All posts by Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess

“I wish we talked more about…” Part 2: Periods

wishtalkpart2

periods2Part 1 – women and sex

Part 3 – Sexual Health

A while back one of my fellow humourless killjoy feminist friends came up with the idea of a list of “Things we wished people spoke more openly about”.

The conversation that ensued lead to several revelations amongst the group and numerous exclamations of “I am SO glad we’re talking about this” and “OMG I thought this was just me” and “why don’t we talk about this stuff? This is GREAT.”

So this is part two of my ongoing but irregular series – “Things we wish were talked about more openly.”

Just like last time, I am going to add a lengthy content warning, mainly for the benefit of my family who might not want to read about my intimate shizzle.

This blog, and indeed probably the whole series, will feature talk of things like sexual acts, body parts, bodily functions and fluids and other things that often make people (right across the gender spectrum) feel uncomfortable. It’s almost certainly going to make my family feel uncomfortable, so if you’re related to me, you might want to stop right here.

I am going to say, straight up, that a lot of the things that are likely to come up are things that I personally find really difficult to talk about. I spent a lot of time hating my body and not really wanting to look at it, feeling awkward and anxious about sexual acts, being ashamed and scared of things my body did and generally feeling unable to talk about it. So just as you might be leaving your comfort zone to read this, I am going out of my comfort zone to write it. So we’re on this journey together.

And so…

“I wish we spoke more openly about…

Menstruation and PMT”

I recall that my school education session on periods was woefully inadequate. It left us all with the impressions that:

  • If you have sex, you will get pregnant. So don’t.
  • When you are on your period you are gross KEEP IT A SECRET AT ALL COSTS
  • Periods are gross and icky. DON’T TALK TO BOYS ABOUT THEM
  • It’s just a few tablespoons of blood (LIES)
  • Vajayjays are dirty. Try not to touch them
  • EEEUUUW

I was never really told what was coming out of me was pretty amazing or marvellous or perfectly ok. It’s taken me decades to be able to unpick all this.

What does get talked about a lot is PMT – but it’s usually framed as a big joke as to why women are in a bad mood or being grouchy. There’s a lot of talk about OH LOL HORMONES BE MAKING GIRLS CRAZY BITCHES but it’s not taken terribly seriously. But PMT symptoms can be really serious, and varied and honestly? They can really really suck. Treating PMT as some ‘bitches be crazy lol’ thing does a great deal of harm to women who are having real physical and mental symptoms. So forgive me if someone makes some bullshit “on the rag lol” joke at me and I imagine ripping your fucking nipples off. It’s easy to be a humourless bitch when you’re not actually being funny.

periodxkcd

But there is no ‘once size fits all’ for PMT – and women experience all sorts of different symptoms. Some lucky ones don’t get any. Personally, I get really mood swingy, teary and grumpy and find it hard to concentrate. I don’t always connect the dots sometimes; I spend 3 days wanting to kill things/other people/myself and crying at fucking adverts and because of my history of mental ill health every time I’m like THE DEPRESSION IS COMING BACK. 3 days later I’m like “oh. Hello womb lining.” I have to pee way more, my IBS flares up. I don’t want to do anything. At all. I don’t even want to write this blog. I had to force myself to sit at this laptop today. My body temperature is higher and I feel hot all the time. Boyfriends haven’t always understood why I don’t want to snuggle when I am on my period. BECAUSE I AM MELTING GET OFF ME. I don’t get cramps – for which I am eternally grateful – but I do get hormonal migraines. Regular as anything, once a month. Full on, someone-is-trying-to-stab-their-way-out-of-my-eye-socket-with-an-icepick migraines. periods1Painkiller resistant, soul destroying, please kill me now migraines. Every period. I’ve been having periods since I was 14. So in theory I’ve been having migraines every month for over 20 years. That’s more than 240 migraines.

Only I haven’t, because (with the agreement of my GP) I run packets of pills together to avoid having periods for several months at a time. This suited me down to the ground for many years, as I still believed all the things I learned at school about periods (refer to the list above) and therefore was really happy to not have gross blood doing gross things euw gross.

A lot of crap is  talked about hormones and what they do (see the ‘boys will be boys‘ rubbish excuse) but that’s sort of the point isn’t it? Hormones are punchlines or excuses and that detracts from being able to talk about them in a meaningful way.

 

It took me many many years to get over the idea that my vagina-during-my-period was gross and untouchable. Vaginas are naturally self cleaning. Period blood is seen as a waste product, like poop or pee – but it’s not remotely the same thing. It’s the uterine lining that a woman’s body has prepared to grow a foetus. If you think about it, that’s probably the period3cleanest thing ever. It has to be – it’s going to grow, nurture and nourish a tiny potential life which hasn’t got its own immune system. It’s…kind of amazing when you think about it. But it also isn’t just blood. There’s all sorts of weird stuff coming out of there. Weird textured stuff. Clots. Weird stringy sticky stuff. I swear I thought I was completely abnormal for YEARS because this ‘couple of tablespoons of blood’ they’d told me about at school bore no relation to this flood of weird Xenomorph-acid-like substance. I thought I was ill or weird. It took a long time before I felt comfortable enough to talk to other women about this and you know what we discovered? We ALL thought our discharge was weird and we all wished we’d just talked about it years ago.

So why don’t we talk about this? When talking about it helps us understand each other better? Helps women feel they are normal and not alone, and helps guys understand what women are going through. It’s such a huge taboo that it has an entire Wikipedia page about it. Why is it such a huge taboo? In these enlightened times, does it need to be a taboo at all?

IfMenHadPeriods-24376Gloria Steinem wrote a rather marvellous essay imaging a world in which Men were the ones that menstruate. Of course, it’s satire, and not entirely serious. But it’s a refrain I’ve heard often. If men had periods, toilets would always have sinks inside the cubicle. Sanitary products would not only be not subject to VAT, they’d be FREE. If men had periods, there’d be allowance in job laws that allowed flexible time off for PMT.  If men had periods, it would be a sign of strength, not of weakness.

