Tag Archives: sex

Sodden clumps of Mayfair on a radiator

sex-boxWoody Allen once said: “Love is the answer, but while you are waiting for the answer, sex raises some pretty good questions.” And thanks to Channel 4’s Sex Box, which starts tonight, three couples now have a forum for discussing those questions. All they’re required to do is have sex inside a futuristic portakabin in the middle of a television studio, before emerging, breathless, ruddy-faced and slightly unkempt, to have a cosy post-coital chat with Mariella Frostrup and a panel of ‘sexperts’. Bingo!

The show is part of Channel 4’s ‘Campaign for Real Sex’, a season of programmes “which aim to reclaim sex from porn”. And what better way to reclaim sex than by placing it inside an opaque, sound-proofed cube. “It’s quite a chaste programme,” said Channel 4’s head of factual programming, Ralph Lee, “— there’s no sex in it.”

True, there’s no sex. But I read somewhere that there is a handy colour scheme so that we can all follow what’s going on at home. Apparently the box glows red for coitus; yellow to indicate intermittent foreplay and a chat about whether the tiles in the bathroom need re-grouting; purple for when the mood evaporates and the couple decide to eat Hobnobs and watch Countryfile instead; and blue to alert the crew to unexpected flaccidity.

Typically appalled by the show’s premise, the Mail Online reported that Channel 4 is cynically trying to boost ratings after it was outperformed by Channel 5 for the first time in its history in July. Whether or not that’s true, I’m sort of glad that Channel 4 got in with this idea first.

After all, Richard Desmond’s cut-price Channel 5 version would probably be called something like Fuck Truck. Presented by John McCririck, wearing nothing but oversized underpants and a deerstalker, amorous couples would be expected to have orgiastic sex in a perspex trailer on the back of an eighteen wheeler. McCririck would then walk among the writhing bodies singing Bloodhound Gang’s The Bad Touch into a loud hailer, as the truck winds its way through Leeds city centre.

Alternatively, Desmond could always develop a programme called Snuff Box, a one-hour programme in which oversexed, banter-loving ‘lads’ are lured into a shipping container by a pneumatic blonde, before taking a bullet to the back of the head. I think I’d watch that.

Anyway, Sex Box and the ‘Campaign for Real Sex’ seem to be a product of Channel 4’s eagerness “to talk about sex – real sex – the kind that is actually going on in Britain’s bedrooms”. That’s fine, but aren’t we always talking about sex these days? A better idea for a show would’ve been Sex Library, where anyone who tries to strike up a conversation about sex gets shushed by a stern-faced, conservatively dressed librarian, with half moon spectacles sitting on the end of her beaky nose. Isn’t sex boring now?

And what is ‘real sex’ anyway? With absolutely no apologies for the sweeping generalisation I’m about to make, I imagine ‘real sex’ for men in their late teens and twenties involves clumsily trying to mount someone in a piss-sodden nightclub toilet, while a stumbling, incoherent friend helpfully vomits eight hours of two-for-one shots into the crotch of their ankle-high underwear.

I’m also not entirely sure how Sex Box can liberate us from pornography?

My first experience of porn was in 1989, when I discovered a bin bag full of pornographic magazines in a park behind the newsagents where I worked. I remember turning my bike on its handlebars, as though innocently fixing a puncture, just to give myself enough time to paw at the bag until some of the glossy magazines slipped out and flipped tantalisingly open. I ended up flicking through a ridiculous photoset featuring two naked women cowering beneath a mulleted Dracula – a set of plastic fangs sitting awkwardly in his mouth, with his cape thrown open to reveal a phallus of truly ridiculous proportions.

I only managed to look for a few seconds, though. The sound of Bram Stoker turning in his grave suddenly spooked me (or it might have been a cat darting through the bushes behind me) so I decided to hide the bag in some undergrowth and return to collect my filthy treasure after dark.

