What is 'the last taboo' this week? Sometimes it is talking about cancer, sometimes death in general, sometimes sibling incest and occasionally marital rape. It all depends on how desperate an overworked journalist is for a subject, and how badly they want you to believe that they are writing something daring. Whatever it is, you can be fairly sure that it is no longer truly a taboo subject, assuming it ever was: the purpose of referring to something as 'the last taboo' is to create the impression that the writer and the reader are enlightened free spirits, capable of rationally discussing even the most conventionally 'uncomfortable' of subjects in an cool and unemotional fashion, encouraging the reader to see themselves as a member of the progressive elite simply by virtue of the fact that they continue reading.

I shall not attempt any such subliminal flattery in my consideration of a subject which, in fact, is still taboo. There is no reason why I should attempt to use such cheap rhetorical devices to inveigle you into continuing your reading on a subject that right-thinking decent respectable citizens have every right to consider as outside the bounds of decent discourse, and about which it is only healthy to feel discomfort sufficient to make anyone of normal sensibilities follow the wise if debunked example of the ostrich, bury their head in the sand or other granular matter, and hope that the issue will disappear, or at least never affect them.

Nonetheless, the tragic truth is that some do not have this option, their lives being made a living hell by this, the subject of nervous jokes behind the bicycle shed, of the secret fears of some, and of panicked denial by others. We shall probably never know how many lives have been blighted, how many families destroyed, and how many marriages ruined by the human, oh so human recourse to what the medical profession refers to as 'dissimulatio turgoris membra'.

The pressures that lead otherwise well-balanced and honest men to this desperate measure are all too clear to see: the relentless pressure on all of us to succeed, to perform, whether at work at work, or in our ever more competitive 'free time', which social and commercial pressures makes less and less free, to the extent that some might argue that the regimented masses of a Communist dictatorship, cruelly forced to spend the greater part of the few hours remaining to them outside the factory where they stand day by day on the production line of the tools of their own oppression, manufacturing the very bludgeons and torture devices that will be used to keep them in line, when they are not producing extravagant luxuries for the comfort of their oppressors, who are forced to waste those few hours in which they might otherwise have enjoyed the simple touch of the sun through the polluted clouds on their faces or perhaps to have thought a solitary subversive thought of liberation, who are forced to fritter away their miserable grey hours in 'voluntary' work for the Moloch of the Party and the Mass Organisations or in 'spontaneous' demonstrations in support of the now long-faded glory of the Revolution that placed the leaden boot on their neck, that they are not significantly less free than many supposedly 'free citizens.' Some might argue that the comparison is exaggerated, but how truly free are our own masses, bombarded by the trillion-dollar industrial-marketing complex with images from the shockingly clumsy to the vilely insidious of the ways in which they should spend their money and their time, underpinned with the continuous suggestion that those who do not conform to the norm and exceed the average are failures, worthless, almost inhuman, unworthy of respect and deserving only of contempt and scorn?

Combine this permanent pressure to succeed and conform with the relentless sexualisation of society, in all of its varied and degenerate forms, from beauty shows for six-year-olds to pornography for grandmothers, from the underwear adverts on the walls of churches to the contact adverts and the phone numbers of prostitutes framing the obituaries in the classified section of the daily paper, and the result is a diabolical cocktail of unrealisable hopes and exaggerated expectations, one of whose cruellest manifestations is the crushing pressure on the male of the species to perform in bed.

By the age of 17, the average young man of our age will have been forced by peer pressure not only to peruse pictures of around 1423 young women of greater than average cup-size, and to witness the ejaculations of 337 men of greater than average penis size, he will also have been brainwashed into the view that if he does not lose his virginity within a matter of months then he is pathetic, pitiable, undersexed, possibly homosexual, and certainly abnormal. Thus he is under pressure to find a girl, any girl, who is willing to engage in the act itself with him. But even should he have taken this hurdle, he will not find peace: in order to keep his 'score' in line with expectations, he will have to 'pull' other 'chicks' on a regular basis. Imagine the ensuing pressure to 'perform' in the presence of a woman who he may not find particularly attractive or interesting, the only criterion for his choice of her being her willingness or sufficient degree of intoxication.

Older men, too, in the presence of their 'steady steady girlfriends' or wives are not exempt from the pressure to perform: scarcely a day, nay, an hour goes by in which they are not warned that the ineluctible consequence of any interruption in the continuous supply of seismically mind-blowing multiple orgasms to the object of their affections will be her absconding with a muscular waste disposal operative blessed with genitalia of equine proportions and the dissemination of ridicule concerning the rejected paramour's failings among her dozens of female friends.

Is it therefore any wonder that men from time to time feel the need to fake an erection? What could be more natural, when nature fails, than to cover for its deficiencies with an apparently harmless deception? Feelings are protected on both sides, the lady need not worry that she is insufficiently unattractive, the gentleman need fear no silent contempt for his lack of turgid masculinity, and the next time surely everything will work without such a small white lie, if it can even be called a lie.

But deception leads to deception, and what could have been honestly addressed on one occasion becomes a guilty secret after two, and in a shockingly short time is a cancer growing in the very heart of a relationship. If a man fail on one occasion he may find an excuse or a reason, but once he has formed the habit of faking, how can he ever find a remedy? How is he ever to explain his repeated deceptions without convincing the deceived that her charms are insufficient or his virility inadequate or both?

And besides, a woman may feel more than she or her lover knows. Although outwardly everything may appear to be as it should, and the man may be sure that his deception has gone unnoticed, yet still somewhere in the depths of his lover's feminine nature will something be missing, a seed of dissatisfaction and doubt that may grow over time to become a creeper of distrust that will strangle the tree of affection.

As it were.

For all these reasons and more, the time has come to break the silence, and to speak openly about this scourge of our time. Only if we address it honestly and openly will we ever be rid of this wellspring of so much misery, this destroyer of trust, this solvent of the sacred adhesive of familial attachment, this greenish-blue fungus on the innocent crust of the meatloaf of love, this treacle in the gas-tank of harmony, which truly is (now it may be said) the last taboo.

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