Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. They’ve done it before, they’ll do it again. To kick off our pulsating SEX issue, Hannah McGiII looks back at the generation that invented it and the one that invented it before that.
Photographs: Jonathan Littlejohn (Artist In Residence, Scotland's Year Of The Artist) Models: Robbie & Lynne
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A LOT OF PEOPLE LIKE TO GO ON AS IF SEX IS A NEWFANGLED perversion that has disrupted the chaste games of mah-jong that kept everyone occupied in more innocent times. This is lies. Sex has been around for ages, and has rarely allowed its voluptuous swellings to be constrained by the straitjacket of reproductive functionality. It has taken a great many forms, from the jolly to the reprehensible and all the way back again.
The ruins of Pompeii, for instance, were liberally scattered with pornographic household items, including a sculpture of the god Pan cheerfully doing the nasty with a goat. The union of man and beast may be an aberration, but the coupling of sex with religion is not, whatever
billows’ and ‘maiden-hair’, hardly broke new ground when it was unbanned in 1960. Still, everyone ran around acting like they’d just discovered a new kind of cake.
In 1962, Marilyn Monroe united soft porn and politics when she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her close friend John F. Kennedy, wearing a dress that cleverly made her look like she wasn’t wearing a dress. Her delivery suggested either the late stages of erotic agitation or an undiagnosed case of asthma. .lane Birkin tried the same trick on Serge Gainsbourg’s 1969 hit ‘Je T’Aime (Moi Non Plus)’ which was subsequently banned by Radio 1.
By the 905, of course, frisky statesmen were ten a penny, orgasms
viii/clam tumbled l/be a line of chubby,
um: rant/be dam/now into the bed: of exotic labored
Tipper Gore might reckon. The Bible advises against animal sex, but Christians with an aversion to ﬂeshy pleasures might like to take another look at the ‘Song Of Solomon’, 3 lascivious hymn of praise to a lover with (apparently) breasts like bunches of grapes. And who can forget the Kama Sutra, an ancient Hindi guide to doing it in uncomfortable positions?
Despite all these holy endorsements, many have remained troubled by sex. Sexually active females had to watch their backs during the crazed witch hunts of the Middle Ages, when hysterical Puritanism jostled uncomfortably with a popular taste for jokes about willies. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, had much the same problem, which is why no English teacher ever dwells long over that line about ‘country matters’. In the 18th century, dirty books like John Cleland’s Fanny Hill were toweringly popular.
The Victorians outwardly condemned all such naughtiness, while their own porn market burgeoned and prostitution became the top career choice for poor women. In 1885, a sensationalist reporter named William Stead purchased a number of teenage virgins on the streets of London with alarming ease.
All of which makes you wonder why people got so upset about the 19605. Christine Keeler’s profession was, after all, the oldest. And lady Chatterley ’s Lover, with all its overheated bilge about ‘far-travelling
were obligatory in pop music, and the public were pretty hard to shock. Our future monarch was taped telling his mistress that he wanted to be a tampon, the better to dwell within her jodhpurs forever. The internet made any queasy variety of porn readily downloadable in the home. Madonna put out a pricey coffee table scrapbook of S&M poses and gay softcore. Tory politicians tumbled like a line of chubby, unattractive dominoes into the beds of exotic whores, who later struck lucrative PR deals with Max Clifford.
Little did those ladies know that they were about to be comprehensively outdone. On 15 November 1995, White House intern Monica Lewinsky ﬂashed her pants at the world’s most powerful man. Thus commenced either a tragic Operetta of thwarted passion, or a reckless, sticky and humiliating peccadillo, depending on who you believe.
1998’s prude-baiting TV hit Sex And The City celebrated the jaded sexual pragmatism of the post-Lewinsky era. Then the morning-after pill became available over the counter at British pharmacies, that the Carrie Bradshaws among us might rest easy in their beds of sin.
A ﬁnal death knell for innocence rang out when, in the year 2000, an anonymous businessman offered Britney Spears $17 million for the flower of her immaculate girlhood. Touchingly, she opted to hang on to it. Well, thank goodness someone’s prepared to take a stand against the corrupting influence of religious texts, Victorian values and old-fashioned morality.
l—lS Feb 2001 THE “31'”