It’s been a ‘man’s world’ for a long time, and feminism has been making gains over the last 40 years in leaps and bounds. It may seem like a weird ask, but I would like a next big leap to be for the taboo over talking about periods to die in a fire. It’s not just an issue here in the UK with girls feeling confused and alone and scared/wary of their own bodies – in other countries it has serious ramifications for the education, welfare, safety and wellbeing of women and girls.

We need to be able to talk about menstruation, our own, other women’s, those of women the whole world over, without fear or revulsion or jokes or snarky jokes. Boys and girls both need to learn how normal and natural they are, that they aren’t dirty or weird. Men and women need to learn how to communicate properly about what their bodies do.

Periods are perfectly normal. Let’s talk about them.

 

 

 

 

Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess’s 9 super sex tips

supersextips

So someone sent me a link to this article, based on a book, about sex tips written for men by a gay woman. As much as I see that it’s well meant, and well intentioned, something about it really bugged me – and it’s similar to something I discussed a few weeks ago.

Women are not all the same.

Women are complex individuals, just like men are complex individuals. Women have as different desires, wishes, kinks, bugbears, irritations and dislikes from each other as men do. I get profoundly irritated by statements such as “women like X” or “it feels good when you touch a woman like Y on her Z” because you simply can’t make sweeping statements about all women based on what you think, or on what your experience of women in your life is, or if you’re a woman, on what you like.  While you may indeed find a large audience of women going “YES this is ME and THIS IS WHAT I WANT” there’s just as many other women going “er, no. This doesn’t speak for me at all. Please stop.”

Take the first picture for example. The arrow pointing to her vagina that says “do be gentle”, and the statement in #6 about being gentle with the clitoris. This is a pretty individual thing. I know plenty of women that be like “gentle? Fuck that noise. POUND ME”. Also, sometimes you might want it gentle and slow, but sometimes you want someone to really go to town on you. Or take section 4 – “You must behave as if her vagina is the greatest thing you’ve ever smelled, tasted, and had the privilege to be near. She must believe that she is letting you eat the Cinnabon that is attached to her body.” Really? Maybe some women want that but to me that’s just plain weird. I’ve known women that *hate* receiving oral sex.  And I am not going to pretend a dude’s penis is the most delicious thing I’ve ever been near and that I am privileged to be near it, why would I expect it in return?

Back to picture 1 – please, PLEASE, men out there do not think of this as a guide to what all women want. Not all women want you to look deep into their eyes when fucking. Some of them hate it. Not all women want you to be gentle with their breasts, or grope and smack their ass. Many might, and if a woman gives you this picture and says “here, this is a handy guide to what I like” then sure you’re good to go. But – and I am serious about this women being complex and diverse issues thing here – do not assume this is what all women like.

I had one ex who loved having his ears licked. I am not going to assume that every other guy ever likes having his ears licked. But this excerpt (and fair’s fair, I’ve not read the book, perhaps this article isn’t doing the book any favours) seems to suggest that you should never lick a girls ear. Some girls might love it, and that’s ok.  It suggests you should always shower. But some girls get turned on by the smell of unwashed lion, and that’s ok too. I have a friend that LOVES being sent dick pics (only when she asks for them though. Not so much unsolicited.) so hopefully her suitors never take heed of #4.

There is some good advice in there – about trying things out, being intuitive, respect. But some of it gets so specific that it really doesn’t work as a guide to sex tips that ‘we’ want you to know.

So, being me, I thought I’d have a go at writing a less-specific-but-still-helpful guide to having super awesome sexy times. A friend offered to illustrate it, so then I *had* to write it. So here are…

Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess’s 9 super sex tips!

1) Ask me what I like

It can be a massive turn on when someone asks what you like to do, and then does it.  Remember – asking doesn’t have to be verbal. If you find it hard to talk about sex then you can write notes to each other, do it by email or messaging. The important thing is to find out what the other person wants to do, and want they like to do, and what feels good. And work with that.01 Sex Tips

2) Tell me what you like

Just because other people you’ve been with have liked The Thing, don’t assume any other sexual partners also like The Thing. Each person is different.  Sex should be about mutual pleasure – getting what you want and giving what they want. Again, if you don’t feel comfortable saying things out loud then you can find other ways of communicating.  But what’s important is you let each other know what you like, what you want and what makes you feel awesome.02 Sex Tips

3) If I say stop, stop

Awesome sex is always consensual, and consent is continuous. Even if you’re right in the middle of something, and someone says stop? You stop. For example, if you’re in a close relationship with me and we’re comfortable with each other and I am saying ‘stop’ it’s probably either because a particular thing isn’t working for me, or because some part of my body is partially dislocating. It doesn’t really matter what the reason is though. Because if someone says stop, you stop.03 Sex Tips

4) If I say don’t stop, don’t stop

 

If I am saying “oh god oh god, don’t stop, yes, there, just there” then DON’T STOP DOING WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING. Seriously. I can’t tell you the number of times someone has stopped doing the thing they were doing when I’ve said don’t stop, and started doing something else, and I am like “what? No, wait? Why did you stop doing the thing? I was liking the thing.”04 Sex Tips

5) Ignore 3 & 4 if we have a pre-arranged kink agreement and those aren’t the safewords

Ok, this might not be
relevant to *everyone*, because not everyone has kink agreements or needs safewords. But I did want to include a tip that acknowledges that not all sexual relationships are as clear cut, and you might actually have a specific kink around saying ‘stop’ and the other person carrying on or saying ‘don’t stop’ and the other person does something else. Some people find this super sexy. See 1 and 2 for more information.05 Sex Tips

6) If 5 applies and I use the safe word, stop

Kink arrangements should be agreed on by both parties in advance, with clear guidelines over what is ok and what isn’t. And if someone says the safe word, then you stop.06 Sex Tips

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7) Just because I don’t want to right now doesn’t mean i don’t want to ever

Sometimes people aren’t
in the mood. It doesn’t mean they don’t still fancy the pants off you, they just don’t feel like it right now this minute. Often one party can take this as a rejection and feel bad or frustrated or upset; but there’s myriad reasons why someone might not be in the mood that have nothing to do with you.  Just be understanding and go make yourself a cup of tea or something.07 Sex Tips

