Rihan-NAH: Stop Calling Rihanna A Pioneer of Feminism

I’ve seen it, you’ve probably seen it- but do any of us actually like it? 

Yes I’m talking about Rihanna’s ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ video. And, unfortunately, she’s just won a space in my female pop artist ‘bin’ next to Miley Cyrus and Cheryl Cole. I vowed never to watch another Rihanna video again, after baring witness to her humping a golden chair in the ‘Pour It Up’ video (thanks, Dan Peters). But it wasn’t until I read an excellent article in The Telegraph about it which intrigued me to undergo the 7 minutes of visual and audial trauma.

So what’s wrong with this video? The answer is everything. And I’ll give you everything in several terms- cringeworthy lyrics, kidnap and BDSM with subtle hints of racism… not exactly the recipe to a hit record. But how could we possibly take a mediocre record straight to the top of YouTube’s hit list? Oh, I know!- by filming an outrageous video that frankly, would make Hitler cry.

Before I descend into a whirlwind of emotion about this video, I’ll give you the basic principles. The ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ appears to be an act of revenge on an accountant (based on the real one who nearly bankrupted her in 2008). Rihanna proceeds not just to take direct revenge on him (by carving him like a Sunday roast turkey joint); but also his blonde wife who is strung up and tortured whilst topless in what seems to be an extreme take on BDSM.

So let’s start with the basics, I’m not saying that if someone bankrupted me, I’d throw flowers at them… but chopping them up seems a little extreme, doesn’t it? Needless to say, this kind of violence is nothing new in the music video world. Not to mention that the systematic destruction of the male accountant has very little screen time in the 7 minute duration of this video, in comparison with the torture of the blonde woman. But quite frankly, this isn’t enough to shock the Generation Y, who have been exposed to more violent media platforms as kids, than outdoor bike rides in the fresh countryside.

Regrettably, the main focus is upon the accountant’s wife, who is first stripped to her bare skin in a scene which has been compared to much of Quentin Tarantino’s film output, depicting women as victims of sexual violence. But when your fan-base stretches from the impressionable age of 13 upwards, I cannot help but lay claim to Rihanna’s apparent lack of responsibility, here. Now, I’m all for freeing the nipple, but nudity isn’t the issue, here. It’s the context in which nudity is being expressed. Nudity is not being expressed as an act of freewill or liberation here, and there’s no doubt that a male sitting behind a computer somewhere in the world, is going to find this very arousing. Have we been exposed to so much porn and violent footage, that we desire to push the boundaries even further, to satisfy our needs? I definitely haven’t.

In fact, the non consensual nature of the whole video, is the basis on which I find great fault with it. The gang of women aren’t ripping the blonde’s clothes off and nutting her on the head with a glass bottle because she asked them too; it’s a deliberate and brutal act of violence which left me clenching my eyelids tightly together. I highly doubt that being force-fed alcohol and drugs was on her list of sexual desires, either.

Now racism is a topic which I tend to leave out of my posts. Perhaps I’m afraid of having an opinion on a taboo subject which evokes such feelings of bitterness between humans. But I have to make a point; that the woman being tortured is white. She is a stark contrast to Rihanna in all respects: a tribute to Reese Witherspoon’s character from Legally Blonde with her light hair, fair skin with a small dog in tow… as opposed to Rihanna’s brunette locks, Caribbean heritage and punchy style. And I cannot help but think that if Rihanna was white and the victim was black, this might be brought to people’s attention. Now, I’m fully aware of my culture’s history of oppressing black men and women. I am not proud of it either. But, two wrongs do not make a right, and if this is an ice cold serving of revenge some 180 years after the slave trade was abolished, then I don’t think this is justified.

But irrespective of the victim’s skin colour, Rihanna’s biggest sin is the taking down of a woman, by another woman. The white woman is depicted as defenceless, subordinate and more importantly, voiceless (she is gagged with sticky tape) whilst Rihanna is sunning herself on her private yacht. This has to be the ultimate insult to feminism/ equality (whichever one you’re going for). But as much as I am no longer a fan of Rihanna’s, she isn’t stupid. I’m sure she’d have anticipated, even provoked the reactions of her music video before it even reached my poor, scorched retinas.

The final question then is, is a highly acclaimed music artist such as Rihanna, justified in producing a video such as this? Does her success give her the freedom to promote themes of sex, violence and misogyny, even if they’re not sincerely meant? One thing’s for sure, she’s certainly made a point of her power and success. But should she retire and enjoy her fortune, or improve the quality of her lyrical output so she doesn’t have to compensate it with another controversial video? Because as for watching her next porn movie with the lyrical deafenings of “moolah moolah- ay – ay, brap- brap”, it’s a no from me.

