‘Sexuality’ Category

  1. Cheating – the taboo

    September 16, 2013 by Jo


    Image from www.jerkmagazine.net

    Image from www.jerkmagazine.net

    We’ve all done it, haven’t we? Something bad. Something naughty. Something that people will judge us for. Something forbidden. Something sinful. And no, I’m not talking about making a whole batch of cupcakes and eating them all in one afternoon. I’m talking unforgiveable. Stealing. Lying. To friends, to family, to partners. Making up stories. Sneaking around. Cheating.

    Up until the very public break-up of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, cheating women were an underground movement. Women who break up marriages will be pariahs eternally (as men who leave their wives will be scumbags) but it wasn’t until then that we had a Balengiaga-wearing young A-lister to hold up as our idol. She apologised, heartfelt and filled with anguish, and it seemed to work, and then it didn’t.

    When reading the below piece about Elle’s ‘controversial’ memoir piece in their October issue, titled (on the newsstand cover) ‘Should You Have An Affair?’ the piece had the opposite effect that I think the reader intended. I was intrigued. A truly good publication will push boundaries – laugh if you want, but Vogue’s decision to run a story entitled ‘Poo: the last taboo’ several years ago was both bold and essential, getting us talking, or thinking, on a topic that we’ve been trying to repress. In the same way, ELLE’s piece was taking on a subject that no-one wants to talk about, that everyone wants to ignore. By calling it out, ELLE was making headlines, being ‘sensationalist’…and covering a part of day-to-day life often ignored – the world’s dirty little secret – that needs to be discussed as much as any other topic. I was hooked.

    Disappointingly, the article itself is relatively mild; instead of being a sordid tale of married infidelity from the point of view of a bored wife or frustrated husband, it’s from the point of view of ‘the other woman’. So far, so routine. People were hurt, hearts were broken, life went on.

    You don’t need to be told cheating is bad. We know it. Cosmo’s told us. All the sad photos of Kelly Brook have told us. But instead of sweeping it under the rug as ‘a bad thing’, praise be to ELLE for having the guts to offer a message for those who have. Who are under the rug.

    Because we’ve grown up beyond the black and white boxes of ‘bad’ and ‘good’. We’re better than that. We’re the gender that’s rationalised wearing dungarees as fashion items, that somehow managed to reclaim the apron as a feminist statement, that fights for equality, bears the children then gets back to business. If we can’t look a little closer at something that so many of us do, whether we like to admit it or not, preferring to mark it as ‘something not to talk about’, then we’re not as advanced as we think we are.

    Look at the woman next to you. Does she look like she’s cheated? Lied? Stolen? Made up stories? Got into trouble? No, of course she doesn’t. What does a cheater even look like? Do I look like one. I am one. I’ve cheated multiple times. Of course I’m not proud of it, but I’m glad that ELLE and others made it ok to talk about it. That Kristen did it, so that those of us who’ve done it can look at her going on to secure film roles and campaigns and see that the world didn’t end for her when she did something bad.

    Why did I do it? Why do nice people cheat? I did it because I felt trapped, trapped in a safe secure relationship well on its way to seriousness, and like a terrified child I ran to the furthest possible point, the most opposite possible man I could find to the one I left. Looking back, over the year or so after where I thought it would be a good idea to date someone ok with playing a part in breaking up a relationship, a year of ignored messages, cruel jokes and jibes, late night tearful phonecalls, texts from other girls, endless suspicion (on both our parts), screaming matches and the eventual, thankful breakdown, would I do it again? No. It exorcised the part of myself that was inclined to run and to cheat and has left me a ‘better’ person. Do I regret causing hurt to the man I cheated on? Of course. Do I regret the experience, what it taught me, and what I learned? No. At the end of the day, in everything, the only person you ever have to answer to is yourself. And my advice to you is this: if you’re going to cheat, only do it if you think you can live with yourself. Some days I was too ashamed to look in a mirror. Because I was made to feel ashamed for doing something society says is wrong to do. Cheating, in the eyes of society, is not shameful because you’re hurting someone. It’s shameful because we’ve been told it’s shameful.

    I’ll be a pariah if you like, something you sweep under the rug and ignore. You can mark me, and the woman in ELLE, and all the other women who write anonymous letters to Cosmo and the celebrities, as ‘bad’. As cheaters. But then you’re not really discussing the book, the book that exists whether you like it or not. You’re judging the book by the cover. And under the cover, we’re just like you. But we made a mistake, and we’re working on it.

    AWOT1.pngJo is a flame-haired social media lady, writer, and reader. You can find here on Twitter at @redheadfashion. She also has a blog.


  2. Three’s a crowd

    September 6, 2013 by Betsy Powell

    Image from http://mybreakuptomakeup.com/

    Image from http://mybreakuptomakeup.com/

    I was queuing up at my local shop today, clutching a bumper bag of plain flour, value sultanas and a small bottle of Navy Rum to one breast and the October issue of Elle resting upon the other, torn between baking banana bread when I should be working, or reading about the latest fashions when I should be working. It was a pleasant argument to mull over and I’d yet to come to a decision when I was called up to the counter and plonked my items down. As the cashier scanned away, I glanced at the coverlines on the glossy mag before scooting over the sultanas to get a better look. And there, just to the right of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s supremely model elbow in bold white caps, I read, “SHOULD YOU HAVE AN AFFAIR?”

    “Erm, well,” I thought to myself. “I suppose that’s a fair question. Wait. Hang on. What?”

    “Excuse me,” I said to the cashier. “Umm, I’ve actually decided to leave the magazine this time.”


    “Erm, I won’t be buying Elle now.”

    “Fine,” she said, pushing it to one side without a blink. “Would you like a bag?” I walked the five minutes home and popped the sultanas in a medium-sized pan to boil with the rum and ruminated. Why exactly had I reacted so strongly to such a headline? Not doubt it was chosen by the sub-editors as a catchy line to do precisely what it had done. I’m an editor myself; I know the power of good coverline.

    To be fair to the article in question, as I didn’t buy the magazine, I still don’t know how it was going to play out. Perhaps the very well reasoned answer is, “No. No, you should definitely not have an affair. And here’s why…” But I’ve noticed an alarming trend recently that suggests otherwise. Only the other day I was streaming a programme on my laptop for a pop-up window to appear advertising a dating website that dealt exclusively with those looking for an affair, only rather than asking if I should have an affair, its chosen tagline was “Life’s too short; have an affair”. No questions asked here, ladies and gentlemen.

    Now might be a good time to clarify that I don’t see myself as being a prude and I don’t come from a family with divorced parents, however, I have been cheated on, twice, both times leading to a breakdown of my mental health (which, admittedly, says as much about me, the cheatee, as it does the cheater), and am currently watching one very close friend having to deal with the effects of her father having an affair and the resulting messy, blame-riddled divorce.