8) Just because I want to right now doesn’t mean I always do

I’ve already covered this before, so I’ll just plagiarise myself. If someone said “yes” to tea around your house last Saturday, that doesn’t mean that they want you to make them tea all the time. They don’t want you to come around unexpectedly to their place and make them tea and force them to drink it going “BUT YOU WANTED TEA LAST WEEK”, or to wake up to find you pouring tea down their throat going “BUT YOU WANTED TEA LAST NIGHT”.08 Sex Tips

9) Great communication makes great sex

The best sex comes from a place where everyone participating is present, and comfortable with what’s happening, and is enjoying themselves. The best way to achieve this is to communicate. Remember, communication isn’t just verbal; it’s about looking, touching, connecting, texting, winking. Being on the same level as someone, asking for what you want, asking what the other person wants. That’s where great sex starts. The rest is up to you.09 Sex Tips

Huge thanks to Iriini Kalliomäki for the fantastic original artwork. You can check out her blog here!

Bikes, buses, lorries oh my

bikesbuseslorries

 This last week hasn’t been great for cyclists in London, with 3 incidents on one day on Thursday leading to the deaths of a cyclist in South London and another in nearby Surrey; and a seriously injured unicyclist in East London. While the story of the hundreds of locals working together to lift the bus off the injured man went viral (with good reason as it was a powerfully heart-warming story of community action) the stories of the dead cyclists barely caused a ripple, despite the fact they were both hit by HGVs, bringing the number of cyclist deaths in London alone to 6 – with 5  of them killed by HGVs.

Despite the stats that suggest that the vast majority (98%!) of serious or fatal pedestrian injuries are caused by motor vehicles – even on a pavement, a pedestrian is more likely to be injured or hurt by a motor vehicle than a bike –  the rhetoric in the media remains the same. Cyclists are dangerous rule breakers who are a risk to themselves and others. While the story of a little girl injured by a cyclist was shared all over the place with comments like “HELP FIND THIS CYCLIST” (he handed himself in) the sad story of a 7 year old cyclist killed by a car barely made the front pages, even though the police are in fact appealing for witnesses. Perhaps this is because people are killed all the time by cars, but an injury caused by a cyclist is rare enough to make the news. We’re used to car-carnage. Depressingly so.

It’s strange to me that so much focus is put onto the behaviour of cyclists, or so much made of individual rare incidents, when it’s pretty damn obvious that we should be focussing on those motor vehicles which are causing serious harm to more vulnerable road users. Why do we find it so hard to point the finger at cars, HGVs and buses when they are demonstrably the ones causing so much damage?

Look at the stats – in London in 2011, HGVs made up 4% of the traffic, but were involved in 53% of the cyclist fatalities. Seeing as this year almost all of the cyclist deaths have been down to HGVs I suspect this statistic is unlikely to improve. And yet in Paris, where there are restrictions on times HGVs can drive, there were zero cyclist fatalities.

I am very wary of HGVs; not only because of the terrible safety record in London but because I actually saw the aftermath of a three-way bike/car/HGV collision on my usual commute. I also saw how much blame was thrown at the cyclists before any facts had been established at all. (Since this accident the council have actually made changes to that particular section of the road to make sure that cyclists are not having to veer out into the road.) I know where HGV blind spots are and do everything in my power to avoid ever being in one. I make an effort to make eye contact with HGV drivers so I know they’ve seen me. And when in doubt, I stay the fuck away from it. All this vigilance perhaps helps, perhaps not, I don’t know, but what it has made me realise is that it’s not HGVs that I have the most problems with on my usual commute. It’s buses.

I would guess that on average, out of the usual 5 days a week I cycle to work and back, I have some sort of bus-related incident, scare or weirdness at least once a day. Buses overtaking me too close, too fast. Buses overtaking me right before a stop and then suddenly pulling in across me – sometimes trapping me between the bus and the kerb, sometimes forcing me to either wait behind in their exhaust fumes or pull out into fast traffic to overtake them. (When this happens I often scream WHYYYYYYYYY because seriously? The stop is right there. RIGHT THERE. IF you wait literally 10 seconds I will be past the stop and will probably have gone a good half a mile before you catch up with me. If you ever catch up with me at all because I don’t have to stop every 3 minutes.) Bus drivers driving right up behind my back wheel when they can’t overtake because of traffic.

I had two particularly scary incidents recently where I genuinely feared that I would be hurt. Once where I’d pulled in on hearing a police siren, and was waiting for the car to pass, and a bus driver behind me had clearly decided to keep moving forwards for as long as he could before pulling in, resulting in him pulling in *onto me*. I’d actually looked at him while waiting for the police car to pass to try to work out what he was doing, and he looked me right in the eyes before he suddenly pulled in, so I find it hard to believe he hadn’t seen me. When I realised he was driving straight at me I leapt off my bike (thank goodness for drop frame bikes) onto the pavement and just avoided being squashed between the bus and the pavement. Another experience was when a ‘driver under instruction’ overtook me at a pinch point – very a narrow bridge with a barrier between the other lane (in fact, mere yards from the site of the 3 way accident I mentioned earlier) meaning the bus couldn’t move out to overtake me. Once again I was forced to fling myself onto the pavement to avoid being squashed. I knocked on the door of the bus and tried to point out that I could have been badly hurt, and while the trainee driver started to look over the instructor stared resolutely ahead, deliberately ignoring me, and I clearly saw him instructing the learner driver to ignore me.

I’ve also had cause to make formal complaints about buses at other times; amongst others when a driver on a route I wasn’t familiar with drove in a terrifying way; going through red lights, taking corners at speed, violently honking a horn at a cyclist who had the right of way, and just going far too fast for the narrow roads. Other passengers were gripping on for dear life, people standing fell over, and all the passengers were doing the very un-Londoner-like thing of making eye contact to make very Londoner-like ‘tut tut’ and ‘goodness me, what on earth’ faces.

