I’ve written a guest post for the wonderful Elizabeth Cage, about my favourite erotica and why I like a bit of fumbling with my sexy stories:
I’ve never been very good at food diets. But when it comes to following the different sort of diet prescribed in my new book, The Man Diet: One Woman’s Quest to End Bad Romance, I thought I was doing well. My motivations, you see, are greater than shedding a few centimetres around the waist (though that would also be much appreciated). They are about feeling good inside by cutting down on “junk food love”: Facebook stalking binges; callous sex; obsessing about men with friends, for example. The stuff that it’s hard to avoid, but that makes us feel like crap and erodes our self-esteem, just when we should be flourishing most.
But even the desire to be good to myself, to be the best woman I can be, has not kept me on the straight and narrow recently. I admit it: I’ve fallen off the Diet bandwagon once or twice in the past few weeks – and, unlike after a chocolate cake moment, I’m not licking my lips for more. In fact, I’m regretting my slip in resolve quite bitterly
The slide from grace began two weeks ago when I had arranged to see a guy for a drink. We’d met once at a dinner, and I’d followed up (breaking one of the rules of the Man Diet right there: No Pursuit). He acquiesced with charm and before we knew it, we were the last ones in the restaurant, draining a bottle of cava. We moved on, then, to the Groucho Club. Here, despite having had far too many drinks (breaking still another rule of the Man Diet: Cutting Down on Booze), he ordered us another. Then another. Suddenly we were kissing. It was terribly exhibitionist, but by this point I felt that my limits had dissolved in alcohol; and the inevitability of going home together felt overwhelming. A voice in my head said: “This is not going to be healthy for you. Sleep with him and feel rotten tomorrow when he shows no interest.” Echoing the voice was the question: “Why? Why do this?” My answer was that in addition to his being good looking and fun, a trophy of sorts, I felt it would be boring to pull out now.
And so the inevitable happened. A night of of pleasant-enough but ultimately forced passion ensued – forced being the only type of passion that happens when two people aren’t particularly enthralled by each other or bonded by insane chemistry. As he kissed me goodbye the next morning – I do have to hand it to him for his displays of affection even in the cold light of day – the arbitrary, programmatic nature of that kiss and the preceding ones hit me with a dull thud. This truly was anti-romance, and worse, now I had to put up with the deafening silence that would follow his exit (in addition to the hangover throbbing in my temples).
A few days later, I had an email from him, saying he would maybe see me “one day” again, but generally he was not comfortable with post-sex meetings with women he had no intention of dating. I felt crap and rejected, despite not wanting to date him either. I was also aware that I’d put myself in this situation and had nobody to moan to but myself.
See, one of the big problems with junk food love is that it is addictive. So having had one unsatisfactory experience, I quickly sought another to erase the bad taste left by this encounter.
I sought it with a truly hot guy, a friend of a friend. I was abroad and looked him up in his hometown. I had entered our meeting without expectations, but after three hours of intense conversation, and several drinks, I felt it would be a “waste” not to push it further. So further is where it went. Turning this encounter into a spot of junk food love was a particularly bad choice because I liked this guy. He was interesting and complex as well as really good-looking. But instead of leaving our evening with a “nice to meet you”, a peck on the cheek and the chance for it to develop into something real, I pushed it into the sexual sphere for validation. Why, I reasoned tipsily, have a hangover with nothing to show for it?
But as with so many men, the disjoint between night and day was as harsh as ever. Hot Man was all sweetness before the bedsheets were parted: as soon as the sun rose, the game changed vampire-style, and it was a case of hustling out to work as quickly as possible. Our delicate, new intimacy couldn’t withstand the flip from boozy, candle-lit night to factual, non-sexy day, though I wished it had. So, sitting in the taxi in last night’s clothes, I felt uncomfortably bloated on junk food love, and not a little melancholic.
There’s one upside to these encounters: they have reminded me just how useful the Man Diet is. My next step? Taking a leaf out of my own book.
The Man Diet was published by Avon on 30th November as ebook, with paperback to follow on 22nd December.
If you’d like to write your own Whisper, we’d love to read it! The submission guidelines are here.
