On street corners a couple of hundred yards from where I write this, prostitutes stand in the hope, and no doubt the expectation, of passing trade. They look as if they had stepped straight from the work of Otto Dix or George Grosz: and they go straight from the age of fourteen, when they start their career, to the age of forty-nine, without appearing ever to have passed through the intervening years.

In like mysterious fashion, Catherine Millet, the author of this memoir of her sexual life that the Kirkus Review found both oddly charming and deeply pornographic, passed directly from first communion to orgiastic group sex without so much as batting an eyelid. As far as can be deduced from her book, she adopted what she generously calls the ‘philosophy’ of making herself available to any man, any place, any time, quite arbitrarily, without any reflection whatever. If ever she were to write a Bildungsroman, it would be...