The housewife sitting on the washing machine to get all heated up during the spin-cycle is an old joke which raises a few sniggers.
But it contains a truth about our ability to find stimulation and eroticism in all kinds of household objects.
Some of these are electrical, some obvious, some edible but many – at first glance – would seem to have no sexual currency at all. This last group is often the most interesting.
We each find an erotic charge where we want to.
Close your eyes, squeeze your thighs together and take an imaginary trip around the average house.
Over there is the comfortable arm of a soft chair; there, a coffee table at which one might squat, legs astride.
A fruit bowl is filled with colour, tender skin holding in a flood of juice.
In the bedroom, the crisp sheets are turned down and out peek two soft, plump pillows.
There is a line of clothes in the closet, all kinds of materials for touch to sense, a feast of colour for the eye. There are soft shoes spilling out onto the floor, all shapes and sizes, heels and flat; used and new; shiny, shiny, knee-length boots of leather; dress shoes with toes pinched tight. Kinky boots, one and all.
Look at the corner of the bed, just right for riding, or how about the smoothly-turned bedpost?
A big rough teddy bear sits in the corner, its stubby arms ready to be held flat, its belly stuffed and plumped.
Two mirrors reflect back at each other. A figure between them could see his or her reflection bouncing back and forth into infinity.
From the bathroom comes the slow, steady drip of water from the shower-head, curved, cupped like a hand.
The sun drenches a wicker chair in the suburban conservatory.
In the garage, a gym and games room bursts with tactile, humpable objects. An exercise bench cries out for inner thighs. Exercise balls await to be straddled.
The baize of a pool table tingles and crackles under fingertips.
There, hung on a hook on the wall, is a riding saddle and a thin, black whip.
The Polish film-maker Walerian Borowczyk saw the things we surround ourselves with as anything but neutral.
In his four-story film, Contes Immoraux (Immoral Tales, 1974), he creates a shockingly erotic segment featuring actress Charlotte Alexandra.
Charlotte stars as a girl whose dedication to God reveals itself as a burning lust when she is unjustly banished to her room.
And there Borowczyk’s fetishism and eye for the erotic in everything becomes almost stifling.
As she touches items like religious objects and Victoriana in the closed room, the objects are vested with a sexual charge. Their touch seems to awaken her.
Charlotte kisses a small wooden idol and touches the faces in the picture on the wall. Then she finds a book containing pornographic sketches.
Believing that the Holy Spirit delivered the naughty book to her, she undresses and caresses a cucumber, which she slides between her thighs.
The scene is filmed in silence, except only for the noises of the sheets crackling against her skin, her growing gasps and the cucumber entering her. (I drew heavily on this scene when depicting Lady Gemma’s sexual awakening in ‘Pantsdown Abbey’.)
In another of his films, Behind Convent Walls (1977), a nun finds a large timber chip from a woodcutter’s block and carves it into a dildo, while another sister enjoys the eroticism of her violin (and why not?).
Away from this pretence of art, punter-led resources like Yahoo groups give some insight into all our sense of the object-erotic.
If you look hard enough you can find videos too, which show women masturbating by riding pillows and – in one case – a large, stuffed gorilla wearing a strap-on.
Cuddly toys, indeed.
*Thanks to my friend Eddy Vale for introducing me to ‘Immoral Tales’. I owe him one!