Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Date rape is just a "disagreement between two lovers"

So last month, David Cameron made his stance on rape abundantly clear. If he is to make PM (god forbid), I welcome these proposed changes in law.

Unfortunately, John Redwood, a senior Conservative party member has rather muddied the waters, apparently "backed up" by Cameron, with comments made on his blog about the different ways stranger rape and date rape should be treated and prosecuted.

From his blog:

"They [the Labour government] decided to set date rape alongside stranger rape. Again, none of us want men to rape women, but there is a difference between a man using unreasonable force to assault a woman on the street, and a disagreement between two lovers over whether there was consent on one particular occasion when the two were spending an evening or night together.

"Labour's doctrine of equivalence has led to jury scepticism about many rape claims, in situations where it is the man's word against the woman's and where they had agreed to spend the evening or night together. Young men do not want to have to take a consent form and a lawyer on a date, just as young women have every right to go on a date and to say 'No', having it respected."

Disgusted beyond belief. Only just over 5% of rape trials end in prosecution in the UK, and the vast majority of those are already stranger rape cases. Crisis centres across the country are closing because of lack of public funding. Much as I loathe Vernon Coaker, in this instance I agree with him. I await a statement from Cameron with baited breath...

Thursday, 13 December 2007

More on postfeminism/the third wave

Bizarre seminar today. The final class of the semester for this module - a Feminism 101, if you like (although I got pretty bored of analysing pop culture through the same, repetitive theoretical framework towards the end).

So we're talking about bringing feminism out of the academy -- where, admittedly, it's now most influential. Tutor eventually presents her idea of what The Third Wave is, and I'm pulling a face, thinking 'no, no, no - this is not my experience of grassroots activism and the community at all'. She's saying that (unlike the second wave!?) the Third Wave is made up of white, middle-class American women who see an entitlement to be feminine almost as feminism itself. And I'm sitting there feeling quite confused, and my classmates are doing the same. And eventually she says "So you disagree, verte?" And I start blabbering on about how the Third Wave is heavily influenced by postcolonial and queer theory, and the intersections this particular 'wave' has with queer communities and sexual minorities, and the majority of my classmates who are involved in any kind of activism say much the same, and she looks completely mystified.

A feminist academic, who's written for twenty years on feminism and pop culture, looks mystified by the concept of this feminism.

So who's she to tell us we need to get feminism out of the academy, that it's OUR responsibility, if she's not taking that responsibility herself enough to know what younger women who identify as feminist, or whose thought is heavily influenced by feminism, are about? Eventually she asked us to send her some links.

I'm writing an essay for her and am going to attempt to unravel the Third Wave and the postfeminist using a specific example that's currently a bit of a cultural phenomenon over here. I find it bizarre that these feminist academics who write the 'postfeminist', who moan and whinge about what feminism ISN'T doing, what we're NOT achieving, and, as she so kindly puts it, are actually UNDOING, are so out of sync with the world at large that they're missing what the grass roots movements are actually up to. Whether we're blogging and commenting and discussing, or forming groups like Queer Mutiny or Feminists Against Censorship, or working for think tanks, or volunteering, or running women's/queer festivals, WE ARE THERE. The Third Wave does exist. In the UK we have very little prominence or access to mainstream politics, but that doesn't mean we're totally invisible.

And it's about time we stopped being ignored.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Vile Bodies

So I've been following all the threads about cosmetic surgery... From here to here, and back to Renegade.

I have to ask .... why is there this 'feminist' move towards hatred of female bodies? Since when did being flat-chested become some kind of feminist badge of honour? And why are some choices regarding bodies more equal than others?

So what's the message from Angela and Ginmar? Hate your female body. Let it become a site of self-hatred. Because if you don't already hate it, some feminist will come and hate it for you.

Your body will never be yours as a feminist unless you give it over as property of the sisterhood - to be critiqued, poked fun at, abused, examined, spoken for, or misunderstood.

Way to go, feminism.

Monday, 26 November 2007


My Feminist and Cultural Theory course has thrown up some interesting questions for me about my feminist politics. There's a hell of a lot of material on the concept of postfeminism, how it's interwoven with neo-liberalism, in particular, a UK-centric Blairite focus on 'women's issues' and makeover culture (particularly 'symbolic violence' to women in makeover shows like What Not To Wear or the more odious 10 Years Younger as a metaphor for postfeminist values.

My tutor (who writes primarily on postfeminism and pop culture) and I have been at loggerheads over the definition of postfeminism and related issues for the past couple of weeks, and I do not see that changing. She defines postfeminism as a culture in which feminism is acknowledged and credited, but largely discarded in favour of a more individualistic 'choice' orientated politics coupled with some pre-feminist values that are established as being part of that 'choice' (see the popularity of self-identified postfeminist Laura Doyle's book and accompanying self-help movement Surrendered Wives). She refers frequently to a backlash against feminism in popular culture and the media - particularly the resurgence of the New Lad in the mid-90s, the accompanying ladmags (which also reduce masculinity to something pretty damn degrading), ever-present criticism of women who think they can 'have it all', and etc.

Me? I'm not so sure. My first question was really to express confusion as to what kind of feminism the backlash we're talking about is rattling against. Are we talking the second wave? Her response wasn't clear. I asked questions about the Third Wave - which I suppose I count myself as being part of (post-Butler/queer-informed feminism, I guess) and how 'we' differ. I suppose what irritates me most about the term and its implications is, as my tutor described, a notion that we're the naughty bad gals undoing all our elders' good work.

