Battle of the sexes

I’m on the job hunt these days, and a friend of mine just quit the one she’s had for two years. This piqued my interest because hers was the sort of role that I always found interesting and even coveted. But she insists that I’d be a fool to go for it. “I quit this job to go into the job market, as tough as it is. Doesn’t that tell you anything?”

She has a point. Right now, even the rats in London are claiming benefits. I tried to explain to her my own situation and why I wanted – needed – to move on. She wouldn’t have it. She said the job was demeaning and demoralising and degrading and any other progressive adjective with the de- prefix, save for maybe detoxifying. It will break your spirit, she said. It’s a bunch of delusional balding men trying to hang on to their waning libidos, she said. You’ll hate it there just as much.

Then she paused. “Well… you’re a guy. It might be easier for you.”

I knew immediately what she meant, but I can’t figure out whether or not to agree with her. I know what she was trying to get across: that it was a work environment that perhaps isn’t as accommodating to women as it is to men (which I think is classified as “illegal,” but hey, never you mind). And I wasn’t sure if I should be insulted by the implication. Would I be complicit, a willing party, if I benefited from an environment that excludes women? (And seriously, boys, the Mad Men days are over. You can’t even smoke in the office anymore.)

These are all fascinating questions, really – they are, honest – but, me being me, her comment got me thinking about myself, and myself only. It affected me less on the Should-I-Take-This-Job-If-Offered front and more on the Wait… I’m-A-Guy? front.

The concept that there is some fundamental difference between the sexes, something deep down, ingrained, either through nature or nurture, a little pink or blue dot in the middle of our brains that determines how we see the world, is one that has always frustrated me.

It’s always been my belief – and feel free to mock here, because everybody does – that men and women are essentially the same. We all just want happiness, and peace, and comfort. We might go about it differently on occasion, but shit, we’re all on the same team here. But no one ever agrees with me.

I missed the blokes’ handbook they evidently handed out in primary school, along with the What’s Happening to My Body? book. I don’t think of myself as some member of an enormous fraternity, a man before I’m a human. I mean, I can barely grow a decent mat of chest hair, I really love Meryl Streep and I often talk to little babies and small, furry animals using words like “cute yiddle puddy wuddy.” If I’m supposed to be a representative of some guy culture by my very existence, I think I’m doing a very poor job. Shit, sometimes, get this, I even talk about my feelings.

But the rest of the world doesn’t seem to see it that way. And I wonder if I have a choice. I will admit, there are most certainly benefits I have received only because I am a guy, most of which I’ve never noticed and likely never will. But I didn’t sign up for this. I’m just a person, like everybody else.

I fail the Bloke Test in almost every way. Sure I talk meaningless shit about girls with the guys – and sometimes to the girls, which usually gets me in trouble. But that’s all it is to me – meaningless shit. I’ve never been in a real fight. I own no weaponry. If pressed, I’ll confess I prefer cricket, and maybe even tennis, to football. Wrestling and Formula One confuse me. I don’t spit in public. I worry about my weight. I’m not sensitive about my penis size (OK, maybe a little).

These are all stereotypes, urban legends, myths passed down through the generations. (When did they become hard, real ways to live our lives?) But I’ll never be able to live them down.

Put it this way: I was out with some friends the other evening, and one of them, a post-grad student, mentioned that she was working on a paper. She asked everyone she knew a question: If you found out your partner had developed a deep emotional attachment to someone of the opposite sex, would it bother you more than if he/she had meaningless sex with someone he/she hardly knew?

The student claimed that of the 50-something-odd people she asked, every single woman said she would be more bothered by the deep emotional connection, and every single man said he would be more bothered by the sex. She revealed this after she’d polled us, and, lo and behold, her postulate proved accurate. The four women didn’t care so much about the sex, and the two guys (myself included) did, quite so. The student was quite pleased with herself, convinced she’d stumbled across a universal truth.

