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Gay Times July 11 - Issue 395

Ben Cohen

Meeting Benjamin Christopher Cohen MBE for the first time is an intimidating experience.

First up, this rugby legend and pin up boy of choice for droves of gay men is positively gigantic. As he stands to greet me I find myself momentarily reclining like a frightened animal. They don’t call him Big Ben Cohen for nothing.
“Rugby’s a diverse group of people size wise,“ he laughs. “I’ve always been a big lad. I have a big backside obviously, big legs - long legs. I struggle to get jeans that fit.” Talk of his big backside. He knows how to make a boy blush.
More intimidating than his size is the size of his achievements. He’s solid gold sporting royalty. And undoubtedly one of the most successful people I’ll ever meet. A 15-year rugby career has resulted in public adulation and those elusive extra three letters in his title: he’s the 10th highest point scorer in the history of English rugby and in 2003 he and a dream team that included Jonny Wilkinson saw England to Rugby World Cup victory, conquering Australia 20 to 17.
“It was indescribable,” he says of the win. “And everything off the back of that: meeting the Queen, the Prime Minister, getting greeted by a million people. It’s a surreal thing.”
Scariest of all, he’s absolutely, heart stoppingly gorgeous. Which goes part way to explaining why the gays adore him so.
In many ways, his appeal is archetypal. He’s the straight guy from school you lusted over: the sporting superman with a shaven head, killer smile and strapping physique; the magnetic personality and unbounded popularity (in Ben’s case 160, 000 Facebook friends); he who would forever be unattainable.
But there are reasons beyond these for the epic gay fanbase Ben first noticed “about five or six years ago,” that has “really grown over the last 18 months.”
Let’s face it: unless it’s in the pejorative sense, you’d be hard pressed to find a straight man in sport who’d so much as utter the word gay in public. Even those without an ounce of homophobia in them tend to keep schtumn - apart from David Beckham. But besides him, how many can you think of who have personally reached out to the social group their industry STILL seems to discriminate against?

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