Tuesday, 14 September 2010

By viewing this post, you're breaking the law

That's if you're in Britain, that is. In other parts of the world, you may be OK - though probably not. It depends.

This rather worn print, by the early nineteenth century Japanese master Eisen, is currently being offered for sale by Fuji Arts with a starting price of $245. I wouldn't advise you to buy it, though - there might be a problem getting it through customs. Or else the police will knock on your door five minutes after the postman has dropped it through the letterbox.

Eisen is best known for his charming prints of elegant kimono-clad beauties, but in old Japan there was also a lively trade in exquisitely drawn but absolutely filthy pornography, coily known as Shunga ("spring pictures"). Almost all the major artists produced shunga, including the most famous of all, Hokusai, whose Dream of the Fisherman's Wife depicts a woman being groped and orally pleasured by two octopuses.

This one, by contrast, shows a woman trying to juggle the joint attentions of a man and her baby. Sociologically it raises some interesting questions. Were living conditions so cramped in pre-Meiji Edo (now Tokyo) that such scenes were commonplace? Is the woman a prostitute, or is the man her husband? Is the picture intended to be comic, or did Shunga-buyers get off on that sort of thing? (Another picture up for sale on the same site shows a woman receiving cunnilingus from a horse, which is certainly comic. And Hokusai's tentacle porn is just hilarious.) Perhaps there are deeper ideas at play: the baby may be there as a reminder of the possible consequences of the sexual act, or the picture may express male ambivalence about the dual role of woman as mother and lover, or male fear of being usurped by his offspring in the woman's affections. And why does he look so bored?

My purpose here, though, is to draw attention to the probable illegality of the picture under one of New Labour's recent laws. Section 62 of the portmanteau Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (which I discussed here) makes it a criminal offence to be in possession of a pornographic image of a child, however unrealistic, which "is grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character - which porn is by definition, of course. Being "in possession" includes looking at something on the internet. The offence also (ss 7) covers depictions of "the performance by a person of an act of intercourse or oral sex with or in the presence of a child." That is certainly what is going on here. It's no defence that the work in question is artistic (as the Eisen might possibly be considered to be). "Pornographic" is defined as "produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal". Art historians agree that that was, indeed, the main purpose of Shunga.

This blog is not hosted in the UK, and I've deleted any versions of the image I may have had briefly on my hard-drive. So I'm safe, I think. But I'm sorry to say you're guilty. Go on, give yourself up. Read the rest of this article

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Something Dark

Daryl Champion sent me the following press release about his new magazine, SomethingDark

SomethingDark (SDk), a new cultural webmagazine, has just been published after nearly two years in development. Issue 01 is available online for free in a format that occupies a unique space between the internet and a print publication. SDk takes full advantage of an innovative format to deliver its avant-garde mix of dark glamour and eroticism in photography, art and edgy fiction; of poignant nonfiction and criticism; and of exhibition, film and book reviews – all in the social, political and economic context of today’s disturbed world.

SDk additionally strives to be a valuable resource and, concerned with the world around us, is also a forum for re-assessing what is of value in contemporary society.
How is SDk innovative? Unlike most news, magazine- and journal-style websites, which depart from their print-published counterparts in format, look and feel because they were developed with by-now conventional website design in mind, SDk has been developed with the format, look and feel of a print magazine. Yet, being fully html-coded – indeed, pushing that technology to the limit – it also offers the full dynamism of the internet, especially in a complex system of internal linking, that flash sites cannot deliver. Feet back on the ground. If your taste in culture leads you to shaded woodlands replete with nymphs and satyrs, an expanse that must be treated with respect lest an unmindful step finds you teetering on the edge of an unimagined place, then SomethingDark is here. Or there’s McDonald’s.

