Thursday, November 26, 2009

Another day, another presentation

Yes, another day, or rather another week, and I was off to do another presentation. This time I was attending the annual meeting of the European Society of Sexual Medicine in Lyon.

The task at hand was to present - at a formal dinner - to 100 international opinion formers about the difficulty of addressing sexual issues in medical consultations. As always I was delighted to oblige because - as those of you who read my previous blogs will know - bridging the gap between patients and health professionals is one of my passions. It was all very exciting!

In the event, what excited me most about my four-day presence at the conference was how enthusiastically the other delegates shared my vision. Remember, we are talking here not about a gathering of therapists or counsellors, but of physicians - and frankly, even up to even a few years ago, the issue of empathic communication would have fallen on deaf ears. But this time, not only was my own speech well-received, but the main body of the conference contained a wonderful flurry of other relevant presentations

One of the best was a session led by my colleague John Dean, where two young actors and a willing therapist role-played a worst- and then a best-practice consultation for a couple with sexual difficulties. The actors were convincing, the therapist skilled, and John himself drew some very nice lessons from the demonstration.

In short, the energy for open, sensitive and cooperative patient-professional communication was higher than I have ever seen it; I do believe that there is a real sea change on the way, where both sides can start to understand (and help) the other.

The result, surely, will be better health care and more job satisfaction. The next decade ahead is going to be very exciting!

Yes, there is sex after conception...

It all began in early November when I was invited by the British Association of Sex Educators to take part in a seminar on sex in pregnancy and beyond.

I was delighted to have been asked. Because the thing that annoys me is that once conception's actually happened, both lay people and health professionals often assume that sex has done its duty and has become irrelevant.

Pregnancy itself - and the few months after birth - may be a period where stress, strain and raging hormones mean that lovemaking is the last thing on anyone's mind. Plus, he as well as she may be terrified that any form of vigorous exercise - particularly one that involves a penis in a vagina - is going to threaten the pregnancy. End result is all too often that sex goes on hold for at least a year and often more.

Of course, if that's truly a couple's choice, no pressure. But it needn't be that way. Human beings need touch - to reassure, to relax and to bond with each other. Hence I would argue that in that huge challenge that is parenthood, we need such touch more rather than less. So it's essential to help couples to realise that making love after conception is not only Permitted but also a Good Idea.

Hence I put together a 45-minute presentation which offered health professionals a simple guide to helping couples overcome the blocks to having sex, and summarised the best practical advice as to what's possible, what's inadvisable and how to get the most pleasure throughout pregnancy, labour and post partum.

I'm not commenting on my contribution - modesty forbids - but otherwise it was arguably one of the best seminars I've ever attended. The other speakers covered the the myths and the challenges of sexuality and suggested some ways of tackling those. The audience - including not only experienced midwives but also students, was attentive, eager and extremely enthusiastic. The feedback was highly positive. We're going to do it again - hopefully soon, hopefully throughout the country, and hopefully with an attached workshop for skills practice. Watch this space...

Only one thing saddened me. No names, no postmortems, but apparently the NHS hospital first approached as a venue for the training had refused, saying that they didn't feel it appropriate to be covering the practicalities of sexual pleasure during pregnancy. Which brings us, of course, full circle back to the preconceptions I originally railed against...

Well, all I can say is that that wasn't the attitude of the health professionals who attended the course, all of whom were vociferously in favour. So.. please lead me to the nearest wall and let me bang my head against it...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Talking of passion...

... my past weeks have been full of it. No, not the sexual sort I'm usually writing about - though there are links, as you'll see if you read on.

I'm talking about the passion that people have for a cause - the sort of passion that makes them go the extra mile, give the extra pound, or be willing to spread the word so that others get involved and the passion pool gets bigger and stronger.

The first passion pool I've been involved with of late concerns just that last-mentioned skill: spreading the word - in short, advocacy. The World Association of Sexual Health, having set their millennium aims, are keen to help those in the field to brush up on their advocacy skills to achieve those aims: health for all, an end to sexual abuse, sex education worldwide. I attended a workshop on the subject (brilliantly led by Esther Corona of WAS) earlier this year, and then with Esther's support, led a shorter workshop at the recent International Sex and Relationships Education Conference in Birmingham.

