Friday, 21 May 2010
Thursday, 20 May 2010
1. Are you single? If yes, go to q3. If no, go to q2.
2. Are you and your partner(s) open and honest about the fact you see other people? If yes go to q3. If no, go away.
3. Are you a feminist, or at least an ally of feminism? If yes, go to q4. If no, fuck off.
4. Do you believe we should be making kinky spaces and erotica that is accessible to everyone, including men and women, cis and transgender and gender-non conforming people, LGBQ people, and people from all ethnic origins? If yes go to q5. If no, go and educate yourself.
5. Would you ever consider switching during play or during a relationship? i.e. from D to S, from Top to Bottom? If yes, go to q6. If no, grow a pair.
6. Do you like any or all of Bitchy Jones, Girl with a one track mind, Michel Foucault, Stephen Elliot, Anais Nin, Sappho, Dirty Filthy Things, The Piano Teacher, Michael Hanneke? If yes, go to q7. If no, go and explore.
7. Do you agree with Judith Butler that gender is performance? If yes, go to q8. If no, go to the back of the class. If ‘who is Judith Butler’? just go, and don’t come back till you know the answer.
8. Do you practice safe sex, take responsibility for and talk about contraception with your playmates and partners? If yes, go to q9. If no, get with the programme!
9. Do you think fucktheory is the best thing on the internet since www.drawyourboss.com? If yes go to q10. If no, we need to talk. If ’what is fucktheory’? it is this: http://fucktheory.tumblr.com/
10. So are you going to buy me a drink then?
Tuesday, 18 May 2010
People always say that. Normally they mean it is paradoxical that a feminist and a 'strong woman' like me could be submissive. Let a man walk all over her like that. But I don't see any paradox there. It's just sex. You don't have to re-enact all your political views in the bedroom do you? If so, I expect the Christian Right and the environmentalists have a pretty dull time in the sack.
But he means something else. I know. The way his eyes bore into me the way he told me to look at him, but I couldn't. The way I suddenly got embarrassed when I was undressing and stopped until he told me to go on. He knows that there is a part of me that just doesn't want to do it. That is so shy I cannot quite bear to be exposed like this, naked and vulnerable in front of him. And yet I keep coming back, keep turning up in those heels I can't really walk in. Keep bending over. Expectant.
He says I am a paradox and he is right. But paradoxes can be hot, can't they?
Saturday, 15 May 2010
When he has finished he does up his trousers and waits while I try to straighten myself out.
Thursday, 13 May 2010
Monday, 10 May 2010
Saturday, 8 May 2010
Friday May 7th, 9pm
The atmosphere is tense in London but also heavy with boredom. We are caught in a political limbo. Our Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has lost his footing and is starting to slide down the mountain. He and his family are squatters in their own home, and will most likely be evicted by Monday morning. He knows that history is being made, but not by him. Someone else is holding all the cards.
Britain is crawling towards what will probably be our first coalition Government in over thirty five years, only this time the cameras are rolling. Everyone is glued to their TV. This has been the first truly televised election, as the Labour administration succumbed and allowed live TV debates between the leaders of the three main parties. We could only tell them apart by the colour of their ties and the slight nuances in their accents. One of them, Nick Clegg, came out from nowhere to wow the audiences with his stylised sincerity. Suddenly, though his party came third in the actual election, he is holding the balance of power. It's a post-modern tale of the little guy catapulted onto the big media-dominated stage. And it is also a race against time. 'I love you Liberalism, but I've only got 48 hours to save my career and gain the power I crave'.
But now that the most important and intriguing action of the election is underway, we are not allowed to see. The real deals are being made behind heavy oak doors, by civil servants we have never heard of, wearing grey suits, high on adrenalin and lack of sleep. There are no pictures of planes flying into buildings, nobody is vandalising McDonalds. We have forgotten that Athens is burning, that the markets are plummeting, that somewhere high above us the sky is still full of volcanic ash. We are sat semi-comatosed on our sofas, watching tired TV anchors talking straight to camera, reporting on what we already know. There is nothing to report. I blink at the screen, slowly bringing my glass to my lips. I have a deadline tomorrow; I should really be getting some sleep.
Saturday May 8th, 10.30 am,
London. Grey skies
The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are rumoured to be in 'talks'. Between them they would hold a majority of seats in Parliament, and are desperately trying to find some common ground, after telling us all they had none. The LibDems were sold to us as the party of social justice, promising electoral reform, environmental responsibility, public services and fairer taxes. The Tories never pretended to be much more than the upper-class peddlers of neo-conservatism that they so obviously are. The liberal 'twitterati' are up in arms about the way the dice are being shaken. #Hashtag after #hashtag is being produced, as if Nick Clegg might actually be sat in the back of his limo, reading the messages on his i-phone, being persuaded by these online opinion leaders, that actually this deal with the devil is not such a good idea after all. But within minutes #dontdoitnick has morphed into #dontdoitblix and #dontdoitdick until it becomes the inevitable #dontdoitrick. Democracy is rick-rolled as the internet turns political protest into a meme. Labour supporters say 100,000 Retweets are needed to achieve electoral reform. Skeptics like me are ROFL.
