Thursday, 13 March 2008

Will we ever grow up about sex?

The latest crop of serio-comic incidents around the ever-interesting topic make me wonder at the sheer lack of realism of so many otherwise intelligent and publicly responsible people.

The tragic death of the Chief Constable of Manchester, Mike Todd, is very sad. If emerging reports are true, he took his own life because an extramarital affair was about to be exposed. Surely this should not have been necessary, or even thinkable. But evidently he had a punitive personal moral code which told him that this was the only way out.

The case of Mr Eliot Spitzer, New York’s ‘Mr Clean-Up’ Mayor, is more laughable and calls for less sympathy. Having set himself up as the ideal person, because of his strict moral probity, to flush out his city’s vice-infested sewers, he falls from grace, and feels obliged to resign, because his name is discovered on the client list of an escort agency. And not any old escort agency, but a top-flight one which charges $2,150 – over £1,000 – an hour for its ladies’ services. [According to today’s papers, Mr Spitzer splurged out around $80,000 on prostitutes in recent months!] “I have let down my family”, the soon-to-be-ex-Mayor wails, his wife standing beside him looking as miserable as if she has been waterboarded. And so he has. Why his wife – a high-flying lawyer – didn’t slap his face in front of the cameras and march off to file her divorce petition beats me.

Finally [for now] we have the Conservative MP for Castle Point, Dr Bob Spink, who has had the party whip withdrawn [when he threatened to resign it] because of shenanigans within his local constituency party and attempts to de-select him arising out of an affair he has been having with a lady described [in The Times] as the ‘long-term partner’ of the local Conservative association’s deputy chairman. According to the article, the MP also uses his Commons staffing allowance to employ as ‘assistants’ both his ex-wife [who does this ‘work’ 150 miles away from Westminster] and the student daughter of his lady friend and her ‘long term partner’. The latter is, unsurprisingly, Dr Spink’s bitterest enemy – they have been involved in unseemly scrimmages [in one of which the ‘long term partner’ ended up on the floor], and complaints to the police of ‘criminal harassment’. This MP – I scarcely need add – is a “hang-em-and-flog-em” rightwinger, favouring Britain’s withdrawal from the EU and courting controversy with outspoken attacks on asylum-seekers and homosexuals and vocal criticism of abortion laws.” As Mandy Rice-Davies would say, “he would be, wouldn’t he?”

In my younger, more sanguine, days I hoped that as a result of the liberalising work which some of us achieved in the 1960s and ‘70s, public and private attitudes to sex would evolve into a more mature, relaxed acceptance of what is, after all, one of the most basic universals of human existence. But I did not reckon with the hypocrisy, prurience, and venality of the gutter press, which [rightly from its viewpoint] sees sexual titillation as a money spinner, and spares no effort to vulgarise the subject, mislead its readers, and vilify the minority who are brave enough to speak and behave in a more honest manner.

That great British pioneer of sex research, Havelock Ellis, said over a century ago that sex is the human activity which above all others generates vast amounts of vehemently held opinion founded upon little – if any – basis of facts. In his Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, Freud said that people are in general not candid over sexual matters. “They do not show their sexuality freely, but to conceal it they wear a heavy overcoat woven of a tissue of lies, as though the weather were bad in the world of sexuality. Nor are they mistaken.”

A great friend of mine who was a brilliant trainer of sex educators, the late Dorothy Dallas, used to say that in teaching sex, you must begin by clearing morals, like you clear trumps in Bridge. Only when you have established a clear ethical framework based upon mutual respect, honest dealing, and rejection of cheating, can you proceed to deal with the physical details [which Dorothy used to call the ‘plumbing’] and the health issues involved in sex.

It’s a pity that Mike Todd, Eliot Spitzer, Bob Spink, and many other twisted, self-deceiving moralisers about sex who behave on the shabby old “do as I say, not as I do” principle weren’t her pupils. If they had been, they might have led happier lives and avoided damaging others.


Jose said...

O! The power of regretfulness! The guilt-ridden consciences that play those tricks on us.

Perhaps we should turn back to "de facto" marriages which were overwhelming before all that balderdash of religious motivations came to influence our minds inhumanely.

But...alas! the Capitalist society came on stage to warn us that to inherit properly riches and estates a settled, legal marriage was a sine-qua-non condition. The Capitalist society that has been arm-in-arm with the religious clans since it all started to happen.

Emmet will say I am an anarchist. I don't mind, sometimes we need to be anarchic, don't we?

dadsarmyregular said...

Stick it up'em we will.

bwook said...

IT Ain't sex unless there's lot good old guilt and shame to sass it up a bit...otherwise it's just hyperhygienic huxleyean copulation.

I Expect that the human experience of guilt /came first/, as a necessary consequence of brain-function; and, 'tis indeed evolutionary, a true benefit, inasmuch it compels us to cook up religions and other more-or-less scientific notions, to try to understand (and reproduce despite!) 'reality'.

I Remember being caught up in a tussle in the 1960s in a vestry behind the choir-loft with a young lady we shall call Alison, in Old Mankato, in southern Minnesota; we was fifteen and the passion generally was unbearable. Finally I played my hole-card:

"Aw, gee, Ali, c'mon, it's's just like in the Bible, you know -- fornication!"

NO Dice (nor much of aught else!)

anticant said...

Some of the blog comments on the Spitzer affair show a quite stunning ignorance of human nature and the actualities of behaviour.

A Victorian bisexual, John Addington Symonds, wrote: "Good Lord! In what different orbits human souls can move. He talks of sex out of legal codes; I talk of it from human documents, myself, the people I have known, the adulterers and prostitutes of both sexes I have dealt with over bottles of wine and confidences."

lukethediceman said...

Fuck me this is becoming interesting.
Pass the dice.

bwook said...

'Pass the bottle!' is the comradian line, /per/ the oddly sexless narrator, Marlowe....