I dissented, strongly. Listen, I calmly explicated, the reason I give that answer is not that I’m a guy. Don’t we, as humans, have the right, no, the duty, to develop as many “deep emotional connections” with as many people as possible? If I recognise someone as some sort of kindred spirit, male or female, why is it wrong for me to pursue a relationship – and by “relationship,” I mean an exploration of another person’s mind and thought processes, not anything sexual – with them? Isn’t it inherently flawed thinking to limit ourselves to enjoying the company of only one person, female or male? Would a girlfriend of mine object to me making a new male friend? Isn’t the real betrayal sex, and cheating, and lying?

For not the first time, the group of women laughed at me. “Guy,” they said. “You’re just a guy, and you’re full of shit, and you know it.”

See what I’m up against here?

The first kiss

Like any red-blooded boy of the age of 13, when I was growing up, I imagined nothing the Almighty had created could compare with kissing a girl. I did the whole deal: making out with pillows, feeling up two slightly deflated footballs… When I started to become comfortable with the fact that my parents knew puberty was beginning to rear its hairy head — well, I’m still not entirely comfortable with it, to be honest — I would cut out all the models from Sports Illustrated swimsuit editions, put them on my walls and give them little comic-strip thought balloons, saying stuff like, “David, you’re hot!” and “David, James Bond has nothing on you.”

In my imagination, I was a torrid lover, a machine, a manly cat the kittens couldn’t keep their paws off… well, let’s face it, guys, I was Shaft. Unfortunately, I was a most private dick; even though a few of my friends had tales of heavy petting debauchery, usually with an older girl, typically in a dark room somewhere and often involving zippers, rubber gloves and mayonnaise, I, at 13, had still never properly kissed a girl (I’m talking about real snogging here, not the quick, stolen pecks on the cheek with Stacy behind the primary school washrooms when I was 11, although, at the time, they were meaningful). The closest I came was taking a girl in to the school bazaar; she ended up leaving with another guy when I told her, no, sorry, I can’t go to hang out the mall afterwards because my Dad is picking me up bang on 6 o’clock, can’t be late. (Emily, I haven’t forgotten you… contact me, if you ever want to talk.)

I thought it was never going to happen. Then, my childhood friend Andy started dating the local football coach’s daughter, and I was lucky (so lucky) enough to accompany him on a few of their dates. Mostly, they would sneak off to a dark corner, and he would touch her breasts (He touched her breasts! He even grabbed them!) and kiss her cheek, and I was off trolling around, hoping neither of them noticed that I was watching.

I mean, what must it be like? You’ve got a girl there… and you can do anything with her! Sure, one time Andy sneaked his hands a little too low, and she let out a shriek and told him to stop it, but I suspect that’s just because they were out in public. When they were alone, who knew what kind of insanity went on? I bet he even kissed her with his tongue.

Imagination was all I had. I was helpless with women, and rather than face the embarrassment of being rejected, I just avoided them. It wasn’t until I joined a local youth club that I finally met a girl who would talk to me.

Her name was Michelle, and I was the first person she’d ever kissed, too. She was a shy, bookish girl, with big glasses that I think also helped the sight of anyone who happened to be standing behind her (within 10 feet). She was a year below me in school and wanted nothing more than to get straight A’s, be a bridesmaid in her best friend Julianne’s wedding, meet David Hasselhoff (believe it or not, there was a time when The Hoff was considered sexy) and not be late to Sunday school. She was a proper sweet straight-laced schoolgirl, and sex was something that would be not be even thought of until her wedding night, and even then only if you’re lucky.

I liked her because she was nice and funny and a good decent girl — this was during a period of my life in which I wanted to be a minister; that might be surprising to you, and probably strikes you as something I should delve into deeper, but I won’t, because it’s not really all that interesting, and besides, it was a very long time ago, and I’m such a sinner now I’d feel guilty even thinking about it — but mostly I liked her because she had enormous breasts and I thought maybe if I was really, really nice and gave her flowers and told her I loved her and took her to movies and made nice with her friends and held her hand, she might let me touch them.

I was willing to wait. Once I finally dug up the nerve to ask her out, we had three dates. The first was to a movie, Teen Wolf with Michael J. Fox. Mum wouldn’t let me go unless I had a chaperone, so Andy, who was a year older, also came along… if only Mum knew the stuff I’d seen Andy do! The second was also to a movie, the name of which I have forgotten.