Calling oneself a feminist, in this place, at this time, is not always easy. Most of my friends refer to themselves as feminists, support feminism, understand feminist values, that a feminist does not automatically = dungarees wearing hairy man-hater (though I'm pretty lazy about shaving and fuck it if my (well, if they're male - never had a female partner who gave a damn, interestingly enough) sexual partner is has a problem. what preening are they pressured into doing, ffs?), generally pretty Sexism Aware types. But there's still aggression towards feminism, still an assumption that men and women are two entirely different species. There's usually a way to blame feminism for most of society's ills.

But still, what this postfeminism is 'post' is unclear to me. Is being not-entirely-anti-sexwork post-feminist? Or being not-at-all-anti-SM? Or, indeed, as my tutor put forward last week, not entirely anti the commercialisation of sexuality? I still see a way through. I'm not entirely negative about feminism's future in the West. Most of that lies in claiming agency for what we do, the choices we make - still seeking radical changes in gender politics. Not always easy in the face of our older feminist aunties telling us we're wrongwrongwrong and that we're not radical enough, but important to me all the same. While I'm no Andrea Dworkin I'm no Camille Paglia, either. I don't see feminist empowerment as being as simple as being female and doing something that makes me feel good, secure or validated.

I don't think the state of contemporary feminism is 'post'. In truth, I hate the fucking term. But if not, where, then, are we?

Wednesday, 10 October 2007


This witch is back...

I'm now a grad student, reading a hell of a lot of texts on gender, and unsurprisingly my urge to blog again on gender/sexuality issues has been whet. Plus, I gave this link out at the request of a couple of other women from my course and feel some responsibility to actually give this place some content.

I've been reading: Sigmund Freud, Deleuze and Guattari, Judith Butler, Scott Lash, Donna Haraway, bell hooks, Toril Moi, Vic Seidler, Michel Foucault and Simone de Beauvoir. And that's less than two weeks reading. Phew!

How fabulous to have the time to dig deep into feminist and cultural theory and history, though. I avoided Women's Studies departments for fairly obvious reasons, and even feminist theory tends to be intersected with queer theory in the way it's taught in mine, which, I suppose, is kind of my slant on feminism too.

Anyhow, I have a big post on Freud/psychoanalysis and misogyny brewing, and may post it over here should it have enough BDSM content.

For now, a quote from Donna Haraway. So many of the feminist bloggers I read regularly have been distancing themselves from the f-word of late, and I have been feeling similarly. However, this short definition reinspired me a little...

A feminist is one who fights for women as a class and for the disappearance of that class.

It's that fucking simple.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Transsexuality is aversion therapy for homosexuals..

according to the never charming Ms Bindel.

I shouldn't have looked (thene told me not to), but I had to. I caught the end of the debate on Radio 4 last night and was already infuriated.

Thursday, 19 July 2007


So fricking busy at the moment I'm barely getting the chance to read the blogs, and I've got the hug slut coming to stay with me today for a few days of fun and debauchery. And work, of course. Life in London is good.

I have insomnia, however. Not used to not having another human breathing and dreaming beside me, perhaps. Cure for the shakes, anyone?

Managed to grab The Guardian yesterday and spent a while reading G2, which documented 50 years of women's writing for the Guardian. You should too!

50 Years of the Women's Page.

Friday, 6 July 2007

The case that led to a ridiculous law


I moved from north to south and am reasonably settled now.

And here we go:

There have been various articles relating to Graham Coutt's new sentence, which will imprison him for life for the murder of Jane Longhurst. He has continually protested and claimed it was manslaughter. Who knows? We know he had hundreds of pornographic images on his computer - from hangedbabes.com, necrobabes.com (which is really bloody tame), etc - and this kickstarted Liz Longhurst's campaign against violent porn, later changed to 'extreme' porn (beyond hardcore, I guess), and the reason, primarily, the government is planning to prosecute against possession of 'extreme' pornographic images. You can see the whole Criminal Justice Bill (which had its first reading last week, I think?) here.

And you can read about the case here.

There are two statements made by Liz Longhurst in that article that stand out for me:

"I do feel now the public perception is that [Jane] was a wonderful girl and would never have done any of the things that were alleged."


"He [Coutts] is so restricted, he is so narrow-minded, he is in this rut of seeing everything through the eyes of perverted pornography"

Riiiight. So any woman who enjoys those kind of activities can't possibly be perceived as 'wonderful'? Well, aren't I lucky my mother loves me anyway, despite knowing what I get up to, what I stand for. But yes, joe public would certainly not perceive this as 'wonderful' in the least, and indeed, 'wonderful' girls don't get off on devious sex or, well, sex at all, do they? And then she goes on to call Graham Coutts 'restricted' and 'narrow-minded'. Erm, what the crap?

I'm not trying to belittle her loss or defend Graham Coutt's actions, but her statements are pretty anti-woman and perpetuate the madonna/whore myth that still dictates what female sexuality is supposed to be. That, for me, is the biggest problem with this law. It, again!, infantilises women, supposes that 'wonderful' girls don't do kinky sex and never watch or read pornography.

So what is a 'wonderful' girl's sexuality supposed to be composed of, then? I have absolutely no idea.

EDIT: Finally! Some decent public debate on the issue on Comment is free.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

So I took a lame OKcupid! test thing

Your Score: Androgynous

You scored 90 masculinity and 60 femininity!

You scored high on both masculinity and femininity. You have a strong personality exhibiting characteristics of both traditional sex roles.

Link: The Bem Sex Role Inventory Test written by weirdscience on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Surprise, surprise...

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

More 'porn made me do it' media crap

The Daily Mail has yet again got me riled for the day.

See here:
Revealed: The British links to internet rape site.

