Friday, April 28, 2017

Sex, The City And The Island

When was sex invented in Mallorca? Not so long ago, German visitors were being informed by that oracle of all known truths - Bild - that Mallorca was the island of sex. The newspaper was referring to the British, and in particular some carryings-on in Magalluf. Not, of course, that there had ever been any such thing in Arenal. The Germans must have been alarmed at learning that sex was abroad and being imported from abroad; somewhere, moreover, that wasn't Germany. The Germans, if one can generalise, have an almost matter-of-fact relationship with matters of the flesh. Alarm there most certainly wouldn't have been. They helped with the invention.

In the current day, there are few inhibitions, especially when cold drinks have been taken and the hours (long ones) have been made happy to the point of exhibitionist hedonism, notwithstanding Magalluf's attempts to turn back the clock. People of all nations, not least the Germans, know all about sex. If they don't, then Bild can probably teach them a thing or two.

But the current day has a long (comparatively) history. Thirty years ago, Mallorca had attained such a reputation that Ivor Biggun was saving up his money to fly "to the land of the sun, fornication and fun". More than ten years before Ivor (aka Doc Cox) released The Majorca Song, three ladies from Coronation Street had succumbed to certain charms in Palmanova (which was where it was shot). Rita fell for a man with a Jason King moustache, Bet was taken in by a sleaze ball, and Mavis - yes, Mavis - walked on the beach with someone who most certainly wasn't Derek.

The lothario who enticed Rita to abandon a lilo of such immense bulk that it would have been surprising had it been capable of floating was representative of a class whose day was drawing to a close: the picador. It was he - there were certainly never any she variants - who more than most secured the invention of sex in Mallorca.

I have previously considered the picador. An article two years ago, entitled Parasite of Love, did just that. Last month in Pollensa, as part of the town's history course, the picador was revisited. Local historian Pere Salas observed that the picador was associated with cultural change in the 1960s and that the hedonistic image that Mallorca acquired in that decade has unquestionably left its legacy today.

The picador had a further association: Scandinavian - Swedish to be specific. Salas said that there were "legendary" figures from the early years of mass tourism, and Swedish girls and the picadors were among them. Not British, not German, but Swedish. I'm guessing, but the picadors may have found British girls rather more uptight. There again, the pill was about to make its presence known. Regardless of nationality as a target, though, the picador was presented with the previously unimaginable. Local girls had chaperones.

This, in the modern era, marked the invention of sex in Mallorca. But the Swedes were not alone in influencing the development. In 1962, a German actress - Elke Sommer - appeared briefly in a bikini in the otherwise ludicrous propaganda film, Bahía de Palma. There was little, in fact no sex in the city, but the film was sanctioned as a means of showing how liberal Mallorca and Spain were. Which they weren't. It was just that women, from Germany in particular, were alarmed at the prospect of being rounded up if they were wearing bikinis. The film came out only a few years after the mayor of Benidorm had famously persuaded Franco that the bikini had its advantages. And that was at a time when there was segregated bathing as well as no bikinis.

Religion did of course have a great deal to do with things; everything to do with things in fact. Franco, highly conservative Catholic that he was, took exception to the likes of Carnival not just because masks could disguise potential troublemakers but also because of concerns that the people would engage in debauchery.

His attitudes were ones that were centuries old. I cannot vouch for all that happened from the time of the Catalan invasion, but dear old Ramon Llull, born 1232, was someone who saw the error of his lustful ways. When visions came to him, he renounced his faithlessness and found a different faith. He did so to such an extent that he argued the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, undeniably sexual activity but quite removed from how Ramon had once conceived it.

Along the way, and more recently than Ramon, there was, for instance, the provocative Geraldine Leopold and her 1899 trapeze act that had Mallorcan males frothing. But it was the picadors who made the difference, and now no one bats an eyelid if, for instance, a nude model is photographed at Binissalem aerodrome. Though when it came to carryings-on in Magalluf, you'd have thought that sex hadn't previously been invented.

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