    Affairs aren’t fun; they aren’t lighthearted, at least, not in the long run. They destroy lives. I imagine for some people my attitude is terribly bourgeois, and naïve, especially in a world in which Fifty Shades of Grey is a bestseller. Surely I should be strapping on a gimp mask, hog-tying myself and awaiting the arrival of my dangerous lover; right? Compared to that, affairs are nothing; small fry; sooooo last year, and yet, here I am, getting my knickers in a twist when I had a lovely wasteful afternoon of baking planned.

    Perhaps it’s the very casual nature of the ‘new breed’ of affairs that disturbs me; you’re not doing this because you’ve fallen in love with someone else, more that an extramarital fling is now the norm, or worse, that it will somehow be healthy for your current relationship. And then there’s the connotation that if you’re not ok with that, if you’re not blasé about affairs in general, then somehow you’re doing something wrong, you’re not down with the kids; you’re *gasp* old-fashioned. Affairs are the new bondage, peeps. Oh yeah. Whatever.

    Let’s stop beating about the bush and say it: affairs aren’t cool. They’re not the new bondage; they’re not the new black; in fact, they’re not the new anything. They’ve been around since the dawn of time. There’s nothing casual about letting someone get happy with your goodies. There’s nothing positive about cheating on your partner.

    Remember getting caught for cheating at school? You’d be punished for that. Now extrapolate. This isn’t about being enlightened. This isn’t about equalising sexuality. This is about popular media and culture trying to create a new buzz topic to sell products. This about condoning morally poor behaviour. “Should you steal from your flatmate?” No. “Should you rape that pretty girl over there with the short dress on?” No. “Should you kill your annoying co-worker?” No. Simple, really.

    So Lorraine Candy (Editor of Elle and married to husband, James, for more than a decade, with several children), “Should you have an affair?” No. Affairs create victims, and let’s face it, three is always a crowd.

    AWOT1.pngBetsy is a writer, bookworm, and editor of Excelle magazine. Follow her on Twitter.


  3. Going for a song

    June 20, 2013 by The Kraken

    Image from news.softpedia.com

    Image from news.softpedia.com

    Dear Robin Thicke,

    (CCd to Pharrell and TI)

    Oh, Robin, you are a massively suppurating bowl of stool-water aren’t you? In fact I can now see where the name Thicke comes from. It’s not so much a moniker as a statement of your mental prowess, bless you and you underworked intellect.

    Now I’ve no doubt that you are chuffed to shit over the pop-picking hit you currently share with Pharrell and TI called Blurred Lines, or as it is called in our house Three Men Caterwauling As They Finger Their Own Foreskins. And I dare say that you’re almost (no, literally) creaming yourself over the accompanying video in which every woman is naked and letting her tits flap in the wind. It’s just that there’s a small problem with all of this, Robin, love. It’s that your video and song lyrics look like a rapist’s manifesto.

    Now you reckon that Blurred Lines is “throwaway fun” and that you and Pharrell have “a lot of respect for women”. You also claim that the tit-soup of a video isn’t sexist and that “If that’s sexism then so is everything inside the Louvre”. Jesus, Robin, Thicke really is the word of the day isn’t it?

    First, before I really start to kick the shit out of you, you need to know that you should never, ever compare yourself to anyone whose art hangs in the Louvre. See, that would be the equivalent of saying that if next door’s dog pissed into a test tube his efforts would be comparable with those of Stephen Hawking. They wouldn’t be and, artistically, neither are yours.

    Which brings me to your vomited lyrics. Now you reckon that you have respect for women. Problem is that your song doesn’t. In fact it has as much respect for women as an enraged Jim Davidson after hearing that his summer season slot has gone to a female comedian. You sing, “I know you want it” (as if you’re fucking telepathic), “I hate these blurred lines” (because for you “no” means “yes”), “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two” (like the promise of raging constipation), “He don’t smack your ass and pull your hair for you” (well, I’d stab the bastard if he did) and “Baby, can you breathe?” (because a near death experience at the hands of a guy who refuses to stop is always a treat).

    Seriously, if that’s respect for women what in the fuck would you warble at a woman you didn’t like? I had no idea that the way to show a woman that you love her was by destroying her rectum and choking her with your knackersack. And there I was showing my female friends and relatives that I love them by buying them flowers. Next time I’ll nip into Soho for a ball-gag and a gallon drum of rohipnol.

    Oh, and before I sign off I have to also thank you for making the charts as accessible to kids as a sandpit loaded with fly-sprinkled cat turds. What I mean is that I’ll be buggered if my small daughter is going to get a whiff of the Top 40 after this. Now, Robin, I’m not suggesting that you write about fairies, monster trucks and Lego but I am suggesting that you get the hell away from the subject of rape. Really, at the age of five, my child does not need to be told that you’re going to screw her whether she likes it or not.

    Which means, Robin, that you can take your Blurred Lines and shove them up you own arse, hopefully tearing that in two as well. Oh, and you can treat Pharrell and TI to the same experience while you’re at it. No, you say? Well I don’t believe you. In the words of your own barf “I know you want it”.

    Lots of love

    The Kraken x

    The Kraken is a ‘furious and ranty ex-freelance journalist’. She has a wonderfully rage-filled blog, with the excellent title, ‘The Kraken Wakes’ and you can find her on Twitter right here.

  4. Be Still My Bleeding Uterus

    April 5, 2013 by Charlotte Knight

    Image from exchange.nottingham.ac.uk

    Image from exchange.nottingham.ac.uk

    This month I am celebrating the sixth month anniversary of the last time that I had my period. My knickers have been blood free for a whole half a year and, exceptionally awkward paper cuts aside, I hope this continues for as long as possible. How did this miracle occur? The Mirena Coil. I love it so much, that sometimes when I think about it I wonder if this is how religious people feel about Jesus. It is, in no uncertain terms, my saviour.

    Like all moments of experiencing the divine, the path to period-free paradise was a rocky one. When it was first suggested that I might like to try a LARC (that’s Long Acting Reversible Contraception for those of you who have not had to dedicate so much brain space to such matters) I was very resistant. No one would be poking anything through my cervix, thank you very much. Moreover, I wanted to know what would happen if I reacted badly to the hormones involved. How long would it take for the effects to wear off? Would having it taken out hurt? When it comes to matters of the uterus, however, there are few alternatives other than to go down the hormone route.

    My trepidation aside, the fact of the matter was that my period had to be, if not stopped, then drastically altered. At the age of 18, I changed from having a manageable amount of bleeding with light cramping once a month to re-enacting the elevator scene from The Shining in my knickers for roughly two weeks out of every four. And the pain, oh my the pain. The only good thing that can be said about it is that it has given me a healthy stock of anecdotes that can be deployed to rid the area of annoying people who also happen to be very squeamish. Such as the one about the time I passed a clot that was bigger than my hand. Or the one about the time I had such bad stomach cramps that it full view of all my family (Happy Christmas!) I just went ahead and bit down into the back of an armchair. Or the one about the time I was on a trip up a really tall church tower and could not see on the way back down because the pain had so effectively blurred my vision.