I've taken a look. The picture sums up the contents quite well - if you like tasteful erotic photography and writing this may be for you. The first issue includes, among other things, a feature devoted to the work of Scottish photographer ArtPunk and a long critical analysis of Robert Mapplethorpe. The website is beautifully done and very easy to use. Read the rest of this article

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

A creative solution to hospital funding

In these days of enforced budget cuts and national austerity, any idea for raising additional cash for government departments is welcome. One intriguing possibility was raised by the Conservative MP for Portsmouth North, Penny Mordaunt, in a Commons debate yesterday on the allocation of departmental budgets. She questioned the principle that departments and public sector bodies should be able to supplement their income without losing taxpayer funding, and had an unconventional example to illustrate her point:

A second scenario might see a Department creating an income-generating activity that failed to deliver value for money or came at the expense of the statutory service that that Department was charged with carrying out. I will give the House a quick example from real life, not "Yes Minister", although it could well have been used for that. When I was a director of Kensington and Chelsea council, I discovered that one of our local hospitals was hiring out one of its closed, but fully equipped, wards to a film company to use as a film set. To add insult to injury, the movie was a pornographic one. Although I cannot claim to have seen the final picture, as I understand that these things are no longer claimable on parliamentary expenses, it was a big-budget affair and it generated substantial income for the hospital-but apart from cheering up a few of the in-patients, it could not be said to be contributing to the objectives of the primary care trust.

I don't really understand Ms Mordaunt's criticism. It doesn't appear that the "fully equipped" ward was needed for patient care, in which case it was lying idle and was a drain on resources. So its utilisation in another capacity strikes me as very much contributing to the objectives of the PCT - the money raised was presumably spent on better healthcare for patients. It sounds like an excellent idea, and it's nice to know that there is (or was) sufficient money in the British porn industry to make big-budget films and, indeed, to pay top price for the use of locations.

There must be many opportunities for such creative use of resources. Perhaps it would create political controversy if under-used schoolrooms were hired out to makers of corporal punishment videos, but what of all our courtrooms or, for that matter, prisons? The Palace of Westminster itself - no stranger to sexual hi-jinks - would make an excellent venue. Indeed, one enterprising former Labour MP, Nigel Griffiths, starred in his own impromptu Commons set photostory last year (though was admittedly unaware that his antics were being recorded by the News of the World).

Indeed, Government and the porn industry already have much in common: they're both based on screwing people for money, after all.

But which was the hospital, and what was the film? According to the BBC report (which quickly went viral) the incident referred to must have happened before the present health trust was formed in 2002. Nicholas Cecil of the Standard, moreover, has "established" that the location was St Charles Hospital in Ladbroke Grove. But I'm most indebted to "Paddy the Greek" commenting on the Standard article, who thinks that the film may have been Pirate Deluxe: Xtreme desires, directed by the pioneering female pornographer (and fetish specialist) Tanya Hyde. It was originally produced in 1998, which fits. I've no proof, but I did find the following synopsis of the production, which starred Monique Covet, Silvia Saint and Laura Angel:

Already an icon on the busy British fetish scene, newly acquired Tanya Hyde proved a timely shot in the arm for the Private porn emporium with this inaugural effort for their Pirate Deluxe line.... The first of several high voltage fetish features Hyde bestowed upon the company before she took wing with her own Harmony Concepts label, XTREME DESIRES provides half a dozen vignettes of varying intensity, albeit usually on the high end of the scales, highlighted by the director's imagination and ingenuity, which in turn seems to have inspired the female cast to perform well above and beyond the call of duty....

"Doctors" finds beautiful bespectacled nurse Silvia Saint pleasuring patient Laura Angel, in stir-ups for easy access, until medics Kevin Long and Tony De Sergio (the notorious British bisexual performer billed as "Jay Alexander" on gay projects) join in the fun.... Revisiting medical territory, "Nurses" has French John B. Root discovery Fovéa and the returning Mona resplendent in latex nun's habits, exchanging less than pious glances over supine patient Frank Major's bandaged physique, then draining his vital fluids with doc Mike Foster providing an additional appendage before death bells solemnly and irrevocably ring out.

I've omitted descriptions of the non-hospital related scenes, but the full information can be found here. And here's the rather explicit back-cover photo. You have been warned. Read the rest of this article

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Face the truth about porn

Following on from today's Heresy Corner article on the impact of ubiquitous hardcore porn on the nation's children and teenagers, I'd like to share with you a little talk by Cindy Gallop, delivered at the free-thinking but ever-so-slightly cultish TED.

