Love & Sex

Why Posh Boys Make Great Lovers

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Maybe it's the climate, but, traditionally, the English have never had much of a talent for screwing. As Roger McGough's poem "Today is Not a Day for Adultery" has it: "At your age, a fuck's not worth the chance of catching flu."

As far back as the seventeenth century, the Duc de Sully remarked that the English took their pleasure sadly. Our version of steamy under the sheets was often confined to a hot water bottle and a nice cup of tea. Only in a country that prefers tittering to titillation could one of the book circuit's most coveted prizes be the Literary Review's annual Bad Sex Award (though a previous winner did gamely denounce the judges as being incapable of recognizing good sex if it sat on their faces).

In centuries past, as the sun blazed down on the Empire, Brits cheerfully sublimated their more beastly urges into bullying the natives and being splendid at cricket, until, nicely in time for the twilight of imperialism, D.H. Lawrence came along and blew the gaffe on John Thomas and Lady Jane. The revolution was a long time coming, but by the end of the twentieth century it was here to stay. The English may no longer be good at anything much, but by golly, we'd like to be good at rogering.

Yes, nowadays the English seem to have taken to shagging with embarrassing alacrity.

A certain group of privileged Englishmen still believe that Nice Girls Don't — enjoy it, that is.

We have cast off our inhibitions along with the white man's burden and found new use for our stiff upper lips. Along with our talent for binge drinking, we can now boast the highest teen pregnancy rate in Europe. Our vomit-spattered high streets host weekly hordes of barely dressed juvenile slapettes, afire with hormones and Red Bull, proudly declaring that they're gagging for it. What George Eliot used to call "lady novelists" have taken to producing erotica, the Home Secretary is papped leaving an Ann Summers sex shop, and the members of the Women's Institute, the backbone of jam-and-Jerusalem middle England, have hurled off their woollen combinations and posed naked for a calendar (which exploit was taken to a West End stage). Any day now one expects to open The Lady and find a Position of the Month.

Except, actually, not. The Brits may believe they have lost their modesty and found their mojo, but the elephant under the duvet remains the other great English obsession: class. When it comes to poking, we still think of the proles. Essentially, a certain group of privileged Englishmen still believe that Nice Girls Don't — enjoy it, that is. Witness the furor over Belle de Jour, the anonymous call girl whose memoirs became a hit TV series. The nation was mesmerized by the idea that a literate woman might actually like fucking. Perhaps because so many Englishmen are still educated at boarding schools where, between the ages of six and sixteen, the only women they encounter are Mummy and Matron, posh boys remain absolutely terrified of sex, at least with members of their own social group. Posh girls know this, which is why they only bother making an effort before marriage. Once the banns are read, no more blowjobs. (Though Princess Diana's lover James Hewitt confessed that Di didn't go down before marriage, because, as the daughter of an Earl, it was, well, beneath her.)

And thus it is that of all our dying traditions, the secret life of the British male aristocrat has remained among the best-preserved. For centuries, furtive toffs have crept to the eighteenth-century enclaves of Shepherd's Market and Soho to enjoy light flagellation or a bit of French from girls with Eliza Doolittle vowels. Brothels are booming despite the credit crunch, and recent imports of talent from the Baltic States have made die-hard Tory males reconsider their position on joining Europe. There may not be much mileage for the heritage industry in this, but it's frightfully good news for any girl lucky enough to land herself a lover whose name is in Debrett's. Englishmen of a certain sort may not have the intellectual élan of the French, or the operatic charm of the Italians, but with good training (think enthusiastic Labrador puppy), they can be rather spectacular lovers.

For a start, they're so touchingly grateful. Let's face it, free love hasn't been all it was cracked up to be for the girls. The average Manhattan metrosexual expects a taut ride through half the positions in the Kama Sutra, a gourmet organic breakfast and an underwear collection from Agent Provocateur, and even then he doesn't call you.

Of all our dying traditions, the secret life of the British male aristocrat has remained among the best-preserved.

He certainly won't stand up when you leave the table — or give you $100 for the powder room. But the Englishman is still so convinced that sex is something nasty which women obligingly tolerate, that any hint of enthusiasm on your part transforms you, in his eyes, into a cross between Zola's Nana and Angelina Jolie. Admittedly, his technique may require a little guidance (aristos learn from their ancestral bloodstock — hence the lord who consulted the family doctor about infertility, only to discover he'd been buggering his wife for years), but once you've shown him that "clitoris" isn't a place his great-grandfather used to govern, he'll happily go down for hours — at least outside the shooting season. And, marvelously, Englishmen don't do emotions, which means you don't have to listen to post-coital rants about his relationship with his father or whether his shrink's right about his co-dependency issues. You can also get as drunk as you like without his thinking it's at all peculiar, and he won't expect you to shower at any point in the proceedings.

Contrary to our reputation, excess has always been a British inclination. We couldn't content ourselves with a few colonies, and these days we can't content ourselves with continence. But properly played, the Englishman's will to conquer can have cataclysmically delightful consequences. Noblesse will always oblige — even if he does keep his socks on.


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