A Nation Still Sniggering in the Bike Shed ; Popular Culture Reduces Us to the Status of Infants, Gawping at the Discovery That Adults Have Sex

By Smith, Joan | The Independent on Sunday (London, England), December 5, 2004 | Go to article overview
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A Nation Still Sniggering in the Bike Shed ; Popular Culture Reduces Us to the Status of Infants, Gawping at the Discovery That Adults Have Sex


Smith, Joan, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)


Whatever happened to The Spectator editor and Conservative MP Boris Johnson? Two or three weeks ago, it was impossible to avoid photographs of him looking like a sheep caught in headlights, after the tabloids exposed his affair with a former colleague. To my astonishment - I have never met the man, nor even felt much interest in him - I was invited to make a short TV film about his difficulties for a current affairs programme and take part in a studio discussion afterwards. I politely declined and Boris and Petsy have now been relegated to the status of last month's sex scandal as the caravan moves on - literally, judging by the experience of a friend who lives in central London.

One morning last week, he was woken at 5.30 by the sound of people talking loudly outside in the street. Half-asleep, he stumbled to the window and parted the curtains on a bewildering scene: dozens of men and women, wrapped in expensive coats, clutching flasks and speaking on mobile phones. They looked, he said, like some strange tribe which had congregated at this unearthly hour in preparation for a ritual whose nature he could only guess at; it crossed his mind that they might be hunters, gathering before dawn to make the most of the time left before the ban comes into force. He was right, but only in the metaphorical sense: my friend is a neighbour of David Blunkett and what he had witnessed was the rat pack on the scent of the latest sensational story about sex.

Personally, I cannot think of a single individual whose sex life interests me enough to get up before dawn on a cold, winter morning. Unlike the popular press, I am neither shocked nor surprised to discover that famous people have sex, just like the other 99 per cent of us, and I don't care who Britney Spears, David Beckham or indeed a minor member of the Conservative front bench sleeps with. For once last week, Princess Diana's post-mortem revelations about her sex life - in tapes aired last week on American television - were relegated to an inside page.

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