Terence Blacker: Is the Rabbit really a girl's best friend?

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The Independent Online

From Bugs Bunny to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, from The Curse of the Were-Rabbit to Watership Down, our little bob-tailed friends have always been something of a favourite among film-makers. But those expecting more bunny-fun from Rabbit Fever, a film to be released this week, will be in for a surprise. The rabbit in question turns out to be a mechanised sexual aid, and the fever is what it causes in the women who use it.

Some of us have had far too much of the female orgasm recently. Fay Weldon's innocent contention in her latest book that a few strategic oohs and ahs, even if not entirely genuine, can help a woman cheer up her man has sparked a national debate, with veteran feminists earnestly discussing the subject, sometimes with distressing reference to their own experiences. Now an entire film is to be devoted to the story of the Rabbit vibrator (it's the ears that do the trick, apparently) and its effect on women and - at one remove, one hopes - on men.

In a sense there is nothing new in this fascination. Whereas male sexuality is unfairly regarded as being exterior and obvious, its female counterpart is thought to be deep and mysterious and is therefore of interest to both genders. In the 1960s, hardly a month went by without a new type of orgasm being invented. When, in the early 1970s, a woman called Whipple claimed to have found the G-spot, she was lauded in the way a 19th-century explorer might have been after returning from a journey through the North-West Passage.

It is probably not accidental that most of those who have engaged in the debate about faking sexual pleasure are those who went through these various excitements in the early years of the women's movement. Younger women, one suspects, are more grown-up about such matters, realising that the idea that one particular aspect of erotic activity is a sort of Holy Grail without which the rest becomes meaningless is somewhat reductive.

But debates of this kind are often interesting in what they reveal along the way. Germaine Greer, whose appearance in documentaries and films like Rabbit Fever is now almost obligatory, has been explaining why this particular machine is successful. Even if men can eventually supply as much pleasure, she has written, it will make little difference. "A man takes more looking after than a Rabbit and today's women don't have the time."

Rather surprisingly (it is just so difficult to imagine), Germaine Greer has admitted that she has done some faking herself, but explains that "most women do it because given their workload they need to get the sex over in the nicest way and get some sleep". Indeed, sleeping was what the model Paris Hilton seemed to be doing in a porn video, oblivious to her lover's efforts, and Greer thoroughly approved. "Attagirl," she wrote.

They are rather sad, these old semi-jokes about the pointlessness of men and how women have better things to do than to deal with them and their tiresome needs. To judge from what Germaine Greer writes at least (and her views and bored tone of voice are not untypical), she is no great admirer of men and what they do, or fail to do, in bed. As a result, she end up recommending a mechanised masturbatory aid on the grounds that it takes less time and upkeep. Can women really be that selfish and unimaginative, so lazily enslaved to their own instant sexual gratification? Surely that approach was meant to be the prerogative of men.

Leave Willie to enjoy his organic fuel

Some people think that the British are eccentric and the evidence is there - an organisation called Beastwatch UK has announced that 10 crocodiles and three pandas have recently been spotted in the British countryside. But America surely still leads the world when it comes to loony behaviour. A Louisiana highway patrol which stopped a bus for a routine inspection detected a whiff of pot when they opened the door. The five elderly men in the bus turned out to be the great country singer Willie Nelson and his band, who were then charged with possession of marijuana and magic mushrooms. Could anything be stupider? Nelson has campaigned for green issues - his BioWillie diesel stations are a great success - and he too needs his own organic fuel. The police should have thanked him for his music, taken his autograph and sent him on his way.

* Congratulations are due to Middlesbrough Council, who have just discovered a new and effective way making life more stressful for those unlucky enough to live within its jurisdiction. The town centre is to be equipped with CCTV cameras which will be wired up to the nearest police station. Lounging behind their screens, the local rozzers will now, when they judge that an antisocial act is about to take place, be able to shout at the would-be miscreant through a speaker in the camera.

"Community safety is the issue that always comes top in opinion polls," a councillor has explained, blaming the public for this sinister policy - a civic antisocial act, if ever there was one.

Should the Home Office wish to show asylum-seekers the sort of country they have chosen to settle in, it could do worse than sentence them to stay a few days in Middlesbrough town centre.

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