The responses to my formal complaints were woefully inadequate, and they always followed the same course. That my complaint had been forwarded to the company in question. That either they were very sorry they were unable to identify the driver, or they were unable to verify the incident. On the rare occasions that they were able to identify the driver or ‘verify the incident’ the action taken was that the driver in question would be talked to and made aware of their expectations. The trouble with this approach is that it treats all incidents like this on a ‘one rogue driver’ approach, assuming that driver behaviour is all down to the individual. It doesn’t look at why there are so many incidents involving buses on the London roads, or consider how incidents like this add up to some really worrying questions over London bus safety.

London Buses have been run by various different companies since they were privatised in the 90s. That means that they are run for profit. There’s no cohesion across the services over pay, conditions, or how complaints are treated. Bus drivers have tight schedules to keep to, routes to drive where they are expected to complete the route within X timeframes, potentially leading them to have to drive too fast or cut corners. If you put difficult to meet targets on to an underpaid, overworked workforce, you are going to have accidents and issues. When that underpaid overworked workforce are driving a 12 ton metal machine? Ouch.

It’s no wonder that during the period 1 April 2007 to 9 May 2015, TfL Buses have been involved in 4714 Collisions with pedestrians and 1641 Collisions with cyclists. That’s an average of about 1 per day with cyclists and 2 collisions per day with pedestrians.

Since my ‘driver under instruction” incident I’ve lost a great deal of confidence in London bus drivers, as their bad behaviour towards cyclists, pedestrians and passengers, and their lack of care and attention is clearly something that starts right from the training stages. It’s a culture, not a case of ‘one rogue driver’. But it’s not the drivers I blame as much as the operators taking an individualistic approach to poor driver behaviour on the roads.

Bus companies need to take a more holistic approach to incident investigation and concern reporting, similar to those in the aircraft industry, so they can identify what issues require cultural change rather than just speaking to one individual driver and expecting that to clear the matter up. Because it won’t. A similar approach needs to take place with HGV drivers , car drivers, cyclists; taking the focus away from individual road user behaviour and addressing how we can systematically create safer ways for us all to use the roads. WHY are there so many HGV drivers killing cyclists? WHY are so many cyclists feeling safer on the pavement or jumping lights? WHY are bus drivers driving so fast? WHY aren’t car drivers seeing cyclists? We need to recognise and accept that this is something that needs systemic change, and that we have to stop treating every incident as One Rogue X and thinking that sanctioning or blaming that one person will solve the problem of the danger on our roads.

I have two flatmates, one cycles, one doesn’t. 5 years ago I’d have been all GET A BIKE, WHEEE to the non cycling flatmate, but these days things are so bad on the roads that I no longer feel I can say that. If I hadn’t already been cycling in London for around 10 years I am not sure I’d be cycling either! We need to look at sustainable holistic ways to improve the safety of our roads – for everyone.

All pictures used are copyright Bikeyface. Go check out the blog, it’s brilliant

woman to woman: we need to talk

womantowoman

bullshit memeI didn’t have very many female friends as a young teenager. I didn’t have many male friends either, I have to say. A combination of moving around a lot and being pretty socially awkward and (with hindsight) not finding it easy to recognise people meant I found it hard to form close friendships. Or even casual ones. I was quite late into my teens before I found a group of friends (mainly thanks to Sir Terry Pratchett.) Continue Reading

Not Not Drinking, just not drinking

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231386085552BarneyWe’re now in May, so it’s now been 16 (and a half) months since I gave up drinking for, er, three months. While the initial 12 months of Not Drinking were trickier, the last 4 (and a half) months of just not drinking hasn’t actually been difficult at all – there’s definitely a huge difference between Not Drinking and I Could Have A Drink If I Wanted But I’m Not Going To.

I have had a few small sips of a beautiful hazelnut liqueur, a birthday present last year from Mummy Dinosaur Pirate, and I have tasted some organic Cider that my flatmate was drinking. That’s it. I’ve not had an entire alcoholic drink at all – and I am still not missing it much.

I recall six months in saying I wanted to get to the point with my attitude to drinking where I could walk into a bar, see an interesting looking drink that I wanted to taste, or liked the taste of, and would drink it because I wanted that drink and not because I wanted to get drunk, or needed to be drunk. While there have been a few moments where I’ve been out a pub with some friends and thought “I’d really quite like a drink actually” – most often when there’s been a nice looking rosé available or my favourite beer – there’smongozo_cocunut been two clear occasions where I’ve felt that I wanted to drink for the taste, for the experience – and not for the alcohol. It was a powerful sensation – to know that I  had the power to make that choice, to know that I could just  have one and that would be the end of it. To know that i could just as easily not have it, and have just as good a night. On both occasions I chose not to have one – mainly because I’d cycled to the pub and figured cycling home after the first alcoholic drink in 16 months would be, on the list of Stupidest Things I’ve Done, quite high up the chart.

My social life has definitely changed – whether this is due to the not drinking or circumstance (it’s been a crazy few months on Dinosaur Planet) I don’t know; but I go out dancing and to clubs, well, certain clubs, a lot less. There are some places which just aren’t really fun when you aren’t in an altered state. Where you are acutely aware of the state of the toilets, of the floor  being sticky, of a general sense of grottiness. A few clubs I’ve been to I’ve found the behaviour of other drunk people just a little hard to deal with. You start to recognise this unfocused look in people’s eyes, the way they stumble around the club and just sort of barge around or push through you like you aren’t there. I assume this happened before, when I went to these places as a heavy drinker, but that as I was one of them I never really noticed. Being around seriously drunk people does start to get harder, and so my social life has in the main shifted away from late night clubs and more into early evening pub trips with a pack of cards or a game of Fluxx or Love Letter.

The change to my social life pattern as also brought an interesting shift to many of my friendships. I have drifted apart from some of my old party buddies, and grown much closer to other friends. The quality of conversation, and your ability to really listen to people (and remember the conversation the next day) is considerably better, and some nights out have brought me closer to people I thought I knew, people I’ve known for years. There’s been many moments where I’ve been next to a friend in a bar, when previously our conversation would have been “LOL LET’S GET SHOTS OMG DO YOU REMEMBER THAT TIME WHEN WE OH GOD WE WERE SO WASTED” and I’ve said to them ” you know, I’ve known you for 10 years and don’t actually know what you do for a living?”

