Every Day’s a School Day

Someone very kind (in fact, the lovely Friend of the Blog Jess Kelley) has sent me some instructional DVDs. Wednesday night being Date Night, I suggest them to Herbert.

‘What are they?’ he says.

‘There’s one on vulva massage and one on finding the G-spot.’

‘Okay,’ he says, ‘fine. We’ll maybe leave the clingfilm ‘til next week.’


‘Yes,’ he says, ‘you know. We talked about it. But don’t worry, we can save it for another time.’ Now he comes to mention it, I do remember talking about it, but I must have hidden it behind the door in my brain that says, ‘Eeek’.

We start with Tristan Taormino’s Expert Guide to the G-Spot. The format here seems to be a factual discussion complete with passion-killing diagrams, a studio demonstration of the techniques by two very game women, and then some captioned porn to watch afterward. We’ll get to that in a minute; but there’s a more pressing concern. After a few minutes of watching Tristan Taormino talking through the structure of the G-spot, I cannot help but say,

‘She looks just like your sister.’

‘Ugh,’ groans H, ‘why did you have to say that out loud? Did you think I hadn’t noticed?’

‘Don’t worry,’ I say, ‘I don’t think she’ll be personally giving any demonstrations.’

H frowns at me, and I take that to mean the discussion is closed. Thankfully, the science bit is soon over, and we move on to the films, which are supposed to show how to put the educational bit into practice. I don’t buy this. The first couple don’t seem to do anything particularly G-spot oriented, although a little caption comes up whenever they get close. The second couple play with G-spot toys for a while before moving on to a more standard shag. We are essentially informed that every known sexual position hits the G-spot. If that’s the case, why am I not getting earth-shattering orgasms from the doggy position? And why do all the actresses seem to need to hold the legendary Hitachi Magic Wand to their clitorises in order to come? I am left a little perplexed at what all this G-spot stimulation is supposed to achieve.

Anyhow, H and I should not be allowed to watch porn together. We commentate in the most unhelpful way possible.

Me: ‘Look, she’s giving one of those weird swivel-headed blowjobs that only porn actresses can do.’

H: ‘That woman is really angry about something. She’s probably hiding a pair of scissors behind that cushion.’

Me: ‘Never, ever do that to my clitoris. Ever.’

H: ‘Did you see his ball-bag? Oh my god, that’s the weirdest ball-bag I ever saw. Look: it’s flapping all over the place.’

Me: ‘What I love about porn is that you get to see people naked. Not in a sexy way. Just that you get to see what other people look like.’

This continues apace until the female ejaculation film. The couple talk for a while about the woman’s propensity to ‘squirt’, and then get down to it.

Me: ‘Good Caesarean scar.’ I like scars.

H: ‘That’s not squirting, she’s just getting a bit wet…oh my god…I take it all back.’

Me: ‘That’s seriously impressive. Bloody hell…and again…and again. Where is she storing this stuff?’

We move on the to The Best of Vulva Massage, Vol 1, which is all about erotic touch. There’s a tantric/spiritual aspect to the selection of clips that I fear will bring H out in hives, but it turns out he’s just quite keen on watching footage of lots of vulvas.

From my point of view, I vastly prefer the techniques on display for touching your lady parts. There is an absence of clitoral prodding, and I’m delighted to see Betty Dodson showing one woman how to masturbate just like I do. I mentally award myself a gold star for getting it right. However, I’m disturbed to hear that this woman is a medical student and doesn’t know how to find her clitoris. Please tell me she skipped that class.

We finish by watching an erotic massage therapy session taking place. I’ll confess we snigger a bit at first. I really must stop finding moustaches funny. The subject of the massage comes off as a bit needy, but I think that’s possibly because we’re not used to watching sex in a therapeutic context. After the therapist brings her to a series of seismic-looking orgasms, though, H gazes admiringly at the screen and says, ‘He’s good at his job.’ And then he thinks for a while and adds, ‘I don’t suppose they have therapists like that for men, do they?’

What did we learn?

Well, although the Tristan Taormino DVD didn’t quite convince me of the value of a G-spot, it did teach me an interesting trick: when G-spot stimulation makes you feel like you need to pee, release down your PC muscles (rather then clenching them as you would to stop yourself from peeing), and this seems to relieve the sensation. The Vulva Massage DVD was not a turn-on (I don’t think it was supposed to be, although this wasn’t always clear), but was genuinely informative about different approaches to touch. It certainly gave H some ideas to try out later.

