‘Anonymous posts’ Category

  1. A personal account of abortion

    October 18, 2012 by Anon

    This is an anonymous post detailing a personal account of an abortion at 21 weeks. It is a bit longer than our usual posts, I am sure you can understand why I wanted it to remain as written. Many thanks to our anonymous author for sharing her story – it’s so important to hear from people who have actual experience of the stuff that gets bandied about in politics. This piece offers a very personal perspective, which may offer some food for thought in the context of Jeremy Hunt’s desire to reduce the termination limit to 12 weeks. 

    ~

    Test

    I looked in my purse – I couldn’t really afford it. I sighed because pregnancy tests are horrifically expensive. I gave my brother and sister everything I had, and they sauntered into Tesco (I was too embarrassed to go myself). It wasn’t a big moment. It was a joke, almost – something different to do that Saturday afternoon. None of us thought it would end up coming to anything, least of all me. I was more annoyed about the money that anything else.

    I’d finally been pushed to do it after I’d had a shower that morning. I’d felt bloated for weeks, but because I’d done a pregnancy test a few months before – about two months after my last period – and it was negative, I thought it must be a food allergy or something. Fruit squash, was my bright idea. Apparently the sweeteners in the sugar-free ones can cause digestive reactions in some people.

    Anyway, whilst looking at my bloated stomach for the twentieth time in as many days that morning, I noticed that my belly button was sticking out more that it used to. It was the first time I’d noticed it; it wasn’t a complete ‘outie’ but it was definitely more visible than usual. So when I started moaning again about what on earth was going on with my body, my siblings persuaded me to get a test so that I could rule that theory out (again) and then go to the doctor to figure out what it really was.

    I’d had other symptoms of course which, when I look back, all blatantly pointed to the first trimester of a pregnancy. I’d suddenly had really oily skin, but I thought this and my periods stopping was to do with the stress regarding my break-up with a boyfriend and residual angst from my parents’ separation. I had felt some unusual nausea when I was on a holiday in India two months previously, but I’d reasoned this was because of the local food and water, and the antihistamines I was taking. It’s easy for people to say ‘You must have known’, but it’s not that simple. One negative test was all it took to become blind to (and make excuses for) a million other signs. That and the fact that the only instance of unprotected sex I’d had in the last six months (a horrific event I was barely aware of) was hastily followed by the morning after pill.

    As we pulled back in our driveway after buying a twin pack for £14 (all they had, which annoyed me even more) we encountered my dad packing up the car to go off for the weekend. ‘Don’t leave yet,’ I joked, ‘I could be pregnant, in which case you won’t be able to go!’ He rolled his eyes at me.

    I practically skipped to the toilet, so unassuming was I. I read the instructions and carried them out. Because I was so sure it would be negative, it had turned into a kind of game. It was quite exciting really.

    I put the lid on and wiped it with a tissue. I threw a cursory glance at the stick.

    The word ‘Pregnant’ stared back at me. Barely twenty seconds had passed. I frowned, looked at it again (thank god I hadn’t got one of the one line/two line/crossed line ones, it really had to be spelled out to me). I didn’t understand, that was way too fast – the instructions said wait two and half minutes?

    I walked quickly out of the bathroom and into the kitchen where my sister sat swinging her legs, sitting on the Aga. She looked at my face. I thrust the stick into her hands. She continued to look at my face and dismissed my expression, shaking her head. ‘Very funny’, she said. She looked down. I waited for her to read it.

    ‘It said that after seconds,’ I stressed. ‘That can’t be right, can it?? It’s supposed to be two and a half minutes. It was seconds!!!’ I was beginning to panic now.

    My sister finally looked up. Whatever she felt personally was overruled by her maternal soothing instinct (which we’d all developed on overdrive since my mum’s departure). ‘Don’t worry, it’s probably just wrong,’ she said tentatively. ‘It shouldn’t have given you an answer so quickly, should it? It’s wrong. Just do the other one.’

    ‘I can’t be pregnant, this is crazy…’ I felt a little sick.

    ‘You’re not! You’re definitely not. Just do the other test; that’ll be negative.’

    Shaking, I walked back to the toilet. She advised me to do it the alternative way the instructions described (by peeing into a cup and dipping the stick in, if you must know). I did as I was told. I put the cap on and walked, still in a daze, back to the kitchen.

    My sister had gone outside to speak to Dad who had been about to leave. Together they walked in the front door. He clearly didn’t believe what he’d been told. Yeah, sure, his face said. Either they’re having me on or they’re incapable of reading the instructions on one of these things. She showed him the original stick. His face became drained of colour.

    ‘Oh, shit,’ he said.

    ‘Don’t worry,’ my sister interrupted, ‘she’s doing the other one and that will be negative. This one gave her the result way too quickly.’ She sounded confident now.

    The remaining test burnt my hand as it clenched around it. I was afraid to look at it. About a minute, maybe a minute and a half, had passed.

    I looked at it.

    ‘Oh god.’ I started crying. ‘I can’t be pregnant, I can’t be pregnant, I can’t be pregnant…’ I said over and over again. My sister took the test from my hand. I sank to the floor, staring at nothing. ‘I did a pregnancy test. I did a pregnancy test!! Months ago. It was negative! I can’t be pregnant. I ALWAYS use condoms!’ Now I was shouting.

    It was true.

    My mind went into hyper-drive, scanning a history of my recent sexual episodes in intimate flash-backs. There had been the incident in December, but I’d got the morning after pill in plenty of time. Yes I’d had the odd occasion here and there since where there had been brief penetration before a condom was resentfully but dutifully sourced – doesn’t everyone?? But while we’ve all heard the scare-stories about ‘pre-come’, but who actually thought it was a real threat? I have friends who have used the pull-out method for years, with no scares at all. Could that really be what got me pregnant?!

    If I was pregnant, there was one thing that I immediately knew – I’d been pregnant a while. The symptoms, which I’d tried to blame on everything under the sun, had started before Christmas. It was March. I had to be damn close to the legal abortion limit, I thought. Oh god, was it too late?

    And there was also one thing I definitely did not know – whose baby it was. Since there was no notable occasion to pinpoint, and since my ex-boyfriend and recent sexual partner had overlapped, it was a toss-up. I didn’t know whether this was a good or a bad thing.