The third night, I knew it was time to make my move. It must have been a particularly ribald weekend in Hollywood, because all the films at the cinema were rated R, save for one. So Andy and Michelle and her friend Julianne and I marched up to the ticket window, plunked down our cash and headed in to see Back To The Future.

The scene was toward the end, when the band is playing “Earth Angel” and Marty McFly is starting to fade from existence because his parents-to-be aren’t getting together on the dancefloor as they were destined to in 1955. The tension was high; would this be the end of our hero? Michelle gripped my arm. I touched her hand. She looked at me. I leaned in. She leaned in. Closer. Closer. I puckered up (this was fucking it! Oh man oh man oh man!) and planted my lips on hers, where they remained for about, oh, half a second. We were in a cinema, but I could still see her blush. As did I, when Andy, sitting right behind us, began to giggle.

And that was my first kiss. Years later, at Julianne’s wedding, I gave a toast. I saluted Jules and her husband, and made a joke about initially spending time with her to get closer to Michelle, my first kiss, someone I’d never forget. Michelle blushed then, too, though I think she might have been drunk. She ended up marrying a grocer or something, and I think they have a couple of children, both shy and bookish with enormous glasses. Curious to see how their breasts turn out.

The Ultimate Alpha-Male (Yes, that’s me…)

It has been brought to my attention that women want confidence, and that’s what I need to hold on to them. Women want a man with his act together, someone who knows what he brings to the table, who isn’t asking a woman to take care of him or fill a void. Someone male. Preferably with big, ripped abs.

I suppose they’re right. They should want those things. They should want a confident alpha male. Who wants a snivelling girly-man who needs constant reassurance? They want men, dammit!

So I am putting together my CV. I will attach this to my back at all times, right next to the “WEIRD” sign. In this day of constant advertising, it just seems natural, like a boxer with a casino ad in temporary tattoo on his back. This will take the form of a list: My alpha-male accomplishments since birth. Think I’m a panty-man, too much of a sensitive pussy? Think I can’t make a relationship work because I don’t feel good enough about myself? Ha! I snort at your short-sightedness. I laugh at your inability to look past my lack of chest hair. I chortle at your continued insistence that you don’t want a man who pees sitting down.

You don’t know me. I’m all man. I am a Samuel L. Jackson, a tall Humphrey Bogart, a black Jack Bauer. And don’t you forget it. Or I’ll do that thing where I clinch my hands together and move my arm toward you really quickly, where it then hits your face! Yeah! Take that! Your pain shall be immense, and incapacitating. Feel my wrath! And then, before you even had a chance to think about attacking me in return, I will be long gone… whoosh!, just like that.

You don’t think I’m enough of a typical male? I’m too self-loathing and feeble? That I’m too sensitive? You just wait, bitch. I’ve got Full-Scale Male Credentials. I can prove it. Because evidently, this is what women want, right?

My CV will look like this:

1972 – Upon exiting my mother’s womb, doctors were stunned to find I had stencilled lyrics to the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb” in the birth canal. Also, they found circumcision near impossible because of my massive, almost elephantine testicles. Overheard in the delivery room: “This kid’s going to be one hell of a baby-maker someday.”

1973 – I share a nursery with a little nymph named Nicole. By withholding a rattle until just the right moment, refusing to poo while Nicole is in the room, and being generally uncommunicative, I drive young Nicole wild. There are other babies who share their plush toys and do not fling their poo at her, but Nicole finds them dull and too easy. The year ends with Nicole heartbroken when I decide it’s not working out and that I’d rather spend more time drinking my own drool.

1975 – I bite the head off a toy bat. It was an aluminium bat.

1976 – I learn how to read, years earlier than my family expected. I use this newfound power to write letters to girls in my pre-school, telling them they should really lose some weight.

1977 – My family buys me a toy phone for Christmas. I then tell Sharon, the five-year-old next-door neighbour, that I’ll call her, and then I don’t.

1978 – The first of my little sisters is born. I make a vow to be exemplary in every aspect of my schoolwork and social life, so that she will feel inferior and grow up with self-esteem issues.

1981 – My mother, as our family struggles to make ends meet, says she needs to find a job. I tell her that if she were a real mom, she’d stay home and take care of her children.