My video review of this reinvented classic by Sir Richard Burton and F F Arbuthnot.
Know any films that are sure to set your pulse racing?
Then why not become a Mucky Reviewer?
I’d love to host your reviews of books (be they fiction, memoir, humour, how-to guides, science) or films (from Hollywood movies with saucy bits in them to porn films you’d recommend to a friend). See it as a chance to share a great turn-on, or to discuss an important issue.
The guidelines are as follows:
- Reviews should be 500 words or less
- The items reviewed should be somehow related to the topic of sex – or you could use your review to make a case for something being erotic!
- Your piece should be fair and unbiased
- You will need to provide a name (or a nom de plume) and a title for your review
- I won’t be editing the pieces, so please ensure they’re as perfect as you can make them
- I reserve the right to reject anything I find offensive, self-promotional or biased.
- Your piece should be send in the body of an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Can’t wait to read them!
A markedly peaceable species that distribute food fairly between themselves, they solve conflicts by having sex with each other. Or a spot of frottage, they’re not terribly fussy. Primate life being what it is, this means that their lives appear to be a series of sexual encounters with every passing group member.
Bonobos are one of the few animal species that use sex for pleasure rather than reproduction – in other words, they form homosexual pairs, engage in group sex, masturbate, perform oral sex and mate outside of their fertile period. Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, authors of Sex at Dawn, argue that the only other creature that gets close to this is the human being.
Sex at Dawn is a fascinating look at the biological and social anthropological evidence for how human sexuality evolved. Crucially, it re-evaluates this data, challenging the more traditional interpretation that sought to justify ‘desirable’ human behaviour.
We’re all familiar with the arguments that human females naturally seek to form life-long monogamous pairs. They have lower sexual desire than males, we’re told, because it’s in their best interests to form a stable, loving relationship with one man who can provide for them while they raise children. Meanwhile, men desire to ‘spread their seed’ as widely as possible, but are also keen to ensure that they don’t accidentally raise another man’s offspring. In this model, men choose to suppress their broad sexual urges in favour of guaranteeing the dominance of their own genes, whilst women are helpless without male support and interested in sex only to produce children.
Somehow, in the modern world, it’s hard to find that picture appealing. Personally, I’ve always favoured the view that there’s no ‘natural’ form to human relationships, only a variety of choices over how to make them work. But Ryan and Jetha present a set of ideas that are new to me – that human beings, like Bonobos, are naturally polyamorous, and that western, industrialised cultural behaviour suppresses women’s sex drives.
Sadly, there isn’t the space here to delve into the detail of Ryan and Jetha’s arguments, but the conclusion they draw is this: the monogamous marriage is an institution that is imposed on human beings very much against their natural will and inclination. The sheer level of effort and rule-making that it requires is enough to prove it.
You might expect me to violently disagree with this, but I don’t. To me, there is no higher moral purpose in marriage, and in its most contemporary form, it seems to me that it too often isolates couples into their own, high-pressure world. The early human communities that Sex at Dawn describes, with greater sharing of food-gathering and child-rearing, and no sense that anyone owns anyone else, make a great deal of sense to me. If nothing else, they would surely stave off the hideous anxiety and loneliness that new parents seem to go through. I might even consider having children myself if it didn’t mean facing the void.
Moreover, it’s time we acknowledged that sexual infidelity has always existed, sometimes with the tacit consent of the ‘wronged’ partner. It’s time that we learned to talk about these desires for sex outside of marriage, and whether this actually affects our love for our more permanent partners.
That said, I live very happily in an entirely monogamous relationship, so I’m not sure what Ryan and Jetha would make of me. Am I fooling myself? Or is there a risk that Sex At Dawn replaces one set of assumptions about what is ‘natural’ with another set?
It’s great to see the variety and voracity of human sexuality being not only acknowledged but supported by a great deal of evidence. But it seems to me that humans are different to all other animals because of their ability to reason and make conscious choices. This means that we can engage in a rainbow of sexual behaviour that would raise the eyebrows of even a Bonobo, but it also means that we can select the form in which we live too.