    Scan

    At some point there was a phone conversation with Marie Stopes abortion clinic. I don’t really remember it, except that I knew I had to make the call to go private, and quickly, because of how far along I knew I must be. I told them this, which meant that I was booked in for a scan in days, rather than weeks. I found out on Saturday; the scan was booked for Tuesday.

    I went to London for it, with my sister and my dad. I’d booked the whole week off work by this point. I don’t even remember what excuse was made. It’s the one time my dad’s helped me pull a sickie; he rang them for me. I didn’t trust myself to speak to them.

    The whole day was pretty surreal – I felt like we were playing parts in a play. A warning play to others. I told Dad he shouldn’t come to the clinic, thinking it might make other women and girls in the there uncomfortable. So he waited for us in a nearby café. He was really nervous but trying not to show it. He didn’t know what to hope for aloud I don’t think. None of us did I guess. It’s a difficult thing to say ‘Good luck, hope you’re within the legal limit to get an abortion!’ So he just hugged me hard.

    We headed over early as I was partly afraid I wouldn’t find it and partly afraid we’d have to fight our way through protesters. I really didn’t know what to think. When we arrived we were directed into a little room. It was exactly as I imagined – everyone was very hush hush; everything was white; there were quite a few young girls there with their mothers. I felt bad being there when I was at an age where I was clearly able to care for a child. We sat down; my sister held my hand. I tried to look anywhere but at the other girls. We all sat there for a while, trying to pretend we didn’t know what everyone else was all doing there.

    Then suddenly a new pair came in – a very young oriental girl and her tiny but much older mother. The mother had a number of bulging Sainsbury’s plastic bags. She bustled in quite loudly whilst the girl followed quietly behind and sat down. The mother continued to bustle for a while, until she ripped off a big piece off a baguette sticking out of one of the bags, and proceeded to eat it noisily.

    I thought this was rather insensitive since some of the girls there would have most likely been nil by mouth for the morning, but she surpassed herself the next minute by pulling out a steaming bag of hot chicken. The smell filled the room! She took out a wing and started gnawing at it. Her daughter looked at her reproachfully, and she sharply defended herself by shouting: ‘What? I hungry!’

    (Why she spoke in broken English to her daughter who presumably spoke Chinese I don’t know.)

    This made my sister and I burst out laughing, and we spent the next few minutes until I was called sitting there with barely controlled grins on our faces, which was quite unexpected but split the tension in two. So I really need to thank that woman.

    When we got upstairs, however, nothing seemed funny any more. The only thing I could hear was the question ‘Less than 24 weeks or more than 24 weeks?’ going round and round my head like a broken record. In a few minutes I was going to find out whether my world was about to seriously change forever. I’m ashamed to say that at this point I was only worried about myself: my life. Not the one that I was praying I would be able to end.

    We went into a little room. They asked if I wanted my sister to come in with me; I was adamant that she must. I was starting to shake. It was too overwhelming. The nurse asked me some questions, I don’t remember what. She did a prick test on my finger to test my blood type. She was a nice gentle lady – quite old and small. She knew I thought I was close to the legal limit for termination. It was probably in the file, but I also must have mentioned it eight times in 10 minutes. She explained that if the scan implied I was close she would need to call a second physician in, as legally two of them need to agree and sign off that it was within 24 weeks in such circumstances.

    She asked me to lie down on the bed. Gurney, whatever. She asked me to pull my trousers and underwear down – I was surprised on how far down she needed them to be. Kind of like when you’re surprised by how low down a woman’s caesarean scar is. She squeezed some clear gel onto my stomach. I started crying – I had seen this happen a million times in films and TV this was not the scenario I imagined it happening to me for the first time.

    She started moving the wand from side to side, looking intently at the screen – which was luckily was by my head, so I couldn’t see it. My sister could, though. She was sitting at the foot of the bed, and I was watching her. She was looking at the screen; she clearly couldn’t help it. She squeezed my foot, hard – for her benefit as much as mine I suspect. I was really crying now; I couldn’t look at her face any more, sickened by trying to read what it was she could see whilst at the same time not wanting to know. I had an overwhelming urge to ask the nurse if she could tell if it was a boy or a girl. I don’t think I said it out loud.

    I lay back and put my hands over my eyes. I was shaking so much now the nurse had to ask me to calm down, Calm down dear, I can’t get a good reading.

    Finally she stopped. She said ‘I’m just going to get my colleague to have a look’. I knew that wasn’t good. She left the room. ‘Please’ I whispered aloud through tears. ‘Please, please, please, please.’ I’m not ready for this baby. Five days ago I hadn’t even been pregnant – now I might be past the legal limit for abortion? It can’t be, it can’t be. I had the self-awareness to feel guilty about my pleas but I meant them as much as I’ve ever meant anything.

    The nurse came back in with another more senior looking physician. They both looked at the screen. The nurse looked at her colleague. I looked at both of them. ‘Yes, you’re about 21 weeks,’ the new guy said. ‘Maybe a little over.’

    ‘So I can have it?’ I said, I didn’t want to say the word. ‘I can have an abortion?’

    ‘Yes.’

    I burst out crying again, out of guilt and relief. 

    Night before

    Because I was so close they booked me in to have the ‘procedure’ in the next few days. I had to be there early. So early, in fact, that I decided to go to my friend’s the night before, as she lived relatively close to the clinic. Also, if I’m honest, I hadn’t seen any friends since I found out I was pregnant and I kind of wanted to.

    That sounds weird; let me explain. After the test said positive I suddenly felt and, I thought, looked very pregnant. I was convinced people were wondering whether to offer me a seat on the tube, or scorning me for having a cigarette in the street. Or maybe I just wanted to look as pregnant as I suddenly felt? The feelings were quite overpowering. My centre of gravity seemed to change all of a sudden and I felt I needed to get out of chairs hips first. As I walked I held my arms around my belly, protectively. But mostly I felt fiercely maternal for the first time, a time when I was about to do the least maternal thing imaginable.

    These were possibly reasonable thoughts and feelings considering my hormones– I was five months gone after all, more than halfway through a full term – but because I had gone until the week before not having a clue, and because of what I was about to do, I felt like a fraud feeling physically and mentally pregnant all of a sudden. I certainly didn’t think I deserved to have these feelings which seemed so precious and private.

