming heeled shoes. At some point his last pair of trousers disappeared unannounced from his drawer, but it scarcely seemed worth commenting upon. He loved wide Fifties-style skirts and the fullness of petticoats, chic jackets and neckscarves, lovely tulle and taffeta evening dresses that made him look like a blooming flower and which whispered reassurance to him as he walked among their layers of gauze and organdy. He had never been so aware of clothes before. When they weren’t hampering his stride, they had to be held in to keep them catching in doors. And when he found himself gathering up his petticoated skirts he had a titillating sensation of himself as a precious and decorative object.

When he and Kelly saw each other on the street outside, she didn’t deign to speak to him, but she did not hide her satisfaction at his transformation.

He gave up looking for a job and busied himself with the housework, without complaining, and regularly called on Brian to share tips. No one was going to be able to say to Leo that he couldn’t iron his wife’s trousers as neatly as the next man! Gina scrapped their joint account and took sole and complete ownership of their, i.e. her, finances. Leo didn’t even have a bank card of his own, and if he wanted something he had to ask her for money, which she didn’t always let him have. When she came home, she put her feet up and was immediately served by her husband: neither of them pretended that she was not the ruler of the house. Leo’s life had taken on a sweet simplicity that he had never imagined, and despite his humiliation and powerlessness he wondered why he had fought it. Gina was pregnant with a girl, and he was looking forward to childcare with enthusiasm. He was determined to play his role to the fullest in the New Family.

One afternoon he was shopping when he noticed Trigger hovering around the baking shelves. It had been a few months since he had last seen Trigger, as Gina didn’t like him going to the pub, but he hesitated. He was wearing a pretty dress that Gina had recently bought him — he no longer cared about wearing a dress in public, the supermarket was full of househusbands in dresses — but he didn’t like to think how Trigger would react. He decided to show some gumption, and went up to him.

“Oh, all right?” said Trigger, looking him up and down. “Long time, no see.”

“Too right, mate,” said Leo, surprised that he wasn’t treated to a sarcastic comment. “How’s the job going?” The last he had heard, Trigger had miraculously found a job as a sales assistant.

Trigger winced, and continued bravely: “Truth is, Leo, I lost it. They’ve replaced me with a woman. More competent, they said.”

“Are you still with Men Matter?”

“Nah, it got too hot. Every time we had a meeting these women would arrive and break it up. You know the ones: the Daughters of Lilith. Fucking hooligans, mate. Even poor old Clyde got whacked in the goolies a couple of times, and the blokes got scared. These women are out of control. Fuck, my Donny, the other week, he got kicked around by some lass at school...”

His lip quivered in mortification.

“Shit, sorry.” Leo felt no desire to gloat. “What are you doing, then?”

“Well, my girlfriend earns enough for both of us,” said Trigger, very unhappily, “so we decided... Look, mate, have you any idea how to do pastry, because Marge likes it, and...” He looked around the shelves helplessly.

“Girlfriend, eh? Well done, lad! No problem, mate, I’m a dab hand in the kitchen. I recommend this brand here. Just follow the instructions.” He peered closely at Trigger’s face. “You wearing makeup?”

“Just a dab.” Trigger almost sank into the ground. “Marge’s idea. Says I’m too pale.”

“Well, I can give you a tip or two in that direction as well. Dear me, mate, you have to discover your masculinity.”

“What you got there? Wedding mags?”

Leo glanced at the copy of Modern Groom in his shopping basket. A good-looking young chap was modelling a sparkling white wedding gown on the cover, beaming happily. “Uh, yeah. Well, Gina wants us to get married, so... I’ve got to pick myself a dress... I don’t suppose you know that she’s pregnant now?”

“Really?”

“Yeah, hoping for a girl.”

“Sticking with the winning formula, huh?” said Trigger with his old grumpiness.

Leo was excited about trying on wedding dresses, but he guessed there was no need to chatter about that now. “So you’ll give us a call, mate? Pop round, try on a frock or two.”

“Yeah, whatever mate, will do.”

As he watched Trigger go, his mobile rang. It was Gina.

“Babe, great news! I’ve been promoted to head of department! Old Griffiths has wanted the jobs for months but his profits are down and he’s on the way out. Who wants some silly man in management anyway? So they offered it to me and I took it. It’s a big increase in pay and I have my own office. Isn’t that great?”

“It’s wonderful, Gina. I always knew you were heading for the top.”

“It’s ClareCo that swung it. Are you out shopping? Go and treat yourself. Get yourself a new blouse or something.”

Leo left the supermarket in high spirits, very proud of his go-getting wife. He’d wear a new blouse tonight, and cook the best meal she’d ever tasted. The sun was shining, and he swung his shopping bag as he walked, his dress swishing pleasantly about his legs.

THE END

Home Truths, Chapter 15

A 21st century tale
By Eve’s Rib

15: WOMAN ASCENDANT

When the doorbell rang, Leo was there to answer it. A handsome woman in her mid-thirties was standing on the doorstep in a shirt and tie, and a coat lined generously with fur.

“Good evening, Madam,” said Leo, and curtseyed for the second time that evening. “Please come in.”

The guest stepped across the threshold. “My goodness,” she said. “Don’t you look scrumptious, poppet!”

Leo felt himself go red. “Let me help you with your coat.”

Gina came into the hall and the women greeted one another.

“Leo, this is Linda Bradshaw. She’s chief executive at ClareCo.”

“Would you like a drink, Madam? A white wine, perhaps? Please sit down in the living room and I’ll bring it to you.”

“Thank you, Leo.”

“I’ll have one too,” said Gina, as if this sort of servitude was entirely normal.

The women went into the living room while Leo slipped into the kitchen. “So far, so good,” he thought. He opened the wine and poured two glasses which he placed on a small tray. Like a good househusband, he checked his make-up before taking in the drinks.

Gina was sitting on the sofa making small-talk with the guest. He handed her a glass and put the tray on the coffee table.

“Thanks, Leo,” said Gina.

“Cheers, Gina,” said Ms Bradshaw. “That’s a lovely dress, Leo.” Leo was embarrassed and tried to mumble a thank you. “No, really. It suits you.”

“Patronising cow,” thought Leo as he took another sip of his wine. He noticed the lipstick stain on the glass. Then the other ClareCo executive, a Ms Price, rang the doorbell, and he had to repeat his fawning welcome and serve more wine. The strange thing was, he was rather enjoying himself. Wearing the dress was giving him a tingling, pleasureable feeling. The shimmer of taffeta against his skin, the helplessness of being without trousers, gave him an erotic sense of vulnerability. Whatever would his father have thought? The difficulty now was enduring the presence of these confident women who were enjoying taking it for granted that he should be in the dress instead of them. The humiliation of it soured his pleasure.

He fetched a second bottle of wine and walked back to the living room. Oh, that swish of taffeta on his stockinged legs! What a shame he couldn’t simply enjoy the lovely clothes without being humiliated at the same time!

“It’s nice to see a man who enjoys wearing a dress,” said Ms Bradshaw. “So many men still have objections.”

“They get over them,” asserted Ms Price. “I insist on my husband wearing a skirt and he doesn’t object any more. He knows who the head of the household is.”

“Do you find —” began Leo, then hesitated.

“You may speak,” said Gina.

“Do you find it, well, grotesque?” asked Leo. “Men wearing makeup and dresses. I mean, I don’t think it is at all,” he added hastily.

“No, nor do I,” said Ms Bradshaw. “I find it grotesque when women do it. They’re the breadwinners. Why should they prettify themselves? It’s only natural that the man should be the decorative one, look at most other animal species. It’s the males that put on a show, not the females.”

“Take yourself,” said Ms Price. “You look absolutely ravishing.”

“How do you feel about it, as a man?” asked Ms Bradshaw. “Are you contented, being subordinate to your wife?”

All three women looked at him expectantly.

Jesus, they don’t mince words, thought Leo, shivering. “Oh, yes,” he said. How had Brian put it? “There’s something very restful for a man about knowing you are in the hands of a strong woman. Gina’s very firm and she knows what she wants.” Should he say it? Fuck it, go on. “And I love wearing dresses. Especially this one, it’s so beautiful.”

“Putting it on was quite an emotional experience,” said Gina. “He was nearly in tears, poor baby.”

“Aww,” said the others. “Bless.”

“You know,” said Ms Bradshaw, “you guys had better get used to dresses if you want to get through the next few thousand years...”

He wanted to feel piqued, resentful; he wanted to peform some petulant act, throw a glass on the floor or shout or slap someone; the only sort of resistance he had. But it was impossible. The women calmly watched him, and he felt crushed, a ridiculous male.

“Leo,” said Gina. “Dinner.”

Leo tottered out to the kitchen and busied himself with laying out the roast. The women’s voices, strident and uninhibited, followed him in.

“He’s beautifully house-trained, Gina,” said Ms Price, and they laughed. “He looks better than I ever did in a dress. My goodness, Ginny — can I call you Ginny? — men have always wanted to wear dresses!” (Good grief, what bilge they talk, thought Leo in exasperation.) “They’ve been doing it for centuries. Even before we were emancipated, ten per cent of them regularly used to wear women’s clothes! Those are the statistics!” They laughed. “Mostly just silky undies, I grant you. But don’t forget that old tradition of drag. Our culture’s full of it.” They nodded. How true. It all fitted. “Just taking whatever chance they can and pretending it’s a joke. Nowadays, we hardly have to tell them, they’re pulling on the frocks and loving it.”

“Oh, not all of them, Alice.”

“That’s a mere matter of time. It’s just like Leo was saying. Men long for a strong woman. They always have. That’s another thing they’ve been dreaming of for centuries. Nothing new about the dominatrix, is there?”

“I’m hardly a dominatrix!” laughed Gina.

“Nonetheless, men have an instinct for female authority. They’ve never been happy wearing the trousers.”

“Something to do with their mothers,” murmured Ms Bradshaw with a smile.

“It’s wonderful to see them relax as they let go of the burden of responsibility,” Ms Price went on. “They can leave all the decisions and the work to us. It does wonders for their health. My George complained no end about his first dress, but he’s used to it now and really ever so happy.”

“Once they’re broken in,” said Ms Bradshaw, “there’s a long tradition of so-called ‘femininity’ for them to enjoy. When my chap and I get married, we want to have white wedding. He’ll wear a lovely white dress, and I’ll wear the tuxedo. And a couple of lads dressed as bridesmaids. My sons can’t wait. My nephew’s a bit of a dinosaur — he doesn’t fancy wearing the frilly frock I’ve picked out for him. But I dare say we’ll get him into it.”

Somehow Leo had no doubt that the poor lad would be ‘gotten into it’.

“Leo,” Ms Bradshaw called, “be a sweetheart and get us some more wine.”

The meal went very well. Leo’s cookery practice had paid off, and the women stopped teasing him.

