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Theatre critic fired over gay pictures
December 5, 2013 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Theatre critic Mark Shenton has been fired from the Sunday Express for having brought the company into disrepute after naked images of him were posted on a gay website behind a paywall. Richard Desmond, the owner of the Sunday Express is also the owner of Television X, the UK's most popular pornographic TV channel.
posted by the latin mouse (50 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeesh. Even without the rank hypocrisy, this is ridiculous. He's a theatre critic, not Miss America.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:28 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fuck. That. Noise. This is ridiculous.
posted by ominous_paws at 9:28 AM on December 5, 2013


The article mentions a blog post by Mark Shenton. That website is having trouble, but here's a pastebin copy of the text. "Sorry to disagree with his world view, but I’m not embarrassed at all."

What newspaper thinks their theater readers would be upset about 20 year old nude pictures of a gay man hidden away on some tawdry website?
posted by Nelson at 9:30 AM on December 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


As a feminist, I felt like it might feel satisfying to type "can you imagine the same thing happening to a woman?" when the opposite is so much more often applicable.

Needless to say, it doesn't - this is horrid.
posted by greenish at 9:31 AM on December 5, 2013


Is the Sunday Express one of the really horrible newspapers? Or just a regularly horrible one?
posted by RakDaddy at 9:32 AM on December 5, 2013


What are the relevant UK labo(u)r laws like? Would the facts of the case (pics from so long ago on a relatively obscure site vs. being "accused of bringing the newspaper into disrepute") make this a slam-dunk lawsuit?
posted by psoas at 9:35 AM on December 5, 2013


What
posted by Melismata at 9:38 AM on December 5, 2013


To call it homophobia is maybe missing the point, or perhaps just too narrow, this is a problem that women routinely face.

The question of how it is exactly that Desmond, who currently traffics in the genuinely shameful realities of pornography for profit, can remain respectable while Shenton who had fun with a friend two decades ago can be so odiously disreputable as to need firing, I think is a really revealing one. Its almost reminiscent of the pre-medieval kind of morality where shame came from being exploited in some way and pride came from exploiting others.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:42 AM on December 5, 2013 [24 favorites]


Good grief, irony is dead.

Also, even if Richard Desmond wasn't the former publisher of such illustrious titles as Asian Babes and Readers' Wives and the current owner of a range of satellite porn channels, the Express can scarcely be brought lower in the credibility stakes.

Every other day or so, the Express will have a story either about some aspect of Diana's life or death OR a weather forecast of extreme cold, rain, heat, snow or wind. The weather ones are especially amusing because it is not unknown for entirely contradictory forecasts about coming upcoming weather to be printed within days of one another.

For our non-British chums, here is a brief and incomplete guide to the obsessions of British tabloids:

The Express - Diana, extreme weather
The Daily Mail - cancer, fat, immigrants and the unemployed
The Sun - teenage tits, paedophiles and Ed Milliband
The Mirror - David Cameron and serial killers
The Sport - bums, Elvis, buses and the moon
posted by MuffinMan at 9:45 AM on December 5, 2013 [37 favorites]


The Express has a theater critic???
posted by Thing at 9:46 AM on December 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I could be their theater critic.
You call yourself a theater? You're not a theater, just a big room with a stage. A smelly stage.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:04 AM on December 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


Hypocrites gonna hypocrite.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:14 AM on December 5, 2013


Sounds like they need a hypocritic.
posted by forgetful snow at 10:20 AM on December 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


Good on them for firing him from Express Newspapers.

Oh wait, that was supposed to be a punishment? Boo!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:25 AM on December 5, 2013 [4 favorites]



It is, of course, the prerogative of a newspaper editor to choose his own writers but there is a certain irony that a newspaper, now owned by proprietor Richard Desmond whose business interests once included the publication of Penthouse in the UK and Asian Babes – and which he continued to publish long after he acquired the Express group in 2000, until he sold the adult magazine business in 2004 – should be so affronted. (The company continues to own and operate Television X, a series of subscription adult television channels) It could be said that the only difference is that these are straight magazines and channels, whereas mine was defined as a gay one


I am just going to put this here so I can admire it, like a beautiful gem formed from exceptionally dense and pure hypocrisy.



And firing someone for photos that are posted of them without their consent is absolute bullshit.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:26 AM on December 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


I was gonna say something about the ethics of smut peddling but then I started thinking about smut pedaling and how there should be a boutique locavore organically-farmed amateur porn bike delivery service sector and suddenly this became about Portland instead of the UK.
posted by cortex at 10:27 AM on December 5, 2013 [17 favorites]


Yes, the company's hypocrisy is odious and deserves to be called out and dealt with appropriately.