    Between the ages of 18 and 21 my medical history contains five different Pills all with a lovely barrage of side effects, a prescription painkiller that  did nothing, two ultrasound exams, multiple blood tests and pelvic exams, appointments with GPs, nurses, family planning nurses, a consultant gynecologist, an OBGYN surgeon, one laparoscopy and one Mirena IUD device. I was tested for cysts, polyps, PCOS, a thyroid disorder, a clotting disorder and, finally, endometriosis. The cause of my problem was never found, the final word going to my surgeon who assured me that, “Some people just have pain”.

    Mirena in place, I then had a rampant post-surgical infection and about a year of gradually lessening spotting to get to the current point. Oh, and at one point, the strings on my IUD went missing, leading to more ultrasounds to try and locate the thing and make sure that it wasn’t roaming freely around my abdominal cavity. At the time, it was all very stressful. I was studying for my undergraduate degree and just wanted a normal period again. One that let me function as a human being and had minimal impact on both my health and my life. I was tired of feeling bloody and broken. I am incredibly fortunate that the Mirena has given me this.

    What it has also given me, however, is an alarming insight into the rhetoric around the category known as ‘women’s health’. Women are often encouraged, as women, to talk to each other more openly about our health and our bodies. The need to de-stigmatise them is often cited, along with raising awareness for what is normal and what is not.  At the same time, the category of ‘women’s health’ can shut conversation down. It’s just a period. It’s normal. You just need to wait a while. It just happens sometimes.

    Women’s health exists in a state of rhetorical suspense. We can keep talking about it, but no action is to be taken. Moreover, as ailments of the ovaries are treated more often than not by hormonal contraceptives, there is the sense that this is distinct from other types of medicine. It’s a lifestyle choice. The fact that they frequently come with a whole host of side effects (which in itself is a whole separate headache) can also be downplayed compared to those of other medications. When I was given antibiotics for my infection, I was told in no uncertain terms to call my Dr should certain side effects occur. When I was given the Pill, I was told that I should just wait and see if the side effects would settle down.

    We should of course feel that we can talk about our health and our bodies. Even about those socially unacceptable periods. Part of the reason for writing this is to do just that. But discussion has to be the first step and not the end goal. We need to push to get to the point where we can talk and our listened to, where our questions are answered and our concerns taken seriously and we are not told that these things just happen and perhaps we should just wait and see how it turns out. Writing about my Mirena signposted to me a lot of other issues that I could go on about. The fact that hormonal contraceptives are often presented as the only option. The many problems of finding a Pill that suits you. Women not realising that they have options about controlling their menstruation. The list goes on. Central to all of them is the fact that we not only need to talk more about our health and or bodies, but act on this too, whether it be individually pushing a GP for answers or improving education. Sometimes I get quite angry that if women’s health was treated in a much more proactive fashion, I could have had even longer without a period. And imagine just how many blood stained pants that would have saved.


    Charlotte is post grad, feminist, and gin swigger. She’s currently studying for an MA in Medieval Literature. You can find her blog here, and she’s on Twitter at @C_Knight16.

  5. What women want

    March 15, 2013 by SarahH

    Happy belated International Women’s Day folks. How was it for you? Did you spend your time getting warm fuzzy feelings from your feminist twitter feed? Did you sit and ponder how far the women’s movement has come… but how much work there is still to be done? Or, did you sit at home thanking God for your boyfriend who happily washes his own underpants and socks. Because according to a recent online dating survey it is in the area of love (I’m talking romantic hetero-normative here) in which the women’s movement had has it’s biggest successes, with romantic relationships still being the ultimate goal.

    The survey focuses on the distribution of domestic chores, illustrating just how much house work men are now willing to do and how shrinking numbers of women see their natural role in life as being wives and mothers. Er… Hello? Didn’t we know this already?

    In making a song and dance about traditional gender roles in relationships and how couples nowadays are happy to eschew them, this ‘research’ is a) stating the obvious b) alluding to the fact that if equality in the household has been secured, the work has been done, the goal has been achieved and c) subtly illustrating that on some level, to not prescribe to the traditional gender roles is a radical relationship to find yourself in. Obviously, this research has been conducted with a specific aim in mind (i.e. to get people to signup to their dating site) but still. The arguments and conclusions insinuated bug me for various reasons, some of which I’m going to share with you now. Are you sitting comfortably?

    Whatta man, whatta man, whatta man, whatta mighty good man.

    Did you know that, according to this survey, only 11% of men think that it’s a woman’s natural role to be in the home? Did you realise that 84% of men would happily share cooking and household chores. Of course we did. It’s 2013- this is what we expect of everyone nowadays, male or female, right? Men don’t need a pat on the back for cleaning the loo once a week. I spent 6 years co-habiting with a man and on many occasions I was told (not by him) that I was lucky to have a boyfriend who cooked dinner 4 times a week and remembered to clean his poo marks out of the lav. I was to be thankful for the fact that he remembered to take out the recycling. Isn’t this type of distribution of domestic labour a given nowadays?

    Surveys like this do nothing but perpetuate the gendered binary which clearly defines certain chores as male and female. It suggests that if you have a man who is willing to take care of HIS OWN CHILDREN, you have an enlightened man, you are an incredibly lucky girl … better keep a hold of that one. Bullshit. You have man who is doing what he should do and he doesn’t deserve any extra praise for it. And, lemme tell you, you don’t have to sign up to a dating site to find one of these special men either… don’t waste your money… you’ll get nothing but cock shots (I’m speaking from experience here). Save your £30, better still go down the pub. I know plenty of websites where you can look at cocks FOR FREE

    The Power of Equality.

    If we’re led to believe that having a relationship which gives us the night off from cooking 3.5 times a week is the ultimate, where does this leave the wider issue? Does this lull us into thinking we have achieved equality? That it is in fact a woman’s world? I spoke with a friend of mine who is hesitant to call herself a Feminist because she believes her life is unaffected by the fact that she is female. Further probing revealed that she meant within the work place and she settled with calling herself ‘a part-time feminist’, but I don’t think this is an uncommon belief with regards to society as a whole. I know a few people, men and women, who do believe that we have equality. It is, in my opinion the biggest success of the patriarchy- that a large proportion of people don’t see there is a problem. Men and women alike are victims of this system but women more so. I thought I’d illustrate my point with a few titbits from my twitter feed in the last week:

    Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): An amazing article by @RosmundUrwin in the London Evening Standard on Friday 8th illustrated that ‘an estimated 66,000 women and girls in Britain have undergone FGM […] and that 30,000 girls are currently at risk’.*

    Take back the tube. On Friday 8th @elliecosgrove protested against sexual harassment on the tube after she was sexually assaulted and EJACULATED UPON by a random man.

    Violence Against women (@Vday) Did you know that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime? One in three.**

    Women and Politics. ‘ Nuff said.