“We want to talk business, Leo,” said Gina after they had eaten, “and I can’t imagine you’d find it very interesting. So if you want you can start tidying the kitchen.”

“Oh, no Gina,” said Ms Price. “Let him stay. It’s much nicer with a pretty man about.”

The women talked business for a while, stuff Leo didn’t really understand. He watched Gina, assuredly talking about schedules, and suppliers, and percentages, and things he could never have handled, and realised for the first time what a smart, independent and high-achieving wife he had. And he had had trouble clicking on the right icon with the warehouse software! No wonder he had had no success in his job-hunting, he thought ruefully, with women of this calibre to contend with. He should admit how lucky was, staying at home and only having housework to do while Gina contended with the hard world for them both. And he got to wear — still that guilt — this lovely sheaf of taffeta that made him feel so protected and spoiled. How lucky he was, really! It had been ungrateful to rebel like a petulant child, after she had done for him, providing for him and so on. He felt a rush of pride and gratitude and a determination not to let her down.

The guests left past midnight. Ms Price congratulated him on his cooking and patted him on the head. Closing the door, Gina turned to him, beaming triumphantly.

“That went brilliantly, Leo!” she cried, and hugged him tightly. “What a wonderful maid you can be! We must do this again soon. Just think, Leo — a promotion, an extra few thousand a year, a company car...” She sighed in fulfillment. “This is a great time to be a woman.”

Taking his hand, she led him upstairs. Leo sat down on the bed as she undid her tie and threw her blazer over a chair. She gazed at him, ran her eyes over the burgundy sheaf that wrapped his body, and her expression became playful. Sitting beside him, she put her hand on Leo’s leg, reached under the net flare of his hem and pushed upwards, pausing tantalisingly as she stroked his stockings.

“I like you in your dress,” she said. “You look really sexy. Quite irresistable.” She withdrew her hand, put it to his crotch and massaged him lightly through the taffeta. “I’ll buy you some more dresses, shall I?”

Leo had no idea what to say. There was no denying that he had enjoyed it, and the more he thought of wearing more dresses, the more excited he became. But the resistance was still there. He shrugged, wordless, knowing that Gina would step into the gap left by his confusion and dictate how she wanted things. She didn’t disappoint him — she suddenly took him by the shoulders and kissed him forcefully. He fought to reciprocate, found himself flat on his back as Gina sat astride him and pursued his tongue hungrily.

The kiss ended and Gina took a large gulp of wine.

“Get your things off, you whore,” she grinned. “I’m going to the bathroom.”

Christ! Who needed Kelly? Here was his own Ginny, pouncing on him like she hadn’t done for months.

Sucking up to three women who were so far above him in power and status had had a strange effect on Leo. He felt sorely humiliated, and yet their confidence had made him feel protected. Women had crushed his sex and were reclining smugly in the satiety of power, like ancient Roman aristocrats. He admired and envied women: knew that he could never show that strength, that competence, that intelligence, that sassy wit. He was their inferior — and it was a highly erotic situation. It was as if, after centuries of miscasting in the leading role, men had finally rediscovered their natural place in the shadow of the female.

With all these thoughts swirling through his mind he didn’t hear Gina come into the room until she sat down on the bed.

“You all right there, trooper?”

“Ginny...” he began, but she placed a finger on his mouth to silence him.

“I know this is hard for you, Leo, and I know you don’t really want to do it. I’m not really getting a kick out of, well, hurting your pride. I want you to be as comfortable as possible with our new way of life.”

Ah, here she was, his old Gina, wanting them to be in it together. “Well, imagine if things were reversed: you wouldn’t like being the little housewife either!”

“No, I know, but the world has moved on, it has new demands of people: male and female. It was no good, the way we two were going — we have to adapt or it’ll end with us splitting up. If I don’t play the tough modern woman, I won’t get on in the professional world, but I need you behind me, supporting me, like I would have supported you if things were different.” Her ran her hand down towards his crotch and paused with it over his belly. She looked at him earnestly. “I want you to help me make this work.”

Her hand didn’t move any closer — she was waiting. Leo gulped.

“Ginny, I’ll do my best. I’ll make it work. I owe you everything, I know that.”

When they were in bed, Gina began caressing him. He responded, and tried to shift on top of her, but she was trying the same, and they tussled a moment until Gina pressed him firmly back onto the bed and lay on top of him.

Leo must have looked ambivalent.

“What?” she demanded. “I like this position.”

“I dunno,” he mumbled. It reminded him too much of Kelly.

Gina’s look hardened for a moment. “Who’s the boss, Leo?”

“You, you,” he said hastily. But it was a rhetorical question.

Home Truths, Chapter 14

A 21st century tale
By Eve’s Rib

14: ECCE HOMO

“OK, Gina,” said Leo that evening. “I’ll wear it. Just this one time.”

“Good,” said Gina, brightly. She didn’t seem surprised.

“You’re sure this is what you want?”

“Darling, a woman knows what she wants. Thank you for doing this for me.” She gave him a peck on the cheek. “Now run a bath, and I’ll show you something important.”

Leo did as he was asked. When the water was ready, Gina led him into the bathroom and told him to get in. As he undressed she took a plastic bottle out of the cabinet.

“This,” she explained, unscrewing the cap, “is a wonderful thing produced by Nova Huomo. You may have seen the adverts.” As Leo settled into the steamy waters, she emptied a capful of lotion into the bath. It started to smell like flowers.

“What’s that? Perfume?” Leo grunted.

“Soak in the tub and rub yourself properly. I’ll tell you when you can get out. But for goodness’ sake do NOT put your head under, understand?”

Leo lay back in the bathtub. The warm water and the scent made him want to doze. He could survive one evening in a dress. It would be enough to assuage his guilt over the affair with Kelly, and after that he would draw the line again. Gina wouldn’t expect him to turn into a Brian; she wasn’t as hardcore as that.

All of a sudden he heard Gina’s voice telling him it was time to get out. He slowly sat up and rubbed his arms and legs. To his shock, his body hair came away in his fingers, even his pubes. A film of short, curly hair lay on the surface of the water.

“Fucking hell,” he said, frightened.

Gina bustled in and held up the bottle again. “It’s a depilatory, darling. Give yourself a good scrub and it’ll strip the hair all off easy as can be. You don’t want body hair to show.”

“What’s it matter if hair shows?” cried Leo.

“Did you ever see a hairy woman in a dress?” She put the bottle back in the cabinet. “You’re going to learn what women used to go through to look nice for men.”

She waited for him to dry off, then dusted him with a powder until he smelled like a bouquet of flowers. Leo examined his new self in the mirror, naked and soft-looking like a child. This was more than he’d bargained for. Shaking his head, he was on the brink of reneging and refusing to proceed any further when Gina was at him again, wrapping something around his torso.

“Now this is what we call a reinforced basque,” she said. “You’ll need to put this on tomorrow night with your panties and stockings. It hooks up at the back, you feel?” She tugged hard and the basque, a black satin sheaf with whalebone supports, clasped him in a vice. She tugged again.

“Oof — Gina, that’s too tight. Too tight!”

“This is normal. It gives you a terrific figure. Holds in that belly you’re developing, see?” She made the basque even tighter. “Uncomfortable, huh? Well, I hope you’re sorry about what you lot have put women through all these centuries. Your chickens have come home to roost.”

She was grinning playfully, clearly enjoying her exercise of power.

“I can hardly breathe. Can’t it be at least a little looser?”

“You’ll get used to it. There. Now, I’m going to undo it and you can try putting it on by yourself.”

It was a relief to feel the basque loosen and come away. It was like wearing a corset. But Gina stood waiting, and Leo wrapped it around himself, felt for the strings, for the hooks, held his breath and squeezed himself in. So she’d got him dressing himself, now! If only he’d pulled his finger out and got a bloody job! But she was the boss, all right. She stood there, with a smile that spoke volumes.

“Tighter. Come on, tighter! That’s not good enough.”

Leo pulled, squashed, tried to breathe. He was in. The basque held his torso firmly, giving his waist a sculpted look.

“Oh, you’re going to look wonderful. You’re my little baby.” She hugged him.

On the day of the dinner, Leo made Gina’s breakfast and saw her off to work as usual. Later he did the shopping for the dinner. On the way he saw a group of young boys and girls clustering outside the arcade. It seemed like all the boys — was it really all? — were wearing either short dresses or miniskirts with little pleats, dangling handbags and bangles and fussing around the girls like puppies anxious for approval. It was easy to see where the future lay. Although his generation was ambivalent about the genderquake, the pubescents weren’t. There was no uncertainty here: they knew exactly who wore the trousers. You couldn’t blame them — this young generation of boys was completely outclassed and had given up. But at least they would have some memory of trousers. As Clyde Rock had said, the boys now toddling in the kindergartens would not have that privilege. Theirs was a future of petticoats and ribbons, of lipstick and handmirrors. Men were doomed: he felt like a speck of sand in the path of a gigantic wave.

When he got home he went upstairs and sat on the bed, looking at the evening dress which Gina had laid out that morning, with some French knickers, stockings and the reinforced basque, as an unsubtle reminder.

He didn’t believe this was a one-off. Was this how she meant him to dress in the future? Was she really not joking? Leo thought back eight years to when they were first dating, and reflected on how absurd this situation would have seemed then.

Yet the more he thought about it, the more convinced he was that he had to do it. Gina was a dominant woman and refusing to comply was a high-risk strategy. Many wives booted their husbands out for less. She could start looking elsewhere, for a man who was more submissive, more compliant. And he was dependent on her, with no job and no money: without her, he thought, he would be a pretty sorry figure, stuck on benefits in whatever wretched bedsit the state would pay for him to live in. There really was no way out. Sure, he was afraid of Kelly and her ballcrushing fingers, but there was more to it than Kelly. He owed Gina for his infidelity; he owed her a successful dinner.

And he thought of the fluttering boys he had seen at the arcade. If they could do it, what was he so afraid of?

“Aw, for Christ’s sake, mate, are you really not man enough to cope with wearing a frock for a day? Get it over with.”

Leo showered his now hairless body. Wrapping a towel around himself, he went into the bedroom. He ran his hands over the dress, which felt cool and silky under his fingers. Leo realised he was impatient to try it on. His hands were shaking. He held it in front of himself and looked in the mirror.

Putting the dress down on the bed he pulled on the French knickers. Then he breathed in hard as he pulled the basque around his body — with black suspenders which dangled over his panties. Then he found a pair of black sheer-seamed stockings which he drew up his legs, a bit clumsily, and fixed to the suspenders. The feel of the nylon on his thighs was delicious. Leo had always liked stockings. He had just never thought how nice it might be to wear them himself.