And, it turns out, that G-spots are rather fun when you’re not worried you’re going to wet yourself.

As they say, every day’s a school day.



Remember Ross’s list in Friends? The one that so wildly offended Rachel, spiralling us all into another thirteen seasons of R’n’R agony? Don’t tell me I could have just stopped watching. Retrospect is a wonderful thing.

Anyway, it turns out that Ross was not alone. The love list, it appears, is something of a cultural phenomenon. None other that Charles Darwin made his own list before he met his wife. In it, he agonised over the pros and cons of marrige, including the memorable rumination, ‘better than a dog in anyhow.’


This is the question


Children — (if it Please God) — Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one, — object to be beloved & played with. —  —better than a dog anyhow. — Home, & someone to take care of house — Charms of music & female chit-chat. — These things good for one’s health. — Forced to visit & receive relations but terrible loss of time.

W My God, it is intolerable to think of spending ones whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, & nothing after all. — No, no won’t do. — Imagine living all one’s day solitarily in smoky dirty London House. — Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps — Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro’ St.

Marry — Marry — Marry  Q.E.D.

Not Marry

No children, (no second life), no one to care for one in old age.— What is the use of working ‘in’ without sympathy from near & dear friends—who are near & dear friends to the old, except relatives

Freedom to go where one liked — choice of Society & little of it. — Conversation of clever men at clubs — Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle. — to have the expense & anxiety of children — perhaps quarelling — Loss of time. — cannot read in the Evenings — fatness & idleness — Anxiety & responsibility — less money for books &c — if many children forced to gain one’s bread. — (But then it is very bad for ones health to work too much)

Perhaps my wife wont like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool —

I must admit, I find Darwin’s private act of decision-making reassuring rather than enraging. Why should anyone feel drawn to the idea of a wife in the abstract? His depiction of both the comforts of married life, and the ways in which it could drain his ambition are in fact quite insightful and accurate.

Very much in contrast, take a look at this Marital Ratings Scale, created in the 1930s to allow people to assess the quality of their marriage. In fairness, they could be highly useful if you were deciding whether or not to leave your partner – should they ever fill in one of these forms, you would surely have good cause to petition for divorce, no?

Source: The Atlantic

The Science Bit. Concentrate*

On Thursday morning, I wake up to find that Herbert has already gone to work. Checking my phone, I find that I have a text:

2 minutes 51 seconds, sent at 00.53 the night before.

Ha! I text back, I reckon I can easily beat that.

Does that count as flirting? comes the reply.

Yes, I type, although possibly I am mistaking competitivity for arousal.

This is all the fault of Mary Roach’s Bonk, which I reviewed on Thursday. Bonk is a fascinating book about the science of sex, and it made me wonder if we couldn’t attempt a sexual experiment ourselves. I suggest this to Herbert.

‘I’m not measuring my knob so that you can post it on your blog,’ he says. ‘Not unless you’re willing to measure the capacity of your vagina, too.’

Although I am diverted by this possibility (in particular, how would one achieve it? My vote goes to a condom, a funnel and a jug of water), that is not what I had in mind.

‘No,’ I say, ‘I’ve already had an idea. I thought we could time our orgasms.’

‘Why?’ says H, not unreasonably.

‘Well, we’re obviously both much slower to orgasm when we’re working together. I want to find out what the difference really is. I even have a hypothesis.’

‘Which is?’

‘I reckon I’ll be as quick as you when I’m masturbating alone…’ (H: ‘I doubt that very much) ‘…but much slower than you when we’re working together.’


Cut forward to Thursday evening. Herbert’s 2 minutes 51 seconds is in the bag. I place a stopwatch next to the bed and tell Herbert not to think about it.

‘I’m not sure that’s going to be possible,’ he says.

‘Aha!’ I say, ‘The Hawthorne Effect! The experimental results are affected by the presence of the observer!’

‘Hm,’ says Herbert, which I take to mean, ‘that didn’t help.’

Of course, the problem with this particular experiment is that both of us are invested in the results coming out a certain way. Herbert does not want to look like he’s a premature ejaculator. I, on the other hand, would prefer to not come off as the sort of woman who requires hours of torturous ministrations in order to come.