Drawing on her personal experience with younger lovers (she cheerfully admits her cougarish proclivities) Cindy tackled a standard pornographic cliché: "My concern is particularly with the young girl whose boyfriend wants to come on her face. She does not want him to come on her face, but hardcore porn has taught her that all men love coming on women's faces, all women love having their faces come on, and therefore that she must let him come on her face, and she must pretend to like it."

That sounds plausible enough. But I can offer an equal and opposite experience. A close friend (all right, it was me) was once in bed with a woman and enquired what turned her on, sexually speaking. She replied that she liked it when men came on her face. "Surely not," I protested. "Men only come on women's faces in porn." My theory, I continued - I talk more or less how I blog, I'm afraid - was that the whole coming on women's faces thing was an invention of the porn industry, serving the practical function of externalising the act of ejaculation. I believe I actually used the verb "externalise". And now (by this time I was channelling Cindy Gallop) young girls habituated to porn pretended to like it when their boyfriends (who, equally cluelessly, got the idea from porn that coming on the girl's face was just something they were meant to do).

"Oh no", said my companion, who was no ingenue and, like me, remembered the days before internet porn, "I like it when men come on my face." "Not really my thing," I lamented.

Needless to say, the relationship was doomed. Read the rest of this article

Sunday, 2 May 2010

A night of wild sexual abandon

I attended my first-ever orgy the other night. Well, sort of. The Night of the Senses, incorporating the Erotic Awards, is a long-running institution founded by pioneering activist Dr Tuppy Owens (she was the first, though not the last, pornographer-academic and now leads the Sexual Freedom Coalition, among other things). It pitches itself both at "seasoned sexual adventurers" and at those at an earlier stage in their sensual journey, serves as a showcase for erotic performers, raises money and, via the Awards, recognises artists, campaigners and sex-workers alike. It sounded quite fun. And knowing (at least virtually) some of the nominees I stunned myself by purchasing a last minute ticket. Friday evening found me at a club near London Bridge, heart in mouth, ready for whatever might be about to happen.

The dress-code was flexible but seemingly unforgiving: anyone in civilian wear - or anything "plain, humdrum or unsexy" - would be invited to visit the "dressing up shoppe" or else leave, I read. Dressing up, said the programme, allows you to "float around in a haze instead of feeling invisible". Nudity was an option, though not for me. Cue frantic search through the wardrobe. I considered black tie - but would that be "different" enough to avoid a humiliating arrest by the style police? In the end I went with subfusc, enlivened by a slightly garish silk waistcoat I once wore at a student ball. The academic gown with its schoolroom connotations was at least mildly kinky.

I needn't have worried. There were plenty of people less exotically dressed than I was, though there was no shortage of stereotypically kinky outfits and goth wear. One man came dressed as the Pope, which in present circumstances was perhaps the most outrageous costume of all. There were a few extravagant historical or fantasy creations. On the other hand, those partygoers who used the same outfitters as Hans Christian Andersen's emperor were in for a chilly night: the programme warned people against wearing too much, yet many of those I spoke to complained about the cold. My gown, meanwhile, garnered several compliments, including from a similarly clad gentleman who was running a spanking booth.

The evening kicked off a little before nine with the famous Erotic Awards. The trophies - impressively large (at least I thought so) winged golden penises - were distributed to a selection of performers and activists in a ceremony that was at times fairly shambolic. Dr Petra Boynton, winner of the blog prize, was unable to be present - much to my disappointment - but Anna Arrowsmith (aka Anna Span) famously representing the Lib Dems in Gravesham, did step forward to accept her trophy as politician of the year. Her moment of glory came only after an embarrassing kefuffle when the compere forgot to announce the category and declared the end of the awards.

