Certain physical abnormalities in the woman – abnormalities at the gate – can cause impotence. J. Smit, in his Manual for Men and Women Suffering from Impotence, Infertility and Other Mechanical Sexual Disorders (1810), formulates the problem as follows:

Aristotle is right: fat ladies have too little charm, are too cold­blooded, their ovaries, encased in excessive fat, complicate the release of an ovum, the plastic lymph is too sticky and in addition the fat belly with its mass of bulging lard-like foothills prevents the male member from penetrating deeply enough. Lean food, exercise, gardening, short periods of sleep, and mental activity is the best advice. Mustard, although it is the most powerful agent for melting fat away, has too great a weakening effect on the digestive system, breaks down calcium in the blood to too great an extent, and becomes detrimental to health.

Meanwhile examples have frequently been seen of portly ladies giving birth to several children; however, they find child-

birth very hard. For the rest, a cul de Paris, or a well-stuffed cushioned pillow, can provide a great deal of relief.

Too narrow a vagina, natural or acquired, can also cause problems. When a gynaecologist operates on a prolapse, he or she will make sure that the vagina remains at least two fingers wide, the approximate thickness of the average penis. Smit wrote of the naturally narrow vagina:

Too narrow a sheath, as is sometimes found in very delicate, thin women, makes intercourse painful, unpleasant and fruit­less. In one case, where after several attempts over nine months the well-endowed man was able to penetrate only as far as the glans, the couple were obliged by pain on both sides to cease all further attempts. Dr Thilenius ordered an injection of almond oil morning and evening and left an easily extractable, four-inch-long piece of sponge, which had been coated with oil, in the vagina.

Men who are equipped with an exceptionally strong glans, may be congenial to women of experience, but until deflora­tion, for the pleasure of young innocent girls, they are very unsuited. If the young husband encounters such a distressing situation, it is permissible for him to prepare the way with his finger.

With his surfeit of male sex hormone and high stress levels the man lives on average a few years less than the woman. Many men are dependent on a woman not only for their birth, but also for geriatric care. An unknown Englishman once wrote: ‘Without this good friend [the woman] the dawn and evening of life would be helpless, and its mid-day without pleasure.’

Women receive the fertilizing sperm, help the embryo develop and bear our children. However you put it, reproduction is closely linked to love, loving, sexuality. In all kinds of ways women are the experts.

Not so long ago some women in the Bandjoema tribe had an important role to play in this respect. Before a young man was granted the right to marry, he had to take a sexual exam. The young man had to prove that in marriage he would be able to do his reproductive duty. The female examiner, called a sentondang, had to give a report to the father. Such reports were usually formulated as follows: ‘Father, your son is a complete man.’ If she did not consider the test successful and wanted a ‘resit’, she said: ‘Father, I can’t say much yet.’ What wisdom in such a culture! Things are very different with some Western women.

My former partner once told me very vividly how her grandmother prized the sexual performance of her grandfather, who was then nearly eighty. Granny said: ‘He still wants it every week, but there’s not much left, you know. He almost has to shove it in with a fork.’

A former gp told me about a very respectable widower who late in life met a strapping Flemish woman. He married her, but unfortunately he proved to be impotent. Time after time she made fun of him and belittled him to his face. On one occasion she said: ‘Shall I do a hand­stand, so you can hang it in there.’ The gp referred the man to a famous sexologist, with a letter of referral in which he wrote that the wife was ‘stiffening his lack of resolve’. Of course there are also men who talk deprecatingly about their wife’s genitals. Generations of feminism and political correctness have not yet ousted ‘cunt’ as a term of abuse (for both sexes) in English.