The bin bag was gone by the time I returned to fix another fake puncture on my bike, but that was the beauty of porn in the old days – it was a challenge to find! (And in terms of the sodden clumps of Mayfair I once found and tried to dry out on a radiator, difficult to read.) Furthermore, buying just one pornographic magazine over the counter at a newsagents was often prohibitively expensive, especially once I’d hidden it beneath four packs of Chewits, a copy of The People’s Friend and a foam ball and tennis racket set. The young people of today wouldn’t have an addiction to porn if they had to acquire it under those kinds of conditions.

Actually, thinking about it, maybe Sex Box can rid the world of pornography. If this box thing catches on, we might soon be living in a world where all the filthiest, x-rated bits from porn films take place inside opaque, sound-proofed boxes, leaving us to actually enjoy the dialogue and plot in films such as Moulin Splooge and The Italian Handjob. Furthermore, trying to view pornographic images online would eventually be no more exciting than surfing the IKEA website for a self-assembly wardrobe. If pornography was made that dull, I’m fairly certain that people would lose interest.

We can but hope.


Filed under Television

The New Gods

When John Dillinger was gunned down by FBI agents in an alleyway close to the Biograph Theatre, Chicago, it was reported that ghoulish souvenir hunters dipped handkerchiefs, newspapers and even hems of dresses into the gangster’s blood, such was the thirst for morbid mementos of the newsworthy occasion. With the blood on people’s clothing and possessions eventually rusting and fading over time like an Instagram filter taking years to render, I guess it was the 1934 equivalent of snapping a quick photo of the macabre scene with an iPhone.

Eighty years on, I think it’s reasonably safe to assume that no one in their right mind would think to dip an object into a crimson pool of congealing blood at a crime scene in order to document the moment (unless Kay Burley had left her Thermos mug unattended while she slithered under the door of the victim’s home to graphically inform the family about the death, in which case, that’s just asking to be dunked). But in our coldly efficient modern world, we don’t need to resort to such hands-on measures. Our innate urge to opportunistically capture moments for posterity – from the morbid to the mundane, the magnificent to the morally questionable – is facilitated by a wealth of accessible technology, which makes things a lot easier…and a lot less icky.

Today, practically everything is photographed, captured, screen-grabbed and recorded. And unlike the scraps of newspaper and cuts of fabric stained with Dillinger’s blood – perhaps consigned to unmarked boxes in dusty attics across the Windy City, remaining strictly in the locality in which they had originated – anything and everything can be shared across the world in a matter of seconds. There’s no longer anything physical to hold onto; no photo, letter or keepsake to place under a pillow or slot between the pages of a book, or secrete somewhere safe, away from prying eyes. There is only endless replication and digital permanence.

So if you use Twitter to call for a revolution following the re-election of President Barack Obama, for instance, it’s impossible to disassociate yourself from that mind-bendingly idiotic moment. Even if you hastily delete the offending tweet – fearing sedition charges and 20 years in prison, with your increasingly sweat-sodden toupee sitting on your head like a clump of dewy turf – it’s too late. It exists forever.

And if you post photos of yourself on Facebook, posing seductively like a sexy Grim Reaper amid New York’s Hurricane-ravaged landscape, those images are lost to you the second you hit ‘upload’. They don’t belong to you anymore. They belong to the Internet.

Similarly, when 15-year-old Amanda Todd made a fleeting error of judgement as a naive 12-year-old, lifting up her top to flash a stranger who’d delivered disarming compliments down the grainy lens of a webcam, that momentary lapse was frozen in time before she’d even lowered her shirt. It was pixels and data, captured and saved. It was a moment that would haunt her throughout the remainder of her troubled young life, with her tormentor sending the image of her breasts to her friends and family and eventually posting the image to Facebook as his profile pic. In Amanda’s own words, which she penned on flash cards in a YouTube video she posted about her experience: “I can never get that photo back. It’s out there forever.”

It was out there when she succumbed to drugs, alcohol, anxiety and depression; it was out there when she started to self-harm; it was out there when she drank bleach during a failed suicide attempt; and it was still out there when she hanged herself at her home last month.

