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Sunday, October 31st, 2010 07:18 am
As I reported on Twitter yesterday, Stephen Fry - broadcaster, writer, polymath and Great British Institution - has patiently explained to all us straight men that our unfortunate situation is due to the fact that women don't like sex as much as men.

Edit: According to Stephen 'So some fucking paper misquotes a humorous interview I gave, which itself misquoted me and now I'm the Antichrist. I give up.'. Hmmm. end of edit

Edit 2: video of him saying much the same. So, possibly not all that misquoted, eh? end of edit 2

What's his evidence for this? Some groundbreaking psychology paper? A longitudinal study of sexual mores in a variety of cultures, attempting to control for social pressures and the problems of truly assessing private behaviour? No. According to Stephen Fry: "If women liked sex as much as men, there would be straight cruising areas in the way there are gay cruising areas. Women would go and hang around in churchyards thinking: 'God, I've got to get my fucking rocks off', or they'd go to Hampstead Heath and meet strangers to shag behind a bush. It doesn't happen. Why? Because the only women you can have sex with like that wish to be paid for it ... Of course, a lot of women will deny this and say, 'Oh no, but I love sex, I love it!' But do they go around having it the way that gay men do?"

I could probably write about what's wrong with this for hours - but I have to be at Heathrow Airport for 9:45 and don't really have time. I'll leave it to my friends who have sex with men to let me know whether willingness to go cruising in Hampstead Heath is a fair assessment of men's sexuality. I have a hunch that it's not, but I don't have a lot of experience in the area. However, using that as evidence that women don't like sex is highly suspect.

It would be like me saying: 'If same-sex couples liked physical affection as much as opposite-sex couples, then you'd see them being physically affectionate in public. Same-sex couples would hold hands in the street, cuddle on buses and drunkenly snog on trains home from nightclubs as much as opposite-sex couples do.' I hope everyone reading this will recognise that as a fallacious argument, but in case you don't, one big reason that rarely happens outside a few, well-known safe spaces, is that for a same-sex couple to show physical affection in public is to risk abuse, ridicule and violence. Yes, even today, and even if it were completely safe today, it would take a generation for the fear to go away.

Similarly, a woman who openly admits to liking sex is leaving herself open to being called a slut, being disrespected, and being raped. This study, in 2005 (and I know there have been others, but this makes the point) found that '...26 per cent of adults believed that a women was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was wearing sexy or revealing clothing. Some 22 per cent held the same view if a woman had had many sexual partners.' Although the question was not asked, I suspect that figure would be even higher for 'a woman who was known to go out onto Hampstead Heath for indiscriminate sex'.

It's slightly off the point, but I'd also like to state that I have a number of women friends who don't have sex with me, and I don't feel that my life is impoverished by that. Anyone who has someone like Clare or Natalya as a friend and who thinks 'I'm so annoyed that I don't get to have sex with them' rather than 'I'm so lucky that this awesome person is in my life' doesn't deserve that sort of luck.

Stephen Fry took over Douglas Adams's role in the second series of Last Chance To See. It was mostly a great series, but there were times when the comparison was revealing. With Douglas, the more strange he found a culture or behaviour (human or animal), the more he tried to understand it, and the more familiar it was, the more he picked at it suspiciously. With Stephen, he was very much the Englishman abroad, missing his home comforts and gently mocking the odd habits of Johnny Foreigner. There was nothing in Stephen's version that came close to Douglas's elegant exploration of how it might feel to be a rhinoceros, getting the bulk of one's sensory information from smell rather than sight.

I think this is another manifestation of this same problem. Women do not behave like Stephen Frys, and Stephen is quicker to mock and criticise the difference than he is to understand it.

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