The Kiss Heard ‘Round the World

Last week two men were at a pub in Central London, having a post-work pint.

Not a surprising, amazing, or interesting thing, by any means. They were on a first date- that’s a little different, maybe, but not really something to raise eyebrows.

So why has this date been on the news from London to Sydney?

They “dared” to kiss each other in a public space.


Still waiting for the punch line? Well, that’s just it- there isn’t one. Which might be why this story is so unfortunate but so important. They weren’t dressed provocatively. They weren’t undressing each other. They were just having a quiet drink and a snog at a pub called the John Snow. This was apparently incredibly offensive, and they were told by the pub’s landlady to leave because it was “obscene”.

Not only that, but it was kicked off by some guy claiming to be the landlord (but wasn’t) who first told them off for kissing and then complained at the bar. And then manhandled one of them trying to get them out. What, could he not look away? And what year is this anyway? The John Snow, for those unfamiliar, is on the edge of Soho in central London- it’s not exactly a gay-free zone.

A lot of people defended the situation maybe the John Snow is just generally anti-PDA- could anyone definitively say that the landlady wouldn’t kick out a straight couple snogging? Actually, yes, I can. Because back when I was dating one ex, the John Snow was basically local to us, and I went in there a lot. I made out with him there, definitely, without any issues, and went on several dates with girls in there, and we made out as well. I was even in there a couple weeks ago with the boy and we kissed. So all that was ok, heterosexual kissing, lesbian kissing. Just not gay male kissing. Well, that sounds like good old fashioned homophobia to me. Simples.

It’s especially offensive that neither the license-holder or the Samuel Smith reps have apologized or even taken the stance that it was a misunderstanding. That just makes it even more clear that they seem to think it’s ok to pick and choose for whom the “rules” apply. Fail.

Considering the amount of homophobia that’s been going around the UK, this is really more, to me, than just fighting for the right to kiss who you like in public. This is about refusing to be put back in the closets, to fight against being told that being queer is just a bedroom issue. I’m not just queer when I’m in bed- I’m queer all the time.

I was really pleased, though, because London responded with a Kiss-In. Considering the past few months have had multiple rally/riots, it was awesome to see a bunch of people come together to have a nice time and not just break things. The John Snow, which is a really lovely old pub even if its license holder is a homophobe, was pretty unscathed after the whole thing- no broken windows, no graffiti, just a rainbow flag taped to the door. The Kiss-In made some sort of difference, too, as the pub owners kept it closed all Friday night- a money drain that will make an impact.

What this whole incident has really uncovered though is some more subtle homophobia. For example, some people didn’t believe that the kissing was chaste, even when witnesses said it was on par with typical heterosexual kissing in similar places. Some people sniffed that all public displays of affection should be banned from public areas, the “don’t do it in the streets and scare the horses” approach (though let’s face it, girl on girl snogging will be treated as more acceptable than boy on boy).

But some of the worst (best?) examples was the people suggesting that by staging a kiss-in “gays are just proving they’re slutty”, or that since the John Snow wasn’t specifically a gay pub, it was the men’s own fault they were told off. Because the John Snow doesn’t make a habit of tossing out straight couples making out, it’s not acceptable for them to suddenly change their minds about the “rules” when it’s two gay men. Sorry. And, as this beer blogger points out, maybe they went in there because that pub has a better choice of ciders and they like the reasonable prices, as opposed to many gay pubs that have abysmal taste in booze and crazy expensive drinks to boot.

The police are investigating to see if there’s a discrimination case here. Regardless whether they decide there is or isn’t, it does show that London still has a ways to go.

Kitty Stryker

Kitty Stryker is a geeky sex worker, Burner, rabid writer and feminist activist with one high-heeled boot in San Francisco, California and one in London, England. In London, Stryker worked with the TLC Trust, an online organization connecting people with disabilities with sex workers experienced with emotional or physical limitations. She is the founder of the award-winning Ladies High Tea and Pornography Society, and was nominated by the Erotic Awards as Sex Worker of the Year for her charity and activism work. Now back in the States, Stryker has been presenting Safe/Ward, a workshop on combating entitlement culture within alternative sexual communities, along with being the PR rep for the Bay Area Sex Workers Outreach Project promoting sex worker rights. She has written for Huffington Post, Filament, and Tits and Sass, built a social media strategy for Cleis Press, and consults with sex workers about their online presence. In her copious free time, she enjoys switching things up with her two hot lovers. Read more from Stryker on her personal blog, Purrversatility.

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