The Unspeakable Language of Sex


The Unspeakable Language of Sex

Why Are We Still so Tongue-Tied?

By Mary Sykes Wylie

January/February 2016


British poet Philip Larkin once famously summed up the sexual revolution in a brisk, ironic poem, “Annus Mirabilis.”

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(Which was rather late for me) –
Between the end of the
Chatterley ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.

Up to then there’d only been
A sort of bargaining,
A wrangle for a ring,
A shame that started at sixteen
And spread to everything.

Then all at once the quarrel sank:
Everyone felt the same,
And every life became
A brilliant breaking of the bank,
A quite unlosable game.

So life was never better than
In nineteen sixty-three
(Though just too late for me) –
Between the end of the
Chatterley ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.

From that 1963 milestone, the revolution seemed to leap forward at warp speed. By 1965, we’d gone from the relative innocence of the Beatles’ Please, Please Me to the Doors singing “Come on baby, light my fire”—and they weren’t singing about campfires. In 1967, it was the trademark raunchy Rolling Stones singing “Let’s spend the night together,” and the Beatles’ ditty, comprising the lines, sung over and over and over, “Why don’t we do it in the road? Mm. / No one will be watching us. / Why don’t we do it in the road?” In 1969, Bob Dylan plaintively entreated his…

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