If you are English, male, single and thinking of nipping across to Canada to improve your sex life – forget it. English men are not world renowned as great lovers anyway, and our reputation in North America is about to take a nosedive, courtesy of a Canadian journalist named Leah McLaren who turned up in London six years ago, as correspondent for the Toronto Globe and Mail, aged 26 and single, and thinking that she was in for some exciting sex in the city.
Her English dates turned out to be a crashing disappointment – too polite, too repressed and too misogynist to go through what a young North American would recognise as a decent courtship ritual, she claimed. She suspected that if she had ever ended up in the bedroom with any of them, she would have been invited to engage in something involving whips, chain and dildos – but that is speculation, because she never got that far.
Instead she wrote a coruscating piece entitled "The Tragic Ineptitude Of The English Male", which received vast publicity on both sides of the Atlantic. And as if she has not insulted English virility enough already, she has written a television drama, which will be shown on Canadian television as the pilot for a series, so that the whole country can laugh at English impotence.
"It is based on my experience," McLaren said yesterday. "It's the story of a Canadian woman who gets a job on a right-wing tabloid in London and ends up dating a lot of crap British men, and the comic turmoil that ensues. It's kind of like Sex in the City meets Bridget Jones."
A Canadian actress, Liane Ballaban, has been cast as the main character, and auditions are taking place this week for English supporting actors. McLaren will be in London most of July and August for the exterior locations for the film – but if you think, guys, that here is your chance to prove her wrong about English virility, forget it. She has a beau over here already. He is an ex-pat Canadian.
Warming to the theme of English inadequacy, she went on: "It's something about English culture generally – the formality and the utter perversity. It's the guy with perfect, perfect manners who then wants to go home and be whipped and chained ... The politeness is in direct proportion to the nastiness when they are drunk."
Her initial quest for excitement in London drew her to the conclusion that the English male is either a repressed homosexual, a drunkard whose alcohol intake renders him incapable, a boarding school product deprived of his mother's love too early in life, or simply a woman-hater. She wrote this for The Spectator – an interesting outlet, because the magazine's editor then was Boris Johnson. "He's very sexy, but I didn't have an affair with him," she said. "He's a very unusual character. He's not your usual upper-class Englishman, is he?"
The article provoked some ferocious counter-attacks, most notably in the Daily Mail, which asked "could her views have anything to do with her on lesbian dabblings?" – a question clearly anticipating the answer "yes". "Ah yes, the lesbian dabblings!" McLaren replied yesterday. "That was dug up from a column I wrote saying heterosexuality was overrated. Alas, no lesbian dabblings to report in real life. But please feel free to keep the false rumour circulating if you are so inclined. In my world, lesbian dabblings only enhance a woman's reputation."
Producing McLaren's comedy will involve creating a mock-up of the news room of a British right-wing tabloid newspaper. So, did she by any chance visit the Kensington offices of the Daily Mail? "I have been through the Daily Mail office because I have a very good friend who works there, Robert Hardman," she said. "But I didn't date him."
She did, however, have a date with the brother of Lord Palmer, of the biscuit family, who is now the travel editor of the Daily Mail. Mark Palmer wrote: "What she has written is such utter nonsense that I can only assume that her now widely syndicated piece of journalism ... is part of an elaborate hoax to see how much publicity you can get from peddling a cliché about Englishmen that I thought had died."