    All I knew was that they were feelings I wasn’t ready to lose as quickly as the baby I knew I couldn’t have. I hadn’t fully processed what was going on yet, but I thought that if I saw a friend before I had the abortion, someone other than family who could later say ‘Yes, she was definitely pregnant’, then it would be a way of helping me process them later. I sensed that in the future I’d need to have proof it was real, as it was sure to seem like a dream after the reality of it would only last 4 days and nights. I wanted to make sure I had some tangible connection to it later. I find it difficult to explain why.

    My sister and I got the tube to my friends’ the night before. Poor thing hadn’t a clue what to do or say, or what food to get, or whether it was an occasion for booze or not. I had wanted to go the 24 hours before ‘clean’ – to somehow give something good to this piece of me that I was betraying so badly – but I couldn’t even manage that. I smoked and drank, just as I had done for the past five months, selfishly and desperately.

    It was only a matter of time before polite questions of how I was feeling turned into a morbid curiosity. I would have been exactly the same. My friend and sister, who hadn’t dared be so personal thus far, watched as I pulled up my top to reveal my swollen stomach, half scared, half – dare I say it – proud. They placed their hands on it. They were incredulous. ‘I can’t believe none of us noticed,’ they said. It seemed huge.

    ‘Procedure’

    They wanted the money as soon as we got there. Incredibly, we hadn’t thought about this part. I had nothing, so my sister paid, which added to the surrealism. She paid with her student fees money which wasn’t due to be paid for another few days. My dad would pay her back, it was arranged. That made me feel quite sick. I couldn’t even pay for this awful thing I was doing. It was £1,600.

    Another waiting room, another group of young girls. We weren’t allowed to eat anything, so I thought the smell of toast wafting through the window from the staff kitchen was quite insensitive. There was some rubbish morning television show on. I prayed some tacky coverage of abortion hadn’t been scheduled.

    Eventually I got called through. Considering we were told to get there about 7am, I was physically and emotionally exhausted by the time I was called in after 10am. It turned out it was because they’d lost my blood work. After being shown upstairs (and given a sheet to wrap round myself – I hadn’t been told I should bring my own nightie in) I waited another hour while they did some more and had it read.

    After spending no small amount of time trying to figure out how to lie in my kind of hammock chair daintily, trying not to disturb the other girls who were lying down staring at the walls, I was eventually led through to what looked exactly like a hospital room. That’s when I realised where the money goes – there were about six nurses led by a doctor. I don’t need all these people, I thought. The doctor wasn’t very friendly; gentle but firm I guess you might say. Not sure what I expected. He told me to lie down and put my legs in the stirrups. He told me that he was going to insert a pessary, and that when he did that I would experience ‘some discomfort’. He said that I would then go back to my hammock chair where I would wait for a few hours until the pessary had done it’s work and my womb had contracted, and then I’d come back in for the ‘procedure’ where the ‘contents’ would be disposed of. I felt sick at his use of words, and then guilty for being such a hypocrite.

    ‘Some discomfort’ turned out to be the closest thing I hope I ever come to what I imagine being sexually assaulted feels like. He unceremoniously stuffed a plastic speculum inside me, followed by what felt like his entire fist, and jammed around until he seemed satisfied. I choked back tears – I refused to allow myself the luxury of crying. He left the room. One of the nurses was obviously aware of my reaction. She soothingly placed her hand on my arm and said ‘That’s the worst of it, later you won’t be conscious. We’ll just take you in to sit down and relax now.’ She put me in a wheelchair – my legs didn’t seem to work very well – but I pulled myself together enough to insist quite strongly that I not be taken in to the other room before I composed myself. I didn’t want to scare the other girls by letting them see me so upset.

    I lay down on my strange chair, much less concerned now about how I might manage it with grace. The nurse told me I’d be there for between three and five hours, depending on how long it took for me to become contracted enough for them to finish. Contracted, I thought? I’m going to have contractions?? I hadn’t been prepared for that. She gave me a heat pad and told me that I would be given some ibuprofen if I needed it. I didn’t really understand what she might mean.

    It’s hard to explain the next few hours – they passed in a blur. At times, the pain became so unbearable I didn’t know what to do with myself. It came and went in waves, as I presume contractions do. At one point one of my closest friends rang. I didn’t know if I was allowed to but I answered. Unfortunately at that moment I was suffering particularly badly, and I didn’t seem to be able to get any words out. My friend immediately went into panic mode – I don’t think she expected me to be consciously going through so much pain, either – and within the next 10 minutes I received phone calls from the three other girls. Each had had a worried phone call from the last. I felt incredibly touched at their concern, but was physically quite incapable of reassuring them in any way.

    Eventually – after what seemed like days – I was wheelchaired back into the hospital room. They gave me a general anaesthetic. They asked me if I had any questions – I asked where they put the baby after they’d taken it out. They looked at me like I’d just emitted a bad smell. It was a distasteful question, I realise, but I had to know. The ‘contents’ were disposed of safely, they said. Then everything started to fade out, and the last thing I can remember saying is ‘Please don’t hurt her…’

    When I came to, I felt almost euphoric. General anaesthetic has that affect on me, I now know. I felt like I was floating on a cloud. When I got back into the room, they gave me a biscuit and a cup of tea. I was told I could collect myself for 30 minutes. I looked around the room, wistfully. It was quite late in the day by that point, and there were only a few girls left. ‘I think we’ve all done really well,’ I said in my fuzzy, disconnected state. They smiled weakly at me. I have no idea what I expected.

    When the time came I slowly made my way outside to where my sisters and mum were waiting in a car. Mum had insisted on picking me up, saying I wouldn’t be able to get the tube. I had had no idea what she meant, but now it was only too clear. I could barely walk, and certainly couldn’t bend in any way. The pain is hard to explain. It was like my whole body was centred around this very potent but dulled ache in the centre of my body. I was also still druggy from the anaesthetic.

    I was also, of course, incredibly grateful to see their faces. I hadn’t realised quite how lonely and distressing the last six or seven hours had been until I was in their bosom.

    They had clearly spent a long few hours pottering around, not sure how to prepare to see me, or what, if anything, to get me. In the end they gave me a pulse and lavender filled bear, which you warm in the microwave and then hold against ‘aches and pains’. Even now the smell reminds me.