Saturday May 8th 2.45 pm
London. More rain.
A flash-mob demo has started in Trafalgar Square, in the name of electoral reform and Proportional Representation. Irritated tweets are arriving from demonstrators who can't see or hear the speakers because they are being obstructed by Morris Dancers. When given the chance, the true tribes of England march on Parliament, with bells and ribbons and sticks. The demonstrators find their way to the building where Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are planning their bargaining strategy. Calls of 'Come Out Nick!' ring through the air. Eventually the Liberal leader emerges on the steps and tells the protestors he is on their side. But he suggests they go home and carry on their campaigns somewhere else. He has got a deal to broker. He doesn't need this right now.
As The Queen stands by her phone, waiting to be 'activated' like a character in a computer game, the salesmen continue their pitches. Everything is still to play for. But also the game is long-since over. The real Faustian pact was made back in 2003, when Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq, simultaneously cementing the 'special relationship' with the Bush administration, and securing his lucrative career in the 'peacemaking' business when it was all over. Blair's mercenary, cold-blooded, wild-eyed ghost has haunted this election, along with those of thousands of Iraqi people; he came back to remind us there aren't any good guys left. So it is now down to whoever offers the best package at the lowest price.
I don't know how the story ends. I have to submit my copy before the men in suits close the deal. Their hands are grubby from rooting around in the mud. I can see them now, wiping them on their trousers before looking each other in the eye and shaking on it. 'Nice doing business with you’ they will say, before heading back out onto the street. Maybe the demonstrators will be waiting for them again. Except nobody will be Morris Dancing, or tweeting. This time the people might be ready for a fight. We have nothing to lose.
Friday, 7 May 2010
Arguing about gender roles is something I love to do. I have realised that I particularly enjoy doing it with dominant men, even when I am within striking distance. Foolish maybe, but I cannot help myself.
A typical argument might go along these lines:
Him:'I would like to see you in stilettos and a tight pencil skirt'.
Me:'That's such a fucking cliche. Why does the collective imagination of all the male dominants in the world get reduced to a woman in heels and a revealing outfit?'
Him:'Because it looks good. And you would be restricted and exposed at the same time'.
Me: 'It's not fucking fair. Women submissives have to fit into this cliched stereotype of femininity in order to fulfil their need to be submissive. And I am a feminist and it makes me angry to be forced into a role I have been resisting all my life'.
Him: 'Oh good. So you might find it humiliating as well. Excellent'.
Me: 'GGGrrr. That's not the point. Why can't men think of other ways to objectify women apart from the ways they are already objectified in society?'
Him: 'Shut up and put those shoes on, bitch'.
Wednesday, 5 May 2010
Tuesday, 4 May 2010
Friday, 30 April 2010
Sunday, 25 April 2010
Thursday, 22 April 2010
Also he is holding a weapon: a small, manual razor, the blade flashing silver in the fluorescent light. I shiver, though it's not cold. He notices my discomfort and smiles. 'Nervous'? he asks but I know better than to reply. Suddenly the cute little erotic story I have been writing in my mind transforms itself into a slasher movie. I see Carrie in her blood-stained prom dress, I see the shower scene from Psycho. I see that Algerian man from 'Cache', slitting his own throat in front of his childhood friend, the blood spurting out from his neck and onto the kitchen floor. I start to think about that short by Scorsese: 'The Big Shave'. It shows a man cutting himself shaving. Only in this mini horror the blood keeps on pouring. The more he shaves the bloodier it gets until the sink is a crimson pool, the man's face the scene of a massacre.
I imagine him taking the razor and slicing me up into little pieces, my blood splattering all over the pristine white tiles, the bath, the shower curtain, his pale body. What the fuck am I doing here? I barely know this man. Maybe I should have asked myself that question much earlier, before we drank all that wine, before he told me to undress, before he put me over his knee and spanked me till my arse bruised purple, blue, black. 'Relax' he says, but I can't.
I try to rationalise my fears. He wouldn't want to mess up his lovely apartment would he? He wouldn't want the hassle of becoming the owner of a crime scene, wouldn't want to annoy his neighbours with the sound of a woman, screaming? No, he just wants to have a bit of fun, like me. Except I am not having fun right now. I am terrified.
Everything stops. I feel a sudden freezing sensation on my skin below my belly. I flinch and breathe in sharply. Looking down I see I am covered in blue shaving gel. It looks so clinical, like the stuff they put on a pregnant woman before an ultrasound. I sit still as a stone. Then I watch transfixed, as he takes the raxor and slowly starts to shave, scraping off little clumps of pubic hair mingled with the gel. The sensation is not entirely unpleasant. I am in awe: nobody not even me has done this before. His expression is one of complete concentraion. He holds his hand steady as he pulls those flaps of my skin to one side to get to the hardest to reach hairs. when he has finished and rinsed me with the shower I examine the results. I have not been this naked since I was about eleven years old. It is weird: I can't remember actually acquiring pubic hair. It is as if I went to bed one night a child and woke up the next morning a woman. But now I am a child again, no, more like a mannequin. It feels strange, but also horny. 'I am the first to do this to you' he declares, staking his claim. 'You belong to me now'.