I’ve had marvellous conversations which have brought me closer to people I care about, and have learned how to tell these friends I care about them with full mindfulness and sobriety – i don’t have to be drunk to take a friend in my arms and say “mate, I love you. You know that?” and they know I mean it, and that makes it so much more meaningful. Even if they do get a little embarrassed and punch me on the arm and call me a knobhead. That’s just their way of saying “mate, I love you too.”

If I do go clubbing, I fortify myself beforehand with borderline unwise amounts of caffeine so I can survive the night; but usually once I am there and dancing alcohol just doesn’t seem important any more. My flatmate, a long time drinking buddy, has also discovered the joys of drinking considerably less of a night out. You still feel rubbish in the morning – today is no exception, as last night was in fact one of these rare clubbing adventures – but that’s mainly a combination of too much caffeine/sugar and too little sleep. It’s rather fun to feel a little wrecked occasionally, I do like the excuse to stay curled up in a blanket and watch terrible films and order pizza over the internet. And feeling a little wrecked due to overstimulation and fatigue is considerably more fun than feeling like if you move you might die.

16 (and a half) months without hangovers – and I cannot emphasize this enough – is FUCKING GREAT. I never want a hangover ever again. My time off from hangovers has given me a clarity that as much fun as drinking can be, it’s absolutely not worth the hangover.  Weekends are longer. You get so much more done with your life. The thing I miss least of all is that horrible sense of anxious foreboding and vague unspecified shame; where you are quite sure that you did something horribly embarrassing and that you are a terrible awful person who can never show her face again in public. I really don’t miss that. I hadn’t even realised that was a drinking/hangover thing. It took some time before I realised I wasn’t feeling like that every morning after a night before when the night before was a sober one. That waking up with waves of shame and fear wasn’t just part of waking up after a night out. I now wake up after a night out feeling like I probably should have drunk more water, less Cola and slept more, but that I had an awesome night and that my friends are awesome people and that as a person I am pretty ok actually.

tumblr_mkp8zkiay11s1txd3o1_500People  have asked if I miss drinking. My answer 6 months ago would probably have been that I don’t miss drinking, but I miss the sense of going on a shared journey with friends who are drinking. Now, I don’t even miss that, and am generally able to tap into that sense of fun an adventure without it. It helps that because I barely even mention it these days (it’s not new and exciting and a Big Experiment any more. I’m not a Not Drinker, I just don’t really drink. It’s a subtle difference, but a meaningful one) that often people don’t even really notice or pick up on it. Half the time I am clumsy and dorky enough for people to think I am drunk anyway. I am not entirely sure whether that’s meant as a compliment, but I am going to take it as one anyway.

What is most exciting is that at no point have I felt like I need a drink. Well, apart from briefly when I woke up on the 8th May and discovered the result of the UK general election, and had the fleeting notion that I needed to drown my sorrows – but I am pretty sure I am not alone in feeling that way and that for any lefty social justice warrior type finding out you’ve another 5 years of a right wing austerity mad government is perfectly justified in wanting to drink themselves into oblivion for a little while. But anyway, apart from that, I haven’t needed a drink, or felt like I had to have one. I’ve looked at drinks in the supermarket or at the bar and wanted a soft drink. I never dreamed when I embarked on this experiment 16 (and a alf) months ago. It’s rather wonderful and surprising.

I am fairly sure that at some point this summer I will have one of those coconut beers. It will be a momentous occasion.  My friends will probably take the piss. I will almost certainly selfie the moment for posterity. And it’s exciting that I am absolutely confident that I will be able to have one. Which is all I ever really wanted to achieve.

Election Special! Dinosaurs for Democracy

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political_dinosaur_vote_web (1)I have been struck down with some kind of virus for the last few days; I am a highly efficient snot producing machine with a high temperature and razorblades in my throat. I’ve spent the last couple of days wrapped up in a duvet watching day time TV and generally feeling sorry for myself.

I am on the mend today, not 100% but definitely feeling more human and less like a swampy sweat monster from the planet catarrh. I hope I am not catching, as I had to vote.

I HAD to vote. Not legally, I mean. In the UK it’s not like in Australia where voting is compulsory; in the UK Voting is a democratic right, and you can choose not to vote.

But I think everyone should choose to vote. Especially women.

2015 marks the 97th anniversary of women in the UK being entitled to vote (although it would be another 10 years before women has the same voting rights as men). It also marks the FIRST TIME that women in Saudi Arabia are allowed to vote.

The right of women to vote has been hard fought for by passionate women who put their health and lives at risk so that future generations would have the right to have a say in who governs us.

I’ve heard some “excuses” as to why people might not vote this election and they disappoint me.  It’s a safe seat, my vote doesn’t matter. The polling station is in a really inconvenient place. I don’t like any of the candidates/parties. None of these are good reasons not to vote.

Sure, your seat might be a safe seat, but if every single person in your area who doesn’t think it’s worth it because it’s a safe seat turned up to vote, and they vote for someone other than the present incumbent, it’s not such a safe seat any more, is it? That aside, Every vote is counted, even in a safe seat. Every. Single. Vote. So even if it’s a landslide victory for the present incumbent, a huge rise in other votes gets noticed. Even safe seats can get a shock – but only if you go and vote.

I had to wander around looking for my polling station earlier, as my local borough had inconveniently given me the wrong address for my polling station. Annoying at the best of times, but when you are ill it’s not fun at all. But while I was voting, an old woman, unable to walk without a wheeled walking aid, arrived to vote. It took her several minutes just to walk from the gate to the polling station door. She was so exhausted, she had to rest while the poll station staff fetched her water. And then she left to walk home again. It must have taken her ages. But she came out and cast her vote because voting is important.

