Our conscientious columnist on counselling and clothes.
The truth about human sexuality is quite different from the legendary sexual contests of James Bond and the pulp fiction heroines of Lace (ug! dreadful books), who feel the earth (and the heavens) move every time IT happens to them. The unhappiness caused by sexual problems between couples – usually carefully hidden because it is not easy to admit one is a failure at what is billed as the greatest of the human pleasures – mars marriages and relationships. Editing and typing first Sarah’s Story and now Arthur’s Story (in this issue) I have found myself first depressed and then angry at human frailty and the failures of human understanding. Yet every bookshop seems full of books offering advice and help on what is supposed to come naturally. Every woman’s magazine serves up sex like the food recipes or the knitting patterns, and instead of sexual liberation we have anarchy.
Arthur’s unhappy story relates to the attitude to sex in the 1940 and 1950s. Since then we have had the permissive society, which has little difference except that the subject, so long carefully hidden, is not well publicised to the commercial advantage of the publishers.
In Woman magazine (October 5) is a feature “31 ways to seduce your husband” .. “if the spark of love has lost its … ahem … spark, why not have fun trying to make next month hotter than this”.
What a lot of nonsense – dangerous nonsense in a magazine that goes into hundreds of thousands of homes.
Back in 1928, Marie Stopes broadmindedly advised the wife of a fur fetishist to “think of him as someone injured in the battle of Life” and to wear a nightie with a fur collar. In 1985 Woman is advising the readers to wear “lacy knickers, stockings and suspenders (find out his favourite colour)” and “find out his favourite fantasy and act it out”.
So nothing very much has changed, and I cannot, at the present time, see signs that anything will be better in the future. Atomage receive letters every week expressing frustration, misunderstanding and intolerance on a tragic scale. Arthur’s story is not unique: the two letters published here are typical of many, and, although I try my best in my reply to offer help and guidance, I feel sure that I am not really helping.
Skilled, sympathetic and often effective aid for couples is available under the auspices of the National Health Service, the Family Planning Association and the Marriage Guidance Council, although the waiting list, I am told, is very long.
Sex therapy is not just to help sexual deviants. It is aimed at ordinary people with ordinary problems. One of the most interesting results in the first ten years of sex therapy and the NHS is that it has helped so many who thought they were deviants (or had been persuaded in this view by their partner) to discover that they were perfectly normal. Indeed, in a very large number of cases, the ‘deviation’ was shown to be no more than a natural method of obtaining sexual gratification and release. It was the partner who needed treatment – in understanding. Dressing for pleasure has been shown to be a very harmless deviation, except where it is linked with other problems and it has become a matter for the sex therapist to sort out cause and effect.
The methods of treatment vary, but the end result is to help individuals and couples to come to terms with, and take the responsibility for, their own sexual needs.
I have spoken to several couples who have had ‘treatment’, and while it seems that one couple’s success is another’s failure, only in one instance was I told that it was ‘a waste of time’. All the others found that to be made to talk about the subect was very helpful. One couple have found a “new love affair” after nine years of marriage, and we will be publishing pictures of their dressing for pleasure in a future issue.
Most clinics will see single people and frequently have to when the partner refuses to attend. The important thing is to approach sex therapy with an open mind. Don’t go along thinking of yourself as in need of urgent ‘treatment’, but rather in need of urgent information and education.
Having got that off my leather/rubber covered chest, can I add a little note for the wives of the two letter writers (and any others with the same attitude). It is a quote from a very remarkable woman, Anita Loos, who wrote a book “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”. She died in 1981, aged 90, after a very full and uninhibited life. She was nothing special to look at (so small that Aldous Huxley said of her that he would like to keep her as a pet), but she had the ability to get people to look at themselves honestly and she would have been a wonderful counsellor.
Anyway, here is the quote: “Sex will no longer get you very far. If you do it, it loses its bargaining power, and if you don’t you are considered square. At a time when a man can indulge himself anywhere he chooses, a woman must think what it is he can’t get in life and provide that”.
