Things that really rile me up; fat phobia, body shaming, pro life thinkers who believe in limiting access to contraception and abortions, companies that create clothes for ‘plus size’ women but rely on the terms ‘flattering,’ ‘slimming’ and ‘contouring’ thus implying that being fat is a terrible thing that needs to be covered up immediately, and slut shaming.

bd6I have a postcard on my wall that says ‘you are capable of so much more than looking hot’ and every day I look at it and smile. I do think I am hot; I love every bit of my body now – - but this revelation came via years of destroying it with eating disorders, long hospital stays and finally, the epiphany that being ‘attractive’ IS A BULLSHIT CONCEPT. It is subjective and dependent and constructed by a society that succeeds and survives by telling us we aren’t good enough so that we spend billions on beauty products/plastic surgery/clothes that promise to ‘flatter,’ and magazines that are little more than masochistic bibles dedicated to tearing women apart whilst pretending to promote body confidence on every page.

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My body is personal; it isn’t public property or there to be politicised or objectified. There is so much to be said on this issue that my brain hurts just thinking about how to articulate it. There are constant debates about access to contraception and abortion, daily tweets and Facebook posts making jokes about female bodies, (just today I have seen fat phobic pictures about women in leggings and a ‘hilarious’ meme about big boobs being the reward for men putting up with us nagging) music videos where men are fully dressed yet the women are inexplicably, pointlessly naked (Yes, Robin Dicke, I am looking at you) and it seems that nothing can be sold without a half naked woman posing seductively or reinforcement of heteronormative gender roles.

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What this all adds up to is the idea that our bodies are somehow up for debate. Public property. That everything we do is fair game to pass comment and judgement on. Terms I hear used to describe women on a daily basis include; fat, thin, bossy, boring, slutty, frigid, bitch, angry, hairy.. you name it, it’s there on someone’s timeline or dripping from their mouths like poison with the sole aim of hitting where it hurts the most; our appearance. That’s the crux of it really – we are discussed so often in terms of our looks that it seems that our self worth/societal value is intrinsically linked to our bodies and how ‘successful’ we are at conforming to those narrow, constructed beauty ideals.

bd5The easiest insult to sling at women is to call them ugly because it plays into the notion that being attractive and fuckable is our primary purpose; men can be successful, smart, strong etc but women? We must be beautiful above all else. When a women articulates a view that deviates from the norm; i.e. anything that challenges or questions the patriarchal state that keeps us earning less, patronised, undervalued and objectified, many people are quick to jump in with the appearance insults. ‘Feminists are ugly’ ‘You should shave your legs.’ ‘You are fat.’ etc Why? Because it’s basic as fuck and appeals to the internalised view we hold that being found attractive is important.

bd1Body hair, abortion, sexual partners, clothes, diet, make up choices, hair style – all topics that people feel justified in wading in and criticising. None of those things have any significance for, or impact on, anyone other than the body involved and yet countless debates, discussions and even policies have been created with those topics up for consideration. Body shaming is rife; hell, The Daily Mail makes a bloody living out of it. It just isn’t the ‘done thing’ to love yourself if you are a women. Everything from our lipstick to our tights, our lunchtime food choices to our Saturday night outfits are designed to make us feel awful under the guise of making us ‘better.’ When your lipstick promises to plump, your tights offer up a flat stomach with their clever contouring panel and your lunchtime snack is ‘all the taste with half the fat!’ it is almost impossible to view yourself positively. Hidden in those happy exclamation marks !! and ‘flawless’ ‘infallible’ ‘younger’ and ‘sexier’ labels is the message that you are not good enough as you are.

The issue is that these claims imply that an ideal body type exists and that we should be striving for it. Bombarded with the conflicting messages that we a) need to be beautiful to be valued yet it’s made clear that b) beauty is an unattainable goal, open to interpretation and subject to change at any given point. Looking at it this way, it’s easy to conclude that as women, we are trapped.