So they've dedicated about 75% of an article about the violent and life-threatening rape of an underage girl to the Ills Of Pornography and how the poor wittle man wasn't really responsible for his actions, it was the PRON THAT MADE HIM DO IT! BLAME THE PORN! From a newspaper that ran a story about potential changes to UK law over what constitutes rape over the weekend with a definite MRA bias, it seems pretty clear to me what their agenda is, and that hasn't got very much to do at all with preventing violence against women. In fact, in the first article, it seems to me that they're using the rape of a 17 year old girl for the purpose of publicising their anti-porn agenda. Belittling suffering in the name of authoritarian outrage. And that's ill. That sickens me.

I'll be interested to see if this crops up in any radfem blogs with a more authoritarian bent, and see how they divide up their blog space. I suspect the word-count on rape/porn may be quite similar to The Daily Mail's.

I took a look at the site they're on about. To me it just looks like any other misogynist gonzo porn, and I look at A LOT of porn sites. Doesn't surprise me at all that 30% of their members are women, though I'd be amused if the Flail started claiming the women who watched this material were potentially violent rapists, too, and I wouldn't put it past them, either.

Confusing messages.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Women and Pornography seminar

So last week I choked up some cash, took a day off and went to an open seminar on Women and Pornography over at Sunderland University. Apart from the excitement of catching a glimpse of a couple of never-seen-before northern cities (or is Sunderland a town?), I was pretty excited about the speakers and potential for really honest, open discussion. I don't know; when you know you've got hardcore anti-porns present, you're always on your guard, always having to backpeddle and clarify, often self-censoring to some extent. And there was none of that. Perhaps the lack of speakers with opposing views, again, kept people away, but anyway, debating whether porn should exist wasn't the point of the seminar.

I was supposed to meet DemRed of Backlash up there, but in the end she couldn't make it, so I prepared and reminded myself of a few word-for-word details of the 'extreme' porn proposals. I get tongue-tied sometimes and forget details in any kind of public speaking context, so I'm pretty glad I did.

It's quite nerveracking - walking into a place where you feel like a beginner in this game, like you don't quite know the language and will make obvious blundering errors that you know will show you off to be the tourist you are. But actually, it's easy to get over that in the company of 'fun' feminist academics, because they're often as informal as you about these things.

Plus, there were only twenty of us, or a few less, so it's hard to feel the same way I've done when asking what are probably dumbass questions in a huge auditorium.

The other thing that confused me was realising it was going to be a women-only space. I didn't really get that. If you're going to try and educate a male-dominated industry into budging a few inches, wouldn't it be good to have a few men in the room?

Anyway, it was hosted by Clarissa Smith, who caught me just as I was going to sneak off for a slightly illegal roll up round the corner, and was incredibly welcoming to me throughout the whole thing.

So we got the whole Backlash bit over with and I could relax. Most people there had been following the campaign to some degree and knew what we were about, so there weren't many questions, and I got a chance to talk about certain aspects of the legislation to prosecute against possession when it was relevant. All the talks prompted me to think more about what could/could not be perceived as 'serious violence' whether consensual or not. The law has not yet, as far as I'm aware, been passed. Though sometimes they slip these things through, apparently. So we shall see.

Feona Attwood presented her research on alt and independent porn. A few sites have been perved through. Mmm. A lot of stuff I knew about, and some I didn't. She talked about how many of the sites like nofauxxx or bellavendetta have proper manifestos of a kind - an aim to disrupt and transgress in some way. In some ways, I agreed with her, perhaps it's sad these pornmakers are putting out disclaimers about their work. Why is it necessary to spell out their politics when it's quite often obvious what their aim is in the imagery you see them use?

Later we heard from Anna Span, Britain's first female pornmaker, and watched a few of her clips. Interestingly, she told us that her background is quite academic, and she originally wanted to go into mainstream or indie feminist film making, and then decided that she liked sex and film, so she'd make some porn. And it's funny, clever porn, even though it's not quite what gets me off. It's not 'porn for women', quite, but porn from a female perspective. She showed us how she uses very different camera angles and shots from a lot of male made porn, how she pays attention to music and fashion, and the few lines of dialogue give some formation of character and wit, so her porn actors are kind of relateable humans. So, I don't know. Feminist porn? Who knows that's supposed to mean. Humanist porn, absolutely. So, um, yeah, apparently that's not for me. Not sure how I feel about that admission. I've been thinking a little about my own porn consumption, too. I do watch quite a lot of porn, mostly because I find watching people playing and fucking in various ways, by various means, interesting. And then there's the stuff I could never just show at a seminar or conference because I know I'd end up a puddle on the floor.

Anyway, went for a much needed cig break. I went trundling into the bogland again, but fortunately the other smokers had found another sneaky patch of hiding, so I went over and tried not to be a blundering idiot. And it was good! Talked a bit about queer SM, psychosexual therapy, psychiatry, painful looking porn orgasms and other such joys. Was not too blundering. All was well.

Clarissa ended the day with a talk on women who watch porn, and the body vs. mind. We all noticed that women tend to have more of a speech prepared about why they watch porn, as if there's some disclaimer to be made. Sort of like the indie pornmakers, really. We all have our own little defensive speech prepared. We have to justify why it's a valuable use of our time. Well, fuck that in the ear. It's got boring justifying why it really is okay that women watch porn. We're not going to turn into the evil jezebels people imagine. Or at least, those of us who didn't have jezebel-like tendencies already. I suppose it's just the madonna/whore thing. I do know a few women who really enjoy sex but are incredibly secretive about that fact. Where does that get them?

Perhaps there's STILL a danger that a sexually upfront woman is just a weeny bit too scary. Perhaps the women in Clarissa's survey preferred their interest in porn to be a secret. But my female friends? Jeez, we talk sex pretty openly. Three of us in a house of four owned porn and watched it quite often. Most of my friends at least read erotica. But, I don't know, there seems to be a reluctance to talk about the experience of watching porn - the physical experience, perhaps. I'd love that to change.

