The Summer of 2012

Searching for sunshine as the sexual weather closes in again.

Just as I sat down to pen these valedictions and September ended, news broke of yet another child’s abduction. Last month we at least had some laughs thanks to the Royal Family – one of whose useful tasks is surely to keep us diverted from the mundane, and entertained by their contributions to the nation’s liking for vulgarity.

Of course, were we to read only Heat, OK and Hello! (to name but a few), we would never have our cornflakes go soggy as we followed the narratives of sexually abused girls, trafficked children and murdered families that seem to fill the news on too many days of the week.

One can only hope that the story of the runaway schoolteacher and his pupil does not get lumped in with all the other sordid sagas of sexually-motivated crime. He seems like a decent enough fellow and she is, to judge from her tweets, more young woman than deluded child. As reported (and clearly we have yet to find out the full facts) the relationship sounds more Romeo and Juliet than Lolita and Humbert. Ultimately, I would hope for a merciful judgement and a positive outcome. BBC4 thoughtfully carried an interview with a couple who had been in a similar position some thirty years ago, who married and remain very happy together.

That we all need doses of good news is evidenced by the response to the sporting achievements of the summer (including the triumph of the Ryder Cup), and I would like to think we experienced a collective and wistful sigh of romantic sympathy as Miss Stammers and her swain face the inevitable inquisition of our social and judicial system’s myrmidons. It is a great pity that the sort of obsessive officiousness that is likely to surround these two in their moment of Warholian celebrity had not been applied more timely to the victims of the Rochdale grooming gang outrage – or indeed J. Savile’s long suspected crimes. The only comfort that can be taken from the recent gang trial is that now the issue has come to the surface it will at last be dealt with, though we take with a pinch of salt both police and social services’ promise that ‘lessons have been learned; processes have been changed’.

In similar mode we should greet with enthusiasm some sensible ideas about better presentation of sex and sexuality that have recently emerged. Not only has one our own columnists – Susan Quilliam – revived The Joy of Sex (an event noted very positively by no less than Clare Short) on BBC’s Broadcasting House,  but one Cindy Gallop has been promoting her website ( devoted to what is commonly termed ‘romantic’ porn. This, presumably, is not the sort of stuff that our girl-grooming gangs use for stimulus when they are not out hunting down neglected and problematic teenagers.

Whatever else is going on in the world, sex is going on in our heads and in enactment more constantly than almost anything else. Well, food runs close and death too. Except the growth of populations suggests sex is the winner; it is a terrifying thought – all that emotion and heaving and wetness and ejaculation. And yet all too often it is branded as something fearful and ugly.

This is very sad and possibly an irreparable aspect of the human condition, but I’d like to think that we live in hope of each other. That love will conquer all, that we will see each other’s bodies as beautiful and that our couplings will produce a sense, however brief, of bliss.

In today’s media, sex is rarely dignified and often abused. In reality, it pays to remember that for the most part it is a constant source of dreams, wonder and amusement. Although it seems sadly unlikely, I really do hope that those young lovers will be found guilty of nothing more reprehensible than unwise and unlucky passion, that they will eventually be able to resume their lives in peace without either our censure or prurience.

That outcome would make the story part of the summer’s good news.

Bruno Phillips