1982 – Next-door neighbour Sharon comes over to play. I tell her I’m watching the football on telly. And to shut her bloody trap.

1983 – I learn that flatulence not only disgusts people, but, in fact, is quite funny. I commence to fart every time I’m in mixed company. Years later, I will refine this process, adding open flame.

1984 – I start secondary school a week late because I refuse to ask directions to school.

1986 – A new girl moves into the neighbourhood, named Tanya. She makes many friends, but I am her favourite because I am unresponsive and mysterious. One night, with parental approval, I spend the night at her house. She asks me to come over the next night as well, but I refuse, because I’m sleeping with all her friends.

1987 – I score my only goal in youth league football when the goalie is distracted by an asthma attack and I trip on the ball, sending it spiralling toward the goal. In years, this story will be told thus: “Well, I was being chased by wolves, you see, that had been released onto the field by Nazi sympathizers. Meanwhile, a waterboy with Down’s Syndrome was firing an AK-47 at me while I ran. Fortunately, I avoided them all and scored the winning goal, which was huge, since the Libyans had kidnapped my family and had threatened to anally rape our dog had we not won. It was right after this that I stopped the bullet meant for the President.”

1988 – To try out for my school football team, I am required to take a physical. The female doctor asks me how I’m feeling. I look down, grunt, and act like I didn’t hear her. When she asks again, I exclaim, “Forfucksake, I’m fine! Fuck! What’s with all the questions? That’s all I get from you! Nag, nag, nag, nag, NAG!

1989 – While showering after a football game, I see my cousin naked. I beat the shit out of him, because, man, he was looking at me. You know… in that way?

1990 – I drink my first beer. Upon finishing it, I exclaim, “Wow! This really does make ugly chicks less repulsive! This stuff is amazing!”

1991 – My first week of uni, and I attend a freshers party. I hand out then-up-to-date copies of this CV. I am immediately selected as their chief party organiser.

1995 – I buy my first Nirvana record. It, like, really speaks to me, like, on a really deep level.

1997 – I persuade a girlfriend to give me her virginity by explaining that “everyone’s going to think we did it anyway, so we might as well. Besides, um, I, like, love you or something.” I tell her I don’t want to use a condom because “I want to be as close to you as possible.”

1998 – I break up with my girlfriend and sleep with all her friends.

1999 – In August, I have sex with seven females in six days, with a combined age of 125.

2001 – In October, I visit New York, buy a NYFD uniform from a Salvation Army store and wear it to various Manhattan bars while sitting alone in a corner, pretending to weep while looking at an empty pint glass. I break another record by having sex 57 times in a week.

2003 – I get Amy Chen really drunk and bed her, thereby completing my goal of promoting diversity by shagging a girl from every major ethnic group.

2005 – After an unfortunate three-week stretch without sex, I discover roofies, and the sky is the limit.

2007 – I set a personal record in January by waking up in my own piss and/or vomit six times in one month. This record is broken five times by September.

2010 – I am selected as one of London’s “20 Most Eligible Bachelors” by GQ magazine. I am lauded for my “burning mystery,” “quiet sensitivity,” and “virile masculinity.”

*Sigh* OK, ladies… so this really is what you wanted… right? Right?! Good. It is now time to take a number. Step right up. The line, as always, forms in the back…

Sex musings at midnight

Here’s a question for you: How important is sex?

I don’t mean how important it is to a healthy relationship. Sex is a vital part of any relationship, and usually when a couple has a poor sex life, you can tell after hanging out with them for about 20 minutes. The air’s a little thicker, more dense, there’s a certain level of tension… and people keep accidentally crushing wine glasses in their hand. Here’s a tip for fellow people-watchers: When a woman walks across the room and punches her boyfriend in the face, their sex life is not working. Or, perhaps, it has reached a level that you and I just don’t want to think about.

I’m speaking more specifically of the amount of sex we individually need. How important is it to us? Is it all relative?