    Photo courtesy of @countingwomenin

    Photo courtesy of @countingwomenin

    Do any of these things suggest we live in a society which treats women and men equally…?

    All you need is love.

    So, what is it that women really want? Equal pay? Autonomy over their own body? The freedom to walk down the street without hearing such lovely stuff as ‘tits!’ or ‘bend over love, you want summa this’? What about not being shamed and blamed when they are the victims of sexual assault? Pppff. No, no, no- all of this is irrelevant… once you have a nice boyfriend who, when he does the dishes, washes, dries AND PUTS THE POTS AWAY, you have made it, my dear. You need not look any further. Yeah right! Excuse me while… *head desk*.

    Everyone knows that you cannot get all of your happiness from one single relationship. Being in love and being loved does not make everything in life ok; in some cases love is not enough. And being a single person doesn’t make you any less worthy or make your life a total shit heap, either. I am 31, I’m single, I have been single on and off since I ended a 7 year relationship, 3 years ago . I am sick and tired of having to explain why I’m ‘still’ single (FYI: IT’S COS I’M PICKY, OKAY!). It is as if singledom has some sort of expiry date, a sort temporary ‘resting place’ in between your romantic relationships. Whaaaaaaaaaaat? I am equally as annoyed with people making assumptions about my reproductive choices based upon my single status. If I hear one more person say ‘Ooh, you’re 31. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Better get a move on old girl’ I will vomit all over my rather fetching leopard print Converse (I love these trainers. I will be SO SAD if them get covered in puke).

    Truth be told, I’m not sure if I want children, and if I were in a relationship I’d still be unsure. What I’m trying to illustrate is that my single UNLOVED (ahem) status has nothing to my reproductive choices, it is no measure of my worth as a young woman, nor does it make me a ‘failure’ even though, this is what society would like us to think. It’s ok to be single, in fact in some ways, I actually prefer it. I think more people of my age should try being single.… preferably the hot skinny indie boy who lives at the end of my street (mwahahahahahaha). But, seriously, how many people are trapped in crap relationships because we’re bombarded with a sort of social propaganda which puts coupledom on a pedestal and perpetuates the idea that to be single is to be defunct. I certainly know a few people in this situation and I bet you do too.

    If the ‘equal’ partnership in the form of monogamous romantic love with a man is the ultimate prize for women where does these leave gay and lesbian relationships? Or polyamorous relationships? Our friendships? Our relationship with ourself? Aren’t these relationships important too? To all of this I say a big fat YESSSSSSSS! Such research findings may have been fluffed up to appear progressive but really they’re not. All these surveys do is further the idea that the worth of women and men is to be found within the traditional structure of domesticity, albeit through a smug liberal lens.

    * London Evening Standard
    ** 2003 UNIFEM report entitled “Not A Minute More: Ending Violence Against Women,” 2008, the UNITE To End Violence Against Women Campaign.

    Sarah (@sazbottle) is a grass roots feminist campaigner and is involved with groups including @femactioncam and @armpits4august. Sarah writes for various online magazines/blogs and is partial to a bit of blogging in her own right (obviously all her posts are her own views, and not necessarily the views of organisations she works for, or anything like that, for all you legal eagles out there). By day, Sarah works for an NGO which targets corporate malpractice and illegal marketing strategies. Sarah likes history, yoga, raspberry leaf tea, and loud music.

  6. A teen’s take on feminism and why we need it RIGHT NOW

    March 8, 2013 by @NotRollergirl

    Sophia Valentine is a talented 17 year old writer. She has recently discovered the power of feminism after realising that female sexuality is often expressed and discussed in a highly sexist way. Here are her views on what it’s like to grow up in an overly sexualised society.

    Image from www.thecollegefix.com

    Image from www.thecollegefix.com

    As a teenage girl growing up in Britain in 2013, it can be nearly impossible to negotiate the issue of sex. Under constant pressure from the media, society and your peers, the mixed messages you receive can seem overwhelming.

    Recently, my mother announced that sexting was “shocking. [It’s] so detrimental, and children are being sexualised so young” And yet, to many teenagers, there is no line between texting and sexting. It’s simply becoming the norm. Most of my friends have experienced sexting in some form or another, and I’ve seen the persistence of teenage boys who want a “photo” – many of them are willing to nag incessantly until they get what they want, or try to guilt trip my friends. They don’t understand the meaning of the word “no.” Our parents are the generation who grew up with Playboy at the extreme end of the scale – now any child with a smartphone can watch pornography with relative ease. And what is the effect of this? Too often, porn is seen as creating over-expectant adolescent boys, who expect all women to be as willing for sex as the porn stars they see.

    John Bishop has joked about using porn to instruct his son, claiming he told him: “Actually son, they’re not usually that up for it.” But what about the effect of porn on women? Teenage girls see porn stars behaving in a certain way and feel they must mimic it. We are not objects, to be used and discarded. For me, the idea that a partner’s expectations of me are determined by pornography is ridiculous – real women have feelings and needs, they are not here simply to satisfy but also expect to BE satisfied. And what about when a woman doesn’t meet a man’s sexual expectations?

    Rape. The idea that someone will not respect my wishes is terrifying. The idea that someone would deliberately ignore my request to stop, especially in a situation as intimate as sex, is frightening. When I say no, I mean no: it is not a request, it is a command. It means stop. Being aware that almost 80 per cent of rape victims knew their attacker makes me fearful about future relationships. And where are these rapists and prospective rapists learning to behave this way? It can only be because they see women as objects, and they have been taught to prioritise their sexual urges over anything else.

    Which situation is “better”, in the eyes of society: sexual assault by an unknown attacker, or by a partner? Is either “better” at all? When I put the question to my friends, they agreed that often, sexual assault by a partner could be perceived as “worse”: each day you must face the person who hurt you, and something previously intimate is now threatening and negative. For me, while I recognise that rape by an unknown attacker may lead to mistrust of strangers, rape by a partner causes something far more severe – mistrust of the ones you love. You cannot recover without the support of those you trust – and yet you cannot trust them either. 85% of rapes go unreported, and often sexual assault by a partner is dismissed by the victim, who may begin to blame themselves. Anyone on the outside of an abusive relationship might wonder why the abused doesn’t leave – but more often than not, the abuse itself has left them without the strength, space and spirit to be able to walk away.

    The term “rape” has become an almost empty threat. Often, it is made to seem like an unavoidable destination: “if you dress like a slut, you’ll get raped.” To me, this use of a serious criminal act with severe repercussions as an inevitable concept is shocking. Whilst teenager drivers are often warned not to drink and drive, they are not told “if you drive under the influence, you WILL die.” With all other crimes, there is a degree of possibility indicated in the warning. You might be attacked. It may have serious consequences. With rape, there is no indication of doubt indicated in the language surrounding it – women are taught it will happen.