    Today

    I don’t regret what I did – I wasn’t ready, I had no idea who the father was, and I had so abused my body with drink and drugs during those five months due to emotional distresses of the time that I can’t imagine the child would have been healthy. It would not have been the best start in life. When I compare how I looked after myself then with the rare glasses of red wine, multiple pregnancy vitamins, and soft cheese bans that wilfully pregnant women around me endure today, I feel physically sick.

    But can’t quite let it go either. I can’t count the number of times since that I’ve Googled ‘foetus at 21 weeks’. It’s kind of like when you unwittingly find evidence of betrayal, and you find yourself looking at it over and over again. You purposefully put yourself through the pain as you develop something of an unhealthy fascination. These periods comes in ebbs and flows, perhaps triggered by some mention of abortion by friends or the news, perhaps not.

    Maybe it’s because I was so far along that my body has experienced how strong the hormones can get – maybe it’s because I had to make the decision so quickly – maybe it’s because I’m self-indulgent – but every pregnancy of those close to me since has been that much more interesting to me. I find myself looking at those who are at a similar term and yelling to myself, ‘How could you not have noticed??’ But that, along with exactly how and when I became pregnant, why that first pregnancy test failed, and who the father was, will remain things I will never know the answer to. Sometimes I imagine the afterlife as being sat in a room while someone gives you the answer to every one of those mysteries that have built up in your life. I guess that’s something I’ll find out.

    If you have a story you would like to share anonymously, please email anonawot@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter for the anon account log in details. Thank you.

     


  2. Rape doesn’t just happen to other people

    August 23, 2012 by Anon

    Image from Slutwalk

    Last night, I stormed out of a dinner party in a rage with tears streaming down my face.  I was in a conversation with a male friend who I love who was trying to explain away Galloway’s comments on Assange.  At one point I ended up yelling and itemising the number of his female friends who have been sexually attacked.  Let me clarify here, I have not been raped.  But I have been assaulted with sex as a goal of the attacker and I have been sexually harassed more times than I can count.  Almost every woman I know has been at the receiving end of some sort of sexually motivated abuse.  A few weeks ago I was in a meeting when I got a text that one of my best friends had just been attacked on the tube, it was 4 pm.

    Two years ago, I was followed approached and grabbed on the tube, I resisted and asked other passengers for help, only to be  ignored when the attacker said I was his drunk girlfriend.  I only got away by diving in to another tube car as the door closed.  Both of us would have been victims of ‘legitimate’ stranger danger rape rather than that of our boyfriends or acquaintances.  In ways, that would have made it easier—as people are able to believe that the baddie in the bushes raped you rather than the neighbour you’ve known since you were ten or the guy you’ve been on a few dates with that you would have probably slept with anyway.  But both of us when recounting the stories repeatedly say what we were wearing… we explain that we were in no way encouraging it.  We justify our right to have been, god forbid, traveling unaccompanied on public transport.

    This isn’t meant to be a litany of woe is me and my friends.  Rape, sexual assault, assault with sexual undertones and violence underlying it is a constant threat.  Rape has been used as a weapon against women since the beginning of time.  It is used to tame, silence and demonstrate power over women regularly.  And currently in England and the US, two supposedly educated nations, it is headline news.  From Julian Assange to Todd Akin; what is rape rape?  What is legitimate rape?  Why don’t these women just roll over and open their legs, whether they are asleep or awake and let us get on with our manly business.

    These aren’t tears of sadness, they are tears of fury.  People wonder why rape is only reported a quarter of the time?  Because the cops and the people on the benches of so called justice are asking what they were wearing, they are silently asking if it is forcible, legitimate, real, actual, rape.  Or just a misunderstanding.  Or just a little bad sexual etiquette.  Something has to give, the fury and rage that is being expressed on twitter is just the tip of the iceberg.  Women need to come out in force and vote.  And the men that we love, the men that we share our stories of abuse with, the men that stand by us, need to vote too.  Galloway needs to be shamed out of politics.  Assange needs to be prosecuted for the rapes that he committed and Akin needs to resign.  And we need to stop electing Neanderthals that hold the belief that rape is anything other than a heinous act.

    If you have a story you would like to share anonymously, please email anonawot@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter for the anon account log in details. Thank you.


  3. From here to maternity

    July 26, 2012 by Anon

    Image from ucl.ac.uk

    Figuring out what to do with regards to your maternity leave isn’t as easy as one might expect. For the record, before falling pregnant, I didn’t have a clear idea on how long I would take for maternity leave – I thought that as soon as my uterus was no longer advertising a vacancy that I would just know, you know?  It turns out though that all of the usual umming and aahing that we do about our careers isn’t resistant to pregnancy hormones.   The two lines on the pregnancy test also happened to coincide with two little lines on an email –

    “We really liked you at the first interview. We’d like to invite you back for a second interview.”

    Arse.

    I’d been to an interview a few weeks previously at a company I really liked, whose ethos and manner of working were so me I felt that, as vomit inducing as it might sound, I’d “come home” when I stepped into their offices. I clicked with the directors and shared their values and vision for the firm. They also did some really cool shit. I now had a bit of a dilemma – I wasn’t legally obliged to inform them of my situation so could technically go to the second interview and accept the job (were it to be offered to me) without letting them know about my internal Hummingbird Bakery activity. On the other hand, the thought of doing that that made me feel dishonest, uncomfortable and a bit of a bitch. I find that when someone starts to italicise (verbally or otherwise) the word “technically” then they generally know that what they’re doing isn’t 100% above board. You know what I mean, it’s like when you tell yourself it wasn’t technically a lie when you said there was a problem on the tube when you arrive late. There was a problem – but it was on the District line, and you came on the Northern line.

    So I told them. And, as they are legally obliged to interview me anyway, they still invited me for interview. Long story short, they liked me, I adored them, they offered me the job. I turned it down.  I didn’t feel that I could take the job knowing that I would be on maternity leave within 6 months of arriving. It didn’t really seem fair on anyone. I felt that I would be judged for taking a job right before going on leave and, in typically dramatic and overly poetic fashion, I imagined my colleagues’ resentment growing alongside my unborn child. I’m not kidding. I was imagining their resentment with actual kidneys.