Let’s take two people, for example:

One is a female friend of mine. She lost her virginity when she was about 16. She is pretty, smart, sociable, and is a serial monogamist. No matter what, she always has a boyfriend — I’ve never known her to be single. Then, about six months ago, she had a long-term relationship end and, in a first for her, there was no one else waiting in the wings. She’s hardly the type of girl to sleep around or just pick up guys at clubs so, suddenly, something that was a regular part of her life just ended. She’s now gone six months without sex. According to her, the longest she’d gone without sex until this six-month hiatus was 32 days. Imagine that: something that had just been a part of your life… just gone. Emotional attachments aside, when something you’ve lived with on a reliable basis since you were 16 is taken away suddenly, that’s a definitive change. (Of course, I know the guy she was just dating quite well and… let’s just say that I doubt she’s missing too much.)

The other is a male friend. Whatever the opposite of a serial monogamist is, that’s what he is. Dates? Ha! He never dates. Ever. He went on a few dates with one girl and never even got her winter coat off. Other than that, zilch. Six months without sex? Try six years. At this point, he’s almost asexual. It’s not that he doesn’t want to have sex; it’s just that he’s got used to not getting any. He doesn’t even really think about it that much anymore (though when the 40 Days, 40 Nights movie first came out, he did bash his head against a wall repeatedly for about a week and a half). He doesn’t even try to go after girls anymore. What’s the point? Sex is something on the Internet or late-night telly, a spectator sport far more than a participatory one. Someday he’ll have sex again, I’m sure. But at this point, there’s no rush.

Which person would you rather be? Neither is having sex right now. Both are human beings, and both need it. But the girl is having a far more difficult time with it than the guy. He’s accepted his lot. To put this another way, paraphrasing: Is it better to have had some play and lost it, than to have never had any play at all?

Another friend is getting married later this year. From all accounts, he seems to have a happy, moderately healthy sex life. Nothing to complain about. But, like all relationships, sometimes circumstances dictate performance. Occasionally, he’ll go a week or two without having sex. No big deal when he was a single guy; essentially, his life was just a continuous string of a week or two without sex. But now, when that week or two takes place with a hot girl sleeping next to you, and you start to itch and squirm, suddenly a week seems a lot longer.

I spoke with him about this some months ago. Specifically, I spoke about a little, um, dry spell I was going through myself. He looked at me like I’d just peed in my pants: “Man, stop being a dickhead! No sex for how long? Seriously man, there was a point a few years ago I was tempted to screw the dog!” (Trust me, that’s not an image you want in your head at midnight!)

But he’s right. I suppose my major neuroticism about sex and relationships is that while I know some women might find me attractive, sexy even, I often can’t quite figure it out myself. (Well, other than the minor man-boobs!) Do I think about this more when I’m in a relationship, or when I’m not? I figure I’m probably the worst at the start of a new relationship. If I go without sex for a while, I can pretty much just convince myself that it’s only because I haven’t found the right woman yet. But put a woman in my bed every night for a week and, until I get used to it, I’m convinced she’s really dreaming of the guy in the kebab shop up the street, the one with the mole shaped like a penis on his cheek. She wishes she were in bed with him right now; I just know it!

And what is it we really get out of sex anyway? Is it strictly orgasm? If so, there are some guys (and girls) who have the most functional relationship I know with their shower heads. Shit, the shower doesn’t even mind if they bring in pictures of other girls! Or do we just need the closeness? Or, lo, could it be, that we have sex because we’re actually in love? How much less is it when we’re not? And, after six years without sex, does it even matter?

I think we have the best sex when we’re in love, because we’ve got the other person more or less figured out, and because it’s a legitimate sharing process. But then this logic makes me think that a good wank can trump sex, and I don’t really believe that. Do I…? Whoa! Perhaps I should just get off this logic train!

Of course, ideally, someone is just single, without commitments, and still having sex on a regular basis, with no ebbs and flows — just something new all the time. I don’t think those people actually exist though. Well… maybe in the Premier League…

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics: Sooner or later everything turns to shit

Earlier today, I got a phone call from my friend Nicola. Now here’s the thing about Nicola: There are times when it appears she is the most intelligent woman on the planet. At other times, she seems like some kind of alien, or saint, or mutant. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that she is all of these things.

Nicola, who lives in Brighton, does not date. She does not have one-night stands, meaningful fortnights or month-long affairs. It is not that she does not like men; it is not that she’s a lesbian, and it is not that she can’t find anyone. She simply chooses not to. She has weighed all the dating options, lifted them one way and the other, tested their density, volume and surface area, put on gloves and checked them for lice, asked them to cough. And she’s just decided that this dating world is not something she wants to be a part of, thank you very much, next caller.