The important thing is that we don’t impose any abstract moral rules on the way we ‘should’ live and love – and I think we’ve got a long way to go before we truly accept people who choose to live outside of the idealised couple format (although we may have finally got over the idea that we ought to legitimise our relationship by marrying). Different people will choose different forms, for different reasons. We must learn to accept these very human choices, rather than imposing a new concept of what is ‘natural’.
I’d recommend this book to everyone. It feels to me like a key text in understanding and liberating human sexuality, and the world is ready for it. It’s vital that we begin to accept that female desire easily equals male desire in frequency and intensity, if we allow it free reign. I just think that this must be a part of broadening our view, rather than replacing it with a new set of strictures.
Remember Ross’s list in Friends? The one that so wildly offended Rachel, spiralling us all into another thirteen seasons of R’n’R agony? Don’t tell me I could have just stopped watching. Retrospect is a wonderful thing.
Anyway, it turns out that Ross was not alone. The love list, it appears, is something of a cultural phenomenon. None other that Charles Darwin made his own list before he met his wife. In it, he agonised over the pros and cons of marrige, including the memorable rumination, ‘better than a dog in anyhow.’
This is the question
Children — (if it Please God) — Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one, — object to be beloved & played with. — —better than a dog anyhow. — Home, & someone to take care of house — Charms of music & female chit-chat. — These things good for one’s health. — Forced to visit & receive relations but terrible loss of time. —
W My God, it is intolerable to think of spending ones whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, & nothing after all. — No, no won’t do. — Imagine living all one’s day solitarily in smoky dirty London House. — Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps — Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro’ St.
Marry — Marry — Marry Q.E.D.
No children, (no second life), no one to care for one in old age.— What is the use of working ‘in’ without sympathy from near & dear friends—who are near & dear friends to the old, except relatives
Freedom to go where one liked — choice of Society & little of it. — Conversation of clever men at clubs — Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle. — to have the expense & anxiety of children — perhaps quarelling — Loss of time. — cannot read in the Evenings — fatness & idleness — Anxiety & responsibility — less money for books &c — if many children forced to gain one’s bread. — (But then it is very bad for ones health to work too much)
Perhaps my wife wont like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool —
I must admit, I find Darwin’s private act of decision-making reassuring rather than enraging. Why should anyone feel drawn to the idea of a wife in the abstract? His depiction of both the comforts of married life, and the ways in which it could drain his ambition are in fact quite insightful and accurate.
Very much in contrast, take a look at this Marital Ratings Scale, created in the 1930s to allow people to assess the quality of their marriage. In fairness, they could be highly useful if you were deciding whether or not to leave your partner – should they ever fill in one of these forms, you would surely have good cause to petition for divorce, no?
Source: The Atlantic
On Thursday morning, I wake up to find that Herbert has already gone to work. Checking my phone, I find that I have a text:
2 minutes 51 seconds, sent at 00.53 the night before.
Ha! I text back, I reckon I can easily beat that.
Does that count as flirting? comes the reply.
Yes, I type, although possibly I am mistaking competitivity for arousal.
This is all the fault of Mary Roach’s Bonk, which I reviewed on Thursday. Bonk is a fascinating book about the science of sex, and it made me wonder if we couldn’t attempt a sexual experiment ourselves. I suggest this to Herbert.
‘I’m not measuring my knob so that you can post it on your blog,’ he says. ‘Not unless you’re willing to measure the capacity of your vagina, too.’
Although I am diverted by this possibility (in particular, how would one achieve it? My vote goes to a condom, a funnel and a jug of water), that is not what I had in mind.
‘No,’ I say, ‘I’ve already had an idea. I thought we could time our orgasms.’
‘Why?’ says H, not unreasonably.
‘Well, we’re obviously both much slower to orgasm when we’re working together. I want to find out what the difference really is. I even have a hypothesis.’
‘I reckon I’ll be as quick as you when I’m masturbating alone…’ (H: ‘I doubt that very much) ‘…but much slower than you when we’re working together.’
Cut forward to Thursday evening. Herbert’s 2 minutes 51 seconds is in the bag. I place a stopwatch next to the bed and tell Herbert not to think about it.
‘I’m not sure that’s going to be possible,’ he says.
