A running theme here is my depression at the state of British sexual mores. (Or it might be my depression at not getting more sex in Britain.) I’m told that sex can be extraordinarily pleasurable and life-enhancing. Unfortunately, having acquired a professional interest in surveys of sexual habits in the early 90s, I can tell you that many young Britons self-report as having bad sex with the wrong people. It makes them unhappy and sick. I am not going to go all Melanie Philips on you here. I want young Brits to have lots of good sex with the right people (I’m not doing anything next Monday night), but this is about as likely their drinking good wine frequently and in moderation with smart company and fresh food, rather than piling down to a pub throbbing with conversation-destroying, tinnitus-inducing music to get acutely drunk on sugary spirits until they throw up their kebabs in the street.
One of the reasons the British have such bad sex is that they are so uncomfortable talking about it like adults. This is the country that gave the World Benny Hill, the “naughty” seaside postcard, the Carry On film and Page Three—“ooh look, nipples!”
If you can’t negotiate sex soberly then you are far more likely to have an unwanted pregnancy, to contract a sexually transmitted disease; and you are far less likely to seek help with either. If you can’t say what pleases you then you are also less likely to experience pleasure.
Why do people have a bad time making their lives worse? For the usual reasons: peer pressure, advertising, movies, ignorance, wilful stupidity. I continue to be shocked at the level of ignorance, embarrassment, and sentimentality of some of my educated peers in sexual matters; I’m no Doctor Ruth, but at least I don’t think the withdrawal method is a serious form of birth control. British teenagers are worse. They are more afraid of having their “hearts broken” or being thought of as gay or a virgin or unpopular than they are of herpes.
Fifteen years ago young people were scared of HIV. AIDS kills—eventually. Most sexually transmitted diseases do not. They do, however, make people bloody miserable. Because most young people were at least slightly uncomfortable with the idea of dying prematurely they tended to be more cautious about how they did it and who they did it with for fear of acquring the virus. Those days are gone. Now one in eight sexually active teenage girls has chlamydia.
Another one of my themes here is that people lie about sex all the time. The article I link to perpetuates the myth that men are the always the ones who object to using a condom. This is what women in STI clinics always say. Outside STI clinics there are women who say that condoms are “unromantic”, “smell funny”, “ruin the moment” and a man who insists on one “lacks commitment” or is implying that she is “dirty”.
It’s understandable that the demure, hoop-skirted, violated victims of genitourinary infections should protest at the sexual demands of their male suitors. Decades of patriarchal oppression have forced this generation of womanhood into submitting lest they be thrown onto the streets. Perhaps the answer is a return to chaperones and the covering of ankles. I know that would stop my unclean thoughts from spilling out of my stovepipe hat as I wander around the slum-dwellings I own, forcing my unprotected sexual attentions upon the teenage daughters of my impoverished tenants.