The 59-year-old novelist strips off for our new partnership with McEwan's beer, which will see all profits from their McNificent boxer shorts donated to us. He tells us why the pub is so important to get our message out to his generation, and why he'd like to go for a drink with Renton.
Before you got involved in the McEwan’s campaign, were you aware of prostate cancer?
Not at all. I always thought the prostate was a sexual version of the appendix and you could get rid of it and it wouldn’t matter. I kind of knew it was the point where a lot of cancer starts for men and spreads, but nothing else.
Why do you think men have this stiff upper lip about their health?
I think there is a whole generation of guys, in Scotland, but in the world in general, who are quite strange about their bodies in a lot of ways. It feels like it’s primarily a sexual thing because of where the prostate is, but it’s also a kind of infantile mentally where they don’t like to talk or think about it. I think it will change, though. Thirty years from now, the generation in their 50s will have a different, more pragmatic view.
Do you think a lot of that is down to us being more open as a society or because awareness for prostate cancer is growing?
I think we have a very individualistic society now, which in some ways makes people a lot more self-conscious about sorting things out with themselves. In some ways, I think that mitigates against 50-plus people who see this individualistic society and feel it's not something they can open up to. People's attitudes are changing quite slowly, but this generation now are taking control of their own health.
Health is something you seem quite conscious about now. Have you spoken to your GP about prostate cancer?
I haven’t, no. I live in America and I have my annual physical review where they test everything – stick things down your throat and up your bum etc. It seems to be culturally more acceptable to talk about prostate cancer in America than it is here, and they have a lot more knowledge and awareness of what it is and the potential jeopardy of it.
Why is the pub such a good place for Prostate Cancer UK to raise awareness?
Men are still very pub-orientated – that’s where they meet and talk. You can have posters and badges, but peer education of the mouth is still the most effective way of getting any message across. If you have that sense of ownership and are part of a culture where you're able to talk about it, then it makes it much more effective getting that message across.
Is that why you're backing our partnership with McEwan’s?
I grew up with McEwan's and McEwan's Export, and it’s guys my age – your target audience – who drink it. So it’s a great thing that they're getting involved. They want to make sure these guys are still drinking it 10 to 20 years down the line!
Who from your most famous novel, Trainspotting, would you most like to have a drink with?
I think it would be Renton. I think I’d have a good conversation with him. The characters are all at the age where they could be affected by prostate cancer – perhaps I should write a Trainspotting 3 about that!