Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

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The Independent Online

Sitting on top of a mountain at my dad's house in a dry county in America, I start to realise that the holiday season is going to be abstemious in more ways than one. I'm in a houseful of nosy relatives, there's no booze on tap and Paul is a continent away with his family.

Yet in a cruel twist of fate, the constant stream of people and lack of privacy makes me constantly horny. And it's tough getting release during a family visit. In today's security-conscious airport environment, carrying a suitcase full of porn DVDs puts you at risk of ridicule. I don't want to face a smirking baggage screener when he pulls out a giant orange dildo (this happened to me in Amsterdam airport a few years ago, in front of a South African rugby team!).

Paul and I make a couple of half-hearted attempts at phone-sex, but the complex intercom system and strange acoustics mean that I'm in constant danger of being overheard. Two days ago, I was hunkered down under the covers mid-afternoon my time, moaning, when we heard a click on the other line. "Is someone there?", I demanded, only to have my uncle splutter that he was trying to call my grandma's house.

Which leaves internet porn. I'm not normally a huge fan, simply because I live in fear of giving my credit card details only to find that the "first-time lesbian girls" look more like perma-tanned 55-year-olds. Besides, my dad doesn't have wireless internet, so it would mean using his computer.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. While everyone else is grocery shopping I race through several websites, only to find links to loads of fetish pages featuring women getting it on with horses, contorting into impossible positions, or crushing insects. Not my cup of tea. I do find some interesting free material, but just as things are beginning to get interesting, I hear the gravel crunch of the car.

Frustrated and paranoid about further interruptions, I decide to settle for printing out erotic stories to read furtively under the covers by penlight. It is bliss... until the next morning, when my stepmother comes into my room with a worried expression on her face. "Um, Catherine, we don't mind if you use the machine... but could you remember to clear the search history from Google? Your grandma was looking for chocolate-cake recipes, and found something called Gothic Sluts. Thanks."

Next year, if by some miracle I'm dating someone, we are definitely booking into a hotel!