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Free The Nipple: What A Crippling Thought

It’s the height of summer and I’m lounging in my suburban backyard. It’s 30 degrees outside and the heat is blistering. Sweat pours through my clothes as the sun rises higher in the sky. The last thing I want to be doing is wearing clothes…right? I’m two seconds away from removing my top, when it hits me- what will the neighbours say?

Now, before I start, I’m not going to tell you to remove your clothes and quit your day jobs in pursuit of the meaning of life. Nor will I condone freedom of the nipple for the satisfaction of men; chanting the deep, meaningful lyrics of “Get your tits out for the lads”. It’s not an easy thing to encourage women to bare all in spite of matriarchal society’s sexualisation of female breasts. But, perhaps it is better to argue and guard against the shaming of women who choose to breastfeed their child in public, or go topless on a searingly hot summer’s day.

It’s not against the law to bare your breasts in the UK and many other parts of the world. So why are women left feeling the need to awkwardly tie up their bikini tops after tanning their backs- like a whale that’s just been washed ashore? After hearing about a woman in Chicago, US who was asked to cover up when breastfeeding in a restaurant, it’s clear that although the law might not advocate against the ‘toplessness’ of women, society has some stigmas it should readdress.

It seems to be a unfortunate case of semiotics. The work of literary theorist, Roland Barthes (1964) can help explain to us how objects can signify certain meanings which reflect society’s norms and values. Female breasts have taken on different meanings in popular culture throughout history, so what has changed? It seems that the acceptability of the naked body has always been subject to the dominant culture at that particular time. Renaissance art depicts the Virgin Mary breastfeeding Jesus Christ- Jesus’ genitals were sometimes exposed. But I can’t imagine a group of randy men stood ogling at Hans Memling’s painting of ‘Madonna nursing the child’- can you?

It then stands to reason, how has this link between nudity and sex been created? The sexualisation of female breasts does not merely exist; it has been made by society. Thanks to cultural objects such as Zoo and Nuts (I hear giggles in the back row), this link has been reinforced. It then must be asked, why are female breasts sexualised, but not men’s? After all, they have the same components: tissue, nipple and areola. The only difference is size and purpose. And yes, the objectification of men has become more apparent- with much pressure upon men to beef up and puff their chests out like little pigeons. But no lad has ever been asked to put his top back on because his breasts are too big.

Instagram and Facebook has a ‘cover up’ policy in an attempt to protect users from sexual content. These networks have since been accused of reinforcing the shaming of women’s breasts by taking down photos of women breastfeeding on social media. This debate is still ongoing and it’s increasingly difficult to set the boundaries between what is suitable for public consumption, and what is just pornographic. The context in which we bare our breasts then, is of great importance. For instance, you might go topless on a beach, but would be refused entry to a nightclub.

But whether you care to admit it or not, most of you have seen your parents naked, not to mention that home movie of you running around the beach cloth-less as a toddler on that family holiday. Just me?.. I should hope not. It teaches children not to be ashamed of their bodies. I don’t remember being body conscious as a child, and I am not now. But yet somehow, the idea of going topless in my own, overlooked back garden seems shameful.

Luckily, the ‘Free The Nipple’ movement, set up by American actress, Lina Esco has set itself to tackle this symptom of inequality. Esco’s vision has even become a movie, released in 2014. It’s arguably more prominent in the US, where it is still illegal to go topless in 35 states. Moreover, women in New York are still at risk of being charged for public indecency, despite legalizing it in 1992. Use of the #freethenipple hashtag by high profile influencers has resulted in the campaign going viral. The NHS even offers support to women who choose to breastfeed their babies, publicly. But we can and should take courage from these women who are still fighting for their right to feed their children in public and be shown the same treatment as a man who chooses to go topless. After all, if my neighbour can mow his lawn without overheating…why can’t I?  

You can join the #freethenipple movement by using the link below:

http://freethenipple.com/join-the-movement

Drunk in Love: Limerence & the Side Effects

‘Tis the season to be jolly and to think of those we love at this festive time of year. And considering the heavy promotion of consumerist products, promoting values of love and happiness at Christmas… Come on. Admit it. The Monty the Penguin advert had you feeling abnormally toasty inside- so you’d be forgiven for thinking of that special someone a bit more than usual. I wanted to look at what makes us feel this way and whether there is a real psychological/ physiological explanation for this minefield of emotion. 