Now he was ready for the dress. He picked it up and the taffeta felt cool and gorgeous. He stepped into it and it rustled and clung to him as he pulled it up his body. Incredible! He zipped up, then straightened out the material before looking in the mirror. The dress was a snug fit with a lowish neck and slender straps that he shrugged his shoulders into, and at the bottom it flared out in a swathe of tulle and net. He ran his fingers down the material and along the roughness of his stockings. To his surprise he could feel his penis stirring.

He paced up and down once or twice, fascinated by the tug of the material across his legs, then he sat down at Gina’s dressing table to do his make-up. Here Kelly’s training came into its own. He painted his face with foundation, rouge, eye-shadow, eye-liner, mascara and lipstick before varnishing his fingernails. Then he got an inspiration. He put on a pair of Gina’s clip-on dangly earrings and the matching necklace and bracelet. A puff of scent and he was ready.

He looked at himself in the mirror and was satisfied. He realized it had taken longer than he expected: it was a full-time business, making oneself beautiful for women. He was fascinated and frightened by the elegant figure that returned his look. The ruched and shimmering sheath was achingly beautiful. He looked — and felt — delightful. And the exotic, tactile clothes were so exciting that he now had an erection, pushing against the constraining folds of the dress. He sat on the edge of the bed and suddenly he started crying. He was terribly confused about why. He thought about how he was a man and a man shouldn’t be in a dress. He wondered if it was wrong to feel good about something that was supposed to be wrong, to feel good about being roundly humiliated. He got himself under control, lay back on the bed, drew up his dress, and masturbated, bewildered at the new world he had entered.

I suppose I’d better get on with the housework, he thought. He cleaned up the kitchen, ironed some clothes. The chores seemed easier dressed like this. There was no denying it: he loved the way the dress caressed his body as he moved, the luxurious softness of the stockings, even the clip-clop of his heels on the flooring. It encased him, announcing itself with his every movement, refusing to be ignored. About five thirty, with the food in the oven and the wine in the fridge, he imagined the ring at the door; the mocking, arrogant female gaze; the shame of being put in his place; and he had cold feet. He was longing to go upstairs and clean off the make-up and put on a pair of jeans again. But Gina would never stand for it — and she would notice that the clothes had been worn, as she always noticed everything. It was too late now.

He checked that all the housework was done. Then he checked himself in the mirror. Were his seams straight? Was the hem of the dress straight? Was his make-up OK? Stop worrying, he told himself, but he gave himself an extra puff of perfume anyway. He looked at the clock. 5:45. Time was passing slowly. Another 20 minutes before he could expect Gina. He sat on the sofa in the front room, primping his dress about his legs, running his fingers over the smooth, slinky line of his body. It aroused him and he slipped upstairs to masturbate again.

Eventually he heard her car pull into the drive. He was a bag of nerves. His stomach was tight, his hands cold and clammy. He realised that he was terrified at the thought of Gina seeing him dressed this way.

Gina parked the car. He heard the door slam and the central locking click. He heard Gina’s footsteps as she approached the front door. She was fumbling in her bag to find a key. Leo waited, almost unable to breathe, and as she came into the room he stood up and tried to grin: “Good evening, Madame.” He curtseyed — best to make a joke of it.

Gina put her hand to her mouth. She walked around him, cooing in admiration, and trailed her hand across his shoulders, his breast, his throat.

“Oh, my God, Leo, you look so gorgeous! I can’t believe it. And you feel gorgeous too.”

She ran her fingers down his body and the taffeta that encased it. It made Leo uncomfortable and he edged back, but she planted her fingers on his breast and pushed him against the wall. “You know, it turns me on.”

“So that’s what we’ve been doing wrong these last months.”

She grinned. “If we only had a bit more time... Ah, well. Later, my concubine!” She let him go. “Where’d you learn to do makeup? I thought I’d have to do it for you.”

“Uh, Brian taught me.”

“You don’t need to go so heavy on the mascara. Remember that for next time. And it's a shame your hair is short, you’re going to have it grow it a bit so we can do something pretty with it. — Now look, I’m going to have a shower. Lay out my black suit and white shirt, and get me a cup of tea,” and she disappeared into the bathroom.

Leo did as he was told. He took out Gina’s clothes and laid them on the bed. Going up and down the stairs was not easy, as the dress only let him take modest steps. As the kettle was boiling he sat down at the dinner table.

Gina appeared in the doorway. She looked fantastic in a black trouser suit, with a shirt and tie. She’d had her blonde hair cut short, just covering her ears. “You look so lovely, dear,” she said. “I want my tea. Jump to it!” And yes, there it was, as she adjusted her collar: a smirk of triumph.

Leo looked at her, glanced down at himself, and the old, familiar fear sent a ghastly tremble through his entire body. Woman and man had completely reversed roles and he no longer commanded any respect. So this was his awful fate now, for the rest of his life? He thought of Men Matter. He wondered what Clyde Rock would say if he could see Leo now: “Nice dress! Where do you keep your balls — in your handbag?” Gina’s smugness was making him feel humiliated and angry. Christ, how could he mince around like this in front of the two women from ClareCo? He could barely cope even with Gina! And as for Kelly, he would just have to handle her when the time came. He reached behind him and began to unzip the dress.

“Hey,” said Gina. “What are you doing?”

“What’s it look like? I can’t do this, Ginny. Help me out of it.”

“No way, sweetheart.”

“Help me unzip it. I can’t reach it.” He stood up and shrugged one shoulder free.

And then Gina lost patience.

“Do I have to spell it out? This evening will be a test, for both of us. I need you to be pretty and unassuming. Don’t argue with me, do as I tell you as soon as I tell you, and don’t question anything they say.”

“I don’t want to wear this dress, Ginny...”

Gina put her hands on her hips, a stern figure who would permit no insolence. “I want you in it, and that’s why you’re going to wear it. Men dressed us up in this stuff for centuries. Now let’s see how you like it.” She spoke with vicious satisfaction, as if Leo had been personally responsible for this oppression. “It’s your turn to wear the frocks — and you’ll bloody well enjoy it. Now zip up!”

“All right, all right. Just don’t bash my balls. Jesus...”

“Jesus has balls too, so I’m sure he’s keen you leave him out of this.”

This struck her as rather funny, and she smirked again as Leo grumpily zipped up his dress.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Home Truths, Chapter 13

A 21st century tale
By Eve’s Rib

13: SHOW-DOWN

“In the beginning,” said the lady on TV, “there was no God. There was the Goddess. She peered into the great void and created the Heaven and the Earth, and in this new domain women ruled. The world was peaceful and both sexes worshipped Her.

“But then, about 3,000 B.C., men decided they had a better idea. They installed male deities — among them the sun god Marduk, who killed Tiamat, the mother of all gods, by smashing her with his club. Things, sadly, haven’t been the same since. Now a growing number of revisionists believe it’s time to restore the ancient truth: it was a woman who moulded Earth, and it is men — and their male gods — who messed it up.”

The camera zoomed in closer to her. “The dominant force in the cosmos,” she said, “is female. Was it not Eve who gave knowledge to Adam? Every human starts out female: the male, created by an added Y-chromosome, is a variation on the female norm. Men must be put in their place and the natural female order restored.”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Leo. He turned the TV off and gazed apprehensively through the window.

He wasn’t only depressed about the Men Matter raid. He was depressed about his whole life. He couldn’t get a job, he couldn’t stand up to his wife, he couldn’t assert himself with his lover, he couldn’t defend the rights of himself and his fellow males without looking like a gormless little boy. He had hoped that Rock’s organisation would provide some of the leadership he craved — but he’d felt such a fool in his costume, and the prank had been a disaster. By the time the police had sent Trigger and Sean on their way, there was nothing for the local press to report, if indeed there ever would have been. Was this all the men’s movement had to offer? Was this the best that his once victorious sex could muster in the face of imminent defeat? Women seemed simply unstoppable: it was as if the mighty tide of history left them victorious at every turn no matter what anyone did.

He had been wise to keep Gina from hearing of his involvement in Men Matter. And he had other secrets to keep, too. He was thinking about his liaison with Kelly and how keen he was that Gina would never find out. It wasn’t only that he was afraid of Gina, although he was. It was also that he was showing his wife, who after all paid his way in life, a tremendous disrespect. His behaviour was shameful, and the way Kelly treated him was shameful, and as usual he was stuck wondering what to do while the women determined his fate.

The fact was, he was meant to be at Kelly’s right now. She had sent him another SMS, demanding his presence. Agonising over what to do, he stayed put, and sweated as the clock ticked past the time she had appointed. He knew her well enough to know that she would not be amused at being stood up. He put on his favourite cookery show and watched the screen without seeing anything.

Fifteen minutes after he was meant to have gone next door, he heard the front door open and he craned round to see Kelly striding into his front room. She was wearing her business suit, but without her tie or blazer, and a pair of spectacles was perched on her nose.

“What the fuck happened to you?” she demanded. “I’m meant to be gyrating on your fucking prick, Leo Powers.”

He gulped.

“I’m, uh, sorry, Kelly, it’s just that... I can’t, you know, I’m cheating on Gina and —”

“Applause for the male intellect!” she sneered. “How many days has it taken to figure that one out?”

“It’s all very well being sarky, only I don’t think I can do this any more.”

“You loved every minute of it.”

“Yeah, maybe, but you’re cheating on Brian too. That wasn’t in your wedding vows, you know.”

“It’s different for women!” cried Kelly. “We have a greater appetite for sex. One man can’t meet a woman’s needs. We need to sow our seed widely.”

“I’m sorry, Kelly, it’s just I’ve been thinking, and I can’t go behind Ginny’s back any more. She’s my wife, and I, well —”

“Don’t tell me,” she scorned. “You love her. Well, I don’t let some man tell me when he is or isn’t ready to leave. I’m the one who decides when it’s over, and how.”

“Hey, Kelly, men matter too.”

She paused, and a sneer crossed her face. “I know what this is all about. This is about that macho tosser Clyde Rock, isn’t it? Hero of the men’s movement? Spreading his miserable little fantasies about male domination around Britain on his glorious speaking tour? Yeah, I saw him on the telly, him and his sad band of worshippers, stuck in the last century. Well let me tell you something you may not have seen on the news. Where there’s a Men Matter, there’s a new group, a women’s group, full of brave women dedicated to asserting the female principle: The Daughters of Lilith. And wherever Rock’s comical little acolytes turn up in their baggy Superman outfits, the Daughters of Lilith will soon follow, and smack those ballbags of yours so hard they’ll pop out of your throats! We’ll see how long you lot last when a real woman’s got her hand round your nuts. You’ll be too scared to set foot out the door.” She leaned closer to him. “You can never compete with a woman.”

“Get over it, Kelly. Our thing’s got to stop, OK?”

“It can stop. If you do one thing. Gina’s told me about her dinner party with ClareCo. And about the dress she’s got you.”

“What? You know about that?” Leo knew he shouldn’t be surprised. Kelly and Gina shared a lot of things.

“Yes, I do know, little man. And you’re going to do as she says and wear that dress and play the good little husband,” she spat.

