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Kevin Myers: Men need women in ways that women simply don't need men - they do just fine without us

Lesbianism: the natural condition into which women are born, and from which they are dragooned by the coercive heterosexualist norms of a male-dominated society. Which well-known feminist said that? Fallopia Whynge? Phalline O'Pression? Ovaria Grype? None of them: I said it. Is mise.

I was recently reading about yet another bevy of young women who are opting for pelvic refreshment with other women, and it struck me that the abandonment of men as sexual partners might not just be a fashion of our times, but an entirely natural process. Indeed, it might well be that women are naturally drawn to one another's beds like bees to blossoms, and that only the need to get someone to make babies, or do the Neolithic equivalent of unblocking the loo, is what caused cavewomen to agree to have sex with cavemen in the first place. Otherwise, sexually speaking, the girls get on very nicely without us.

The issue is clouded by taboo, to be sure, and not made any clearer by the numerous popular analysts (paradoxically, usually female) who -- as agony aunts -- pronounce on these things. But AAs do little more than articulate the current sexual ethos and taboos of their caste. I'm old enough to remember the late Frankie Byrne (who as we now know had a vigorous sex life of her own) mercilessly advising one woman listener to drop her boyfriend instantly because, after five years of celibate engagement, he wanted to have sex with her. "This man's a bad egg, after one thing only. Get rid of him now," she declared, possibly ruining two lives, after five years of chastity.

AAs used to declare airily that one of the great differences between the sexes is that women are not aroused by visual stimuli. This palpable rubbish became a dogma governing all public discourse about sexuality -- even as the photographic portrayal of female nudity -- always female -- was being pioneered in women's magazines. The myth that visual erotica is a degrading exploitation of women by men remains a dogma in that arid nexus where political feminism and personal prudery intersect, even though 60pc of American women admit to using visual pornography for their own personal pleasure.

Moreover, Queen Victoria had a pronounced appetite for nude paintings in her bedroom: and I suspect it was not her lack of interest in sexuality so much as her ministers' taboos on the matter which prevented them from ever discussing the outlawing of lesbian acts, at the time when they were making male homosexual acts illegal. So instead, lesbianism was banned by taboo, not by law. And generally speaking, the taboo alone did the trick for girls, because they -- being less adventurous than boys -- generally adhere to taboos. But of course, it was the cautious, stay-at-home sex that had had lots of lovely stay-at-home sex when the men were off trailing the toothsome mammoth.

No doubt, cavewomen would usually have, and possibly even enjoy, sex with the hunters on their return -- but their real preference was for other girls.

How do I know? Well, let me tell you a simple truth: men who have been moderately sexually active know more about women than do most non-lesbian women, because one of the paradoxes of the now dying she-taboos is that women could not speak to one another about the real sexual experiences. But they do speak to men, about their fantasies, and their solitary habits. And the reverse is also true: women tend to know much more about male sexuality than do men. Speech-taboos are often lifted with the other sex.

HOWEVER, all taboos were invented for a reason, both to reward "good" behaviour and to inhibit socially dysfunctional conduct. And I suspect that the taboo on lesbian sex was created by dominant males and their female allies because, deep down, so many women preferred female bodies, companionship and sexual skills. But men need women in ways that women simply don't need men. There's no general equivalent for women of the female prostitute, the call girl, the courtesan or the mistress -- for different classes of men have always resorted to paid female sexual companionship. Sexually frustrated women have either abstained or, long before Anne Summers, looked after themselves. They haven't felt the need to buy men, even when they've had the money.

And now, 50 years after the Lady Chatterley ruling and the pill and the Beatles first LP, almost all sexual taboos have vanished from among young people. And this surely has to be a good thing -- but is it? How does a young person, racked with all sorts of incomprehensible desires that dwarf a largely undeveloped personality, decide what is the right thing to do? What happens to a society when women are allowed to express themselves entirely for their own pleasure? More seriously what happens to men, owners of that plutonium of hormones, testosterone, if they become sexual exiles from women?

Amongst the most striking consequences of "sexual liberation" have been firstly the social alienation of so many men, and the growth of a huge sex industry catering for them only. To be sure, taboos can make for a great deal of unhappiness: but having no taboos at all might well make for even more.

kmyers@independent.ie

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