Friday, 11 July 2008

More sex please, we're British

By ED WEST - Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Couple kissing

Popular pastime: Watching people having sex in cars

The idea that us Brits are sex-shy prudes has been blown out of the water by Tim Fountain, a playwright, author and director who spent a year travelling up and down the country peeping into our private lives.

Fountain has put all his experiences into a book, Rude Britannia, which reaches the conclusion that we are all, well, pretty odd.

Take the 'pony house' in Hereford, for instance, where men pay to be treated like horses for a week.

There's not even any sex – just dressing up. And then there's the topic of watersports.

Fountain visits a club night in King's Cross, north London, called Streams Of Pleasure.

After surveying the urine-filled paddling pool in the middle of the club and the large group of men in the toilets, he makes a dash for freedom and vows never to return.

Mind-boggling practices

However, Everand, a tall, good-looking doll fetishist from Christchurch, Dorset, just fills you with pity.

He lives with four sex dolls – Caroline, Laura, Lina and Virginia.

When Fountain asks him if he has dated a human, Everand replies: 'There was a girl a long time back and we had sex once, sort of, but it didn't work out.'

We may have weird tastes but the way we have sex is still essentially British.

'Every swinging club was obsessed with sandwiches and finger food,' Fountain explains.

'On one site where men rate prostitutes, most were more interested in the merits of the parking than the women.

'I also went to an S&M club which had a big cage with a guy inside. By the side there was another guy called the dungeon monitor, who's a health and safety officer. How British can you get?'

The underlying message of his book, however, is the internet has changed sex for everyone and has made people feel 'less freakish because, however strange their interests are, others share them'.

Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, christens this the Long Tail effect – essentially, the internet favouring minority interests such as films and sexual practices via specialist websites.

Israeli clinical therapist Guy Shilo, for instance, found the average worldwide age for gay men and women coming out has fallen from 25 to 16 – a result of the internet.

'The internet lets anyone who wants to understand more about themselves access information without exposing themselves,' he says.

Even dogging, the sexual practice brought to fame by footballer Stan Collymore, is still going strong thanks to the net.

'There was a huge amount of straight swinging and dogging in every town,' Fountain says.

Dogging was even going on in the unlikely setting of East Kilbride on a Monday night in November: 'I couldn't believe it – there must have been 25 cars.'

But can the internet change basic sexuality? Jaron Lanier, the internet guru who was the first to identify the Web 2.0 phenomenon, doubts the net will change some things.

'Hetero men have always wished they could behave like gay men when it comes to sex but that is less true of hetero women,' he says.

'The internet certainly helps men find loose women but there aren't more of them than there used to be.'

Quirky scenes

Fountain concedes the idea of heterosexual 'cruising' is hampered by one obvious fact: there are still far more men involved than women. However, female attitudes are changing: 'There are now far more British female sex tourists,' he says.

'I met a woman out in Egypt who was 48 and on the hunt for young, local men.

She said, “I love it here. The beer's cheap, the men are cheap and they have Emmerdale on satellite.” Some women behave like men on a stag do.'

Is there anything us Britons do that really shocked Fountain? The 'gay Nazi' scene certainly didn't.

He came across this self-explanatory subculture which, its fans point out, does not condone racism or genocide.

'An S&M “dom” told me that everyone has a shadow self,' he says. 'Perhaps there's a bad cop or Nazi inside all of us.'

Rude Britannia (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), £12.99

An excerpt from Rude Britannia

Melanie [who runs a dogging website] says it's important to be well prepared for dogging and that you should 'put together a small washing bag containing condoms (if the males haven't brought any), wet wipes and deodorant' ... she then goes on to describe the various dogging 'signals'.

The most common is flashing lights (exterior or interior) which basically means 'we're doggers'.

In the 'after' section Melanie advises that a 'simple thank you' should be given to all involved and all used condoms and litter picked up so it doesn't spoil the environment for normal users.

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