‘Aha!’ I say, ‘The Hawthorne Effect! The experimental results are affected by the presence of the observer!’
‘Hm,’ says Herbert, which I take to mean, ‘that didn’t help.’
Of course, the problem with this particular experiment is that both of us are invested in the results coming out a certain way. Herbert does not want to look like he’s a premature ejaculator. I, on the other hand, would prefer to not come off as the sort of woman who requires hours of torturous ministrations in order to come.
‘We have to just go for it,’ I say to H. ‘As fast as possible. Agreed?’
‘Fine,’ says H.
The initiative, therefore, is very much mine to take. I’m convinced that I climax much faster if I’m taking an active role in sex, rather than lying back and waiting for an orgasm to occur. I start the stopwatch, place it on the bedside table, and then, mentally counting the seconds that have already elapsed, leap on top of Hebert and begin rubbing myself enthusiastically against his manly bits.
I don’t think we’re usually this vigorous. Soon, I am sweating and panting with the exertion. Herbert groans and holds onto my breasts as if they’re life-floats, and I regret putting the stopwatch so far away. He’s bound to come first, and then I’ll lose my stride dismounting and fetching it. I gasp this to Herbert.
‘Don’t worry,’ he says, ‘after I’ve come, I’ll start counting.’
I very much doubt the scientific validity of this approach, but then I do find that my orgasm is a cumulative affair, and I fear having to start again from scratch if I get distracted in this way. I bounce on, trying to ignore the nagging thought that I’m doing all the hard work here. Actually, though, I’m really enjoying the franticness of it all. It’s as if there’s no space for arousal-destroying thoughts to creep in.
And then, quite suddenly, I feel the genesis of an orgasm way down in my belly. Sensing victory, I bear down on it, and then draw up my pelvic floor muscles until it erupts in me – a small orgasm, but a definite one nonetheless. Now I’m the one who starts counting. How long is it seemly to wait before I check the stopwatch?
‘Do you want to go on top?’ I say casually to H, and while we change positions, I reach over and check the watch. 16 minutes 40 seconds. I reckon at least half a minute has passed, so I’m calling that a 16 minute orgasm. A whole minute after Tim Ferris would have given up the ghost, but none too shaming.
Herbert, however is still going. It’s not for the want of trying. We shift from Missionary to Doggy, and then he suggests I finish him off by hand.
Wow, I think, that’s surely the most unreliable of methods. But I enthusiastically grab hold, and after that it doesn’t take long for H to shudder into orgasm. This time, the stopwatch is in my (other) hand.
‘20 minutes 4 seconds,’ I say. And then, although I don’t mean to, ‘I can’t believe I beat you! I’m so chuffed.’
‘Yup,’ says H, ‘and I feel like a sexual marathon man. It’s a win-win.’
This morning, I wait until I hear the toaster click on downstairs and then dive onto the bed with my stopwatch. After a fair amount of effortful masturbation and heavy breathing (I love Abby Lee’s term ‘bully wank’ for these moments), I manage a reasonable, if grudging, orgasm.
1 minute 56 seconds. I run downstairs, dressing gown flapping open.
‘Oh my god,’ I say, ‘I beat you on both counts.’
Hebert looks me up and down for a few moments in a mixture of awe and resentment.
‘That’s nothing,’ he says, ‘You should see how fast I am when I use the Flip Hole.’
So, if I was to write up a research paper on this (a really rubbish one with completely invalid, non-representative data that would get crucified at the peer review stage), what would I conclude? Well, the female orgasm is not necessarily as elusive as we’re led to believe, particularly if, like me, you’ve, er, practised a lot.
Moreover, I think we’ve demonstrated that sex a deux is a highly inefficient way of achieving an orgasm. It’s a hit and miss affair, and observation seems to inhibit orgasmicity (is that a word?). In the light of my findings, I foresee a whole new movement towards streamlining sexual pleasure. Cutting out the middle man leaves you free to fit more orgasms into your day, or to take up a useful hobby like gardening. Maybe I’ll pitch my ideas to Tim Ferriss.
Or does that possibly miss the point?
*Is that reference actually completely obscure? Was I the only one who found it memorably amusing to be patronised by Jennifer Anniston?