Later, in the safety of the darkness, I finally let myself go. He plays with his new toy, licking and prodding it with his tongue, stroking the smooth skin with his fingers. He whispers in my ear as he holds me down, telling me what a beautiful cunt I have. As I lie back, preparing myself for the tsunami that is about to wash over my shores, I cannot help but agree.
When I finally fall asleep I dream of naked flesh, of cold metal cutting through skin. And blood. These days my dreams are always soaked in blood.
Monday, 19 April 2010
I wanted our own acts of love to emulate 'La Cite d'amour'. I thought we should try to embody the sensual beauty of the Parisian streets, grey and green in the sunlight, to become the pink blush of the rose in our glasses, amidst the gaudy neon signs of Pigalle. But I knew we never would. So I was glad to escape from this slight feeling of inadequacy, into the comforting darkness of the cinema, together but separate from my lover.
Sex, Lies and Videotape is a love song to sexual repression. It's a film about the crap we talk to our partner, when we should be discussing our love life. It tells us how sometimes it takes a 'fucked up' individual (James Spader), wanking to videos he has made of women talking, to bring out the lifeblood and sexuality of a lonely woman (Andi McDowell). The film resonated with me so strongly, that I thought I might orgasm out of sheer relief. 'Yes, oh YES!' I wanted to scream, 'That's how I FEEL!'. Instead I just squirmed in my seat.
I must have sensed, even then, that there was something incredibly kinky about the main premise of Sex, Lies and Videotape. But I was so young, my repression so complete, that this feeling was mainly subconscious. It took me a long time for it to fully dawn on me just how horny I find it, the idea of a man videoing women talking about sex. The fact that some of those women masturbate as they do so just adds to the horniness. It is so clinical, so distant, so removed from the actual, carnal act of fucking. And distance, as Lacan and I know, is hot.
But at the time I thought I was simply identifying with another woman's sexual inhibitions. I'd never heard of Andi McDowell the actress-this was before she found fame (or infamy?) in classics such as Groundhog Day and Green Card. To me she was just an uptight woman who couldn't reach orgasm, who could barely finish a ... sentence. I saw myself so clearly in her character. It felt as if she was forgiving me for some unspoken sin I'd committed long ago.
I don't remember what happened after the lights went up. I expect, knowing the 18 year-old me, that I kept quiet about my views on the film, so partially formed they were, so closely they related to my secret, innermost 'self'. We probably went back to our hotel room and had sex, in that awkward, respectful, sorrowful way we used to do. I know one thing for sure. I most certainly didn't come.
Twenty years on, Sex Lies and Videotape remains amongst my favourite films. Now I fully appreciate both its beautifully perverted core and its psychological depth. I'm happy to say I'm no longer that girl who identified so strongly with McDowell's character. As you are aware, dear reader, I'm not scared to talk about sex anymore. And these days when I fuck, I tend to make sure I come, and come hard.
But nobody completely sheds their adolescent skin. I remain repressed in some important and deep-seated ways. I am able to enjoy sexual release, but it's often with men who are practically strangers to me that I feel most free. I still find it difficult to talk about sex and to lose myself in sex with someone I love. So Sex, Lies and Videotape still speaks to me like a friend who knows me intimately, maybe even better than I know myself. I will always love it for that.
It is also recently that I have come to appreciate the real significance of the scene when McDowell takes the camera and turns it on Spader, transforming the male gaze of the film into a female one. If ever we do meet, and the conversation turns to sex, which it most certainly will, I suggest you check all my gadgets first before you open your mouth, to see if I have pressed 'record'.
Saturday, 17 April 2010
Some hipster boys in Parkslopes, Brooklyn, are planning a party. It is springtime in New York City, and they are celebrating the arrival of the cherry blossom, Japanese style. They love the way the delicate pink flowers scatter on the sidewalk like silk confetti. It contrasts with the dark slabs of the brownstone buildings where they live. Actually, they don't really give a fuck about the cherry blossom, but it makes a good enough excuse to get wasted and chase women. One of the hipsters thinks they should hire a 'geisha girl' to serve drinks and greet their guests. It would add some Oriental authenticity to the proceedings. He saw a Geisha porno a while back, and couldn't take his eyes off the beautiful porcelain face, painted exquisitely with make-up, eyes down as she 'served' her master. She was so goddamn ... compliant. So the boys put up an ad on Craigslist, asking for an actress who wants to be a Geisha girl for the evening. They are hoping she will be Asian, but a white chick could probably do the job just as well, if she dressed and acted the part. They offer cash, plus a free photoshoot, sit back with some cold beers and wait for the replies to flood into their in-box.