Glad I went.

Saturday, 16 June 2007


I have been reading this wonderful post and the comments today and wanted to write something on female wantonness, deviance and monstrousness, even witchery. When I set up this blog, that feeling of personal monstrousity, in some form, of feeling like something or someone that is occasionally treated as monstrous, dangerous or a heretic was a key factor.

One of my big literary interests is female monstrousity. I covered it in my dissertation on Coleridge and Shelley, and have a big interest in 1890s writing on decadence and degeneration, and the literature surrounding these ideas. I wrote an essay on the decapitation of female monsters in 'Dracula' and the poetry of Arthur Symons, wrote about the 'dangerous' highly sexed woman, but also the 'love that dare not speak its name', and the literature that to some degree eroticises and even celebrates 'feminised' men. It's not easy to uncover very much of Symons's work online.

In these texts, societal degeneration or subversion of the Natural Order is symbolically brought about by women, usually in some mythological form - essentially all born of Lililth, not Eve. I remember reading Bram Dijukstra's Idols of Perversity for the first time and uncovering all these symbolic depictions of female deviance. Yet it's possible to trace the association of Adam's first wife and female licentiousness back in all kinds of contexts. In the Christian Middle Ages, it was believed that wet dreams were caused by female succubi (or lilim). Much more so than Eve, the depiction of Lilith tends to be the only real symbol for female sexuality, or at least the model on which sexual, deviant women are based in western art and literature. When she's mentioned at all. She's usually depicted as a redhead, and red hair thus becomes symbolic in women of temptation, rebellion, deviance, disobedience. When Eve has given in to temptation and is unceremoniously thrown out of the garden of Eden, her blonde hair is often depicted in Renaissance paintings, such as the work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or St Paul's Cathedral, as turning to a shock of red.

Personally, I suppose I don't mind identifying as A Lilith. I've always rather liked that Alexa Wilding, Rossetti's redheaded muse, was so often depicted as 'perverse'. I've never minded being a redhead for this reason or resisted the stereotype that female redheads have a tendency to be highly sexed or deviant, even though the cultural history behind the persecution of redheaded women is misogynist (I find it interesting that green is said to temper red, and that I took on the screename 'verte' some time ago, again associated again with the idea of female perversity in that same cultural period (la fee verte).

Belief in redheads as witches stems, I think, from Germanic culture, where redheads were uniformly stripped and searched for 'marks of the devil'. Particularly freckles. And redheads know a lot about freckles. The folklaws surrounding the deviant redhead - considering only 4% of people are natural redheads - are endless.

I've always enjoyed cultural depictions of Lilith, or lilim. Last night, pacing around the flat because I couldn't sleep, I came across my copy of Dracula, and again found myself identifying far more with wanton, syphillitic Lucy Westenra than tempted-but-ultimately-virtuous Mina Murray. In a way, both embrace certain elements of the beginnings of female emancipation in the novel, but the results are quite different. Lucy ends up with a stake through her heart, pumped full with the blood of three men, decapitated, monstrous. Mina experiences sexual temptation, but is ultimately valued by her male companions, in part because of her abstinence.

So, yes, I am not ashamed of being a wanton redhead, sexually deviant, a genetic mutation (and yeah, no-one else in my family in memory has had red hair), something monstrous.

People will scapegoat all kinds of crap to forbid people from being part of communities, for being 'abnormal' or deviant in some way. And really, those reasons are as much of a nonsense as proclaiming that redheads are witches, to be burnt at the stake.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

mini-round up

I am suddenly broke, and also slightly diseased.

In other news, this game is driving me nuts!

And in the news...
London-based folks might be interested in hearing Alice Vachss speak on the shamefully low rape conviction rate in the UK.

Caitlin Moran on the latest abortion law crisis in the Independent.

And a slightly better, if rather worrying article on working mothers in The Guardian today.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Kiss my ass

The cover of NME put a big old smile on my face when I saw it on the shelves in Kings Cross station yesterday. Even with Perez Hilton's scrawl all over it here and, y'know, it being the sodding NME, it gave me a little thrill to see Beth Ditto getting it on and kicking some ass.

It seems odd, really, that Missy Elliot was doing it ten years ago. I was watching some music videos on youtube and it struck me how much more female r&b and hiphop videos seem aimed at the female gaze. The idea that you can get it on AND kick some ass at the same time doesn't seem that radical to me, but it seems the world of white indie music with its videos of anorexic white girls wearing too much eyeliner, pouting and preening and being delicately kissed (who resemble their fans, to be honest. There are few things that rile me more than insipid and repetitive 'The' bands and their followers/groupies who think they're radical because they're wearing some dodgy 80s rave leggings), has taken a rather long time to catch up.

The fact that a queer, overtly feminist, politically driven, overweight singer from the deep south was voted 'coolest person of the year' (always won previously by men) in the NME is just awesome. Radical, even.

And here's an interview with Ms Ditto in DIVA magazine, on fat, fame and feminism.

It's as bad as LJ...


Blogger lied about the new draft autosave. I just lost what turned into a 1500 word post.

I'm sulking too much now to even attempt a re-write, but just go and look at this ridiculous article in the Daily Male today. I'm sure the rant that proceeded was pretty predictable...

Monday, 28 May 2007

Some plugging...

Love that some of my favourite bloggers from elsewhere are signing up to blogger to write about Ze Issues and that sm-feminist is already making waves in the bloggersphere....

