Like many proper viruses, viral emails have a tendency to lay low for long periods of time, briefly breaking out in epidemics before disappearing again. The supposed sex-advice I covered in the last post is a case in point. Over the past few years, it has broken cover several times. The earliest outbreak I could trace was in 2003, though doubtless there were earlier instances. As I discussed, the extract derives from an elaboration of an earlier spoof entitled "The Good Wife", purportedly from a 1950s housekeeping magazine but more likely dating from the late 1980s.
So what caused this latest outbreak, which centres around what looks like a scrunched-up photocopy? While the printed original remains elusive, I've found what might be a clue from a blog entry by Maria Williams, a journalist with the South Wales Argus, dated 5th October 2009. She writes as follows:
IT'S been a thoroughly depressing week on many fronts... So I was cheered when a colleague brought in an item one of his relatives had been given at a retirement seminar to show just how far our society has come in the past 40 years.
It was an extract from a 1960s sex education textbook for girls, written by a woman - and I shall share it with you in a bid to brighten your day.
Is the South Wales Argus the source of this latest infection?
Ms Williams also has this to say:
How the world has changed - perhaps a little too far now that tweenie magazines have advice on sexual positions and how to get and keep your boy using management techniques.
But is does put me in mind of that great quote by the American humourist P.J. O'Rourke: "If anyone ever tells you that things were better in the good old days, just say the word dentistry."
As sex law expert Chris Ashford notes, hoaxes like this are doubly revealing: of our views about the past, and of our present attitudes and ideas. We are encouraged to smile at the supposed naivety or antediluvian attitudes of our predecessors, but at the same time pause for thought at the implied contrast with today's sexual free-for-all. What Williams' "dentistry" remarks shows, however, is that the piece ultimately affirms contemporary mores by casting the past as a place of rampant sexism and sexual misery.
It may not be entirely coincidental that the "advice" has re-emerged at a time when traditional views of marriage have once again become politically contentious. The subject is certainly "in the air" - witness the news story about the Rev Mark Oden's instruction to the women in his congregation to submit to their husbands. Though I don't think Oden was just talking about sex.
No doubt I'm reading far too much into what is just a bit of harmless fun.