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The trick is to subvert it all; love yourself. Stop reading magazines that make you feel less than the goddess you are. Stop batting away compliments or responding with a self deprecating put down. Tell yourself everyday that you are worth a thousand times more than the trashboys who tell you they wouldn’t ‘bang you’ on twitter because you are ‘ugly.’ (aka; you disagreed with something they said and they aren’t clever enough to form a comeback that doesn’t involve putting down your appearance) Remember that you are incredible, integral and that your identity is valid.

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In June I wrote a guest post for the amazing Consent Culture site about whether or not consent was ‘sexy.’ I am still pretty riled up about the whole campaign to be honest; yes I completely agree with the importance of consent being given and respected but this initiative plays into the prevalent, rape culture concepts of victim blaming and the responsibility being on victims ‘preventing attack’ rather than on teaching people to respect boundaries/tackling entitlement, objectification and misogyny. I wanted to post my original piece here as well as I think it is such a big issue; conn1 You know what pisses me off? More than the head imploding misogyny that is rampant in advertising on magazine stands across the globe; more than the lyrics in songs that encourage men to think of women as little more than holes to be claimed, mouths to be filled, bodies to be possessed; more than the idea that women get up and dressed every morning with no other aim than impressing men and being found fuckable;  it’s this idea that the only way to ‘sell’ consent, is to sex it up.  That the only way to get people on board with the idea of consent is to intrinsically link it to the idea of sexiness, of getting laid, of being found ‘sexy.’ con1   We shouldn’t have to be teaching kids that consent is sexy. Consent isn’t sexy, it shouldn’t be sexy – it’s mandatory. It’s integral. Hell, it’s the law. By saying ‘sexy’ we are almost implying that it’s preferable but not necessarily necessary. I mean, I find beards and tall guys ‘sexy’ but wouldn’t say no to Dave Franco; him of miniature proportions and fuzz free face, thus highlighting the fact that my understanding of what is ‘sexy’ is dependent on the situation, malleable, subjective, open to change given the arrival of a fit short guy with a fetish for Gillette. Consent is none of those things – It should never be accompanied by the suggestion that it is anything other than ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL. By linking it to a term that is so open to interpretation leaves it subject to confusing questions. Am I not sexy if I don’t give consent? Am I only saying yes so that he thinks I’m sexy? Is saying no merely just  ‘unsexy’ then? An inconvenience rather than a ‘back the fuck off and stop touching me?’ Consent as a word brings about so many clinical, sanitary connotations; you have to sign a consent form in hospital before you have surgery. You sign a consent form to get your new sofa delivered. Consent is what we have to get before carrying out sociological research. Applying that to sex is about as sexy as stopping mid way to play ‘would you rather’ and asking if they’d rather die by spider bite or snake venom. It brings about a mental image of whipping out a clipboard and Biro and asking them to sign on the dotted line; ‘I hereby consent to you fucking me in the living room’ etc. I get that to some, it might be the term that gives them the creeps about this campaign; Initially I thought that maybe it was the semantics that got me so twisted about it as well  but then I thought nope; consent can be as simple as asking ‘is this ok?’ ‘Should I carry on?’  It’s not the terminology that’s riled me up, it’s the contribution to rape culture, the trivialising of something so paramount that makes me want to scream. It’s once more putting the onus on ‘us’ to ‘give’ consent, rather than on ‘them’ to be decent human beings and not take what they feel entitled to without merit. conn2   To be honest,  instead of dancing around the issue, we should be saying ‘don’t put your dick in things that don’t want it in there.’ ‘Don’t rape.’ ‘Don’t touch anyone that doesn’t want you touching them.’ These are the conversations we should be having with our children. Respect each other, respect personal space, don’t shove your tongue down strangers’ throats or feel entitled to grab someone’s arse as they walk past. How on earth have we reached a state where we need to dress up consent in sexual language in an attempt to get the point across? How fucked are we all if the people in positions of power have invested time and money into tackling rape culture and all they could come up with is ‘consent is sexy?’ conn4 Anything less than fully informed consent is assault. Let’s not dress it up or trivialise it. If you haven’t got consent, you are assaulting someone. It really is that simple. But, but…. I hear you cry. Short skirts. Drunk girls. She kissed me first. Blah, blah. These are things I hear a lot, mainly from men who argue that rape isn’t always black and white and that sometimes a ‘woman deserves it.’ My response is always the same; rape is black and white, and no, she never ever does. No one deserves to be raped. A troll on twitter saying I deserved to be raped brutally  for daring to voice the opinion that rape culture exists, is evidence enough that we live in a society where sexual assault and victim blaming is rife. There are so many issues at play here; patriarchal institutions that protect men rather than tackle injustice and put support in place for victims; objectification and sexualisation of women in the media and porn leading to the notion that all women are fair game and up for it; entitlement and privilege and this idea that a man is somehow entitled to a woman by default of being male; binary, narrow notions of sexuality and sexual identities leading to skewed expectations of sex and interest etc. ‘Consent is sexy’ really does play into rape culture. It is focusing on the WRONG part of what consent should actually mean. Giving consent means you are trusting someone with your body, your pleasure, trusting someone to respect your boundaries,  to meet your fantasies and limits. Consent is intrinsically linked to other concepts such as respect and consideration for others. It shouldn’t be reduced down to such basic terms as ‘sexy.’ con1  This campaign is a start. A tiny, baby step in the right direction, start. We need to start challenging the idea that rape is somehow preventable by just sticking to well lit streets and carrying a whistle; by emphasising the role of consent before access to muffzilla is granted, we are taking a stand against passivity and against simply teaching the biological aspects of intercourse. We still need more though; we need to be tougher when teaching about rape – if you haven’t been given access to my vagina, stay away. If you have, be fucking grateful and treat it with respect. Consent ISN’T sexy – it’s necessary, it’s vital and necessary. It isn’t just a preferable plus.