Of course Arrowsmith is a hero to the sex industry, both as a pornographer and now as a public face, but I did wonder if she was strictly eligible, given that she is only potentially a politician. Perhaps she won it for agreeing to turn up. Another Liberal Democrat, Chris Huhne, had been suggested for the honour but (mindful, perhaps, of the shape of the trophy) had declined to be nominated. Even so, with the party's MEP Chris Davies the only other nominee it was clear where the organisers' political sympathies lay. That's not so surprising. Conservatives tend to veer inconsistently between libertarianism and moral puritanism - remember "back to basics"? - while pro-gay rights and feminist Labour has introduced a plethora of authoritarian laws against prosititution and extreme porn. As Ewan Morrison puts it in an article for Erotic Review - handed out free to departing guests - "no matter how much it tries to disguise the fact with its talk of liberties, the Left is about normalising standards for all and enforcing them."

Other winners included two longstanding internet buddies of the Heresiarch's, the writer Jane Fae (formerly John Ozimek, and still looking more like a John than a Jane, alas) and the campaigner Clair Lewis. It was nice finally to meet them, if only briefly in Clair's case: her evening ended on a sour note when the organisers neglected to offer her a wheelchair-accessible platform from which to say a few words about the work of her pressure group CAAN. She left soon afterwards, and has since declared the whole ceremony to be a sham and the compere "very rude". Given that Night of the Senses prides itself on its acccessibility to disabled people, and raises money for a charity that aims to improve the personal and sexual opportunities available to the disabled, Clair's experience is at least somewhat embarrassing. She now dismisses Tuppy Owens' charity as "an archaic organisation which is too busy patronising disabled people to let us join in on an equal basis."

After that unpromising start to the evening the cabaret began, a pleasingly varied succession of burlesque acts. There was blind woman talking while draped in a red sheet, a munchkin who polished a blow-up doll before taking her clothes off (hilarious but also a little bit scary), a Spanish poet who recited a rubbishy poem while removing his clothes and a much better one stark naked, a woman wearing a kimono and rope bondage who almost started a fire while attempting to light a paper lantern - and my personal favourite, a cross-dressing male stripper styled Major Suttle-Teese, part top-hatted toff, part vamp.

Then it was party time.

It wasn't quite the full-blown orgy I had been nervously anticipating. Indeed, I spent much of the time managing to avoid thinking about, talking about, and certainly having, sex. Perhaps that says more about me, but others I spoke to also complained that there was too much conversation and not enough action. The venue was plastered with notices demanding guests behave with appropriate respect and threatening transgressors with summary expulsion - not an unreasonable sentiment, of course, but the assumption that it needed to be said at all lent the party an unfortunate whiff of the nanny state. Equally counter-intuitive was the woman offering "non-sexual hugs". Non-sexual hugs have their place, of course - many, perhaps most, of the finest hugs have no sexual component - but as a Ukrainian-American artist I got chatting to pointed out, that place is surely not at an anything-goes sex party. There was a dungeon, but when I put my head round the door it was populated by people sitting around drinking while the implements of torture stayed forlornly underused.

Needless to say, there was sex to be had, some of it presumably in the Room of Riotous Pleasures ("specially designed for women to live out their fantasies of enjoying anonymous sex with a succession of men"). I couldn't find it. I did notice the "frantically busy" Dark Room, which was reputed to contain people randomly having sex in the dark (though I didn't go in to find out). But nanny had insinuated herself even there. "Be respectful to others," cautioned a programme note, "No pushing or shoving, ask before joining in, ask before putting fingers anywhere." There was also a Grope Box, apparently a Night of the Senses institution, which you went in to be groped by unseeing arms. Whenever I walked past it seemed to be occupied by a woman, the groping hands almost entirely male. Maybe this is significant, maybe not.

The only actual sex I witnessed all evening was in a tastefully decorated boudoir dubbed the "Sensuality Chamber". Participants were accompanied by musicians, while peep holes provided glimpses of the goings-on. I spotted one voyeur masturbating enthusiastically at the sight, but he was an exception.

