Without doubt the world has always been obsessed with sex, probably because it has needed to be – why else would God or Nature have given every species (well, perhaps bar the panda if some zoologists are to be believed) such a strong desire to mate and perpetuate itself?
I found myself contemplating this truism anew this week after reading or watching a succession of stories in the media about the Ashley Maddison (the website via which married people considering having affairs can arrange hook-ups) hacking scandal; analysing the manner in which the internet and social media have revolutionised the way human beings go about meeting new people, dating, socialising and arranging their lives generally; and at least three just giving advice about what to do if you suspect your partner is having an affair.
There was even one I came across that was reviewing the issue of whether human beings can still be, if they actually ever were, characterised, as being fundamentally monogamous – but perhaps with occasional lapses caused by our higher intelligence and ability to rationalise and/or consider the moral issues surrounding, our actions (as opposed to most in the animal kingdom who seem to act exclusively upon the impulse of instinct).
[Here I am not going to provide a link or more to representative articles of the type to which I refer for two reasons. Firstly, I am sure all discerning Rust followers will already have seen examples of such articles for themselves. Secondly, I wish to press on in developing the theme of today’s post without diverting my own attention and/or indeed that of my readers.]
To underline my opening, I would only mention that I am struck, every time I cross the road to collect my morning newspapers from the convenience store opposite, by the crowded shelves of ‘women’s interest’ and/or celebrity gossip magazines, both monthly and weekly. On the rare occasions I have opened one – at home or in a public place – I have been amazed with the preoccupation with ‘hot sex’ advice, salacious gossip on who is now bonking who, and snaps (whether expensively staged for the purpose, shot by the paparazzi or randomly by chance taken by a passer-by on his or her smartphone) of hundreds of celebrities, or supposed celebrities, in a state of wardrobe malfunction, brazen nakedness or possibly a fashion faux pas or – preferably – disaster.
The message that the average punter receives from today’s media is that all of human sexual behaviour is not just ‘out there’, it is constantly being thrust in our faces as if sex is a Olympic sport and that we are doing less than our national duty if we are not either training or competing.
We hear that there is an epidemic of both men and women queuing up for cosmetic surgery because of their body-image issues and/or visiting their local shrink because of worries over their lack (or excess) of sexual drive.
It seems to me that we are all under constant pressure to be ‘doing it’, not least in a reverse-psychology fashion by the frequency with which statements implying that there is something wrong with us all if we are not having an affair, or at least some sort of casual hook-up, are broadcast or published.
I’m not convinced that this sex-obsession is actually a good thing. I might even go further and suggest that the modern ‘let it all hang out’ culture actually has a negative effect. And I’m not talking about the impact upon society generally here, but about the quality of the sex (most particularly the intensity of the feelings it arouses including orgasm, the post-coital ‘feel good’ factor and the general life-satisfaction surrounding it).
Let me explain.
Many many years ago, probably because it struck a chord with me because of my own personal circumstances at the time, I was much-impressed the contribution from a female guest on a Radio Four discussion programme chaired by Robert Robinson [my apologies but I cannot recall its name].
The topic of adultery and affairs came up and, after a passage in which various others had contributed their thoughts both highbrow and less so, said lady made a single intervention with a line that I found quite profound – its gist was “Well, I don’t care what anybody says – in my view there’s one reason, and one reason only, why one should ever commit adultery … i.e. because you want to”.
Even before that, when I was professionally involved in a law suit over the death of a teenager who alighted from a school coach and walked into the path of a passing car, I was impressed by a comment from a QC whom we were consulting in chambers. The issue at hand was whether the council, through its teacher who was supposedly supervising the kids on the coach, should have been on hand to see that every kid leaving the bus went on their way safely.
His comment ran as follows:
“… I know how it would have been. There would have mayhem on the coach, there always is. A fight going on here, pranks being played – she was probably in the back, trying to prise apart two kids snogging like bandits. She couldn’t be expected to monitor everything … that’s the whole problem with kids today. They get exposed to adult stuff, especially sexual things, far too early in my view. The whole point of puberty and teenage-hood is that it’s a journey of furtive personal discovery, e.g. of learning ‘the facts of life’ in the schoolyard from your mates (and probably getting half of them wrong). One of the biggest sexual thrills of my life was sitting in the balcony of my local cinema at the age of about twelve watching a film in which a pubescent Hayley Mills kissed a boy whilst (possibly) displaying the merest hint of a breast. These days kids of seven are exposed to more sexual images and knowledge than their grandparents have managed to accumulate by the age of seventy. Where’s the fun in that? …”
Another example of a similar theme:
If by chance you were or are prey to a particular sexual ‘thing’ (whether that be a situation, a physical practice, or even a some of fetish), in days gone by you had an epic journey in prospect to seek out someone – anyone – with whom you might share it.
This might take weeks, months, even years. But if you ever found that special person, or group of people, then the wait was all the more worth it – simply because of the effort involved, including the furtiveness, the highly-anticipated possible meets that turned out to be damp squibs, indeed the other disappointments that occurred along the way.
Contrast that with 2015, when a book/film like Fifty Shades of Grey has caused a sensation and prompted not only 80% minimum of womankind to ‘come out’ as either dominatrices or submissives, but also a 500 billion-dollar worldwide industry supplying fetish-style leather outfits, mountains of ironmongery, weaponry and timber-based restraint structures.
If I was into the BSDM scene, all this would be a terrible turn-off. Surely half the point of having some form of secret sexual ‘thing’ is surely the fact that it’s secret and exclusive solely to you and those you practice it with?
When it’s become so fundamentally mainstream and popular – to the point where the upper middle class ladies ‘what lunch’ and then disappear to Harvey Nickols for a bit of retail therapy, followed by tea at the Ritz, are actually finding time in addition to be tied to bedsteads and thrashed within an inch of their lives with birch-twigs before nipping home to serve the kids tea, supervise their homework and then prepare their hubby’s evening meal all in a day’s work – surely bondage and its tributaries are going to lose their allure for those who are truly sexually (or otherwise) into them?
I mean, simply because half the thrill of being into such things is the fact they are practiced only by an exclusive subterranean culture of which the rest of the world knows little or nothing.
That’s the reason why I’m glad I’m no longer in the dating ‘race’. I like to swim against the mainstream and, when the whole world seems to be ‘letting it all hang out’ sexually and it’s practically obligatory to be an Olympic athlete in the bedroom constantly on the look-out for action, I rather like the idea of blocking out the world and settling down in my armchair in front of the television in my pipe, slippers and dressing gown.
Mind you, nobody knows what I’m thinking about …