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Him; Last night the lovely Em and I both read this dreadful piece of body-shaming, sex-hating clickbait from Metro blogger Hannah Gale, and came to the same basic conclusion: WTF?? It’s one thing to offer reassurance that ‘hey, just because most people like x, that doesn’t mean you have to as well, and while we’re at it, don’t let anyone make you feel bad or pressure you into doing things you don’t enjoy’. That would be fine, and actually for those of us who hang out at the kinkier end of the spectrum, it could’ve served as a useful reminder that not everyone sings from the same filthy, uninhibited hymn sheet.

But no, instead of something nuanced and thought-provoking, Ms Dale chose to churn out 500 words of joyless, ignorant, po-faced drivel. It’s both prudish and desperately unfunny, but the author’s worst crime is to introduce her list by claiming that in writing it, she’s being ‘honest about sex’. Perhaps she genuinely does hate all 21 of those things (in which case I pity any man or woman who winds up in bed with her), but even if that’s the case, this list is no more honest about sex than the romcoms to which she purports to be responding.

Both of us enjoy provocative articles that challenge our views on interesting subjects. Both of us hate dreary, immature nonsense that makes us do this face:

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Instead of just banging on about how crap the Metro’s list is for another 250 words (and believe me, we could), Em and I thought we’d take it point-by-point and explain why, actually, there’s awesomeness to be had with each and every one of them. If you think we’ve missed anything, or if you want to add any general thoughts on the list, please comment on one of our blogs, or hit us up via Twitter.

 

1. The smell. That smell. You know the one. The indescribable combination of semen, lady juice and sweat. Nice.

HER: Oh, you mean that heady smell of satisfaction and pleasure? Call me crazy but I love the smell of sex; it’s musky and makes me want to lie, cat-like, purring in messy sheets. Ok, so it might not be a Yankee candle scent any time soon but to have such an aversion to it seems a bit worrying – it’s you, after you. Your scent, your body.