Much more to my taste was the Salon of the Five Senses, in which I was blindfolded, tickled, massaged, fed strawberries, enticed by all the perfumes of Arabia and lulled by gentle bells. Blissful. Given that sight was excluded, Salon of the Four Senses might have been more appropriate - unless, of course, an extra "sexual sense" had been identifed. I had kept my trousers on (I know, I know) so was not in the best position to find out. Waiting for my turn in a long but comfortable queue I found myself sitting next to a man sporting what turned out to be a Ukrainian floral headdress. (It belonged to his female companion, the American-born artist mentioned above. She was quite interesting. One of her projects, I learned, explored the practicalities of snogging in zero-gravity conditions. I subsequently discovered that she was staying at a charming boutique hotel near Paddington.) The woman on my left commented that he looked "baroque". "Like something out of Caravaggio", I suggested, thinking of the celebrated portrait of Bacchus. It turned out that she was an art historian.

That sort of thing happened to me a lot. Later I found myself talking to Dr Antony Lempert, founder of the Secular Medical Forum and Golden Penis laureate in the academic category. We discussed the Pope, the insidious spread of faith schools, the brilliance of Lord Justice Laws' recent judgement in the McFarlane case, the religious strangehold on hospital counselling services (in the guise of denominational chaplaincies) and his own idée fixe, the iniquity of male circumcision, which appears to him to contravene the Offences Against the Person Act. Fascinating, but in the circumstances more than a bit surreal.

Though perhaps not quite so surreal as what I saw next, back in the cabaret lounge, where renowned artiste Mouse was putting on a jaw-dropping show loosely based on the story of Goldilocks. Mouse used considerable dramatic licence. There there was only one bear, for example, and I don't remember the part of the nursery tale where the heroine inserts fireworks into every available bodily orifice, or lights a birthday cake using a candle held with impressive firmness in her vagina. And then sits on it. Nor was I psychologically prepared for the woman in the blonde wig's demonstration of her ability to absorb and then spew out copious amounts of liquid. I was thankful to be standing at the back.

It was the most extreme thing I have ever seen or am ever likely to see. After that, anything could only be an anticlimax (even the climaxes being offered to patrons of the Climax Clinic). In any case, I was wilting. It was an all-nighter, and I hadn't had much sleep the night before - the anticipation, you see. Plus a tummy ache. I crashed out in the cabaret room, almost oblivious to the hardcore porn being projected onto the big screen or the gyrations of an amateur pole-dancer who had come to the party with a much older man. Four O'clock found me sitting at a table with Jane Fae and my new artist friend, discussing the minutiae of East European geography, Jane's problems with nPower and the balance of subject matter at Heresy Corner. And that, I thought, was that.

I was wrong, but that's a whole different story.
Read the rest of this article

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Recognise these people?

Yes, it's the Westboro Baptist Church, Christianity's answer to Anjem Choudary's boys. This time they might even be said to have a point.

I notice that the minuscule church - whose leaders were banned from Britain last year by the much-missed Jacqui Smith - have set up a subsidiary website dedicated to gleefully recording the unfolding scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. They have a charming message for the Pope:

Praise God’s righteous work! He alone brings to pass events to fulfill his word. What an amazing/wondrous work of God! Hundreds of years those raping perverts have preyed upon helpless creatures. God made your children bear the burden of your filthy deeds, keeping the matter under the radar. Now, he’s causing the world to hate your guts, fulfilling his word, to wit:

And the [nations]…shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. (Rev. 17:16-17.)

Lying Whore False Prophet Benedict winked at the abominable conduct of those raping priests. He knew full well of the depths of their depravity, that God had given them over to reprobate minds and vile affections - and he decided to give them more little children to molest. The leader of the catholic church helps so-called religious figures get away with rape. The Pope hates children & so does any parent that would subject them to those catholic monsters.

Proverbs 6:12 ¶ A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth.
13 He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers;
14 Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord.
15 Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.

You have spit in God Almighty's face for too long! Your doom is coming & your destruction is imminent!

It's phrased rather differently from a Guardian editorial, but underneath the sentiment is not altogether dissimilar. Read the rest of this article

Sunday, 14 February 2010

New light on "60's sex-ed mystery"

Like many proper viruses, viral emails have a tendency to lay low for long periods of time, briefly breaking out in epidemics before disappearing again. The supposed sex-advice I covered in the last post is a case in point. Over the past few years, it has broken cover several times. The earliest outbreak I could trace was in 2003, though doubtless there were earlier instances. As I discussed, the extract derives from an elaboration of an earlier spoof entitled "The Good Wife", purportedly from a 1950s housekeeping magazine but more likely dating from the late 1980s.

