Susie Mesure: More sex, please, we're British...

Stiff upper lips are not enough - we're flocking to lessons in love
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The Independent Online

It turns out there is hope yet for us as a nation. I refer not to our athletic prowess in Barcelona, where our medal tally has exceeded certainly my expectations, but to the news that we are finally mastering an altogether more intimate form of athleticism.

Yes, after decades of despair in the bedroom, where we have been stuck in collective adolescence since the Victorian era, Brits are learning to embrace not only each other but also the art of seduction between the sheets. And I do mean learning. The number of couples seeking sex therapy is rocketing as we cast off our reputation for stiff upper lips and not much else, Psychologies reports this week.

It seems that sex, the butt of jokes since long before the bawdy days of Chaucer and Hogarth, is no longer a British taboo. Relate, the relationship-counselling charity, reveals that interest in its sex workshops has rocketed in the past few years, while Coco de Mer, the sex shop owned by Sam Roddick, can't run enough of its intimate "salons" on Japanese Bondage or Self Pleasure to keep its customers, ahem, satisfied. Coco de Mer's sales are up 70 per cent so far this year, and that's on top of a decent enough 2009 thank you very much.

In case you think the clientèle is all hen parties and swingers, Psychologies assures us that it's not. It's apparently you and I who are popping in for a spot of something saucy en route home from another dull, deskbound day, or, with partners, venturing out for an evening of eroticism. "Can good sex be taught?" the article asks, and the answer, resoundingly, is yes.

(Tips, for those who can't make one of Ms Roddick's salons, include "faking an affair" with your partner: booking a hotel room or meeting in your lunch hour for a quickie; and imposing a "sex curfew" for a few weeks to build up sexual tension, although there's always the risk that the curfew will stretch on indefinitely.)

I realise that this all seems very un-British and will doubtless dismay those with a Benny Hill disposition who still have to suppress a chuckle anytime the European Union president, Herman Van Rompuy, gets a mention, but it can surely only be a good thing. Therapy of any sort often carries a stigma in Britain, unlike, say in America, where pretty much everyone has a therapist, but it shouldn't. Think of all the couples who might end up staying together rather than playing the field just because they've got a bit bored in bed.

What with everything else we've got to worry about in our lives, this might all sound somewhat frivolous. But given that last month the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development branded Britain as the European capital of broken homes – 23 per cent of British children up to the age of 14 live in single-parent families – there's a serious message here. If it means that all of us, and not only the likes of Sting, self-confessed tantric sex fiend, can have a bit more fun, who's going to argue with that?