I vow never to let the word sex pass my lips again

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold
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The Independent Online
SEX. That's not a word with which I like to kick off an article. It has always struck me that there is far too much talk of sex - "free sex, oral sex, unmarried sex" - in the papers today. Those of us who can still lay claim to be serious commentators would be well advised to steer clear of it.

Sex. It is essentially a private act between two or more consenting individuals, or so the experts tell me. With the Global Economy in jeopardy, and worldwide environmental concerns never more pressing, it is little short of outrageous that so many of my fellow commentators are concentrating on sex. Last week, I held my nose and gave a detailed account, fulsome yet never prurient, of the sex lives of our own Prime Ministers. This week, I find myself obliged to delve into the sex lives of their cross-channel counterparts.

Sex. It is time to put our feet down. Let Mr Robin Cook and President Bill Clinton get up to what they will: it is none of our business. Incidentally, while we are on the subject, I have noticed that Miss Gaynor Regan's hair has become a trifle lacklustre of late. Might she not take a tip or two from her friend Miss Lewinsky on how to get some its old bounce back? I am told that Wash and Go is particularly attractive for those with busy lives to lead. From where I'm sitting, I imagine Miss Regan would be best off with the tube specifically formulated for Greasy Hair, though I am prepared to stand corrected.

Sex. As if we were not already heartily sick of endless reports of Mr Clinton's light-fingered way with the UNfairer sex (!!), we must now turn our attention to our old friends and sparring partners from across the other side of the Channel, namely Les Francaises. From reports this week, it seems that every French President since time began has been "having it away" (dread phrase!) with one actress or another.

Sex. I forget the exact details now, but it seems that President Giscard d'Estaing alone was always hard at it with a variety of attractive young ladies, including Mirielle Mattieu, Brigitte Bardot, Sylvia Kristel, Claudia Cardinale, Madame Castafiore, and our own redoubtable Mrs Slocombe. And I hear tell that Presidents Chirac and Mitterrand have also had their fair share of birds of the unfeathered variety, no doubt wooing them in their well rehearsed French accents over a half bottle of the very smoothest Piat d'Or.

Sex. Of course, the French are very different to us in matters of the flesh. Not for us the silver-tongued flattery, the bunches of fresh flowers, the seductive fragrances, the diamond bracelets, the exotic lingerie, the candlelit dinners for two. Even if we knew what on earth lingerie was for, its instructions are often unclearly marked and we would be bound to get tangled up in it. Anyway, it is notoriously bad at keeping out the cold. Flattery and flowers? Not our way at all. "Well done, old girl," we say if a fence has been cleared, a lob successfully hit, or a stew served unburnt, but we feel no need to thrust flowers down our loved one's throat. No: we British prefer the more honest and down-to-earth approach. First, we exchange pleasantries with any lady with outdoorsy interests, a healthy approach to life and a sensible hairband. Second, after no more than a matter of months we throw caution to the wind and embark on Christian names. Third, we go looking for suitable rings armed with a ten-bob note. And finally we embark on a six-year engagement, just to be on the safe side.

Sex. I find it immensely regrettable that the tabloids have become so obsessed with the activity. At times, it is as though they feel duty-bound to sneak it into every single paragraph, so desperate are they to grab the attention of their failing readership. I am only grateful to the Lord Chancellor for his brave stab at having it removed from our papers forever, at least where politicians and senior members of the judiciary are concerned. Personally, I'm delighted the Lord Chancellor's own marriage is so water- tight that he can never be chastised on the grounds of hypocrisy. "Hands off my missus!" I heard him bellow to a fellow who tried to "chat up" his lady wife at the Savoy Grill the other day.

Sex. Up it crops again! Happily, there are those of us who still struggle to maintain standards, but some of my colleagues on other newspapers have, I regret to say, thrown in the towel. In the Times last week, I was surprised and not a little disappointed to see my old friend Lord Rees-Mogg playing the sex card. Halfway through a beautifully argued essay predicting a global economic recession he changed course to pronounce upon "the immensely alluring embonpoint of Ginger Spice". O Tempore! O Mores! O Sex!