Tragically only a couple of weeks after the death of Amanda Todd, 15-year-old Felicia Garcia from Staten Island, New York, took her own life, when she threw herself under a train. After reportedly having consensual sex with four footballers on the high school football team after a party, she was later humiliated when a sex tape was leaked online and passed around her classmates. The subsequent bullying, not least from two of the boys directly involved in the video, ultimately led to her suicide. “Finally, it’s here,” one witness reported her as saying, before she fell backwards from the Huguenot station platform.

But how can these tragic events have occurred in this day and age, I hear you ask? In our celebrity-obsessed culture, sex tapes are de rigueur. Remember when Rob Lowe became a virtual pariah in Hollywood when his sex tape surfaced in 1988? Well, nowadays, the media love them! And there’s no stigma attached anymore. Celebrities are queuing round the block to either talk about them or plot the making of one. Robbie Williams recently revealed that the biggest regret of his career was not making a proper sex tape. (Surprisingly, it wasn’t his decision to release Rudebox.) And during this year’s Celebrity Big Brother even Coleen Nolan said that she and former husband Shane Ritchie had once made a sex tape, which was subsequently destroyed. Although if the Mayans were right, that tape will no doubt resurface on December 21st and bring about the End of Days.

Of course, for the likes of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian a sex tape was merely the launch pad for global fame, with reality shows, fragrances, fashion collections, magazine front covers, and tearful, soul-searching chats with Oprah about their humiliation and faux regret about how it all began.

After 1 Night in Paris was conveniently ‘leaked’ around the time Paris Hilton’s reality series The Simple Life premieredshe rose from relative obscurity to global superstar almost overnight. The sex video was made with her ex-boyfriend Rick Salomon in 2001 and was shot almost entirely through the grey-green hue of a night vision camera, which made it feel a bit like a raunchy deleted scene from Bravo Two Zero. This stage of Paris’s life is covered on her Wikipedia entry under the somewhat depressing heading: “2003-05: Career Breakthrough”. And sadly, it really was. It’s only in the last couple of years that her star, mercifully, has faded.

Her former best friend, Kim Kardashian, who is her slightly more curvaceous, brunette replacement on the world stage, also achieved fame following the ‘leak’ of a sex tape in 2007 (coincidentally recorded in 2003, the same year she witnessed Paris Hilton’s meteoric rise to fame off the back of one). With the premonitory title Kim Kardashian Superstar (“featuring Hip Hop star Ray J”, who was clearly desperate to crowbar his apparent musical credentials into the title, when he could just as easily have been described as “narrator and stunt dick”) the clumsy visuals could have been achieved by filming an extreme close-up of a bowl of chicken breasts on a car’s parcel shelf while driving down a cobbled street.

Still, artistic merit aside, the video didn’t do her any harm. After dropping her lawsuit against Vivid Entertainment for invasion of privacy – originally claiming that selling the video was “despicable” and “malicious” – she settled for a cool $5m). She’s now the highest earning reality star in the world, a multi-millionairess and the darling of the Mail Online – that steadfast moral guardian of the world and tireless crusader against Internet porn. The Mail despises pornography, but forget about that for a second and look at this HILARIOUS video of three grandmothers watching Kim Kardashian’s “famous sex tape”! Ha-ha! Priceless! You’re right, Mail Online, she really is a “star”.

The media treats Kim Kardashian’s sex tape as a mere saucy anecdote. In 2009, she smiled out from the cover of Cosmopolitan, which carried the headline: “The mistake that still haunts her (no, not the sex tape)”. And let’s face it, why would she regret the thing that’s made her richer and more famous than she could possibly ever have imagined?

It was recently reported that Nadya Suleman – aka ‘Octomom’ (a media nickname, which sounds like a human exhibit from a Victorian museum of living curiosities) – made a sex tape and was “hoping to become famous and make tons of money”. One insider said: “She really, truly thought she was going to end up as successful as Kim Kardashian.”

And why wouldn’t she? The Kim Kardashians and Paris Hiltons of this world are the new gods; infallible, untouchable and supremely vacuous beings, with vast wealth, highly visible public profiles, an adoring press and media at their beck and call, and close to 26 million Twitter followers between them. And all off the back of their respective sex tapes.