    So it was pretty interesting to see one of last week’s big news stories about Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s new CEO. You may be more familiar with her being referred to as Pregnant Marissa Mayer, which is apparently her full name.  For anyone who hasn’t heard the story, it’s quite a controversial one and Mayer has been alternately lambasted and held up as a bastion of feminist example, for accepting the job at Yahoo at 6 month’s pregnant. Yahoo has been praised for their “evolved thinking” of employing someone whose uterus is currently in use.

    Except I don’t think that it is all that controversial. I mean, for one thing, Mayer is taking all of about 5 minutes of maternity leave. Well, okay, two weeks. So really, Yahoo is doing the equivalent of employing someone who already has a fortnight’s holiday booked. So not that evolved then. As for the amount of maternity leave, that is totally Mayer’s choice. To be honest, she could have it either way – she would be more than able to afford to take a more extended period of time; equally, childcare from the minute the cord is cut wouldn’t be a financial hardship either, with a base salary of $1 million. If I were in that enviable economic position, I reckon I too would play fast and loose with what’s regarded as “normal” up the duff etiquette.

    And that’s it really – at the end of the day it is Mayer’s choice. I really don’t think she’s trying to make a point – for or against feminism – as has been variously claimed. But if what she’s doing is making the choice that is best for her and best for her circumstances then that’s got to be good for the sisterhood – regardless of whether those travelling pants are maternity or not.

    If you have a story you would like to share anonymously, please email anonawot@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter for the anon account log in details. Thank you.


  4. My Mooncup Adventure

    June 25, 2012 by Anon

    Image from crunchybusiness.com

    So here we go, AWOT.  I promised you my Mooncup adventures, and here they are.

    Like Becca, I’ve never really got into the magical goddess running-with-wolves thing that other women manage to find in menstruation.  I don’t find it particularly empowering that I’m in tune with the moon, and when Germaine Greer suggested tasting menstrual blood I put down the feminist literature and read the Famous Five for a  week to try to erase the image.  I don’t like the taste of blood when I cut my finger – I can’t imagine it’ll be improved by coursing down my vaginal walls. I have menorrhagia (aka the Raging Menses) and throughout my teens stuffed my vagina with tampax, my pants with Bodyform, and fainted in assembly every month.  My GP didn’t quite tell me that it was the curse of Eve, but he basically said this was just something women had to cope with, so I did.

    On arrival at university, the university GP – a woman who should be beatified for services to bleeding – told me this was nonsense and offered me a contraceptive injection that stopped my periods altogether.  She was left cradling what remained of her offering arm, and for ten blissful years I didn’t menstruate.

    Alas, after ten years, medical advice is to stop with the hormone-altering substances and so I’ve reverted to my natural state.  But now, a reasonable number of my friends are Mooncup devotees, and evangelised to me the glory of the Mooncup.  Once I’d established that it doesn’t sit over your cervix like a contraceptive cap, but in the vaginal opening, that you can wear it while exercising, and that it alleviates period pain in some women, I liked the idea.

    The reality proved slightly more difficult.

    The day before I was due, I popped into Boots.  This was the first dilemma: Mooncup comes in two sizes, A (for all women over thirty and women under thirty who have given birth vaginally) and B (for women under thirty who have not had a vaginal birth.)  I am exactly thirty, but I’ve never given birth, and since I don’t have sex with men the largest thing to go in there has been a tampon, or a finger. I’m also small in stature, with size 4 feet and miniature hands.  I hesitated. I’ve made the mistake before of thinking I’m more petite than I am – memories of ‘petite’ shirts button-popping tight, or trousers wrinkling in defeat around the bottom larger than I thought it was.  How vain would it be to buy a smaller Mooncup, only to have to return in shame to Boots for the larger one to fit my flappy fanny?  I got the larger one.

    In retrospect that was probably a mistake.  This thing is huge. I mean, giant: I’ve drunk tea out of vessels smaller than this.  But, undeterred, I took it into the shower with me the next morning when the Raging Menses arrived.  Cocking a leg in ordinary tampon-insertion position, I folded it as instructed, brought it to my vagina, whereupon it unfurled with vigour.  Imagine those little rubber toys that you turn inside out, place on a surface, and then watch them jump.  Then imagine them doing that right on your vulva.

    Undeterred, I tried again.  This time I got it partly inside before it did the explosive unfurling. This pattern was repeated for about fifteen minutes, after which time my skin had prunified from being in the shower so long, and the shower looked like I’d tried to stage my own version of the shower scene from Psycho.

    I decided to resort to lube.  Clutching a towel around me, I grabbed the Liquid Silk – and then discretion got in the way and I checked the instructions.  Do Not Use Lube.

    Fine.  So, with unusual foresight, I covered the bed in towels, lay down, and attempted to insert it.  Some time later, and after much swearing and explosive-plastic-popping in the vicinity of my vag, I’d actually managed it, but only by virtue of lying on my back with my legs spread as far apart as possible: this is not a manoeuvre I can imagine doing in a public loo. Not without fear of arrest, anyway.  But it was in, at least.  The next instruction was to check that it had unfurled properly by running a finger round the edge.  I had a bit of a rummage, gave up, and left it there.

    Next, I discovered that the little plastic tail will indeed need trimming.  As I walked round, the tail was catching painfully against my already bruised and battered ladybits.  I put up with it for a couple of hours, then realised that I needed to trim it if I were to use this damned thing with any illusion of comfort.

    Getting it out is the next item on the amusement arcade of Mooncup. Item 1: try pulling the tail. Nope.  The suction is, as promised, firm.  Item 2: try reaching up to squeeze the base of the cup. Seriously? Who on earth can actually do this?  I couldn’t reach far enough in without getting back into the shower, squatting on the floor, bearing down with my pelvic muscles as though about to give birth, and finally yanking it out with brute force.

    It had, I’ll grant you, done its job of collecting some menstrual blood. It didn’t spill as I yanked it out.  I rinsed it out under the tap as directed and trimmed the little plastic tail.

    I looked at the little plastic cup and contemplated another fifteen minutes of battle with my own vagina, which now felt as though it had been repeatedly punched by a gang of malevolent goblins wearing plastic boxing gloves.

    I used a tampon.

    If you have a story you would like to share anonymously, please email anonawot@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter for the anon account log in details. Thank you.