Nicola has been through the wars. She’s been through all the blood and piss and shit and mud and pus and grime too many times, and enough is enough. She’s retired.

“But Nicola,” I ask her, “don’t you ever get lonely? Don’t you miss having someone who will listen to you talk about your day? Don’t you miss that close contact? Don’t you ever just want to throw somebody down and rip his clothes off?” (This last question was not a come-on, I swear.)

She manages a smirk. “Listen… I have my own life to live. It’s just too much trouble… and it usually ends up badly, anyway.”

The difference between Nicola and me is that she is honest, and she is smart.

Nicola sees what happens when you give yourself up, when someone gives himself or herself up for you, when the balance is tipped one way, when it’s tipped the other. You end up hurt, or you end up hurting someone else. Someone ends up sad, or bitter, or just changed. She’s been there before.

Alas, I agree with Nicola, but selfishly, foolishly, I choose the other path. I simply opt to ignore the logic and try anyway. I know it’s stupid, and I know I’m a danger to others and myself (and them to me)… and nevertheless I just keep forging blindly forward, like a Godzilla-sized baby, waddling around aimlessly, causing destruction.

My old friend Karen, whom I haven’t spoken to in about a year, once explained to me what she called the “cool quotient” of dating. According to Karen, no matter the relationship, no matter how healthy or happy it seems, each partner deep down knows the inherent inequality. One person is always “cooler” than the other — that is to say, one person always considers the other somehow in a different league, Premiership compared to Championship — in some social way. It doesn’t mean that they can’t get along or that such things are even all that important. Just that they’re there.

Karen always used this analogy to describe my relationship with ex-girlfriend Laura, who she felt was above me on this unscientific scale and therefore was destined to leave me (Karen never pulls her punches). Therefore, it was counterproductive to be involved in any relationship whatsoever because, regardless of the circumstances, one partner was either going to feel woefully inferior to the other or think that they were slumming. Hence everything was doomed. I believe Woody Allen’s line was, “It’s the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Sooner or later everything turns to shit.”

You waltz into these relationships, and everything seems happy and fresh and new and clean. You’re flattered someone you admire will even talk to you, that they don’t dismiss you out of hand. You see problems, but you’re convinced this time such little things won’t matter. It’ll all be good this time, promise; the fact that you don’t really like pop music and she doesn’t get Woody Allen, that she’s too young or too old, that you don’t like her cat, that she’s your cousin, none of it will make a difference. Why should such silly matters get in the way of us?

Then you find yourself worrying. You find yourself thinking that she is right, and that you are wrong, and that you are stupid for not being more like her. A little pop music never hurt anybody. You think that she should be with someone better, someone not so cynical, and this thought invades you, and you sabotage everything, and you drive her away. Because she is better. They are all better. And she is sad… yet you’re convinced she’s better off without you. Thing is, you’re right.

And yet, and yet, and yet, we keep trying. It should go without saying that my friend Karen, inventor of this injurious theory, is now in a serious, allegedly happy relationship. And off we go.

I think about how my parents did this, how my grandparents did this, how their generations pulled it off. Was it that much simpler? You just got married, you started a family, and if you had problems, you just dealt with them. Stop your bloody whingeing. No self-loathing, no twisted sabotaging of your own happiness. You paid bills. You went to the store and got milk. You attended parent-teacher conferences and grounded the boys for getting into fights after school.

I think of the line from Arthur Miller’s The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, in which an elder man tells his young wife, “The difference between our generations is that we got married young to prove we were adults, and you do the exact opposite for the very same reason.” I think the older guys might have had the right idea, though.

But whinge, whinge, whinge, bitch, bitch, bitch. Enough!

So I look at Nicola, and I see that she’s right, and I look at Karen, and I think she’s right, too. Yet I continue to search, sleepwalking into a mess, hoping the ground doesn’t turn to shit beneath my feet.

Oh, I almost forgot, I started this piece with that phone call from Nicola earlier today: “I just met this really cool guy,” she started excitedly.  And off we go. Sigh.

