I was a very late developer as a teenager, painfully shy around boys, gawky and awkward. Whilst my classmates were busy drinking and snogging under motorway bridges, my close-knit group of geeky fellow virgins and I would play board games and jealously gossip about what they might be getting up to.
That doesn’t mean we weren’t interested in sex – far from it. We’d giggle our way through my friend M’s collection of porn films, muting the dialogue and making up our own. M, who “of course” later turned out to be gay, had a marvellous selection of erotic and pornographic material, from videos to magazines and books, which he would furnish the rest of us with occasionally like a celibate pimp.
My parents were very liberal, and I had received a pretty good sex education from them, but I was consumed by teenage hormones and wanted more. I therefore devoured most things on their bookshelves in the vain hope that some of the adult novels might contain racier passages.
Sadly, it seemed that my mother had not succumbed to the lure of the 80s bonkbuster, so I never read things like Riders or Lace, but instead had to make do with reading and re-reading things like passages from John Fowles’ “The Magus“, or the chapter on Sex in Desmond Morris’s “The Naked Ape“. These works tended to focus either very much on the romantic or the biological side of sex, and didn’t really teach me anything new.
One day, however, M lent me a book that really opened my eyes. It was The Happy Hooker, by Xaviera Hollander (not to be confused with the book about crochet with the same name!).
Written in the early 1970s, it was the memoir of a Dutch secretary who moved to New York in the swinging 60s and worked her way up various brothels to become one of the best known madams in the city, and it was certainly a revelation to me.
In it I read about lesbianism, bondage, spanking, golden showers, swinging and even a famous passage involving a German shepherd…I read it and re-read it, marvelling at the obvious uninhibited enjoyment of sex that clearly came across in all the anecdotes, and yes, I masturbated furiously to it.
(Reading various reviews of it now, the main thing that stands out is that apparently it’s badly written, but that actually the sex stands the test of time.)
Of course, eventually I had to give M his copy back, well-thumbed, and hopefully not too sticky… (I wonder if he ever disinfected it before and after lending it to others?!). I didn’t think of it again until I came across an audio cassette version a few years later, read by Ms Hollander herself.
I found that cassette again at the back of a cupboard over the weekend, in what was my “original” sex toy box.
I don’t suppose anyone out there still has a tape deck?