Magazine article The Spectator

Staying the Distance

Magazine article The Spectator

Staying the Distance

Article excerpt

For the last six months I've been taking part in a clinical trial for this new antiimpotence drug. The aim of the trial is to find out how it compares with an existing, tried-and-tested anti-impotence drug. I took the tried-and-tested one for three months, had a rest for a fortnight, then took the other one for the next three months. The trial was relatively simple. Every time an 'event' (as it is coyly termed) was on the cards, I had to take a pill and record the results in a journal. On the consent form I signed beforehand, it said I could withdraw from the trial at any time, but I stayed the distance.

When they told me I'd have to keep a journal of my sex life, I looked forward to giving a blow-by-blow account of each event, adding plenty of colourful, even extraneous detail, and possibly forwarding it to a publisher afterwards. The journal, however, turned out to be in the form of a series of multiple-choice questions. I merely had to tick whether I had had sexual stimulation prior to an 'event', confirm I'd taken a tablet, and assess whether or not I had successfully achieved and maintained an erection throughout (yes, no, or yes and no). There was nothing at all about enjoyment, duration, props or numbers taking part. Flicking back through my journal, however, I can tell a lot about the 'events' from the nature of the ticks themselves. Failure is very often denoted by a small, ashamed, unobtrusive sort of a tick; success by a large, bold, triumphant one; multiple successes by a shaky, feebly inscribed one, like the handwriting in the final entry of Captain Scott's journal.

Once a month I had to visit the doctor who was conducting the trial on behalf of the drug company. We'd go through my journal together in his private office. `Good. Good. Well done,' he'd say as he turned the pages. Or if he came across a tick in the failure box, `Oh dear. Bad luck.' At the end he'd sum up my monthly performance as a whole. 'A good time was had by all by the look of it,' he'd say. Or simply, `Congratulations!' He said it as if he meant it, too. He was a man who liked his patients to enjoy themselves. He'd then take my blood pressure (always slightly high) and feel my tackle. Finally - always a tense moment this - he'd carefully tally any pills I had left over with the number of events I'd had that month to ensure I wasn't passing any on to my friends and relations. …

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