Is this puritan attitude innocent or outdated?
We all know the expression: No Sex Please – We're British! For a long time, the British population's attitude towards sex has been seen to be somewhat, well, Victorian. In this day and age, why is this still the case? Are the British prudes?
As a nation, we have a tendency to keep our sex lives strictly to the bedroom, and when we do, our stereotype suggests we are boring, and spend the entire time apologising. If you were having a conversation with somebody and they raised the subject of something even vaguely x-rated, chances are that you would blush furiously and try to change the subject. We all are aware of the Germans reputation for being sexually promiscuous, and the Dutch are hardly shy! You only have to take one step into the city of Amsterdam to discover how open they are when a club called ‘The Cock Ring’ is right there, in your face!
Compared to the Germans, Dutch, and most other nationalities for that matter, British people are known for being against this kind of ‘smut’! The closest thing we have to open us up to sex, is the shop Ann Summers, which despite stocking sex toys and sexy lingerie is relatively tame. However, this may be changing with the generations, and forces one to wonder: is this a stereotype that will stay with the British forever?
Where did this attitude come from?
Britain’s bizarre avoidance tactics when it comes to discussing sex are something that most people are aware of. The UK is often seen as more prudish than some of its more sexual liberated European cousins, such as The Netherlands, with its red light districts that are tourist attractions, or Sweden,where a couple were shown having sex on live television. This could only be the stuff of imagination for us Brits.
This attitude can be traced back to the Victorians, those well-known godfathers of sexual repression. In an age where table legs were deemed too risqué to be left uncovered, it’s no wonder that attitudes towards sex were anything but friendly. Women were told to lie back and think of England, which would have hardly stirred up any excitement about the act!
Keeping it clean, or keeping people from the truth?
Since then, it’s been this way for as long as most people can remember. As recently as the 1950s studies showed that people, women especially, saw sex as a duty rather than an act to be enjoyed. Ignorance was rife too, with people being left to put together the facts themselves, with mistakes resulting in, rather starkly, ‘marriage or abortion.’
Even now, there’s fear that these attitudes still linger, with young people not having proper access to contraception and leading to the same mistakes that previous generations made.
Surely sex can’t be good for us, if we don’t talk about it?
A recent study has shown that orgasm has the potential to make you smarter, healthier and happier, due to the increase in blood flow to the brain. Even if those claims were to be unfounded, the increase in communication between partners and a desire to try new things in the bedroom has led to us being at our most sexually liberated.
Are we any less prudish now, then?
Slowly but surely, attitudes are changing, the sexual revolution of the 1960s being the first step. Shops such as Ann Summers are now high street stalwarts, something that would have been unimaginable even twenty-five years ago. Women are told that they can reach orgasm with the help of increasingly inventive gadgets, and pornography can be accessed by any with a television, an internet connection or some spare change for an adult magazine!
The internet plays a big part too, with the anonymity found behind a computer screen or a mobile phone allowing a person to lose their inhibitions in a way that has never been seen before. Chat lines and web chats are an ever-popular way to find sexual gratification, with customers flocking in their thousands to achieve the Big O on their own terms.
The effect of a certain book was also huge. Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L James' kinky novel, was an unprecedented hit, outselling books like the Harry Potter series. The effect on the sex lives of British people was huge, with sales of whips, gags, handcuffs and the like soaring through the roof. We were talking about sex in a way that we never had before.
Times are changing – and for the better
With sex now a very big part of mainstream culture, it’s impossible to avoid. It’s going to be hard to shake off our prudish reputation, a stigma that has followed us around for years. We may have been seen as the uptight and repressed member of the European family, but not for much longer! We may still be behind the times in terms of how easily we find ourselves talking about sex, and looking at why, it’s going to be hard to leave behind centuries of hushing up desires. There’s only one thing to say, onwards and bedwards!
Jenny Ainsley Turner is the founder of Jenny’s Extreme Chat who specialises in extreme hardcore phone chat.