So what caused this latest outbreak, which centres around what looks like a scrunched-up photocopy? While the printed original remains elusive, I've found what might be a clue from a blog entry by Maria Williams, a journalist with the South Wales Argus, dated 5th October 2009. She writes as follows:

IT'S been a thoroughly depressing week on many fronts... So I was cheered when a colleague brought in an item one of his relatives had been given at a retirement seminar to show just how far our society has come in the past 40 years.

It was an extract from a 1960s sex education textbook for girls, written by a woman - and I shall share it with you in a bid to brighten your day.

Is the South Wales Argus the source of this latest infection?

Ms Williams also has this to say:

How the world has changed - perhaps a little too far now that tweenie magazines have advice on sexual positions and how to get and keep your boy using management techniques.

But is does put me in mind of that great quote by the American humourist P.J. O'Rourke: "If anyone ever tells you that things were better in the good old days, just say the word dentistry."

As sex law expert Chris Ashford notes, hoaxes like this are doubly revealing: of our views about the past, and of our present attitudes and ideas. We are encouraged to smile at the supposed naivety or antediluvian attitudes of our predecessors, but at the same time pause for thought at the implied contrast with today's sexual free-for-all. What Williams' "dentistry" remarks shows, however, is that the piece ultimately affirms contemporary mores by casting the past as a place of rampant sexism and sexual misery.

It may not be entirely coincidental that the "advice" has re-emerged at a time when traditional views of marriage have once again become politically contentious. The subject is certainly "in the air" - witness the news story about the Rev Mark Oden's instruction to the women in his congregation to submit to their husbands. Though I don't think Oden was just talking about sex.

No doubt I'm reading far too much into what is just a bit of harmless fun.
Read the rest of this article

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Cautionary advice to young ladies - and Internet users

I found this bizarre photocopy - posted here - via someone's Twitter feed earlier today. Stu Kennedy, who put it up, tells me that it was forward to his brother at work as part of a circulatory email.

The text, which purports to be from "a sex education textbook for girls" from the 1960's", reads as follows:

When retiring to the bedroom, prepare yourself for bed as promptly as possible. Whilst feminine hygiene is of the utmost importance, your tired husband does not want to queue for the bathroom, as he would have to do for his train, but remember to look your best when going to bed. Try to achieve a look that is welcoming without being obvious. If you need to apply face cream or hair rollers, wait until he is asleep before doing so, as it can be shocking for a man last thing at night. When it comes to the possibility of intimate relations with your husband, it is important to remember your marriage vows and in particular, your commitment to obey him.

If he feels that he needs to sleep immediately afterwards, then so be it. In all things be led by your husband's wishes. Do not pressure him in any way to stimulate intimacy. Should your husband suggest congress, then, agree humbly all the while being mindful that a man's satisfaction is more important than a woman's. When he reaches his moment of fulfilment, a small moan from yourself is encouraging to him and quite sufficient to indicate any enjoyment that you may have had.

Should your husband suggest any of the more unusual practices, be obedient and uncomplaining but register any reluctance by maintaining silence. It is likely that your husband will fall promptly asleep after relations have concluded, so once he is fast asleep, adjust your clothing, freshen up and apply your night-time face and hair care products.

You may then set the alarm so that you can arise shortly before him in the morning. This will enable you to have his morning cup of tea ready when he awakes.

A hoax, I presume. It certainly reads like one, though that hasn't stopped many people from taking it at face value. The "sex education" book isn't named in any of the online sources for the text. It is variously attributed to the early 60s, the 1950s, or specifically to 1963; several sources add the claim that it was "written by a woman" (although the author herself is never named). Almost all versions include the phrase "this is an actual extract". The earliest dated example I've tracked down online is from an old messageboard, August 2002.