    For my generation, what hope is there? Adults condemn our actions, yet they are the result of a society that is constantly finding new ways to exploit young people. Too often, teenagers feel suffocated by societal pressures. For many teenage girls, feminism is an unknown concept, a “dirty word.” As a friend stated, feminism is often drummed out of us by society or overexposure, until it becomes part of the background, hidden at the back of the social consciousness.

    Teenagers, especially young women, need to know that sexism and sexual violence is never OK – and that if they speak out against it, they will be encouraged and supported. We look to so many different sources of information in order to find out how to behave. Will women’s magazines tell us how to get a boyfriend? Will porn tell us how to make him happy? But feminism needs to infiltrate and frame every fact we get given, otherwise it’s irrelevant and dangerous. Finding feminism has filled me with hope for the future. It needs to infiltrate the mainstream so that other teens use it as a source of ideas, answers and comfort.


  7. Sexual Harassment on the Tube

    March 6, 2013 by Hannah

    Image from guardian.co.uk

    Image from guardian.co.uk

    Sexual harassment has been front and centre in the media – apart from, of course, the Queen’s digestive system – in recent days. It’s happening on our doorsteps, in the workplace, on the public transport we all take every day to get between those two places. It’s not restricted to meek women, or bolshy women, or women who seem to flirt with the very way they put their coat on. The whistles, the gropes, the shouts have been highlighted. It’s not a matter that’s restricted to women at all – some male columnists have also stepped forward to say it’s time that their half of the species sorts it out.

    By some horrible coincidence, the week all these women I admire were speaking out about the leers, the shouts, and the touches they’re forced to endure on a daily basis was the same week I learnt the true meaning of objectification, and with it felt a little bit of my innocence drop away.

    Of course, it’s behaviour that I’d heard about before, online or in the news. I was familiar with how disgusted the subjects of catcalls from idle builders would be when they’re just trying to nip to the shops for a pint of milk. But it hadn’t happened to me, either in the small city I grew up in or the larger city I went to university in. And I didn’t think it would.

    Although not a justification in any way, I could see some sort of sense in men who don’t exercise self-control verbally lusting over my friends, like an extension of the nightclub leers of well-liquored young men, but in daylight, and arguably more creepily.

    I, on the other hand – and I say this not in self-deprecation but as a matter of fact – am decidedly plain, and a few stone overweight. I dress, most days – including the day concerned – in black tights with flat shoes and a work-appropriate skirt, topped with a high-neckline jumper or shirt, covered by a fairly long, woollen coat. I am not alluring, deliberately or otherwise. I believed – naively, ridiculously – that, as if some kind of silver lining to my appearance, it’d save me from having those experiences. I thought objectification was something that only happened to conventionally attractive people.

    Until, in the jostling to squeeze onto an already-full tube carriage last week, I felt a hand on my buttock. Not a dulled touch through the layers provided by coat and skirt, but so close to my skin, through only tights and underwear. I swiftly swept my hand down behind me, knocking the hand of a short, tubby, old man away, and giving the skirt and coat he’d pulled up a firm yank downwards.

    As the train pulled out of the station, he stood firm behind me, pressed hard against my back as if he was trying to make our body shapes fit together like jigsaw pieces. As I tried to wriggle away, using every half inch of space I could find around me, nothing changed. He was still there, unapologetically pressed against me.

    I’d recognised the man at the platform, as someone who had previously been uncomfortably close to me, an incident I brushed off as one of the pitfalls of commuting. This time, again, I wondered if it was an accident. But no matter how awkward the morning commute can be, I can’t help but feel like if you’d somehow accidentally lifted someone’s skirt and coat and touched them inappropriately, you’d say sorry. Emphatically and many times.  The man behind me said nothing, and for 3 stops continued push up against me, as nausea rose inside me and I scanned the carriage for an escape route every second of the journey.

    Like so many people, I said nothing. My instinct wasn’t to speak out, it was merely to get away. It’s an act which is easier said than done, on a train where you can barely breathe, let alone move to the other end of a carriage.

    Although in comparison to some others’ experiences, mine was very, very minor, I was surprised by how I thought about it afterwards. It wasn’t flirting. It wasn’t a compliment. It didn’t feel like a matter of lust, as I’d assumed. It didn’t feel like, I, my appearance, had anything to do with it. It was an objectification that didn’t feel related to the kind you see in magazines filled with women wearing skimpy bikinis, or less. The assumption that my appearance would “save” me was naïve and ridiculous because what had just occurred had nothing to do with my appearance. It didn’t even have anything to do with any part of me. I was reduced to less than my composite parts, barely even a woman, just a thing. I couldn’t shrug it off any more, and it made me sick to my stomach.

    But what’s truly, horrifyingly shocking is the backlash from anonymous online commenters on every single article calling out people who commit sexual harassment, so many of which seem to be men who don’t see anything wrong this behaviour. Reading the comments on an article, written by a man, which appeared in the Telegraph and speaks out about the harassment women experience on a daily basis is the intellectual equivalent of rubbing your face across the business end of a rusty rake – you pick up all sorts of shit that just makes you feel ill.

    And what it makes clear is that this isn’t really a matter of a few dodgy builders. Expecting dirty old men to refrain from putting their hands up my skirt doesn’t make me a “princess”, and doesn’t mean I’m a prude who can’t handle a bit of flirting. It’s not a matter of “well, it’s evolution, it’s human nature, we can’t help it”, because the vast majority of the men I stand close to on the tube manage to rein it in. Speaking to friends, it became clear that London is a hotspot for sexual harassment, but if it was an unavoidable part of being male, there wouldn’t be hotspots. It is not the natural order of things.

    A part of my loss of innocence was when I realised what objectification meant in the real world.

    But what’s just as tragic is this. As a nation, we’re so quick to criticise other cultures in which women aren’t deemed to be entitled to an education or allowed to drive. We’re better than that, we think. Liberated. But it’s 2013 and women are still scared to walk home alone at night. We can’t go to work without being treated as a plaything. We still feel the need to deliberately wear our scruffiest clothes in an effort to avoid being shouted at by strangers. We are made less than human every day.

    And we will not stay silent any longer.

    Hannah writes a most wonderful food blog called The Littlest Bakehouse, which I recommend checking out immediately. You can also find her on Twitter.

  8. We’ve Moved Out Already, Church, Let It Go

    March 4, 2013 by J9London

    Image from http://www.atheistmemebase.com/

    Image from http://www.atheistmemebase.com/

    I don’t normally go in for them political fandangos, due to the high rate of people getting shouty, but the equal marriage bill passed through the house of commons and that deserves a pretty big huzzah from ever one. Of course, there are still some people who are dragging their heels about the whole thing, like the good ol’ Archbish of Cant, so as my personal celebration of this excellent news, I’d like to tell him why he just needs to let it go.

    You see, the church* built the society we live in, however irrelevant it may seem to your own personal life. The church is like a parent, and under its sometimes too watchful, often hypocritical eye, we have grown into the strange and varied culture of the west. And just like all parents, it has to let go sometime.

