Sex & Love

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I think sex is probably the nearest way most people get a glimpse of bliss. It has certainly provided me with some profound moments. But it wasn’t easy, a child born in the middle of the Second World War, to get comfortable with the subject. I was brought up in an old-fashioned time when sex was something done secretly, in private and wasn’t discussed. Talking (and writing) about sex was therefore my own particular style of revolution.
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I could never understand why men and women were supposed to keep so quiet on the subject. When something is marvellous you want to shout it from the rooftops. I couldn’t for the life of me see that sex should be any different. So in the mid 1970s I began to shout.

This was when I went to work, as an editor, at Penthouse Forum magazine, in those days a sex magazine that (in spite of its titillating side) took itself very seriously. There were no photographs, no advertisements and compared with today’s standards, it was remarkably low key. As I worked on the articles and problem letters, I learned more and more about the subject. Came a moment of truth when I realised I knew more than the specialist consultants who were answering the letters. So I began to write. I also commissioned article. I (and my partner Phillip Hodson) were responsible for fostering the career of a certain young man called Alastair Campbell, for example. I also ran, in a managerial capacity, the Forum Clinic.

This latter provided the opportunity for training as a sex counsellor. One of the psychiatrists working at the Clinic, Dr Colin Wilson, later to make fame as the Capital Radio doctor, took me on as a trainee and co-therapist and I received the best thrown-in-at-the-deep-end education that anyone could be lucky enough to get. This was in the days before formal sex therapy tuition existed in the UK. At later stages I went on to do a variety of psychotherapy trainings and consistently took myself back to school to keep up with new counselling and psychotherapeutic ideas and methods. But we of the mid-1970’s generation of sex counsellors were pioneers. We were the first to venture out into the field.

At the same time I got together with another journalist and therapist Eleanor Stephens and together we founded what became the Women’s Sexuality Workshop. This offered group therapy for women who were having sex problems. We were the first trainers to bring the group sex therapy approach to this country. After continuing with the group work for a while I became troubled by the fact that the Workshop was assisting a relatively small number of women when I knew from my postbag that there were literally thousands wanting help. So I wrote my first book The Body Electric (see Books) which tells the story of what happens in the sexuality group. Of all the 28 books I’ve written it is still the one I am proudest of. It is fact presented as fiction, can be used as an entertaining story or as a therapeutic workbook. And I know it changes women’s lives because women have told me so. A television producer friend Peter Carlton was kind enough to describe it as ‘seminal’).

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The Body Electric was the beginning of a long line of books on love, sex, marriage, committed relationships, divorce, children, popular psychology and yet more sex. Now, 40 years on, I’m focussing on changing attitudes towards sex during one’s life-time. I begin to see that as the body changes so too does the attitude towards sex — I do not mean by this that you lose interest, simply that the biological urge is not so pressing. You can be a lot more relaxed. Sex is no longer so stressful or so challenging because the relaxed attitude means you feel OK about taking time in playing and flirting that you didn’t when younger. I’m pleased to report that physical sensation continues to be as gorgeous as ever, even though it takes longer to get to and sometimes benefits from testosterone replacement. All the research on sex shows that provided you keep your health, sex continues to be a joy however old you grow. It’s because of this that one of my later books Feel Fit, Look Fantastic is about keeping fit and happy in the Third Age (see Grey Power).