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Body Week 2: The joy of sex - click opera
February 2010
 
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Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 09:13 am
Body Week 2: The joy of sex

In a way, I'm 'post-sex'. Although sex is a massive and central presence in my life -- and the main way I experience 'embodiment' -- it's less important to me now than it has been in the past. 'An intellectual is someone who's found something to think about more interesting than sex', they say. I don't know if I've finally become an intellectual, or if I've simply switched a sex addiction for an information addiction. I know that these days I often creep away from the nuptial bed, feeling slightly furtive, to illuminate a computer in another room and sit transfixed, like a baby with a bauble. In the end, the internet is more compelling than sex. Knowing has triumphed over fucking. Is this healthy? If I've just switched one obsession for the other, an embodied obsession for a disembodied one, perhaps I'm not going in the right direction. Perhaps I should try to make my way back to full-on sex mania. If it's not too late...



Swinging Sixties. I've had around a hundred sexual partners. I always expected to have as many partners as that, because I was brought up in the Austin Powers-like swinging sixties. Not only did James Bond and Michael Caine seem to expect -- and get -- 'pussy galore', but our family house was full of books like Mary McCarthy's 'The Group', or Frank Harris' 'My Life and Loves', books which detailed moustache-twirling seductions or the antics of 'sexual athletes'. I've certainly been influenced a lot by my mother, who's bibliophile, francophile, erotomane (and she takes after her own father, a tennis champion and a terrible flirt). In the sixties our house was always full of au pair girls from Denmark, Holland or France, glamourous student lodgers who drove open-topped sports cars, or beautiful secretaries and students attached to the language college my father ran. All the elements of a Swinging 60s Sexual Farce like 'What's New, Pussycat' were present, and sexual farce certainly went on. My earliest sexual memory is of the buzz I got from walking naked into the au pair girl's room, aged about 5, to ask (not that I cared) when Mummy and Daddy were coming home. At the same time, there was some odd prudishness in me. I remember being appalled, on a visit to London, to find that the elderly children of our friends the Coulters walked around the house naked. I suppose that for me nakedness was already irrevocably sexual, and I wanted to keep it that way.

I began masturbating at the age of 9. My first orgasm occurred in a room in Athens, my own small room, with a calendar of Italian midi-skirted models on the wall and a sign saying 'Private' on the door, filled with the sound of cicadas and the scent of orange and lemon trees. I was at my first mixed school, the British Embassy School in Psychico. Girls wore tall, shiny boots and mini-skirts. One night I had a tender, romantic dream about two of the girls in my class, Kirsti and Marion. I couldn't decide which was going to be my special crush, Norwegian Kirsti or English Marion; they arrived together in the dream, on equal terms. But in the end it was Kirsti's name I began to doodle on my exercise books. My crush began when I heard her, in the back seat of an American car, describing the midnight sun. I never got round to telling her, or even speaking to her much (that had to wait 25 years, until I met her again in Oslo). I learned 'the facts of life' from Paul, the loud, clever American Kirsti liked. He and Kirsti were sitting together in front of me in a bus that was about to take us on a school trip to Delphi. Paul told Kirsti, in a matter-of-fact yet oracular tone, that the man puts his thing inside the woman's... I wrestled with this information, stunned and somewhat humiliated. Could something so arcane and intimate really be the Big Secret, the way of the world? Well, far-fetched and scandalous though it seemed, apparently it was.



I asked my mother what 'sexy' meant after seeing graffitti on an Edinburgh bus stop pole that said 'The Pope Is Sexy!' She just laughed. I asked her 'What does it mean when your peepee goes all stiff and hard?' She told me 'It means you're excited.' Such explanations were limited. At the age of ten I read an article in the TLS (yes, I must have been terribly precocious) about a Danish sex manual for children, The Little Red Schoolbook. I asked my parents to buy it for me. They bought two, one for my brother and one for me. I'd sit there in the family house in Athens listening to the rock opera 'Hair' and reading this beautifully designed little sex manual modelled on Chairman Mao's Little Red Book (also on our shelves). It began 'All adults are paper tigers...' and its basic message was 'if it feels good and doesn't hurt anyone, do it.' Of course, when I went to boarding school both my Hair songbook ('Sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, pederasty, father, why do these words sound so nasty?') and my 'Little Red Schoolbook' were confiscated by the housemaster, never to be seen again.

