Saturday, March 04, 2006

Paul Thomas: The titillating world of sex and schoolmasters

On opening the local newspaper last weekend I found myself described as "a writer whose fiction has regularly explored sexual ethics".

Something to ponder over the grapefruit and Vogel's, I think you'll agree. Various questions sprang to mind: What, exactly, does this mean? How did it come to this? Are there any sexual ethics left to explore?

But if the cap fits, wear it. I can't deny that the games people play crop up quite a lot in my work and I devoted an entire volume of short stories to the tangles people can get themselves into when they think with the little head, as they say in America.

I'm in good company. It's been said that there are only two worthwhile themes: sex and death. And at the low-brow end of the scale, a Hollywood producer renowned for his unblinking focus on the bottom-line once declared that there was really only one story: the delayed act of intimacy.

I must stress, though, that my approach has been predominantly comic and satiric rather than titillating, although there's so much bizarre stuff happening in the real world that I sometimes wonder why I bother making it up.

Consider the following which I came across while randomly browsing the net:

* An Argentinian couple have been arrested for having sex opposite a mayor's office in broad daylight. When police officers arrived they demanded to be allowed to finish what they were doing. The woman said she'd always fantasised about having sex outside a mayor's office while politicians were working inside.

* A Sudanese man caught having sex with a goat has been forced to marry the animal. "I heard the goat make a loud noise," said the owner, "and rushed outside to find Mr Tombe naked and engaged in a relationship with my goat." Rather than involve the police, he made Mr Tombe cough up a $125 dowry. At last report man and beast were still a couple.

* A Vietnamese man who took a fake Chinese-made Viagra tablet had to be hospitalised when his erection refused to quit after 48 hours. (As an aside, you have to wonder why the report described the tablet as "fake" since it would seem to have been effective.)

* A Coopers Beach GP plans to convert his medical centre into a high-class brothel. "It's not a big leap, really," said Neil Benson who claimed his brothel would provide a private service and maintain confidentiality, just as his medical practice did. The Chairman of the New Zealand Medical Association's GP Panel was quoted as saying the change of business proved that medicine isn't the big earner people think it is.

* Sharka, a two-tonne white rhinoceros at a West Midlands safari park, tried to have sex with a Renault Laguna. A spokesperson for the park observed that rhinos aren't particularly intelligent animals.

* Two gay lovers climbed a larch tree in New York's Central Park and spent four hours engaging in sex acts and hurling abuse at police and fire-fighters. During the stand-off, one of them spurned a police officer's offer of a can of Coke, yelling "I wanted vanilla Diet Pepsi."

* Seven paratroopers from the United States Army's elite 82nd Airborne Division have been charged with being paid to have filmed sex for a gay pornographic website. The 82nd Airborne, who have featured prominently in every major campaign going back to World War I, are known as the "All-Americans."

The comic effect of that last item is enhanced by the macho posturing that surrounds the US military and the chest-thumping which US military-might inspires among politicians and the public alike.

How, one wonders, did those Americans who derided the French as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" for their opposition to the invasion of Iraq react to the news that some of their crack troops are moonlighting as gay porn stars?

Mind you, I've had my doubts about the American military ever since the Clint Eastwood movie Heartbreak Ridge which portrayed the 1983 US invasion of Grenada as a feat of arms comparable to D-Day. In case this epic clash has slipped your mind, Grenada is a 344sq km Caribbean Island with a total population of less than 90,000.

What made Heartbreak Ridge even more ludicrous was its explicit message that conquering Grenada exorcised the ghosts of Korea and Vietnam where the American fighting man was prevented from prevailing by gutless politicians and bleeding-heart liberals.

Meanwhile, back at the sex-humour crossroads, we await the next instalment in When Schoolmasters Go Wild: The Saga of David Benson-Pope.

Whether Benson-Pope's a pervert, as alleged by Act's Rodney Hide, or over-zealous, or simply has a Mr Magoo-like propensity for getting his wires crossed and blundering through the wrong door remains to be seen, but I suppose many of us could dredge up instances of schoolteacher conduct that wouldn't bear scrutiny several decades down the track.

As a nipper I attended a prep school in Christchurch where we were obliged to swim in the nude (except on sports day) and, now that I think of it, there sometimes seemed to be more staff members in attendance than were strictly necessary.

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