We don’t often talk about sex as such in the ODB and certainly not at a personal level. Such times as it rears its head are either in purely agricultural terms or when the news demands comment. Nor is it much aired in mixed company. So it was somewhat surprising when the topic of sexual molestation came up in our group at the weekly supper club – a cunning ruse by our Host to keep us buying food and wine at his pub.
Normally we would have shaken our heads in dismay at human depravity and moved on. But as it happens our number had been refreshed by a few holiday regulars and second home owners taking advantage of the good weather to enjoy a pre-Easter break before the Chelsea tractor mob descended with their unruly broods and demands for obscure groceries available only in Islington or Clapham.
One of these metropolitan free thinkers castigated the Archbishop of Canterbury for being slow to respond to a victim apparently abused and traumatised by one of the CofE’s Bishops. Deplorable as the entire story was, the context of its mention highlighted the degree to which victimhood and trauma have been elevated to the default position when adverse life experiences especially of a sexual nature have been less than pleasant. Many events may well have been traumatic but others not so much.
Most of us could recall the days when the News of the World relied heavily for copy on the apprehension of dodgy vicars and scoutmasters. Accounts of their disgraceful seductions never mentioned the impact on victims. A couple of females in the group – sturdy feminists both, enthralled us with the narrative of student age trips to Italy where, on occasion, they found themselves surrounded by young men and were importuned and vigorously groped. This they told us was repellant but not something that reduced them to psychological ruin. Their tough-mindedness was met with respect.
‘Mind you’ someone observed, ‘I don’t think you’d forget it if a randy old bloke had tried to shove his dick up your bum’. By this point the women in the group had devoted themselves to the dessert buffet and we chaps were topping up with digestifs at the bar. It’s funny how these tribal habits cling on. But it did make it easier to discuss the matter of anal intercourse and its apparent normalisation in public discourse.
In the Observer Magazine 13 March Mariella Frostrup had responded in her problem column to a middle aged man wanting to experience this form of sex but facing his wife’s reluctance (she had tried but not bought). In our young days buggery (or sodomy as Frostrup called it) was both illegal and we thought limited to pederasts and homosexuals.That was not necessarily so but the legitimisation of gay lifestyles and internet porn had made it an interesting and acceptable consensual heterosexual choice if on balance less desired by women than fantasised about by men.
Without any indication of her own tastes, the ever wise Mariella forbore to tell the chap not to go out and buy his experience as he had proposed but reminded him that some fantasies might best be indulged in the head. However, a difficult area had been broached and it was left to the metropolitans to move the discussion on from buggering clergy (that is, clergy who bugger parishioners) to adventurous women.
Only one of us (a second home owner) volunteered that he had known a girl (in his youth) who liked it as he vulgarly put it ‘up the arse’. Even if some of us did harbour experimental whims in that direction the information seemed too difficult and private for comment, not least in relation to our own partners. We cleared our throats and ordered more drinks at which point these much esteemed people arrived to drive us home (a courtesy still accorded by wives but on a reciprocal basis) and asked what we had been talking about.
We said sport, the Six Nations. Had we said ‘anal sex’ we might have risked something quite strange happening in our domestic universe. Although who knows what was said in people’s cars on the way home.
Given the historic odium in which that activity had existed (think Marquess of Queensbury on Oscar Wilde ‘posing as a sodomite’) it was interesting that when our Host invited us to leave because it was 11.30pm he said ‘sod off you boozy buggers I want to go to bed’. So we left, feeling well pleased with our evening and not at all abused.