Rod MacKenzie
Rod MacKenzie

Durex: ‘Let copulation thrive!’

It’s just more embarrassing to watch oral sex on the big screen because it is just that much more in your face. The sexy Hollywood actor slid down the gorgeous Hollywood actress’s quivering body towards her you know what. Courteously — or rather in line with movie ratings — the camera did not pan across to that area of her anatomy and what he was obviously doing to “it”, judging by her intense groans, the look of concentration on her face and the wicked (I suppose) smile full of teeth on her face and heaving bra which is where the camera remained politely focused. I can’t remember the name of the movie, it was about fifteen years ago (Goldie Hawn?) but hell yeah, I remember the scene and my enormous discomfort as I pushed myself lower into my seat next to my date, trying to hide behind my humongous box of popcorn. Let’s call my date Karen, whom I had a lot of respect for and I was actually one of those “boring” guys more interested in a deep relationship than sex. Dinkum.

I tried to watch Karen’s reaction to the scene out of the corner of my eye. She just seemed to be eating her popcorn a lot more thoughtfully and slowly, rather intrigued by what was happening on the screen. As per usual there were a few (embarrassed?) guffaws and titters in the audience as the actress put her arm behind her back and arched her back to enjoy the moment more, then the scene faded and there were a few moans of disappointment from the audience and a couple of Sawth Effricen cries of “agh man” from both men and women. (And did I not hear a West/East Rand “agh nooit” or two?)

Another movie, another date and I couldn’t believe what Ben Stiller was about to do but he went ahead and did it in There’s Something about Mary. He had gone to the bathroom in his apartment with a couple of pictures of scantily clad girls. He arranged them on the basin, dropped his pants and proceeded to give himself one helluva massage. Of course, due to movie ratings you couldn’t actually see his genitals but viewers were left in no bloody doubt as to what he was doing right up there on that oh my god so huge screen. My mouth dropped and again I squirmed next to my date, another perfectly respectable arty kind of lady, let’s call her Janine. She slurped on her slushy drink, eyes wide and sat there sipping slowly, eyes glued. Maybe Janine was avoiding eye contact with me. If she was, I still don’t blame her. After a few seconds’ silence where all you could hear was the magnified sound of the popcorn crunchers and the rustling of packets of crisps there were again a few sniggers and guffaws. This was followed by the lead actress, Cameron Diaz, Stiller’s date for the night, going into the bathroom and mistaking his sperm for some kind of hair gel and for the whole of the next scene she had this over-gelled “gobby” tail of hair sticking up out of her fringe in the restaurant they went to. I strongly doubt any viewer could keep his or her eyes off her hair. For once men were only eyeing her hairdo rather than other parts of her body. Other than that, Cameron had a perfectly respectable hairstyle.

Let’s face it; some sexual acts — if not all — are bizarre and invite humour. Heaving buttocks and legs dangling over male, sweaty torsos. The sound effects, good grief. Sex is just so bloody honest, isn’t it? Oral sex, while enjoyable, is way weird and surely for either sex does not exactly include a gourmet selection of piquant tastes. No lavish descriptions of twenty-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon here.

Watching sex, or talking about it, often naturally leads to laughter and jokes because we just look so odd and daffy-happy when doing it. “Let copulation thrive! … ” exhorts Shakespeare’s King Lear. While heaving against each other, our faces come up with the most fascinating expressions. There is definitely enormous pleasure, but there is also often that strange grimace before we come, almost a scowl of sadness, and yeah, it even looks like pain. As we climax we look as if we have just bitten deeply into a particularly bitter lemon, and then … “Oh baby, did the world move for you too?”

“I think the Milky Way even shuddered for a moment there, darlin.”

I respect Jennifer Thorpe’s writing in general and her recent article on Durex jokes. Rape and the abuse of women are critical, crucial issues and I think highly of her forcing and cajoling us in piece after blunt piece to examine our consciences, including the jokes we often use and which apparently denigrate women … hey and why not men too? I immediately have to ask. For example: “Why does a dog lick his balls? Because he can. Why doesn’t a man? Because he can’t reach there.” This can feasibly be viewed as a vilification of men surely, IF you wish to see the joke that way. (By the way I came up with the latter half of the joke, the first part is as old as the hills. Remember to quote me.)

Some sex jokes have me and Marion packing up. The joke Jennifer inveighs against, “Why do men have penises? It’s one way to shut a woman up”, is not automatically suggestive of rape or the denigration of women. That is imposing on the gag. It is just a weak joke. How you view the joke says a lot about your autobiography and the agenda you use to interpret the joke. The joke refers to oral sex (duh) and it so happens a lot of women and men love giving and getting oral sex. It’s weird human behaviour, especially with the noses so close to the anus (yuk). I came up with a joke on this one. Joan, the wife, decides to shave her crotch. She tells her husband John. John sniffs, “That’s no skin off my nose”. Not a particularly good joke (before all the jeers out there begin) but it illustrates the point about how bizarre some sexual behaviour looks and the way it invites humour. However, jokes like these, however weak or “gross”, are not automatically belittlement of either sex.

Yes, we deal with stuff like oral sex with endless coarse jokes like “one slip of the tongue and you’re deep in the shit”. Absolutely yuk again. Joking is a way of coping with our behaviour, of being able to laugh at our humanity and celebrate it. If dogs or cattle could talk, what would they say about our bizarre behaviour? They only pomp one way, as far as I know, and with little or no imagination, tongues lolling. We love trying out different positions and ideas, and, heads banging against the wall, celebrate life and get away from the stresses of the day.

The problem with Jennifer’s writing is there is little emphasis on how we celebrate life and each other through sex and sexuality: be this a tender kiss after receiving flowers or a bruising session on the lounge floor while the kids are out, complete with carpet burns. This is because of Jennifer’s autobiography, surely. She deals with rape victims and statistics regularly and her outrage is inevitable and necessary. As is her (to me) militant feminism. But with the blatant aggression expressed in her pieces, Jennifer risks becoming defined by the very abuse and denigrations she is attacking. There is little or no tenderness emphasised in her pieces, except as brief mentions on say, safe sex and seeking consent first. Blogs like “F*** her and her violated vagina…” come to mind.

However, Jennifer’s writing is absolutely necessary, a beacon to get us to wake up and note what we are doing to women, and therefore to humanity. She comes across as one who has had to sacrifice to a large extent the tenderness and sexual humour that also makes us so down-to-earth human and accessible. The word “sacrifice” here is key: it is part of the definition of a martyr unswervingly dedicated to the cause of the dignity of women. Or a certain kind of martyr.

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