    When you’re a toddler, you trust your parents completely. You have to. They’re the only people you know, and they know the power you have. So when you say “why can’t I chase my ball out into the street and put flaming trombones in my hair and swim in the sea with my pet manatee and no water wings?” they just say “because I said so” and have done with it. Or they go on to say “you are an infant and I am grown and as I have grown I have received wisdom which you have thus far had no access to and besides I have a whole big book on exactly why you shouldn’t do those things, but it’s in Latin and you can’t even read English, can you, tiny child, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say I can sum it all up into a neat bundle of ‘because I said so.’”

    But you don’t stay a toddler forever, and your parents can’t watch you all the time, so you’re probably going off and learning stuff behind their backs. And they know this and, even though they’re divorced now** and sometimes disagree on things, they still love you and want to raise you right. So when you say “but why can’t I go to that party on the other side of town with Tanya who just got her drivers licence and have fun with all the boys she says will be there because there won’t be any parents around and then next week go backpacking through Turkey and Israel and Iran with one of the boys I meet at the party tonight?” they sit down and explain it. And they say “look, there’s a lot of swell advice in this book I was talking about earlier that I’ve now translated into a strange and unlikely form of English and you’ve learned to read, so here, have a copy, although seriously there are a lot of weird analogies and contradictions so I’ll just tell you what it all means anyway.”

    But there comes a time when every child has to leave his or her parents protective bubble. Whether it’s to go to university, to move to a different city, to live with another human so you can get your junk all up in each other’s business without it being creepy because your mum and excessively flatulent stepdad are in the next room, or just because your, like, twenty seven, jeez, eventually it’ll just be time to go. So you’ll say “I’m moving out. I’ll be making my own decisions from now on. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the foundation in life you’ve given me. And although I may listen to people who oppose you in various areas, and although I may form opinions you disagree with, I’ll still come round for dinner and talk to you because you have interesting views, some of which are helpful, all of which are fun to debate. When we inevitably do disagree I hope we’re both smart enough to use that as an opportunity for discussion, rather than reasons to fight and ultimately hate each other. Please trust that you’ve instilled in me some generally good values and let me make the calls now, KTHNXBYE.”

    Whatever you believe, wherever you’re from, if you’re living in the west, you’re in a society that was parenting by the church. Or churches, I should say, for there are several. In general, we’ve moved out and on. We’ll visit, some of us every week, but we don’t belong to the church anymore. It’d just be nice if it’d keep the kettle on. For anyone who ever facies a cup of tea.


    *I mean the church as a general, meandering beastie; the corporate church, the global church; not a specific church, and certainly not God
    **And I’m sure that picture of Henry “douchebag” the Eighth with the caption about the Church of England respecting the sanctity of marriage just brings HELLA LOLZ, but there was way more going on with the reformation of the church than him having blue balls for that Anne girl, come on, guys, research, jeez

    Janina is addicted to dark chocolate and peppermint tea. She once made a burger so good she has a picture of the occasion on her bedroom wall. You can find out more about her at myrednotebook.com and follow her on twitter at @J9London.

  9. Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

    November 16, 2012 by Jenni

    Image from sheknows.com.au

    It’s been a while since I last got any action in the bedroom department and I am definitely starting to feel like I’m missing out. I worked out recently that this is the longest period of time I’ve gone without since I lost my virginity aged 16 and a bit (about 5 and a bit years ago) due to two extremely long term relationships which have stretched over the last 6 years or so. I’ve been single for 7 months now and my heart seems to have gotten over that whole being broken thing quite nicely and has let me start functioning again as an actual human.

    My brain, meanwhile, seems to be living out its own little romantic fiction novel, especially whenever I see a particularly attractive gentleman. (I actually had this thought the other day when a guy dropped his keys in front of me: “Ooh, bend down and pick them up so you can have a romantic moment when your hands meet above them.” It was followed swiftly by the thought “Shut up brain, you wally.”). My vagina though seems to be having a little party of its own. I must be the horniest person in the world at the moment, anything and everything seems to set me off – I feel a bit like a teenage boy who’s just discovered the internet. And while me-parties (‘a party just for one’… alright I might have just made the Muppets Movie horrible there. I’m not sorry.) are fun and all, it’s just really not the same.

    It’s not just the release of orgasm that I’m missing though, it’s the whole sharing the physical intimacy with another person-allowing yourself to be that vulnerable in front of someone and feeling completely comfortable with it is a big part of what makes sex an enjoyable thing for me. I love that sensation of being completely contented with each other and with yourself so that you just lie there naked together and no-one feels compelled to put any clothes on at all, sometimes for days.

    And here’s the thing – I think I’m fairly good at relationship sex. The sex where you know exactly what each other wants and no longer need to tell each other where to put what bit and what to do with it when it’s there, but you just do it automatically, hitting all their buttons because you know what they like and they know what you like. That’s all fine and dandy.

    It’s the thought of getting down and dirty with an unknown person that kinda scares the pants off me a little. It’s the getting naked in front of someone for the first time, knowing they’ll see every little part of you and can never go back to not seeing that. It’s the awkward moments of not quite working in synch with each other and potentially ending up generally sweaty and unsatisfied at the end. It’s the reaction to the first fanny fart (Always an awkward moment. I reckon if they laugh about it with you then you’re all good to carry on!). It’s the fear of telling someone your slightly weirder, less vanilla quirks and having them react by scarpering faster than you can blink, or worse, going all 50 Shades of Grey on you. I’ve never had to tell someone how to get me going before because my previous boyfriends just kinda figured it out, but I would have no idea where to start that conversation. It’s a whole minefield of potentially awkward moments and horrible embarrassment just waiting there for me to put my foot into it. Maybe literally.

    And when exactly do you tell someone you’re a bit of a novice and somewhat nervous about the whole thing? On a first date, casually over dinner, “Oh by the way, I’ve only ever slept with two people before but I’m a keen student and a quick learner.” *over-exaggerated wink*

    I think I might just show my next potential lover this blog post and tell him this is all the things I’m worried about, just so he knows, and hope he doesn’t run for the hills. That’s definitely not weird right?

    I guess when the time comes around to it I’ll just have to jump in with both feet at the deep end (I need to stop making weird feet-sex analogies and over using parentheses) like everyone else does. But fuck me, it’s a scary prospect. No, really; it’s been a while.

    Jenni (@circlethinker) is a science geek, a theatre aficionado (both on and off the stage), and a big fan of socks. She’s in her early twenties and recently finished up a Biomedical Science degree at Sheffield. Jenni has a lovely blog over here (where this post first appeared) and you can find her on Twitter right here.


  10. Which Time Is Sexytime?

    September 11, 2012 by J9London

    Image from http://finditmore.info/

    Two things happened this week that made me go “argh!” The first was a friend of mine, male, intelligent, young, mentioning that old, Mad Men style classic, men are biologically designed to be promiscuous and women aren’t. The second was this article, which argues against the concept that women will be happier in relationships if they hold off on the sexing.