No doubt these views will not be popular with the many women libbers among my sex, but could I point out that 43 per cent of the English population in 1985 are males, and far more women than men are prescribed tranquilisers. One doctor was quoted on TV the other night, saying that the two major causes of neurosis among women were loneliness and boredom caused by their failure to understand themselves and their failure to live up to the sexual stereotypes invented by a male dominated society.
I was at the Rubber and Plastic Trade Exhibition in Birmingham in September. You see, I do get around sometimes and I am let off the chain on condition I don’t bite anybody. I wasn’t really there on your behalf (it’s a long story and I don’t want you dropping off to sleep so let’s skip that part), but I couldn’t resist asking about what’s new in rubber and plastics for the dedicated fetishist and sexual eccentric.
First thing I found out is that rubber is no longer being used for clothing. What you are seeing are clever mixes of a bit of this and a bit of that combined with latex to produce something with all the best qualities of rubber without the disadvantages and the smell.
What disadvantages, I hear you cry? Like the fact that pure rubber perishes in sunlight and pure rubber cracks after a time when it is bonded to most materials. That is just two.
Some of the new ‘rubbers’ are very clever, but then so are some of the plastics. I was shown a plastic that was more like a latex than a real latex. Let me rephrase that: this black plastic, shiny and stretchy was more like the old latex you could buy ten years ago, and has now disappeared. It was easy to glue or stitch and was so tough I could not tear it. Snag: it is fearfully expensive.
What caught my eye was a new oilskin material: black smooth and matt. It is French and comes from the same firm who make the raincoats for the Gendarmerie, so slippery that naughty people like rioters are unable to get a grip before being bonked. Anyway, it is being made into ladies’ raincoats, and if you want to see one, go to Fior, 27 Brompton Road, SW3, or to 28 New Bond Street, and ask for the Ramses raincoat.
I was lunching with a friend of mine not long after this excursion and I was telling her about this new material and she told me to look out for rainscarves and hats from Totes, a well-known American company whose motto is Rain Rolls Right Off. She gave me their address as Stanton Square, Stanton Way, London SE26 5AB.
|Trying on a rubber raincoat and hat.|
She also mentioned The Hat Shop, 58 Neal Street, Covent Garden, London WC2, where they have a wonderful collection of PVC head covers. The hats will go well with a waterproof (guaranteed) coat from Rukka, a Finnish firm who specialise in PVC with welded seams. They are at 46 High Street, Hampton Hill, TW12 1NY.
She also mentioned that The British Shoe Corporation are, so it is rumoured, bringing out a range of waterproof boots for women but as it isn’t leather or rubber but the other stuff I saw at Birmingham, I’d better not mention that.
The next day I was chomping a nutritious sandwich with another friend (yes, I’ve got more than one, so I can’t be all bad), and she told me she had found someone who is making up leather clothes to personal designs. What, someone other than Atomage? Can’t be any good. Anyway, I’ll give you the name and address, but don’t say you got it from me – Leather Concessionaires Ltd of 333-335 Ordnance Road, Enfield, Middlesex (Lea Valley 762946). I’ve no idea what the quality of their work is like or their prices, and they are, I am told, prepared to make up simple garments, but I thought you’d like to know.
There is plenty of shiny plastic rainwear around this season, but very little is waterproof, and the quality is poor. The best I’ve seen (which isn’t saying much) is at Dickens and Jones and in Selfridges. A wool lined PVC mac I saw in Selfridges cost £112, and when I think of the one I bought there back in 1959 costing £7 …! Yes, so it is true, I am that old!
Finally, if you are keen to know all about the etiquette of wearing rubber boots, let me direct you to “The Green Wellie Guide”, by Graham Nown (Ward Lock £4.95). One quote: “When it comes to buying green wellies, there is only one acceptable type: Hunters … Hunters are superior because they resonate better. When slapped with a riding crop or walking stick they emit a commanding thwack, compared with the dull thud of lesser breeds. In addition, the half-straps – seldom understood and never used – signal instantly that you do not have a day job at McAlpines”.