Recent events in Paris have led to a subdued mood in the Old Doom Bar. Even our host’s normally ebullient promotion of his Festive offer has been muted. We watched the France v England friendly in almost neutral spirit and although pleased enough by the England win took little satisfaction from its promise. Rather, we shared the inevitable tropes of sympathy, bewilderment about terrorism and hopes that all sectors of our multi-cultural society would rally behind the cause of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. This slogan seeming much more meaningful than the anodyne ‘British values’ trotted out by our leaders.
There is arguably no greater parliamentary spectacle than watching lords debate pornography. It's a rare treat. I've never seen the matter come up in the chamber before. But we must hope it comes again soon, because this afternoon's debate, launched by famed pornography expert the Bishop of Chester, was far more enjoyable than anything in the cinema. The Bishop began by admitting that his "first-hand knowledge of pornography is very limited", but – as you may guess – this did not stop him from holding very firm convictions on the 'ugly squalid degraded sex' he had been told it contained.
Surveillance and censorship were much on the agenda at The Old Doom Bar this week. This was partly inspired by the presence of a London-based Barrister in our midst. As with so many of his trade he was a fund of anecdote. Much of it either reassuring to those seeking to avoid justice or depressing to those who sought it. It is the same with medicine. Both sorts of practitioners of these professions, once drink has been taken, are apt to cast off their normal considered demeanour and treat their audience to the comic version of their work.
I’ve never had it with a doctor, but it’s a common fetish to take relations outside the office. I imagine it would be really sexy if they whispered all the side effects while we stared into each other’s eyes and fell into a simultaneous rhythm of lifting and lowering. Throw some ice cubes into the mix or crank the heat up: there’s a new way to get your temperature taken.
Pick any social problem, real or imagined. Whatever it is, the solution proposed by well-meaning busybodies is always to get it on the school curriculum. Obesity crisis? Get schools to teach healthy eating. Financial crisis? Teach kids how to budget. Doctors over-prescribing drugs? Teach kids about the correct use of antibiotics. Rape culture? Compulsory 'sex and relationships' education. Earlier this year, wannabe Prime Minister Nicky Morgan argued that sex education in schools does not go far enough and proposed new measures to make such lessons compulsory and cover a wider range of issues – such as consent. Morgan might have been surprised to discover just how much Jeremy Corbyn agrees with her on this point. He also wants children to be given lessons in ‘age-appropriate’ sex and relationships education in order ‘to help end sexism and tackle violence against women and girls’.
Stephen Fingleton passes on the offer of coffee, thanks. He’s got an hour – before he’s goes off to a meeting round the corner in Soho – to impart his wisdom about sex, evolutionary psychology and film. More history professor than film director in appearance, he looks at me as though I’ve handed in a mildly disappointing essay. I get the feeling I’m about to be schooled. His towering frame sports a tweed jacket and an unexpected cravat. A bushy beard camouflages his youth of 32 years. The combination creates an academic’s air of chaotic brilliance. He removes his glasses to expose the full power of his hypnotic stare… repeat after me: ‘You will go and see The Survivalist’.
Zoë Apostolides: Tell us how it all started. What are you trying to achieve? Were early audiences receptive? Ursula Martinez: In a way, my new show, Free Admission, is a simple response to a lot of the feedback that I got from my last show My Stories, Your Emails. A lot of people commented on how much they had enjoyed my autobiographical stories and felt they could have heard more. And so that is what I decided to do. Although my stories and observations are quite personal, I tackle a range of meaty subjects that resonate with a wider audience, including religion, the Internet, gender inequality, war, racism… as well as the cleanliness (or lack thereof) of my bum-hole! I premiered the show this summer at The SouthBank in London and got an overwhelmingly positive response from audiences.
Last week, a few of us Old Doom Bar regulars and our partners hired a minibus and went to the Picture House Exeter to see the nationally streamed Greenpeace documentary How to Change the World. Only one or two of us were paid-up supporters but all of us were old enough to remember the astonishing impact of the movement’s early campaigns. We were of course much of an age with the main protagonists – young in the sixties, so there was a nostalgic element in our enjoyment of the film. The Greenpeace story is pretty heroic as the historic and long lost film clips linked by editorial narrative and present day interviews showed. Blood, guts and giant rusty whaling ships surrounded and threatened our hairy, hippy heroes – very close up and very personal. The results then and later were considerable, beginning with an IWC moratorium on commercial whaling. But the tale is also one of politics, power struggles and schism. These themes are it seems intrinsic to revolutionary movements of any sort.
There is a clear difference between the chemical aids to sexual enjoyment offered to men and women. Viagra is a physical aid. It acts on the body to reinforce the flaccid and the failing instrument of engagement. It is the equivalent of putting a sword in a fencer’s hand, equipping him for action on the understanding that he is already game for it. Addyi, the drug just approved by the FDA for enabling women to be more sexually active, is psychotropic. It is about putting her into the mood. In that sense it is more like readying a fencer for the challenge by whispering in her ear. Which maps onto the standard stereotypes about male and female sexuality, the presumption that the man is up for it all the time, if only he can get it up, and the woman’s problem is mood or failing desire.
…it is also the time of year when, given good weather, everyone feels sexy: it is the climate in which we think of hotel rooms and whirring fans in the afternoon; the consequences of a jolly al fresco lunch; a siesta when a swimsuit-clad body – which hinted at sensual delights around the pool and is now perceptually refreshed by a few glasses of wine – becomes naked on the cool sheets.