    Now, the first one is obvious. Kind of. We have spent the last lots of years and much yelling to claim the right to have sex when and with whom we want to. How many more times to we have to holla before the bros believe us? Sex is great, obviously, we’re allowed to think so too, we’re allowed to be open about it. But the flip side is, we still have the right to  hold off, if that is what we want. Do men?

    I’m the sort of person to wait. It’s involuntary. It takes me a long time to want to get all canoodling features with someone, and I like that about myself. But I don’t think I’m like that because I’m a woman, and I don’t think that my friend isn’t like that because he’s a man. We’re just different people.

    As to the second, it has a point: the idea of waiting is always related to girls. Boys are expected to want to get around. Girls are expected to keep the milk so someone’ll be forced into taking the whole cow. Or something. It’s a skewing of expectation that’s been around forever, and it seems natural because it’s been around forever. I think it’s worth considering that for most of that forever, women weren’t having sex at their own discretion because men were in charge, and they didn’t want us to.

    But no one should feel like they’re supposed to have a lot of sex with a lot of different people, either it’s because they’re a MAN and MEN need to spread their SEED, or because they’re a WOMAN and WOMEN are just as good as MEN and must PROVE IT. If you’re only interested in being that intimate with one person ever, go for it. Wanting to wait until you’ve known someone for a few months before you shag them rotten isn’t abnormal and it’s not reserved for the prudish and repressed.

    I don’t care what used to be the norm. I don’t care what studies are done. I know what I want, who I want, how I want it. It’s not fashionable, but then I’ve never been fashionable. And I’m ok with that.

    Janina is addicted to dark chocolate and peppermint tea. She once made a burger so good she has a picture of the occasion on her bedroom wall. You can find out more about her at myrednotebook.com and follow her on twitter at @J9London.

  11. It’s been One Month since we looked at K Stew and started the crazy ass judging. MAKE IT STOP!

    September 7, 2012 by @NotRollergirl

    Photo from tiptoptens.com

    I am pissed. Pissed in the traditional sense (I have been drinking beer on a sofa all afternoon, in my knickers) but mostly in the American, angry sense. I’m in Brooklyn and drowning in jetlag and 30 degree heat, and it doesn’t take much to irk me – but I’m really fucking irked by the way that the media shitstorm has not calmed down and got reasonable after a MONTH. We’re still talking about the Kristen Stewart thing.

    She’s not exactly media friendly. The movie that shot her into the celebrity stratosphere is a movie series beloved by tween and teen girls – not a demographic that is known for supporting and celebrating other women. Especially not women who are dating their most favourite sparkly vampiric porcelain skinned British crush man, R Patz. And she’s notoriously awkward. When I was a baby journo intern and she was a film star to be, I interviewed her and found the whole thing so tricky that I burst into tears immediately afterwards. (I speak a very archaic brand of British English, it was on a fuzzy phone line and she understood none of my questions). But she’s 22. She’s 22 and been with the same dude since she was 18 and she hooked up with an older, married colleague and now everyone hates her. Her boyfriend hates her, her colleague’s wife hates her – apparently even her family hates her. Left leaning liberal friends who are sound in mind and body and only read the Daily Mail side bar of doom in a “wry” way – they hate her too. Even though she’s never made them cry. Can we give the chick a break?

    How can it be that the most reasonable people in the world are falling over themselves to call Kristen a harlot and a homewrecker, when Rupert “married with two kids and nearly twice Kristen’s age” Sands is getting perhaps ten to five per cent of the vitriol? In the first week following Kristen-and-Rupert-In-The-Back-Of-A-Mini-K-I-S-S-I-N-G-gate, I read EIGHT pieces on whether she’ll be able to salvage her career. Prognosis: Doubtful. Less has been written about Chris Brown “salvaging” his career in the last three years. The same Chris Brown who hospitalised his girlfriend. In fact, I think I’ve read more about Rihanna “sending out a bad message to fans” by “taking him back” than I’ve read about Chris Brown and how he should be stopped from making any music that isn’t Jailhouse Rock.

    The ongoing Kristen saga has made me think about how feminism is faltering. I may dress like a WASP punk but I have the heart of a hippy, and I really just want us all to love each other and be kind to each other. Sure, you should yell at people for finishing the cheese and having bad driving manners. It’s fine to hate on people who describe themselves as “crazy and random!” or those who make faces when you reference reality shows and say “I don’t really watch TV. Only BBC4 and documentaries.” But women who hate on other women for “betraying the sisterhood”? NO! THAT IS THE MOST ANTI FEMINIST THING OF ALL!

    I’m going to add to the Kristen conjecture by saying that I think that whatever happened between her and Rupert was born out of passion, not meanness. I think that one of them looked at the other and they both thought “I know this is completely wrong and inappropriate, but if I don’t feel your lips on mine soon my skin will fall off and I shall catch on fire.” I don’t think Kristen ever thought “how can I really upset that nice Liberty Ross and all the teenagers who fancy my boyfriend?”

    We’ve all said we’d never cheat. We’ve probably all also said we’d never smoke a cigarette, have an abortion or bone a guy whose surname we didn’t know. If having and living by lofty principles makes you happy, that’s awesome. If it makes you feel superior to everyone who doesn’t and fails and makes mistakes and does the wrong thing occasionally, you can go and suck a big bag of dicks. I’ve cheated, and I’ve been cheated on, and it always ended up in sadness, hurt and complications – but it was never borne out of any of those things. As long as people fancy each other, people will cheat. It doesn’t make me sad or anxious about humanity.

    You know what does make me sad and anxious about humanity? The way we judge each other. The way we criticize and condemn before we relate and empathise. And that’s what makes me worry about feminism and moving forward. I don’t want to be part of a sisterhood who will go full Hester Prynne on someone who snogs my boyfriend. I want to be part of a joyful, forgiving, broad, gin based kind of feminism that will not throw me out for my fuck ups. If after reading this you’re still going full Judge (that) Dredd (ful Kristen), I urge you to go out and get off with someone who makes you feel like you might catch on fire if you don’t kiss them.

    @NotRollergirl is a freelance funnywoman and writerlady. She’s the women’s editor over on Sabotage Times (where she writes a ridiculously popular column on Made in Chelsea), she writes books, and she knows all the words to ABBA’s entire collection. Follow her on Twitter (recommended for daily giggles).

  12. Rape: As much about men as it is about women

    August 28, 2012 by HannahsRhapsody

    Image from thefastertimes.com

    Several old men have offensively sought to re-define rape against women for their own political ends in the past week. And while the online response has emphatically reminded people that rape is rape, much of the online backlash – such as the #MenAgainstRape hashtag – has actually  been more telling than the comments themselves, and helps shed light on how misunderstood the issue of rape really is  

    Rape. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, it is unlikely to have escaped you that rape is on the news agenda at the moment. In a big way.