2. Removing socks. Hey, let me just try and hop around naked while I pull a sock printed with dinosaurs off my foot. Especially unsexy when your partner is trying to continue the foreplay by latching onto your nipple while you wrestle with your ankle

HIM: Ok, let’s ignore all those occasions when your socks don’t need to come off during sex… You don’t want to mix sock removal and foreplay? Fine: why not make taking off your socks – or your partner’s socks – part of the foreplay? Tie them up and slowly roll each sock down over their ankles, as if you’re rolling a condom down onto a hard cock. Make it part of a striptease. Or just, y’know, relax and accept that just because something is physically awkward (or clumsy, or funny) that doesn’t make it ‘unsexy’. That only happens if you’re too uptight to be able to enjoy life’s little absurdities.

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3. Fanny farts.

HER: This one really pisses me off; sex isn’t cookie cutter, rom-com toned, tanned limbs effortlessly working their way through the Karma Sutra without so much as breaking a sweat or an awkward ‘watch out, where are you putting that?’ A ‘fanny fart’ is just a build up of air in the vagina – it’s normal and if you like positions like doggy or legs on the shoulder, you’ve probably experienced one. To me, this ‘unsexy’ point is rooted in the fear we are taught to have of our own bodies; we need to be ‘perfect’ at all times and as female sexuality is so fraught with societal judgement and policing, anything that deviates from the Disney princess sex we think we should be having, is immediately ‘embarrassing’ and makes us want to curl up and die. Fuck that. Your body will make noises. It’s alright. You don’t need to be banished to a dungeon to live a life of celibacy just because your lady garden made a little noise after a vigorous session; any guy/gal worth their salt won’t give a fuck. If they do, kick them out of bed and think of it as a lucky escape.

4. Or even worse, those real farts that slip out when you least suspect it.

HIM: So much of what’s wrong with this list stems from the way the author seems to equate ‘good sex’ with a sort of soft-focus sterility. It’s not hard to imagine her tapping out each point with pursed lips and a disapproving frown, inwardly shuddering at the thought of All. That. Mess. For most of us, farts themselves are not inherently sexy. However, at worst they can be politely ignored, and at best, with a partner who is comfortable with his or her body, they offer the perfect opportunity for some light-hearted teasing, or a few stolen, mock-comforting kisses, or even just the simple pleasure of shared laughter.

5. Getting sex cramp in your leg. Feeling like someone may have slipped a dagger into your thigh and not knowing the best way to respond.

HER: Yeah, okay. Cramp does suck but what is frustrating about this bloody point is the bit where she says ‘not knowing the best way respond.’ How about saying, ‘I have cramp.’ Too simple? Do we need some kind of Morse code we can tap out on each other as talking or engaging in conversation is clearly too much to ask? One tap for cramp, two for carry on, that’s good? My view is that if you are getting horizontal with someone, you must like them at least a moderate amount. You’ve probably even spoken to them on a few occasions so piping up and saying ‘cramp’ isn’t that hard. You’re not admitting to killing puppies in your spare time or asking them to donate a kidney so what’s the big deal?

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6. Getting semen in your eye. Or in your hair. Or anywhere that isn’t your private parts. How long are you supposed to wait until you start the thorough clean-up process?

HIM: When I was a teenager, my top bunk was high enough that I could lie on my back, plant my feet on the ceiling, walk them up towards my head, and jizz all over my own face. I’d love to say that I did it in an attempt to better understand the female experience, but really I just liked the taste of cum, and enjoyed feeling it shoot out onto my mouth, cheeks and chin. Maybe it’s not much fun if you happen to get an eye-ful, but everywhere else, it’s all kinds of hotness; if you instinctively think of cum as ‘gross’ or ‘nasty’, or rush to get it off your skin the second the sex is over, you might want to re-examine some key elements of your attitude to the human body.

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7. Also, swallowing semen and trying to pretend that it tastes like a peanut butter milkshake rather than, well, a slimy, salty bogey.

