Sex in the city (or suburbs)

2009-04-06 00:00

Warning: Readers are warned that this article contains references to sex. Readers’ discretion is advised. Young readers, both of you, should be accompanied by an adult.

This is just a gentle warning to the good folk of our city — and it may be totally unnecessary — but it would be just as well to get your sexual ducks in a row.

You might remember that back in the fifties, a certain Mr Masters and Ms Johnson caused a tizz in the United States when they set about finding out just what made Americans tick sexually. They were a pioneering team of sex experts (nice work if you can get it) and they found out that all sorts of weird and wonderful things were going on behind closed doors in the jolly old U.S. of A. The Americans were amazed; the rest of the world nodded knowingly and said they had suspected as much.

A similar probe has been doing the rounds in lil’ ol’ PMB, a national survey on Aids awareness, and while the issues are serious, the questions are, apparently, in the same vein — as a former Witness colleague, a 70-year-old pensioner, has just found.

Our chosen one, Massy “Fergie” Ferguson (for obvious reasons names have been changed), was shaken from his afternoon slumber by a smart nursing sister, armed with a business card, impressive-looking forms, rubber gloves and a nasty looking gadget to take blood.

Fergie’s house had been randomly chosen and the travelling sister wanted to grill the oldest person in the house. He was given the choice of refusing to take part in the survey but, as he pointed out, many retirees go out looking for strangers to talk to and here was one presenting herself on his doorstep.

Anyway, Fergie was basically asked to trawl through his sex life and had to field a number of personal questions without the option of “phoning a friend”.

He was first asked when he last had sex. Might have been last year or 2007, he responded. And the frequency of sex? See answer above, he answered curtly.

And when did you first have sex? Fergie could not remember when he’d had his last cup of hot chocolate so throwing his mind back 50 years was a problem. He moved quickly on to Question 5A which was how old he was when he bought his first condom. Now that purchase, Fergie assured me, is burnt into the psyche of any young man of that generation and few forget the experience. He said he managed to acquire one at the age of 16 and kept it in his wallet till he was 21 when he tossed it out because it had perished.

Buying condoms in those far-off days was, I believe, a mission. They were bought in hushed tones from a (deserted) pharmacy and were camouflaged in an order for aspirin, toothpaste, shampoo and soap.

Fergie, working at the Daily News in Durban, bought his from a trader who worked there as a machine minder. This trader did so well moonlighting as a condom salesman that he bought a house from his profits, a revealing comment on the times and the vibrancy of the newspaper industry half-a-century ago.

Now tell me, asked the Sister, what condoms did you use? Well, admitted Fergie, he was not really up to speed on brand names. The helpful Sister proceeded to rattle off a stream of exotic condom labels until Durex rang a distant bell.

“I think they were manufactured by the Dunlop tyre factory in Durban,” he offered helpfully.

Fergie, then asked if he knew how to combat Aids, said that he believed that taking a shower was good. And, Mr Ferguson, for your final question, can you pick up Aids from a toilet? No, said Fergie firmly, adding that it was only possible if you had unprotected sex on the seat.

That, in a nutshell, was what came to pass in a Boughton house earlier this month. The knock on your door may never come but it certainly does no harm in being prepared, particularly if you work from home or the memory is fading.

It all reminded me of the cynical observation made by 18th- century English politician John Wilkes that life is but a few good bonks and then you die. Of course, that’s all very well for Mr Wilkes but some people can’t even remember what they did yesterday.

• John Bishop, a former Witness Sports Editor, is now a freelance writer.

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