    First, we had US Congressman Todd Akin giving an interview in which he staggeringly-ignorantly described how, “as I understand it, if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down”.

    BOOM! In that one single sentence we have both utter ignorance of how the female body works AND a suggestion that some rape isn’t legitimate. Well, holy shit, we must have reached the pinnacle of white, old men pontificating on women’s bodies, right? But no. Wait! There’s more!

    Next up comes WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, currently hiding in the London Ecuadorian embassy, flatly refusing to come out, thereby winning this year’s prize for stretching the rules of hide-and-seek to patience-whittling levels AND refusing to face rape and molestation allegations in one fell swoop.

    Now, while it’s beyond the remit of this blogpost to properly comment on the WikiLeaks situation and what embassies will and won’t allow, the rape allegations seem unequivocal. In the more famous indictment, Assange is accused of having had consensual sex with a woman, who then woke up later on to find him having sex with her again. Let me repeat: WOKE UP – ergo, Assange started having sex with her while she was still UNCONSCIOUS.

    The law is clear on this: it’s rape. A means through which some men have sought to demean, dominate and violate women since the beginning to time. (Yes, men get raped too and many of the same points still stand, but in this case, we’re talking about a man doing it to a woman.)

    As Hadley Freeman, and so many others, got piercingly-right when they repeated it again and again: rape is rape is rape. If you have sex with someone without their outright and mutually-understood, fully-conscious consent, then that is rape.

    It’s quite simple really. Except, apparently, for some people.

    In which Galloway sends himself down shit creek

    Because, next up on the batshit-tosser train this week was Respect MP George Galloway (best known for dressing as a cat on national television) who inexplicably joined Akin and Assange in the redefining-rape fun by saying that for some people, being naked in bed with them means you’re “already in the sex game”, and therefore have consented to more sex EVEN IF YOU HAPPEN TO BE ASLEEP. “Sure, a tap on the shoulder would have been more polite,” he then went on to suggest, causing me to have a minor embolism before I could continue watching.

    Although it has to be said that the sheer numbers of people who have come out against the comments, as shown by the Vagenda’s ‘Rape rainbow’ or Jezebel’s ‘Official guide to legitimate rape’, is one of the most heartening things about this whole sorry tale, some responses haven’t been uniformly encouraging – and have actually highlighted why we still need to keep talking about these issues in the first place.

    Of course, it all started with a hashtag. The #menagainstrape hashtag.

    In case you’ve read this far and your eyes are getting squiffy, that’s Men Against Rape. Many people took offence to this hashtag , but I think it addresses some serious points; the dismissal of which could be potentially extremely damaging to what we’re all trying to do: educate people about rape.

    In a nice handy list, here are a few of the most common ideas that I saw bandied around in criticism of the hashtag.

    • It’s making this crime, which largely affects women, about men
    • It’s taking away from women’s ability to talk to men and put their own experiences across
    • It’s obvious and completely unnecessary; why not simply have a hashtag saying #MenAgainstMurder, or #MenAgainstPaedophilia or #MenAgainstDrinkingBleach ?
    • It seems to ‘thank men for not being rapists’, and suggests that this is an ‘opt in’ thing rather than a general base level of respect we’d all expect  as default

    Although I can see where these points come from, they largely miss the point that, actually, rape is quite often about men.

    In fact, wherever the crime is a man having sex with a woman, that’s about a man as much as it’s about the woman. About the fact that a man has so little respect, appreciation or understanding of that woman’s right to her own body and sexuality; about how her sexuality, power, intellect and identity has got absolutely nothing to do with him, unless she explicitly consents to make it so.

    Rape is about power, and as long as it’s about the wielding of power over women, it’s also about men.

    Feminism was born from women demanding dialogue with men, and even though women now have the power to speak out without men’s permission or help, it doesn’t follow that men cannot empathise with women or espouse their views on equality.

    Of course men shouldn’t seek to redefine or dominate feminist debates, or women’s experiences. But joining a discussion or wholeheartedly espousing its principles doesn’t automatically mean a man wants to dominate it, ‘make it about them’ – or, if you will, ‘mansplain’ it.

    While rape of women strikes right to the heart of what it means to be a woman, in these cases, anyway, it also strikes right to the heart of what it means to be a man coexisting with women.

    Of course, it’s extremely obvious to have a hashtag saying #MenAgainstRape.

    Because OF COURSE men should be against rape as a default position. Just like I’m against kicking puppies and shooting children with rifles.

    BUT the fact that some men and women still agree that in some cases, rape just isn’t that serious and that women must shoulder some of the responsibility when they ‘lead on’ a man or drink a bit too much; the fact that there are still people in the world (especially those who are in positions of political power) who think that conscious consent is a blurry concept, means that actually, I’d say having a #MenAgainstRape hashtag isn’t such a bad idea.

    At the very least, inviting men to join discussions about rape might get people ‒ namely men for whom it doesn’t seem immediately obvious ‒ considering what rape means, and getting them to think about it a bit more before engaging in sexual relationships with people.

    It might also provide a rallying point for men on the subject, in their own arena, away from the feminist blogs and the sections of the newspapers which, with the best will in the world, are not usually read by those who have the most need for them.

    All those men who are so obviously already against rape, well thank god for you, you’re absolutely right. You don’t need to ‘opt in’, or pat yourself on the back for not being a rapist. (But if so, this hashtag, and the comments created alongside it, were not aimed at you.)

    And frankly, if it gets even one man thinking about what it means to rape versus not rape, or even strikes one line of dissention against the ideas perpetuated by Akin, Assange and Galloway, then I’d consider that a success.

    At least it’s not trying to redefine or qualify rape, in a discussion which is so often reduced to a ‘women’s issue’ against men, simplistically pitching the genders against each other.

    It’s simply saying that actually, men don’t all agree with Galloway or Akin.

    And if it provides a rallying point for groups such as domestic violence charity Respect UK (NOT Galloway’s ‘Respect’, thank god) to tweet links such as “10 things you can do to stop violence against women” or “If you want to show sexual respect, always check you’ve got an enthusiastic yes”, then frankly, where’s the harm in that?

    It doesn’t take away, it only adds

    Giving people a platform on which to assert that they are against rape doesn’t take away from the testimonies of women coming out to tell their story about rape. Neither does it, logically, suggest that anyone who doesn’t assert their view in this way is therefore ‘for rape’ or ‘rape ambivalent’.

    In fact, as I see it, it only adds to the dialogue between the genders; only adds an additional voice to the crowd of people around the world telling Assange, Akin and Galloway, and their sympathisers, that their views are profoundly offensive, unwanted, unfounded, ignorant and completely at odds with the experiences and views of the vast majority of men and women.

    And isn’t that what we’re all trying to get across in the first place?

    Comments and (constructive!) criticism very welcome!

    Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahsRhapsody, or see her other writings at http://notallwhowonderarelost.wordpress.com where a version of this post first appeared.