My sex life didn't really pick up again until I went to university. I wasn't very interested in the public school girls my sister brought home from St George's, and they were more interested in my hunkier, more rugger-ish brother than in me. Leentje was my first lover. She was smart, beautiful, bolshy, half-Belgian, a politics student. I met her in the creative writing group. I was 21 when she bedded me under an orange duvet at Hillhead Halls of Residence, a kind of polar research station atop a wooded hill in Aberdeen. I remember being clumsy, not even knowing how to roll back my own foreskin. I was late to sex; I'd wasted years being obsessed with Paula, a wild, tragic, dark-eyed, hispanic art school girl who didn't want a physical relationship with me. I totally idolised Paula, and being rejected by her plunged me into fashionable gloom. I consoled myself with Joy Division and the novels of Franz Kafka. And eventually with Leentje. Then I remember a couple of sex-free years, when I had vaguely homosexual feelings. This was when I got into music, making my first records with The Happy Family. I'm pretty sure I went a whole year (1982 or 1983) without having an orgasm. I must have been depressed. My parents were getting divorced, I lived in a weird mezzanine in Edinburgh below my father's flat, eating mostly beans and chick peas, writing songs, hanging out with my Kafkaesque musician friends.

'I know you see London as a kind of Sexopolis,' said Leentje when I moved there. I did, but things were very slow to pick up on the sex front, even in London. I met a few lonely nurses and teachers through a dating agency. I placed an ad in the City Limits personal columns that mentioned Kierkegaard and Nick Heyward and made one friend, a teacher called Celia who took me to 'right on' pubs in Brixton. Eventually I started sleeping with Zoe (not her real name), the French ex-girlfriend of my Greek Marxist friend from university. Zoe lived in Tufnell Park and was into dancing, aromatherapy, massage, and sex. She was extremely thin and had a wicked sensuality. When she was at home in Vence, in the south of France, Zoe would lie in the garden and cover her naked body with snails, just to feel them crawling across her skin. Me, Babis and Zoe went on Mediterranean holidays together, and they'd always walk naked in the hills or on the beach while I stubbornly clung to my clothes. But thanks to Zoe I slowly learned to relax and enjoy my body. She gave me sinus-popping massages and oral sex. She'd listen with perverse pleasure to my fantasies about seducing her girlfriends. She'd take me to make love in her sexy flatmate's bed when no-one else was home, or out to Hampstead Heath. I wonder where she is now and what she's doing?



After Zoe, I went a bit crazy. It all becomes a blur. I was a kid in a candystore. I discovered that girls like bastards, and began to resemble one. I came back from Paris to London with a French attitude to pursuit and seduction. I became a bit of a popstar, a bit of a Machiavel, a bit of a Rasputin. Girls looked me up in the phonebook, girls shouted my name outside my window, a crazy girl sat in the cafe across the road from my house and left notes about how nice white trousers look when they're clean. Around this time, the time of my greatest promiscuity, AIDS was the issue of the day. You'd hear reports that AIDS affected 'homosexuals, drug users, and fast track heterosexuals' and think 'Who are these fast-track heterosexuals?' Was I one? Was this the 80s term for what in the 60s they called 'swingers'? Had the enviable goodies become pitiable baddies? At this point, as if in direct defiance of the Thatcher government's Section 29 (strikingly similar to new Bush proposals to ban the promotion of homosexuality), I decided to make records celebrating sex, and promoting homosex. In my records and in my life I worked through sexual ideas one by one, using them as a big cultural stick with which to beat the prudish, priggish British. I embraced as my gurus and masters Serge Gainsbourg, the Marquis de Sade and Georges Bataille. The personal and the political merged. I almost titled my 1989 album 'Haggard Masturbator'.