Unless you’re green and living on Mount Crumpit, you’ve probably experienced the heightened sense of euphoria, albeit ‘fuzziness’ in the festive season. It might even have you considering getting into a new relationship, rekindling one with an ex, or even getting with that creep at the office Christmas party… not to mention the sudden realization of your apparent state of loneliness. But before you commit yourself to a spiral of emotional turmoil, you might want to consider that you might be experiencing the psychological phenomenon of ‘Limerence’… a.k.a Love- sickness.

As coined by Dorothy Tennov (1979) in her book “Love and Limerence”, the disorder encompasses a whirlwind of symptoms spanning from “an involuntary state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one’s feelings reciprocated” (Wiki.)

Dr. Frank Tallis (2004) outlined several symptoms of Limerence in his book: “Love as a Mental Illness”:

1.) Loss of appetite or, butterflies: persons experiencing Limerence can suffer a loss of appetite due to intense feelings of excitement. I.e: you’re on a date in a restaurant when your hunger subsides. Thoughts are angled more towards all the ways you can eat their face rather than the meal in front of you. 

2.) Erratic mood swings: having strong feelings for a person can leave an individual vulnerable to changes in mood throughout the day. E.g. they haven’t replied to your lengthy and well thought out iMessage and therefore the world is a terrible place. However if anyone asks, this is NOT why you’re upset. 

3.) Insomnia: some people experience an inability to sleep at night due feelings of worry and anxiety. E.g. you had a dream that they cheated on you and therefore this is a FACT. 

4.) Ritualistic compulsions: superstitious thoughts that lead to a ritualistic or routine behaviour. E.g. I must apply the same aftershave that she said smelled nice or she won’t fancy me anymore. 

5.) Persistent images and impulses: otherwise known as daydreaming, resulting in an inability to concentrate on menial tasks. This could be replaying memories shared with the person or just purely making them up. Anything can prompt you into a spiral of sexual fantasy such as the word ‘spade’… or ‘parsnip’. 

6.) Delusions: positive and negative behaviour of said person is justified by us. He laughs like a girl and is probably still shagging his ex, but he’s perfect! Think again. Arguably social media has made it more possible for us to indulge in these delusions. Staring at his Facebook profile pictures at 00.02 am? Slap your wrist and exit the page. 

Said symptoms have been blamed upon the love hormone ‘Oxytocin’ which is responsible for feelings of intense pleasure and bonding between two people…oo. Furthermore it has actually been suggested by a Dr Hullet in an article by everydayhealth.com that this chemical is addictive and withdrawal from it can lead to feelings of depression.

Withdrawal is most evident in women who can experience ‘Postcoital Dysphoria’- whereby a sexual encounter (however satisfying at the time) is followed by intense feelings of regret and anxiety. So the pleasure is only temporary and needs to be sustained in order to overcome this post-sex depression… hmm… explains why many women feel unable to sustain a friends with benefits situation for too long!

On the other end of the spectrum, love can cause a state of absolute ‘Euphoria’- a side effect of alcohol and psychoactive drug use as well as love! So ‘Drunk in Love’ is not just a song by Beyoncé, it’s an actual thing-y. Have you ever spent time with someone you like, but when asked by a friend what you talked about, you can’t remember? You’ve experienced euphoria. Congratulations.

So why are these feelings heightened at this time of year? At Christmas, we’re constantly reminded of what it means to be surrounded by those you love, which can actually draw more attention to our loneliness. We’re suddenly caught up in this ideology of couples skating on ice and exchanging gifts. But don’t fret, if you’ve managed the majority of the year alone, you’ll probably live through the next one just fine.

Merry Christmas.

Uni: You Can’t Pick Your Family, But You Can Pick Your Housemates.

Arguably the best thing about going to University is choice; you’ve spent ages picking your course, but one thing you can’t always pick are your housemates… well, you can pick them but sometimes there comes a point when you think you must have chosen them when you were off your trotters on Jagerbombs, twerking in a nun’s outfit on the town’s local statue of some old bloke with a beard. But one thing you can’t argue with, is that they’re guaranteed to be at least one of these guys…

1.) ‘The Serial Shagger’What’s that pitter pattering of feet I hear at 3 in the morning? This person is an expert in getting drunk girls from the front door to his room in the space of 30 seconds. Shame it doesn’t last that long though. Usually tries to cover up the noise by playing George Ezra (or other nondescript album) and subsequently ruining the entire album for the rest of your life. Also likely to brag about how she was ‘punching’ the next day. Hideous. 

2.) ‘The Dirty Bastard’- the tell tale sign of this one is that they suggest you hire a cleaner within three days of moving in. Leaves dirty dish NEXT to the sink for 48 hours and claims he’s “only just eaten”  from it. Has trouble finding where everything goes, probably needs a map to find the dishwasher, too. 