“I’ll do whatever I decide —” Leo began.

Coming rapidly in front of him, she grabbed him round the neck with one hand and suddenly, her knee in his back, Leo found himself crumpling to the ground. He felt the weight of her body on top of him and realised to his alarm that he was in some kind of judo hold. He struggled to get free but it just hurt his arm. Christ, she was strong! She pressed her free hand through his thighs towards his groin, where she probed his trouser gusset for his testicles.

“No, Kelly, no!” Leo shrieked in terror, his legs squirming to get away.

“Be still!” Her voice was right next to his ear. “There’re no Queensberry rules in the real world, darling. If you can’t take us on, then move aside.”

She grabbed his nuts and squeezed.

“Nooo!” he screamed.

“Ungrateful bastard,” she said, her teeth clenched.

“Kelly, PLEASE! STOP! PLEASE!” He writhed in agony, desperate to break her grip, but she had him pinned.

“I’m sorry, love, but you will learn to obey your wife. Do you understand? Do you?” She seized his hair with her right hand, gripping his balls ever tighter with her left.

“Yes, Kelly. I’m sorry, I’m sorry...” and he started crying. “Please, don’t hurt my balls!”

She let go and stepped back, letting him cradle his throbbing balls in his hands.

“That’s agreed, then. And you’d better believe me, Leo — if I hear you didn’t go through with it, then I’ll be back to bust them properly.”

Leo lay where he was, blinking tears from his eyes. He heard the door close gently and he didn’t move for some time, nursing his privates. That was that. He had no strength left. Sorry, Clyde. Sorry, Trigger. Sorry, Dad, and Grandad, and all the proud generations of fathers before them. I quit. I can’t win this fight, don’t you see?

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Home Truths, Chapter 12

A 21st century tale
By Eve’s Rib

12: KERPOW!

Though he didn’t mention it to his co-conspirators, Leo made sure that the day of the raid fell on a night when Gina was out with some mates. He had hired a Batman costume from a local party store, and put it on under his clothes. Unfortunately, it had come in the wrong size, and it hung off him like novelty pyjamas. Hopefully it wouldn’t look too bad in the dark. To tell the truth, he thought he looked a prat. But there had been a heartening report on a Men Matter stunt in the news only the day before. The female reporter had interviewed Clyde Rock and the whole thing was treated fairly respectfully.

The rendezvous was at midnight. Gina was unlikely to be home before two, on past form, so Leo was secretly hoping he could do his bit and slip back without her ever knowing. He felt a little cowardly about this, but he had to walk before he could run. When had he ever gone in for political activism? He also felt like a hypocrite after the humiliations Kelly had been putting him through. However, it didn’t stop him trudging faithfully into town to assert his manhood.

Trigger and Sean were there before him, clutching plastic bags to stash their outer clothes in. Sean had a roll of material under his arm. The ‘WO’ was still attached to the Working Men’s Club sign and by the door stood a lifesize cardboard cutout of a boy stripper in a pink gown, in an obvious homage to Marilyn Monroe’s famous diamonds routine. The boy was gawping in delight as he pulled off one of his long satin gloves.

“OK, lads,” Trigger whispered, although the side street was empty. “Straight to the action!” Leo had never seen him so excited. “Leo, you hold the ladder. Sean, you go up and hang the banner. I’m going to sort out pretty boy there. Superheroes, OUT!”

He and Sean breathlessly removed their outer clothes to reveal their superhero glory. Leo tried not to smile — Trigger’s Batman costume was the wrong size, too. The sleeves were too short and his belly looked like it would pop out of the grey sweater at any moment. He began to remove his own clothes as Sean leaned a little ladder on the wall and raced up it, the banner unfurling as he went up. Meanwhile, Trigger went up to the cardboard boy with a black marker pen, determined to deface it, but he paused when he got there. Leo could almost see his mind work: what could he draw on it? A moustache? The figure was already male, not least because some prankster had got there first and drawn a large cock emerging from the boy’s split skirt. One had to go the opposite way, so Trigger scrawled a pair of breasts on the boy’s bosom, producing a transexual, and gave up in confusion.

“Giz a hand,” said Sean, who was fumbling to get his banner up.

Trigger motioned to Leo to help. Leo held the ladder. He didn’t see what else he could do as Sean fought to attach the banner’s guide-ropes to something on the wall. Eventually he got one end fixed, came down to shift the ladder along, fought to get hold of the loose end of the banner which was now too far away, and felt urgently along the wall.

“There’s nowhere to hang it,” Sean said, flapping an arm at his Superman cloak, which kept getting tangled up.

“Isn’t there a nail or something?” Trigger was punching a number into his mobile phone. “It’s ringing, lads.” After a second he said: “Hello? Orpington Daily? Oh, uh — I’d like to report a radical manoeuvre being conducted at this moment, a quarter past midnight on Tuesday — well, Wednesday now — by the Orpington branch of Men Matter, the radical men’s organisation which calls for equal rights for men and an end to creeping matriarchy. Uh, staff at the Working Men’s Club in Dodge Street were amazed to see three activists taking over the building. In the wake of Clyde Rock’s ground-breaking book, Ironing John, more and more women are becoming nervous before the male backlash. Be sure to hurry over to get this exclusive story!”

He hung up.

“Are they coming, mate?” asked Leo.

“Answerphone,” said Trigger. “There’s no one fucking in!”

“Fuck’s sake,” said Sean. “Are we going to have to wait till morning or what? I’m freezing me nuts off already in this outfit.”

Leo was feeling the cold too. He glanced down the dimly-lit street and noticed a teenage girl in jeans and a padded jacket who’d stopped a few yards away and was watching them with her arms folded. He nodded to her as if she’d found them in some innocuous activity; under her stern, amused gaze he realised how they must look to her and had never felt like such an idiot.

“Fuck it,” said Sean. “That’ll have to do.” He came down the ladder, leaving the banner hanging at a diagonal.

“What’s it meant to be?” asked the girl suddenly.

Trigger jumped and spun round. “What? Be? This is a male commando raid, darling.”

“I ain’t your darling,” said the girl. “Look — it’s all wonky.”

The three men stood back to admire their piece of vandalism. Sean had hung the banner directly beneath the WO. The combined message read: WOMEN FIRST.

“You silly bugger, Sean!” Trigger shouted.

“Well, you fucking try it if you can do better,” said Superman, bitterly, folding up his ladder.

“Women first,” said the girl. “That’s a fine message. I support it whole-heartedly. Aren’t you cold in them costumes? Are your balls wrinkling up, Batman?”

“A bit less lip, young lady,” said Trigger. “Where’s your respect?”

The girl gave them a sarcastic look and walked on, chuckling to herself and keying into her mobile.

“OK lads, now’s when we raid the premises,” said Trigger. “Sean, a spot of breaking and entering, please.” He leaned towards Leo as Sean trotted to the double door entrance. “Sean’s a handy bloke to have around. Done a bit of time, see, and learnt a thing or two inside. He’ll have us through that door in no time.”

The two Batmen waited, stamping in the increasing cold, as Superman knelt by the doors. Leo was quite pleased by their progress. He was disappointed at the cock-up over the banner, which didn’t seem to serve their cause too well, but there was plenty of time for him to get home. Trust Trigger to balls up the media department. What was Sean up to, there? He was taking ages.

Superman was fiddling without success by the doors. He seemed to be trying to insert a credit card between them.

“Get your skeleton keys, out, geezer!” said Trigger.

Superman stood up. “I ain’t got any bloody skeleton keys.”

“Oh, this is getting not funny. You said you had loads.”

“I never, I said we don’t need ‘em. Aw, this door don’t respond to the blade, Trig. It’s a piece of shit, this door.” He kicked it irritably and an alarm blared out, sweeping the street.

“SHIT!” said Trigger. “SHIT!”

“That’s fine,” said Sean. “That’s what we want.” He put his hands on his hips, his red cloak sticking into his pants.

“Hey, lads,” said Leo.

A police car was driving slowly up the street. It had come far too quickly for the alarm to have alerted it. That girl must have rung the police. Typical interfering female! Leo backed down the street, grabbing his clothes. Two policewomen in black uniforms opened the doors and approached them, but Leo didn’t stay to watch. He was already legging it back home, his blue cloak flying behind him.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Home Truths, Chapter 11

A 21st century tale
By Eve’s Rib

11: THE PLAN

When he got home there was a message waiting on the answerphone.

“Mate,” said Trigger’s voice, “the fightback begins! The Orpington branch of Men Matter has a date with the matriarchs, my son. Be a part or regret it for ever. Cock and Maid, five o’clock. Delete this message: tell the gender enemy nothing!”

Poor Trigger’s enjoying his moment of espionage, thought Leo, deleting the message as bidden. He didn’t think he had the stomach for an adventure, but he was part of Men Matter now, and if he thought that being a member was sad, it was nothing compared to the guilt he’d feel at doing nothing.

Guilt! He had guilt all right. But Kelly provoked more of it than Trigger ever could. Leo had never been unfaithful to Gina before, and although he’d enjoyed himself enormously and there was currently no sex to be had at home, he was pensive all the way to the meeting.

The Orpington branch turned out to be Trigger and a little Irishman named Sean whom Leo dimly remembered seeing at Clyde Rock’s stirring lecture. The two of them looked a bit shabby and shifty crouching at their beer-spilt pub table, and he felt a certain self-satisfaction in knowing that he was shafting Kelly on the side while those two probably hadn’t had a woman in months.

“Is this it?” he said.

“This is the acorn that grows into a national movement,” said Trigger. “The seeds of great beginnings.”

He had already drunk a few.

“Sean’s the man with the plan,” Trigger went on, putting an arm around his henchman. “This man has the tactics of a general. Let him have it, mate.”

Sean, rocking back and forth in his chair, outlined the assault. Dressed as Superman, Batman and The Spirit, they would —

“Hold on,” said Leo. “Who’s The Spirit?”

Sean looked taken aback. “Don’t you know your comics? The Spirit’s only one of the icons of comics noir. He’s only one of the great heroes of the golden age!”

“He may be an icon of comics noir, but nobody’s bloody heard of him! What’s his costume like?”

“Well, it’s kind of a suit, forties like, with a shape over his eyes...”

“A shape? A mask?”

“No, it’s kind of like drawn on.”

“Men in makeup,” said Leo. “A blow struck for manliness there, Trig.”

“Shut the piss up,” said Trigger. “You can be bloody Robin, then.”

“I ain’t being Robin,” said Leo. “Robin’s just a sidekick, and everyone says he plays for other side. Who’s Batman? Are you Batman?”

“You bet your arse I’m Batman!”

“You can go as bloody Catwoman for all I care,” said Sean testily. “Do you want to hear this or not?”

“I’m going to be Batman as well,” said Leo.

