The dirty weekend is the ultimate British sexual encounter
The British have always done sexual assignations differently from the French. Our chic cousins will happily engage in what a friend of mine once referred to as “a Gallic affirmation of life” – the quick after-work bunk-up, also known as a – while we’re much more comfortable making a proper weekend of it. Who knows, maybe we just don’t feel we can concentrate on having wild sex if we haven’t got a toothbrush, our best knickers and a book to read if our lover falls asleep first.
The glamorous French have long been at ease with booking a hotel room for a mere couple of hours – enough time to say “bonsoir, chérie”, admire the , and order a post-coital espresso, before taking le metro home. We, however, have traditionally tied ourselves in knots with lies, booked a chintzy B&B for the whole night in case the forbidding manager rumbles us, and then attempted a middle-aged, guilty coupling in the accommodation equivalent of a frilled toilet-roll holder.
But times are changing. A is becoming increasingly popular over here too – and you’d better believe it’s not just business travellers catching an hour’s sleep before meeting the boys to thrash out commodities. A significant 40%, in fact, now use the site for “leisure” reasons. But while in France the offer is entirely upfront, promising low rates for a “”, in Britain it simply mentions that champagne can be ordered if required.
I wonder, though, if the “naughty pause” is such a good idea for us Brits. What’s dashing and sexy in often translates to lumpen sleaze over here (see handsome politicians, flirtatious strangers and sex scenes in mainstream cinema for proof). We’re simply not good at showing up, getting our kit off, and being done and dusted in under two hours. We like a bit of time to chat, to navigate the general awkwardness of being somewhere with the sole purpose of having sex. Actually, we’d probably also quite like a meal first and a chance to fall asleep in our lover’s arms, rather than waving languidly from the balcony as he heads back to a steaming coq au vin with Marie-Claire.
That’s why we invented the concept of . (If you look it up, it says, “see also ‘hanky-panky’”, which tells you everything you need to know about our attitude to sex.) The French don’t even have an expression for it, which suggests that a weekend is far too long for their refined sexual urges. They have no need to build up to things gradually over a fish and chip supper, they just snap off their Hermès cufflinks and get on with it.
Britain, however, is historically mired in social awkwardness, which is why a dirty weekend – often the first weekend away with a lover, illicit or otherwise – is such a godsend. Traditionally, it should take place in Brighton or Blackpool. There’s nothing dirty or particularly fun about a spa weekend in the home counties, involving matching waffle-fabric robes and a Nespresso machine. Staying somewhere a bit dodgy is part of the traditional experience, as is having a cheap and cheerful meal as you build up to the main event, wondering if you ripped the size 14 label out of your Janet Reger for Debenhams silk knickers, and knocking back the booze to quell your nerves.
Then there’s the next day, exploring the town, enjoying the crash and dazzle of the pier amusements, holding hands as you buy seaside rock and kiss-me-quick hats and pose for a selfie – or not, if your assignation is extramarital. You might simply decide to stay in bed all weekend, ordering overfilled club sandwiches and cups of tea, rolling back together for another session, then exploring the oddly fragranced miniature cosmetics in the bathroom.
By the end of a good dirty weekend, you should be both exhausted and relieved – because it went well, you had great sex, and got to know each other better, not necessarily in that order. It works, too, for jaded couples of long standing, who need a shot of frivolity to remind them that sex can still be fun.
A dirty weekend is relaxed, expansive, funny and sensual. A “naughty pause”, however, is just sex – a brisk full-stop on the day, before the evening with your real partner commences. There’s something both efficient and depressing about it in a British context. The French may be used to their twilight assignations, and Gallic affirmations. For us, however, sex away from home needs to offer more. I’d take bag of chips and a fumbled, promising kiss on the promenade over a brief encounter followed by a lonely evening, every single time. Wouldn’t all of us, if we could?