HER: You know you don’t have to swallow it, right? There isn’t a law or anything babe. Sure, it’s not a taste sensation or anything you’d rush to put on a dinner party menu but it’s not awful. Female come tastes much nicer than semen; it’s sweeter, I think but anyway; you don’t have to swallow, and if you do, you don’t have to PRETEND anything. You don’t OWE anything.

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8. Your underwear. Because however much you try and plan it, you’ll always get laid when you’re wearing the greying pants with a hole in the back. You should really throw those bad boys out.

HIM: Maybe you should. Maybe you shouldn’t. I’m probably the wrong person to ask about underwear. I do know that if a partner is put off by the colour of your underwear, they probably shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near it. If you’re comfortable standing in front of me wearing grey, faded underwear, that probably means you’re confident enough in your own skin to be a lot of fun in bed, and that’s very sexy. Also, surely a use can be found for that hole in the back…

9. The awkward ‘oh… you’re bleeding’. It’s never actual blood though, just that brown-coloured discharge *shudders*.

HER: I haven;t actually experienced this and it sounds a bit worrying tbh, but again: it’s your body, your business. As long as you AREN’T bleeding or in pain, fuck it.

10. The crab shuffle off the bed, and the race against time to make it to the toilet without leaving a stream of semen in your wake.

HIM: This just feels like someone trying to invent a problem. I get that you probably don’t want it all over the carpet, but jeez, maybe keep some tissues by the bed? You can store them next to your penis beaker. Or, if your partner’s anything like me, get him to scoot down between your legs and lick/suck it all out of you: believe me, that generally leads to more good things happening.

11. But failing, and having a nice trickle of the white stuff down your leg..

HER: You could use a condom, just an idea. If not, keep some tissues by the bed? Baby wipes? Also, it does wipe off and it isn’t radioactive so you’ll be fine for the few seconds you have icky semen on you. There is so much body loathing going on in this article; sex isn’t sterile.

12. Trying to talk dirty. What words are you supposed to use? ‘I want you to stick your willy in my pussy’ *is sick all over self*

HIM: Pro tip: avoiding ‘willy’ would be a good start. Without wanting to sound like a stuck record, dirty talk works when you’re relaxed about sex, and when you see it as something joyful and uplifting. We all have particular words, phrases and images that don’t do it for us, so dirty talk with a new partner can be a bit hit-and-miss, but it’s not hard to iron out those initial creases, and turn it into something that has one or both of you clawing at the walls with lust. And of course it doesn’t have to take place while you’re actually in bed with someone: often, the best dirty talk happens hours or days beforehand, on the phone, or over email, or whispered into your partner’s ear in a crowded bar…

13. Trying to strip, while sober and in silence. Oh, you don’t get an erection from me battling with my jumpsuit?

HER: Put some music on. Talk. Tell him/her what you want them to do to you when you’re naked. It doesn’t have to be an awkward silent affair. Plus this one makes me think that she isn’t a fan of sober sex – bit worrying. My view is that my body is fucking epic and if you’re invited to attend, you better bloody enjoy it. Maybe ask for help stripping? Make it sexy rather than this clinical image you’ve managed to conjure up of you silently removing your clothes, full of foreboding about future wet patches and come faces..

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14. Orgasm faces. They’re probably quite similar to the face of someone who’s just been shot. Probably.

HIM: Even if you ignore the crude, clumsy attempt at humour, this is errant nonsense. Don’t like your own orgasm face? That’s fine: it sort of falls into the same category as listening to your voice on audio recordings, or watching yourself on video, and plenty of us inwardly shudder at those. However, in terms of sexiness there’s not much in life that beats giving your partner a toe-curling, leg-trembling, face-scrunching orgasm, and everything about that – the noises they make, the way they grip your hand/cock/fingers/hair/etc, and yes, the sight of them completely undone by the pleasure of being with you – is a world of Yes.

15. Pubes. They’re scratchy and wirey. They get in your mouth. They need grooming. They’re just a sex hazard aren’t they?

