They say that sex is an instinctual, experimental thing. They say that kids today know all too much about it. They say, safe in numbers and insecure in their knowledge, a lot of shit. And now They – those clueless and authoritative spokesmen of common knowledge - are being taken on once again. Forty-two years after The Joy of Sex first shook up shagging, Alex Comfort’s revolutionary sex-manual finally has a worthy successor. It’s called Sex & Lovers: A Practical Guide and it is 256 pages of brilliance. Co-written by Danish sexologist Ann-Marlene Henning and Tina Bremer-Olszewski, a German journalist, it is intended, as the blurb proudly tells us ‘ for young people who are just starting out sexually’.
Francesca Woodman’s photographs are filled with disappearing women. Their faces are blurred or concealed, they crouch in corners, hide behind loose strips of wallpaper or crumbling masonry. In one, a woman’s outstretched arms are the only part of her in frame and they are camouflaged by rolls of tree bark. These figures merge with their surroundings until they are barely distinguishable from the backdrop. This exhibition sets out to show us how Woodman used the zigzag to vitalise her work. In doing so, it also makes clear how her nude portraits play a crucial part in this aesthetic. Though these figures seem to blend with their backgrounds, they initiate patterns that resonate throughout Woodman’s work.
Most of us behave differently online than we would ever admit to in real life. What we do on our computers is, within reason, between us and the screen. With the rise and rise of internet dating this unfiltered, unexpurgated version of ourselves has a freer reign to shape the most intimate parts of our lives. Christian Rudder, co-founder of OKCupid, has used raw data created by the site’s 30 million user profiles, alongside terabytes of information from other sites including Facebook and Reddit, to reveal the things we find attractive when we don’t realise we’re being watched. Rudder has used the OKTrends blog, and now his recently published book, Dataclysm, to show us these hidden dynamics of sexual attraction. ‘This isn’t survey data’, he says. This is human behaviour observed in the wild.
I stare at the black card in the centre of the table. It reads, 'What would grandma find disturbing, yet oddly charming?' I go through the white cards in my hands and chuckle uncomfortably at the awkward combinations I can make. A few are genuinely funny and hardly offensive: 'Ryan Gosling riding in on a white horse', 'Erectile dysfunction', or 'Passive-Aggressive post-it notes'. Others are too uncannily near the mark to be funny: 'Hospice care', or 'Dying'. And some are quite honestly awful: 'Battlefield amputations', or 'Dead parents'.
We all love a fairytale ending. Especially after that rollercoaster romance à la Mills & Boon, which overcame more obstacles than a Hastings crazy golf course. Cue the wedding bells, blushing brides, pregnancy, toddlers, mortgages, education, outlawed in-laws, family seaside holidays, bringing home the bacon, pipe and slippers, grandchildren, Werthers Originals, retirement, death, merry widowhood and cats. NO! Wrong! We hate fairytale endings because, really, they suck. So says (rather more elaborately) Helen Croydon in her latest book, Screw the Fairytale: A Modern Girl's Guide to Sex and Love. Her view is that fairytales always end when the Prince kisses the Princess, because the rest of the story is so crotch-witheringly dull.
Rochester, aristocrat, courtier, debauchee, atheist, drunk, naval hero, bisexual, father and, for its own purposes, poet, is one of Eng. Lit.’s perennial conundrums. Like Pope’s Sporus, he seems at time ‘a painted child of dirt that stinks and stings,’ at others, to steal the jealous Hilaire Belloc’s sneer at P.G. Wodehouse, ‘English literature’s performing flea’. A fallen angel, perhaps, capering on a shit-smeared pin. He lived fast, died young (like Christ, at 33) and, the bulk of his life having been subject to the on-going attrition of incurable syphilis, his corpse was far from good-looking. If one uses a phrase that conjures up a rock or movie star maudit, then it is apt: in many ways his life seems very modern: in two words, the rebel. The question remains: to what extent was there also a cause.
It is generally acknowledged that romantic women’s fiction subscribes, in the main, to the following truisms: there must be an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending’ and where possible the ‘hero’ should appear to be unobtainable à la Rochester with his mad wife; Edward, a vampire and, of course, Christian with his fucked-up kinkiness
“We're white, we’re westerners, we're girls and we’re rich, of course we're fucking miserable. The standards are just too fucking high for us to be anything else.” Milly Thomas' new play, A First World Problem, is a must-see. Under bright lights and perched on hard-backed, straight-A classroom chairs three young women are poised like eager greyhounds waiting for the rabbit to be released. Each one holds the key to a future in her lap, cased in an innocuous brown envelope. Have they been accepted to Oxbridge, or rejected? And if they've got the go-ahead, are they attractive enough, slim enough, sporty or edgy or rich enough, to succeed there? These are 'first world problems', and lead actress-cum-writer Milly Thomas' eponymous new play is chock-a-block with 'em.
At the start of his book, Mr. Smith poses the questions: “What is the nature of man’s – or rather men’s –intimate and erotic relations with inanimate human forms?”…”When, where and why have human beings – usually but by no means only, men – fallen in love with statues and other inanimate things?”…”What provokes or stirs them to consummate that love erotically and what form does such consummating take?” These are provocative and intriguing questions…
Gazzman’s Down On Abby, by missing a crucial ‘t’ and ‘e’, cheekily creates a porno-parody of a particularly notorious period soap, one of the several jewels in Julian Fellowes’ artistic (and now, of course, baronial) coronet. Except that in Gazzman’s movie, not much happens in the way of snobbery, avarice, pride, intolerance or any other of the many aristocratic vices that Baron Fellowes so lovingly, yet obsessively, dwells upon. Aristos and staff are all far too busy screwing one another. In the nicest way possible.