How inspirational was that! Sex educators, sexual health specialists, relationships education teachers, from a variety of countries... all passionate about spreading the word in their own societies. When we came to the exercise where I asked delegates to report on a time they had advocated successfully, we were all moved to tears by the stories that emerged - particularly from two amazing women from Eygpt, Mahaweb and Samira, who had campaigned for decades against female genital mutilation and finally, finally, got it made illegal. The group broke into a spontaneous round of applause and, as the workshop came to an end, we all went forth even more motivated to make a difference.

Three days later, different city (London) and different group (cervical cancer survivors), but just as inspirational a group. I ran two workshops for the charity Jo's Trust which supports women who have had a positive smear or worse. Two groups of women, again with their own stories, this time of unimaginable bravey, both physical and emotional - but once again, despite what they themselves had gone through, with a passion to do their utmost for the cause. Tears flowed even more than they did at Birmingham - but alongside those tears came energy and commitment, that women should be helped in every possible way to cope with the cervical cancer challenge.

In these days of credit crunch and tightened belts, financial wobble and knock-on emotional insecurity, we can lose sight of causes. We can lose sight of the fact that people are still suffering and still need our support.

These two workshops reminded me not only of that fact, but also of the fact that there are still those who feel passionately enough to remember the sufferers, and to give that support. Which - on this cold October morning - gives me, and I hope you, reasons to be cheerful.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Long, hot - slightly depressed - summer...

So how was your long hot summer? Long and hot, I hope, and full of rest and recuperation - as mine has been.

Back now, I'm downhearted to see that there seems to be very little good news. The economic crisis is still hitting. Politicians are still squabbling. Celebs are still breaking up.

In particular, it hasn't been a particularly good summer for feeling down. According to the newscasts, anxiety and depression rates are soaring. But GPs, apparently, only spot clinical depression in half the patients who have it. And even when the condition is spotted, funding for some forms of treatment - such as exercise - is limited . and there are as yet not enough therapists to go round. No surprises there - but no optimism, either.

But wait! There is a news piece this morning that offers a little light in the darkness. Apparently a study in the Lancet suggests that online therapy increases the chances of recovery from depression twofold when compared to medication only. And as online therapy is likely to be more accessible (handier for client and counsellor, theoretically cheaper when it comes to funding), we can hopefully expect it to be rolled out across the NHS.

I hope it is. For let's not forget - as the long hot summer comes to an end and the darker winter days take hold - that during our lifetime one in four of us will suffer some form of mental illness. This means you - or several of your friends, family and loved ones. So the more that can be done to support the cause (as well as reduce the stigma) the better.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I do understand, truly I do, exactly why the government has decided not to hand out free smear tests to women in England under the age of 25.

It's absolutely logical. Studies suggest that below that age more women have false positives - which scares them. Subsequent unnecessary treatment may be harmful - and even necessary treatment can occasionally cause damage to the woman and premature birth to her future children. And - though of course this couldn't possibly be a factor in the government's decision - increased smear tests cost money that could be spent on other more urgent causes. You know it makes absolute sense.

And yet, and yet.... If it makes such sense, how come countries like Denmark and Sweden set the test age at 23? How come the advice in many countries is to have the test at 21? And how come the rest of the UK offers smear tests at 20 (why do the words 'postcode' and 'lottery' come inexorably to mind?)

But actually, my main worry here isn't to do with the figures, the statistics or even the logic of the argument (nor am I, as so many press sources are today, citing the Jade argument). No, my main worry is for individual younger women, women who because of their youth are probably less aware of the risks of cervical cancer whilst at the same time being more at risk simply because they are in that life stage of having many partners. The hard fact is that if we lowered the smear test age - lowered it way down to the average age of sexual intercourse at 16, we would save lives. Not many, but a few. And the fact that we aren't doing so horrifies me.