But calling the pictures "private, personal" seems like a bit much, too.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:28 AM on December 5, 2013


Nothing like double victimization to really warm the cockles of your heart.
posted by bearwife at 10:28 AM on December 5, 2013


Asian Babes was of course the favorite periodical of Angelina Jolie
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:29 AM on December 5, 2013


LOL at "brought the Sunday Express into disrepute"; more like bringing it up two flights to disrepute.

Private Eye is going to love this because they have a swell old time with Richard "Porn Merchant" Desmond & his hypocrisy. See, for example: Richard 'dirty' Desmond: A Humbuggery Special
posted by chavenet at 10:32 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


But calling the pictures "private, personal" seems like a bit much, too.

it doesn't seem a bit much to me - someone publishing pictures of you without your consent doesn't make them feel less private or personal.
posted by nadawi at 10:40 AM on December 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


Never in a million years am I ever going to get behind the Sunday Express, so it's a little disconcerting to suddenly find myself 100% behind a Sunday Express journalist. (Or even calling anyone who writes for that insufferable rag a "journalist," come to think of it...)
posted by DarlingBri at 10:46 AM on December 5, 2013


How the hell does posing for nudes have any bearing on one's ability to be a theater critic? Not to mention how absurdly puritanical it is to find the naked body shameful. I've never understood it. We all have bodies. We're all naked underneath our clothes. So what's the biggie dealie-o.
posted by pony707 at 11:02 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


> The question of how it is exactly that Desmond, who currently traffics in the genuinely shameful realities of pornography for profit, can remain respectable while Shenton who had fun with a friend two decades ago can be so odiously disreputable as to need firing, I think is a really revealing one.

Yeah, I've £ thought about it, and £ I can't figure out how £ they can be £ so inconsistent. There's really £ no good £ reason £ for the £ difference £ in £ treat-£-ment.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:02 AM on December 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


When I'm 51 years old, I'll be happy for anybody to look at naked pictures of me when I was 29. But I wouldn't want to get fired for it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:10 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess what I meant by that was that the fact that these pictures are from so long ago makes this even more ridiculous -- though that really wasn't apparent from my comment because you don't live in my head.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:13 AM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


But calling the pictures "private, personal" seems like a bit much, too.

Well, what does that phrase mean? From the critic's blog post:
I had not posted it, but remembered it being taken, by my reckoning, by a friend in San Francisco I have long lost touch with some 22 years ago – long before I either worked for the paper or the internet had come of age, so I never expected them to turn up on a website that didn’t exist then – or to find it still live now!
Reading between the lines, my guess is he had a boyfriend / trick / lover who took some nudie snaps of him back in 1991 and somehow one of those ended up being scanned and posted online. Maybe it's a bear thing? I'm curious if the photo was posted to the private site with the subject's name attached, or if someone saw it and realized who it was (20 years later?!). The assertion that "The paper had been tipped off by a malicious third party" is particularly relevant here.

This problem of privacy is one of my favorite themes, the way Internet technology makes things that used to seem private now no longer private. Once a photo like that is online once it quickly gets copied everywhere. Frankly I'm surprised it's not available in the clear yet, no doubt it soon will be.
posted by Nelson at 11:17 AM on December 5, 2013


Reasons to be cheerful: Sunday Express circulation figures from Wikipedia:
2012 568K
2013 471K

17% drop in the last year - ouch.
posted by Dr Ew at 11:27 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, the article presents one side of the story, notes that Desmond's company "disputes Shenton's version of events."

Noted that the graun put that at the end, the headline there and here are misleading.

There's roughly zero time for guilty until proven innocent, 'cept when the guilt fits a worldview, agenda or something like that.
posted by ambient2 at 11:28 AM on December 5, 2013


I firmly believe that in my life time we will elect a president that has nude photos of themselves on the Internet. On that joyful day we will look back and wonder why this man was fired. We will still, however, be baffled why Dr.Laura had a career.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:35 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Express - Diana, extreme weather

So there isn't one devoted to Kate? :(
posted by Melismata at 11:35 AM on December 5, 2013


Well, the article presents one side of the story, notes that Desmond's company "disputes Shenton's version of events."

Well he would, wouldn't he?

(Happy 50th Anniversary Mandy!)
posted by Thing at 11:36 AM on December 5, 2013


Well, I've never seen a nipple in the Daily Express
posted by quarsan at 11:42 AM on December 5, 2013


As Nigella Lawson is currently discovering, the salacious details of one’s private life are often now in danger of becoming public property. But it doesn’t make her less able to be a cooking authority and doesn’t, by the same token, change my relationship to an art form I am passionate about and rigorous about covering.