Don’t like any of the candidates? Spoil your ballot. It will count. And you will have voted. You will have attended the voting booth and sent a clear message that none of the parties represent you. If you really don’t want to vote for any of the candidates, don’t. Add a box at the bottom that says “none of the above” and put an X in it. Write NO TO EVERYONE across the paper. Draw pair of ovaries. Whatever. Just go to the polling station and get your ballot paper and commit your minor act of civil disobedience. It’s still more productive, and more empowered, than not voting.

Once I’d eventually found the correct polling station and was in the booth, I spent longer in there than I ever have in all my years of being old enough to vote (I am old enough for this to be my 5th General Election). Previous years I’ve known who to vote for and been confident enough to put my X in the box without a second thought. This year I’ve put more thought into my vote, and how to vote, and what my vote means. At the point where I stepped into the ballot box I  still hadn’t decided whether to vote purely on policy, to vote local, to vote as a protest, to vote with my heart, to spoil my ballot.

I don’t like any of the current political parties, to be honest. I don’t think any of them have 100% viable policies. I did the Vote For Policies test and was surprised to get 100% Green as the result; I don’t actually agree with all of their policies. I also don’t particularly like my local Green candidate. I DO like my local Labour candidate, a lot. I think she’s brilliant for the area, and for women. But a vote for her is a vote for Labour, and I no longer feel they represent my beliefs. I could vote for TUSC; their candidate impressed at a hustings I attended and as a public sector worker I am very much behind a no-more-cuts drive. I’m in a pretty darn safe Labour seat – my vote for any other candidate would be little more than a protest vote. I could draw a dinosaur on my ballot paper.

All of these options were open to me as I stood in the booth, running over all my options. I did make a decision. And the beauty of our voting system is that I am entitled to an entirely confidential vote. I don’t have to tell anyone what I chose. But I could choose. I was free to, and had the right to, make my choice about the government of my country.

Which way I voted, or what I did with my ballot paper, that’s far less important than the fact that I voted.

Whatever your political inclinations, whoever you think should win, whatever your reasoning behind what you put on that ballot paper – you should vote today. Because you can. And that’s a powerful thing.

Consent: Not actually that complicated – Animated!

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A bonus blog day for a Friday, partly because I am away this weekend and don’t know if I’ll be able to have blogday as usual this weekend, and partly because I have been sent this awesome animation by Blue Seat Studios of my blog about tea and consent.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

I absolutely love how simple the animation is, and that they kept it gender neutral.

There’s a common rhetoric that suggests that it’s always men making the tea and women drinking it, which is hugely harmful to people’s sexuality and to notions of consent within same sex relationships. It buys into a narrative which denies male rape – by both men and women. It buys into a myth that women aren’t sexual beings. It buys into the myth that men always want sex, or that an erection is consent. An erection is no more consent than a woman being drunk and unconscious is. As pretty much every teenage boy  ever discovers during puberty, male bodies can react in physical ways without reference to emotional desire. Erections can happen on their own, or in response to physical stimuli even if the man doesn’t actually want it to happen. In short, just because it’s up, doesn’t mean he’s up for it.

Reducing consent to [men asking / women accepting] also erases gay sexuality- where consent is obviously just as important. Men who do men need to make sure they are both up for what they’re doing. Women who do women need to make sure they’re both up for what they’re doing. And while you’re mid-coitus, if you’re engaging in different acts, you need to keep checking in that your partner (assuming you’re not super familiar with them already, that is) is comfortable. Or, to use the tea analogy, if you’ve both been drinking Rooibos, don’t suddenly hand them an Assam without telling them, or checking that they’re cool with Assam.

This is why I deliberately wrote the original blog  to be gender neutral, as consent affects all genders, all sexualities, all kinks, all activities. I love that the animation kept that neutrality.

Also I love they kept the swearing because seeing stick figures swearing is totally hilarious.

Edit 15th May 2015 – people have asked for a swearing free version for use with younger children – here it is :)


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Creative Commons License
Tea Consent by RockstarDinosaurPiratePrincess is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://rockstardinosaurpirateprincess.com/2015/03/02/consent-not-actually-that-complicated/.

Big Fat Body Acceptance

For the second week in a row, I have been diverted from my intention to muse on my drinking (or lack of it) by Things Happening That Are Making Me Want To Smash Other Things. This weeks’ OH FOR THE LOVE OF JUST FUCK THE FUCK OFFness comes courtesy of body shaming.

First Jamelia, vaguely-successful-pop-star-turned-panel-show-opinion-haver opinioned that having clothes available in sizes under 6 or over 20 just encouraged people to have unhealthy body shapes and that ‘they’ (‘they’ being people of a size Jamelia considers ‘not normal’) just shouldn’t be allowed nice things.

Then a company (whose name I am not going to mention, because they’ve had quite enough publicity enough thank you very much, and therefore will be referred to from now on as “Proper Wazzock”) responded to complaints about their (fucking awful) adverts for their (fucking awful) product by revealing themselves to be apparently staffed by the sort of people that say ‘bants’ without irony and run by White Goodman; engaging in a PR campaign based on name calling and bullying. Classy.

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Jamelia did a half arsed #sorrynotsorry kind of apology where she basically said “I didn’t say what I said, and what I didn’t say wasn’t right, but I actually do kind of think what I didn’t say that I said.” I would have had considerably more respect for her if she’d said “I was on live TV, I said something without thinking it through, and I apologise”. We’ve all said shitty things and hurt people; when people call us on it it’s far better to use it as a learning experience than to go YOU’RE LISTENING WRONG.

Proper Wazzock haven’t issued any sort of apology and are absolutely revelling in the notoriety. Seeing as their entire business and product is based on capitalising on people’s insecurities as far as they are concerned this is the best thing ever; and if they can keep on making people feel insecure they obviously think this will help them sell even more. It might even work, sadly.

The thing is, ‘fatties’, as Proper Wazzock put it, don’t need to be ‘made to feel uncomfortable’, as Jamelia put it, by lack of nice clothes or a poster telling us our bodies aren’t ready for the beach.  Our society is very good at making them feel uncomfortable anyway. There are myriad ways in which our culture polices and enforced a very narrow range of ‘acceptable’ bodies.

