Group sex

To all Googling perverts who ended up here cos of the title: I’m happy that you’ve come, but understand that you are possibly neither of these things.

I recently read a book, School Ties, by the excellent William Boyd. In it are two screenplays influenced by his time at a British boarding school, and which are prefaced by an excellent introduction in which Boyd describes his experience of the boarding school regime.

I am the product of boring, rather than boarding, state schools. For those of you not familiar with the British education system, private schools are ones where Mr and Mrs Hodges-Wilkinson pay fees for Farquar or Jemima to receive generally top notch education whilst wearing straw boaters. Farquar and Jemima usually then go on to hold political office or produce progeny in line to the throne. In contrast Mr and Mrs Pleb do not have to pay for Kevin and Sharon’s free education, possibly because of the accounting complexities of calculating exactly how much should be deducted from school fees during pregnancy and knife-related injury absences.

Obviously my school wasn’t that bad – only three girls in my year got pregnant, and nobody got stabbed during school hours – but put it this way: when I receive an email telling me that an ex-classmate has updated her account on Friends Reunited.com, it is rarely to inform us that she been awarded a new government portfolio.

My father told me a while ago that he and my mother briefly considered making sacrifices and sending me to private school, but dismissed the idea as being at odds with his lefty anti-Thatcher egalitarianism. My mother holds no known notions of egalitarianism, and I can only assume that this decision was over-informed by my father’s alleged egalitarian ideals, and was taken unilaterally in the style of great leftist totalitarian leaders of yore. Full respect for the class war brother Fidel, and let me reassure you that perfectly decent old people’s homes are available to those with even the most limited earning potential.

But back to Boyd. What really struck me about his introduction was his description of the way in which the strict sexual segregation then enforced shaped and marked the boys who endured it. One bit particularly stood out:

“The sexual apartheid to which we were subjected all those years utterly warped our attitudes and precluded us from thinking about girls and women in any way but the most prurient and lubricious. The female sex was judged by one criterion – fanciable or non-fanciable, to put it rather more delicately than we did.”

He then goes on to describe what happened when the few unfortunate female members of staff at the school came into contact with the boys:

“Their encounters with the boys, three times a day at meals, were characterised by a one-sided traffic of sexual banter of the vilest and coarsest sort. Given the opportunity, more daring boys actually molested them – squeezing, pinching, feeling…I think our attitudes to them brought out the very worst in our natures: it was male lust at its most dog-like and contemptuous…I dare say any male sodality – rugby team, army platoon, group of Pall Mall clubmen – can descend to this level for a while, but what is depressing and degrading about the male boarding school is the unrelieved constancy of the tone, year in, year out, for at least five years. It must have some effect.”

Reading this I immediately thought of Egypt where verbal and physical harassment are, as we know, a regular occurrence. Attempts to explain this phenomenon as it manifests itself in Egypt frequently make reference to the ‘socioeconomic and cultural contexts’ (must you be wearing a polo neck in order to be considered suitably qualified to say this?) – that is, poverty precluding marriage, strict sexual mores and so on. But as someone who has walked past a British building site on several occasions, and been in a British pub at closing time on more occasions than I care to remember, I have always been suspicious of these explanations. Britain abolished marriage in the 80s, and the limits of its sexual mores is the edict that it is bad manners to bonk a family member, and yet the same vocal crotch lust exists.

My experience tells me that the potential for such behaviour lies dormant in all men, and that as Boyd seems to be suggesting, it is when individuals are subsumed in a group (boarding school, football team, Egyptian society, sometimes) that repressed behaviour finds an outlet in the approval and perhaps anonymity of the group. Rather like when normally tame packs of dogs turn on small children, or when women find themselves in all female company and deem it acceptable to bore their interlocutors for two hours about the meaning of Him Not Returning a Text Message.

No, men are not lust hungry atavistic wolves (that’s us ladeez!), but they are sexual beings – as are women. Can men tell me why it is being in an all-male environment seems to be the heat which brings otherwise simmering water to the boil? And ladeez, why is it that we don’t feel a similar urge to commend male strangers on their bottoms at loud volume? Or if we do, why don’t we act upon it? Is there some fundamental difference between male and female sexuality, or at least the expression of this sexuality in groups?

*Clarification*
May I say that this is most definitely not an anti-men tirade. Men are fabulous creatures, and I am constantly impressed by their ability to grow chest hair, and by the straightforward, even keel, cause and effect nature, of their emotional lives.

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12 Responses to Group sex

  1. Memz says:

    i think a lot of people under estimate the power of a mob mentality!