I'm not arguing that cervical smears are a better use of money than other heart-rending health causes - who am I to deny the importance of treatment for leukaemia, infertility, heart disease. and who is anyone to make comparisons and judge who should get the cash?What I'm arguing is that tests would be a better use of money than so many other things that the Government spends on - warfare, thousand-pound-an-hour consultancy, and of course, second homes and dirty videos.

My suggestion? Just cut a fraction back on the expenses and put that money into bringing England into line with the rest of the UK when it comes to the life-saving smear test...

PS: When one writes an academic paper, one need to cite 'vested interests'. This isn't an academic blog, but here is mine. At age 31 I had my own positive smear test, which led to treatment for developing cervical cancer. Yes, even with the age bar held at 25 I would have been spotted and saved. But I still feel a shiver at the thought that any woman, absent the possibility of that test, will have to go through the treatment and the trauma that I suffered.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Let's hear it for the mourners

I get a lot of letters - I mean a lot - from readers and listeners who have just endured the ending of a relationship.

But here's something that may surprise you. The ones that worry me are not those who outline in heart-rending detail their tears and rages, not those who report a deep loss of self esteem and trust in the world.

Yes, such responses are painful and not to be trivialised - but they are totally normal and healthy. Let emotion flow, get support for the agony, and in the end you will likely recover. Of course there are exceptions, those who are crippled by break-up grief for the rest of their lives; but as with a bereavement, typically nature takes its course and you come through. You may suffer, but you will surive.

No, the readers who terrify me are those that think that they won't - shouldn't - suffer. Those who try to carry on regardless and then wonder why they are finding life difficult. Cf poor, sad Katie Price, downing drinks and hitting the Ibiza dancefloor while shouting defiantly at reporters "I'm over Peter!"

I'm not criticising these readers - their hurt is just as strong as the griefstricken or depressed correspondents, and they need just as much support and pity. But who said that suffering isn't an inevitable part of having loved? Who said that one shouldn't mourn when that love dies?

What sort of world do we live in that persuades people that they should 'bounce back' from the ending of - in Katie's case - a five-year relationship that produced two children? What sort of world do we live in where the default option for coping with such an ending is not to lick our wounds and receive the support and comiseration of friends, but to think we have to carry on regardless drowning our sorrows in drink and yet another relationship. Only last week, in my postbag, I received a long letter from a woman worried there was something wrong because she didn't 'feel better' after her long-term partner had walked out on her... barely a fortnight before.

So let's hear it for the relationship mourners, those who have the courage to feel the pain and grieve the loss, to take their time to come back onto the dating scene, and to learn the lessons of the breakup before they emerge into the world again.

Short term they may seem emotionally weaker than those who don't even break step. Longer-term, however, they will be healthier, happier and far more able to love.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dying of embarrassment

Some worrying research results yesterday highlighted the differences in the way men and women react to the suspicion of cancer - that is, whether they hie themselves off to the GP within hours of spotting the lump/bump/lesion, or whether they instead burrow their heads even more firmly into the sand.

No criticism here. Fear, which must surely be the key motivator, is a powerful paralyser. And if men - for yes they are the ones doing the sand-burrowing - are terrified, then that's utterly understandable.

It is, however, also tragic. The abovementioned research, brought out to coincide with Men's Health Week, suggests that there is no biological reason why men are 60% more likely to develop cancer and 70% more likely to die from it - particularly from the gender-specific, sexually-linked types of cancer such as prostate and testicular. Yes, there are major lifestyle causes. but the high mortality rate is also down to an unwillingness to acknowledge symptoms, take them seriously and then report them.

It comes as no surprise that this unwillingness is higher when it comes to the gender-specific cancers - because the emotional discomfort factor is so much higher there. I know this myself - for every 20 letters I receive from women asking me to advise on sexual problems I get perhaps one from a man. A mixture of anxiety, machismo and shame is holding the guys back.
Men are, literally, dying of embarrassment.

