WITH SEX IN MIND
The Bluffer’s Guide to Sex is the kind of book that pseuds like me ought not to be given to review. It’s fun and readable and light and playful, and minds such as mine aren’t trained to talk about anything as vague and ill-defined as ‘fun’. When a mind like mine comes up against something like the Bluffer’s Guide, it finds itself confounded, blindly trying to capture a slinky little creature, which somehow keeps managing to evade its finely honed analytical teeth. But with humiliation and defeat inevitable, it will give up the fight early and, flouncing out of the arena, will conceal its frustration by coolly dismissing the book as light and inconsequential, never admitting the extreme trouble this lightness and inconsequentiality has caused. But I’m not at this stage yet. In fact, I’m pleased to say that I may have some dirt on this sonuvabitch.
It’s to do with the actual intent of the book which, as the dust jacket says, is to provide a reader with ‘all the knowledge he[i] needs to pass as an expert in the world of sex, seduction and the sensual arts’. It’s a pocket-sized volume with a collection of sex-related facts, quips and anecdotes that a reader can memorize, become conversant with and deploy in conversation in order to come across as smart/sexy/suave/smooth. Now the facts themselves are all great: interesting, funny and well researched, so what I’m going to say might come across as a little petty, but isn’t the Bluffer’s Guide to Sex’s intention just slightly obnoxious?
Picture the scene: a single bedroom in a shared house, possibly in Putney, maybe in Wimbledon. Our 25-year-old reader has just come home from his desk job, stopping in briefly to look up that really funny Bluffer’s quote before he sets off for the local pub to meet up with a ‘couple of the guys from work’. What was it? Oh yes, here we are: ‘Paradise can be found on the backs of horses, in books and between the breasts of women’. Cheeky, funny, but kind of sophisticated – suits him perfectly. Apparently, it’s an Arab saying. Funny, he could have sworn it was Martin Amis. Maybe he’ll just say it’s Martin Amis. Yes, that’s a bit closer to home.
With quip now fully prepared, he puts on his purple and green shirt, and heads out. At about eleven o’clock, the ‘guys’ start talking about girls at work. Seizing his chance, he whips out his quote. There’s an awkward silence. Then one of his friends laughs charitably, and resumes the conversation. When he gets home that night, he looks up more quotations. He probably just chose the wrong one.
Do you see what I’m getting at? This whole businesses of memorising funny things with which to impress one’s friends is just so effortful and try-hard. And it has a flavour about it that’s so sour, competitive and petty. And though the facts themselves are interesting, the intent behind their anthologising can’t help but taint them with this slightly rancid taste. It maybe worth buying if you’re curious to know how many Roman soldiers Cleopatra supposedly fellated in one night[ii], or what ‘gonads’ mean in Latin[iii]. But even then, surely it’s better to read a book that’s more specific on the subject, treats it in a more developed and sustained manner, and doesn’t have a website where you can test yourself on what you’ve learnt?
But this, of course, is taking the book’s proposal a mite too seriously. The writers hired by the Bluffer’s Guide franchise undertook their brief with a spirit of fun and playfulness and their style confirms this. It’s just that when they start telling you the ‘right thing to say’ in order to come across as this ‘expert’ character of theirs for instance, the whole thing starts becoming a little bit lame.
So there we are. Whilst I may not have exactly sunk my teeth into it, I hope I’ve managed to give this beast a bit of a nip. Now my mind is going to retire into its lair to consider more important things. Like, for instance, how long would it take for a sperm to swim from Newquay to New York.
Actually, the answer is 2,500 years. And I didn’t even have to look that up. Trés impressionant, non? That’s French.
Yeah, but you got the accent on the ‘Très’ wrong, Max… (Ed)
The Bluffer’s Guide to Sex by Sarah Brewer and Tim Webb, Bluffer’s, paperback, 128 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1909365247, £6.99