The page above, whose provenance I cannot trace, seems to be from a printed original. I can't confirm this; there are, however, other known printed versions. The same passage also occurs in "The Good Wife's Guide", supposedly taken from a Home Economics textbook (also from the Sixties) in which the sexual advice is tacked onto the end of more general comments about an ideal housewife.

The first paragraphs of this read as follows:

Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return from work. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.

Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you will be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it. Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.

These same paragraphs also occur in a shorter piece with the same title, which claims to be from Housekeeping Monthly, 13 May, 1955.

This is how The Good Wife's Guide ends:

Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

A good wife always knows her place.

The longer Internet version omits the two sentences following "fairness and truthfulness". Instead, it continues like this:

Once he has had a chance to have his evening meal clear the dishes and wash up promptly. If your husband should offer to help decline his offer as he may feel obliged to repeat this offer and after a long working day he does not need the extra work.

Encourage your husband to pursue his hobbies and interests and be supportive without seeming to encroach. If you have any little hobbies yourself try not to bore him speaking of these, as women's interests are often rather trivial compared to men's.

At the end of the evening tidy the home ready for the morning and again think ahead to his breakfast needs. Your husband's breakfast is vital if he is to face the outside world in a positive fashion.

Once you have both retired to the bedroom prepare yourself for bed as promptly as possible....

There follows the sexual advice with which we began.

According to Urban Legend site Snopes, the magazine extract is a fabrication: it didn't surface until long after the text began circulating by email and is "clearly a mock-up". It is just possible that it dates from the 50s - presumably as a satire on contemporary images of the ideal housewife. On balance it's likely to be far more recent, however. It is said to have been circulating in faxed form since the 1980s.

To sum up: the sex advice, purporting to be "an actual extract from a sex education textbook", began life as a hoax continuation of an original spoof article, itself likely to have been a hoax. But the style also owes something to another piece dismissed by Snopes, the hilarious "Advice to Young Brides" supposedly written in 1894 (though the repeated use of the word "sex" rather gives it away). The bride in that text, though, is imagined to be a young woman of rather more spirit than the submissive Stepford-style wife depicted in the passage allegedly from the 1960s. For example:

The wise bride will permit a maximum of two brief sexual experiences weekly during the first months of marriage. As time goes by she should make every effort to reduce this frequency.

Feigned illness, sleepiness, and headaches are among the wife's best friends in this matter. Arguments, nagging, scolding, and bickering also prove very effective, if used in the late evening about an hour before the husband would normally commence his seduction.

Clever wives are ever on the alert for new and better methods of denying and discouraging the amorous overtures of the husband. A good wife should expect to have reduced sexual contacts to once a week by the end of the first year of marriage and to once a month by the end of the fifth year of marriage.

It's also rather kinky:

Most men are by nature rather perverted, and if given half a chance, would engage in quite a variety of the most revolting practices. These practices include, among others, performing the normal act in abnormal positions; mouthing the female body; and offering their own vile bodies to be mouthed in turn.

A hoax, obviously. Yet according to Wikipedia, while Advice to Young Brides "reads like a satire on the Victorian era" and is often assumed to be a spoof, it is actually genuine. At least, it is accepted as being so by the University of Washington, which published the piece in its bizarre entirety on its website in 1998. The URL would seem to bear this out. Furthermore, it was the pamphlet's use in a UW course in human sexuality that year that led to its modern circulation on the Internet.

Despite these undoubted facts, I remain sceptical. There are good reasons for thinking it to be a hoax: neither the alleged writer (a suspiciously-named Ruth Smythers) nor the supposed publisher have left any trace in the records. In fact, the only evidence offered in the text's favour is its endorsement by the University of Washington. Academics have fallen for hoaxes often enough not to take this as decisive.

And what of the piece with which we began? Some sources date it precisely to 1963, the year (according to Philip Larkin) in which "sexual intercourse began". A coincidence? The world it depicts probably never existed - unless Mad Men is a documentary.

If anyone has any clue as to who actually wrote any of these pieces, and when, do please let me know.

SEE UPDATE 14/2/2010
Read the rest of this article