In the 90s I finally became sexually happy. I seemed to become attractive to women in the way I'd always dreamed of being. I could have three girlfriends at a time if I wanted to. I became 'Alfie', I became a sort of intellectual Benny Hill. Then I fell in love and got married. Then I got divorced. Then I became a confirmed nipposexual; I lost interest in all women except Japanese women. I left Britain and lived in New York (the real Sexopolis), Paris, Tokyo, Berlin. Little by little I extinguished my 'sexual Britishness' -- that horrible, volatile cocktail of prudishness and prurience, post-protestant revulsion leavened by 'guilty pleasures'. Like a successful analysand, I worked through all my sexual neuroses one by one, sang and masturbated them out of my system, felt their power over me wane with habituation, saw them fall by the wayside. Which brings me to this sofa, and the girl lying in the other room waiting for me to come back to bed so that we can lie there with our arms around each other, confirming and comforting each other. Perhaps we'll even have a spot of post-sex sex.

70CommentReply


(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 10:08 am (UTC)

That was a stunning tour, Nick! I've always wondered, and well, now I know. Very beautiful essay today. Thanks. - R.


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loveguide
loveguide
loveguide
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 01:25 pm (UTC)

I'm asolutely agree with you. Very interestin post. I also reminded my dialogs about sex with my parents..
Thanks!


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palux_negro
palux_negro
palux_negro
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 10:48 am (UTC)

HUmm, i love to know sex-live of people, i'm always trying to do a mind-Microsoft Excel-cheese of "what the people do in bed". Data Data Data!


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sarmoung
sarmoung
The Empire Never Ended
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 11:18 am (UTC)

Well, it was good for me, thanks.


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jermynsavile
jermynsavile
jermynsavile
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 11:29 am (UTC)

"Little by little I extinguished my 'sexual Britishness' -- that horrible, volatile cocktail of prudishness and prurience, post-protestant revulsion leavened by 'guilty pleasures'."

Are you confusing the attitude of the 'News of the Screws' and, admittedly, large sections of the British media with a more generalised national characteristic here? Outside of the hermetic media circles that dominate our cultural life I think that things are very different. I don't think that the, generally middle-class perveyors of tabloid smut have the faintest inkling of what is going on in the bedrooms of the council estates of Britain. A lot of pretty free-ranging sexual activity I think.

The current blizzard of media activity around a minister's sexual peccadilloes may be full of finger-wagging moral chastisement but, from my experience of discussing this with 'the man/woman on the Clapham omnibus', people just enjoy seeing an unpopular authoritarian squirm. His indiscretions are just a stick to beat him with.

As for the rest of the world and its attitudes I've met, in particular, lots American people who exemplify the characteristics you describe above far more than - many - Brits. After all, Benny Hill and Carry On don't define a national attitude any more than Porky's or American Pie do.

Now admittedly my background is half-Italian and in no way Protestant (post- or otherwise) so maybe I'm missing something here that, if I were more 'British' I'd understand. Either that or you've probably been away too long!

Fascinating post though. Thank you for your candour.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 12:25 pm (UTC)

There are really two Americas, and one of them deals with sex better than Britain, the other worse. The 'better' team includes people like Dennis Cooper, Terry Richardson, Larry Clark. Can you think of a British Larry Clark? He'd be hounded out of the country like Genesis P-Orridge was. Where did Gen go to escape the police harrassment? He went to Brooklyn (the very place Henry Miller had escaped because it was sexually so backward, ironically enough). In fact, you could argue that the Americans had the decency to wait twenty years before introducing their version of Section 28, the anti-homosexual legislation Thatcher pioneered in Britain. And you could point to Brits like Oliver Cromwell and the puritans on the Mayflower as the origin of all America's sexual problems. Then again, any nation which can host Wilhelm Reich's Orgonon institute can't be all bad.

