The most gay-friendly town in Europe?

February 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

I have to acknowledge that the French are a pretty sophisticated mob. There is, however, one cultural element of their national life that is sadly lagging behind the rest of Europe. They just seem to have no idea how to contrive a decent sex scandal. All that nonsense about keeping the private private and the public public has held them back. Thankfully that seems to be changing with the trial in Lille of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and twelve others on charges of aggravated pimping.

Strauss-Kahn was the head of the International Monetary Fund and a much touted prospective French president until he allegedly attempted to rape a maid at a New York hotel four years ago. His present defence seems to be that he didn’t have the slightest suspicion that any of the women, many young enough to be his granddaughters, bought to him by business friends in Europe and France, were prostitutes. There were after all only twelve such “festive afternoons” (as he termed the sex parties) in the course of three years, with new material (as he termed the women involved) at each party. According to some of the women’s evidence Strauss-Kahn’s favoured notion of intimacy was brutal anal penetration. Why would any of those women be prostitutes? The 65 year old Strauss-Kahn does seem to have an inflated opinion of his sexual attractiveness to young women; he also has the arrogance of a man who truly believes he has a brain the size of a small planet. Surely then Mr Strauss-Kahn, you should have showed just a little caution and common sense and knowing that one of the men who organised the parties was nicknamed Dodo the Pimp, you could perhaps have asked a few questions? I’m not somebody who readily judges someone by their looks (I do, after all, have to shave every morning) but really Mr Strauss- Kahn, you don’t truly believe you are fatally attractive to young women…who have never met you before? I suspect they would think what I think as I watch you waddling into the Lille courtroom. “Now there’s a bloke who really does look as if he has an over fondness for both baguettes and buggery.”

Given that Strauss-Kahn was managing director of the IMF from 2007-2011, the time of the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, it would be easy to go all Freudian and ask if men with such excessive sexual incontinence can be trusted and prudent enough to manage significant financial institutions. I wouldn’t be simplistic enough to ask such a question. It does seem more than a coincidence though that during Strauss-Kahn’s reign at the IMF, it was an institute whose solution to any small, vulnerable and impoverished country becoming indebted was to vigorously place them over a barrel.

It is refreshing after reading about the trial to turn to other stories and see those truly joyous photographs that capture the subtlety, tenderness and love that usually intertwines with most human sexuality. Those wonderful pictures of couples who have been together ten, twenty, thirty and forty years and who can now publically and legally affirm their love for each other as some American States finally allow same sex marriages. I have to say to those couples that if they fancy coming to Europe for their honeymoon (okay, I know you are Americans so unlikely to have a passport), forget about Paris, Barcelona or Copenhagen. I’ve just discovered the most gay-friendly place in Europe.

The last of the snow had melted away this morning so we thought we’d wander out for a drive, something to escape the cabin fever. We didn’t want to go anywhere challenging, exciting or even interesting so we just had a drive along the N273 and into Belgium. Twenty miles over the border, we were driving through the Hoge Kempen national park when I saw this shelter at the side of the road.

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My Dutch and Belgian friends assure me that the term “homo” in Dutch is entirely non pejorative and has the same meaning as “gay” in English. Naturally I pointed out the shelter to my wife and suggested it was pretty decent of the local district council, that if there were any blokes out on a winter’s night enjoying a bit of al fresco sex, to have built a special shelter for them. My wife told me not to be daft but had no better explanation. I’m pretty sure I was right though as 200 metres along at the next junction we were greeted by this sign.

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So I’m not going to pretend it’s Niagara Falls but I reckon that Genk in Belgium would be a pretty friendly place for your honeymoon. And if you are in a wheelchair at least it’s flat. Shame that you’ve missed carnival though. We stopped in town for a cup of tea and saw the first day parade, everybody was dressed up. I swear I saw at least three of the original Village People. A bit of final advice, if you do visit don’t venture too far West. Lille is only a couple of hours drive and you get some weird, weird people there.

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