  5. Stripping: The Naked Truth

    February 16, 2012 by Anon

    Image from http://lifeasastripper.tumblr.com/

    I am a perfectly ordinary woman. I’m fairly average looking, I’m not hugely body confident and I have a curvy figure (and when I say curvy, I don’t mean the Heat magazine version of Kelly Brooke – I mean the more delicate way of saying slightly fat). I have a pretty ordinary job, I have typical hobbies (cross stitch, cocktails and cooking Italian) and I refuse to wear a bikini on the beach. I’m ordinary in every way, except for the fact that for a short time in my life, I was a stripper.

    It’s funny even typing that, because I’m the last person you would imagine taking their clothes off night after night for a living. And yet for a short period of time not so long ago, I made my money giving lap dances in the back room of a strip club. And I should point out now that it doesn’t all look like this.

    Stripping is a strange business, mostly because being naked suddenly becomes completely ordinary. I took up stripping for the classic reason: I was broke. I was down to the last hundred of my overdraft, about to be two weeks late on my rent and barely able to afford food. A girl I knew through a friend had taken up dancing a few months previous, and had encouraged me to meet the manager at the club where she worked. I laughed it off for a good month before I finally went down there. You never imagine when you audition to be a stripper that they’ll say yes. Before I knew it, it was my first night and I was downing my second vodka.

    I can’t speak for all strip clubs, but at the one I worked at, money was worked out based on how far you were willing to go. Women don’t get paid to dance on the stage – that bit is seen as your showcase to invite punters to buy a private dance. If you get completely naked on stage, you earn significantly more than if you stay in your pants. The same goes for the private dances. A 45 minute dance would cost £150. If you took everything off you got 50% of that. If you took everything but panties off, you got 30%. It’s a harsh system that knows how to make its money. And they would pay you at the end of the next shift, so you had to keep going back to get the previous night’s money. When I look back, I can’t believe they can honestly get away with it.

    But anyway. Back to the stripping. I wanted to discuss what stripping actually feels like, because I’m guessing for the most part that people don’t really know. Strippers have a terrible reputation for being stupid, easy or dirty, but I can honestly say that most of that is bullshit. The best strippers I worked with were professional saleswomen through and through. The most successful strippers know that the game is to sell themselves. When a new customer walks in, someone will immediately engage him in conversation. If she cannot secure a private dance within three minutes, she will move on. The next woman will chat him up. If she can’t persuade him to go upstairs, she will also move on. The customers like to shop around. You learn not to take rejection personally – sexuality becomes a business matter and nothing else.

    And of course, all men fancy something different. We all wore the same black dress – slit to the navel and up both thighs – but everyone looked different in it. There were tiny Asian girls with childlike figures, statuesque blondes with supermodel good looks, tattooed goth girls with multiple piercings and the bigger girls, with their roly poly humour and generous cleavages. Needless to say the dress looked ridiculous on anyone with large breasts. It was less ‘cleavage’ and more ‘boobs on display for all to see’, but you learn to own what you’ve got pretty quickly, and it’s amazing how quickly you stop comparing yourself to the other girls.

    The easiest way to make money is to dance on stage – that way the men could see what they’d be paying for ahead of time. The rule was dance for three songs. In the first song, you’d take off the black dress. In the second song you’d dance in your knickers. And in the final song, you would take off your pants and dance fully nude. There were girls who could do full gymnastics on the pole and girls who would just dance around it (me). The only rule was that you didn’t do ‘open leg work’ on stage (aka, you don’t open your legs to show your goodies to the crowd – that is saved by the private dances and it’s up to you if you do that). The first thing I found surprising about stripping was how much fun it was. I did my first stage dance with a similar sized girl, and we had a brilliant time teasing the crowd (even high-fiving half way through!). We got a standing ovation and I was booked for an hour’s dance (£180) straight away.

    The first man that paid for me was short with dark hair, and he smelled of beer and desperation. I couldn’t believe that he had paid nearly £200 for just an hour of my time. The euphoria of dancing naked on stage to loud cheers hadn’t worn off and I was turned on by the thrill of it. Ten minutes in, you realise an hour is a very long time to be in the company of a stranger. Twenty minutes in, you’re trying to remember what happened on last week’s 90210 while he tells you that he’s never been this hard. I can’t say that the first time wasn’t a bit of a rush. I was getting off on the taboo of it all, and I knew I’d have a crispy cheque to pick up the following evening. But after he told me he could ‘smell my wetness’, (gross!) the thrill of it died, and I was suddenly just a stripper, taking my clothes off for the first man that would pay for it.

    Stripping is a strange balance of power. When you’re on that stage, you own the room. Every single person is a captive audience, staring with lust and admiration at your body. But the moment you’re out of the limelight, the glamour is gone. You’re just a sales person, draping yourself over the next new punter, hoping that he might choose you. A successful night can bring in up to a grand. An unsuccessful night can bring in £50, or nothing, if you’re really unlucky. It’s a harsh game and you’ve got to be tough enough to stick it. And you’ve got to believe in what you’re selling. You are the fantasy and it’s your job to perform for the highest bidder.

    Some of the time, you feel on top of the world. The rest of the time, you feel like a cheap commodity. At least, that’s how it was for me. There’s a dimension to stripping that is extremely sexy, and there’s another dimension that feels like you’re worth as much as a Greggs sausage roll at the end of a night out. Stripping let me feel truly sexy for the first time, but it also made it feel like a vagina/tits combo on stilts. I was just the next thrill for anyone with a generously sized wallet.

    Stripping is not something I will ever regret, though it’s not something I ever talk about either. For me it was a private experience that is over now, and I don’t dwell on it. I don’t even remember the faces of the men who bought me, and I’m sure they wouldn’t remember mine. I met some incredible women through stripping and it has deepened my understanding of my own sexuality. At the same time, it has made me understand sexuality as a currency, which pervades more relationships than you would care to know. Stripping has also lent me an incredibly open mind – I am quite certain I would never judge anyone for anything sexual.

    Would I do it again? Sure. But only the dancing-on-stage bit. The thrill of performing for an audience is still there. And do I love my naked body? Sure I do. Stripping made me see the power of it more than any sexual partner. But lap dancing is not for me. I would happily dance for a room of 150 men, but the one on one thing just doesn’t do it for me. The fun bit is the tease – once you’re straddled naked over a Japanese man that won’t stop pinching your nipples, the illusion is well and truly gone. Perhaps a career in burlesque beckons…? Either way, I would say that stripping as a career can’t truly be judged until you’ve tried it yourself. You never know – you might surprise yourself.