HER: As someone who prefers the fur-free look downstairs, I can’t say much about pubes. I think oral feels much nicer when I am bare but on him? I can’t say I’ve ever really thought of them as a ‘hazard’ tbh.. I’m worried now about the kind of sexual partners she’s had, with their angry pubes.. Ask them to trim if you want.

16. The sweat. The sweat that makes your perfectly placed fringe stick to your forehead like a greasy pre-teen, and your make-up melt down your face until you look like a serial killer. Cute.

HIM:The sweat! Fucking hell, yes, the sweat. Even as someone who would rather be too cold than too hot, I absolutely love rolling off my partner’s body after a hard, fast, breathless fuck, and dissolving into a puddle of my own perspiration. It is a physical marker of time well-spent, and also contains all those lovely pheromones that get us so worked-up about each other. Sweat is unsexy on the Tube, or in a cramped office environment, but in bed, it makes me want to lick all the salty, tangy goodness off someone’s skin, and go at it all over again.

17. Dryness. Trying to approach foreplay with the excitement levels of the Sahara Desert. It sorta hurts.

HER: Lube is your friend. Use lots. I love lube, it’s a gift from God. Makes everything feel amazing. Also, spend more time on foreplay to get you going – don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and to expect pleasure.

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18. Doggy style. Just, doggy style. What horrible person invented this?

HIM: Oh boy. Where to start? Ok, here’s a list of all the people in the world who dislike doggy-style:

1. Hannah Gale
2. I dunno, maybe the Pope

Trust me, that’s exhaustive: I’ve done the research. Look, I’m all for saying that different people like different things, and I’m trying to make this as non-judgey as possible, but unless there’s a specific physical reason why doggy doesn’t work for you (maybe your boyfriend’s cock is stupendously large?), this is a tough one to get my head around. Doggy has something for everyone, whether you’re M/F, M/M, F/F, or some other wonderful combination of body parts. We’re kind of built to enjoy it, in fact. Hannah, I gotta say, I’m really struggling with this one…

19. The crippling jaw ache that comes with too much blowing. Imagine if you put that much energy into the gym, eh?

HER: Mix it up babe, use your hands to ease the jaw lock.

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20. Willies and vaginas in general. No, really, think about this one. Are they not just the ugliest things on your entire body? Why couldn’t they just look more like your arm or something?

HIM: Willies are ugly. Vaginas suck. Sweat is icky. Cum is slimy. Pubes get stuck in your teeth. In fact, when we fuck we should probably just wrap ourselves in giant, full-body condoms, put a sheet between our bodies, and close our eyes so we don’t have to look at each other’s orgasm face. Right? Wrong. Hannah Gale asked us to ‘think about this one’, and believe me, I’ve thought about it. I’ve also thought about all the fucking beautiful cunts I’ve had the pleasure to get up close and personal with over the years, and I’ve thought about my own cock, and how I’ll be damned if I let some sex-phobic, body-hating excuse for a blogger tell me it’s ugly. Fuck you, Hannah Gale, and fuck you, Metro editors, for publishing this piece of shit.

21. And finally, rolling into a wet patch you had no idea was still there.

HER: Keep tissues by the bed to sort this out, or just go with it. It’s not like you are having a bath in come, is it? It’s just a bit damp and it feels kind of naughty to be revelling in it.

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Em; To me, these points all stem from unrealistic expectations we have about sex and how it ‘should’ be. My first thought was how boring and tragic Gale’s sex life must be if she is so anti all the things that make sex messy, fun and enjoyable. I love the idea of breaking down those barriers that exist around sex and opening up about what we like/dislike but this just reeks of insecurity and body loathing. She thinks vaginas are ugly; hates come; thinks orgasm faces are comparable to murder victims and is too afraid to say she has cramp or fanny fart. It doesn’t sound like she is enjoying sex at all so I would recommend Hannah stays in with a bottle of wine, some literotica and her hand for a bit and figures out what pleases her and what she wants in a bed buddy.

 

What do you think?

@anygirlfriday

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