London - Modern men are turning to gay affairs because they are "terrified" of women, Jilly Cooper has suggested.
In a somewhat scathing verdict, the famously racy novelist said that men also cry "all the time".
She added that women wear short skirts but have "do not touch tattooed across their knees" – and said she was "worried" about the effect the Me Too campaign may have on views of courtship.
Speaking at the Hay literary festival, the 81-year-old said: "I have one adorable gay friend whose lover died. He’s just started going on the internet now.
"It’s all married men wanting to have gay affairs. Do you think men are so terrified of women, it’s safer to get [it] on with their own sex?"
The author said that men’s behaviour was "very cyclical" recalling how men cried and grew beards in the Shakespearean era, whereas her father and late husband Leo did neither. "Men cry all the time now and they have beards," she said.
Describing how campaigns against sexual harassment such as Me Too have affected relationships, Cooper said: "One lovely man said 'I can’t flirt any more'. You have a mini skirt up to here, then 'do not touch' tattooed across your knees."
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Asked about the impact of such changing attitudes on her characters – such as caddish serial seducer Rupert Campbell-Black, who will also feature in her latest novel Tackle – she said: "I’m worried about that."
However, despite her comments, Cooper conceded that modern men are better at trying to make relationships work.
"I think a lot of the young men I know love their wives and are determined to make their marriages stay," she said. "But being happily married doesn’t stop you falling in love with other people."
Addressing how the internet has changed the landscape for dating, she sounded a note of caution about the dangers of meeting someone you found online.
She told the audience: "I don’t know how many of you go online, but the idea of going online... I have a bad hip and I can’t run away from a mass murderer."