Commissioned by the Daily Mail 25th May 1998
Pop history says my generation spent the entire decade of the 60s dropping acid and
our trousers. It’s a lie. I left my tough West Midlands comprehensive in 1964 – there
were no drugs of any type on the school campus and no teenage mums. At Oxford,
where I spent the next six years, the handful of dope-smokers were actors, dropouts,
posing socialists and the odd Rhodes Scholar who did or did not inhale. We thought
them utterly pathetic. For the record, I was offered LSD once, in 1967, in Paris, by a
ravishing American tourist called “Bonnie”. I suggested we make love instead. She
taught me several new sexual positions but stole my primus stove.
The most exciting thing about 60s sex was the arrival of the Pill in 1961 giving
women the freedom to have affairs with less anxiety. Yes you could go to a party and
find yourself in bed with one person at nine o’clock and another at 11. Then you
might have lunch. But that would be very exceptional – maybe after exams – and we
never put our names or car keys into a hat to choose our partners. A solitary
undergraduate of my acquaintance showed symptoms of nymphomania. She
decided to take a different lover every day for a term. The Oxford term is 56 nights
long. We were genuinely shocked and amazed by her promiscuity but not surprised
when she fell into the hands of the psychiatrists.
The 60s long remained under the spell of the 1950s. I didn’t know how babies were
made until I was 10 in 1956. I first heard the four-letter words when I was 11 – my
mum washed out my mouth with soap. Eight years later my student neighbour at
Oxford – who was an evangelical Christian – appeared to be stuck in a far earlier
timewarp. His version of “All you need is love” was the remark: “I’d kill you on the
spot if I could be certain you’d go to Heaven”.
Contraceptive supplies also remained problematic. Condoms were available from
barbers or chemists but not generally to MINORS which meant everyone under the
age of 21. In fact, I lost my virginity in an unprotected sexual moment before the
arrival of the Pill to a girl called Marilyn. She spent the whole month convinced she’d
have to leave home and throw herself on the mercy of something called “The
National Council for the Unmarried Mother and Her Child’. I, meanwhile, would
become a factory hand. Fortunately, our fears were the only fertile part of it.
In my second big relationship, when I seriously lost my heart to Geraldine of the
Upper Sixth in the school library, we couldn’t get the Pill because there was no
Family Planning Clinic in our town and the local GP would certainly have told our
parents. We struck a deal – she could have orgasms but there would be no
penetration. The relationship hiccoughed after a year when I said I could no longer
promise to remain a gentleman so we went to Birmingham to get a prescription.
Did the 60s yield the best sex? No, I think the 70s prior to AIDS reaped the real
benefit of the sexual revolution. Our time was still too unsure of itself. Parents were
also over-reactive. The mother of my Oxford girlfriend threatened to have us both
rusticated from college for breaking rules concerning “overnight” stays:
“Denise”, she intoned, “will go to work in Boots while you must get what job you can”.
We threw ourselves on the mercy of the kindly Principal of Somerville, Dame Janet Vaughan,
who simply said: “You leave these parents to me”.
But the 60s did have one advantage. Because intercourse was often unsafe, we
spent more time getting to know one another. We literally spent whole afternoons
and evenings passionately kissing, pressing and sighing. I must have made love to
Geraldine with my fingerprints 400 times before we dared go further. I could still
describe to you in the minutest detail every single cell of her desires in all their various
moods. In pessimistic moments, I tend to think that the art of lovemaking has
subsequently been “dumbed down”. At least we in the sexy 60s would never have
dreamed of using such a repellent word as “shag”.