‘We have to just go for it,’ I say to H. ‘As fast as possible. Agreed?’

‘Fine,’ says H.

The initiative, therefore, is very much mine to take. I’m convinced that I climax much faster if I’m taking an active role in sex, rather than lying back and waiting for an orgasm to occur. I start the stopwatch, place it on the bedside table, and then, mentally counting the seconds that have already elapsed, leap on top of Hebert and begin rubbing myself enthusiastically against his manly bits.

I don’t think we’re usually this vigorous. Soon, I am sweating and panting with the exertion. Herbert groans and holds onto my breasts as if they’re life-floats, and I regret putting the stopwatch so far away. He’s bound to come first, and then I’ll lose my stride dismounting and fetching it. I gasp this to Herbert.

‘Don’t worry,’ he says, ‘after I’ve come, I’ll start counting.’

I very much doubt the scientific validity of this approach, but then I do find that my orgasm is a cumulative affair, and I fear having to start again from scratch if I get distracted in this way. I bounce on, trying to ignore the nagging thought that I’m doing all the hard work here. Actually, though, I’m really enjoying the franticness of it all. It’s as if there’s no space for arousal-destroying thoughts to creep in.

And then, quite suddenly, I feel the genesis of an orgasm way down in my belly. Sensing victory, I bear down on it, and then draw up my pelvic floor muscles until it erupts in me – a small orgasm, but a definite one nonetheless. Now I’m the one who starts counting. How long is it seemly to wait before I check the stopwatch?

‘Do you want to go on top?’ I say casually to H, and while we change positions, I reach over and check the watch. 16 minutes 40 seconds. I reckon at least half a minute has passed, so I’m calling that a 16 minute orgasm. A whole minute after Tim Ferris would have given up the ghost, but none too shaming.

Herbert, however is still going. It’s not for the want of trying. We shift from Missionary to Doggy, and then he suggests I finish him off by hand.

Wow, I think, that’s surely the most unreliable of methods. But I enthusiastically grab hold, and after that it doesn’t take long for H to shudder into orgasm. This time, the stopwatch is in my (other) hand.

‘20 minutes 4 seconds,’ I say. And then, although I don’t mean to, ‘I can’t believe I beat you! I’m so chuffed.’

‘Yup,’ says H, ‘and I feel like a sexual marathon man. It’s a win-win.’


This morning, I wait until I hear the toaster click on downstairs and then dive onto the bed with my stopwatch. After a fair amount of effortful masturbation and heavy breathing (I love Abby Lee’s term ‘bully wank’ for these moments), I manage a reasonable, if grudging, orgasm.

1 minute 56 seconds. I run downstairs, dressing gown flapping open.

‘Oh my god,’ I say, ‘I beat you on both counts.’

Hebert looks me up and down for a few moments in a mixture of awe and resentment.

‘That’s nothing,’ he says, ‘You should see how fast I am when I use the Flip Hole.’


So, if I was to write up a research paper on this (a really rubbish one with completely invalid, non-representative data that would get crucified at the peer review stage), what would I conclude? Well, the female orgasm is not necessarily as elusive as we’re led to believe, particularly if, like me, you’ve, er, practised a lot.

Moreover, I think we’ve demonstrated that sex a deux is a highly inefficient way of achieving an orgasm. It’s a hit and miss affair, and observation seems to inhibit orgasmicity (is that a word?). In the light of my findings, I foresee a whole new movement towards streamlining sexual pleasure. Cutting out the middle man leaves you free to fit more orgasms into your day, or to take up a useful hobby like gardening. Maybe I’ll pitch my ideas to Tim Ferriss.

Or does that possibly miss the point?

*Is that reference actually completely obscure? Was I the only one who found it memorably amusing to be patronised by Jennifer Anniston?

The Fifteen-Minute Meh

Before I embark on this post, I must first warn you that I have long been fermenting a bizarre love-hate crush on Tim Ferris, the author of The 4-Hour Work Week.

In case you haven’t encountered his oevre, he’s a dot com millionaire turned self-help author, who writes about how to work in the most efficient way possible, so that you have more time to do man stuff, like becoming a kickboxing champion or taking tango dancing insanely seriously. Tim Ferris can squeeze a competition out of the most gentle situation. He is the walking embodiment of testosterone. I find him enchantingly obnoxious – so hyperactively masculine that I can’t help but slyly adore him.