Once they had voted and agreed on having two Batmen, Sean explained his plan. The Working Men’s Club was the most important symbol in the area, in his opinion, and in a bid to reclaim it, they were going to string a banner over the sign to read MEN MATTER, then take over the building.

“No,” Trigger interrupted. “Men First.”

“That’s not the slogan,” said Sean. “Men Matter, not Men First.”

“This is Orpington branch,” said Trigger. “You’ve read Clyde: local solutions to local problems. This will be our local response to the national emergency. ‘Men Matter’ sounds like we’re whining for five minutes’ attention. No half measures, my son. We’re going to put the male back at the pinnacle from which he has not yet fallen.”

“I’m not sure about this plan, guys,” said Leo. “Won’t the owners just call the police and kick us out?”

“Yeah, sure,” said Sean. “But it’s not about hanging on to the place. It’s the publicity, ain’t it? All the press’ll turn up to see the siege, and we’ll get the men’s movement on the agenda. Blokes out there’ll see that there’s a fightback going on and rally to Clyde’s bugle call.”

“Christ, you two sound like each other,” laughed Leo. “Maybe I’ll help you out. I dunno.”

“Come on, mate,” Trigger urged him. “Don’t chicken out. Where are your balls? You can’t wimp out of it the moment the rough and tumble starts. Are you with us or against us?”

“He’s terrified,” said Sean with unexpected scorn. “Terrified of what wifey’ll say if she catches him out with the lads.”

“Give over,” snarled Leo. But he didn’t fancy the plan at all.

The next day, on his way to do the shopping, Leo paused at the window of Burton’s. There was a life-size advertising photo of a man in a long and elegant evening dress. He was smiling broadly with a glass of sherry in his hand, diamond earrings catching the candlelight. A woman in a casual trouser suit, sleek and short-haired, was smiling back. What shook Leo was that the scene, although artificially posed like all advertising, seemed so normal. It said simply, “This is how it is now!”

To the side stood a male mannikin adorned in the dress. A young male shop assistant, little more than a boy, prim in a blouse and short skirt, was adjusting the folds of satin. And Leo knew that he could go in, try it on, and no one need know. The staff would not care, because they were, after all, selling the dresses to men. Of course you’re curious, mate. It’s only natural. When a thing’s forbidden — well, sort of — you want to know what it’s all about. A dress is just a bit of cloth, for Christ’s sake. Why do we make such a fuss about it? It might even be nice!

Leo turned for home, shaking his head. This was the rot setting in. He must stick with Men Matter. Otherwise, he’d be swishing around making Brian look like Clint Eastwood.

Shortly after he arrived, he received a text message from Kelly: GET OVER HERE NOW 4 SOME FUN. He agonised for perhaps ten minutes about whether he should go, ashamed for cheating on Gina, and disturbed by Kelly’s dominating ways. But the lure of that voluptuous body overcame his weak scruples. He hurried over and found Kelly in a white top and briefs, showing off her shapely legs and pacing her house like a predator. It gave him the horn just to look at her.

“Brian’s looking for lampshades in Ikea,” she said. And pulled him to her to suck hungrily on his lips. He responded with months’ worth of unrequited libido.

But Kelly wasn’t happy with him. She wanted him prettier, she said, and led him upstairs. Didn’t he understand anything about makeup? No, said Leo, and I don’t want to. His reluctance lasted about ten seconds, however, because Kelly was already rummaging in Brian’s dresser, and her will was law. She put foundation on his face, grinning about ‘forgotten skills’, and added eyeliner and lipstick, while Leo sat quite still, loving the concentration she poured into him. She explained everything she did, and finally she stepped back and declared him done. Leo looked in the dresser mirror to see how he looked. He was amazed. His masculinity had disappeared and a soft, nervous person gazed back at him. Oh, Trigger, he thought. What would you say? What would Clyde Rock say?

When they were in bed, Kelly agreed not to hurt him this time. Instead she hurled verbal abuse. “You miserable shit,” she hissed. “You pretty little slut.” She seemed to feel Leo’s reluctant, shuddering pleasure at this treatment, and smirked as she pushed him down with her great, unchallengeable female body.

Leo left the house in a funk, swearing he wouldn’t let her treat him like that any more — that it was all over. But within a week, after arguing with Gina, he was back, and Kelly was pushing him to try on Brian’s lacy corsets and stockings. Leo shook his head, shoved her hands aside, trembling with excitement and shame. “The trouble with you,” said Kelly, “is you’re one of those men who’s scared of what they really want.”

He eventually surrendered and let himself be put in a pair of satin knickers, disturbed by the pleasure the shiny material gave him. Kelly backed him onto the bed and gripped his throat in one hand. “You dare move,” she hissed, and closed her eyes. “It’s MY pleasure that matters. Got it?” Leo lay still and devoured her beautiful arrogance. Above him Kelly swayed like a mighty snake, gently raising and lifting herself almost unaware he was there beneath her.

Finally she hissed again: “Slut...” Leo moaned. Kelly’s legs and thighs tightened their grip and she began to rock more rhythmically. “You’re a pretty boy slut. I’m going to make you my bimbo slave... you slut!” She seized his hair, pulled his head to the side, and twisted it as she rocked faster on top of him. She was so magnificent, so controlling, his universe folded in upon itself until all that existed was Kelly and her will. “Please,” he whispered.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Home Truths, Chapter 10

A 21st century tale
By Eve’s Rib

10: THE START OF THE AFFAIR

For the next couple of evenings, Leo and Gina were rather strained with each other. She didn’t mention the ClareCo reps or the dress again, but he knew she was biding her time — letting the temperature cool before resuming her push. After all, that executive dinner wasn’t going away.

Leo liked idling through his day. There was plenty of time to do his housework. When he was done, he would watch soaps on TV, surf the web for housework tips or read men’s magazines. The latter, increasingly modelled on those old women’s magazines you could never find any more, offered a mix of fashion, gossip and domesticity that he found unexpectedly engrossing, even if it was just so he could rage at the sight of the latest actor to don an elegant evening gown for some award ceremony. He kept thinking, however, of Men Matter, and of the compromising of his masculinity. If only he could see a way out!

One afternoon, Leo had another job interview. He was interviewed by two women; from their disinterested, even gossipy questioning it was obvious that they didn’t take his application seriously. He took the tube home, went to his local and got drunk.

When Gina got home she wasn’t impressed.

“What the hell is this about?” she demanded, and was grimly silent when he confessed to job-hunting.

“I didn’t get it,” he slurred.

“So you went out and got drunk?”

“Yeah. Because they’re against me. It’s a waste of time trying to find work because I’m discim - discriminated against. But aww, he’s a bloke so he doesn’t count.”

“I told you there’s no need for you to work. I’m earning the money now. Just deal with, for Christ’s sake! You’re like a little boy.”

“Well, maybe I want to work...”

“Damn it, always the same bloody conversation. Look, I want you to go round to Brian’s tomorrow and talk this over. See what he says about not working. Man to man.”

“Man! Brian ain’t a man. He’s —”

“I want you to go. Are you going?”

“Aww —”

“Are you going?”

“Yes, bloody hell, yes.”

“Don’t bloody hell me.”

The mood between them had never been so rotten. She went to bed without speaking to him. When he climbed into bed himself a little later, she shrugged off his arm. He lay a long time in the dark, fuming. Fuck her. Men matter. He would go to Brian’s, all right, but not to talk. He’d convert the bastard.

Brian was surprised but not displeased when Leo rang his doorbell the next afternoon.

“Just the man,” he said. “I’m having a sort–out. Come along upstairs.”

The bedroom was untidy with opened drawers and strewn clothes. “Those are heading for Oxfam,” said Brian, indicating a couple of black plastic binliners. “My old things. I guess you can help yourself if you’re interested.”

Leo lazily pulled one bag open a little wider. “Hey, what’s this? Trousers?” He pulled out a pair of smart slacks with a crease down either leg. “There’s nowt wrong with them, mate.”

“Oh, old stuff I never wear.”

Leo sat on the poof next to Brian’s dressing table. The table was covered in lipsticks, eye-shadow, nail varnish removers, and a box of dainty tissues in pastel colours. Here was a man who needed Men Matter. He took a breath. “Brian —”

“Hang on a moment,” said Brian, getting up. “I’d like to try something.” He opened the wardrobe, rummaged, and took out a pretty evening dress, which he held up to Leo as if to check if it would fit.

“Hey, steady on, mate,” said Leo, uncomfortably wriggling from the soft material.

“I’m just looking,” said Brian. “I never see you in a frock, Leo, and I think it’s a shame. You’d look charming in this. I’ve got too fat for it, but with your figure...”

“Nah, well, you see —”

“It’s a man’s dress, not a woman’s,” said Brian, as if it made all the difference. “Take it back with you, if you don’t want to try it on here. It’s lovely wearing dresses, you know.”

“That ain’t my thing, you see, Brian.”

“Well,” sighed Brian. “If Gina’s heading the way you say she is, you may have to wise up soon. I don’t know how long you think you can stay out of skirts, but...”

“Hold on, hold on. A question.” Leo was embarrassed, but he was itching to ask.

“Tell me to piss off if you want, mate, but dressing like a woman, does it make you feel — you know, sexy? I mean, you look in the mirror and...”

“I don’t think it’s right to call it call it dressing ‘like a woman’ any more,” said Brian. “These are men’s clothes. We got them in Marks and Sparks. Anyway, between you and me, it is an erotic feeling. I think men have always been drawn to these clothes. Males are genetically programmed to want to be decorative, you know, like the peacock. You should try it. But I’ll warn you.” He paused. “Once a woman has a taste of feminising a man she can’t resist taking it further. They love it. It’s like playing dressing-up. It was weird at first. I wanted to please Kelly, but waking up in a satin nightie next to a wife in pyjamas was a bizarre experience! Or going out to the theatre, I’d find myself sitting there in a silky evening gown and Kelly would be there in her suit and tie. And yes, it was humiliating at first. But you get used to anything. We’re so used nowadays to seeing images of women in authority that it gives me a little jolt of unreality when a John Wayne film comes on. Now, frankly, to see Kelly in skirts would just be bizarre.”

Leo reflected that it was a long time since he’d seen Gina in a skirt. He’d not thought of it before. He too knew the shock of watching old films. Whenever he saw those women in long frocks taking a backseat to dynamic men in suits, he got a sense of unreality. Had it really once been like that?

“Brian, I’ve heard about this thing called Men Matter. In fact —”

“Oh, that silly thing!” said Brian. “Goodness, I saw a little piece on it on the Men’s Morning Show. Gilly Patrick was ever so funny about it! She said it was the saddest collection of petticoat-shy failures imaginable.”

“Yeah, well, women would say that.”

