The whole silly stick…
I suppose the keenest disappointment I feel about the past week and the almost incredible weirdnesses it has brought in its train is the idea that there are people out there who actually swallow the notion that I am so stupid as to believe that women don’t enjoy sex. That I not only believe it but that I am dense, dotty and suicidally deluded enough to make a public declaration of such a crazed belief.
Let me now come out and say before we go any further that I entertain no such notion. Much as you may wish to think me a compound of the most misogynistic, ignorant, sexist and antediluvian pig who ever trod the planet I can truly report that I know and love enough women to be quite assured of the fact that women do indeed enjoy sex. I would have to ignore evolution, precedent, personal experience and the empirical observation of vibrator sales and teenage pregnancies and all kinds of obvious and unavoidable facts in between to believe anything else. And yet the public perception appears to be that I have made a statement that proves I think otherwise. Any number of self-righteous, indignant and contemptuous figures have (if I have understood aright) come out to condemn me for opinions that I have never even held. I say “if I have understood aright” because I have not read a single newspaper article on this whole issue and I may well have got hold of the wrong end of the whole silly stick. I am going by the maddeningly well-meaning but wholly unwanted information given to me by others.
But I repeat: it is not the fury, the insult, the hysteria, the tut-tutting, the head-shaking or indeed the intemperate abuse that has apparently come from some quarters, none of those have astonished me so much as the disappointingly wholesale acceptance by so many individuals that I might genuinely have been such a twatty prune as ever to have meant such a bizarre thing. Many people have by turns condemned me or sympathised with me or even agreed with me, but very few have had the perception or necessary understanding of the British press and its ways to get the obvious point that, guilty of all kinds of crimes as I may be, I am happily guiltless of the mad crime of thinking that women don’t enjoy sex. But I dare say I shall now go to my grave being thought of as someone who does hold such a belief, much as I will go to that grave being thought of someone who “attacked” the Pope prior to his UK visit, although I never did any such thing – indeed I went out of my way to avoid attacking him.
How can we unpick this whole sorry business? It may be that you haven’t the faintest idea what I’m talking about. So we should begin by telling the story of Stephen and Women and Sex, such as I understand it. Here goes.
How it happened
For reasons that should be obvious now if they weren’t before, I don’t give print interviews. I never consent to them any more than you, dear reader, would voluntarily consent to being mugged, raped or burgled, but when under pressure I will compromise by agreeing to do a profile for some small magazine or other. I say “under pressure” because as an actor, writer and presenter, publicity duties routinely go with my profession. It is written into contracts that if I accept a TV, film or writing job that I must agree to a “reasonable” number of press requests. Because I am fortunate enough to be a busy soul there will be periods when three, four, five or six different projects will come to fruition all at the same time and I will have to sit down with the publicity people from each project and barter. I will agree to radio, online and TV interviews and then, heart in mouth, consent to one or two local or specialised print organs.
You may not believe this from my hideous omnipresence but my preferred number of publicity assignments is exactly zero. If I could get away with NO radio interviews, NO magazine profiles, NO television chat shows, NO bookshop signings, NO stage events then I would. All those who know me and work with me will confirm this. I am a very very reluctant mule when it comes to these awful moments of necessary negotiation with the publicity people attached to books and films and TV series. “Must I?”, “Oh god please let me off…”, “Surely I’m don’t need to do this?” I am as aware as you and as aware as the battalions of people who clearly loathe the sight and sound of me that my media presence can appear to be ubiquitous, overexposed and entirely de trop.