Part Two: Whore
He rings the little handbell and she silently appears. Her head is bowed but he can see how beautiful her face is, painted like a china doll's. He tells her to kneel and she does. Her hands fall instinctively behind her back. She clasps them together and looks up at him, her crystal eyes shining. He returns her gaze and takes it over, fixing her in his stare. 'I have you' his eyes say. 'You are mine for the taking'. Slowly, he places his hand on her head, gently touching her hair, pushing it to one side. Suddenly he pulls his hand away and she gasps, anticipating what is to come. But he is not going to hit her. Not now. That will come later. In this moment he is satisfied just to stand there,to watch intently as she holds herself still, offering her body for him to do as he pleases. Soon he will take the rope piled on the floor and bind her, Shibari style. The rope will tighten round the silk of her dress, showing the curves of her perfect form. He will notice her nipples, poking through the thin material and he will take one between his thumb and forefinger, pinching it hard. She will gasp again, this time in pain. 'Does it hurt?' he will ask. She will nod slowly. 'But you like it, you little whore-your nipples are like bullets'. Then he will lift up her dress and shove his hand between her legs, roughly pushing them apart to find his quarry. She doesn't wear knickers on these visits, and her juice will already be dripping down from her cunt towards her thighs. 'Good girl' he will say. 'My good little geisha girl'.
Part Three: Wife
I used to be friends with a couple, Josh and Midori. Josh was an academic, something in social science. Midori was Japanese; they had met at university. She worked in Market Research. I was fascinated and a little in awe of Midori. The way she would write her name in Japanese, as if it was a painting not a word. She was so tiny that she had to buy children's clothes, or get them made specially for her. Josh always went on about what a great cook she was: and Midori was a great cook. It was one of the reasons I hung out at their place so much. So when she came to stay with me on her own, I was worried she wouldn't like my food, but she was happy with vegetable curry. She taught me how to add a dash of fresh lemon juice, just before serving, to give it an extra kick. We stayed up late talking, about books and life, suddenly free from the constraints of Josh's domineering presence. Midori asked me about feminism and I told her my stories. When she'd gone I sent her a book: 'Introduction to Feminism'. The next time I saw Josh in the pub he told me he'd taken the book and thrown it across the room, saying 'fuck that'. We laughed but I think he was serious. I haven't seen them in years.
Wednesday, 14 April 2010
I stayed there for three nights and he never once let me pay for anything; not even a cup of coffee, not even a pint of milk. The sex was good, I think I screamed once. I remember he had a film poster in his bathroom. He looked after me. I got the train home and never saw him again.
I recall this vignette, now, as it serves as a backdrop to the realisation I keep on having lately, some kind of epiphany if you like to be dramatic about these things. My realisation is this: sex work is everywhere and we all are involved. That's why when I write about feminism and sex, or feminism and pornography, or feminism and prostitution, it feels personal. I may have not worked as a sex worker, but I have exchanged my body for something: a bed for the night, a drink and a meal, a boost to my ego, a momentary escape from some pain or other.
I am a feminist and always will be. I know women get exploited, trafficked, murdered, in the 'sex industry'. But women get murdered by their partners too, and nobody talks about 'marriage' or 'love' as if it was a dirty word. I don't have a burning ambition to work in a lap-dancing club, I am wary of the concept, suggested by the sociologist Catherine Hakim, of the profitablity and power of 'erotic capital'. We can't all be Madonna or Belle de Jour.
But when I talk about sex work I include myself in the picture. And I include you too. If we don't talk about it as participants, then we are 'othering' the women who overtly exchange sex for money. We are still thinking of them as whores. Whores who need rescuing (Pretty Woman style), maybe, but whores all the same. I prefer to think of sex workers as people. I feel ashamed that I haven't always thought this way.
Thursday, 8 April 2010
Tuesday, 6 April 2010
I'm losing my edge.
The suits are coming up from behind.
I'm losing my edge to the suits and the non-doms.
But I was there.
I was there in 1979
I was there when Thatcher was still 'the milk snatcher'.
I'm losing my edge.
I'm losing my edge to the geeks with the i-phones whose footsteps I can hear
when they walk into starbucks.
I'm losing my edge to the internet seekers who have 4,000 songs on their i-pods
the hipsters who wear suits for their day jobs
I'm losing my edge.
To all the kids who can't remember John Major: with his underpants outside his trousers.
I was there in 1992 when he was superman.
I'm losing my edge.
But I was there in 1983 when Michael Foot preached socialism,
and some of the kids still listened.
I was there in 1986 when Red Wedge played Birmingham Odeon.
Billy Bragg and The Communards, paying tribute to El Lissitsky.
I was the kid with the back-combed hair and the CND badge,
singing along to My Ever Changing Moods with The Style Council.
I was there in 1987 when Kinnock fucked it up
By kicking out Militant and LPYS, the socialists, the cool kids and me.
But I was there.
I've never been wrong.
I used to march on Whitehall,
I remember Bruce Kent and Tony Benn.
I taped General Public's benefit for the miners at Birmingham University
I went to Glastonbury before anyone. I saw Ian Dury and the Blockheads there.
I woke up with a hangover in Sheffield in 1997 .
Blair was staring with his wild eyes and grinning: 'Things Can Only Get Better'.
But I'm losing my edge to richer, better-groomed people with no ideas and no talent.
They tell me they are really, really nice.
But I don't believe them.
I remember the Falklands. I remember the Gulf War. I remember Afghanistan and Iraq.
I've never been wrong.
I'm losing my edge.
And I was there in 2001 when I gave up on politics and turned to music instead.
Suddenly I was hanging out with the the cool kids.
I listened to Original Pirate Material in my bedsit in Meersbrook.