This is an important point I'm finding. People are complex, and there are parts of a person's life I can find contemptible/upsetting/disreputable and still acknowledge that they are worth recognizing in other parts of their life and contributions. The existence of the former may mean I am more careful/selective about how I go about the second - such as not engaging in commerce that would support the person - but it doesn't mean we get to throw out everything about the person, no matter how much we would like to.
posted by nubs at 11:45 AM on December 5, 2013


Well, the article presents one side of the story, notes that Desmond's company "disputes Shenton's version of events."

More accurately:
Northern & Shell, Desmond's publishing company that owns the Sunday Express, declined to comment. However, it is known that it disputes Shenton's version of events.
posted by Etrigan at 11:52 AM on December 5, 2013


Reading between the lines, my guess is he had a boyfriend / trick / lover who took some nudie snaps of him back in 1991 and somehow one of those ended up being scanned and posted online.

A trick? A trick? Is there any suggestion at all anywhere except in your imagination that Mark Shenton has been involved in sex for hire, either as a prostitute or as a punter? Why would one even make that mental leap?

Maybe it's a bear thing?

Maybe what is a "bear thing"? Please clarify: who is the bear, and what is the thing?
posted by DarlingBri at 12:09 PM on December 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


A trick? A trick? Is there any suggestion at all anywhere except in your imagination that Mark Shenton has been involved in sex for hire, either as a prostitute or as a punter?

"Trick" just means "one-night stand." It doesn't even slightly imply prostitution.
posted by Bill_Roundy at 12:56 PM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


This may be a regionalism or difference in cultural jargon of some sort; I'd read "trick" in a sexual context to sort of strongly imply prostitution. That not to say that Nelson is implying it or not, just noting that this seems like a legit difference in semantic payload for different people and I can totally understand DarlingBri blinking at it.
posted by cortex at 12:59 PM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


maybe there are different definitions floating around - but a very common one has trick meaning specifically a client, aka turning tricks. here's an etymology guess that links it directly to prostitution. if you search wikipedia for turning tricks, you get the page for prostitution where they talk about johns being called tricks.
posted by nadawi at 1:01 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, and if we need a usage example for the internet dork community, there is always this.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:04 PM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've never heard "trick" used in any other way but in reference to prostitution.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:07 PM on December 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


yeah, the only other definition of a trick that i know is referring to a woman of ill repute, which i always just assumed was a shortening of "woman who turns tricks" to a "trick."
posted by nadawi at 1:09 PM on December 5, 2013


Apologies for using American gay slang.

Yes, I meant "trick" in the sense of "gay one time sexual encounter", and among my gay friends there's no insult intended by this particular usage nor any notion of prostitution. The word "trick" can also mean something related to homosexual or heterosexual prostitution in American English, and probably there's a shared etymology with the gay casual sex term. Again, I absolutely didn't mean to imply anything related to prostitution and Mark Shenton. I was smiling and speculating based on his description of "a friend from San Francisco". I have some "friends from San Francisco" too, although sadly none of them have a nude photo of me when I was younger and more beautiful. (Bonus link: I highly recommend Renaud Camus' book Tricks, a whole book about gay casual sex encounters that's really well written, more philosophical than smutty. I believe it had that English title even in the original French edition.)

As for "bear thing", I'm reacting to the handsome image of the author on his own blog where he has a beard and a nice smile. Ie: "bear", again a term I mean with nothing but love. The bear movement got started in the early 90s in part because of the Internet, and erotic images of large hairy men were something of a novelty. I, um, may have some pictures from that era of men who look like the author.

This is all a massive derail from the main topic now. FWIW I used the slang because I feel some affinity for Shenton, being a fellow gay guy. I was expressing empathy for Shenton by using familiar language that my community uses.
posted by Nelson at 1:10 PM on December 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


Vouching for Nelson, "trick" is a very common term in the gay community for a hookup, and has nothing to do with prostitution. There was even a slightly-famous '90s romcom (yes, that's Tori Spelling as the annoying best friend) about it.
posted by psoas at 1:25 PM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


oh interesting! i guess i had just assumed when coming across trick in gay lit or blogs or whatever the term was still transactional, rentboys and the like. yay to learning new things.
posted by nadawi at 1:26 PM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


It is a usage that is weirdly problematic when you are discussing sexual histories with a gay escort.


"That reminds of of this trick..."

"Do you mean trick or trick trick?"
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:40 PM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is that a trick question?
posted by ersatz at 2:21 PM on December 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Especially confusing if you've just hired a gay magician.
posted by zippy at 8:18 PM on December 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


I firmly believe that in my life time we will elect a president that has nude photos of themselves on the Internet.

California has already had a governor whose nudes have made it to the internet.

(Um, NSFW, as if that isn't obvious.)
posted by mollymayhem at 10:26 PM on December 5, 2013


Every other day or so, the Express will have a story either about some aspect of Diana's life or death OR a weather forecast of extreme cold, rain, heat, snow or wind.

The most recent example
posted by the latin mouse at 2:45 AM on December 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


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