    If you have a story you would like to share anonymously, please email anonawot@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter for the anon account log in details. Thank you.

     


  6. Let’s talk about RAPE

    February 3, 2012 by Anon

    This is the second part of a two part instalment following the ‘unilad’ pro-rape post earlier this week. Content could be considered triggering. 

    Photo from Slutwalk

    I am a healthy, happy, relatively straightforward twenty something woman living in London. I have an awesome job and awesome friends. I make filthy jokes and talk about my tits and cook steak and get laid and have a respectable fear of my Visa bill and run everywhere because I’m always running late. I’m a proud, porn watching, sometimes smoking, usually drinking, constantly swearing, good-frock-push-up-bra-and-matching-french-knicker-wearing highlighted lipsticked feminist.

    You’re probably a lot like me. Or I’m probably a lot like your sister or your daughter or a mate or someone you went to uni with. Chances are I have something in common with someone in your life.

    I hope it’s not this. I got raped by my boyfriend when I was 17.

    It’s not something I tell many people – it only comes out at the drunkest, darkest, intimate and emo moments. And I get teary and feel bad that I’m teary because I wasn’t attacked by a stranger who jumped out of a bush. I never formally reported anything to anyone. And I stayed with that boyfriend until I was 21.

    For the sake of clarity, here’s how it happened. We were staying with his grandparents, two sweet, kind, generous conservative people who I am genuinely sad to have lost touch with. We’d been there for a few days (I think it was the Easter holidays) and he was complaining nearly constantly about having blue balls, how desperate he was to fuck me et cetera. When you’re both adolescents this is to be expected – you learn to filter it out like white noise. I was against the idea – even though he was a two minute man, any periods of quiet or creaking furniture would have the grandparents rushing in to see what was going on. Also, they had given us separate rooms and sexing in their house would be bad manners.

    We were playing Scrabble. I had suggested, by way of a compromise, Sexy Scrabble. “We can spell things out and then…do them next time we’re in an empty house!” I said enthusiastically. Sexy Scrabble was dually frustrating. The boyfriend was suggesting that his penis might burst forth from his pants like a fleshy sea monster, and I was struggling to make normal words out of K, Q, W, R, R, T and L – never mind erotic ones.

    Here’s what I remember next. Him, behind me, pulling my jeans down, me saying “I really don’t think this is a good idea.” Then “I don’t want to do this.” Then “Stop it.” Then silence.

    Because if I screamed or struggled his grandparents would rush in, and that might be awkward. They might tell his parents and that would be really bloody awkward.

    I remember feeling sad, not angry, and hoping he’d come soon and stop. And then feeling sticky and cold and uncomfortable, and pretending to his grandparents that I was quiet and uncommunicative because I had an upset stomach. And they were adorable, fussing over me and offering herbal tea and Gaviscon and ginger biscuits as their grandson glowered in the corner because of the quiet conversation we’d had earlier.

    “You just…well, I told you to stop and you didn’t stop and there’s a word for that.” I blinked very hard.

    “Why are YOU crying? You’ve just called me a rapist.”

    I’m not sure why I didn’t break up with him then. I wish I had. I think I was scared of admitting what had happened to anyone – especially myself. I couldn’t reconfigure my thinking to see myself as some victim of abuse. I just didn’t fit the profile.

    A couple of days ago, I watched with slack jawed astonishment as links to a misogynist website appeared all over Twitter. (The people posting the links were as horrified as I was, no-one was suggesting it was the work of a reasonable human being.) The website made a joke about 85 per cent of rape cases going unreported, suggesting readers might as well have sex with someone without their consent because it would probably be fine. It then removed this joke, making an anaemic, mealy mouthed apology about it. The writers shut the site down (temporarily) last night.

    The rape joke was bad. But I can read something like that and deal with it. It’s not as if I’m getting traumatised by horrible flashbacks whenever it’s referenced. It’s pretty grim, and I’m not proud of it, but me and my similarly left leaning feminist friend collective often refer to pricey things as “pocket rape”, bad kissers as “mouth rapists” and have announced that we’d happily “rape that cake” when outside the Patisserie Valerie window. Yeah, I know. We’re working on it, and digging each other sharply in the ribs when we catch ourselves doing it. One shouldn’t use abuse to abuse language.

    But the weirdly polarised response freaked me out. Nearly everyone I follow felt it was utterly disgusting and reprehensible and said as much. The supporters and readers of the site started asking critics about their sexuality, implying that they needed a cock up their arse where the stick was, urging complainants to “look the other way” and “everyone who doesn’t agree that rape is pure banter is a frigid fun sponge!” (I may be paraphrasing the last one.) It was as if Blackadder’s Prince Regent was inhabited by Chuck Traynor and had a Broadband connection.

    Like everyone else, I grabbed my digital pitchfork and ran with the angry mob, far, far away from the point. 85 per cent of rape cases go unreported! Hold on, is this not what we should be talking about?

    And hearbreakingly I surmised that if I have good friends who don’t know I’m in the 85 per cent, then it must have happened to some of my friends too. And because they also weren’t attacked by a stranger from the depths of a bush, they filed their experience away under “I’m not quite sure what to do with that” and left it there. And not to go all Andrea Dworkin, but if we all know someone who has experienced rape (even if we don’t know about it), then we might well know a rapist too.

    Rape is undeniably horrific, and serious. But maybe if we were a little less serious about it, we’d talk about it more. We could start to figure out who the 85 per cent are – and what is motivating the criminals who are driving those stats. It would be a pretty dark game of Word Association Football where ‘rape’ came up, but if it did the word that would probably follow it is ‘victim’. Even ‘survivor’ sounds a bit grim – “yes, I got raped and now I dress like I’ve been in a nuclear apocalypse and my eyes have a hint of zombie about them – but I SURVIVED!”

    I wish I could eradicate all rape forever, but I think that the best way to start doing that is to normalise it as an experience. Of course we must be sad and upset and angry – but as well as wailing and gnashing our teeth and fetishising it in a Catherine Cookson way, we need to address it as something that happens to smart, funny women like us and everyone we know. Rape doesn’t just happen as a result of poverty or neglect or vulnerability or all the other human tragedies that we may or may not be able to relate to. And if a lot of ignorant, naive boys want to make a joke out of it, if we’re in a position to do so we must use our smart skills to show that the joke’s on them.