I argued with my friends about'Stories from the city, stories from the sea'.
I said it could never be better than Rid of Me. I've never been wrong.
I saw Pulp's farewell gig at Magna in Rotherham.
Jarvis was God for one night only and we all missed the tram home.
I saw Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at Brixton Academy,
I saw Low and The Dears and Ambulance Ltd. I thought I was in New York.
But I'm losing my edge.
I hear that you and your crew have sold your decks and bought i-pods
I hear that you and your crew have sold your i-pods and bought decks
I hear that everybody you know is more powerful than everybody I know.
But I'm losing my edge.
The suits are coming up from behind.
It's 2010 and I don't know what's hip anymore.
When I was a kid I knew the words to The Internationale.
Now the kids quote Justin Beiber as if he was Gramsci.
I still have The Pixies, Bonny Prince Billy, Gillian Welch, New Young Pony Club, Le Tigre,
L7, I still have Blondie and LCD Soundsystem, The Beat, Hot Chip, Lambchop, Jens Leckman.
It's 2010 I'm not going to vote.
The hipsters in suits have got blood on their hands.
You don't know what you really want.
Saturday, 3 April 2010
Friday, 2 April 2010
'Crush' is the perfect word for what it describes. It's not quite onomatopeia-but its sound is evocative of the feeling: the way your insides turn to mush and start swishing around, making it difficult to stand straight. Also in the word 'crush' lies the clue to the inevitable outcome: your hopes will be crushed; the story won't have a happy ending. But it can suggest something more optimistic: a sunny afternoon, daydreaming, youth: raspberry crush.
Crushes on people you know and have to face in your daily life are horrendous; the potential for embarrassment and pain is too great. After pursuing a number of these, long after I lost the excuse of adolescent naiivety, I can honestly say I hope I never have another one again. My preferred forms of crush are on popstars, actors, even fictional characters. They possess an unreal quality, distant, unobtainable, working their magic up on the screen or stage.
Jarvis Cocker, John Cusack, Martin Donovan, 'Mike' from My Own Private Idaho. I'm not so deluded to think these beauties will return my feelings. I love them all the more for that.
Being the type of person that has to excavate everything she experiences, I have uncovered some interesting analyses of 'the crush'. Lacan seems to get to the nub of it when he says that
'the first object of desire is to be recognized by the other. (Lacan, 1977 , p. 58)' According to psychoanalysis, desire is subconscious, and is actually quite simply our need to be known (and loved). So it is kind of irrelevant whether I am lusting after Warren Chapman, Vincent Cassell or Chloe Sevigny. What I am really doing is looking for recognition of my own self, my worth, my place in this world. 'I am human and I need to be loved'. Morrissey got it.
Lacan tells us that desire is always to do with what we lack, or feel we lack. You can't desire what you already have. This I find a little bit cruel, because it goes some way to explaining why actual relationships are so difficult. I'm an expert at mooning over a half-formed figure in my mind. Faced with the flesh and blood reality of someone who loves me and knows me, and wants me to love them and know them too I buckle under the pressure. I also, sometimes, lose my mojo in truly intimate relationships. I find it a regretful irony that my ex and I probably spent more time discussing Lacanian 'desir', than we did actually fucking. I often need distance, mystery, lack, to get my juices flowing. 'I want the one I can't have, and it's driving me mad' . Morrissey got that too.
Enter The Internet, stage left. Online communities are the perfect breeding-ground for the postmodern crush. Everything I learned so carefully, from Warren, from Lacan, from my own self-analysis, I managed to forget when I first ventured into the labrynth. Virtual reality gives us that perfect heady mix of the unknown and the tantalisingly available, the distant and the intimate, the real and the imaginary. I think I have a crush on The Internet itself. One of the reasons my desires are so fuelled by online communication is that I am a lover of words. And when it's just you and someone else, typing away in your private worlds, the words take over. There's no distraction from a noisy bar, an unexpected facial expression, or someone's bad choice of jumper that day. And if the words are good then that's it, I'm a goner.
I've met a few of my internet crushes, and inevitably have felt disappointed. Not necessarily by the individuals themselves, but by the depressing mismatch between my colourful imagination and the greyer reality. These days though, my appreciation of electronic desire is a little more sophisticated. Most of us realise we are playing, exploring the creative potential of virtual reality. And I still find it quite a beautiful thing when I stumble across a fellow 'explorer' on the internet. Someone who will share their words with me, offer a sexily fragmented, hazy, unreachable image of themselves. Let me get to work with my romantic, inaccurate, inventive imagination. I've got a bit of a crush on one of them at the moment as it happens. I wonder whether I should ask him back for coffee. I'm the one holding the keyboard so I call the shots. In this mini-super 8, he definitely says 'yes'.
Wednesday, 31 March 2010
Barely distinguishable from other dots, it's true,
but quite uniquely placed.
And from my dark centre I'd survey the beauty of the linescape
and wonder -- would it be worthwhile
to roll myself towards the lemon stripe,
and push my curves against its edge,
to give myself a little attention?
But it's fine where I am.
I'll never make out what's going on around me,
and that's the joy of it.