Soooo… let’s talk about SEX!

I write about all sorts of things, but I’ve found one aspect of the human condition near impossible for me to write about: sex. I just can’t write a sentence about it without cracking a lame, backpedalling joke or hitting delete immediately before anyone has a chance to make fun of me.

I’m not sure why that is. I enjoy sex. Quite a bit, actually. I might even say, if I dare, that sex was something of a driving force behind some of my decisions in life.

I don’t consider myself a prude, far from it. It’s just… well… a bit hard writing about sex. What seems majestic and earth-shaking at the time comes across ridiculous in print. I can’t fathom how people write those Mills-and-Boon-type novels with a shirtless Fabio on the cover, with titles like Desire in the Desert. I mean, how could you type, “His brawny, sweating chest glistened as he ripped off her blouse and caressed her supple, ripe breasts. She found herself flush with desire,” with a straight face? I certainly can’t.

About eight months ago, as a practice session intended to help correct this writing deficiency, (and to ensure that, if I ever succeed as an author, I would never win the Bad Sex In Fiction Award) I sat down to write a 2,000-word piece about my most recent intense, powerful sexual experience. To make sure I got in the groove, I drank about a quart of Jack Daniels, shut off all the lights and cranked up Motley Crue’s Red White & Crue album (when writing about love, try Miles Davis; when tackling sex, it has to be the Crue). Adequately drunk, I dove in and hammered away for about three hours straight, pausing only for some sausages and to restart the iPod playlist. I didn’t read what I wrote until I woke up the next morning. It could not have been more embarrassing if it had been written by one of my exes with an axe to grind. In fact, it read like Alex Reid being anally raped by Katie Price. Here’s a tip: When trying to write sexy, avoid the words labyrinthine, perpendicular, snorkel and “mayonnaiseish”. I beg you to trust me on this one.

A market has sprung in recent years for sex columnists. People love reading sex columns, but I’m not sure I ever believe them. It’s one thing to be frank and matter-of-fact about sex; it’s another entirely to confess the weird shit you do in print, with your name attached. If most of these women (and, of course, they’re always women; a guy’s columns about sex would always have the same predictable, abrupt end, and they’d all run about 150 words) had sex as often as they claimed, I don’t know how they’d even have time to write their columns. And how real can it be when everyone you’re having sex with knows you’re a sex columnist? I would suspect, knowing most guys, that this would be more of a detriment to finding willing subjects than a benefit. (And, come to think of it, if you’re a sex columnist, is it OK to miss deadline because you’re having sex? Is it considered research? What kind of stuff can you get tax credits for? Do you ever have normal work hours?)

Sex is such a mystery it’s a wonder anyone even knows how to do it. You never know who will be into what. Who would have guessed that Max Moseley fancied a bit of spanking? I’m reminded of Woody Allen’s Manhattan, when Diane Keaton’s character tells Woody about her last lover, a ferocious hellion in bed who sent her to heights she’d never imagined. When we meet him, he’s played by Wallace Shawn, the short “inconceivable” bald guy from The Princess Bride. I suspect that’s always the way it works. The hottest girl is often the coldest fish, and the guy who boasts about sex all the time can’t get it up.

But two play this game, and it’s strange sometimes how two people simply cannot click. I’ve been with people in the past who have surely considered themselves skilful at intercourse, and they appear to know all the right moves. But for whatever reason, we were never quite on the same page. It wasn’t her fault, it wasn’t mine. (No! It wasn’t! Couldn’t be!) That thing just wasn’t there. Sometimes it just doesn’t work, no matter how perfectly matched people seem to be. And, as we all know, when the physical attraction goes, it’s all over. We can fake smiles at cocktail parties, but we can’t fake that (though we can’t help ourselves from trying). On the flipside, we’ve all had that person that we have crazy chemistry with even though they drive us nuts. Sex has a tendency to goad us into abandoning all reason and self-preservation. It’s either a not-that-funny joke played by the universe or God punishing us for having sex before marriage!

