I have just reread, for the first time in years, David Lodge’s novel of the breakup of pre-conciliar Catholicism in England How Far Can you Go? It is probably the book of the worst sex ever written: that is to say good descriptions of bad sex, rather than bad descriptions of good sex, which are what the Literary Review prize is awarded for each year. At the end of the book I wondered whether God might not, despite everything, take a personal interest in what Catholics do with each other in bed, since it appears miraculous that their activities should ever result in fertilisation. Here is a honeymoon passage:
Though he knew much more about sex, in a second-hand way, than when he was a student, from barrack and mess-room conversation, from reading the manual of military law, and from censoring the mail of other ranks in the Suez crisis, Adrian was shy of talking about it to Dorothy during their short engagement. She was a virgin, of course-so much so that when, prior to retiring to bed on their wedding night, he kissed her attired only in a dressing-gown, she inquired what hard object he was concealing in his pocket. Under the bedclothes she snuggled up to him happily enough, but when he tried to enter her she went rigid with fear and then grew hysterical. It transpired that she knew almost nothing about how a marriage was consummated. Adrian turned on the bedside lamp, sat up in bed, and lectured her on the facts of life. He was a good lecturer, having benefited by his training in the Army and the Catholic Evidence Guild, though he spoke rather more loudly than was necessary and after a while somebody banged on the wall of the adjoining room (they were spending their honeymoon in a small hotel in the Lake District). Adrian continued his lecture in a lower tone, making three-dimensional diagrams in the air with his fingers. Dorothy watched him wonderingly, with the bedclothes drawn up to her chin.