The hotel sex test

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The Independent Online
Sex and politics dominated the week. Andrew Marr ("Columnist of the Year") is teacher's pet and always gets first pick. Unsurprisingly he has chosen to write about politics yet again, leaving me with just the sex. Fortunately I have done my research and am ready.

Not that politicians observe the distinction. As John Redwood did his unbelieveably tedious Salome's dance this week (did I imagine cries of "keep 'em on"?) it went virtually unnoticed by his dwindling audience that - roundabout the fourth veil - he talked about morals. He would, he said, expect to be told by any incoming minister about anything in their past "which might cause problems". This is, of course, code for: no adulterers or closet same-sexers need apply.

It must simply be adding woe upon woe for the winsome actor Hugh Grant that in addition to public humiliation he now has no chance of serving in a Redwood government. To help him to recover from this PR disaster, Grant has taken on the wizard lawyer who advised Michael Jackson after the boy-in-a-bed accusations. Presumably we are now to be treated to a barrage of excuses such as "it's all perfectly innocent - I love giving people rides" and "her parents were fully informed".

Meanwhile Elizabeth Hurley's publicists were adopting the successful Princess Diana approach of hurt-bewildered-alone. A warning here - you get loads of sympathy at first, but eventually end up on a diet of Prozac and Baywatch.

It's all rubbish, of course. If there is an injured party it is the law- abiding citizens of crime-ridden Los Angeles, whose police have nothing better to do than go sticking their flashlights where they are not wanted. We all know from countless movies that the vast majority of Americans have sex in their cars at some time. We also know that thousands of prostitutes ply an active trade in all great cities. Do we really imagine that those hookers are there just to service the poor, ugly and unattached - those with no other option? If Grant was acting "insanely", there is an awful lot of it about.

Was this such an act of betrayal? I cannot speak for women in the blithe way that some female commentators write about men, but male sexuality is often a dark and difficult business. Germaine Greer, however, did capture something of its essence when she talked about how the continual production of sperm must drive men barmy. She asked women to imagine what they would feel like if ovulation was constant. So you don't have to be Michael Douglas, or go howl in the woods with Iron John, to see that there are characteristics to male sexuality which lend themselves to putting it about.

If you do not believe me, ask your male partner to answer the hotel test. It goes like this: he is abroad on business and staying in a nice hotel. After phoning you and the kids he goes down to the bar. A few moments later a very sexy woman starts chatting him up. She is clearly attracted to him and suggests a night-cap in her room - no strings attached. Now fix him with gimlet eye - does he go? Of course he does. Men are an easy lay.

This is not an excuse for male misbehaviour - it is a plea for realism. There is a romantic expectation about how couples should behave together that takes no account of how we really are. If one partner is, say, significantly more libidinous than the other, is that person to be denied an outlet for 30 or 40 years?

Surely the problem here is not the sex, but the lying and the public embarrassment, whether in front of the media or just one's own friends. The answer is not suppression, but honesty. Relationships for life - especially those involving children - need to be founded on negotiation and empathy, not just on fidelity and romance. Some will incorporate liaisons, others will demand sticking to the straight and narrow.

Lets stop worrying about deviations, too. Sex is not always about the healthy, bouncing backs and bottoms of the Joy videos. Men and women get their kicks in surprising ways, but is this really a matter of regret or scandal? For those who missed it, the best story of the week came from Osnabruck zoo. Two male storks have set up nest together and have managed to hatch a discarded penguin egg. Offspring and fathers are doing fine, apparently. But then, as Redwoodians might say, that's the Europeans for you.