After reading his first book two years ago, I distinctly remember saying to Herbert, ‘Can you imagine having sex with that man? Terrifying.’

I will confess, therefore, that I let out a yelp of delight when I discovered that his new book, The 4-Hour Body, would feature – amongst other shortcuts to a super-human body – a chapter on how to ‘hack’ the female orgasm. Oh. My. God. I was finally going to get an insight into sex with Tim Ferris.

Well, never shag your heroes, as they say. (Actually, they don’t say that, but I’m hoping to institute a proverb here). Poor Tim seems to exist in a world in which women can’t have orgasms, and his advice isn’t really aimed at those of us who can. He devotes a whole chapter to pointing out that, hey, really the ladies have to take responsibility for their own orgasms. It turns out that the inorgasmic woman who was his case study hadn’t even tried. Once Tim told her to go home and masturbate, everything was fine. Thanks, Tim.

The next chapter focuses on providing a reliable, no-nonsense way for a man to give a woman an orgasm. Oh goody, I think. That sounds fun.

Well, no. Not really. ‘The clitoris looks something like an Imperial Guard from Star Wars,’ begins Ferris (you see? He has this knack of making you wonder whether he’s really witty or just a dick. So hard to tell). And then he outlines a technique that ‘decouples orgasm from sex’.

I struggle to imagine the point of that. Worse, he then adopts a truly odd definition of orgasm:

‘Orgasm is when there is no resistance – no physical or emotional blocking – to a single point of contact between one finger and the clitoris.

The state naturally leads to the involuntary contractions and flushing that most associate with the word orgasm.’

No mention of pleasure, then? This becomes particularly relevant when we try it out.

‘Right,’ says Herbert, ‘Tim Ferris says that you should only be naked from the waist down, and I’m going to blindfold you. I’m fully clothed.’ This feels a bit like a visit to the gynaecologist. Not the blindfold bit, I should point out. I lie on the bed, and Herbert positions himself according to the helpful diagram.

Talk about decoupling orgasm from sex; it’s hard to relate this to sex in any way whatsoever. Had Herbert voluntarily chosen to position himself like this, with his back to me and his knee across my chest, I would have been downright insulted. Instead, I giggle.

‘Wow,’ I say, ‘this is erotic, isn’t it?’

‘Tim says that I have to remind you that it’s a goalless practice. You are not looking to have an orgasm. You’re just having an experience. It will last exactly fifteen minutes.’

‘I’d find it easier to see it as a goalless practice if it wasn’t called ‘The 15-minute Orgasm’,’ I say.

Herbert ignores me, and sets a timer on his phone. Then, he proceeds to stroke a tiny spot at the top left-hand corner of my clitoris.

‘Ow!’ I say.

‘Okay, I’ll go lighter.’


He strokes lighter still, until I can barely feel his touch. That’s about as much as I can handle. I really hate any sex tip that begins with the instruction, ‘pull back the hood of the clitoris.’ It has a hood for a reason.

After about a minute of this, I feel an odd little twitch in my vagina, but then nothing more. ‘Do you think we’ve got the right spot?’ I say to Herbert, and he moves around for a while. Each new place he comes to feels interesting for a while, but the regularity of the touch deadens it. After a few more minutes, I venture, ‘Maybe this would be nicer with some lube?’

‘Tim doesn’t mention lube,’ says H.

‘I’m bored,’ I say.

‘And you’re not allowed to make small talk. Just go with it.’

I try, I really do. I lie there for fifteen minutes, trying to concentrate. When the alarm finally goes off, I take off my blindfold and say, ‘Well, that was pointless.’

‘Technically,’ says Herbert, ‘You had an involuntarily muscle contraction. Tim would say that counts as an orgasm.’

No, Tim, it really does not. Orgasms may be objectively measurable, but that’s not the point of them at all. The orgasms we want – the ones that some women crave for many years before they finally find a way to access them – are subjective experiences, melding pleasure with abandon. We are seeking little moments of ecstasy in our lives, not involuntary contractions of the vagina.

I fear that my Tim Ferris crush may now be on the wane.