So here are a couple of plugs:

thene, who is one of my all time favourite people EVAH is now writing at aaru-tuesday, and has already written an awesome, very personal blog about the nuclear family.

northern_phoenix, who I've known through the BDSM community since 2004, has just set up era vulgaris, and is one of the sharpest people I've come across on the scene. Excited about this blog and what he eventually might submit to the Beyond Masculinity project.

More later..

Monday, 7 May 2007

A feminised society now produces campus killers

I've been catching up on some reading and stumbled across this joyous article:

American Psycho

I've been following the press on Virginia Tech with some interest, watching to see where commentators will point the finger of blame.

And here's the latest wacky notion. The feminisation of society. I suppose it was only a matter of time before women 'as a (w)hole' were going to be blamed. If in doubt, blame women, even if you are a woman -- specifically, blame women who enjoy sex.

Camille Paglia came up on a thread on pornography recently and I mentioned her contradictions. Here she's just putting her foot in it spectacularly, as I suppose she is wont to do:

“Young women now seem to want to behave like men and have sex without commitment. The signals they are giving are very confusing, and rage and humiliation build up in boys who are spurned again and again.”

Why is having sex without commitment 'having sex like men'? Women have, as far as I'm aware, been doing this for quite some time, even when gender expectations were more polarised. It's not an attempt to gain ground. It's not 'the feminisation of society'. It's a sign of equality. It's women wanting sex, dammit. Wanting it on our terms, too. Should we reclaim and promote chastity lest we are randomly gunned down? Camille Paglia is generally perceived as the ultimate traitor, the biggest sexbot and sparklepony in all of feminism. And now even she's telling us we're behaving like men because some of us want to get laid as frequently? I am feeling a little dismayed.

Gender politics on campus? I can only speak from my own experience, and the experiences of those I know, but there is a lot of misogyny on campus, no doubt about it. There was the incident at Leeds where the entire rugby team dressed up as rape victims to go on a pub crawl. I suspect I'm just a humourless old man-hater for not thinking this is particularly big and clever, least of all HILARIOUS, but I didn't. Fortunately, neither did most of the university. But there is in student halls the kind of behaviour that I can see probably leads to woman hating. Girls sometimes enjoy sexually rejecting boys if they're arrogant tossers, I'm afraid, no matter how nice we are about it. It usually reminds us of being the gawky teenager boys laughed at and called ugly. Taking just a little personal ground back. It's terrible to take pleasure in it, I know, but we sort of do.

Personally, though, I saw a lot MORE men-baiting coming from other boys. Teasing about cocksize, virgin status, lack of 'conquests', even the fact that they were sometimes coupled. I detest the sexual one-up-manship of lad culture and think it's pretty destructive for other men.

The problem with college shootings in the USA lies primarily with the easy availability of guns and a failure in mental health services, and possibly also lack of support for autistic students who find it hard to fit in. He was also racially abused growing up. Cho stalked two girls and, unsurprisingly, they rejected his advances. That is NOT the feminisation of society. It's a woman's right to say no. Want to take that away, Camille?

Back to black

I decided to keep my head down for a week. I think I just needed to get my head out of the feminist blogosphere for a bit. And instead I ended up defending myself on the BDSM forums. Why do I fear this is likely to be a trend? Hussle and tussle from one side or the other? I started wondering whether feminism is really compatible with SM activism. And then I thought: hang on, acceptance of our sexual practices relies a lot on society allowing women the right to make informed choices it doesn't like without portraying us as victims, saying we can't consent, etcetera. It's important to have feminist activists in there; it's just tricky for us to get on with people who do dislike women, or talk down to us because we are women, or, especially, talk down to us because we are submissive-identified women. But unless you alienate the feminists, what can you do? I suggested a while back that 'other solutions' in response to the extreme porn censorship legislation might be an important part of our campaign. But was told I was smearing wider collective efforts with my own agenda. Well, whatever. Personally, I still can't help but feel an MRA-centric campaign is not likely to be effective when the reasons originally cited in the Longhurst petition were to prevent violence against women. Not that this could be helped.

But anyway.

Given the quoting out of context taster this blog already had, it's time to set out a few rules and guidelines for reading burn the witches, especially for the kinky folks who've taken time out to read (thanks). In the words of a namesake:

"Now let's get things nice and sparkling clear..."

1. This is a feminist blog. Despite my involvement with the BDSM community, and the fact that you may have found this post through a BDSM community, this is a feminist blog. You may have a problem with all feminists. If so, we're probably not going to get along.

2. If you have found this blog through the BDSM community, it's likely I'll write some things you won't agree with. I may write some things you thoroughly dislike. I am not anti-BDSM. I am not anti any behaviour between consenting adults. I am, however, against sexism and against misogyny. Unfortunately, I have come across some sexists and some woman-haters in my BDSM travels. Even some abusers. If you are none of these things, you have no reason to think I am talking about you. I do, however, take issue with many of the perceptions of women, particularly, in the BDSM community from the world outside it. If this blog in any way changes someone's perception of female subs, or female dommes, or informs someone that we aren't victims, abusers, brainwashed or have Stockholm Syndrome, that what we do is an informed choice, well, it's a good use of my time.

3. Don't quote me out of context. If you have an issue with something I've said on this blog, I'd really prefer you take the issue up with me here, in context, or in private. I don't want to censor comments, even the anonymous ones.

4. This blog is not solely about BDSM, honest!

5. Respectful dissent is always welcome. Personal attacks on me or other commentators are not.

That's it!

Time to get on and set up SM-feminist properly...

Friday, 27 April 2007


I tried to post a comment on witchywoo's thread to point out that these blog wars DO affect real life activism, but it didn't make it through. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Anyway, here it is, with some grammatical clean-ups and clarifications:

verte // Apr 26th 2007 at 9:34 pm (edit)

I’m a latecomer to this, and I want to point out something:

These blog wars DO affect feminist activism in ‘real-life’. I was one of the organisers of that workshop at Ladyfest.