By the way, it's always worth reading the Christian-oriented music reviews at Plugged In Online to see what happens when puritanism and art collide. Their review of Green Day's 'American Idiot', for instance, says the record 'reeks of hopelessness, often raging against the status quo. Targets include government leaders on “American Idiot” and “Holiday” (a depiction of our President as a bomb-happy dictator). Christianity gets maligned by “Jesus of Suburbia,” which complains of lost faith, brands religious leaders hypocrites, and scoffs at sin and salvation. It also wallows in nihilistic lostness... Without meaning to, its belligerent opposition to Christian faith helps to explain the band’s futility and emptiness. But that’s nowhere near reason enough for teens to tune in.'

Needless to say, they hate the movie about sex researcher Alfred Kinsey:

'The problems with this movie, including its pornographic content, are too vast to itemize. To say that it is rank propaganda for the sexual revolution and the homosexual agenda would be beyond stating the obvious... Kinsey’s legacy is that he played a role in unleashing epidemic levels of sexually transmitted diseases, rampant divorce, massive numbers of out-of-wedlock births, the breakdown of the family, abortion and the destruction of marriage... That anyone would want to make a film lionizing the man simply boggles my brain.'


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 12:31 pm (UTC)

Actually I forgot to include my one gay affair in that account, which was with a Chinese boy at boarding school when I was 12 or so. I'm not sure whether that qualifies as homosex or just an extension of my Asian fetish (don't matter what gender they are, long as they're yeller!)

Download my song 'The Homosexual' for the answer to the question about whether I was using queer cultural indicators to pick up girls. And yes, I was an 80s metrosexual of sorts, though with a bit of Gainsbourgian faux mechant machismo thrown in.


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enchochada
enchochada
Emma
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 12:33 pm (UTC)

I really enjoyed that, thankyou. I haven't seen those illustrations for about 25 years, though, and it was a pleasant tangent to your own story that I was suddenly transported back to my friend's parents' bedroom where we found The Joy of Sex under their bed and pored over it for hours. To this day the suggestions about wearing one's boots in bed or making love on a shower curtain stay with me vividly, although sadly I'm not sure I've ever explored either yet.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 12:50 pm (UTC)

is this it?

lsb (http://losceiccobianco.splinder.com)


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piratehead
piratehead
Good bye
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 01:26 pm (UTC)
A fFig for Momus

I almost titled my 1989 album 'Haggard Masturbator'.


Don' you mean "Haggis Masturbator"?


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klasensjo
klasensjo
klasensjo
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 01:31 pm (UTC)

What's your sexiest work to date, Momus? Arto's "Salt" is the sexiest thing I've heard all year or perhaps I'm getting old...


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 02:11 pm (UTC)

Yeah, Arto is one sexy mofo. I think my sexiest work can only be judged by others. I don't really turn myself on per se.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 02:37 pm (UTC)
Hair

Holy Shit, Momus!

I never knew you liked Hair! Can we rap about it over at my blog? (Embarassing, but I am dead serious... Dr. Lincoln, my head needs shrinkin'.)

Marxy


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 02:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Hair

I do indeed like Hair, Marxy! I like it long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen, knotted, polka dotted, twisted, beaded, braided, powered, flowered and confettied, bangled, tangled, spangled and spahettied...


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Re: Hair - (Anonymous) Expand
fufurasu
fufurasu
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 02:47 pm (UTC)

I would like to join in the chorus of enjoyment of your post. Psychico was also the setting for my sexual awakening, and Asian girls are always good. Can't wait for the film.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 02:59 pm (UTC)

Psychico was also the setting for my sexual awakening

Really? Must be something in the air there! Those sexy cicadas...

