A home for double entendres? I’ll give ’em one

 

Share

‘Samantha is down in the basement getting her hands round a twelve- inch” … “Samantha is hoping to go through her entymologist friend’s flies”… Radio listeners have complained that the venerable comedy quiz show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue demeans women with its hoary double entendres about an imaginary studio assistant. Apparently the BBC initially responded by ordering the smut to be toned down  and senior figures on the show were said to be thinking of walking out.

So, do the Samantha jokes demean women? They’re smutty, yes; they definitely see Samantha only in terms of her sexuality and they’re relentless – week after week they’re served up, to chortles of delight. Former chairman Humphrey Lyttelton used to deliver them in tones of uncompromising flatness, as if he didn’t understand the joke. Now it’s Jack Dee, sounding quite comprehending and rather self-loathing, and this has been going on for more than 40 years. And that’s the nub of the matter – this is humour as relic from the Sixties and Seventies, the era that also gave us the Carry On films, Benny Hill and Dick Emery. Back then, sex couldn’t be openly discussed, and certainly not openly enjoyed, in most households. Instead, innuendo was used as a safety valve – a way of acknowledging that sex was on people’s minds. Embarrassment, furtiveness, nudge-nudge jokes were staples of comedy – often broadcast at times when the whole family could enjoy them. Children could hear them without understanding, while adults shared a knowing chuckle.

Smut was also a form of sex education: “Now girls, wear a name badge saying Pat and you can expect to be groped; boys, any mention of ‘a pair’ in female company is your cue to make a suggestive remark.” Given the way that girls and women were routinely touched up in those days, these were top tips.

Nowadays things are different: girls expect their bodies to be respected. Yet they’re also aware of huge pressures to sexualise them. My straw poll on smut found a generational divide: those who remembered the Sixties and Seventies would generally dissolve into giggles, recalling the enjoyment of complicity and titillation, and appreciating a subversive element. The Julian and Sandy sketches on the radio show Round the Horne, for example, which began when homosexuality was illegal in Britain, were entirely based on the gay slang polari. The under-35s, however, were boot-faced about Samantha: they saw a bunch of middle-aged men fantasising about a young woman performing sex acts, and who needs that in 2014?

Perhaps it is time for Samantha to quit the airwaves. But she’ll take a slice of social history with her, so I’d like to propose a conservation area: a preserve where smut and those who have loved it can roam, harmlessly and sentimentally stimulating each other. We could give it a jokey name and air it occasionally on Radio 4.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
Queen Elizabeth II with members of the Order of Merit  

Either the Queen thinks that only one in 24 Britons are women, or her Order of Merit is appallingly backward

Janet Street-Porter
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...