Susie Rushton: Take the XXX out of Valentine's Day

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According to the press releases I've been receiving since October, for this Valentine's Day to be anything other than a complete flop, I must get fully kitted out with a buttock-skimming red strapless dress, red bra and fetish knickers, lapdancer shoes and an arsenal of sex toys. For the big night itself (yawn) I should without delay make a reservation at my nearest Travelodge (they're throwing in a bottle of cava with the £34.99 room). In the minds of our marketing geniuses, 14 February has become an X-rated festival of frantic coupling. But have they got it wrong?

This week Penguin published a new translation of the Kama Sutra, the ancient Sanskrit love manual that offers advice on everything from how to acquire a wife to scratching each other for thrills (and I don't think "Oooh, give my back a scratch, would you, dear – I think the air con makes me itch" is what the 2nd-century author meant). The new edition has a plain cover in a tasteful shade of moss green. Inside, there is only text – and none of the Indian illustrations of athletic sexual positions that made the book such a titillating hit in the 1960s. Penguin prefers to describe the book "a lifestyle guide". While the lack of rude pictures might appear pretentious to some, this new edition's bid to force readers to use their imagination is more timely than you might think.

In a society saturated with hardcore pornography available online for free, a noisy minority of men is voicing disillusionment. It's not the exploitation or stereotyping or plastic surgery that bothers them. The problem is that a steady diet of free porn clips is ruining real sex lives.

Last week the New York magazine writer Davy Rothbart penned a 3,000-word confessional about how his daily indulgence online had caused him to feel "detached" from his real-life partner and made him temporarily impotent. He found dozens of other American men who also testified to the unfortunate side-effects of the "porn epidemic". The only solution, he realised, was to take a four-day break from the online porn (a conclusion he had arrived at very reluctantly, and only after eliminating all other possible causes). "Realigning one's relationship to it might just improve one's actual relationships." No doubt.

But some women need to take a break, too. Not from consuming porn – although females do make up a large proportion of users, if you believe the self-serving research – but from acting it out. Consciously or not, women of the internet generation bought into porn culture years ao, and continue to blithely shop for it in lingerie shops, in shoe stores, and most radically in the beauty salon.

Rachel Johnson's description of her Brazilian bikini wax in the pages of Vogue this month felt like a sign that extreme grooming had reached a tipping point. Rothbart also pointed the finger at women who behaved like porn actresses in the bedroom, presumably in an attempt to drag their men away from their iPads. Chandelier-shattering vocal performances were, he said, a fatal turn-off: "Men don't want their real women and their fantasy women to inhabit the same body."

There's no holding back the XXX culture that the internet brings into our homes. But wouldn't it be a nice gesture if 14 February were declared a no-porn day, whether that's as a consumer or "actor", a day when real bodies are let alone to do their stuff. Who knows, the hormones might even take care of the rest.







This is not good for my peace of mind



The short cut to Sainsbury's is now called Violent Crime Crescent. Two streets along from ours is Asbo Gardens. I've mentally rechristened the pavement in front of the Tube station near us Robbery Road. I knew this would happen before I looked up my postcode on the new Police.uk website, but I couldn't help it.

It's just possible that the maps have helped me to choose a walking route that's statistically less likely to find me mugged. But my peace of mind isn't helped by the blobs of "other crime" that float over the map of my neighbourhood – sexual assaults are included in this category, to protect the identity of the victim, but so is shoplifting. That quiet road I used to park the car in is more dangerous than I thought, but so too is a little knowledge.







Whatever happened to scandalous royals?



The Queen loves The King's Speech. Of course she does. It's not only that she's portrayed by a pretty young actress (Freya Wilson), nor that her father is posthumously honoured with a career-making performance from Colin Firth. Unlike The Queen, this film is great PR for the Royal Family. It is portrayed as warm and affectionate and sensitive, not to mention stylish.

This year could be an uncannily positive one for The Firm, as they bask in public goodwill that was unthinkable just five or six years ago. Even Harry could be in grave danger of settling down to a cosy life with a long-term girlfriend once again.

Are we downtrodden subjects to simply watch on as the Windsors live happy, well-adjusted, upper-middle-class lives at our expense? Where's the humiliation and scandal? If they don't start entertaining us again soon, we might have to think about asking for our money back. We are not the same nation portrayed in this much-awarded film, and need more than a triumph over minor adversity to keep us sweet.

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