Amanda Todd and Felicia Garcia, on the other hand, experienced nothing but despair and anguish, and probably would’ve given anything to erase their mistakes from the face of the earth. And for them, social media wasn’t a source of followers, friends and support, but simply another conduit through which their tormentors could continue their unrelenting persecution of them.

It’s rumoured that Kris Jenner – the Kardashians’ unscrupulous ‘momager’ (a risible portmanteau word, similar to ‘celebritwat’) – is keen to “sex up” Kim Kardashian’s 17-year-old half-sister Kendall Jenner, so we shouldn’t be surprised if a sex tape miraculously works its way into the mainstream in the near future. But is there not enough real news in the world for the media to stop fawning over sex tape stars and simply refuse them the publicity they crave? It’s a truly fucked up world when wealthy socialites and so-called celebrities can sell their souls and make millions, with the full blessing and support of the media, while their mortal counterparts make genuine mistakes and have their fragile souls eaten away.

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Filed under Celebrity Culture, Rant

The Skins trailer from four years ago that reminded me of that thing from 18 years ago

I wasn’t writing this blog when the first series of E4’s teen drama Skins hit our screens in 2007, but if I had been, I probably would’ve written about how it bore no resemblance whatsoever to my experience of teenage life.

In many respects that’s probably a good thing. As a teenager, you could’ve locked me in a room for a week with nothing but the complete series of Hallelujah! on DVD and I still would’ve ended up masturbating to a uniformed Thora Hird. Although I doubt you could get ten episodes out of that, and it probably wouldn’t pick up any Bafta nominations.

You might remember the original trailer for the first series of Skins, which depicted a riotous teenage house party taking place to the soundtrack of Gossip’s Standing in the Way of Control. It looked like the last days of Rome, but with more shaving foam and a formidable arsenal of Super Soakers filled with piss and alcopops.

Watching a load of teens vomiting on each other, then washing the technicoloured glaze from their semi-naked bodies during orgiastic shower sessions, made me think I’d missed out as a teen. Is that what I should have been doing all those years ago?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I was playing with Hornby train sets and watching Countdown when I was 17/18 years old. But the closest I got to a sexual experience during my teens was on a camping holiday to the Lake District with three mates in 1993. (And no, it didn’t involve a homoerotic game of Top Gun volleyball.)

As four red-blooded single males we were hoping that our lads’ holiday was going to be a blur of beer and women and sex, maybe with occasional breaks for Kendal Mint Cake to replenish our dwindling energy supplies. However, when we arrived at the campsite (I can’t remember what it was called; I assume it was something like The Hills Have Eyes) it seemed ridiculously quiet for the height of summer. There was just us, a family of four from the North East, and a young couple in a tent.

As you can imagine, the collective disappointment was palpable.

Nothing much happened for the first few days of our holiday, except for the owners of the campsite accusing us of letting off fire extinguishers around the place (even though we were completely innocent). And to add insult to injury we couldn’t even shop the real culprit because he had the perfect disguise: he was about 8-years-old and was staying with his parents in the caravan next to ours. He would no doubt go on to become an excellent Skins teenager, just as long as he remembered to always expel a fire extinguish over a girl in her underwear.

Things finally started to look up when, on a typically quiet summers evening, two coach-loads of Czech Girl Guides rolled into camp quite unexpectedly. It was like waking up in my very own Robin Askwith Confessions film, and I naively anticipated finding myself in a variety of saucy situations over the remaining days of the holiday.

Even before the Czech coach drivers had killed their engines, our caravan was engulfed in a fog of deoderant spray. It looked like a special forces assault team had tossed a couple of Lynx Java grenades through the window to smoke us out, but we really didn’t need any encouragement.

We first attempted to harness the Guides’ attention with our skill and athleticism during an impromptu kick-around with a football. But perhaps unsurprisingly, that failed to generate any interest whatsoever. Our second wave of attack saw us walking around the campsite smoking cigars under the misguided assumption that the Guides’ bedrooms back in the Czech Republic were adorned with lipstick-kissed posters of George Burns.