  2. Basil Fawlty says:

    Wait…what the…how did I end up here???

    Oh, I see…I really need to stop googling ‘group sex’ all the time. I’m going to stick to midget porn from now on..unless you’re planning a ‘midget porn’ post, perchance?

  3. GC says:

    “Can men tell me why it is being in an all-male environment seems to be the heat which brings otherwise simmering water to the boil?”

    Well, it’s partly the mob mentality, as Memz noted above. But partly because in such a group or in such situations, social embarassment is avoided (because then the whole group can be blamed, rather that one individual being ostracized).

  4. Forsoothsayer says:

    but dude, the fundamental difference is that most random dudes in the street abroad do not sexually harass women, whereas even one guy by himself here will make free with your bottom. so what is it about egyptian society as a whole that makes it a “male sodality”? that’s the question. is it the utter lack of individuality that characterizes Egyptian society? wala is it the fact that due to a bunch of reasons, women are physically not present in many men’s lives, since they stay at home? which brings us right back to “cultural and social reasons” albeit slightly different ones than the onesu referred to.

  5. Seneferu says:

    The crowd of complimentors shooed me away from the last post so I thought I’d drop a line of ‘nice writing’ here.

  6. Amnesiac says:

    Basil: The midget porn post was a short-lived idea.
    Ufff, sorry.

    Memz & GC: Yes I understand the part played by mob mentality, but doesn’t it seem to have the same effect on women? And why even outside of a mob do some individual men feel the need to audibly assess body parts in a way that women do not?

    Forsooth: My mind is boggling precisely because it’s not only in Egypt. The incidence is less in the UK, but of the same variety i.e. a mumbled sth or other accompanied by the visual undressing.

    Seneferu: No! Don’t be shooed away! I am not too proud to admit that on the heart-singing scale, comments are right up there with eating mashed potatoes whilst watching Nip/Tuck.
    I have never, at any point in my life, been cool.

  7. Will E. says:

    Listen Amnesiac, no matter how advanced we are, there’s this raw instinct in man that desires a woman irrespective of the cultivated, civilized brain tells it. So in effect, even the smartest man thinks :

    Me man.. me want to bone woman..

    Pardon my French..

  8. GC says:

    “And why even outside of a mob do some individual men feel the need to audibly assess body parts in a way that women do not?”

    I think you hinted to the answer in your post. I think that, yes, there is a fundamental difference between male and female sexuality. The feelings and emotions and what happens inside our brain when we men get turned on is very different in my view than what happens with women. A simple sight of an attractive breast will make most men get carried away and distracted and turned on, no matter who the breast holder is or what the situation is. In the absence of ANY social deterrent, the raw emotion would lead many men to not just comment on it, but to go for a squeeze if they can get away with it. I know it sounds horrible and chauvinistic and disgusting, but frankly, that’s what happens inside the mind. A very raw animalistic urge. Societies have just added an elaborate system of stopping this through laws, social alienation, religious punishment, etc…..

  9. Amnesiac says:

    Will and GC you both reach the same conclusion, though express it very differently. (Will:Little voice in man’s head, GC: Professor of anthropology.)

    Yes ultimately men and women do react differently to bottoms I think. In my case I see a nice pair of shoulders or something and think “Nice shoulders. But does he read??”
    Mind you in my early twenties the threshold was significantly lower, and the question was, “Nice shoulders. But can he read?”

  10. Ki says:

    The strange thing is that men more frequently verbalize their sexual thoughts than women do. Whereas I am aware that various bits of research (something to do with speech centers in the brain) have found that women are more often inclined to verbalize there general thoughts. What could this mean?

  11. Amir says:

    Amnesiac,

    Being a male, I tend to believe that men are generally more sexually impulsive than women. If we can’t “get any” due to societal constraints, we will search for any avenue to vent our frustration (in egypt that includes harrassment and such), you see that with rapists, who are generally awkward or drunk people, and with drunkards at clubs in western societies. Women are just less impulsive, more rational, and less straightforward. Of course this is all one man’s opinion

  12. Amnesiac says:

    Ki: In my experience it means that men talk a small amount of time about obscene things, while women talk an obscene amount of time about small things.

    Amir: I’m not sure that men are more sexually impulsive by nature or whether it’s more the case that that women are conditioned into thinking that being a sexual predator/taking the lead in any way = being a trollop.
    I remember in the UK when there was a big media hoo-hah about young women getting rowdy, extremely drunk, having one night stands and generally acting like typical British men. They were roundly criticised for crude and unladylike behaviour. Which it was of course, but it’s no better when it comes from a bloke.

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