Brian opened a drawer, took out a dainty bottle, gave it a sniff. “I’m sure they’ll get bored of their little meetings after a month or two.” He closed his eyes, smiled. “You should try this perfume, Leo. — They’re the people who dress up as Superman and climb buildings, aren’t they? Gilly Patrick said that if they were so desperate to wear tights, they could try the new GentleMan lingerie range at M&S. — Oh, that scent is so you!”

Leo didn’t know what to say. He didn’t want Brian to start mocking him too. “Maybe some men don’t fancy a matriarchy.”

“They’re in a minority if they don’t,” said Brian unexpectedly. “You know, I’ve often wondered why so many men have a fantasy of being dominated by women. It’s so common it’s hardly perverse at all. I wonder if it isn’t a primitive memory, even an instinct, of ancient times when women were the dominant sex. And you know, so many househusbands are perfectly contented. I can tell you, there’s something very restful about knowing you are in the hands of a strong woman. I think many men just want an escape from the old masculinity and all that responsibility. It’s such hard work to be in charge all the time. Always having to know what to do. Always having to provide for others. Women want that role, let them have it, I say.”

He gazed through the window for a moment, primping his skirts serenely. Then he woke up. “Look at me dreaming, and not finished my sorting. Sorry, Leo, but I’ve got to ready for my embroidery class, or Kelly’ll break my balls. She’ll be back any second and there’s no way she’ll let me be late. She’s an absolute tyrant!”

“Do you have to rush off? Actually, I wanted to chat a bit, like. I’ve been going to this group —”

“Ooh, what’s this, a little boys’ heart to heart?”

Kelly had appeared in the doorway.

“Isn’t it time you left for your embroidery class, Brian?”

“Of course, love, thanks.” He started up. “I’ll skip along. Your dinner’s in the oven.” He gave Kelly a peck on the cheek as he went out, but she didn’t respond. She was watching Leo.

“Yeah, I’d better be off too.” Leo stood up.

“Come on, darling,” said Kelly. “I’ve got you alone in my bedroom. Let me enjoy it a second.” She loosened her tie and leaned against the doorframe, one leg forming a barrier. Leo felt the tug of his libido. She had a great body. Those tits and that plump arse. She was damn fit. She undid her collar, then whipped her tie off and tossed it to the side.

“I’ve got a boy in my office,” she said. “A very cute boy. I’m his goddamn boss. I expect him to wear a skirt every day. He looks pretty fine, wriggling that ass. When I see his ass in that tight skirt, I just want to give it a grab. And sometimes I do. I just take a handful of sexy ass and give it a squeeze, and it feels bloody great.” She giggled. “It’s great to be the boss. One day I’ll make him finger me and if he won’t, I’ll fucking fire him.”

Leo was intimidated and excited at once. He wished he could talk back in kind, but he knew he’d just sound like a foolish boy. “Why tell me?”

“Because I come home feeling horny. Feeling like a good hard fuck. Brian’s no good, it’s his embroidery day, bless his little lace panties.” She smiled slyly. “Are you wearing lace panties, Leo?”

“No, Kell. I never do.”

“No. ‘Cause you’re a trad man, aren’t you, darling?”

“Well, not entirely —”

She moved, walked towards him, one hand insolently in her pocket. He shifted nervously on his soft stool.

“It’s such a shame,” she purred, nodding at the strewn clothing. “You’d look so charming in a dress. Why don’t you try it? A nice dress, with flowers...”

“I’m getting enough of that from Ginny, already, thanks!”

“Oh, she’s started on you, has she? Good...” Kelly moved closer and put her hand on his hair. “Come on, sweetheart. Didn’t you ever wonder what it would be like, to slip off those trousers and give up? To know you’re being looked after by a strong woman?” She ran her hand down his arm. “To let yourself be sweet and submissive and let all those nasty worries drift away...” Her fingers drifted to his shirt and began to unbutton it.

Leo could see her cleavage through her loosened shirt. His penis was as stiff as a beam. It was a long time since he and Gina had had sex, there was too much tension between them, and Kelly was so forward; it was hard to resist such confidence. He looked up into her lovely hazel eyes, where her intention was as bold as day, and suddenly he thought, what the hell. It’ll teach Gina a lesson.

They undressed quickly. Leo pulled down his underpants, letting his erection stand up in front of Kelly’s eyes. Unabashed, she reached out to seize it, and it reared under her delicious touch. Christ, he had dreamed of this!

“Bed,” she said. “I’ll tame you, trad man.”

Leo tried to lead her there, but she shook her head and nodded her head towards it. Leo lay on his back on the clean white sheets, and Kelly eased herself onto his belly. When he tried to raise his arms, she shrugged them off. “I take the lead,” she said.

With an attempt at bravado, Leo replied: “We’ll see about that that.” Burning under her cool expression, he felt a thrill of joy. All he had to do was take what she gave out. He was horrified that he could enjoy being overwhelmed, like one of those lame-arses in S&M magazines.

“If you don’t like it, then you can leave now.” She spoke briskly, the kind of voice she probably used to upbraid a slack secretary. But there was no chance of him leaving. She was manoeuvring his cock into the moist warmth between her legs, and it strained in her fingers, desperate to get there.

It was not simply that she wished to squat on him. She didn’t want him to move. “You interrupt me,” she warned him, “you’ve had it.” Leo gripped her waist and thrust his hands upwards, and quick as a snake she gripped his chin with one hand till he obediently let go. “Don’t you dare come,” she said, and began to pump up and down on top of him. The pleasure was almost painful. She worked, sweated, and gasped. “Don’t you dare come,” she said again. “I get to come first. Got it?”

It was exquisite to feel her taut body labouring over his. Leo was on the brink of coming, but he held it back. Desperately. There was something about her authority that one didn’t cross. And she was enjoying herself, wincing with the pleasure she was taking from him. It was enthralling and he couldn’t interrupt it.

In the instant she came, she seized his hair and jerked his head back painfully. Then she sat up with a big smile on her face. “Fucking brilliant,” she said.

“May I, now...”

“Oh. Uhuh.” She made a few rhythmic movements, almost disinterestedly, and he finally unloaded between her thighs in a great spasm. She pulled away and lay across the bed, half laughing.

“You can go now,” she said. “Isn’t your wife waiting for you?”

Leo, his face pink, looked over at the clock. Gina would be back in thirty minutes. Sulkily he got dressed, his hair still stinging from all her pulling. “You’re a bloody pervert,” he muttered from the door.

“Piss off, babe.”

Monday, 21 February 2011

Home Truths, Chapter 9

A 21st century tale
By Eve’s Rib

9: KIT OFF FOR THE GIRLS

Leo walked to the Working Men’s Club. He noticed a pretty young woman approaching him down the road. She wore tight hipsters and a halter top in which her large breasts formed two great erotic bulges. Eh eh, he thought. He waited until she was close before offering her a winning smile. “All right, babe?”

He was expecting a glare or curse, but to his surprise she turned and grinned at him as she went on her way, and he sneaked a look at her ample arse as it rolled magnificently in her trousers. They responded to confidence in a man. It was always the same. There was no escaping genes.

However, rounding the corner and crossing the street, Leo almost stopped in his tracks at the sight before him. Forming a noisy but orderly queue outside the rather shabby club building was a handful of chattering women, dressed to the nines in crisp shirts and sharp suits. On the sign, some bright spark had put up a big WO at a jaunty angle to make it read: WORKING WOMEN’S CLUB.

“What’s all this then?” he asked himself aloud.

Trigger appeared on the opposite corner, hands deep in his jeans pockets. He jerked up his nose to acknowledge Leo and shuffled over.

“Bloody hell,” he said when he saw the women.

“Looks like some sort of corporate night out,” said Leo. They could hear music thumping inside. “Want to go down the Cock and Maid, Trig?”

Trigger looked determined, still on a high from the meeting. “I ain’t letting them chase us away. Come on, mate. One pint, at least.” He started towards the club. “What, you scared of them birds?”

Men matter, thought Leo. He shrugged and followed Trigger, a little reluctantly. The Working Men’s Club full of women! Last century, women weren’t even allowed inside it. This was the very place where Leo and Trigger, in their teens, had spent beer-swilling nights watching tarts peel off their undies to Hot Chocolate records.

“Just go through, lads,” said the bloke on the door. “That lot are all together but it’s not a private do.”

Feeling cocky, Leo remarked to the women nearest them: “You waiting for me, then?”

“Yeah...” said the nearest. “...To piss off.” Her companions roared.

Leo decided not to pursue it. He hurried after Trigger into the smoke-filled bar room.

The noise and heat hit them in the face like the blast from an open furnace. Illuminated by flashing strobe lights from the little stage, more women had filled the bar. They were crammed in at the bar and tables, chatting and shouting and shrieking with laughter. On the tables lay ashtrays mounting with dog-ends, pint glasses and mobile phones. A video screen was showing a football match from some sports channel: seemed like the Dutch and German women’s teams. In the hot smoky atmosphere, the women had stripped off their blazers and were sitting with their ties unknotted, their shirts open at the neck, pinpoints of sweat glistening on their skin. The sexual energy was palpable. Leo couldn’t take his eyes from the intimidating scene in front of him. Women, a good two or three score of them, radiating confidence. It was an exhilarating and fearful sight. He was almost hypnotised by the music, the noise and the oestrogen in the air. It was as if he had stumbled upon some tribal gathering that might tear him to pieces if it noticed him.

Trigger arrived with two pints. “Barlady says they’re from some sort of conference. Bloody yuppie do. Oi, watch out!”

“Fuck off!” yelled the woman who had bumped into him. Her face was pink and shiny with perspiration, her short blonde hair plastered to her head. “Can’t you read? It’s a Working Women’s Club!”

“Get yer cocks out for the girls!” shouted her companion. She put her hand on her crotch to make an obscene pumping gesture and the women roared with laughter as they went into the loos.

“What’s the matter with them?” wondered Leo. “They’re in a right mood.”

Trigger’s blood was up. “It’s a men’s club! They should keep out.” He reached into his pocket for his cigarettes. They leaned against the back wall, balancing their pints on a ledge around a wooden pillar. “That ain’t me being ‘sexist’, Leo. It’s a question of respect. They have their spaces and we have ours.”

Leo explained how he had stood up to Gina. Trigger slapped him on the back. He was trying to share words of encouragement, but suddenly the music went down. A roar went up from the women. “The show’s on!” shouted someone. Some kind of showtune music started, the strobes on the stage turned yellow, and a tall figure glided onto the boards. This newcomer wore a long, tight dress of pink satin, opera gloves and a diamond necklace, but the two men quickly saw that it was a youth of barely eighteen. One hand holding a feather boa to his neck, his other hand running seductively down his sheaf of satin, the performer put one foot forward. Through a slit in his dress the audience saw stockings and high heels. The women screeched in delight.

