Articles - 10th February 2020

Steamy Season

Words by Elinor Potts
Illustration by Oscar Price

Last week, an older woman came into the shop, looked me square in the eyes and demanded that I order in a copy of the instructional S&M manual, SM101. I asked no questions, but the message was clear – ‘tis the season of Valentine’s sex. 

To commemorate this stormy, steamy week, I squinted at the smudged form of my first ‘crush’ through finger-made pinholes (“fleshy opera glasses”) in the Old Vic’s double-billed production of Beckett’s Endgame and Rough for Theatre II. Starring alongside Jane Horrocks and Karl Johnson, Alan Cumming and Daniel Radcliffe make a devastatingly tragicomic duo, though the unlikely pairing of these two plays, has been critical marmite. Rough for Theatre II, which is rarely performed live, sees two selfishly preoccupied bureaucrats, largely oblivious to the man silently hovering on the window ledge behind them, considering the jump. Its longer and more famous counterpart, Endgame, is an absurd, backwards meditation on dependency, disintegration and stagnation with a fruity blending of existential complacency and fake dogs. On the side of the stage, we squint Clov’s elderly parents, Nag and Nell, who live inside matching dustbins and emerge at random intervals to demand biscuits, back scratches and kisses. Whilst the author of The Joy Of Sex suggests that, “The things which stop you having sex with age are exactly the same as those that stop you riding a bicycle,” Nagg, Nell, the bicycle-obsessed Beckett and my S&M-curious customer were evidently unphased by the misconception that older people have a less active sex life. 

Whatever your age or preferences, Valentines week is best spent connecting with your sexuality through the medium of culture. Whether you’re taking your Hinge date to the Opera, sexting your wife from the back of the cinema during Portrait of a Lady on Fire, slow-grinding to the new Harry Styles album, dropping into a BDSM life-drawing class on the way back from work or tearfully binge-watching videos of Philip Schofield coming out on This Morning, (a news item so urgent that I made an uncontrollable announcement in a seminar for Queer Poetry and Frank O’Hara), let’s mark this Valentines week with the finest cultural celebrations of sexual identity. If you’re yet to decide on your plans for Friday, our very own UnderPinned are hosting a fancy-dress Freelance Fridays Valentine Special featuring a talk and Q&A from the Freelance Dominatrix Adreena Angela entitled ‘How To Spice Up Your Sex Life’. The night also promises games, love potions (presumably alcoholic) as well as a Photo Booth to document your evening of sexual enlightenment, joyful gyrating and passionate necking, sorry, networking. 

For those of you who would rather partake in the modern mating ritual of Netflix and Chiling from the comfort of your bedsit, the streaming platform offers an impressive range of sexually-themed cultural programming including the entertainingly instructional Sex Explained animatedly narrated by bisexual icon, Janelle Monae. If you’re more in the market for a geographically ambiguous high school drama then Sex Education is revved with all the hormone-power of its generational predecessor, Skins. Its superlative second season is a refreshing exploration of the uncomfortable aspects of first relationships, masturbation, STIs, discovering sexual desires and recovering from sexual assault. 

Though it can be intellectually pleasurable expanding our sexual education with liberated cultural viewing, Louis Theroux’s most recent ‘documentarySelling Sex, falls short of adhering to the unbiased principles of documentary making, on many levels. Theroux’s moralising attitudes towards the lifestyles of Sex Workers runs scornfully throughout the programme, cynically colouring his interactions and resulting in a number of the Sex Workers who feature in the BBC commissioned film asking to be cut from the final edit and issuing formal complaints. Many voiced their upset with the misrepresentation of their lives on social media, and in a piece published in gal-dem last week, interviewee Ashleigh admitted that “My autonomy and the validity of my experiences were constantly questioned. When contributors are from marginalised and underrepresented communities, documentaries should put the power back into their hands.” 

However you choose to spend your Friday evening, here’s wishing you a Valentines full of merriment and wet, sloppy kisses.


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