You know, it often strikes me that I love Japan so much because it reminds me, not just of Athens, but of Athens in the late 60s, early 70s. Semis instead of cicadas, but the same summer heat, the same 'permissiveness', the same miniskirts and shiny boots. Japan -- and this was particularly the case in the 90s -- has a feel of 'permanent 1960s' about it. The high tide of sexual freedom was reached in the West in about 1972, and it's been receding ever since thanks to AIDS and neo-conservative, neo-Christian political developments. But in Japan there's a permanent guarantor of sexual liberalism in the form of shinto traditions and a general sense of embodiment. I'll write more about this on Monday, which is set aside for a discussion of body technology and body facilities (things like sentos, vibro-massage chairs, water-jet toilets, and love hotels).


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sakuraamplifier
sakuraamplifier
iFop
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 03:47 pm (UTC)

I love the phrase "nipposexual". My first sexual experience was with a Japanese tutor in college, and I think that our shared love of your music played no small part in it. So a belated thanks for that...

I enjoyed this post, though it feels like you got tired of writing it about half-way through and blurred over what might have been the most interesting parts--maybe you really have gone too far into info-mania to ever find your way back?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 03:51 pm (UTC)

You mean the bit where 'it all becomes a blur'? Well, I have to keep something aside for the Casanova-style autobiography...


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hello_sailor
Christina
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 04:02 pm (UTC)

It's interesting that you say you channeled your inner bastard. Because I don't want to be outright rude but I did sense an air of misogyny about this operation. Though the operation itself is too interesting to simply dismiss as misogynist (as Joyce is), it is definitely one of the chemistries working through.

Perhaps you disagree, though. Do you feel as if you've gotten past this? I've only actually heard a few of your songs.

Though I just don't think there's anything sexier than a feminist or someone who advocates feminism. Is there anything more postmodern than feminism in its kicks and licks?

Yes, a lot of women are masochists. But I've had kicks like that where stuff is perverse. It could only get me off for so long. I've never met a Canadian who was eurosexual: that's to say masochistic in a way that routinely works on one's sense of kink. The French woman sounds complex to me. I don't know if she was masochistic. She just sounds fun.

It's funny that you say 'Hair' did something for you sexually. Or was that the red book? Prince has played a good role in my sexual development, I would say.

And I really don't know what to say about Canadians' sexual attitude. Fucking in snowpants between houses or something like that, like Bjork did. I don't know. I think I'm too young. Or it's too bland. Leonard Cohen is a good national sex figure, but he'd be so much better if he were a woman. I can't think of a great dame we have over here. Joni Mitchell. But she's not a slut, unfortunately.

x


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 04:06 pm (UTC)

Funny you should mention Joni, she just appeared on a BBC World show about 70s singer songwriters I was watching 20 minutes ago. I'd been poo-pooing all the boring conservative gits like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. But then Joni came on and I said 'Aha, a great artist!'


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dog_latin
i am a tank
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 04:21 pm (UTC)
hahah

you're a lucky guy.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 04:30 pm (UTC)
Re: hahah

Fo'sho.


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jliv
jliv
Sat, Dec. 11th, 2004 04:46 pm (UTC)

Thanks for the great blog! Stumbling on your journal has turned out to be a happy accident indeed...Anyhoo, I find it interesting that you derived much of your sex education from 'The Little Red Schoolbook'. My parents, uncomfortable with their own sexuality, casually left a 3-volume set about sexuality, published by Parents magazine, on the family room bookshelf for my voracious mind to consume. I never approached them with questions, since I could sense how much discomfort it created for them, so I devoured the information in the book instead. It gave me a rather healthy understanding of 'how things worked' and its honest and affirmative explanations of homosexuality served me well in later years, since the suburbs of Orlando, Florida, during the Reagan years, wasn't the best place to for an adolscent to find anything positive.


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