It was a workshop on porn and censorship. I am anti-censorship, but my stance on porn is neutral and I advocate massive changes to the sex industry. When Charliegrrrl went digging aruond she noted that two of the organisers are also part of the BDSM community and therefore our views on porn were misinterpreted as being ‘extreme’ pro-porn, which was unfair and untrue. A press release was eventually put out to every newspaper and magazine, naming and shaming us, again conflating and misinterpreting us and Ladyfest organisers.

It went on and on, and some of the insults hurled our way were distressing and unpleasant. I admit I said some pretty angry things on Charliegrrl’s blog, but I felt she was personally insulting and targeting me, and also told an outright lie about a speech I gave at another feminist event. I admit it - I got angry and defensive. I did not agree with everything said by the BDSM community either, to be honest, but that's the problem: I sit in the middle. To begin with we - both Ladyfest organisers and workshop facilitators - attempted to communicate with and invite anti-porn feminists to take part in the discussion by email, but were met by silence or dismissal.

What was most ridiculous about the whole furore is that BDSM was hardly brought up at all in the workshop - because it was on, guess what, PORN AND CENSORSHIP. So why did it matter what our personal sexual preferences were? Why was a big deal made of that in the OBJECT press release and on the blogs, and why did Charliegrrl and co carry on lying despite being told they had misinterpreted our stance on porn? To be honest, it made me and other SM feminists angry. Really angry. It was obviously slanderous, but because comments were censored we had no chance to defend ourselves. Sorry, I got defensive in my own space. I apologise to Charlie for accusing her of shouting at me at a conference if it wasn't her. It's just very odd that the picture of her in a newspaper and the girl who made me cry in front of 150 people looked startlingly similar, and others agreed..

Eventually a threat was made over on Theda's blog saying there were going to be attempts made to sabotage the workshop. Whether this was intended as a joke or not, Ladyfest spotted it and had no choice but to take it seriously and warn the venue. So Ladyfest (which IS a third wave feminist event, to be honest) ended up wasting over £100 on security because the venue demanded it. £100 which was supposed to go to charities promoting gender equality.

So you see, this shit DOES affect stuff in the real world. It isn’t just about hurt feelings. Please, no more threats, no more convenient lies - from either side. When it affects our collective efforts, the things we all agree on and fight against, it’s really, really not worth it.


So there is is. I want to post more succinctly on why I have some personal issues with radical feminist activism because, I'm afraid, I was rejected, chastised and pushed away when my sexual preferences were 'outed', and it's only recently I've had the courage to try and stand up for myself and other feminists who don't fit exactly into the rad fem mould.

But that's for later.

While I remember, here's another speaker, Sofie, from the same panel at Fightback writing on the Ladyfest furore:

Feminists who ally with the right

Aaaand, here's Ladyfest's statement on the whole thing:

Ladyfest's position on the Feminism, Censorship and Pornography workshop

Wednesday, 25 April 2007


Recycled from an old blog of mine, but it amused me.

I was reading an old scientific journal (1890s?) the other day that amused and horrified me in equal measures. On the subject of (specifically! not women in general!) wives, William J. Robinson, a doctor of Genito-Urinary diseases declared that women who are satisfied with occasional relations - not more than once in two weeks or ten days are considered normal, but that:

there is an opposite type of woman, who is a great danger to the health and even the very life of her husband. I refer to the hypersensual woman, to the wife with an excessive sexuality. It is to her that the name vampire can be applied in its literal sense. Just as the vampire sucks the blood of its victims in their sleep while they are alive, so does the woman vampire suck the life and exhaust the vitality of her male partner - or victim. And some of them - the pronounced type - are utterly without pity or consideration.

Not that I have much desire to be a wife, but...

*bears fangs*

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Reply to Ladyfest discussion...

Following on from the discussion on the Ladyfest forums, in case what I write is triggering or offensive to some...

This is a prime example of the narrow-minded bigotry that is being expressed in the sparklematrix forum. It is so infuriating to see people expressing these lies with absolutely no facts to even support the legs they stand on!

Precisely. The whole BDSM 'cult' comment just spelled out to me how ignorant some people are regarding BDSM. It's no surprise because we're portrayed pretty poorly in the media for the most part, and the edgier queer SM scene is pretty much ignored. I genuinely think it's because 'verte' and 'elderflower' are BDSMers that we got so much beef, not because of our position on porn (which I think is fairly neutral - I'm just anti-censorship and also fight for the rights of sexual minorities). Places like Berlin and San Francisco have a 'queerer' scene, but you'll see all kinds of people of all genders, sizes, races and sexualities at bigger clubs like Torture Garden, and there are also women-only fetish nights like Purrr (yet to go, but can't wait!) where again the diversity is huge. A lot of the scene also has quite a DIY feel to it.

On the whole, I think the UK fetish scene is pretty inclusive, and the male dom/female sub stereotype is just not very accurate at all (btw, the International SM Women's Conference - again, women only - is coming up in Manchester in May). There are a lot of people into SM who have some pretty dodgy gender politics. Check out the odious takeninhand.com and it's understandable why a lot of feminists have a problem with BDSM! But it's again up to the feminist SM-positive types to challenge all that crap, and believe me we really try.

