There’s an undeniable, if rather surprising, sexual undercurrent to the recently-released texts between Jeremy Hunt and Fred Michel. Hunt resorted to French, lest we forget the language of love, to repeatedly thank the News International lawyer, and at one point even called him ‘papa’.
Whether this level of coy flirtation was appropriate between a Secretary of State and a key contact in an organisation he had to rule on is not for me to say. But it does revive the always interesting debate over the words we use when we’re on the pull – or in the act.
Hunt might think ‘papa’ makes Michel feel powerful and in control, but the idea of someone who wants to know me Biblically implying they’re my child makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Insinuations of incest don’t do it for me. When you call me ‘daddy’, I don’t feel like an alpha male ready to ravish – I think of my dad. Dad, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry but your face doesn’t set me up for a night of high passion. That’s probably how we both prefer it.
It’s not just confined to roles, however. Remarkably few words for any relevant areas can be said without at least a bit of hesitation over how they’ll sound to you, or be received by your would-be lover. Some just sound too clinical (penis, vagina, breasts), too crude or commonplace (twat), or just can’t be said without stifling a giggle (boobs, nipples). And let’s not beat around the bush (arf): how do you refer to the clitoris? The full word’s too technical to be sexy, but if you shorten it it sounds almost matey, and you start to feel like those people who nickname their genitals.
It’s maybe no surprise that most of these are words for womanly parts. After all, I’m a straight guy; these are the dilemmas I grapple with. But I wonder whether women (or gay men) think the same. Those first nights with someone new can be a nightmare of awkwardness, especially when it comes to directions or desires. It’s good to talk, but how far do you go? Do you go all guns blazing, or tentatively work up from limp euphemisms until you get to the hard stuff (ahem)? I once knew someone who insisted on using a particular term that she clearly thought I’d find exciting. I didn’t quite have the heart to tell her I winced every time she said it.
But whatever the difficulty of in-person sex chat, it’s got nothing on the excruciating agonies when talk’s all you’ve got. Phone sex is sometimes the only option, especially if you’re in a long-distance relationship, but the ers, ums, and pauses (oh God, the pauses) are enough to turn even the most self-confident stud into a cringing, crimson-faced asexual.
Still, let’s leave phone sex to one side and ask why there’s this tendency to talk dirty. After all, there’s not necessarily any need for it. Porn surely has to shoulder some of the blame with its unashamed exhortations – but porn’s fantasy. Remove the buffer of knowing it’s all make-believe and you risk sounding hollow and desperate. As Arab Strap’s Aidan Moffat once put it: “’Do you want to suck my cunt?’ in real life just sounds naff.”
Maybe it’s just the thrill of being able to give voice to the world inside your head, the one that only you and Chrome’s incognito mode are usually privy to. In that case perhaps we should cast off our inhibitions (and clothes) and get our filthy mouths to work. Forget slutwalk, we need smut talk.
Or maybe, to relieve some of this very English insecurity in a very English way, we could all just sit down with a cuppa and agree on acceptable terms. So, ladies and gentlemen, what are your words of choice in bed – and what makes you reach for the nearest good book instead?
Jamie is a journalist (currently doing a bit with The Observer) and PhD student (researching investigative journalism). He also has the coolest name in the world. Wait for it… Jamie. Dance. Thunder.
You can can find Jamie on Twitter, or you can check out his blog, http://www.thethunderer.org.uk/. He’s also doing the Royal Parks half marathon later this year for Bliss (premature babies). You can sponsor him here.