We’re fighting against some really ingrained ideas that people are just not willing to let go of. NONE of these ideas actually hold up to proper scrutiny.

Fat = Unhealthy? MYTH.

Thin = healthy? MYTH.

You can predict someone’s health & fitness from BMI? MYTH.

Shaming fat people will help them lose weight? MYTH.

I played an amateur contact sport for 6 years. I went to the gym 3-4 times a week. I cycled every day. And I was still ‘fat’ because that’s what my body does. That’s my natural body shape. I was always over my ‘healthy’ BMI because I am short, and have a lot of muscle. When I was regularly training I had even more muscle, so my BMI was even higher. In fact, at my peak fitness, my BMI put me at ‘clinically obese’. I was, it’s safe to say, fitter than most of my ‘thin’ friends who just had a naturally slim figure and never worked out – some of whom smoked to stay slim. I no longer compete because playing sport destroyed my knees. Playing a sport, and exercising at the level I was, impacted on my physical health to the extent that a specialist assumed from an MRI of my knees that I was a runner in my mid 40s. I was 34.

Over a decade ago I went on a calorie controlled diet. I lost loads of weight. I started getting a body which the sort of person that thinks fat = unhealthy thin = healthy might look at and go She’s healthy. She’s acceptable. She’s allowed nice clothes. She might even be acceptable enough for a bikini. And I was SO ILL. My body couldn’t function at that size/shape. I was miserable. I kept fainting. My skin suffered. I was constantly ill with colds and infections as my immune system couldn’t cope. Everyone kept telling me how good I looked except my close friends who were seriously worried. I couldn’t maintain it without basically starving myself. I still thought I wasn’t good enough and I ended up having a major mental health breakdown, and I am not the only person to have discovered that despite what society tells us, becoming Not Fat isn’t the magical unicorn answer to everything.

Nowadays I am now relatively healthy. I eat what I like, try to avoid too much sugar and cycle and swim when I can be bothered. I am happy.  In the process of accepting my body something magical happened – many of my mental insecurities and anxieties melted away. In fact, learning to love the body I have now actually led me to eating more healthily. globogymBecause I loved my body I wanted to keep it well and treat it right. I started working with its needs, instead of against them. When I hated my body, I punished myself by starving it or resorted to comfort eating and ended up stuck in a cycle of self-loathing and unhealthy eating. I feel better now than I have in decades – and all because I have given up the idea that I need to force my body to look a certain way to be ‘acceptable’ and instead accept what I have.

In short, accepting my body the way it is actually made my body better.

When you go around on the internet telling fat people they look bad, or that they are unhealthy, or that they need to change their look to please you, you know what you are doing? You are making it worse. You are part of the cycle of self-hatred and fatphobia and insecurity. You are part of the problem.

Size is no indicator of health. You CANNOT tell the health of someone from what they look like or how big/small they are.  You especially cannot tell the health of someone from what they write on Twitter.

So will all the ‘concern trolls’ please DROP this ‘healthy’ shit. You can be thin and healthy, thin and unhealthy, fat and healthy, fat and unhealthy. And if someone is fat and unhealthy, guess what? THEY MIGHT STILL BE HAPPY and do you know what? It’s absolutely none of your business either way.

When I first saw Proper Wazzock’s advert I said “fuck off” at it, felt a bit cross and wondered – as I often do – why this sort of thing is still acceptable. But then it became clearer that actually tens of thousands of people were equally pissed off about it.  The wonderful #wearethethey hashtag appeared in response to Jamelia’s comments and it was beautiful to behold.

One of Proper Wazzock’s responses to the criticism was that “Getting ‘beach ready’ is not a new concept[…]It’s a fashion that is followed by millions  around the world when they look forward to their summer holiday.” They are right, it’s not a ‘new concept’. It’s an old one. The fact that so many people are no longer willing to buy into it shows that there is a clear cultural shift against sexist objectification, cultural body shaming bullshit and unethical advertising, and a rejection of big fat myths and restrictive standards of beauty. There’s a growing sense, particularly among young people, that this shit is actually not ok, and up with it we will not put.

harassment is not a virtual issue

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I was going to write something about drinking this week, because it’s been a while, and last week’s post was kinda feministy and I like to usually mix things up a bit in between the being Really Angry About Things but something, well, two somethings but really the same something, happened this week which made me, well, Really Angry about Things.

Thing 1 – Sue Perkins – cake botherer, national treasure and all round amazing person – was hounded off Twitter due to some baseless rumours that she could be in the running to present Top Gear. For non UK people, Top Gear is ostensibly a program about cars, but for many years has basically been a vehicle (oh, lol) for the champion of the sort of people that say things like  “I’m not a bigot but I should be allowed to say these things it’s political correctness gone mad MAD I TELL YOU.” The completely fabricated rumour that she was in the running, prompted by some Screenshot from Twitter. Text reads: Clarkson's Law: The reaction of many Top Gear fans to Top Gear demonstrates the need for changes to be made to Top Gearbetting activity, led to death threats so severe she left twitter. No doubt to a celebration of the Top Gear fans and any other people who just like sending women on Twitter death threats.

Thing 2 – Just a few days later, Jack Monroe – austerity chef, anti-poverty campaigner and down to earth ‘accidentally famous‘ blogger – was also hounded off Twitter. In her case she hadn’t done anything as egregious as be at the centre of rumours so much as simply being a lesbian, or a ‘militant queer’ in the words of one of the messages. Continue Reading

"I wish we talked more about…" Part 1: Women and Sex

dinosaur_sexEarlier this week one of my fellow humourless killjoy feminist friends came up with the idea of a list of “Things we wished people spoke more openly about”.

The conversation that ensued lead to several revelations amongst the group and numerous exclamations of “I am SO glad we’re talking about this” and “OMG I thought this was just me” and “why don’t we talk about this stuff? This is GREAT.”

So this is the first blog of what I intend to be an ongoing yet occasional series themed around “Things we wish were talked about more openly.”