The fact that I'm not a perfect circle
makes me more interesting in this world.
People will stare forever --
Even the most unemotional get excited.
So here I am, on the edge of animation,
a dream, a dance,a fantastic construction,
A child's adventure.
And nothing in this tawny sky
can get too close, or move too far away.
A Poem By Moniza Alvi
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Why did it take me so long? I had wanked before, obviously. I'd watched sexy films before, of course. So why never the two simultaneously? The answer is short, and also long. I am a feminist, you see. I am a feminist the way many people are Roman Catholic, or Muslim, or Manchester United. I was just born into it. My Mum was a feminist, and her mum before her. I read Spare Rib when I was eight, went to Greenham when I was twelve, stormed a Pro-Life rally when I was eighteen. (I can still see the image on the screen now, a giant, pulsating feotus-'Fight Alton's Bill: A Woman's Right To Choose'. And then we were ejected from the building). But what I never, ever did, was watch porn. Feminists didn't do that kind of thing where I came from. We barely even spoke about it, except in dismissive, throwaway statements. Pornography exploits women. It sells a version of women's sexuality that is unrealistic, objectified, demeaning. It is part of 'rape culture'.
So there I was, aged 34, fricking myself off to a film about a woman who got her kicks from submitting herself to the will of a very unusual, slightly creepy, but sexy as fuck man. What did I do next? Did I rush to the internet to find 'Four Girls One Cup?' or to explore the complete back catalogue of Seymour Butts? No. Not yet, anyway. I did what I always do at times like this. I had a little think. And what I thought was this. Somewhere along the line, my beloved feminism has let me down. In theory, it has been nothing but laudable, teaching me that my body is my own, to do what I please with. That I don't have to be told by a man how to dress it, when to give it up, whether or not to use it to make babies. But feminism has also made me confused about pleasure. All those demos, all those meetings. We talked about rape, oppression, abortion, prostitution, but never about sex as fun, wanking as blissful release. What about a woman's right to cum?
A few years on, and my feelings towards pornography are incredibly ambivalent. I choose my stimulants very, very carefully, and when in doubt, I don't look. I agree with all the main feminist arguments against the industry, and I have added some more of my own (*'bareback' film companies:wtf?). I will return to what is wrong with porn at a later date. But this is a defence, not of an industry, but of a woman and her horn. You may be reading this and tutting, drinking your Starbucks cappucino, dressed in your H and M T-shirt, planning your Easy Jet flight to New York. But as soon as we consume anything, whether it is a cup of tea, or a harcore porn movie, we are implicated. We are part of 'the system'. Think about it. I did. And it has made me a better feminist, and a much more satisfied one too. Now I am off to watch the latest offering from waterbondage.com. Why not dive in with me?
Monday, 29 March 2010
As I write this blog, there is, somewhere in the depths of Russia, a tall, bearded 43 year-old geek by the name of Grigoriy Perelman, who is faced with a dilemma. Perelman has won the $1m Millenium maths prize, for solving the Poincare Conjecture, one of the most difficult maths problems in the world, that has been 'open' (unsolved) for 99 years. But he can't decide whether or not to accept it. He gave up the heady world of academic stardom a few years ago, and now lives reclusively, with his family. So for Perelman, accepting the prize would mean unwanted media attention, expectations and embarrassment. To think of all the i-pads and kindles he might not buy with the cash, makes one a little teary.
Is Perelman a 'geek'? Not according to the recent flood of TV shows, books, magazine articles, internet posts, tweets and blogs, on the topic. Because geek c'est chic. Gone is the time when bookworms and chess champions, with their oversized cardigans and bad hair earned the title of 'geek' (or 'nerd' or 'dweeb'). They knew it was an insult but they wore the moniker as a badge of honour. What else did they have? Certainly not a girlfriend, or a pair of converse, or a taste in macchiatos. I was in maths club at school. Yes, maths club. I knew where these kids were coming from.
Nowadays, you can't go online without someone proclaiming 'I'm a geek, me'. Over and over again. Geek blogs are everywhere: '7 reasons to date a geek boy', 'the chic geek* monthly newsletter:grooming tips' and 'Den of geek'. A handy venn diagram by the Great White Snark,
tells us that a geek has intelligence and obsession, but lacks the added characteristic of social ineptitude, which would make him/her a 'nerd'. The new geeks are really the archetypal 'new media' types: they have jobs involving laptops and coffee shops, they care about their appearance, their pockets are full to bursting with ipods, blackberry's, flat whites and cash.
Of course they are intelligent-that goes without saying. Well it goes with saying one word: 'geek'.
I'm not buying into the mythology. I don't think working with new technology and being permanently attached to bits of electronica make you intelligent. Or attractive. Call me old-fashioned, but my ideal 'geek' would be someone in shabby attire clinging to a dog-eared copy of Dubliners, specs misting up in the rain. I don't care if he's never even heard of Tech Crunch. Now pass me my cinnamondecaflatte, I'm going to post this baby up and tweet it within an inch of its life.
