According to an answer at a bar’s “quiz night” I attended during the break, in 2003, 19 people died in the United Kingdom as a result of eating Christmas decorations in the mistaken belief that they were chocolate.
According to a bar quiz I attended in August, adult Brits have sex, on average, 2.9 times each week.
(Which means that somebody somewhere is having sex 5.8 times each week, the lucky bastard. New Year’s resolution: start making up the deficit of, by my calculations, about 1,200 acts of intercourse.)
And according to a massive survey conducted by Durex, the world’s most satisfied — or self-satisfied — lovers are the French and the most promiscuous the Chinese, with an average of 19.3 partners each.
Well, it’s a big country, right?
And for those wondering about 0.3 of a sexual partner, that equates to roughly 5.9 minutes of foreplay, at which we British lead the world, apparently. As The Atlantic Monthly rather offensively reported, “it’s the British — to everyone’s astonishment — who seem to be the world’s most attentive lovers.”
It turns out that we Brits indulge in 22.5 minutes of foreplay on average, which could either mean that we’re deeply considerate lovers committed to prolonging the experience as long as possible, or that we’re totally incompetent losers.
The news was greeted with a certain amount of skepticism.
“That stuff should be 5 minutes, tops,” scoffed a Texan friend. “If you haven’t sealed the deal by then, you’re not kicking it old school.”
The data were certainly extensive, compiled from 350,000 people in 41 countries. Durex didn’t reveal how they obtained their results on foreplay, so I guess they just kept probing till they got a decent response.
Frankly, I’m not entirely sure that I’ve spent a cumulative total of 22.5 minutes on foreplay in my life. I can’t be sure because, without becoming bogged down in Clintonian semantics, foreplay is difficult to define (even if you have seen “Kinsey”).
An Arkansan friend claimed that shampooing the carpet, chasing squirrels and fixing Johnny’s pogo stick all counted, so either he has a very creative sex life or I have no idea what he’s going on about. According to the less mysterious dictionary.com, foreplay is the “sexual stimulation preceding intercourse,” which treats it as a sort of warm-up act, the free bread while you wait for the entree. This is grossly unfair, as entire evenings can be devoted to foreplay without necessarily resulting in sex. Ask any Evangelical.
If short on inspiration, you could consult “101 ways to MAKE LOVE (without having sex),” a production of Yale’s Student Health Education people. Some of the suggestions fall within the parameters set by dictionary.com (“list things you like about each other”), some of them are just bizarre (“take a walk through Grove Street Cemetery”) and some are just dangerous (“express your feelings openly and honestly” is more likely to generate an argument). Happily, it does include “hug” and “kiss,” both seriously under-appreciated; though I had to come to Yale before I learnt what “melting into a kiss” felt like, it was worth the wait. (As was the inexplicable thrill attached to kissing in an elevator). Hugging is a bit different, as it need have nothing to do with sex, but a good hug can be worth a thousand words.
(And, remembering elementary school, a hug can become HUGE if you just add Silent E!)
So let’s hear it for foreplay. Why should sex be regarded as the overriding goal of an evening’s entertainment? Erogenous zones are found all over the body. Some people derive enormous pleasure from oral stimulation of the podiatric digits. Some go for shoulders. And according to “The Superior Person’s Little Book of Words,” “gynotikolobomassophile” means “someone who likes to nibble on a woman’s earlobe,” which is surely a useful if baffling addition to many thefacebook.com profiles.
But foreplay is a funny thing. At least, it is if you’re as ticklish as I am.
And if you’re wondering when this column is going to reach a conclusion, then I have to tell you that it isn’t. I’m British, and therefore I’m spinning it out as long as possible. We’re all too hung up on the need for a climax. This is just going to keep going and be perfectly satisfying in itself. It’s not disappointing merely because it doesn’t have a big finish.
But if you want a long, lingering experience, find a Brit. In these days of the falling dollar, the pound isn’t the only British import that goes a lot further.
Nick Baldock would like to thank several people who didn’t contribute original research for this article.