3.) ‘The Hairy Freak’- You didn’t think you moved in with Chewbaca, but hey, you thought university was a world of intellectuals with good standards of hygiene, so anything is possible, right? This phantom hair shredder likes to shave over the sink and leave his/her pubes for you to look at when you brush your nashers. 

4.) ‘The Passive Aggressive Note Leaver’ – He/ She is the reason your kitchen/living space looks like a notice board. Usually moans about how untidy the place is, likes to point out when he/she has cleaned. 

5.) ‘The Pot Wanker’- Rolls one up and suddenly thinks he’s Bob Marley. Most likely to use phrases like “Man, I’m so baked”. Weed smoking usually followed by the systematic destruction of the fridge and watching a series of odd YouTube vids such as Reggae Shark (Do not watch when sober). 

6.) ‘The Soiler’- Loses all bodily functions when drunk or high. Likely to piss themselves or vomit in the oven. 

7.) ‘The Recluse’- This is the name we give this person because we’re not sure we even know their name. Rarely leaves their room except to place a ready meal in the microwave. Most likely to be Maths/ Science students. 

8.) ‘The Gym Bum’- This person will attend the gym every day without fail. Invests about £1000 a year on protein shakes, insists he’s getting bigger every day…not sure he looks any different from fresher’s week. 

9.) ‘The Baby Elephant’- Stamps or runs down the corridor like rhino with 1 tonne weights around their ankles. 

10.) ‘The One Who’s Tight as Arseholes’- It could be minus 10 degrees and he/ she would insist you put another jumper on rather than turn on the heating. Kicks off if you’re in the shower for more than 5 minutes. How dare you wash! 

11.) ‘The Posh Wan’- Their parents’ annual income is 30 times the national debt but they still want to know how much you get for your student loan. Daw, would you like another pony for Christmas? 

 

Polyamory: The Sexual Board-game (2+ players)

Are all humans naturally monogamous? What if someone told you that you could have several sexual partners all at once? Sound appealing to you? Then welcome to the world of Polyamory, where you can do just about anything within your relationship(s)…and no, it doesn’t count as cheating. But is the Polyamorous land of milk and honey(s) a true reflection of natural human instinct? Or just infidelity without shame?

Amongst all the petty arguments and posh talk, reality TV show Made in Chelsea has actually sparked some interesting debate in the media recently. Following a trip across the Atlantic to the culturally diverse city of New York, the Chelsea crew have made themselves some new and interesting friends, not to mention getting acquainted with the city’s casual dating scene. Enter newbie, Jules; a model with long term girlfriend and Versace model, Jana. They’ve been dating for three years and seem to be a loving couple…except for one minor detail- they’re dating other people, too. I must admit, polyamory was an entirely new concept to me. I was always aware that some men in particular struggle with the concept of monogamy (leading to cheating) but was completely unaware of this new “ethical” dating revolution which made this okay.

But before we begin the debate about monogamy vs. polygamy, we need to define the two concepts. According to Oxford Dictionaries: ‘Monogamy’ refers to “the practice or state of having a sexual relationship with only one partner.” There is also a sub type named ‘Serial monogamy’ which refers to having a series of monogamous relationships. Most humans are deemed to be serially monogamous along with Emperor Penguins. It seems that animals such as mute swans and wolves are actually more monogamous than us humans!

So you’re playing a game of Monopoly and you’ve just landed on Islington. You’ve got a house on that street already and money is running quite low. However you realize that by building another house, the return profit could be quite satisfying. Do you play it safe, or do you take a chance and extend your ownership? Of course when we’re talking about Polyamory, we’re not talking about monetary risk and profits but about sexual profits and emotional risk. Yes, you’re going to get sexual fulfillment and gratification when you want it, but how do you protect others from getting hurt, despite knowing about your other sexual pursuits?

Made in Chelsea’s Jules and Jana claim to have read “The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities” by Dossie Easton and Catherine. A. Liszt. The book introduces a concept where the reader can live a life with several sexual partners at once and address the emotional risks such as jealousy, conflict and even how to orchestrate group sexual encounters (i.e. a ménage à trois…or an orgy). Now, if you’ve read my article on pejorative usage of the word ‘slut’, you’ll know I’m not its biggest fan. However, the book is one of ‘slut”s reclaiments: acknowledging the term as  “a person of any gender who has the courage to lead life according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you.” This sort of infers that we are resisting our want and need for pleasure with multiple people at once as it deviates from what most Western societies tell us is right. And it does seem plausible that society’s cultural norms can be oppressive on people with “radicalized” views on sex and relationships.