*I had the idea for this blog and title before I saw 'chic geek' newsletter
Monday, 22 March 2010
Sadly, it seems, Margaret Wente of Canada's Globe and Mail, has not heard of any of these accomplished women. She thinks blogging is 'a guy thing', like driving a snowmobile up a mountain 'at 120 miles per hour' is a guy thing (for James Bond maybe). According to Wente, women don't share men's urge to 'spit out an opinion about current affairs every 20 minutes'. And, as all phenomena in the (post)modern world are explained, Wente says the blogging gender divide is caused by a syndrome: 'Male Answer Syndrome'. This 'sexual' syndrome explains everything apparently, from boys putting their hands up before girls in Maths lessons (do they??) to women being quiet at dinner parties (are they??), to women's so-called inhibitions about writing stuff and posting it online.
This stunning revelation in a Canadian national newspaper must be backed up with some pretty shit-hot research and references musn't it? Well, you will be pleased to discover that yes, Margaret has done her homework here, girlfriends. She went to the trouble of rigorously asking her 'friend Sarah the other day (Sarah is 24 and several of her male friends have started blogs)'. Sarah and Margaret agree that though equally opinionated as men, women just 'aren't interested' in taking part in the 'peeing contest' that is male posturing on the blogosphere. That settles it then.
It's very tempting to dismiss Wente and her 'theory' out of hand. The women bloggers I sent her article to on twitter certainly did, succinctly summarising her ideas: 'bollocks' (@girlonetrack)and 'blah blah men are rubbish, nature/nurture will that do?' (@sarahditum) We had a laugh. Forgot about it. Went back to our...blogging. But Wente's words have got under my sensitive skin. Lazy, poorly written and generalizing they may be, but they tap into some very powerful discourses that impact on real gender divisions that do exist, in new media, in journalism, in RL (that's 'real life' Margaret dear). Wente is saying that men like to write talk and argue in a combative manner, that they do so impusively, aggressively and effectively all over the media-old and new. And women don't. This reductive stereotype of essential gender difference is infuriating and wrong. But, as with most stereotypes, there is a 'truth' to which it relates. Werte is right, there are many more men than women in highly paid news journalism jobs, including columnists and opinion leaders (some of whom have blogs). She is also right that when it comes to the comments sections on newspaper forums online, they are full of men, arguing the toss. Men's 'talk' in the media and online does hold more power, and earns more dollar, overall, than women's. Before I get lost down a 'blah blah nature/nurture' culdesac (thanks @Sarahditum!), I want to talk about this 'talk'.
I have been wandering around the 'twittersphere' recently, and reading comments sections on online newspaper pages. In doing so I have witnessed some of the difficulties faced by women who have a public and online presence. The main difficulty they face being, that they get shit from men for, well, speaking basically. On twitter for example, the TV critic and columnist @gracedent, asked why there were so few women on TV panel shows. One man responded in a very rude and aggressive manner, and when she argued with him he became more personally insulting so she ended the conversation. In another exchange, @JosieLong the comedian was harangued and personally insulted out of the blue by a man who'd seen her perform somewhere and had decided she was 'shit'. Online comments sections following articles can be just as fraught for women offering opinions and analysis. Zoe Margolis, in recent interviews about her new book: Girl With A One-track mind: Exposed, has had numerous abusive comments from men based on her open-ness about her sexuality. In a now well-documented irony, when discussing this and other issues in the Independent On Sunday, the sub-editor decided to call her a 'hooker' and now she's involved in a libel case against the paper. I am sure the women I have cited here are accustomed to this kind of hostility and are tough enough to deal with it. But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. And for women less successful and confident, maybe young women setting out on careers in journalism, comedy or other fields involving a public persona, personal attacks from anonymous and not so anonymous detractors can put them off pursuing their goals.
A blog can be a haven for women. It is a place where you can put down your thoughts and feelings, document your experiences, and even have some control over who reads and comments on your work (on sites like LiveJournal for example). A bit like a diary. When blogs become 'successful' , read by large numbers of people, that's when they become less easy to control. The person behind the blog becomes more liable to be put under the microscope, as Zoe Margolis found when she was 'outed' as Abby Lee, author of Girl With a One Track Mind. As Zoe has said, she has on a number of occasions since her outing, sat with her finger poised over the 'delete' button of her blog, wanting to put an end to the upset and abuse she receives on a daily basis.
My research into this issue of how women who blog, tweet and post articles are treated online, has so far been minimal (though not as minimal as Wente's!) I would really like to hear from more women of their experiences and thoughts. And, I would love it if collectively women might come up with some methods for dealing with the problem, if it is a widespread one, which I have a hunch it might be. Because they may just be words on a screen, but as all women bloggers and journalists know, words on a screen can mean making a living, forging a career, keeping or losing one's sanity, privacy, sense of self. Margaret Wente is wrong: it's not 'a guy thing' at all.
Friday, 19 March 2010
1)People want to connect with other people
2)Feminism is not dead.
3)140 characters is the optimum length of utterance: basically intelligent people can use it to their advantage
4)Most social interaction is a question of filtering
5)Famous people are careful what they say
6)People who think they are famous are careful who they say things to. And talk crap to those people. But the rest of us can hear you, dickbrains.
7)Art is not dead.
8)Not all publicity is good publicity
9)The UK media really should make way for information coming from other parts of the planet. And even if it doesn't I can ignore it and listen...