The boy kept flirting with his audience a little longer. He pouted, put a finger to his lipsticked mouth, bent at the knees. The tight dress tugged across his legs as he picked his way delicately to the front, almost within reach of the nearest women. Was he going to sing a song? The women were baying for blood. “Off! Off! Off!” The boy, visibly nervous in the face of such aggressive libido, took his boa, drew it back and forth across his shoulders, and twirled it away across the stage.

“Christ, it’s a stripper!” said Trigger. “That’s a bloody disgrace that is. That’s shaming, that is.”

Leo was feeling queasy, watching the Barbie-boy cavort for the businesswomen’s pleasure. It was disturbing and somehow erotic at the same time. He was terrified that the women would notice the other two males standing at the back of the room. He excused himself and hastened to the loo.

At least he would be safe in the gents’ for a while. He locked the cubicle door, dropped his trousers and let out a long breath. He and Gina hadn’t had sex for a few weeks now — for some reason, the desire had seeped out of their relationship. Right now, though, he really missed that. He felt like having a terrific shag with some gorgeous bird. It didn’t have to be Gina. Wasn’t he asserting himself from now on? All those sweaty female bodies out there were making him extremely horny. Taking hold of his cock, he gave it a stroke and felt it stiffen under his fingers.

The main door banged open and to his shock he heard two or three drunken women stagger in, giggling.

“I’m not waiting in that bloody queue,” said one, a Scot, in a voice slurred by too many gin and tonics. She crashed into the cubicle next to his and he heard her urine tinkle into the bowl.

“Ooh,” giggled another. “I’ve always wanted to peek at the men’s toilets.”

Leo flinched as a body rebounded off the wall of the cubicle nextdoor and squatted on the lavatory bowl with the door open, shouting, “Get that fit bit of skirt, eh, Fiona?” The voice rattled around Leo’s cubicle, so close he began to tremble. He felt a bit like a voyeur spying on the girl next door as she undresses.

Fiona was emerging, zipping up her flies. There was a coin-sized hole in the door and Leo saw her body pass by. “It’s what they do with their big stiff cocks that counts, Bea.” There was a shuffle of feet, then a terrific banging. Leo’s heart nearly stopped working till he realised it was directed at Bea’s cubicle door and not his. “Come on, we’ll miss him.”

“You remember that boy who was serving tea during the Femina shares deal?” said a new voice that sounded familiar. “The one in the tight skirt? Did you hear that Bea felt him up?”

“You never!” shrieked Fiona.

“Fondled his bum,” said Bea. “I love to see the young lads in their skirts and their blouses, painting their nails! They fucking turn me on, the trollops!”

“Well, what can he do?” Christ, it was Kelly! “Complain? If he dares I’ll fucking fire him.”

“Like it or lump it!” roared Fiona.

“Hey, you know how to handle them if they get prissy,” Bea went on. “Get a grab of their balls and give them a squeeze. Just to let them know who’s wearing the trousers. The prissier they are, the harder you squeeze.”

“Look, those are our treasured employees you’re being disrespectful about,” said Kelly, her voice mock serious.

“Our treasured cock!” sniggered Fiona. “We know who you’re into, Kell.” She started singing a mock song. “Leee-ooo, do you want my body...”

What was that? Leo pressed his eye as close as he could to the hole in the door. He could see Kelly now in a pinstripe trouser suit that flattered her lithe figure. “Here,” she said, “this’ll crack you up.” She swaggered over to the urinals on the wall, hiccupping and smirking back at her two mates. Unzipping her trousers and pulling down her briefs, she thrust her hips forward, moved her hands to her groin and started to urinate. Leo squashed his face to the peephole in wonder as a stream of yellow urine hit the wall directly in front of Kelly and trickled to the drain below. He couldn’t believe his eyes. She was pissing standing up, just like a bloke! Fiona and Bea collapsed into uncontrollable fits of laughter.

“Now let’s see that tart get his frock off,” Kelly yelled over her shoulder. “We don’t earn the money for nothing!” She did up her trousers again and the three of them crashed out of the toilets, still laughing at her great party trick.

Leo, his leg jerking like crazy from some kind of cramp, swallowed hard and hoped Trigger was still alive out there. He felt wobbly at the knees, what with the fear of being discovered and the shock of what he’d seen and heard. Whatever had happened to demure femininity? He slipped timidly out, leaned over the sink and peered at his thirty-year-old reflection in the mirror. Did Kelly really fancy him, then? Her workmates certainly had reason to think she did. He’d wondered. Always assumed her mild flirtation meant nothing. His face looked dull and a bit podgy in the unflattering light. Not looking his best. He hoped she didn’t spot him coming out.

The crowd had started a slow hand clap as the stripper — who had taken off his dress and gloves and was down to a tight basque and stockings — ground his pelvis to the music belting out of the speakers. He probably hadn’t done this very often, the poor lad, and he looked even more nervous than before. Women were coming up to shove five-pound notes down the front of his lacy knickers. There wasn’t much of a bulge there. It was as if his masculinity had retreated as far from notice as possible.

“Took yer time,” said Trigger, his breath stinking of booze. He’d got himself another and had already nearly finished it. Hunting for Kelly, Leo saw her hard at it near the front, on her feet and dancing, her tie undone and slung over one shoulder. Pummelling her arms in the air, she roared lasciviously as she went to the stage, put out a hand to pull the boy’s knickers wide open, and shoved a fiver inside. Then, she instead of drawing back, she made a grab for his crotch. Her fingers missed their hold on the satin material, but she clearly made contact with his balls, because the boy suddenly creased up, his hands darting to defend his scrotum. Broken out of his rhythm, he looked mortified with pain and embarrassment. He tried to scoop up his dress with one hand as he backed away from the front of the stage. The beer-soaked women loved it. They erupted into a storm of taunts and catcalls, demanding he go the full monty. The chorus quickly became a predatory chant: “COCK! COCK! COCK!”

Frightened by the change in mood, Leo grabbed Trigger and bundled him out of the Working Women’s Club into the night.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Home Truths, Chapter 8

A 21st century tale
By Eve’s Rib

8: CRUNCH

A bass roar ran through the room and Leo found himself clapping heartily with the others. This was more like it! If he was going to prove that he was Gina’s equal, this was definitely going to help him. He still had a suspicion that meetings like this were a bit sad, but he felt stronger in this crowd. Blokes should stand together.

Clyde Rock talked on. He outlined the need for a new ‘contract’ of mutual respect between men and women. He called for local Men Matter groups to be set up across the country. He urged the audience to sign his global petition and buy his book Ironing John. By the end, the audience was excited and voluble. Leo shouldered through the men up to the table, where Trigger was sticking to Rock’s side like a disciple.

“Good to see you, mate, good to see you,” said Trigger, not at all his usual lugubrious self. “Meet the revolution!”

Leo nodded to the tweedy chairman, who had retired to the back to mop his forehead. “Have a look at Dad’s Army over there,” he said. “You’d have trouble squeezing him into a Superman costume.”

“Oh, that old fuck. I’m trying to kick him out. He’s a bureaucrat, thinks this is the Rotary Club. What we need are men of action.”

“Or men who look good in blue tights?”

“Don’t take the piss, mate. This is the real McCoy. Here, Clyde.” He tugged at Rock’s sleeve. “Meet Leo, a great friend of mine, a new recruit to Men Matter.”

Rock turned from signing a book to scrutinise Leo with a fixed gaze, and grasped his hand in an iron grip.

“Good speech,” Leo murmured, humbled by the presence of the great man.

“For me, Leo, it’s just a pleasure to see you guys feeling good about yourselves again. Interested in the book?” Leo shook his head, gesturing his pockets. “Bit short, eh?” He clapped Leo on the shoulder. “Then make sure you’re at our next meeting. It’s my last in London before I move on to Manchester. We’re going to discuss some real action! Men, you have nothing to lose but your skirts!”

“You coming out for a drink, mate?” Trigger asked Leo, taking him to one side.

“I’d love to, Trig, but I’ve been out too long. Got to get back to Gina.”

Trigger laughed. “Come on, Leo! Here we are talking about men standing up for themselves and the first thing you want to do is run back to your wife! She’s got you by the balls after all! Eh?” Leo dropped his gaze. “Well go on, run home and get your frock on. If you’re lucky she’ll let you have a tenner for a new handbag.”

Leo marched out into the evening feeling slightly ashamed. In ten minutes he was walking up the local high street. A man with a shopping bag went by, click-clacking in his heels. His hair was quite long and curled out at the bottom and he was wearing a pencil skirt. Leo almost didn’t realise it was a man until they passed each other by. You heard about millions of men who had secretly cross-dressed for years — for that lot it must be a dream come true! For a lifetime they had kept to the shadows, hoarding women’s clothing in boxes secreted in the corners of attics, trying them on in secret, paranoid about the wife’s key in the door, and struggling to understand themselves. Now suddenly their hidden love was all the rage. They were coming out onto the streets, along with the new converts and the young, and they had official society’s blessing. Some of them looked pretty awful, but that would change with time and practice, and some looked worryingly elegant. How incredible it was, and how unlucky Leo was to be living in these particular times.

What was the fascination? What were clothes but a load of cloth, cut in various ways? Yet the importance people attached to them! It was ridiculous, really. Even he was struggling against the onset of new clothes, and he still wasn’t sure why.

But he did know, of course. Leo turned into his own street and could already see the lights of his house ahead. He hadn’t forgotten Gina’s outburst on the day of his interview. It wasn’t about the clothes, exactly, but what they represented. It was about relationships of power.

Gina was sitting with her legs curled up on the sofa, watching the late news. “God, I thought you’d never get home,” she complained. “What’ve you been doing?”

“I told you, love, it was a mate’s birthday. We went down —”

“I’ve been dying for you to get in. Look what I got you!” Brimming with cheeky enthusiasm, she grabbed a bulky Burtons bag from the floor. Leo watched perplexed as she lifted it onto her lap. “You know about having the ClareCo reps for dinner? Well, I went shopping.” She opened up the bag and fished something out. It took Leo a second to figure out what it was, and with growing shock saw his fate unfolding from a carrier bag: a rustling confection of burgundy taffeta, which she half-draped on her lap, smiling at him in delight. “It’s a dress — it’s a man’s dress, I got it from Burtons. Isn’t it gorgeous? Just feel that material. Feel it. And I got you some tights, and some accessories, you know, nail varnish and so on...”

“Wait a second, Gina,” said Leo, frozen in the doorway. “I thought I’d say I’d think about it. I haven’t said anything either way. — No, let me finish. You’re buying me this bloody stuff like it’s already decided. Well, it isn’t. Maybe I don’t want to dress up like a bloody fairy. I mean, what the hell are you asking here, Gina?” His voice rose in volume and, to his pleasure, Gina didn’t explode. Instead she seemed not to know what to do. He was confused by her crestfallen face, but felt he must take advantage while she was on the back foot. “You think that just because — oh, sod it. I’m going out with Trig.”

“But you only just got in!”

