There is sex that I regret. There is sex that I am ashamed of now. And there is sex that was beyond all my wildest dreams. But I think that most of all there is sex that I don’t remember. There are a scary number of encounters that have slipped almost completely from my memory. All that remains are scattered fragments of nights that I can just about vaguely recall – the aftermath of a drunken dinner party, coming home from some groovy club that closed decades ago, a hotel room in some exotic far-off land – or was it Norwich? Bargains feverishly struck in the back of black cabs, mouth on mouth, hands in pants, the driver slyly watching in his rear-view mirror – these random shards of memory come back, but none of the details.
Such as – who was she, this long-lost partner in sex crimes? Were we tender in the morning, or embarrassed and distant? Did we have fun? Why can’t I see her face? How come we never saw each other again? And… far too many of these… what was her name? That one was a blonde, and that one had to go to her office in the morning, and that other one was the best friend of our hostess and she sent me a funny postcard of a train going into a tunnel and was touchingly understanding that I already had a girlfriend – but to be frank, it is all a bit hazy.
We all love more than once – but not much more. And there is, for all of us, the love of a lifetime, the other half of the sky, our soul mate. Though unfortunately some go to their graves without ever meeting her. But she is out there. The girl in all the old songs. The dream lover. The name you give to the angels when they ask you to recall the thrill of them all. But let’s hope the angels don’t want a full list, because between the handful of great loves that a man has in a lifetime, there are the encounters where the sex has about as much meaning as a takeaway pizza, the kind of sex that remains in the memory about as long as the average American Hot.
It is not just names that I have forgotten. There are names that – I am not proud of myself – I never actually knew. Then it was too late to ask. No doubt yesterday’s girls forgot me too. Almost immediately. Or sooner than that. They were never sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. And I would bet my last euro that there is nothing remotely unusual about sexual amnesia. At least, not for men. I would wager my left nut that most men born in the second half of the 20th century have a sexual history that they can’t recall in any great detail. Because there is simply too much of it.
We were formed by an era of sexual freedom that had its apex in that tiny period of human history when the world was post-Pill and pre-AIDS. And even if you were born too late to remember the golden years of sexual promiscuity, even if you came of age during the great condom restoration of the Eighties, that time has cast its spell over your sex life, and informed every brief encounter. Even if you were born when Mrs Thatcher was prime minister, you are shaped by the years when sex was limitless and free. Sex for recreation not procreation, sex without pregnancy, sex without consequence. I have no doubt that there are sexual adventures that I have forgotten entirely – brief trysts where not even the memory of a cab ride or a spasm of pleasure or the curve of a face or the light of the morning after remains. For the last 50 years, men have expected to have a lot of sex. It stands to reason that the numbers soon mount up.
“How many are we talking?” Piers Morgan once pressed Nick Clegg in this magazine. “Ten? 20? 30?” “No more than 30,” said Clegg, quickly adding, “It’s a lot less than that.” If Nick Clegg doesn’t know exactly how many sexual partners he has had, then imagine what it must be like for Hugh Hefner or Mick Jagger. As we used to say back in the 20th century – who’s counting? The answer is suddenly – everybody. Promiscuity is last century’s thing. Now there is a theory knocking around that, for a happy life, there is perfect number of partners. And the perfect number of partners is… ten.
The Rule Of Ten states you will just about make it into double figures before you find the love of your lifetime. The Rule Of Ten says – nobody wants a virgin, that’s just plain weird. But, quite frankly, neither do they want someone with so many notches in their bedpost that the mattress falls through the ceiling. When Piers Morgan asks you to pick a number, the theory is that you should be able to reply with a considerable degree of pride – ten, Piers. I remember them all well, Piers, and with great affection.
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