However, if polyamory is the natural course for us humans to take, then why are so many against its practice? When Made in Chelsea’s Jules revealed his polyamory to Rosie (whom he had been seeing whilst dating three other women,) she was disgusted at the concept of sharing a love interest. She argued that it was greedy, impulsive and an attempt at justifying sleeping with lots of women. Jules’ own long term girlfriend even confessed that she was horrified at the concept of the Ethical Slut before reading Easton and Liszt’s book. We don’t actually know why she agreed to it in the end. Fear of losing her long term boyfriend altogether perhaps?..quite possibly.  When we think of the consequences of sleeping with lots of individuals at once; STDs for example, then it really makes us question whether polygamy actually goes against nature, rather than running alongside it.

Furthermore, when you ask yourself what a romantic relationship actually means; sexual fulfillment is just one element of it. What about exclusivity, i.e having a sense of belonging with one individual? By disregarding the exclusive nature of a relationship and looking for/ having sex with other people, you immediately undermine and disrespect the grounds on which a relationship is built. Despite the Ethical Slut being openly honest about their practices, it doesn’t really make it okay and acceptable to everyone, thus why Jules claims to “experience rejection regularly” and that people are “narrow-minded” about his sexuality.

Ultimately, polyamorous individuals argue that cheating always goes on in apparently monogamous relationships, but polyamorous people are more open about it. However this is simply not the case with every relationship or marriage and we mustn’t use this concept of ‘Polyamory’ as an excuse for deceiving our partners, being greedy, impulsive and unable to resist temptation (and temptation will always exist)- if not for our own self respect but for the respect of the feelings of others. This idea that you can love somebody so much that the relationship is unbreakable and can withstand polyamory seems extremely selfish…a motive which a healthy relationship should not be built on. After all, the natural human emotional responses of jealousy, anger, hurt and conflict that come with finding out that you have been sharing a lover with someone else are tell tale signs that polyamory is not natural… and that males or females should not accept anything less than total commitment in a relationship.

Expectations vs Reality: You’re Never Too Young For a Midlife Crisis.

You probably thought a midlife crisis was something your parents go through- like buying a motorbike or getting some obscene tattoo/ haircut, prompted by the realization that their life is more than halfway over. But what if someone told you at age 20, that you were just 5 years away from your very own midlife crisis? Lucky chaps. My post looks at the new ‘Quarter life crisis’ that seems to be hitting our generation like a train. 

So why are so many young people entering a premature crisis at the age of 25? An interesting article by The Daily Mail highlighted this issue, saying that “Today’s young adults often struggle with the multitude of options available, driving them to feel anxiety, depression and a sense of being trapped or ‘locked into’ a marriage or a job that doesn’t feel right.” So is it the expectation of how we should be living, prompting this early midlife crisis?

Expectation. It’s a frightening word, isn’t it? We all have expectations about how our lives will be/ how they would have been at the age of 25; a degree, full time job, a car, a stable relationship and maybe a house. And whilst many young adults strive towards, what I like to call as, life’s holy grail (a job, partner and fulfillment,) many are simply not finding themselves in this position. The fact is, whilst young people are successfully completing their degrees (which they believe to be their key to a full time job), many are struggling to find them and end up settling with an unfulfilling post, largely unrelated to their degree.

But whilst many are trying to fulfill these job/ relationship expectations, many are showing a desperate attempt to resist them by, for example, staying single for longer, playing the field, rather than committing. Unlike my grand parents who met in Aberystwyth University in the 1950s and married shortly afterwards, many are choosing to stay single and pursue their careers before settling down. And how do they satisfy their loneliness? Casual hook ups which are easily accessible, thanks to social networking. Many argue that they just do not have the time for little more than a Tinder hook up. But has our generation become so inward looking and career driven that they are leaving little or no time to actually get to know someone. 

There seems to be this idea that “relationships can wait until later” and that there will be plenty of time for the serious stuff once careers are fully established. But some research seems to suggest that a string of casual hook ups can be more damaging than liberating to the way we conduct ourselves in later relationships, according to an article on psychologytoday.com. If we become more cynical about sex and relationships, then will we find it more difficult to break the habit and form fully functional relationships when we finally “feel ready”?

Furthermore this liberating choice to stay single on the pursuit of success can be conflicting with what’s going on in our friend’s relationships. This might cause us to feel pressured about finding a life time partner. Having been invited to 7 weddings within a 2 year period, my own 23 year old sister has begun showing signs of this quarter life crisis. Cry. One minute you graduate and suddenly people are settling down and tying the knot, making you wonder if you’re one step behind everyone else.