The answer? Professor Alan White of the Men's Health Forum puts his finger on it when he appeals for health services to be more male-appropriate. And that doesn't just mean more available outside working hours - but more encouraging, more motivating, and more aware of y chromosome reluctance.

I am inexorably reminded of that classic self-development question: which do you choose to be, the rabbit or the headlights? Let's hope that by next year's Men's Health Week, men are beginning to choose the latter option...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Back again...

Yes, I confess, it's been a long hiatus. To be precise, six weeks since I last blogged.

I can't claim wild celebrations have kept me from my screen (although admittedly I have had a birthday since I last logged on - don't ask which one but it ended in a '9').

What I can claim is a slew of work. In particular - unusually for me, as my job rarely entails exotic foreign travel - a work-related trip to Istanbul to speak at the DISPAXWorld 09 conference. For those of you not in the know - as I wasn't until the conference organisers contacted me - this is an aviation get-together on the topic of disruptive airline passengers. Some impressive speakers, some fascinating topics, and a wonderful cruise on the Bosphorus, courtesy of our sponsor. In case you're wondering, I was presenting on sexually disruptive behaviour inflight; no, not so much the Mile High Club as sexual attacks, sexual abuse and public indecency. The model I've developed through the work I've done suggests that while there is no excuse for any of these, there are reasons - Air Lust is as induced an altered state as Air Rage and hence needs careful handling.

Other fascinating projects over the past six weeks? Developing a model of why we hate some celebrities and love others... writing about grey sex for the Menopause Matters magazine... preparing a paper on male contraception for the Journal of Family Planning. Also commenting on Posh and Becks's tenth wedding anniversary, giving my views on the importance of 'sharing', and holding forth about the pros and cons of mothers-in-law. It's a fun life.

But perhaps the thing that's most holding my attention right now is my weekly LBC programme. Listener figures are - gratifyingly - up yet again quarter-on-quarter, and Jim Davis and I seem to be building quite a community of supportive fans. The best bits, though, are the calls - about everything, anything, and things you certainly wouldn't mention to an above-mentioned mother-in-law. The caller who was planning to walk out on his family the next morning but hadn't actually broken the news yet. The sobbing girl whose partner had just abandoned her and her two-week-old baby. The gay police officer who was terrified to come out. The thirty-something woman who wanted me to tell her, in detail, on the air, how to masturbate. And these, of course, are the queries it's legal and decent to broadcast... the ones that aren't still get a reply, but by email.

OK, update completed and now I 'm fully back doing my blog, I hope to keep it a little more regular.

And if you need something else to read, check out the musings of Jane Matthews, a friend of mine whose delightful blog charting her self-imposed challenge to be "someone nicer" is something I myself read every day...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Yessss. After a six month review, sex and relationships education in England is to become compulsory for all students of 11 and upwards. At last, at last, the Government has acknowledged what we sex educators have always known - that it's a straight choice between caught and taught.

Thankfully they've come down on the side of the teaching, so contraception, STIs and the supporting raft of relationship advice will be available to all late primary and secondary children from 2011 onwards. And that should mean that more resources are funnelled the SRE way - for student materials, teacher training and course support.

Yes, there are parental and faith school opt-outs, with provision for religious establishments to provide the teaching within the context of their own values. And, actually, though many sexual health providers disagree, I concur with this on the basis that democracy should trump mandatory every time.

But the fact remains that if we can fulfil this promise, in two years' time every adolescent in the country will be receiving regular, targetted, well-delivered SRE education. And with a bit of luck, a few years' after that, we won't be bottom of the European league tables for teen pregnancy and STIs!

PS: following a suggestion from my staff (truly not from me), I am now officially a nominee for the Our Bodies Ourselves Women's Health Heroes Award. If you'd like to vote for me - or even, if you know my work, post a comment in my support, then go to the Women's Health Heroes page and scroll down to find me. Last date for voting is May 8th.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Well, yet another gap in transmission due to busy-ness at work.

But that doesn't mean to say that nothing's been happening. The past few weeks have been full of sex-relevant media stories. And, happily many of them have carried a hidden upside.