We eventually called time on our futile efforts at wooing the opposite sex and returned to our caravan, where we drank beer, played cards and took it in turns to read the Mayfair and Club International magazines we’d jointly bought at the start of the holiday. We were down, but by no means out.

However, by early next morning, when my mate returned from an unscheduled run (which he’d planned as a third attempt to get noticed by the Czech Girl Guides), he reported that they’d vanished without a trace.

I always felt that the sudden appearance of those Girl Guides was like our version of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man; the physical embodiment of our collective, sex-obsessed thoughts. It took us a whole day to get over the news of their departure.

Why have I told you this story? Because I have absolutely nothing to write about at the moment, that’s why. Still, that’s 800 words in the bag. 800 useless words.

Incidentally, season five of Skins (the third generation cast) started on E4 a couple of weeks ago. In the trailer for the new series all the characters are naked and falling to earth at high speed, as if they’ve just been ejected from an Easy Jet flight at 30,000ft for trying to replicate season one’s house party on board.

Good thing, too. Because if I didn’t get any as a teenager, neither should anyone else.


Filed under Memories, Personal, Television

A list of some things I’ve never done

I’ve got writer’s block again. But in the spirit of churning out at least two blog posts per month, I thought I’d write something even more pointless than normal. So here’s a little list of some things I’ve never done.

I’ve never really been into drugs. Like most people, I very occasionally smoked some weed in my twenties – which usually involved my pretending to be relaxed – but it didn’t get any wilder or more experimental than that. To be honest, it was usually other people’s experiences that put me off trying anything ‘harder’. A friend of mine once mixed drugs at an all-night music event in a forest, which led to the paranoid delusion that his own brother was intent on bumming him.

Finding himself trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare crossed with Deliverance probably wasn’t the enhancement to the evening he was hoping for. Still, I suppose it addressed the age old dilemma: “I’m pretty sure I’ll have a great time tonight without drugs. But how else am I going to experience the unique terror of being sexually violated by a sibling?”.

Given that I suffer from heightened levels of drugless paranoia on a daily basis, I’m not sure I really need any help in that area.

Besides, I always thought that if I decided to experiment with some kind of acronym-named drug (e.g. COK – cocaine cut with a chicken Oxo cube and some ketamine), my experience would likely involve only a fleeting feeling of euphoria before I started to cram the contents of a fruit bowl into my underpants, while hallucinating that everything below my waist was a massive juicing machine. Then, thirsty from all the fruit cramming action, I’d innocently knock back a glass of milk, which would kill me instantly – in the messiest way imaginable. The autopsy would reveal that COK, when mixed with dairy products, causes the user to ejaculate from the eyes – like a sort of spunky stigmata – at the precise moment their heart rips through their shirt like an Alien chestburster.

For this reason, and the thought of thousands of commuters sniggering into their skinny lattes, as they read the Metro’s front page headline: ‘COK death man found with fruit in underpants’ – I shan’t be dabbling in any dodgy chemical fun. I think I’m past all that shit anyway.

I’ve always been slightly irritated by people who’ve been travelling. It’s nothing personal. It’s just a grudge born of basic envy. And the Internet hasn’t helped. It used to be that people would just piss off for a few months and occasionally scrawl a couple of lines on a postcard, detailing how they’d been mugged in at least two European cities and accidentally paid for a three night stay in a brothel because their translation device had been swiped at knife point. But now globetrotting friends can bring their inner and outer journeys into our living rooms via their specially created websites, Facebook groups and blogs, so that we can all enjoy their amazing adventures.

It means that while I’m commuting to work in the pissing rain, I can read about my friends’ meal at a Hanoi restaurant, where they had to poke a snake’s eyes out with a biro and beat it to death with their shoe, before it was pan fried and washed down with a blood cocktail (with complimentary tiger penis swizzle stick). Following their meal, they then accept a personal invitation from the mayor to perform karaoke for his ailing wife at his official residence. Crazy times.

It’s these kind of experiences that make my office-based anecdotes seem tame in comparison.

Sadly, while there’s still time for me to travel to beautiful places, I think I’ve missed the boat (sorry about that) in terms of embarking on a pan-European or global odyssey. For me, that’s a big tick in the ‘regret’ box.

