Sex-tions . . . How Far Have We Come? (Not a Euphemism)

The bizarre things that pop up in my e-mails and social media feeds is a constant source of fascination. And so, when ‘UK Cities Home to Most Sexually Embarrassed Brits’ appeared last week, I was keen to see whether my home city of Cardiff topped the list.

I’ve always found Welsh men to be incredibly prudish in sexually related matters; many of them have to have a nap to deal with the guilt of just saying the word penis, let alone doing anything with it.

But no. It’s Swansea, 45 miles west of Cardiff, that takes top billing. Despite having the smallest population (117,000) in the survey conducted by Oxford Online Pharmacy, Swansea racked up 111 searches for Brits’ top sex-related questions per 100,000. Milton Keynes came second, by the way, with Gloucester and Brighton joint third.

So, what are the burning sexual questions to which people are seeking answers (avert your eyes now, if you are of a sexually embarrassed nature; yes, I’m talking to you, Swansea)?

Popular searches include ‘How to last longer’, which is up 50% since 2023. I’m presuming we’re talking penises here, rather than how to last longer in the pub when the guy is boring you senseless talking about himself (just me? No. Thought not).

Up by 30% is ‘How to do anal sex.’ Really? There’s only one hole. If you mean How to do anal sex without screaming ‘You’re not putting that whacking great donger anywhere near my pinhole’, then that’s an understandable question.

And then there’s How to have good sex, which is up by 23%.

The survey got me thinking about the questions I asked as a sexual ingenue growing up in Wales. I was born in 1958 and, indoctrinated with a strict Baptist background, was brought up to believe that sex outside marriage was wrong.

I was given no sex education. Dad, while mowing the lawn, once told me some convoluted story about butterflies when I was 11, but that was it. Apart from it reinforcing the fact that I didn’t want to be a lepidopterist (or butterfly collector as I then knew it), there was zero information in the conversation that prepared me for a sex life.

Even periods were shrouded in mystery. Also, when I was 11, Mum told me that I should be prepared to start bleeding. As the only blood I had ever seen was on the TV when people got shot in Bonanza in black and white, I developed a fear of guns. She went on to tell me how said bleeding could be stopped. There were things called ‘rabbits’ (a euphemism for sanitary towels) and ‘mice’ (a euphemism for tampons). Dear lord, how I ever made it to my teens without having a nervous breakdown is anybody’s guess.

I still have an aversion to rabbits and mice, though.

I remember coming home from school when I was 16 and telling Mum that Steve, a Sixth Form boy, had said that he masturbated three times a day.

‘What’s masturbation?’ I asked.

‘It’s when people touch themselves.’ said Mum, ‘but nice people don’t do it.’

As for my questions about oral sex – ‘That’s disgusting. Nobody I know does it.’ Eh? The only things I had ever heard my parents talk about with their friends was how to stuff a vol-au-vent.

School in general was of no help. One rainy afternoon, when I was 14, they sat the class down to watch Don’t Look Now, starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. It’s a very sexually charged film but made no sense to me. I just thought that Venice looked like a nice place I’d like to go on holiday sometime.

But then I was such an innocent, if they’d shown me Last Tango in Paris with Dirk Bogarde’s infamous sexual butter scene , I’d have thought it to be a promotion for Anchor to put on my scones.

Any questions I had about sex had to be gleaned from books. One of the first words I looked up was masturbation and learned that an electric toothbrush could be used against the clitoris. Then I had to read another book to find out what a clitoris was, and there was still no information about whether you had to use the flat side or the brush side (the new USB operated sonic ones are not suitable for the job, should you be interested. You need a battery-operated brush circa 1978 to do the job. And no, it’s not the brush side. That way the path of shredded clitorises lies. Just sayin’.).

Nearly 50 years on, I’m still asking questions about so many sexual matters – just less often, because the opportunities to test them don’t arise.

And, as a society, we’re still asking questions about sex, because, the truth is, we remain ill-informed in an area of life that is so tied up with social mores and cultural differences.

I think I might just move to Swansea, where the only thing I might have to worry about is ‘Where’s my bumhole?’