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What I discovered on my 'duty dog' patrol


Being a 'poofter' in the army
Brian Sewell Writer
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The very last thing that you could ever admit was that you were a poofter. People got called poofters who were… it was just an insult, really. It wasn’t an observation. It wasn’t an accurate identification. You know, if your hair was slightly long, or you tripped over your boots or something, you know, poofter would be as readily the word that came to people’s minds as any other. But the one thing you could never admit was that you were in the company of other boys whom you might want to fuck.

And of course, you played along with it. You pretended. So your conversation never betrayed you.

And I had a pigskin wallet, of which I was rather proud. It was a kind of pale, shiny thing, and I carried a condom in it. Condoms in… so long since I’ve seen a condom, I don’t know how they are now produced, but they used to be in tiny little square packets, and they were rolled in a ring. And I had this in my wallet, and the process of wear and tear... pulling it out of your pocket... this ring shape came through on the pigskin.  And people would say, 'What’s that?' And I’d say, 'That’s my French letter'. Which somehow convinced them that there I was, sort of, ready for any maiden who might throw herself at me. And so… so it, I don’t think, ever occurred to anybody that I was queer. There were temptations. They had to be resisted.

Born in England, Brian Sewell (1931-2015) was considered to be one of Britain’s most prominent and outspoken art critics. He was educated at the Courtauld Institute of Art and subsequently became an art critic for the London Evening Standard; he received numerous awards for his work in journalism. Sewell also presented several television documentaries, including an arts travelogue called The Naked Pilgrim in 2003. He talked candidly about the prejudice he endured because of his sexuality.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: condom, poofter, National Service

Duration: 2 minutes, 23 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2013

Date story went live: 04 July 2013