Facebook’s Prudish Face


Britons are often accused of being a nation of prudes. We’re all elbows and knees, accidental head-butting as we scuttle into bed, then a late-night trip to A&E which is far more fun than sex would have been anyway.

In this age of Facebook, where every trivial detail of people’s lives is transformed into an exciting event by the power of self-delusion and lies, you’d think that sex would also get the glamorising treatment. Instead of reading about trips to the garden centre or ‘chilling out’ on the sofa, we should be learning of our neighbours’ fetish for well-chiselled root vegetables, or a former work colleague’s love of transvestite saunas.

Sadly, Facebook is remarkably lacking in sexual boasts, or sexual content at all. ‘Gorgeous hubby’ (read: club foot and smells of boiled cabbage) might make a lovely cup of tea, but does he throw his wife over the sofa and spank her with a cricket bat? Where are the status updates (with the obligatory domestic banality thrown in): ‘Just had a banana shoved up my bum. Great fun but what am I going to put in the kids’ lunch boxes?’ or ‘Lovely Sunday afternoon strapped to the cellar wall with clothes pegs on my nipples. Now off to Sainsbury’s for the weekly shop’?

The obvious answer is that most people aren’t keen to discuss their sex lives with a random selection of work colleagues, former school friends and some woman they once spent ten minutes talking to at a party and now have to read daily updates on the state of her child’s ear infection.

Strangely, Facebook is much keener on children’s ear infections than sex; you can drone on and on for all eternity about the minutiae of your little darling’s poorly orifice, but any mention of sex risks being banned and obliterated off the face of the social networking world. One of my ‘friends’ (ie someone I vaguely knew but had only ever met once) suddenly disappeared one day. Apparently she had incurred the wrath of Facebook by uploading a profile picture of her wearing – cover your eyes – stockings and high heels.

The most sinister thing about this is that it was probably one of her own friends who reported her to Facebook. When you report a message as ‘nudity or pornography’, the site urges you to really think about what you’re doing. Couldn’t you just contact your friend to tell them you don’t like the sight of them in fishnets and suspenders? Could you maybe just remove that person from your list of friends so that their blatant knicker-flashing is no longer available to you? Could you maybe just avert your gaze? If you are still incensed by the disgusting pornography on display, you can forge ahead and report your deviant ex-friend to the Facebook police. Action will be taken. Children can sleep soundly once more.

So basically, if you get banned for posting a picture of yourself in your underwear, it’s probably because your friends don’t like you. They’re the ones who have reported you, they’re the ones who want to cast you out of that heady, exciting Facebook world. Perhaps you annoyed them with one too many messages musing on whether to have muesli or bran flakes for breakfast. Perhaps you are just generally irritating. Maybe you just look ugly in your pants. Whatever the reason, if you’re prudish about discussing your sex life or using photos to illustrate the point, is it because you suspect your friends will think you’re a cheap old slag and conspire to chuck you out?

Obviously the fear of being banned by a Puritanical Facebook doesn’t stop everyone from posting sexual content. If you have a large group of acquaintances who get a voyeuristic thrill from seeing you semi-naked, you’ll probably survive. A girl I went to school with became the source of much thigh-rubbing excitement when she started posting photos of herself dry-humping a metal pole, or standing on her head with her legs splayed. When she started uploading images of her grinning manically beside large wads of money – ok, a handful of five pound notes – my friends became terribly excited. Was she a stripper, we asked, staring at the photos of her stripping? That was the clue, really, and we all felt naughty by association.

If she was actually a stripper, she only ever made about £30 – at least, that’s all she ever spread across her stained brown carpet in the shape of various currency symbols. I checked her profile a few days ago and she has removed everyone she went to school with from her list of friends, changed her occupation to ‘freelance photographer’ and put up a nice respectable picture of her sitting at a desk looking earnest.

She may have been removed by Facebook, or maybe she had just had enough of people who knew her when she was 14 logging onto her profile just to giggle at pictures of her wearing a transparent leotard. Either way, it shows that some people aren’t shy about revealing such things on Facebook – as proven by a cousin of one of my friends, who was eventually told by his parents to stop writing about how much he loved ‘willies’, as it was embarrassing them.

Still, it makes a pleasant change from the usual embittered rejection notes which litter Facebook: “Single again thanks to that cheating loser. Hope his new girlfriend enjoys seafood, as he’s got crabs”. Then the obligatory eight hundred exclamation marks to really get the point across. If most people are shy or wary about revealing the sordid details of their sex lives to their Facebook friends, does this mean that internet forums, where people can be anonymous, are a better bet?

Web forums – where people vomit out all the gory details of their partners’ affairs and their obsessive interest in Alan Titchmarsh – encourage anonymity. This is where the truth about the nation’s sex life must lie. Unfortunately, it turns out that not only are Britons not boasting about sex, things are much more dire than anyone could have imagined.

Browsing through the sex forums of one women’s website, we stumble upon ‘large girl’. She really needs help: she’s rather supersize, he’s, as she so daintily puts it, ‘average’. Without an elaborate pulley device, can their relationship ever work? Why hasn’t Hollywood done a film about this?

There are a surprising number of messages from women who are anxious about being ‘useless on top’. As one particularly unfortunate female explains, she has terrible coordination, and you can just imagine her up there, flailing around like an electrified disco dancer on roller skates.

Amongst all this dysfunction, confusion and acrobatic failure, is the occasional boast. ‘Why do I violently jump and jitter after orgasming?’ one confused and secretly-smug woman asks. Surprisingly, no one asked her if she was plugging herself into the mains.

These web forums make you wonder why, as a nation, we are so uptight that we can only discuss our sex lives anonymously (or under some bizarre pseudonym, kittylitter85, for example) with total strangers. Obviously, no one wants the world to know that their lover cries after sex or asks them to dress as a giant gerbil, but it’s surprising that so many people have to turn to the internet to confess these dark secrets. Perhaps the solution is a nationwide campaign: Confess your sex problems to the next person you meet, whether it’s your mother-in-law or an old lady in the cold meat aisle of a supermarket. You might be surprised: they probably had to dress as a giant gerbil once too.

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