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I admit that the occasional man I have met who could not sustain an erection for a satisfactory length of time has been far less of a problem than the many who could not sustain a conversation long enough. But is Viagra really such a bad thing? (David Nolan, 'Stiffening up', June). Perhaps it is 'normal' for most men to 'experience some sort of sexual failure'. What's so great about that? What other artificial aids to 'satisfactory sexual performance' are you against? Lubricants? Butt plugs? Mucky movies? Did you by any chance have a good Catholic upbringing?

The rest of your magazine seems all in favour of exercising science to improve the quality and the length (no pun intended) of life, and of not being content with what satisfied our grandmothers. The only thing I can see wrong with Viagra is that it is confined to medical, not recreational use. How do I join these Viagra tests on women?

Timandra Harkness London N1

A real man's game

That football is the 'beautiful game' was well expressed by Alan Hudson ('Why England cannot win', June). A passion for the game also oozes out of Mick Hume's editorial ('A man's game?') defining the ills afflicting it. Why then does LM proceed to dilute the best with 12 pages of invective and whining from the rest?

Duleep Allirajah ('Why it's cool to support England') engages in the most extraordinary contortions to justify draping himself in the flag of St George. Clearly he is far from comfortable when explaining that he is now associated with old-style nationalism, which is okay as it is redundant, as opposed to the current brand proposed by Blair. No, Duleep, that tired symbol is every bit as offensive as in days gone by. Support England by all means, but leave out the anguished excuses.

As for Stephanie Pride ('I bet you don't do that at home'), the Scarborough steward ('a person appointed to maintain the arrangements or order at a public gathering', Oxford English Dictionary), was she press-ganged into the job? No, she joined in order to go to the match free and then complains that she is under instruction to do her job. Perhaps you could join the cops, Stephanie: the pay's better and you have a far better chance of breaking somebody's ankle.

As if the endless twittering of the chattering classes is not tiresome enough, we are now faced with LM's repackaged version. Can we have our ball back, please?

Alec Turner London N1

Freedom to incite?

James Heartfield ('Why hate speech?', February) seems unaware of the law of incitement. If Heartfield's hypothetical man said 'kill the niggers' and somebody else did so, he could indeed be convicted for murder and rightly so. At common law it has been an offence to solicit a person to commit any offence since at least the case of Higgins in 1801, provided intent can be proved. This does not in any way absolve the individual of responsibility to judge for himself whether to act on the speaker's words; but to allow the speaker immunity from the consequences of his actions in the name of free speech flies in the face of common sense.

Piers Morgan's opposition to privacy law ('Certain judges can't wait to give us a kicking', February) I find even less convincing, and not simply because his arguments are self-serving. A case cannot be dismissed because of the advocate's motives for making it, and Morgan is right to point out that incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights will enable judges to create new law by imaginative interpretation case by case. But that is not an argument against a privacy law as such, rather a recognition that what are essentially political decisions should be made in the open by elected politicians. Moreover, even a judge-made privacy law need not automatically lead to tyranny. Such a law could in principle be applied to prevent insurance companies or employers requesting an individual's medical records or to prevent the police from building a national DNA database.

Robert Clayton Isle of Man

Children and sexuality

While welcoming your articles on the paedophile scare ('Discussing the paedophile panic', May), I feel that you left out the heart of it all: the fact that the British public is screwed up about sex. We have not yet got over the Victorian period and most people, in their heart of hearts, still think sex is something dirty and only to be enjoyed in the dark behind locked doors.

The second issue you left out is child sexuality. Children often start to have sexual feelings when they are very young. They are told that they must not find out about 'all that' till they are older, with the result that they do not know what is going on. I threw myself at grown-ups from the age of 10. I fell in love with the man who drove the Sainsbury's delivery van and he used to give me lifts home from school. I think my mother suspected what was going on and told me that I must not ride in his van as it could get him into trouble. I had no idea what this was about and could well have defied her - and he could well have lost his job and maybe landed in prison. Had it been explained to me, I would have understood and saved him and me from possible horrors.

