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British tabloid goes viral with ‘10,000 sex arses’ Brexit headline

The 'sex arse' debacle, explained.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Posted on Jan 4, 2021   Updated on Jan 5, 2021, 4:15 pm CST

Brexit is causing a wide range of bizarre and unpleasant problems in the UK, but one particular news story is really grabbing people’s attention. Like many iconic tabloid hits, it involves sex, a unique human interest angle, and a tenuous relationship with the truth. The headline in question? “I voted Leave… but now my sex arses are stuck at customs!” Sex arses being, we assume, some kind of butt-shaped fleshlight.

“Voting Leave” is the term for being pro-Brexit, which often goes hand-in-hand with conservative values. The stereotypical Brexiteer is an angry white guy who hates foreigners and can’t wait for Britain to get rid of European regulations. In this case, it’s an English sex toy “tycoon” named Brian Williams. He almost certainly doesn’t exist because the tabloid in question, the Sunday Sport, specializes in quasi-satirical bullshit.

Like many Leave voters, “Brian Williams” is now coming to terms with the reality of Brexit. As the UK government struggles to arrange new trade deals with Europe, delivery trucks are lining up at the borders with nowhere to go. We’re also starting to see news stories about people like this pro-Brexit eel farmer, whose business may collapse due the UK’s newly-precarious trade relationships. So the “sex arses” headline combines a plausible scenario with a perfectly-crafted combination of schadenfreude and attention-grabbing tabloid schlock.

Famous for publishing stories about, say, a missing plane being found on the moon, the Sunday Sport cheerfully publishes total nonsense. Brian Williams’ name is conveniently hard to google, but we couldn’t find any evidence that he’s a real guy with a sex toy business in Luton, England. And the news story itself has a comedic tone, with lines like “my sex arses are all made by British craftsmen.” It’s no surprise that it went viral this weekend, causing widespread confusion as people struggled to figure out if it’s real news, intentional satire, or a classic example of lurid British tabloid writing.

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*First Published: Jan 4, 2021, 10:34 am CST