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October 17, 2011updated 29 Jan 2016 11:08am

The Birds and the BJs

By Alessandro Tome

Never let your kids’ school interfere with their education — especially not their sex education, says Alessandro Tomé
give it to Nature — respect, as Ali G might have said. And not respect for the way former politicians glom on to hip causes (that’s the inconvenient truth) — I mean R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Like the kind Aretha Franklin knows.

Nature continually makes fools of all of us trying to intellectualise and liberalise and control every little aspect of our lives. All our feeble attempts at overriding its normal course, at engineering every process and every emotion, legalising this, banning that, enforcing the other, mostly result in Nature reminding us that it still does what it wants in the long run, particularly with us as a species.

The other day, Angel Wife casually left on the bed a letter from the school our twins attend. In a very unlikely moment of involvement in their schooling, I picked it up and read it. I was about to stop after the first two lines of ‘Dear Parents, as you know, we pride ourselves at this school on keeping the highest standards…’ blah, blah, blah. My interest was suddenly focused when the words ‘sexual education’ and ‘puberty’ followed by something about ‘watching videos… discussing, exploring and sensing’ caught my eye and more.

As per government guidelines, our children, aged ten, were about to be given an introductory course on the onset of puberty and basics about sex. As parents, we had been left with a minuscule semblance of responsibility in the form of being allowed to go to school to review the material, watch the video and ask questions for ourselves.

I cleared my diary and made my way to the ‘grown-up’ class, reluctantly accompanied by Angel Wife, who thought we would probably be on our own and I would certainly be the only father present. (Perhaps she was concerned I would be outed as still sexually active and curious after twenty years of marriage.) In a packed audience with more than a spattering of males, we were given an overview of the course and video.

This, we were told, was the government’s attempt at replacing irresponsible parents whose kids get pregnant or become fathers at twelve. It was meant to introduce ten-year-olds to specifics of sex and sex organs in the hope they would use them responsibly. Fat chance of that happening in the hands of a ten-year-old with irresponsible parents, I thought. And perhaps not the best idea to make the parents feel even less responsibility because government is going to do it for you.

More amusing than the content itself, though, was watching the parents around me and their reactions. I ended up feeling that this course had been far more useful to the parents themselves than it would be to their offspring. While most of them knew how they had kids in the first place, I got the sense that not all of them were familiar with some of the mechanics, particularly some of the more fun and possibly pleasurable aspects. While there was nodding and giggling during the ‘pubic hairs’ chapter, as well as ‘breast growth’ and ‘voice change’, puzzlement started to appear at the mention of ‘testosterone’ and ‘oestrogen’, not to mention ‘testicle drop’. This was replaced by silent disbelief as if Elvis had walked in the room when the video moved on to the clitoris and what to do with it.

The best part was that while half the parents there were silent in the disbelief that it was considered necessary that their ten-year-old children should learn this, and how more likely this was to create problems than avoid them, the other half was clearly silent in disbelief at what they had been missing out on all these years. Or perhaps more accurately and to be fairer, all these more recent years since little John or Sarah had been born.

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And there Nature does it again. It wants us to reproduce and ensure the survival of the species and a varied gene pool, irrelevant of feelings, emotions, rights, colour, faith, political correctness, human law and power or science. It ensures that attraction evolves with our bodies over a period of time. This is meant to help us prepare for when the chemical and physical reactions make us want to stop talking about it and actually have sex. To hedge its bets, Nature ensures this is likely to happen repeatedly by making it a very enjoyable experience for most.

Which is why we probably didn’t get these puberty courses way back. Somehow we still managed to get here. Somehow it seems more than half the parents in the room enjoyed the process, even if some clearly forgot about that part more recently. Somehow the vast majority figured it out for themselves when they were ready to explore, and this generation will, too, when they are ready, in good time. Of course some will miss the occasional help or guidance from a parent or trust the wrong friend with perhaps undesired consequences, because Nature isn’t perfect, for perfection is a mythical creation of humans. But overall, natural balance will prevail.

Open-minded as I am, I wondered what the course did — did it help? I didn’t have to wait long for the answer, for it came a few weeks later when one of the twins came back from school and said: ‘Mama, you know what a BJ is? It is when a girl…’ Thank you, government — now you just got them started exploring even earlier than they already were. 
Illustration by Jeremy Leasor

An Inspector Trawls

After years of complaints about Labour’s spin doctors galore, the opposition made it to power and proceeded to clean it all up, to go back to basics as they said. I didn’t realise that meant dusting off basic principles of propaganda and populism.

Hot on the footsteps of becoming the country with the most ambitious emission control pledges in the world, of trying to meet them by spending billions on scientifically challenged, country-gouging, economically unsound wind farms, here comes the populist propaganda classic to solve all woes: provide 2,000 new jobs to tax inspectors to investigate all people with a ‘value’ of more than £2.5 million. This is the usually Labour-owned ‘give employment to tax the rich’ gambit.

Small problem here is that anyone who bought an affordable home ten or twenty years ago which they are struggling to keep now may find themselves caught in that bracket. Not so populist now, perhaps.

Why not spend the cost of the tax inspectors on combating benefit scroungers and other state hand-out thieves who steal your money, or wind turbine funds on research for clean fuels? Or on reconstruction of the near-derelict Victorian infrastructure such as railways and roads? Even paying politicians better so you get a better quality of people leading you? You’ll run out of people to tax before you run out of things to spend it on. Better to choose well what you spend it on instead. But the basic problem remains that this country went to sleep one day as a big bull mastiff and hasn’t realised it has woken up as a chihuahua, with a lot of bark and nothing to back it up.
It’s All Gone South
As Angel Wife and I were being driven around the south of France recently, we were overcome by a real sense of melancholy. The weather was beautiful, the temperature warm with a light sea breeze. And yet as we looked around all we could see were long gone memories of a lively, glorious and glamorous past. It felt as if someone had left a time capsule for future visitors, but on a grand scale — none more so than Monaco itself and one of its notable hotels, with its fabulous lobby and awfully tired rooms.

Even if you’re in the grandest of suites overlooking the casino, the paper-thin walls mean the jaded bar filled with professional, decorative ladies will keep you up until the small hours, which is when the neighbour runs a bath that sounds as if the bathtub is in your room. Not that you’d want to spend much time in bed getting a free body peel from sheets capable of grating cheese. And you’re even made to feel grateful for having got a room in the first place, too.

As for why they don’t spruce it up, they can go on living off tired, faded glories as long as there is new, stupid money. Monaco and the South of France did not only lose Princess Grace when she died: they lost grace full stop.

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