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Why women expect too much from men in bed

Date

Max Davidson

Raunchy bestsellers are making it a tricky time for the male of the species, writes Max Davidson.

SOMEWHERE in Britain there is a very lucky man. The unnamed individual is, according to reports at the weekend, being divorced by his wife, a high-flying city banker, on the grounds, inter alia, that he is ''boring'' in bed and refuses to take part in the kind of bedroom antics popularised by the raunchy blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey.

Well done, that man! He is not only escaping what sounds like a miserable marriage (''Thank you for whipping me, darling, but you forgot the handcuffs''), but in doing so - he's admitting ''unreasonable behaviour'' for a quick divorce - he is striking a blow for his sex. Like Bradley Wiggins, like Mo Farah, he can go into any pub in the country and know that every man there would be happy to buy him a drink if only they knew his story.

Up to now, Fifty Shades has been no more than a bad literary joke, a triumph of marketing over substance. Millions have bought E.L. James' execrable novel about a sadomasochistic affair between a billionaire entrepreneur and a naive literature student, and millions have wished they had kept their money in their pocket.

But now that the book is being deployed as a weapon in the marital bedroom, with wives using James' saturnine billionaire as a benchmark against which to measure their husbands, the joking has to stop. This is war, with men in the firing line and common sense the first casualty.

Feminists are rightly quick to censure the kind of male-inspired pornography which pressures women into behaving like Swedish nymphomaniacs with pneumatic breasts. But isn't E.L. James guilty of much the same, peddling unattainable sexual fantasies, setting wife against husband, introducing the worm of dissatisfaction into solid, if unspectacular, relationships?

And it gets worse. You would assume that men of retirement age would not be feeling under the same pressure to perform in the bedroom as men who still have their own teeth and hair, but you would be wrong, judging by the latest women's ''romantic'' novel to shoot up the bestseller lists, confounding the pundits.

Thursdays in the Park by Hilary Boyd features a sexually frustrated pensioner (married to a man who has given up on sex) who meets the man of her dreams while looking after her grandchildren in the park.

If Fifty Shades of Grey is ''mummy porn'' in marketing jargon, Thursdays in the Park is ''gran-lit'', a steamy tale of sex and sixtysomethings - the Kama Sutra meets Antiques Roadshow.

The novel sank without trace when it was published last year, but is now topping the charts in its ebook edition and outselling E. L. James. It is certainly an intriguing storyline and you can see why it has caught on with the public, even in our youth-obsessed times. With Charles Dance said to be in negotiations for a film version, Thursdays in the Park could spark the same kind of buying frenzy as Fifty Shades. You don't even have to go into a bookshop to purchase it: you can get your jollies by downloading the book in the privacy of your own home - perfect for retiring spinsters with vivid imaginations.

''Old people falling in love and having passionate relationships is not a story that's had much exposure before, but I'm in no doubt that the market's out there,'' says Boyd, a 62-year-old grandmother, adding: ''All I can say is that sex in the park beats sex in the basement.''

Who would argue with that? And in finding the sex lives of mature people far more interesting than those of teenagers, she is following a tradition as old as Antony and Cleopatra.

It is good, other things being equal, that women writers are producing novels of sexual exploration which challenge and subvert the works of their male counterparts. And it is good that older people are being presented in a positive, outgoing light, not portrayed as sexually extinct.

Jane Juska's bestselling 2003 memoir, A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late Life Adventures in Sex and Romance, tapped into the same market. Its bittersweet account of a 66-year-old woman, seeking no-strings sex via an ad in the New York Review of Books, struck a chord with mothers and grandmothers who, after years of making sacrifices for their families, dreamt of putting the sex into sexagenarian.

But it is one thing to celebrate grey sex, another to encourage delusional attitudes, as Fifty Shades of Grey does. When the dividing line between daily life and escapist fiction becomes blurred, when women expect their partners to satisfy their most intimate needs as if it was as easy as unlocking handcuffs, we are all the losers. Shouldn't a book with a title like Fifty Shades of Grey alert readers to the fact that life is nuanced, and not perfect?

But, one way and another, it is going to be an uncomfortable time to be a male of the species. We don't mind trying our hands at this multi-tasking malarkey, but do we have to become proficient with handcuffs and find out how to give sexual satisfaction to women born when George VI was on the throne? Time to reach for the remote, I think.

TELEGRAPH

Max Davidson is the author of six novels and books about sportsmanship.

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216 comments

  • Poor males? Yawn........... gives the ladies something to crow about....

    Commenter
    Nigel K. Williams
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    November 15, 2012, 8:38AM
    • Time to seek women friends to satisfy our cravings!

      Commenter
      hm
      Location
      suggestive
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 12:28PM
    • Is it worth dignifying whinges of 70-year old (at least mentally) about things he has no idea about?

      Commenter
      dinkumnet
      Location
      dinkumnet.com
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 1:03PM
    • Women expecting to much is based on every straight mans experience and therefore holds no validity whatsoever

      She said

      Commenter
      Put the toilet seat down
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 1:12PM
    • Yes, even if they have nothing to crow about. Most women are not interested in sex anyway, other than as a way to a) have a kid or b) trap a husband.

      ps leave the toilet seat up.

      Commenter
      Blueyes
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 2:31PM
    • Blueyes: "Most women are not interested in sex anyway." What absolute twaddle. I'm a 46yo woman who thinks of sex 24/7 - I'm not getting what I crave at home - even after many lengthy discussions - and as I can't bring myself to seek pleasure elsewhere (love my man to pieces), I watch porn and masturbate everyday - yes, everyday! And most women I know thoroughly enjoy sex - it's the inadequacy of men's performance that leaves us disinterested. And you don't need to become proficient with handcuffs - just find the bloody magic spot for Christ's sake!!! Oh, and if you've not yet read 50 Shades of Grey, don't - the most poorly written, pile of boring schlock I have ever wasted my time on!

      Commenter
      Desperate Housewife
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 3:36PM
    • Blueyes... what on earth are you on about? I can't speak for the women you know but I have sex because it feels good, and I think most women I know have the same idea. You must have a very drab, one-sided sex life to have come to that conclusion.

      Commenter
      JB
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 3:44PM
    • typical isn't it - all women ever think about is sex!.

      its so degrading being treated as a sex object!

      Commenter
      peter
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 4:30PM
  • No point delving into sociological considerations for any of this. An old saying covers everything we need to know: follow the money.

    Commenter
    steeploan
    Date and time
    November 15, 2012, 8:41AM
    • Men are only good for one thing and most of them aren't very good at it...
      (even if they're doing it with men).

      Mostly they're just lazy, thinking about themselves, or just plain unimaginative.

      Ladies (and some gentlemen) Don't expect less, demand more.

      Commenter
      no_subject
      Date and time
      November 15, 2012, 8:44AM

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