Leo was already walking out of the door. He took out his mobile and rang up Trigger. “That you, Trig? What you up to? Yeah. Listen, I’m on for a drink after all. That’s right, mate. I’ll see you down the Working Men’s Club. You there already? Great.”

He marched out and strolled down the street, swelling with pride.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Home Truths, Chapter 7

A 21st century tale
By Eve’s Rib

7: MEN MATTER

The Men Matter meeting was being held in the community centre off West Downs Road. It was a cold evening, and Leo hunched into his jacket as he turned up the drive towards the low, brightly-lit building. Clyde Rock’s event was advertised on a poster on the main door. It was titled: Please, Ma’am, May I Have My Balls Back? Leo chuckled.

The drab room slowly filled up with thirty or forty men. Rows of chairs faced a table at one end. A stout, beery-faced stalwart sat there who seemed to be chairing. Leo saw Trigger sitting at the table too; he was surprised that his friend was taking this so seriously. On the other side of the chairman sat a tall, dynamic looking man in jeans and a check shirt, with the kind of swarthy, leathery face one saw in Westerns. Trigger caught Leo’s eye, raised a hand, and winked.

Eventually the chairman stood up. He was rather formal in his tweed blazer, and had the air of a retired military man — he even had a brisk little moustache.

“Harrumph... I’m pleased to see a large turnout tonight, um, fellows. We’re lucky to have a guest speaker of some repute, whose book Ironing John is doing rather well. I hope you’re all going to read it. I know I have, and it’s demmed good. Um, he’s travelled a long way from Canada, where, you may know, the encroaching of womanism is even more advanced than here, so I’m sure he can give us an insight into this problem, which is certainly the biggest problem facing us chaps in the twenty-first century. So I won’t waste any time, and would like to introduce, with great pleasure: Clyde Rock.”

Clyde Rock stood up and waited for the applause. In his hand he held a copy of a recent Time magazine which had become famous. The cover showed a good-looking young woman with her arms folded, staring aggressively at the reader under the headline: THE WAR OF THE SEXES IS OVER — AND THE WOMEN HAVE WON. Behind her peeked an anxious young man with bobbed hair and a blouse, appealing to the back of her head.

Rock didn’t speak for a while. He waved the magazine around, letting everyone take it in. Then he grinned. “I guess we’re all pretty tired of reading this sort of thing, huh?”

There was a ripple of laughter, and he slapped the magazine down on the table.

“Yup, this meeting is about women. Who else? They’re pretty important people. More important now than they’ve ever been before. I can quote the conclusion of that Time article by heart. I’ve made it my business. The opening line says it all: ‘There is a sea change underway.’” He recited slowly, in a steady North American voice like gravel. “In our universities and professions, the women outnumber the men in increasing numbers. There is no longer any doubt that women will be in charge in every field within the next twenty years. They’re strong, affluent and sexually independent. Evidence suggests that the world of the Amazons, once just a titillating myth, may be a mere generation away from becoming reality. The future is indeed female.”

He paused, scanning his audience.

“In my book Ironing John I examine how a shift in the balance of power between the sexes has created a new breed of women who threaten to dominate men in every walk of life. I have interviewed hundreds of men and women and talked to experts, psychologists and counsellors, and if you’re a guy, the statistics look bad. It’s not just about your female prime minister in Britain, and our female president back in Canada. Companies have more women on their payroll than ever, and women managers and senior executives are fast becoming the norm. In Britain, more than three in five managers are now women; in the boardroom, nearly six in ten directors are women. A recent study from Warwick University stated that at least 69% of working wives earn more than their husbands. In the public sector, women hold 71% of managerial jobs while in the insurance and pensions sector, 66% of top jobs go to women. In the personnel field, women are holding down 70% of managerial posts. Girls now outperform boys at every level of education, including the number of first-class university degrees awarded. They even dominate in former male preserves like maths and physics and law and engineering. Boys are falling behind and dropping out as a new breed of female teenager begins to dominate, not just in class but in every aspect of school and college life.

“It is normal to assert, including in respectable journals like the Financial Times or The Economist, that women have qualities that make them better bosses than men. Women are better at working with their subordinates, taking risks, assessing needs, helping workers develop — and they generate more profit. In a recent management study, women execs won higher ratings than men on 44 of the 52 skills measured. The message: if you need a boss who’s got the right stuff, hire a female. In a changed world filled with professions rather than trades, technology rather than industry, it is women who have the advantage, women who are taking over power, leaving the men floundering in their wake.”

No longer content to stand behind the table, Rock was pacing up and down the stage like a panther, his voice rising in volume.

“By contrast, men are losing their virility and confidence. Leticia Jones, Professor of Genetics at University College, London, goes even further. Her book The Decline of Men is excellent as a prĂ©cis of the official gynocratic wisdom of our times. Its message is clear: Men are doomed. I’ll risk your anger by quoting part of it.” He reached to the tabletop and picked up a book.

“‘Everything is against them — biology, economics and medical science, but above all it is the unstoppable rise of women — freed by the sexual revolution from the bonds of oppression — that has been men’s undoing. Manhood itself is in full retreat. We are in the midst of an ascent of women matched with an equivalent descent of men. What once seemed a natural superiority of the male has collapsed in the face of a total failure to cope with modern times. When the going gets tough, the women do better.’

“Macho values have become an embarrassment, says Professor Jones. She writes: ‘The economic tide has turned, at men’s expense. With the decline of industry, employment has shifted to services. Women, employers believe, do the work of the modern economy better (and cheaper) than their male competitors.’

“What, the insecure male may think, is the point of him? Most are doomed to housework and childcare, completely dependent upon the female. What a remarkable turnaround after thousands of years of male predominance.”

Clyde Rock tossed the book onto the tabletop with the same disdain he had shown Time. “When feminism started, it meant women should achieve equality with men. In the fourth decade of the twenty-first century, not least in my own country, in Canada, the dominant discourse has shifted to think women should achieve superiority over men. Some people prefer to use the term ‘womanism’ for this. The technical term is ‘gynocracy’. Personally, I don’t give a heck what you call it.

“Now, some in the men’s movement talk about a female conspiracy. That is bullshit. That creates the image of a gang of women sitting in a secret room, cackling together hatching plans about how they can subjugate men in the sex war.” He rubbed his hands, mimicking a witch, and there was laughter. “Of course not. What’s happening is a change in society. Social forces are taking us in a direction that favours women and the only way to fight back is to understand these changes. Don’t get my message wrong: I don’t say that women should be pushed back into the nineteenth century —”

“Why not?” someone called out, raising a laugh.

“I’m just saying that we’re replacing one injustice with another. Our sons are never going to know that men can accomplish great things. The son of a friend of mine just started work. He’s sixteen. His boss this summer at the swimming pool is a woman, the head of the park is a woman, the swim team coach is a woman. They’re tough and they’re opinionated and he can’t even take a shit without their permission. Our boys are going to be so conditioned that they’ll be shocked when you say that men can be in charge. I read a story about a family that had a female lawyer, a female doctor, and a female priest. When they moved to another town, they had to take their little boy to the local doctor. It turns out the doctor was a guy, and the son, he throws a tantrum, crying, ‘But Mom, he’s a man.’” There was a ripple of bitter amusement. “This is the mantra! Women are smarter. Women do it better. I recently saw a girl in a T-shirt that read, ‘Girls say, boys obey’. A cheeky joke, perhaps. But men have lost their dignity and respect. Women aren’t completely dominant — they have only just over half the MPs in the British parliament, for example — but they sure as hell will be within ten years without a bit of effort from YOU.”

Leo felt frightened. He’d heard it all before but recently it had come very close to home. Rock stopped walking up and down and became very grave. “But more of that later. I haven’t spoken yet about the worst part.”

What new horror was this?

Rock slipped a large laminated card from his table and held it up. It depicted a young boy and girl. “I expect most of you have seen this ad around. It’s for M&H’s new line for kids. I guess you can see what’s rum about it?” The audience murmured. “Yes, guys, guess which of the two is wearing the dress! The ultimate taboo has finally fallen. You all remember when it started, only a few years ago. It was treated as a welcome loosening-up of social mores. The argument seemed superficially reasonable: ‘If women aren’t inferior to men, why should it be a humiliation for a man to wear a skirt?’ There was a lot of amusement, some doomladen headlines in the tabloids (which seem prescient now), then suddenly the ‘debate’ was over. Skirts for men had been mooted once or twice before but never caught on, but this time, they were here to stay. Sadly many men were complicit in promoting the practice.

“Not the end of the world, some might think, and in a neutral world it wouldn’t be. But why do you think women were in such a hurry to get into trousers? A skirt or dress indicates inferiority. That’s the message in our culture, like it or not. Many women are actively encouraging their males to try wearing dresses and it has to be opposed. It’s always presented as a bit of fun, but it’s anything but. Look at this ad again. The boy enjoys his frock but doesn’t quite dare to say so. He looks at the girl as if she is the centre of authority. The girl, however, looks at us. She’s confident. She’s wearing the trousers and knows she’s the boss. This is the sort of imagery we are engulfed with nowadays and it’s all part of the rot.” He shook the ad wrathfully. “How low have we sunk for something like this to happen? Just ten years ago it would have been unthinkable. You don’t need me to point out how ridiculous it is for grown men to mince around in pretty frocks and tight skirts! Why, it’s making men a laughing stock! What message is it giving the women? And our sons are more vulnerable than us. We still remember something of what being a man really means. If women feminise our sons, they’ve feminised our future. Modern boys are under huge pressure to wave their trousers goodbye: just go look in a kindergarten and see who’s got the frilly frocks on. They’re on the front line and they need our help. So Men Matter says: If women won’t wear dresses, nor will we!

There was a rumbling of approval. Trigger leaped to his feet and applauded, and the audience followed suit with more clapping. Clyde Rock paced to the side of the room, spun on his heel, and marched back to the centre with his finger raised combatively. “So I’m going to ask every man here who’s serious about his rights to make just one important pledge about his life. And that pledge is: don’t let them put you in a skirt! Once you’ve done it once, there’ll be no going back. I can see one, two, three men here in this very meeting who are wearing dresses. Stand up! Stand up, those men!”

Three men stood up red-faced, tweaking their skirts in shame.

“If even those men who want to start the fightback model themselves on Doris Day instead of on some manly example, what hope is there for the rest of us? Now stand up the rest of you. Go on, stand up — that’s it. This is where the worm turns.” Theatrically, Rock took a hold of his crotch and gave it a firm shake. “Take a hold of your sack. Feel what you’ve got? What you’ve got here is precious, guys. These are your goddamn balls. They don’t belong to your wife, they belong to you and they’re the source of your manhood. Who invented every goddamn thing that we call civilisation? Was it a woman who invented the car? The telephone? The computer? Goddamn it, stand together and stand tall. You’re MEN. Say it loud: I’m a man and I’m proud!”