10)I still fancy men in glasses. Even in a 3cm2 avatar photo that only shows half their head.
What's that all about?
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
By Zoe Margolis (aka Abby Lee)
Pan Mcmillan 2010
‘Girl with a one-track mind’ first came into being in 2004, as a blog by ‘Abby Lee’, documenting her full and eventful sex life. The blog proved so popular that it was turned into a book. And that’s when the trouble started. ‘Abby Lee’ who had described her sex life in intimate and graphic detail under a pseudonym, was outed by a national newspaper as the very real Zoe Margolis. ‘Girl with a one track mind: Exposed’ tells the story of Zoe’s outing, how it impacted on her personal and professionally, and how she attempted to rebuild her life and continue to enjoy and blog about her sexuality despite the obstacles put in her way.
On one level ‘Exposed’ is an easily readable, refreshingly honest and funny account of a thirty-something woman’s sexual adventures. As such it works very well. If you pick it up feeling a little un-worldly or maybe even prudish about women’s sexuality, there’s a good chance that by the time you put it down you will be enlightened and persuaded that there’s nothing wrong with women enjoying their bodies and those of whoever they may choose to have thrust in front of them. You might even have picked up some useful tips. Margolis deftly and humorously explores issues such as masturbation, sadomasochism, experiments with same-sex sex, men’s genital hygiene, horniness during menstruation and other topics that are still left very much under-examined in our oh-so-sexualised but also sexist and censorious culture.
But there is much more to Exposed than one woman’s quest for sexual gratification and liberation. In the book Margolis documents how, until she was outed she was a runner on major film UK productions and had been developing her film industry career for a decade. The best passages of the book for me are when she describes the atmosphere of working on film sets as the only female crew-member. She had to deal with a daily barrage of sexist comments, sexual innuendo and sexual advances which to some extent she accepted as part of the territory. She describes how she developed a method of being more explicit and outrageous than the blokes so they could never intimidate her or catch her off-guard. But along with always being expected to make cups of tea at the drop of a hat, arrogant condescending actors and the extremely long-hours culture of the film business, this male-dominated, testosterone fuelled environment would have been stressful for any woman to thrive in and remain sane. When she was outed, Margolis immediately knew she would be the laughing stock of the set, and that her career was in danger. That she got sacked over the phone came as more of a shock. The film producers were worried about the effect revelations of her double life would have on the reputation, and presumably box-office returns, of ‘child-friendly’ brands such as Harry Potter.
So suddenly, the book changes from being a light-hearted ‘sex romp’ to a moving , honest and angry account of how women are punished at work and in the media for being their sexual selves. Margolis negotiates the shift in tone expertly and shows herself as a capable writer, not ‘just’ a sex-blogger. The harassment from the paper that outed Zoe included door-stepping her for photos, digging into her and her family’s personal life, publishing details of her mum’s career, and sending threatening emails. This was then followed by a stream of unwanted attention from the rest of the press and accusations, many from anonymous internet users, that her outing was part of a planned publicity campaign. Attacked by her former employer, the press, and then the internet ‘community’ which had first welcomed her, it is no wonder she felt ‘stuck in a kind of nightmare’ and narrowly missed having a complete breakdown.
Once she gets over the initial shock and sadness of her life as she knows it falling apart, Margolis manages to regain her composure and she injects plenty of humour into the tale. She describes her dad being threatened by builders for rummaging in their van, which he thought belonged to paparazzi, for example, and Zoe’s embarrassment when her mum reacts to reading an excerpt from her first book where Zoe and a man in America enjoy an intimate moment together (that includes plenty of cunnilingus) . She also raises some laughs with tales of dating minor celebrities after being outed, joined as they are in a mutual desire for privacy and no-strings sex.
The fact that Margolis is so honest about the struggle she goes through to maintain her sexual openness in the full glare of the media spotlight after having her confidence shattered, is heartening and touching. The reader is willing this story to have a happy ending. In many ways it does: in her new ‘public’ role, Zoe works as an ambassador for the young women’s sexual health charity, Brook, putting her media profile and expertise to good use. The work of organisations such as Brook is vital in a culture where young women are bombarded with sexualised images and role models, but also judged for being sexually active, when what they need is information and support.
She also mentions in the book being in talks with producers to make a film out of it, which as she said would be wonderful ‘karma’, after how badly she was treated by the film industry.
But there are clouds on the horizon. Since the second book was published, Margolis has already become engaged in a legal battle with the Independent on Sunday newspaper, who, in the headline for an article supposedly supporting her, called her ‘a hooker’ and ‘a good-time-girl turned agony aunt’. This distressing occurrence underlines why her book is so important. Women are still not able to enjoy and discuss the ins and outs of their sex lives without being frowned upon, harassed and labelled.
I don’t know quite what will come of her blog now that Margolis lives her life very much in the public- eye. She already posts much less frequently and explicitly on it, for obvious and utterly understandable reasons. But, blog or not, I hope Zoe continues her campaign for liberation from the small-minded misogyny of the tabloids, the film industry, the ‘respectable’ broadsheets and society in general. I am pretty sure she will.