DOWN AT THE OLD DOOM BAR: POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE 26
Well, the hay and silage are in. Sloes have been plentiful for gin-making, blackberries for jam and pies not so good. Posh second home folk and woolly hatted teachers have been and gone for half-term. We are settling in for the clocks to go back and keeping fingers crossed for winter.
In the Old Doom Bar we had a school dinner themed evening courtesy of our chef host. Luckily this was better than the food we recalled from our youth. There were not entirely sanguine exchanges of news about our relatives’ plans for our Christmases. Home or away, upheavals were inevitable. Opinion was divided on the merits of escape to warmer climes.
Sex is not often discussed in any direct way in our group. It arose though because one occasional member with literary pretensions happened to have been to the Cheltenham Festival. She (and it could only have been a ‘she’) drew to our attention to a suggestion by Jenni Murray of BBC’s Woman’s Hour during an address there, that schools should have porn lessons. That is, opportunities to review and critically analyse pornography and its underlying messages.
There was a sort of collective ‘hmmm’ as we tried to work out a means of intelligent response without betraying any personal prejudices or weaknesses – or indeed, knowledge of such among companions. Since most of us had children – many having fairly recently gone or still going through a process of sexual maturation – we fixed on youth and sexual manners as a route to acknowledge the topic.
That ‘things had changed since we were young’ was a preliminary point of agreement; as was a general consensus that we had always ‘tried to bring our children up in a broad-minded but responsible way’. In truth, none of us had the slightest idea about our children’s sex lives as we freely admitted. One or two of us (blokes) with late teenage children who had regular partners agreed sotto voce between ourselves that they were probably ‘at it like ferrets’- much as we wish we had been at their age. But we were agreed on the need for youth to be cautious about promiscuity and had particular concerns for our daughters’ welfare.
In the public discourse everyone felt that although their own children had (where relevant) made happy partnerships the issue was equally tough (albeit in different ways) for girls and boys. This could be articulated best as an issue of expectation at one level and technique at another. Given our situation as a rural community, the basic biological components were not a problem. But clearly, porn raised and, we supposed, tended to distort expectations in terms of what people might agreeably do together.
We stopped short of candour about our own – especially contemporary – exposure to porn. A couple of incomers were prepared to talk about experiences ‘backalong’ in foreign parts where films had been seen. Even so, their references were inexplicit and mostly couched as ‘eye-watering’. That said, we felt sexual misbehaviour was more an urban than rural problem. In the country everyone knew who you were where you lived. But it did seem that boys’ behaviour in relation to girls had deteriorated since our young days and that porn was somehow much to blame.
We concluded that Jenni Murray had probably made a good point. Judicious use of pornography could be a useful way to help young people understand better the mutual needs and pleasures of sexual relationships. Not everyone agreed, and difficulties were raised about what material could be used. Our churchgoers questioned the morality of the proposal. The discussion became a little heated and forks were brandished emphatically across the steak and kidney pie. Fortunately someone wondered if Fifty Shades of Grey would be a GCSE book and the mood lightened.
Annoyingly our Cheltenham missionary wouldn’t let the topic go. She told us about a survey she had read of which claimed that only ten percent of women in Britain reported having ever had a really terrific orgasm. There was a long silence. Someone asked ‘what survey was this?’ The troublemaker didn’t know, except she had seen it on the BBC website. At that point our chef announced dessert as ‘treacle tart and whipped cream’. ‘That used to do it for me’ said one of the women.
Once again, laughter saved the day.