"Dating is tiring", she says...
The New Rules of Sex is part of the current zeitgeist for sex-saturated books that took off with the global blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey. Like E L James’s bestseller (before it got snapped up), the book is self-published and sexually explicit. But there the similarities end.
This is not a work of erotic fiction but a non-fiction book designed to give women permission to explore sex outside the conventional boundaries of marriage and monogamy. “Women are so insistent on partnership and marriage,” says its radical-thinking author, “because culture gives them no other format for sustained and socially approved sexuality and love.”
The book opens in Paris. It’s a balmy evening and Lauren is dressed in a “peach summer dress” that ripples across her body “like bed sheets”. She is an experienced internet dater, she tells us, who has dated “the full spectrum of French men”. [Didact: I'm guessing this range starts with "Vaguely garlicky" and ends with "Like sucking on a garlic press"?]
Before we can feel sorry for Lauren – All those dismal dates! All those dead ends! – she drops her first bombshell. Lauren’s internet adventures included a threesome with a Russian woman who was “already naked” when she arrived at the apartment.
“Lauren,” I say. “I have to ask you about the naked Russian woman on the opening page of your book. Did you run away?”
Lauren reaches for a cucumber sandwich. “It took me a long time to warm up.”
I wonder if it’s too early for a gin and tonic.
Lauren’s story goes like this: aged 27, relationships “suddenly came to a stop”. Faithful, monogamous males became as rare as Sumatran rhinos. “I looked around and saw there were many single people around me, all of them attractive, talented and intelligent people,” she says. “Some of them hadn’t been in a relationship for years.”
“Ah!” I say. “We have the same problem in London and friends tell me things are no better in Rome, Barcelona and Tokyo.”
“One of my good friends hasn’t had sex for 12 years,” says Lauren.
“Is she very miserable?” I ask, even though this type of drought strikes me as perfectly normal.
“No,” says Lauren. “She has a dog.” [Didact: "Dog" is an elastic term with women. Chihuahuas ARE NOT dogs.]
Instead of buying a pet like her friend did, Lauren decided to take a string of lovers. “I don’t believe in putting your energy into waiting for the perfect partner to come along,” she says. “I believe in looking at what’s there.”
Graphic accounts of Lauren’s sex life are interspersed with brief entries on everything from why Samoans are more sexually liberated than we are to how eating chilli peppers produces oxytocin, the “bonding” hormone. It’s a dizzying read. One moment Lauren (a trained midwife) is telling us about the virtues of using doulas during childbirth, the next she is kicking off with an X-rated passage about sex in the passenger seat of a truck.
The underlying message is that sex – in all its myriad forms – is natural, normal and human, but there are moments reading the book when I feel embarrassed on Lauren’s behalf. “I wanted to share my not-pretty side,” says Lauren. “I thought it was important not to put myself on a pedestal.” [Didact: That, coming from a woman, has got to be a first.]
Lauren studied humanities at the University of California, Los Angeles and grew up in a Christian household in Orange County. Her grandfather drove around in a minibus with the words from John 3:16 inscribed on the side. Lauren doesn’t go to church any more but believes in a “divine creator of this universe”. She has never had a British boyfriend but finds other cultures “sexy”.
She tells me she has slept with just shy of 100 people. [Didact: Not the worst I've ever heard.] That’s considerably more than Nick Clegg, but perhaps level with Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha in Sex and the City (a combined tally of 95 according to the New York Daily News). And she believes in polyamory. Yes, you need to learn new words to get your head around this.
In many ways, Ms. Brim's tale is one of female empowerment. She's basically saying that women should explore their sexuality as much as possible, that sex is normal and good, and that both men and women should experiment as much as possible to keep themselves sexually and emotionally satisfied.
|Thirty-one, my ass|