Poor Jade Goody finally lost her battle with cervical cancer - but on the back of that, in some areas of the UK the number of women taking smear tests is up by many per cent. The economic crisis means that men can't afford to keep mistresses any more - and the upside of that is, hopefully, fewer broken marriages and destroyed families. Plus, Jacqui Smith's husband has been caught in flagrante with two porn films - but that in turn has brought the whole issue of porn squarely into the public domain.

It's been that last story that I've been asked to comment most on - including a long interview for The Times - and I have expressed concern. Yes, I was the one who in the recent Family Planning Association Debate on the issue of porn argued that there are no easy answers. And I still think that burying all sexual images and tabooing all sexual information - as was done in Victorian times - is a very bad idea.

Nevertheless, it's becoming clearer and clearer that while the general principle of openness about matters sexual still holds true, it needs to be done well. When linked with inaccurate information (all men have big penises, all women climax immediately upon penetration) and when surrounded by problematic values (a woman is only valid if she is slim and big breasted, a man is only valid if he keeps it up all night) porn is utterly harmful.

And, of course, addictive. I get more and more letters from women in particular who are distressed and disgusted by their partners' use of porn - and the subsequent deceit and betrayal where such partners promise to stop but then secretly. Relate reports a steep increase in marriage breakdown that is fuelled by Internet porn addiction (though whether the breakdown chicken or the addiction egg comes first is still in debate).

No it won't work to ban all erotic images. It won't work to think that our society can magically switch back to pre-sexualisation days.

But what we can do is to encourage a process of emotional maturity in our treatment of sex, so that we don't get stuck at the 'big tits, big cock' stage of adolescent sexuality. What we can do is topoint out that screen portrayals are not real life, and that real life sex is much much better just because it is real.

What we can do, in short, is to constantly remember that good, positive loving sex is much much better than the ersatz porn variety...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sons and Lovers

As we come up to Mothers' Day, I thought I'd point you in the direction of two contrasting stories that have emerged this week - both about mothers' relationship to their sons, both causing a bit of a stir in the press.

Julie Myerson has hit the headlines on the back of her latest book, a reworking of the real life conflicts which resulted in her barring son Jake from the house. Should she have put all this in the public domain? The general concensus is no.

Meanwhile, Lucy Baxter is going public with a completely different problem. Her son Otto, 21, has Down's Syndrome, and as a result is finding it difficult to have the normal sexual experiences that a lad of his age wants and expects.

Now, I'm not a mother, so my insights will be limited here - but I'm far more moved, and far less outraged by the the second story than the first. It feels to me absolutely commendable - and very farseeing - that Lucy should be fighting publicly for her son's right to a happy, healthy sex life; his mother is not only doing him a good turn, but doing good for all the other physically and mentally handicapped youngsters (and oldsters) who aren't seen as sexual beings, and who are therefore denied an outlet for their passionate feelings.

The slight nose-twitching that has been going on in response to her speaking out seems to me to be utterly unwarranted. Why should Otto be penalised simply because he has a medical condition? Why should we not support him simply because he does not tally with our view of 'fit'. Why should we not see him as a sexual adult who needs and deserves the pleasure and comfort of an intimate relationship. As Lucy Baxter says, "it's society who has a learning disability" in this respect.

As for Julie Myerson? Yes, her child's drug habit is heartbreaking and everyone sympathises. But perhaps she could learn a lot from Lucy Baxter's support of her son as he tries to make that difficult transition to individuated adulthood.

And perhaps both Julie and her son should thank heaven they don't have the challenges that the Baxter family faces, day in and day out...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Naked as nature intended?

I for one will be tuning in to BBC 2's Horizon tomorrow at 9pm for a fascinating glimpse of what we sexologists consider our daily bread: nudity.

The programme will be exploring just why human beings feel embarrassed when they take their clothes off - and, by means of a series of exercises, will be attempting to lower the embarrassment factor for a group of volunteers. Apparently the exercises are so successful that at the end of the filming process, the group walks to their 'take-me-home' taxis stark naked. Gripping stuff.

