© Chris Port, 2010
I am celibate by accident & struggle to call it a virtue... [PB]
Some choose celibacy the way others choose fasting or flagellation: a denial or punishment of the flesh. Why? Spiritual enlightenment perhaps. The body’s natural response to starvation or pain is to produce its own analgesic: endorphins. Get enough of these flowing, and you’ll see stars before you faint. Good luck to ‘em. I prefer appetite to abstinence and décolletage to hairshirts (on women, that is). In truth, food without thought is rather tasteless. Perhaps that’s why we came up with TV dinners? To dip our mental taste buds in spicy documentaries.
But to return to the sexual urge sans sublimation. It depends on what you want from sex, and how much you’re prepared to offer in return. If it’s just a rabbit shag or a fluid giggle that you’re after, you may be lucky enough to have a like-humoured partner with synchronized mood rhythms. If you’re less fortunate, however, then you’re going to have to speculate to ejaculate. This takes time, effort, and money. Do you really want to invest a good night’s beerage on a vacuous wallet-filcher? In any event, the conversational foreplay is so agonizingly quacksilver and dull that I tend to lose all scent. I become a disconsolate bloodhound nosing his pint, longing to be tucked up with his blanket and a cosy horror film.
Brevity is the body and soul of wit. Unfortunately, most bar encounters lack all four qualities. Have these people never seen Brief Encounter? There is always the Hobbesian brutality of a gaunt lady of the night. Sometimes they’re not even ladies... Here, however, I have a few moral scruples (not to mention aesthetic ones). I used to feel like a dirty old man watching stag-do strippers (even when I was a teenager). I’d probably end up wanting to save her and get arrested for holding up the pavement traffic. Plus which, I’ve probably been her teacher at some point. I know some people would pay bad money to see that kind of thing, but in loco parentis incest leaves a bad taste in my mouth... Well, in some people’s mouths, anyway...
So, all that’s left is romance. Unfortunately, many British women suffer from sexist dyslexia and misread the word ‘romance’ as ‘finance’. So, we’re back to time, effort and money again. But that (as the cliffteasers and prickteasers say) is another story... Perhaps even another career...
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What Makes Women Happy?
(Rod Liddle, The Sunday Times Magazine,
pp21-22, September 10 2006).
pp21-22, September 10 2006).
What’s in it for us if we make women happy? Nothing, aside from an altruistic sense of wellbeing, the sort of thing you feel when buying The Big Issue.
The notion that we men should be charged with the task of making women happy has always rather rankled with me. Why should we? What’s it got to do with us? Can’t they take responsibility for making themselves happy? We have enough to do, skivvying every hour God sends in order to pay off the alimony. Then there’s the bins to be taken out. There are not enough days to worry about the happiness of women. And in another sense, too, time has moved on. Women are very different creatures from those scented, fabulous beasts of a century ago who, deprived of the vote, education and the right to paid work, could justifiably expect to be flattered, pampered and waited upon in return for male economic and cultural hegemony. Back then, we men tried to make women happy to gain access to their closely guarded, mysterious sexual organs. But those sexual organs are far less closely guarded now, and getting access isn’t too much of a problem. These days, you only have to ask (and maybe buy her an Archers and lemonade. And some nuts). They have become, in a sexual sense, more accommodating. So what’s in it for us if we do make women happy? Nothing at all, aside from an entirely selfless and altruistic sense of wellbeing, the sort of thing you feel when you buy a copy of The Big Issue.
So when women look at us with that expression of regret and grievance, and ask what we’re doing to make them happy, we should point them in the direction of the Qualification of Women Act (1918) and the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act (1986, amended 1999) and go back to watching the football, with the sound turned up full, a can of Stella and a reheated balti pie.
But it has remained part of the contract that women can prevail upon men to provide them with happiness and succour, even though the stuff we got in return – sex, power, a few moments of peace and quiet – has been withdrawn, or is given out at the drop of a hat. I asked some women what men could do to make them happy. One said: “I want emotional and spiritual support and understanding in whatever I might do.” Oh, please. Anything else, honey? “Yes, a gesture of wild spontaneity.” Ah. So if, on an impulse, I bought you a halibut at the fishmonger’s, you’d be happy? “If you brought it home and cooked it for me in an interesting way,” she said. Anything else? “Yes. Money.”
These days, nothing is really enough. Whatever we do will fall short. What women really want is the knowledge that we men feel perpetually uncomfortable and guilty, and that our underachievement is a constant source of disappointment to them. They want us to cower and skulk under a cloud of female opprobrium. So much ground has been ceded by men that we have reached the point where the only thing that will ensure even a temporary truce is our complete misery and mental subjugation.
All of the women I polled for this article demanded from us intangibles: spontaneity and understanding, that sort of thing. So that we would never really know if we were coming up to scratch or not. All of the tangible stuff we used to give them, they can now get for themselves. So, by all means, leave the toilet seat down, praise her superb taste, whisk her off for a weekend break and cook her a nice piece of fish. But do not suppose for a moment that it will keep her happy. It may postpone the demise of your affair by a few days. But it won’t put it off for long.