Before we go further, I am going to add a content warning. This blog, and indeed probably the whole series, will feature talk of things like sexual acts, body parts, bodily functions and fluids and other things that often make people (right across the gender spectrum) feel uncomfortable. It’s almost certainly going to make my family feel uncomfortable, so if you’re related to me, you might want to stop right here.

I am going to say, straight up, that a lot of the things that are likely to come up are things that I personally find really difficult to talk about. I spent a lot of time hating my body and not really wanting to look at it, feeling awkward and anxious about sexual acts, being ashamed and scared of things my body did and generally feeling unable to talk about it. So just as you might be leaving your comfort zone to read this, I am going out of my comfort zone to write it. So we’re on this journey together.

And so, lengthy pre-amble complete, let’s get it over with.

“I wish we spoke more openly about…

Women’s masturbation, sexual pleasure & orgasms”

It’s pretty much accepted that boys wank. It’s a common trope in fiction and a frequent joke punchline. There are a million (hilarious) euphemisms for male self pleasuring, and you can make up a million more by just “Adjectiving the Noun”. Hugging the giraffe. catchphraseWrestling the one-eyed dragon. Marinating the sausage. Feel free to suggest your own. It’s most entertaining. While there’s a great deal of humour over the subject, male masturbation is generally accepted as a normal male act, part of healthy development and generally a pretty fun way to pass the time if you’ve got not much on and there’s nothing of interest on Netflix. But if you’re a woman, and you make a joke about “adding that to the wank bank” there’s often an awkward silence. Women’s masturbation, even in our relatively sexually enlightened culture, remains a taboo subject and jokes about women taking a walk in their own lady garden are OMG TOO SOON.

But yes, it’s true. Women do take themselves into their own hands. As with men, some will do so more often, some will do it a lot; some with a lower sex drive might not do it that often and some might just do it to pass the time and when there’s not much on Netflix. There should be no more shame in women having a solo joy party than a man doing so; but it’s so much harder to talk about. In part this is down to women often being seen as passive sexually; as not being sexual agents or having sexual desires of their own so  much as being something on to which male fantasies or acts are projected. A woman getting herself off doesn’t fit into this idea.

But not only is it super fun, and totally a feminist act (it so is. You are demonstrating your sexual agency as a subject. Totally a feminist act. Not just because there’s nothing on Netflix.) it can also be really valuable for a woman to explore herself; to learn what she likes and how, how she wants to be touched and what gets her excited. If she learns her own body, she’s going to be able to better guide her sexual partners to what she likes, to mutual sexual satisfaction.

Mutual sexual satisfaction in a relationship isn’t something that just happens. Every one’s body is different, and people take pleasure in different things. So it’s really important if you care about your partner and their happiness that you both find out what you enjoy, what they enjoy, and what you can do for each other. The frustrating stereotype that women spend their time avoiding sex with their male partners that never get enough is not only pretty offensive but perpetuates the idea of a passive female object for the pleasure of sextimesmen. For this chap buying his darling beloved a latte for Christmas, my main thought was “well perhaps if you were more interested in pleasing her than getting yourself off she’d enjoy the sex more, and you’d get more sex”. Sex shouldn’t be a transaction, bought with gifts and begging. If your partner isn’t totally into the sex with you, then maybe you need to be having a conversation about what you can do that will please him/her. And if you can’t have conversations like this without either of you getting embarrassed/awkward/upset/turned off it’s kind of a red flag. If you can’t communicate about what makes you both happy sexually, perhaps you need to think about whether you have a good relationship in the first place, as the key to a good relationship is communication.

One of the big problems here is the pervasive myth of the vaginal orgasm. It was in 1905 that Freud claimed that vaginal orgasms were something that ‘adult’ women had, while ‘adolescent’ women had clitoral orgasms. Freud had absolutely no evidence for this assertion whatsoever. No studies, no facts; it was all based on  his own theories of sexuality. Despite our understanding of human sexuality, biology and psychology moving on significantly  in the intervening one hundred and ten years we’re still clinging onto this outdated view of orgasms – which let’s remind ourselves was based on exactly no actual evidence. The theory has been heavily criticised ever since  but somehow the myth clings on.

Movies, TV, books, porn, magazines; they all continue to perpetuate this myth that women have these big old screaming orgasms from penetrative sex when actually the vast majority of women simply can’t.  It’s not because their male partner’s penis isn’t big or wide or hard enough, or because the man isn’t good at sexing enough; it’s because most lady parts are just physically not designed that way. Our culture is obsessed with the idea of P in V penetrative sex when that’s one tiny part of a whole range of super awesome fun times you can have, many of which are more likely to result in *mutual* pleasure. It’s no coincidence that lesbians tend to have more orgasms than women in straight relationships; it’s because they are engaging in a whole lot of ‘extracurricular’ activities that directly stimulate all of the best places.

If you’re a dude, and you’ve got this far (good on you!) and you’re looking sidelong at your girlfriend, wondering if she’s faked it, don’t be too hard on her. Many women will admit to faking it because they’ve had fun, but know they aren’t going to climax, and they know their partner is holding out for her, and she wants him to enjoy himself, and so will fake it to help him make it. If you get me. But if you’re only ever doing the P&V thing and your girlfriend isn’t up for it that often then leave off the sarky picture macros and the passive aggressive comments and just talk to her. It’s not your penis, it’s her vagina. Just because parts other than her vagina need need stimulation from things other than your penis doesn’t mean she doesn’t really like your penis (or the man it’s attached to.)

We need to stop thinking about sex as simply being “place penis in vagina and pump for a bit”, and thinking of it as a whole range of sexual acts which please everyone involved. Forget the word ‘foreplay’ – that suggests that all the other stuff is just the prologue, when for many women the ‘other stuff’ is most of the novel, with the actual penetrate part being the epilogue. Or maybe even the acknowledgement. And as with women’s masturbation, this all links back to society’s difficulty in seeing women as sexual beings in their own right, as likely to be horny, with desires and pleasures of their own, and wanting some sweaty love times as much as men.

(And if any of my family are still reading, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

 

Part 2: Periods & Menstruation

Part 3: Sexual Health

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