I am not pretending that there is no problem, but it is nearly always a problem of non-consensual sex within the family. The current panic is largely a false thing whipped up by the sensation-seeking media. However, there will always be a problem as long as sex is considered too horrid to be discussed with 'innocent' children. This attitude invents the threat and disarms the child: all children need to know the basics, and then they will be more able to deal with unwanted advances from adults.

Bill Thornycroft London SE27

Megalomaniac Microsoft?

If Microsoft (MS) produces standards that are good for all (Mark Beachill, 'Bill Gates rules cyberspace, OK?', May), that is indeed good. However, that is not always what MS does: MS devised ActiveX technology for the Internet which can prove harmful to computer users as it allows direct access from server to client hard drives. Such a security risk can be used maliciously to erase files and spread viruses. Furthermore, MS actively discouraged its more secure rival Java, which also had the benefit of working on any modern computer, whereas ActiveX only worked with MS Windows.

Microsoft is in the business of creating an electronic hegemony by undermining all other operating systems, many of which are better suited to certain tasks than Windows. Would I be right in suggesting that LM is produced on a Macintosh using Quark Xpress? Surely you believe that the more choices, the better.

Jason Walsh Belfast

The art of the worthless

The American correspondent who objected to Mick Hume's foray into art criticism ('Ghoul Britannia', May) argued that 'politics is not a valid basis for judging the aesthetic value of art' (LM-mail, June). This antiquated stance ignores the boast of contemporary art that it possesses no aesthetic value whatsoever: we can either like Britart or lump it, but we cannot say it is 'good' or 'bad' by applying some purely artistic standard, since none exists. Art now means anything you want it to mean.

By instigating the aesthetic of self-immolation, the contemporary art world probably hoped to secure its experiments against the strictures of public opinion. But the reverse has proven to be the case. The pursuit of the puerile has not only cramped creativity, it has also left the field open for others to find a value for modern art that suits their own agendas. The Britart themes - that art is essentially meaningless and life is futile - have been hijacked by the establishment. Since no substantial criticism of this abuse of contemporary art as yet exists, either in the artistic or the political spheres, Hume's editorial was timely.

Aidan Campbell London

Freedom is slavery

The great strength of Andrew Calcutt's book Arrested Development is that it touches a raw nerve in anybody who has been influenced by the counterculture. It stands our inverted images of freedom and rebellion back on their feet and shows them to be the stuff of contemporary conformism. It certainly seems to have touched a nerve in LM's reviewer Michael Fitzpatrick ('Senile delinquents', June). 'Nostalgia is death' according to Fitzpatrick, but there seems to be more than a whiff of it in his 'reservations' about Arrested Development. While of course Fitzpatrick is right to remind us that possibilities existed back in the sixties other than those that have subsequently come to dominate, his attempt to find the positive in the counterculture specifically, rather than in the broader 'popular upsurge' of that 'golden decade', only reinforces Calcutt's point.

Fitzpatrick reproduces Calcutt's quotation from a contemporary of 'anti-psychiatrist' Dr RD Laing - 'his inculpation of society comes so near to being absolute that it is experienced as an exhilarating liberation' - simply to confirm the experience of 'exhilarating liberation' provided by Laing at the 'Dialectics of liberation' conference. But regardless of how Laing's radicalism was experienced at the time, to the extent that Laing absolutely inculpated society he was plain wrong. He was wrong then and the idea is wrong now and, as Calcutt demonstrates, it is an error characteristic of counterculture and victim culture alike.

If Arrested Development was an assessment of Laing's life and work, its failure to consider the 'humanistic current' that predates his immersion in the counterculture would be a major flaw. But Arrested Development is not about the sixties: it is a book about one of the sources of the victim culture's legitimacy in society today.

Peter Ray London

Lolita: the facts

Irene Miller's review of Adrian Lyne's Lolita ('Making Lolita grow up', June) was a well-written piece with some interesting points. A pity, then, about the nonsense of her final paragraph. If she had bothered to read the foreword of the book she would have found that Nabokov (as John Ray Jr PhD) tells us that Humbert 'died in legal captivity, of coronary thrombosis' and Lolita 'died in childbed giving birth to a stillborn girl'.