You know, it really is a bit nerve-wracking writing this! It makes me uncomfortable just putting it into words. But, driving on… Once, I had a brief fling with an associate of a few close friends of mine. The Monday after we went out, my friends cornered me and demanded some locker-room talk. I couldn’t do it. They peppered me with questions, digging for details, intricacies — they were just friends of hers, but she was pretty, and they had to have wondered — and I gave them nothing. Just stammered, babbled, and changed the subject. “Um, guys, did you see Rooney’s hattrick yesterday? Uh… did you read about those thieving MPs? Man, the weather… what is it with this weather?”

It didn’t feel right, reporting back details. It never does. People look at the sex other people have far more dispassionately than they do their own. Personally, we have this notion that sex is supposed to be this sacred, two-become-one experience that is deeply profound, and we hold out for that ideal, but when we imagine others having sex, it’s either repulsive or just a manipulation of genitals. And both views are right, of course. We never truly and irrationally surrender ourselves to sex — I hereby submit the condom as Exhibit A — but it’s supremely important to us nevertheless. Sex does change everything; it’s just that none of us are sure why.

After all, it’s only natural, right? The birds and the bees do it. (I’m thinking of the way the parents of a friend of mine explained sex to him: “It’s like a hug, only it takes longer and you’re tired afterwards.” Ladies, you have to agree: sometimes, that sums it up entirely!) That sex affects us the way it does is a uniquely human thought process, and sometimes I wonder if the rest of the animal kingdom has it right. I witnessed two flies having sex the other day. It went on for about five minutes, which in a fly’s lifespan is about four years. I doubt the male fly was bragging to his larvae friends the next day, and I seriously doubt the female fly was upset the male fly didn’t call her. (I, naturally, swatted them both. Why should they get to get some?)

Think of it this way: If you and your current mate had never had sex, had never even considered it, how would your relationship be? Is what you learn about your mate during sex worth knowing? I’ve tried to foster an image as a cultured and witty person, but I’m a sweaty, hulking mess when I have sex. It is us at our most open and unguarded, completely bare for another person — a whole, entirely different person! — to witness and comprehend. There is nowhere to hide. That we continue to have sex is a triumph of nature, not our brains. It is safer not to be close. It’s more comfortable keeping it inside.

But look at me. I’m saying too much. I knew this would happen. I’m giving away my secrets… The “sexiest” thing I’ve done? Let me think… Hmmm… Well, there was… Shit, David, you can’t write that! No, seriously, don’t… What if your parents read this? Your readers will lose all respect for you and people will mock you forever… OK, fine, fuck it: a girl and I once filmed ourselves. We were both drunk, there was a camcorder in the room, and we figured: What the hell; we’re young, footloose, fancy-free, and all that. It was a sexy, dangerous thing to do at the time, and whenever we talked about it afterwards — only with each other, of course — it never failed to titillate us both. It was exciting and reckless, and certainly worth the trouble. Or so we thought.

We eventually broke up, obviously, but the tape remained in my possession. Choose to believe me or don’t, I don’t care, but I swear, I never thought about watching it again. OK, that’s not quite true; I did once… but I had no choice.

Two mates on a tour of Europe came to visit me in London one summer. They stayed a day later than I thought they would, so on the last day of their sojourn, I had to work. They grabbed some drinks and hung out at my place while I was gone. I thought nothing of it. They returned about three months later, and the three of us sat around reminiscing and getting drunk. We were giggling through the alcoholic mist when one of them stopped abruptly.

“Um, Dave, we have to tell you something. You might be a little pissed off,” he spluttered, still laughing stupidly. “Remember when we were here a few months ago? Well, we got a little hammered and started watching some of your old tapes. We found one…”

The next morning, when I finally came out from under the bed, I took a cricket bat and destroyed the tape — admittedly, a bit late. When your friends have witnessed something that inspires the comment, “Interesting technique there, mate,” it’s best to destroy the evidence, and violently.

Wahey! Check it out… I think I’m finally writing frankly about sex.

Oh, and about that story I just told? I made it all up. Not true. Don’t believe it. You know what writers and journalists are like… always fabricating! Just pretend you didn’t read it… Um… what about that Arsenal – Newcastle draw, eh?  And the weather! Don’t you think it’s getting a little bit warmer outside these days?

Spotify: Mötley Crüe – Red White & Crue