For some sexual adventurers, the idea of having sex with a stranger has a definite frisson. As one dogger puts it:
“Sex with no strings, where you’re never going to see them again, so it doesn’t matter if you’re doing a good job or a bad job – what could be better? Of course it’s addictive.”
That’s the basis of Channel 4’s “Dogging Tales” which lifts the lid on the nocturnal activities of nature lovers with something of a difference.
For those in love with the idea of this night time sport, who fancy the idea of stealing into the night and bumping and grinding with a “furry triangle” (“and for free!” as one dogger proudly tells us), this is a perfect test as to whether you’re the right stuff.
The peculiar glass-eyed interviewee who first graces our screens from behind his owl mask, Les, dispels any ideas that this is going to reveal a deep experience. Vapid and everyday in his flat delivery describing ploughing through hundreds of women while untold numbers do the same to his partner in an evening, the only exotic elements in the interview are embodied in his collection of tropical birds.
Of course, it’s the lack of depth that appeals to doggers – who come in the night from all angles, it appears.
“I’ve met people from all walks of life, I’ve met undertakers, solicitors, vicars – the whole lot,” the husband of one dedicated dogging wife with a porn star’s body tells us.
From saddos to addicts, to bored couples, Dogging Tales shows it how it is, but tries not to tell us who it is, adding to the weirdness by getting everyone to wear animal masks for their privacy – simultaneously hammering home that we’re in the kingdom of the beasts, here.
So many people are hunting for something to fill the void, if you will excuse the pun. And although it appears to be a sad exercise at first, don’t let that fool you. It remains one all the way through.
Compulsion, addiction, body dysmorphia and the hit of sex to briefly dispel the surrounding darkness – you are watching lonely people in the midst of existential crisis – surrounded by darkness, little figures of solipsistic, warm softness in the night. It’s philosophical. Jean-Paul Sartre could have been a dogger. He probably was.
There are hilarious moments. Tiny little pipsqueak Terry and his rotund girlfriend are strangely depressing figures pushed to experiment by his 7 day working week and her libido that has lured her to cheat on him. He announces that he entertains “every man’s dream” of wanting two women. Two weeks later, he is interviewed on his sofa again, squeezed between two massive women, a blinking schoolboy flanked by two domineering aunties.
But when he is suddenly confronted with the reality of a stranger fondling his girlfriend, that’s too much for him. He’s a little frightened fellow, who goes home in a tizzy. It’s comedic-philosophic and suddenly profound. Terry, like many men, clearly is uncomfortable when his fantasies come face-to-face with reality in a freezing cold dark wood that he’s nearly fallen over in.
Those animal masks add something else to the proceedings. They make you think of a pagan rite that has suddenly re-emerged in the emptying countryside – a kind of pointless ritual that relieves for a few minutes the emptiness of existence, rather than being an atavistic homage to the phallus/fertility-cult.
Though not entirely – because there is fertility here and something very primal and very basic. Surprisingly, despite his glass eye and adenoidal voice, Les has 18 children and, as he announces, he can’t get a condom big enough to fit.
As for an ordinary member of the public who complains about the condoms in the woods and how the doggers abuse nature, there is no straightforward message about taste and morals here, as he promptly empties his dog over the nature reserve that was previously used as a dogging spot. The countryside is there to be abused, it seems. The image of beautiful Nature fouled is too obvious to comment on.
It’s a strange world, and it’s an odd fantasy. But, if you look at these people and you find nothing peculiar in what they are doing, and you aren’t a little saddened by the way they have come to this pass, then well done. You just might make the grade.