Spare me from more naked bodies

You desire one another so much there is no need for satin night- gowns or purple spiky dildos
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MARY WHITEHOUSE was right all along. There is far too much blaring, brazen sex on British television. And too much cookery too. There have been at least 20 programmes on these in the last two weeks including Naked, Vice, Anatomy of Desire, Sex and Shopping, not to mention cooking with virginal Delia and alluring Nigella.

Maybe middle-class white Britons feel an irrepressible need to show their disdainful European cousins that they are not repressed, inadequate or third-rate when it comes to the luscious things of life, but stuffing the channels with sex organs and offal dressed in frilly lettuce only reveals a pathetic sense of inferiority. What's more, these programmes are putting me off food and sex.

The first will probably do me no harm, but the second is ruining one of the main delights of my life. The problem with being mercilessly exposed to television "pornography", as Mary describes it, is not that we will all become even more sex mad and have it off with customers at photocopying shops in broad daylight, but that we will simply give up on one of the most natural of human activities.

Most sex between consenting adults is not about having your bottom washed and powdered by a pretend mother who then pretends breast feeds you (three programmes dwelt on this one) for pounds 200 a session or, as four programmes suggested, having your balls crushed by a lady with long boots and sharp stilettos. Most couples who are happy with one another enjoy warm sex because it does not have to be a bloody performance.

You desire one another so much, so regularly that there is no need for satin night-gowns or purple spiky dildos. You can have unwaxed legs (bliss) and smelly feet as you collapse into that old bed at the end of an exhausting day; but for the blessed none of this matters because of the intimacy that time brings. You may no longer thrash about until dawn, but what you have instead is quality sex which comes out of knowing what turns you both on.

Perhaps I am being dangerously presumptuous here. Maybe as my partner watches these programmes he begins to yearn for that which he does not have and cannot have. Television is invading our retreat and manipulating our longings.

What makes us watch these programmes now - incredulity and a certain arrogance - may lead in some unquantifiable way to corrupt what has taken years to build up. And this must happen to some people. Suggestion and validation provided by the relentless obsessions with unusual sexual acts means the ordinary becomes unacceptable, an affront to our right to be on a sensual rollercoaster.

I am even more troubled by the way the essence of sexuality is killed off by such programmes. D H Lawrence understood this when he condemned pornography as "an attempt to insult sex, to do dirt on it". It does this by making us watch what should be intensely private.

Aphra Benn, the first professional woman writer in this country, said that love ceases to be a pleasure when it ceases to be a secret. I think this is even more true for sex. I love what I do with my loved one in my bed because what happens is unique to us and is inaccessible to anyone else. Even saying this is a kind of betrayal of that principle.

There is of course a need for information. There is no bliss in ignorance - and I speak as somebody who comes from a community where none of our languages have a word for the clitoris - but there is none either when your private parts become public property.

There is something very sexy too about modesty and restraint. I have just re-read John Berger's old, but wonderful book, Ways of Seeing, in which he says that a lack of modesty leads to a loss of mystery and shifts attention from the eyes, the mouth, the shoulders - all of which can convey many and complex messages - to the sexual parts "whose formation suggests an utterly compelling but single process".

The Horse Whisperer is an unforgettably sexy film because the ferocious desire between the lovers is only seen in their eyes and twitchy hands. Do you remember the perforated sheet in Midnight's Children which a young woman used to show bits of herself to the young doctor treating her "ailments"? Seeing only parts of this woman drove him mad with physical longing.

Believe me, it works. Never strut around showing your all; cover yourself even in bed and choose the parts you would reveal. And remember to save your sex life by turning off that filth on the box. It is doing none of us any good.

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