The 2005 movie ‘The Last Kiss,’ with the tagline “You’re never too young for a midlife crisis,” perfectly captures the essence of what it feels like to have demands thrust upon you in your 20s and the bizarre ways in which we try to deal with these pressures. Zach Braff plays an unmarried twenty something year old who finds out his girlfriend is pregnant with their [unplanned] first child. Bombarded by friends in different romantic situations: getting married, failing relationships, having children, staying single, Braff feels trapped in a situation he didn’t plan. In his attempt to regain control of his life, he finds himself having an affair with a college student before realizing that he might have lost the love of his life.

We never find out if the mother of his child forgives him, but what we can take from the film is that this urge to resist demand and expectation can lead to us making selfish choices that we may come to regret. Perhaps if we stop chasing material possessions/ careers for a moment and accept what life throws at us (in the form of potential partners and exciting life opportunities) we can experience real satisfaction in life and avoid the quarter life crisis. 

 

 

  

 

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1383684/Most-25-35-year-olds-suffering-quarter-life-crisis.html#ixzz3BWoSz4GM

 

SLUT: A Word That Has No Place In Today’s Society.

It’s the word that’s been on everyone’s lips for years, (quite literally since its Middle English origins in the 1400s); it’s even spurred on women’s movements such as SlutWalk in April 2011. My post looks at the meaning of the powerful word ‘Slut’ in today’s society and questions whether there is a place for it in our daily lives. 

The word ‘slut’ has taken on many orthographic and etymological forms throughout history since its early origins. But whilst some meanings such as “kitchen maid” and “drudge” (I know right, what does that even mean?) have died out, there is one definition that has remained pejorative, with the purpose of shaming women who choose to deviate from the majority of Western society’s monogamous stance on relationships. 

Wikipedia defines the word slut as “a term applied to an individual who is considered to have loose sexual morals or who is sexually promiscuous.The term is generally pejorative and most often used as an insult, sexual slur or offensive term of disparagement.” We’ve all used the term, whether it be jokingly or as a serious insult, but perhaps we should stop and think of the consequences of its excessive use (particularly in the case of women using the term to describe other females.) 

I do feel that the connotations of ‘Slut’ have been formed by religion and society, in an attempt to control sexual conduct, particularly that of women. However sex should always be down to personal choice. Whilst being respectful of religious belief (I have been brought up as a Christian myself,) I do think that sexual morals should be formed by the individual. Furthermore, the individual should be at peace with whatever decision they make with regards to their own sex life.

I cannot count the number of times friends have gone through the motions of guilt after a one night stand that was entirely their own resolve. Whilst this could be down to plain regret after one too many vodkas, the response, when their guilt is questioned, is generally “I feel like a slut.” It may be that their decision went against their own morals, but when so many women find themselves repeating the action more than once, I can only think that they are scared of what others might think. It must be asked that in a society where more and more women are making these casual choices about their sex lives, why are we still living in fear of a word… and why is it acceptable to use it against other people as a means of ruining their reputation and ultimately lowering their self esteem and confidence in the choices they make as an adult? 

Even more worrying is how the term has been used to shame rape victims. A Toronto Police Officer caused mighty uproar among feminists in 2011 when he declared that women might avoid being raped if they didn’t “dress like sluts.” This spurred a SlutWalk protest in which many North American women paraded the streets in ‘slutty attire,’ campaigning against the shaming of victims of rape and sexual assault. So, ladies, if we stop calling other women sluts, it might not give men like this, the grounds upon which to use the term in such a way which has much more horrific consequences than just insulting a female who stole our boyfriend. 

Whats more, it’s unfair that the term seems to have the opposite effect for males. Whilst the term “man-slut” is used to by females to warn off other females of a man possibly carrying several STIs, it is commonly worn like a badge of honor in groups of laddish males who see having sex with a woman as a goal in the net. Whilst some males might not be happy to carry this ‘man-slut’ banner, some would be perfectly happy with, and even proud of this seductive power they seem to have over women. 

But what if the word took on a new meaning for women and became a means of pride? Women’s movements have reclaimed the term as a means of sexual liberation; often referred to as Slut Pride, coined by comedian Margaret Cho. The frontier calls upon the “sexually loose” to feel liberated by their choices. 

However there are undoubtedly issues with a sexually loose generation (such as the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy) and we must encourage ourselves and others to make sensible, safe choices about our sex lives. The term ‘Slut’ has ultimately tried and failed to control the sexual conduct of men and women, so why is it still being used in a way which makes the human race feel bad about their own personal choices? One thing’s for sure, I will be very careful not to use the term SLUT at the drop of a hat in the future. 