Of course what interests me most here are the sex-related implications. Apparently we humans are socialised into a wariness of nudity in order to keep sexual temptation to a minimum, avoid infidelity and maintain social stability. Mmm.... I do fail to imagine everyone suddenly jumping into bed with everyone else just because the clothes are off. Nudist camps, by dint of intelligence and respect, manage not to generate daily orgies - and speaking for myself, seeing a naked man who I'm not personally involved with is a turn-off rather than a turn-on. Nevertheless, I get the point.

But I do still have a problem with the backlash that such socialisation creates in society. Because I'd be a rich woman if I had a pound for every advice-seeking letter from a reader who's hung up about their body, hung up about physical intimacy, hung up about getting naked even with the person whom they most love and desire.

Our emphasis on nudity may be keeping us all safe from making love indiscriminately - but it's also keeping us from being at ease with our bodies, and from being unembarrassed and comfortable with other people's bodies. It's also making us wary and inhibited in the very arena and in the very relationships where we should be most open, trusting and uninhibited.

Not to mention the fact that what's forbidden immediately becomes more fascinating. (I'd love to see some studies exploring whether people who are at ease with nudity are less prone to using pornography. I strongly suspect they are.)

So I'm with the Horizon group. No, I won't be walking naked to pick up the next taxi that I hail. But I'd love to live in a world where doing exactly that was entirely possible!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Reclaiming the joy

Sorry to revisit a topic I was going on about only a few weeks ago... but if there is one thing that I really "got" when I was rewriting Joy of Sex, it is that while sex may be the same as it was in 1972, the joy certainly isn't. Given the drip feed of horror stories in the press and the continuous warnings about the dangers of sex from all sides, we've somehow lost our optimism, our innocence - somehow, we've flushed the joy baby out with the bathwater.Link
Don't misunderstand. I'm not advocating condom-free orgies or emotion-free lust-fests. I'm as aware - and as vociferous - as anyone about just what we all need to do is order to make sex safe, sane, concensual and super-enjoyable. But I do feel that we've forgotten that sex is a Good Thing.

Which is why I was delighted to be invited to speak at a ground-breaking new conference in Devon yesterday. Run by the Eddystone Trust (with backing from the thinking person's condom-maker Durex) the training was packed with all sorts of fascinating folk from the world of South West sexual health. We had a great presentation on making older-age sex good, a fascinating interactive workshop on young people and risk taking, and an equally fascinating one on communication. Apparently one of the feedback forms said that it was 'the best workshop' the delegate had ever attended.

My contribution was to set a framework on just why we can get so negative - because of the above mentioned media panic and also, rightly, because of our need to protect ourselves (and particularly our young people) from the very real dangers of sex. I also made the point that sometimes being sex negative comes right from the heart of our own lives. If we love sex, we don't want others to spoil that by being irresponsible... if we've been disappointed in sex, we want to warn others of the dangers. It's all very understandable.

But I stil think it needs a rebalance. I still think we need to recontact the fact that, when safely and lovingly done, sex is one of the most wonderful things in the world. Lose the statistics, let's reclaim the emotion. Lose the cynicism, let's reclaim the joy...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Yet More Joy

So just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water... they publish two more books in the Joy of Sex series.

In other words, though I've batting on for months now about the original book, what I didn't stress was that it isn't just a book, it's a whole brand. And this week the next two books in the brand hit the UK shelves (US readers, sadly, have to wait until May to get their hands on them).

The Romantic Lover. The Adventurous Lover. Not to descend into back-cover blurb, but they're both small-and-perfectly-formed hard-backed pocket books, illustrated with more of the great Joy of Sex photos - though the text is entirely new.

Both do what they say on the tin. The Romantic Lover majors on all things pink and loving with sections on massage, foreplay and simultaneous orgasm (yes, it is possible!). The Adventurous Lover ventures into more exotic territory, with sections on anal, bondage and swinging. I can't claim to have tried in full everything I wrote about, but I have talked - in detail - to those who have. :)

So onward and upward. Next stop - later in the year - the Long Weekend Lover. And if anyone out there has any special requests for more titles, we have a long publishing list to go. All ideas gratefully accepted!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Joy coming home to roost...