What I wonder is - do we have a 'right' to shove it in people's face? To be open about it? Is it likely to upset a lot of women or remind them of abuse or prove triggering? As a teenager I was involved in radical feminist politics and was pretty much 'shoved out' because I started going to fetish clubs. And in the 80s women who were sadomasochists were not permitted to enter the London Women's Centre or take part in feminist politics at all, really. I must admit I was quite shocked that this particular battle does not seem to have budged an inch in 20 years when I read those blogs and comments and it's partly why I'm an activist and take these opportunities where I can no matter how much crap we're likely to get (after all, many radical feminists said lesbians were a danger to their cause in the 70s, and that seems to have changed somewhat!). I went around with the Feminist Guilt hanging over my head for a very long time, though. It kind of strikes me that a lot of the more radfem stuff relating to sex is about shaming other women, which is exactly what Object is trying to do right there. It's an exercise in naming and shaming. I have real difficulty understanding how this relates to any feminist agenda. It makes me extremely uncomfortable and, frankly, livid when I see this shaming process happening to other women, even though I've grown more immune to it myself.

I think most radfems don't concede that most sexual fetishes or fantasies to do with power exchange or giving/receiving pain are 'natural' or 'normal'. They think it's because we're UBER repressed by teh patriarchy or are using BDSM as self-harm or a refuge to deal with past trauma. Well, the trauma part is right in lots of cases, possibly including my own, but it's only proportionate to the number of women who've been abused in general. And yes, I have no doubt that for some of those women SM isn't healthy, but that's not the case for most. The anti-SMers also assume we're all sub, and are therefore submissive to ALL men ALL the time, which is just nonsense. One of the most common words you see on female sub profiles is 'feisty'. Although I hate that word, most female subs I know are pretty fucking ferocious and don't sub to anyone but their partner/s (male or female - there are loads of bi/queer/lesbian femsubs out there). And another trend in femsubs is a tendency towards control-freaky-ness in the rest of their lives. Many of us (male and female subs) feel TOO dominant, find ourselves TOO controlling of other people. It's a way of negotiating a balance, perhaps. Many femsubs have powerful jobs, just as the stereotyped male sub who visits professional female dominants is a politician or a lawyer. Also, there are many, many more male subs than female subs, but I think the anti-SM feminists think female dominants are just emulating men, and male subs are just emulating feminine passivity. Can we please stop assuming that all women are and have always been passive little victims in the bedroom? It's insulting. Besides, female sadists have been around for as long as male sadists. Sappho's poetry indicates that she was quite the SM dyke!

The other critique is that we're basically a bad influence because our sexuality does not contribute to the general feminist Good. They say we're selfish, that we should take responsibility for our sexuality and become 'good girls', effectively. I have a massive problem with this because I think, through history, the idea of having 'moral' sex has always been imposed on women and never on men. We are supposed to uphold some kind of moral sexual code - whether it's about NOT losing your virginity before marriage, or NOT having rough, animalistic, sometimes anonymous sex, or NOT finding pleasure/pain combined irresistable and erotic and liberating. Some men have tried to make us into madonnas and whores for centuries and I'm damned if women are going to start doing the same thing. Can sex ever be 'moral'?

I would really, really love to know how some of these radfems have sex. I assume it involves no sex toys, no bondage, no pinning anyone up against anything or down on anything, no dirty talk, very little teasing and no oral if your partner happens to have a cock. I'm sure whatever it IS they do, it must be fucking great otherwise many of them wouldn't claim to be sex positive and make the rest of us have sex like them - I just can't envision it. Shame they don't make porn, really. I could be educated! But still, I have real difficulty understanding how we can 'politicise' our fantasies and fetishes without seeking to repress a lot of them completely. I tried doing this for years. It wasn't liberating. Through my interest in BDSM I find I am constantly exploring, negotiating and attempting to understand my sexuality a little better, as well as other people's through various means (porn being one of them). I'm endlessly curious when it comes to sex. I am aware I have some pretty dark thoughts and fantasies, some of them genuinely troubling, many that I will never enact. But I have shared all of them, attempted to understand some of them and enacted the ones that are moderately safe and sane (consensual? well, it's my fantasy we're enacting, isn't it? Of course it's consensual!). Sharing these thoughts and feelings with other women, other feminists, and them being accepted, was life-changing for me. No more shame.

I don't see why I shouldn't share this experience with other feminists. I'm not abnormal. I'm a woman who enjoys edgy consensual sex, sometimes likes really fucking rough animalistic sex, sometimes likes slow, ritualistic SM, shibari rope bondage and sometimes is even greedy enough to throw a little vanilla in with my chocolate and hundreds and thousands. No, this isn't the norm, but it's still not that unusual and it's certainly not new. Even as I write this I feel tempted to write about some of the more unusual things I get up to, but again feel like I can't. Even in my own webspace. Perhaps I'll be brave enough at some point, but at the moment there's still some shame there. STILL.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

On being a terrible feminist

And another thing: why are they so worried about the porn, or the women objectified by porn work?

Let's get some things straight:
1. In my day job I work as a secretary in a hospital. I've been there since last June and am counting down the days until I can quit at the end of June this year. I loathe it, but it'll ensure I can go and do my Masters in September, and at least there's some satisfaction in knowing I'm contributing to a system that genuinely improves people's lives - or at least intends to. The consultant I work for has made plain that he regards me as a silent, typing object. He never asks me questions, he barely speaks to me, and I think we have had one proper conversation - ever - and it was about stripclubs in Leeds. I have no idea how that came up or what was said, but anyway, it was definitely about strip clubs (maybe it is all about the porn). But still, I've found this experience incredibly degrading, even humiliating. Even though he is not my boss and I know what I do is really for his patients, and it's probably because he's just a rather odd, awkward person, every letter I type for him gives me a tiny surge of anger. And I even keep my mouth shut while I do it. I think this makes me a terrible feminist.

