Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

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The Independent Online

Although I hate to generalise about nationality, my passion for British men was reignited this week after I agreed to a blind date with an American. "This guy is a writer too, and he's really emotionally aware," my friend Victoria said.

I should have known that this would be the death knell for our date. Much as I love dissecting my feelings over cocktails, I want to be fantasising about leaping into bed on a first date, not lying on a therapist's couch.

But Ben was handsome and fit, and within 20 minutes he had clasped my hands in his. "So, Cat, tell me something you've never told anyone."

Of course, this is really shorthand for, "Tell me a mildly embarrassing story that makes you look cute in the end," so I told him a funny childhood anecdote and said, "Over to you."

"Well, when I was a boy, I used to dress up as a little girl, and my dad would beat me with a wooden spoon until I bled."

I looked for a punchline, but there wasn't one, so I panicked, reached for the bar snacks and smiled. "Peanut?" I was trying to defuse an awkward situation with humour, which is probably why British men and I get along so well.

Ben probably would have been Canadian journalist Leah McLaren's dream date. I read this week that she is cashing in on the portrayal of English men as drunk women-haters who are too polite and repressed ever to make a move by turning one of her pieces, headlined "The Tragic Ineptitude of the English Male", into a television drama in Canada.

Maybe I'm the one with the problem. Ben understands intimacy and had no problem giving me his attention, but for me, it was too much, too soon.

McLaren mentions The Rules as a guidebook for dating, a manual which advocates acting like a game-playing, manipulative cow to land a husband.

Her prejudices are even more ridiculous because, by her own admission, she never made it to bed with any English men (though she speculated that she would have been asked to partake in "naughty" scenarios!). That's her loss. I have met a few who liked to be paddled, but so what? So do I.

If McLaren had made it past the bedroom door, she'd have seen that the British male's shyness generally evaporates, and that the sex is often punctuated by filthy stream-of-consciousness banter.

McLaren summed up her disgust with British men thus: "It's the guy with perfect, perfect manners who then wants to go home and be whipped and chained." It's funny, because that sounds exactly like the man of my dreams.