    If you’ve been the victim of a sexual assault, you can speak to Rape Crisis or Solace. For additional information, have a look at Rights of Women

    If you have a story you would like to share anonymously, please email anonawot@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter for the anon account log in details. Thank you.


  7. Rape: it’s not a punchline

    February 2, 2012 by Anon

    Following the unilad.com piece condoning rape (and its subsequent ‘apology‘) a couple of our members have chosen to share their experiences of rape anonymously (second post to follow tomorrow). Please be aware this piece could be considered triggering.

    Recently the website, Facebook page and Twitter of “Uni Lads” has been getting quite a lot of attention.

    One snippet came from an article where the writer:
    a) used the word “slut” like it was acceptable,
    b) made a homophobic joke,
    c) suggested that as only 85% of rapes were reported a boy had pretty good odds and
    d) stated they didn’t condone rape unless “surprise” was shouted.

    Unsurprisingly, the article spread over Twitter. People were understandably disgusted. Even Frankie Boyle was appalled by what they wrote. I think it’s fair to say that when you’ve managed to offend Frankie Boyle, you’ve crossed a serious line.

    Soon after, people started checking the website. I can’t quite decide what my favourite article was. The one where a boy boasted about vomiting over a women after she came on her period during sex? The one where a boy, fearing that the women he was having sex with wouldn’t take the morning after pill, elbowed her in the crotch and looked for chairs/tables to smash over her stomach, before saying that he wasn’t going to put any money into buying the morning after pill because it was her that might get pregnant? Or the article where a boy takes pride in the fact he has “revenge” on a woman who sobered up enough to realise she didn’t want to sleep with him on night one?

    The level of misogyny is almost impressive. If a girl is ugly, she’s not worth fucking. If she is good looking, all she’s good for is fucking (as long as she knows her place). If a woman actually enjoys sex she is a slut/whore/slag and you should think twice before going anywhere near her.

    So, the whole site made me sick to my stomach. But it’s the rape bits that made me spend last night shaking with fear and tears. When Uni Lads apologised for the article on the Facebook page, floodgates opened. Any hope of a meaningful apology was destroyed by the comments beneath.

    “It’s not rape if you say surprise, that’s surprise sex.”
    “When people ask me what I do I tell them I test rape alarms. It sounds better than saying I’m a rapist!”
    “Still, NO means YES!”
    “I called that Rape Advice line earlier. Unfortunately it’s only for victims.”
    “The person who complained deserves to be raped.”

    Now, I read articles with trigger warnings with no problems. I don’t have nightmares. I don’t have issues with consensual sex nowadays. In fact I lead a totally normal life. But this casual acceptance of and joking about rape was enough to, for one night, unwind eight years of “coping”.

    Okay. When I was 13, my then-boyfriend lay on top of me (he was a rugby player and I was short and chubby. I couldn’t move) and he told me calmly that if anyone came in now or heard about this they would think that I was a dirty slut and hate me forever. My world changed. This was my first boyfriend and in my head everything was going to be walks in the countryside and happy-happy lovey-dovey. Not him warning me not to make a noise and then slapping me across the breasts when I whimpered as he took my virginity.

    I didn’t cry. I didn’t have PTSD. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, actually. Oh, apart from the fact that I spent the next five to six years doing every I could that was sexual.

    I went online and read/wrote erotica like crazy. I went into internet chat rooms and had cyber sex with strangers. Any boy that would kiss me, I kissed. Any boy that would go further, I would go further with. I had sex with anyone that would have me – the “worse” the better. One-night stands with my best friend’s slightly-younger-than-me brother? Meeting strangers several years older than me from the internet for kinky sex? Having sex with my boyfriend in the morning and his best friend in the evening? No problem! Anything I could do that would make that first instance of rape seem trivial.

    I never told anyone the full extent of it. How could I? This was before I realised that it was okay for a woman to enjoy sex; I believed my rapist when he said I was a dirty slut and I seemed determined to prove it.

    The tipping point came when I was in the bedroom of someone over a decade older than me, tied to a bed and being beaten with a ruler. No-one knew where I was really; I was 300 miles from home but I had lied to my friends and family about where I was staying that night. Maybe it was self-preservation kicking in, but I realised something had to stop. I left, broke contact, tried to become “normal” again.

    It didn’t work. A year later I decided to go after a dangerous looking guy, convinced I could get some filthy sex and make everything OK again. Fortunately he wasn’t dangerous at all and three years later I actually think of him as my saviour. I shiver when I think about what could have happened without him, what I would have done without someone keeping me safe.

    Particularly because I started uni a few months after our relationship started.

    This is why I was so shaken last night. Uni Lads is aimed at and written by boys at uni. If I hadn’t had my boyfriend, if I had been single and still in self-destruction mode, what the hell would have happened to me? I know that most boys aren’t like that. I know that most of the boys at my uni aren’t like that — in fact, one of them was asking his Facebook friends to report the Uni Lads FB page. But what if some of them are?

    What if some of them read Uni Lads? What if they read things like the above articles and think that that’s a cool way to behave? What if some boys at my Uni were the ones commenting on that Facebook apology? What would have happened to me if I’d met these boys — after all, I would have been looking for filthy sex. Could I have been the one being elbowed in the crotch?

    Rape isn’t funny. It just fucking isn’t. I got off lightly and it still ruined my teenage years. Laughing about rape in that way and writing the articles that cause such comments is not helpful. Whilst a 13 year old girl will stay silent because she honestly believes that it is her fault and no-one will believe her, rape jokes need to stop. When you are writing for young men at university who are surrounded by women, rape jokes need to stop. Because as much as most people are smart and lovely, some people are idiots and won’t get the difference between an “out-there” joke and something that’s funny because it’s true.

    Stop saying that rape is anything but appalling, disgusting and life-changing. Just stop.

    If you’ve been the victim of a sexual assault, you can speak to Rape Crisis or Solace. For additional information, have a look at Rights of Women

    If you have a story you would like to share anonymously, please email anonawot@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter for the anon account log in details. Thank you.