 

 

 

Men and Women: In The Midst of an Identity Crisis?

Does society ask itself what it means to be a man or indeed, a woman? Do men and women know what they are “supposed to do” anymore? Labour MP Diane Abott claims not, according to an article released by The Guardian in May of last year. But I want to ask the true significance of being a man or woman in today’s society and how society has socially constructed the terms “male and female.”

Growing up, we are shaped first and foremost by the morals and beliefs held by our parents or guardians. These morals, beliefs and practices are then intercepted by other external influences; school, friends, politics, even media- all contributing to the formation of our identity. Although we have all been given the gift of self determinism (the ability to make our own mind up,) these external influences have an undoubted effect on our own thoughts. 

I myself have had what you could call, a ‘conventional’ family upbringing. My parents have been together for 28 years, I have one elder brother and sister… and a dog. As a child, I was given certain toys that were deemed suitable for a female to play with: a baby doll, a toy kitchen… even a bubble-blowing lawnmower (my personal favourite.) So it then goes without saying that a female who grew up in a single-parent family with 5 brothers, who was given a painter’s easel and a doctors and nurses set to play with, would probably have a very different idea of what it means to be female.

As a little girl, I also learnt what to expect from the opposite sex and how they should act. You could say that these beliefs were also conventional: when I grew up, all the days spent playing kiss chase and pretend weddings would pay off when I marry a real man who would take me on dates and have eyes for no one but me.

Before my post starts to poke at your gagging reflex, you’ll be relieved that I soon discovered that this was simply no longer the way men and women functioned. I set myself upon reaching higher goals than getting married and found satisfaction with the increasing independence as I got older. However, much to my disappointment, I became increasingly aware that men were not behaving in the way I wished them to (in the respectful, gentlemanly- like manner I expected.) 

So why is this? I can only think of one reason… the reason being feminism. The dynamic of women’s roles (domestic-turned- professional) had changed so dramatically over the years, it occurred to me that men might be equally as confused as I was about how the two sexes were supposed to behave. 

Having read my first article on female identity, a male friend commented on how similar men and women had become and that even women were “acting like men” (calling each other “bitches” and being more promiscuous- previously deemed by psychologists to be a male evolutionary attribute.) In a Western society where sexuality, for the most part can be expressed freely and many people are growing up in single parented families, it is not surprising that this has changed. Sometimes the unconventional can be a good thing and it can challenge the social norms that society has created. However when it comes to the dynamics of dating and relationships, do we have a serious problem here?

Have men taken feminism to heart so much that they now believe women to be machines capable of emotionless one night stands and flings? There seems to be a general consensus between young people (seen on the likes of Twitter and Facebook) that feelings are a sign of weakness and even a problem in an increasingly common casual sexual exchange between two people rather than a meaningful pursuit. Women are undoubtedly having more casual relationships and one night stands in 2014, where career prospects are often taking precedence over committed relationships. However, will it get to a point where we no longer know the joy of feeling the natural human emotion of love and the satisfaction and fulfillment in these feelings being reciprocated by another person? 

In a dating world possessed by opportunistic sex, a rejection towards feelings and commitment and where ‘sensitivity’ is a dirty, feeble word; perhaps we should go back to basics and start treating people as feeling human beings, not a sexual appliance to be used at our convenience… in which case you might benefit from a blow up doll.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Selfie Generation: A New Age Of Vanity?

Named by Oxford Dictionaries as the “word of 2013”- it even has a song named after it; but is the ‘Selfie’ responsible for far more than just a viral craze? My post explores the consequences for a generation obsessed with taking pictures of themselves.

Never before have we been so aware of what we look like. And thanks to the rise of social networking, our friends have a pretty clear mental image of what we look like, too. The ‘selfie,’ with many claimants to its coinage such as Paul McCartney and an Australian man who “invented it after a drunken night out,” has become somewhat of a worldwide phenomenon. Oxford Dictionaries defines it as: “A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” But what if taking a ‘selfie’ is more damaging to ourselves than we actually realize? 

A selfie can take just seconds to upload, but how long did you spend getting it just right? If the answer is more than 2 minutes (guilty) then perhaps your phone is better off in your clutch bag, rather than stretched out in front of your face. If you’ve ever been ‘caught’ taking a selfie by a family member or close friend, you have probably been accustomed to the judgmental look in their eyes as you strive to take a picture you deem as acceptable for public viewing. You might have even felt a little bit guilty about indulging in your own vanity. 

