On foreplay and virginity

Do you ever experience someone saying or doing something really small or simple, but it opens up a WHOLE NEW way of thinking for you? Well thank you Hollie McNish for doing that for me this week!

I read a short poem/sketch she shared and *hey presto*, I’m deconstructing the ‘bases’ of sex and doing some serious musing on virginity. Firstly, she’s absolutely right. The Male Tongue created the language of sex (and I don’t mean in the good way !*).

Why is the pleasure from a hand or tongue, which, when used with consent & consideration, is powerful and rich enough to bring women and men and others to climax deemed ‘fore‘ play? Why not just ‘play’?

Why is virginity ‘lost’ (lost?) when a person’s penis enters another’s vagina? Why not when a person first experiences the releasing pleasure of consensual orgasm with another? Why instead is female virginity bound to men reaching that ‘final’ base where they orgasm inside another? Wait-are lesbians virgins forever?!

Why are those few films which show women receiving one of life’s great pleasures (well, when done right!) rated 18, while scenes of women pleasuring men are just soooo commonplace that’ll just be a 15? (Yep, true fact: Blue Valentine; Ryan Gosling fighting for that scene to be classed R – UK 15- frankly made that film and him even hotter!)

You know why?

Why?

….

Patriarchy.

Patriarchy decided language.

Patriarchy decided rules of sex.

That’s why.

To remake the rules, we have to reclaim and remake language.

So here’s to more playtime for all.

Who’s coming with me? 😉

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What’s In a Name?

I love my new colleagues; they’re bad-ass (sorry for the Americanism, bad-arse just looks wrong!). We have fab convo, lots of laughs and some good bants.  One such recent convo turned to weddings, marriage and the hot topic of women changing their names.

You see, people have an opinion about women’s names.  Or specifically, if they are ‘allowed’ to keep their own name and not change it to their husband’s name when they marry. Yep. In 2017.

Let’s just step back a moment. Now people are, I believe, free to call themselves whatever they choose. (Shout out to Friends’ Phoebe aka Princess Consuela Banana Hammock & her beloved husband  Mr Crap Bag!!!). But what is going on when a husband thinks he has the right to expect, much less insist (?!) a woman – an actual human person with her own identity, character, challenges & accomplishments – takes his name when they marry.

rose by any other name 3
Shakespeare / Photo: quotespictures.com

                                                                                                                                    I know married women who’ve changed their name to share their husband’s (crack on); I know married women who’ve kept their name (crack on again); I know women who’ve hyphenated their names -or like me, both spouses have cos, hey, there’s two of us getting married (again, crack on); & I know couples who’ve merged their name with their spouse’s (keep cracking on).  So you get the gist: I know lots of combinations and personally, I love the freedom to be creative and not be bound by one specific tradition or societal expectation (I’m not good with either tbh).

But why, oh WHY, is it that the man – or even his parents or yours – feel they have the right & power to dictate the name by which a woman calls herself based on a patriarchal tradition of a wife’s identity being absorbed into her husband’s upon marriage? Wives are, thankfully, no longer a husband’s property so while the choice to share a family name, whether it’s his, hers, a combo, a new name, is understandable and lovely, it should be just that- a choice. And a choice is only really a choice if it is open & equal.

A Feminist’s Defence of Fifty Shades Darker

Now, as an avowed feminist and Christian I know I may be an odd choice to be writing a blog defending Fifty Shades and I genuinely didn’t think I’d be bothered enough but then, of course, the articles denouncing it as abuse, and encouraging people to boycott it did the rounds and I got pissed off, again. So here I am.

I have read all the books (including the one from Grey’s perspective which, being less whiny, is my fave) but I wasn’t sure about seeing the films for some of the same reasons people have given in their condemnatory articles: unhealthy example of a relationship, perpetuating the hyper-sexualisation already dominating our culture (pun intended), maybe negatively influencing my own sexual ideas and, maybe most importantly, the crappy dialogue.  But I caved. Because I love dramatic love stories with happy endings (no pun intended-actually, I’ll stop saying when puns are/aren’t intended because practically anything could be a pun given how sexually creative they are!!).  And just as with Twilight, the simplistic writing, bad relationship example, and pathetic heroine still grabbed me because I was hooked on the love story (I’m ridiculous, I know!).

So here’re my thoughts re Fifty Shades. Firstly, it is NOT ABUSE. It is NOT un-consensual. For starters, he gives her a bloomin contract with a buffet-list of sexual proclivities from which she chooses what she’s up for and what are her definite no nos.  Furthermore, it’s her who chooses what’s she’s up for and what’s off the table and whenever she uses her safe words or says no it’s a NO.  That’s gotta be the most consensual, communicative start to a sexual relationship ever.  In fact, one the only time she gets hurt is when she, ironically, tried to use BDSM with which she’s not comfortable in a stupid attempt to emotionally manipulate him (instead of using the mouth God gave her to say ‘Hey, if we can’t cuddle & fall asleep together I can’t keep seeing you.’) Yes, he IS demanding, controlling and domineering -he tells her this in their sex-contract-meeting so it’s not a surprise.  And yet, in book/film two they only go into the playroom or do any kind of BDSM when she initiates it; we see her saying No, arguing, and drawing boundaries.  Yes, hers are looser than mine would be but she’s hardly the first pathetic female lead…she’d be in good company drinking and whining with Carrie from Sex and the City, Bridget Jones or, of course, Bella from Twilight-on whom she’s based.

So sexually there’s no abuse.  In fact, I commend the latest film for the two scenes of cunnilingus-seeing a woman’s pleasure prioritised in a film is so rare and to show this strong man doing it can surely only have a good effect on dismantling the idea that it’s unmanly so well done Fifty!

fifty-shades-darker                                        Image: Happy Naila Edits

As for their emotional relationship, my goodness is it unhealthy but, to me…that is as someone who sadly knows women who have been abused in varying ways…it is not abusive.  Yes, he’s an over-protective control freak and she’s insipid.  This film, Fifty Shades Darker, actually goes a long way to improve things.  In the books, they’re both in need of serious therapy (which he’s getting) but this film makes Ana’s character more assertive, likeable and generally less pathetic and wet (ok, that pun was unintended but it’s funny so hey, it stays).  When Ana wants to say No or challenge him (cue the movie hairdresser scene), she does.  And in the film her times of compromise are clearly through conversation and negotiation; even though I, as a strong-willed woman would have definitely not caved where she does (cut to NY trip convo), she isn’t emotionally manipulated or dominated but rather weighs up the options and makes a choice that suits her best.  Sounds rather feminist to me.  Of course, the reasons she makes the choices she does are because a) she’s in love for the first time and we are all a little pathetic when those hormones are flying. b) she has lowwww self-esteem but again, I know real life women-and plenty of fictional ones-who seek their affirmation from a man and to give Christian Grey his credit, he’s always encouraging her that’s he’s capable, intelligent, beautiful and worthy of his affections when she asks stupid, doe-eyed questions like ‘why would you want me?’

So no, Anastasia Steele is not up for the best Feminist Icon in Fiction award, nor is Christian Grey Mr ‘I Love to Compromise’. But the film is far better than the book re showing her as a more assertive, confident, independent young woman growing in her career and love life and skin. So watch it or don’t. But let’s not condemn it when we don’t decry the same pathetic characters in other movies, and let’s definitely not decry ‘abuse’ when there are so many real women (& men) who are being abused.