The French, at least in La France Profonde and at least at vide greniers, seem to have a robust attitude to sex. One would expect no less from the nation that has a specific expression for a couple of hours of sex after work with one's lover, before going home: le 5 à 7. If you Google it, ignore the Bowdlerized English language version, allegedly for Québecois.

The first time I became aware of the casualness with which sex was treated at vide-greniers was some years ago, at Pas-de-Jeu. This cushion was on display about hip high to a five year old.

I never thought all that much more about it for a while after the Pas-de-Jeu cushion. This was despite seeing glasses printed with "road tests" for both sexes from 15-20, 20-30, 30-40, and so forth ("easy starting, excellent road-holding, poor range" for 15-20) as well as several games advertised for those of 18 and over. The phrase "18 and over" was not always very credible, given the illustrations on the boxes:

Kama Sutra dominoes. Full marks for originality: slightly less credit for marketability. After all, how many of us needed much incentive to experiment when first we discovered sex? I am put in mind of the old limerick which runs, "There was a young lady from Norway/ Who hung by her toes from the doorway/She said to her young man/Get off that divan/I think I've discovered one more way." And "3 Jeux Sexy" (3 sexy games) does not exactly scream "over 18".

What really brought things home, as it were, was however a jug (presumably) at another vide-grenier. I was tempted to buy it, if only for its bizarre nature, but three things militated against it. One was that I didn't feel like spending 10€. The second was wondering who on earth among my friends would want to see it. The third was where I could possibly store it when they (and I) didn't want to see it..

Jug (?) It is not often I am tempted to use the Californian word "gross" but somehow it seems appropriate here.

Then, a year or two later in 2016, I saw something even more gross at Marnes, an otherwise eminently respectable village. Never mind the one phallus: here were two. Between them was a china yoni. The linghams seemed excessively modest as compared with the jug above.

Before (Avant) and After (Après). Enough on their own, but look at the (?) ash-tray in between. Note also the position of the leprachaun's left hand and the face of the (literal) bollock-chops. And the rest of the picture, including the game on the lower right. "Cul-sec", incidentally, literally means "dry bottom" but also "bottoms up", with exactly the same connotations as in English.

What really puzzles me is who buys this stuff; and when; and why. Yes, it is slightly amusing. Briefly. But once you've had your giggle, are you actually going pay good money for it? The most likely market I can see for this sort of thing is the sort of young man who goes for his stag night to somewhere like Prague: financially overprivileged, but intellectually underprivileged.

Love at 30 years old: boxer shorts with pockets for condoms marked Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday. Ho, ho, ho. If that's your sex life at 30, you're probably missing out. This was from the same vide-grenier as the picture above

Of course it is entirely possible to form a physical collection in the same way I have formed a photographic collection, though I find it hard to imagine how the attraction of doing so (let alone the storage space) could long endure. What really intrigues me, though, is the way that there seems to be no popular outrage in rural France against this sort of thing, especially against children seeing it. This strikes me as very healthy. Small children are likely to fail to understand, assuming they notice it at all, or to dismiss it as gross, yucky or whatever. Grown-ups may laugh briefly. Only a certain kind of teenager will find it exciting or strange or unduly bizarre. If those teenagers grow older but fail to grow up, they will want to protect other (mental) teenagers from the same sort of thing. Do we need to regulate the whole of society for those with a mental age of 11 to 19? And that's being generous: 13 to 17 might be more accurate.

Postscript: a little later again, in early 2017, I did actually buy a pornographic jug because it was only a euro and because it inspired me to begin writing the short story which became Dick and Maybe. Bear in mind that in the meantime there had been scurrilous assertions about a well-known Conservative politician and a pig and consider further that a few minutes earlier I had bought (for 50 centimes) a soft plastic pig who grunted when you squeezed her sides. I have long maintained that few writers have full control over their characters and these two (or possibly three) were no exception.

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Words and pictures copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2016