LIZ JONES’S DIARY: In which I reveal how I’ve become emboldened in bed
When did I last have sex? Hmmm. It wasn’t memorable, so I’ve just had to look at my online calendar. Ah. It was the night of 6 October 2017. I was in Edinburgh for my niece’s wedding, and it was the night before I split up with my boyfriend. The bad sex that night wasn’t the reason, but it didn’t help. It was sex of the ‘been together for four years, tired after long drive, tummy full of curry’ variety. Both in bed, me moisturised and pyjama’d; him, naked as usual. There was no talking, no giggling, no desire (on my part), no kissing, no warming me up, no imagination; just a half-hearted hand creeping lazily towards my pyjama bottoms.
I was a virgin until I was 32, having built up ‘the act’ so grandly in my mind I’d been too terrified to get naked with a man. I felt not good enough, which is why I exfoliated, jogged and did sit-ups until I threw up; I don’t think any man has ever seen a single toe belonging to me that hasn’t been perfectly painted in Essie Ballet Slippers. So it amazes me that men, even the pot-bellied, believe unswervingly that they are catnip to women. They don’t even try to improve themselves or their technique. I find it incredible that someone can get through a marriage, affairs and several long-term relationships and believe their lovemaking doesn’t need any tinkering. Why, I think to myself while he’s pounding away, hasn’t one of his previous conquests stepped up to the mark and told him, ‘That really isn’t working,’ before he got to me?
The reason for this lack of skill and absence of any eagerness to please is that men don’t need much variety or stimulation, while we do. They know what works, and don’t mind being bored. I would often wonder if they even knew I was there, so common was it for them (‘them’ sounds far too many; there have only been four and a half) to close their eyes and be so silent that I was sometimes tempted to poke them and ask accusingly, ‘Have you died? You’re not asleep, are you?’
The only surprising thing I’ve discovered about sex is that I’ve been having so much of it in my 50s. Which prompts me to disabuse you of what Germaine Greer was heard to say in the recent film of her life, which is that she took HRT at 60 because she was embarking on a relationship and was suffering from a certain ‘desiccation’. I haven’t found that to be the case. Nor has my desire lessened with age. Actually, given I’ve lost the fear of boys I had in my teens and 20s, I’ve become emboldened. I no longer fake it, which I certainly did with my husband. I tell men what I want; I’ve been known to draw diagrams. I shout ‘Ow!’ if a clumsy elbow traps my hair and tell him, ‘Don’t move, talk or cough,’ when I’m trying to concentrate.
I wish I’d known during my wilderness years how easy men are to please. They don’t need us to be perfect, because if we are too fabulous we frighten them. I always knew my last boyfriend wanted sex not because he’d make a delicious dinner or mow the lawn, but he would just sit there, stroking my knee idly with one hand. That was it. That was his idea of seduction and foreplay. No wonder so many women prefer box sets.
But as we become fiercer are we, in fact, driving a wedge? Are they scared of us? It must be hard (unfortunate word, sorry) for them, too. My ex once took me on a weekend to Ramsgate. He was anxious, ill, sneezing and unable to perform, which was just as well as the ever-present hanky put me off. He was worried he wouldn’t be able to pay the hotel bill, and that I was squished and underwhelmed, as he hadn’t managed to bag the best room. I learned that weekend exactly why I’ve been alone for most of my life. Men like women to be as meek as mice, to be sweet and supplicant and eternally grateful to have a plus one. They don’t want us to be demanding and difficult. That was why my husband cheated on me with work-experience girls with low foreheads. That’s why 30 years ago the man I loved from afar married an air hostess instead of me. It’s not because I failed in any way. It’s because they weren’t up to the job.