Katy Guest: Never apologise, always explain

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The Independent Online

One of modern life's stranger phenomena is the weird paradox of knowing that the majority of people do something, but finding that you don't know anybody who does it. For instance, I don't know anybody who won't move down the carriage when there is plenty of room and people are trying to get on the train, and yet when I am on a train (or, more likely, trying to get on it), most people don't move down the carriage. Who are they? What is their thinking? I'd love to know. Likewise, I have never met a man who admits to honking his car horn at women in the street, so I can't ask what it is that motivates them, and why they can never think of anything to say once they've got the woman's attention.

In the same vein, neither I nor any of my friends has ever had sex with a man whom they would otherwise find repulsive for the sole reason that they have seen him on the telly or an album cover. And yet thousands of women evidently do. A thousand women have had sex with Mick Hucknall alone, according to the singer's own tally, and he freely admits that they only did it because he was famous. "When I had the fame, it went crazy," he said in a recent interview, adding: "A red-headed man is not generally considered to be a sexual icon."

Let's leave for another kind of paper the obvious gap in his understanding of red-haired men and their relative sexual attractiveness, and wonder instead what on earth is going on here. Hucknall revealed all this in order to "apologise" to his hundreds of sexual partners, he says, and to admit that he was secretly only looking for affection. "I regret the philandering," he said. "In fact, can I issue a public apology? They know who they are, and I'm truly sorry.... Between 1985 and 1987, I would sleep with about three women a day, every day. I never said 'No'. This was what I wanted from being a pop star. I was living the dream and my only regret is that I hurt some really good girls."

This is a funny sort of apology, in that looks and sounds like showing off. Some people have even pointed out that Hucknall has a tour to plug. I don't know why thinking about Mick between the sheets – eeeew, let's not – would make people want to buy tickets to see Simply Red, but I'm more baffled about what each party thought they were getting, if what Hucknall says is true. He was looking for intimacy because his mother abandoned him when he was three; they were looking for a long-term relationship. And yet they were all trying to find those things by going to bed with someone they didn't much fancy and had barely met. No, it just doesn't make sense.

I once knew a male author who would quiz me by email about women's motivation. "Why would a woman do X in situation Y or Z?" he would ask, and I would puzzle out thousand-word contexts and elaborately empathise. "And why would a man do A or B?" I would ask him. "Because he can," he always replied.

I've never really believed that men and women are all that different, and I don't think that honest and consensual sex should ever call for an apology. But if it has to be made, then maybe the thousand women should apologise to him. "Between 1985 and 1987 I was desperate for attention, and would have sex with any old crooner as long as he was famous and had red hair," they would say. After that they would blame their mothers and explain that they also never move down the train carriage when there's shedloads of room. But we don't want apologies; we need to know why.