great white shark

great white shark

Yes, we know -- getting attacked by a shark is highly unlikely. On average, 21 deaths a year are caused worldwide by the use of butt plugs (7 of which horsehair). That's before you start counting all the deaths attributable to the use of standard dildos, battery- or mains-powered vibrators, and other more adventurous forms of sex toy. Shark attacks, on the other hand, are on average responsible for just six deaths a year.

Of course, such statistics are not always particularly helpful, failing as they do to take into account how many people actually expose themselves to the risk in question, and how often. If you were to go surfing once a day for a year in the sharky waters of Western Australia, say, and spend an hour or so every evening of that year with a butt plug (horsehair, for argument's sake) firmly inserted in your bumhole, which of the two activities would pose a greater threat to your life? A relevant study has yet to be attempted.

Anyway, if you do go surfing in West Oz, or anywhere else renowned for the density of its shark population, it's worthwhile having a battle plan in mind just on the off chance that one of them fancies a piece of you. There are certain steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of a shark attacking you, but there may come a time when you have no option but to stand/tread water and fight.

Mathieu Dasnois, in hospital after being attacked by a great white shark

Mathieu Dasnois, after being attacked by a great white shark

Left: Mathieu Dasnois, whose injuries were inflicted by a shark, not a butt plug. Photo: LOYISO MPALANTSHANE via Times Live

The case of South African fisherman Mathieu Dasnois (left), who managed to stave off the unwanted advances of a 4-metre long great white shark at the weekend by poking it in the eye, provides an instructive example.

The 29-year old was leading a sightseeing tour on Saturday, off the South African coast near the town of Port St. Johns, when he jumped off the boat to give a new scuba mask a try. A few minutes later a dorsal fin was spotted heading directly towards Dasnois, who was swimming in shallow water around 20 metres away from the boat.

"It was bloody huge," he told the Telegraph. "I didn't see the first attack, it gripped my leg, took it in its mouth and swam. I poked it in the eye with my left thumb. The shark let go and came back again. I'm pretty sure it attacked me three times."

Those on the boat were then able to pull him aboard and take him to shore, where he was treated by paramedics.

"My leg was badly mangled, that's where it took me and dragged me along," he said. "I've got some injuries on my left arm and deep gashes in both my hands."

The spear fisher later posted the following message to his Facebook page:

"So before rumours start seeping too much: I am a shark attack survivor. I squared up with a 4m great white. Not my most successful fight, but I'm essentially fine. Will regain full use of my entire body. Got lucky and had great help. Except for my fin, the shark took my brand new fin. Grrrr.

"Meh. The sea giveth and the sea taketh away. But that guy really wanted me. Must have been something I ate. I should slow down on the crayfish."

So there you go. If you get attacked by a shark, poke it in the eye. The snout and the gills are also relatively weak points in a shark's amour, so try and give them a clobbering too if you can, but the eyes are arguably your best bet.

And for God's sake, be careful with those butt plugs!