Browsing Category | my opinions let me show you them

Just anxious

Just Anxious -

It’s an irony that when I am not having a bout of anxiety, it’s hard to recall and write about exactly how anxiety affects me (in a similar way to how you can remember that a tattoo hurts but you can’t recall the exact pain itself) but when I am in the midst of an episode I can barely string two sentences together. Thus it’s taken me several weeks to write this post, in between bouts feeling fine (occasionally even awesome) and feeling like flinging my laptop into the Thames and watching it sink. Then jumping in myself.  I need to grab those “fine” moments and write in those, because when I am feeling awesome the last thing I want to do is pick up my laptop and write about the times I felt like crawling under my bed and staying there for ever, but when I am in my “fine” moments it’s hard to explain what having an anxiety episode feels like.

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nurture? not sure

Nurture? Not sure -

I’m often told I don’t look my age. I have to admit I rather enjoy the look of shock that usually appears on people’s faces when I tell them my actual age. It’s usually followed up with “what’s your secret?” Depending on how well I know them and their sense of humour the answer tends to be one or a combination of…

  • Good genes, thanks Mum
  • Stay out of the sun, don’t smoke
  • You should see the state of the portrait in my attic
  • It’s mostly because I act like a child
  • Bathing in the blood of virgins
  • My dress sense never grew up
  • Ritual sacrifice

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Three Thinks: Sex work, Gender & Feminist Dating

Sex work, gender, and feminist dating -

I’m still finding it hard to sit down every single Sunday and write. Last year it was really important to me to do so, because writing here was so tied up with giving up alcohol that I felt if I didn’t write every Sunday I may as well go back to drinking and the two – writing and not drinking – became inextricably linked. Now I know I can happily not drink just by, you know, not drinking.

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Civilly Disobedient

Civilly Disobedient -

This Saturday I joined hundreds of thousands of others in protesting against the UK government’s harsh, illogical, unfair and ideologically driven austerity policies.

It wasn’t my first protest; although I have an anxiety disorder and struggle with large crowds, and a medical issue that means it is painful to walk for long distances I feel some things are important enough to be present for. This was one of those occasions.

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


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

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.


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.





woman to woman: we need to talk


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

Consent: Not actually that complicated – Animated!



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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Tea Consent by RockstarDinosaurPiratePrincess is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
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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.


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


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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