It has been a hard but rewarding week for political bloggers here in the UK. I remember feeling much the same sense of relief when watching the Major government fall apart. The horrible Jonathan Aitken – who I liked marginally better as an aristocratic spiv than as a charismatic christian – was in a different style the same kind of creature as Damian McBride and the other New Labour horrors.
But then we got Blair, who was worse than a Tory. There’s a lesson there somewhere.
Anyway, today we are going to have a day off and, because you’ve all been very good, I am going to blog about sex.
I received an email from a Josh Peters accusing me of being a racist misogynist for my post yesterday on Ayesha Hazarika. I recall being attacked as “Anti-semitic” in the Times by crazed neo-con David Aaronovitch. In fact I think I am genuinely blind to race. Not just some but most of my close friends are not caucasian. I don’t think anyone who actually knows me would consider me in the least racist.
I am not, however, blind to sex. I attack people in positions of power where I feel there is an abuse, and most of the time I find I am attacking men. I don’t think yesterday’s attack on Hazarika, Toynbee and Harman was motivated because they are female, but their sex did come into it because they had indulged in a very expensive “Gender equality” jolly to Ghana funded by the taxpayer.
But while I feel there is no issue to address with the accusation of racism, I do have an issue which I need to square – with myself – over my attitude to women.
If you look through the amazing reader reviews for Murder in Samarkand on Amazon, you will find a repeated theme, even from people who loved the book. They dislike my attitude to women and the sexualised way I portray them.
All I can say in defence is that the book honestly reflects the way I think and feel. When I see a young woman, my mind instantaneously runs a sexualised check on her physical appearance and, if I find that appealing, I start acting in the way I can best calculate to enhace my chances. All that happens more or less subconsciously, or at least without any need for conscious initiation on my part.
I always rather presumed that all heterosexual men went throught the same process all the time. Apparently I may be wrong.
In a less clinical way, the process is described several times, sometimes more and sometimes less fully, in Murder in Samarkand when I describe looking at various girls, most notably of course Nadira. Plainly many people find this off-putting.
I would say this.
I accept that it may appear that I pay more attention to sexual attributes than is the accepted norm.
But I do not accept that this in any way means that I undervalue women’s other attributes.
I may find a girl very sexy. But that does not mean in any way that my perception and appreciation of her intelligence, determination, work-rate, courage, dignity, humour etc is any less. Or their opposites if appropriate. In fact in both Murder in Samarkand and The Catholic Orangemen, I give concrete examples of women whose careers I believe were unfairly held back by glass ceilings, particularly in the FCO, and write a great deal about the rights of women and my work to prevent abuses.
In short, I do not acept the thesis that it demeans women to fancy them. It demeans anyone if you only fancy them.
None of which addresses the issue of my tangled love life and the infidelity which has brought much pain to many people, most of whom did not deserve it. I also have to face the fact that I have told many lies to people in my love life, yet I am almost pathologically honest in any other context. What is that about?
I do not give the following as the answer. It is neither explanation nor excuse. It is, I think, nonetheless interesting.
My entire adult life I have suffered from what used to be called manic depression, and now is known as bipolar disorder. By and large I have struggled against it very successfully, and really major depressive episodes have only kicked in when there is a very big real world problem to act as a trigger. But there have been plenty of very bad days over the last thirty years, at both ends of the swingometer.
I took lithium as a student for a short while, but I felt that the changes to the chemical balance of the brain were making Craig Murray disappear, and were replacing him with someone much too bland. The outbreaks of incredible energy and capacity for work, of wit and intellectual vim on the highs were invaluable. I am NOT trying to put myself in their league, but if I give Winston Churchill, Spike Milligan and Stephen Fry as examples of famous manic depressives, you will get some of that feel of genius bordering on madness. A famous psychiatrist (whose name escapes me at the moment) said that if Churchill hadn’t been manic, he would have known the situation was hopeless after Dunkirk and sued for peace. Instead he had that vision and energy to lift a whole nation.
So I have lived on willpower my whole life, a feeling of intense concentration like permanently walking a tightrope of mental stability. You get tired.
I have also avoided psychiatrists as much as possible. Doubtless if I ever have to ask for unemployment benefit, I will therefore fall foul of Purnell’s reintroduction of the concept of the undeserving poor. Anyway, it is probably because of this avoidance of the medical profession that I was told this week for the very first time that my behaviour was subject to “bipolar infidelity” and “hypersexuality”. Apparently this kind of sexual behaviour is so very frequently part of bipolar disorder, that it is actually one of the diagnostic tests as to whether you are bipolar or not.
So there you are. I now know that my presumption that most men think about women just like me might well be wrong. I do not intend to use the existence of the terms to justify or even continue my behaviour. That sounds to me akin to a plea of guilty but insane (only a joke, mental illness campaigners). I am extremely happy with Nadira, with my children, and the prospect of our new baby. I am being faithful. This post does not presage a plunge into priapism.
I am not sure that I even really believe in “Bipolar infidelity”. But I will remember the phrase, “I suffer from hypersexuality.” Sounds like a brilliant chat up line…