I had a conversation about this many years ago with an ex-girlfriend. She went with the classic: “It’s the fear of getting caught that makes it so good.” My argument against was: “It’s the fear of getting caught that actually puts me off.”

Let’s face it, we’re the most surveilled nation on earth. Outdoor sex would inevitably lead to some kind of thermal imaging CCTV footage ending up on YouTube, with the derisive title: ‘Clumsy 20 sec shag – hilarious – ROFL!’. The only saving grace would be that, as my image would resemble a highly irradiated, trouserless Ready Brek kid, I’d be unidentifiable.

It goes without saying that sex is great. But as an impulsive act undertaken outdoors, it’s as unnerving and exposing as stopping for a much-needed poo at the only service station in the country trialling glass toilet cubicles.

And what about the practicalities? I mean, do people really have sex in the sea, for instance? Or does that just happen in porn? I’d be so terrified of thrusting my way into a field of jellyfish, or the middle of a regatta, that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the experience. Does that make me dull and unadventurous? Probably.

I once boarded a flight in LA (yeah, that’s right – Los Angeles) and was unnerved by the sound of a pneumatic power tool directly beneath my feet. If I was a ‘glass half full’ kind of bloke I would’ve thought that, maybe, when the airline caught wind of my boarding, they decided to hurriedly send out a team of their finest engineers to reinforce the structure of the aircraft specifically around my seating area. However, as I’m a ‘glass three-quarters empty’ kind of bloke I began to panic that it was Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day in the U.S., and that a rogue 8-year-old boy had slipped his engineer father’s supervision and started to remove  a series of bolts vital to the structural integrity of the aircraft. You know, for a prank.

You might have gleaned from this little preamble that I’m not a fan of flying. But that was just ground-based anxiety. At 30,000ft, fear grips me as tightly as a mother grips a grubby child when wiping their face with a spittle-soaked handkerchief. Still, flying on a plane as a passenger – to get from A to B – is something I occasionally have to do to sort of get places.  But flying on a plane simply to jump out of it seems like total madness. I wouldn’t have the guts to jump from the cabin door of a flight simulator.

I’ve always been fascinated by the fearful ‘celebrities’ who leap from planes on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!, as they always tend to land and express a desire to do it all over again. That’s like someone holding a gun to their temple in a game of Russian Roulette, nervously pulling the trigger (only to mercifully hear the click of an empty chamber), then feeling so exhilarated that their brains remained safely tucked away in their skull that they excitedly ask if they can have another go.

Whether skydiving for charity or to tease out the latent adrenalin junky in me, I don’t think I could bring myself to do anything that ran the risk of my being scooped up and buried in a trifle bowl.

Between the ages of 16 and 19, I really wanted to start a band. The urge began during my crimped hair Cure phase, when I was utterly captivated by the rawness of Three Imaginary Boys, and endlessly watched The Cure in Orange on video (their two nights at the Théâtre antique d’Orange in 1986). I dreamt, not of  being discovered by an industry A&R man after years of gigging in spit-and-sawdust pubs, but of performing in ancient Roman theatres, with blood red and lavender continental skies melting around me (and the band).

The only problem with my dream was this: I wouldn’t have had the guts to jump up in front of an audience of strangers if I was on fire. I’d just sit quietly on the fringes gently crackling away, hoping no one would notice me, until I resembled the charred crumbs of bread that collect at the bottom of a toaster.

I remember feeling slightly encouraged when I first saw Oliver Stone’s The Doors, which depicted Jim Morrison facing away from the audience during an early performance, while he built up his confidence. Although, I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to even do that. I’d probably end up sending the band to the venue and have my performance live-linked from a secure location, like a minor giving video evidence in a sex abuse trial.

Needless to say, the band didn’t happen. I just played guitar in my bedroom a lot and wrote pretentious lyrics. I was the most nervous front man the world never got to see. Because if I had followed through with my dream, the likelihood of my walking out onto stage and literally following through was always a strong possibility.

And with that, I shall leave you.


Filed under Memories, Personal