Rennie Hughes Dumfries and Galloway

Ireland calling

I am a reader of LM now living in Ireland, and I would like to hear from other LM readers here. Please contact me at the e-mail address below.

Steve Daley steve@anu.ie

The what's NOT on guide

WRAPPED: Faberge ´'s Fusion perfume advert has been censured for featuring a dj with a small drug-style envelope and the message 'Fusion fragrance - the only thing worth sniffing in a club'. Janet Betts, mother of 'Ecstasy victim' Leah, called for the magazines carrying the advert (Muzik, Ministry, I-d and Sky) to be banned. Drugs tsar Keith Hellawell said that the advert 'portrays the drugs culture as glamorous' and 'should therefore be avoided'. Shame on Faberge ´ for saying perfume is better than drugs.

SEX, DRUGS AND ROCK'N'ROLL: The estate of Jimi Hendrix has stopped the National Theatre from using 'Are you experienced?' in Kevin Elyot's play The Day I Stood Still. The Hendrix estate judged that the play contained too many references to sex and drugs. Have they never seen the cover of Electric Ladyland? And presumably when the great man choked and died he must have been eating a kebab.

NOT JUST TEASING: Under the new rules for the poster industry, advertisers who 'produce offensive or irresponsible material' can be sentenced to compulsory pre-vetting for up to two years. The coyly named Copy Advice team has expressed concern over 'teaser' adverts that make 'shockingly possible' but fictitious claims. According to the Advertising Standards Authority 'most people enjoy a good joke but advertisers should take good care to consider the effect of the individual elements of a teaser campaign if they are seen in isolation...If advertisers are uncertain about the likely impact of a campaign, the Copy Advice team is on hand to help dot the i's and cross the tease'. In other words, 'you can laugh at our terrible puns but when we tell you to check everything with us we're not joking'.

CHEESED OFF: The organisers of the Cooper's Hill cheese-rolling race blamed police and council officials for the cancellation of this year's main event (a small group of dyed-in-the-wool contestants raced illicitly under cover of darkness). Since Roman times crowds have gathered to watch participants roll Double Gloucester cheeses down the 45 degree slope at the village of Witcombe. After 30 injuries last year, the organisers felt that the insurance demands placed on them were impossibly high. Forty-three years a cheese roller, Tony Peasley complained that 'we live in a nanny state society where people aren't allowed to do anything risky or have fun and the authorities intervene to protect people from themselves'. Peasely says cheese-rolling is a 'robust country pursuit', but these days even the yeomen are not allowed to be stout.

SCRATCHED: 'So who's bought the Diana scratchcard? I say "scratchcard" - in fact, you can't get the surface off just by rubbing with a coin. No, you have to slam it into a concrete surface at 128 miles per hour. But you can win a Mercedes, so I think it's worth it.' Recorded as part of Carlton TV's variety show The Warehouse, this joke was dropped from the final version due for broadcast on 16 July. Comedian Timandra Harkness reported that 'the producer seemed quite happy with it at the time, but after the programme had been edited she told me on the telephone that she'd been told to cut it out'. Harkness also said she would not have minded so much but she had 'already self-censored the joke for television. In the live version, the prize is a handbag full of cocaine'.

SILLY BREEDER: 'Organic farmer' Charles Windsor, aka the Prince of Wales, has warned that genetically modified food 'takes mankind into realms that belong to God, and to God alone'. This can only mean that HRH is against good breeding, which is a form of genetic modification, after all. Presumably his marriage would not have been so godless if Diana had been a plain, ordinary pleb instead of a lady.

SING SOMETHING SAFE: Camden council has organised chant monitors to go to pubs which are showing World Cup matches and check that fans are not singing chauvinistic songs in an offensive manner. Top of their list are 'Two world wars and one World Cup' and the theme from The Dambusters. The local constabulary has approved the plan. Meanwhile Relate, formerly the Marriage Guidance Council, is issuing advice on how rocky marriages can survive the World Cup without breaking up. Lovemaking to the theme to The Dambusters is not among the suggestions.

Compiled by Andrew Calcutt

Reproduced from LM issue 112, July/August 1998

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