I've spent, in my role as Joy of Sex spokeswoman, the last six months talking about sex - to journalists, TV presenters, radio hosts. And the one thing they always ask me is how things have changed since the book was first published 37 years ago. Typically I list the scientific changes, the rise of the Internet... and eventually come round to the fact that in 1972 there was an atmosphere - how can I put this - of naive optimism.

The orignal book reflected those times, those heady, postpill, sexual-revolution times when (to paraphrase Alex Comfort) a sexually transmitted infection was seen as slightly less problematic than a dose of flue, and infidelity was seen as par for the course.We look back now and wince...

And wincing is very much on the menu this week as reports come through of a sharp rise in sexual cancers in the wake of said revolution. The study, from King's College London, points out that the rate of cancers triggered by the HPV virus have rocketted since the Swinging Sixties and Seventies. And we all know why.

I was there - and contrary to the cliche, I remember it! Thank heaven I was informed and sensible enough to keep my sexual contacts safe and loving - but that wasn't the norm. We genuinely thought that if we were on the pill we were safe from all harm - and that meant we could play without protection. And it is deeply sad that we are now paying the price for our ignorance.

But let's remember that it was ignorance - and let's steer clear of the moralising about those times that is already appearing in the popular press. Please don't blame us. We weren't evil, we weren't immoral, we didnt' set out to have orgies. We were young and hormonally fuelled - and most importantly we just didn't know how dangerous it could be to have sex.

Now society knows, and is much more wary (though interestingly of course, it is this very generation that still doesn't quite realise that they are in danger - the 40+ cohort is currently the one where STI rates are rising highest.) And that in itself is sad.

Because, for all the illness, all the abuse, all the unhappiness that unconsidered sex can cause. we still need to remember that - safely and happily done - sex is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Back from the US

Well, I'm back! And the answer to the questions I posed before departure (will I say the right things... will I do the right things... will everyone be able to understand my exotic British accent) is apparently Yes.

To take the last one, I was surprised and delighted at the response to my Britishiness. The exact comment from one TV producer - echoed by many more - was "The word "masturbation" in a Texan accent sounds dirty; in a British accent it sounds decent. We love it!". So there you go...

On a more serious note, I was delighted at the response - the amazing publishers have sold their initial print run of 30,000 copies of the book and are currently ordering in more; it's only been out three weeks.

Just as nice, the interviewers were supportive, the phone-in clients enthusiastic. I had been worried - warned from all directions - that a US audience might be wary. Seems not - lots of phone calls offering congratulations on covering the topic, lots of phone calls asking upfront questions of the kind that you only rarely get this side of the pond.

Only one regret... I was asked to do Oprah (yessss....) but at the last moment got bumped; the amazing "plane-landing-in-the-Hudson" story was just too big.

Back down to earth now and focussing on the British launch of the next two follow-on books - Joy of Sex Romantic Lover and Joy of Sex Adventurous Lover. The Yanks are still ringing me though and there are few things in the pipeline; I may have to swim the Pond again very soon. Can't wait!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Off to the USA...

Just a quick postcard as I set off for the next round of publicity for Joy of Sex. This time it's in the States. No, don't get jealous - though it is fun to be flying off to the Big Apple, what will happen when I get there is a relentless circus of appearances and jet lag. All worthwhile, all helpful to the book, but tiring nevertheless.

Justina from Crown, who is publishing my book, has been working hard. As a result, I've been lucky enough to get two slots on the Today programme (The Big Early Morning Show) and a slot on Nightline (The Big Late Night News Show), plus a whole slew of national and regional TV, radio and website interviews and some interesting meetings with production companies and sex toy manufacturers.

I have to admit to a little trepidation; will I say the right things, will I do the right things, and will everyone be able to understand my exotic British accent? But hey, if you don't have the adventures, then you've never lived.

More to come, on my return....