It’s not just the females showcasing their beauty, too. With the rise of the ‘metrosexual male’ (first seen by the likes of David Beckham in 1994)- the all new, groomed, urban man is also partial to sharing a ‘cheeky’ selfie with their mates on Instagram or Facebook, equipt with hashtags #instadaily and the dirty word itself: #selfie. Friends can show their appreciation by hitting the like button or commenting below. No one is displeased by receiving a few likes on a self portrait, but I cannot help but wonder if the number of likes we get has a serious effect on the way we see ourselves in the mirror.

The answer is of course, undoubtedly, yes. And with the news of an attempted suicide by teenager Danny Bowman, a self-confessed selfie addict who tried to take his own life after he was unable to take the “perfect” selfie, my fears and the fears of many were confirmed. Upon hearing the story, I began to realize just how self-obsessed and inward looking we have become today.The issue is not just the sheer number of pictures we take (Bowman reportedly took 200 a day,) but the potentially false image of ourselves we can give to others. Smartphones have given all of us the potential to be models with its photo editing apps and filters, gifted with the talent of removing yellow teeth stains and blemishes. But we must ask how real is the image we and other people have of ourselves?

We know that the media has always had a direct effect on young people. Airbrushed pic models (in advertisements, music videos etc,) has led to the spread of anorexia, bulimia and in some cases, death in young people. We have the choice whether to worry about what people think of our appearance and compete for the likes, but ultimately, our biggest critic is ourselves. Taking a selfie now and then doesn’t make us bad people; but if we really want to feel better about ourselves, shouldn’t we do something proactive to better our lives and the lives of others?.. rather than looking inwardly and sailing dangerously close to a world of self- doubt and criticism.

 

You, Me and my Phone: The Signs of Modern Dating.

Move over awkward best ‘friends,’ there’s a new third wheel in the room…and it’s probably in your hand right now. Following my article about female identity, I have decided to look further into the implications of media and technology upon modern dating; particularly that of your iPhone, tablet or Android which have become instrumental in the formation, maintenance and breaking up of relationships today. 

Never before has it been so easy to create contact with new people, ex lovers and old friends. In fact, social networking has almost made it impossible for us to ignore these people- with photos, relationship statuses and tweets appearing on our homepages every few seconds. Good news for professionals though who claim a lack of time when it comes to meeting people with the emergence of online dating websites and apps. We rely so heavily on our phones and tablets to create/ maintain relationships, it must be asked how beneficial the excessive use of technology is for relationships…and could they potentially be responsible for their demise? 

My previous article discussed the internalization by men that women are sexual objects. This is clearly evident in some of the interesting and desperate methods used by men on Tinder for opportunistic, casual sex. Some say it with a ‘dick pic,’ others with a straight up “Do you want it?” or “Let’s skip the bullshit and bond over a movie night.” This has often left me, myself in stitches of laughter. However it is worrying that the sheer majority just want sex and are not interested in how witty, intelligent or funny you are as a person. You are entirely at liberty to say yes or no, but the lack of respect for the person on the receiving end of your propositions cannot be a good thing. 

If you are extremely lucky, you might get a couple of dates out of the app and, for the lucky few (like some friends of mine) it actually leads to something more. But why is this case such a rarity? We make ourselves so readily available to others today, a whole plethora of contact methods are out there: iMessage, SMS, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Facebook, which make people almost unavoidable. It seems that we can get many of the perks of a relationship (without actually making any commitment to the other person) on our own phones, such as a solution to our loneliness, conversation and even virtual sex. Furthermore, as is often the case, this kind of virtual friendship/ casual relationship could be taking place with multiple people at once. 

I so commonly hear friends’ anxiety over the fear that the person they are “seeing” or “speaking to,” might be speaking to someone else at the same time. This is often the case even when real relationships are established. There is so much choice out there that it can often leave us unsure of what we really want and once we get it, is it ever enough? Can we resist temptation when it is presented to us on a plate? It seems we no longer just have to fear ex- girlfriends or jealous best friends; the biggest threat to your relationship might be sitting quietly in your pocket…until the vibrate notification comes through!

Even Durex posted a video campaign urging couples to “Switch it off” and talk to each other, rather than being distracted by the other world living inside your phone. Banksy’s work of art entitled ‘Mobile Lovers,’ which shows a couple embracing whilst looking at their phones says it all. There’s no doubt that technology can be a wonderful thing and broaden our social horizons, but sometimes we need to switch it off, embrace life and get to know the person right in front of us in order for real, healthy relationships to be formed.