2. In the evenings, I often life model. For all sorts of people, in all sorts of places. I effectively 'sell my body'. That's what they're drawing, aren't they? A figure? A body? There's one tutor at a college I won't model for and have complained about because he treats us like dirt. He hired only elderflower and me (young female models, of course) for an entire term, and during that time it became clear he got some pleasure in directing poses he knew would cause pain. In one session, he asked me to pose on all fours under - and I couldn't help but notice the phallic implications - a ladder. Another time he asked me to pose pushing a broom along the floor nude. After that I said I wouldn't work with him again. He's a great tutor and a wonderful artist, but he's also a misogynist pig and I have zero tolerance for them, especially when in the nude in front of a bunch of people.

However, at its best, life modelling can be transcendent. If I'm in a good headspace, and I'm running the poses how I choose, and I still get to be exhibitionist - which is one fetish that will never, ever go away - it's bliss. No matter how painful it is, there is something about concentrating on stillness and the buzz of creativity around me that unleashes all sorts of interesting rhetoric in my head. It's powerful; I'd go as far as to say it's important and sort of ritualistic to me. And I'm also fascinated by how terrified people are by nudity, but that's another story.

There was one pose I was given where I was to be Ophelia, drowned in the river (a la Millais). I have no idea what any of the artists were thinking about as they drew me. Maybe one of them was thinking about fucking a woman and dumping her in a river until she drowned. How is anyone supposed to control that? How on earth do we know what stimulates those kind of thoughts? I suspect most artists have watched a fair amount of 'erotica' I suspect Object might disapprove of. Is that likely to affect what they think when they draw a nude girl, posed dead?

I'm not a terrible feminist because I don't think censoring porn is a good idea, or because I like to explore power exchange in consensual adult relationships, I like exploring fantasy.

I'm a terrible feminist because I consent to being treated as an object in an office environment by a man. That's feminism gone rotten and what we should really be worried about and challenging, not enjoying watching consenting adults having sex, or thinking about sex, or seeing the naked body.

So please, have a go at me because I'm a secretary who lets herself get treated badly by the man she works for, not because I choose to sell my body and often love every second of it.

Monday, 16 April 2007

It's clear that this bullshit is just beginning


Latest press release on Object's website. What a load of shit. Ladyfest is a majority Queer festival. Loads of the organisers are kinky. Loads of them watch porn. Some of them make it too.

Urgh. It's all too boring.

Ladyfest Leeds - Men and Feminism discussion and thoughts

Well, I can't say I didn't come away from Ladyfest without new ideas and things to think over. The day before our own workshop it seemed pretty clear to me there were some sex-negative types there; in the women-only Men and Feminism workshop, many said they felt more comfortable being in a female-only space because they felt even feminist men were sometimes unconsciously sexist and they felt they couldn't speak up because these men were more articulate or dominant.

I don't know if I buy that. I tend to get impatient with shrinking violet types. Most of my friends are nigh on ferocious and pretty assertive. It's not difficult to confront men (or women!) if they start using odious gender stereotypes or make sexist comments. Just correct them! Making a fuss in 'I'm awfully sorry, but thou art a sexist pig' tones, probably on the verge of tears, is hardly productive. And Sexist Guilt (?) in the menz is not productive either. This is the christian-style feminist stance on men I find really troubling. They seriously seem to think men should all confess their sins and acknowledge their privilege.

Just, no.

One of T's friends used to make 'ironically' misogynist jokes until I confronted him, and he started asking me about feminism. When you explain to most men that feminists are not braless, veggie, man-hating, sex-hating, hairy lesbians, they will usually shrug and say, "Oh, well I'm a feminist then." And T's friend suddenly seemed far less puzzled and frightened by me, too. Anyway, suffice to say I'm perfectly capable of asserting myself and I sometimes forget that not all women are.

Something that seemed to piss off and even upset the male feminists when we joined them in a mixed space to discuss the same topic were the women saying that men should constantly remember how privileged they are, and how they will never understand female experience. I can appreciate that point, but what feminism is most basically dealing with is oppression and inequality, and anyone who tells me men never experience those things from other men because being born with a penis means they are inherently 'privileged' is talking bullshit. Many men I know feel pretty uncomfortable in male-only spaces. My brother and I both went to single-sex schools from the ages of 5 to 18. How has that affected our gender politics? Well, though my brother is a smart, witty bastard, he is a chauvinist rugby-playing twat as well. My school was part of a national trust of girls' schools with the philosophy of the best possible education for girls from less wealthy middle-class families, set up in 1890. I guess its philosophy was feminist from the off. Although the headmistress was a drippy conservative, the deputy and politics teacher was a rabid radical feminist. Twice a week, from the age of 11 to 18, I would sit in assembly and she would tell us some uncompromising tale of sexism - in the media, in literature or religion, or an experience from her own life. If anyone managed to leave the school with no appreciation whatosever of the world through a feminist lens it sorely disappointed her. When I bunked off her politics lessons to go on some kind of feminist march or other, I think she was secretly rather proud.

But anyway, I do know a lot of feminist-identifying men who went to single-sex schools, most of whom were picked on for the same reasons we claim men target or dominate women: for their looks, race, their lack of strength or athleticism, their sexual prowess or general awkwardness, never mind if they identify as gay, transgendered or queer. Although T attended co-ed schools all the way through, he was horribly bullied all the way through, never gave anything back, and it continued until he finally shoved the nastiest of the bullies down the stairs. And then, having asserted some sort of 'masculine' prowess it suddenly stopped. The idea that men will never understand sexism or misogyny - which are based on almost entirely the same structures of oppression as any other - just isn't true. It's unfair to have that prejudice, I think, even if we did agree that the existence of some woman-only spaces is positive and even compulsory.

The idea of organising an entire Ladyfest festival without including men, though? Not at ALL convinced that's progressive or inclusive...