No Hymen, No Diamond. No Problem!


If there is one thing the internet has taught us, is that there are lots and lots of strange people in the world — strange people with access to broadband. There are folks who genuinely believe David Icke’s idea that the world is controlled by lizard overlords; Obama birthers and conspiracy nuts of all kinds; women without fiancés, or even boyfriends, who’ve already planned every detail of their weddings; Macklemore fans; thousands of aggressive trolls; and then there are the MRAs.

I’ve written about MRAs before, but if you’ve managed to remain in blissful ignorance of them until now, I’ll give you a brief primer. MRAs or Men’s Rights Activists, are not activists in any real sense. There are definitely men’s issues that need addressing and highlighting, such as the high rates of male suicide, prostate cancer, male victims of rape and sexual assault, or the narrow definition of “acceptable masculinity” found in our culture. MRAs don’t care about these things. Instead their whole schtick is that women are evil harridans who will happily ruin a man’s life on a wet Wednesday afternoon because they’ve got nothing better to do.

MRAs believe that the average woman, particularly in the West, spend her youth riding the “cock carousel” then marrying some poor beta male when her looks begin to fade. She’ll then deprive him of all his worldly goods, either by divorcing him for no reason whatsoever, or by pumping out multiple children, as if women were not truly human and can impregnate themselves without a mate, like snakes.

MRAs come in all kinds of flavours. There’s male separatists or Men Going Their Own Way who supposedly want nothing to do with women, yet spend much of their time talking about the fairer sex. There’s deadbeat dad Paul Elam who campaigns against child support and who allegedly ditched his wife after she was raped, ignored his daughter for years, and lived off his girlfriend while creating his site A Voice For Men, in which his claims that women just love to drain the financial resources of men. Then there’s Roosh V and his Return of Kings crowd who are supposedly all rugged alpha men who spend their lives knee deep in pussy and in fear of false rape accusations, while advocating to make rape legal if it happens in a man’s home.

Some MRA sites are so preposterous you’re not sure whether or not they are serious or engaging in high level trolling. A case in point is Dick Masterson (ho ho) and his Men Are Better Than Women page — sample reasons: men have illegible handwriting, and men wear watches. And finally, the latest group, No Hymen, No Diamond.

No Hymen, No Diamond is a new Facebook group . The group has over a thousand fans. Here’s a recent post: “The average American woman is an attention whore constantly posting selfies, cheating on her boyfriend or husband, rationalizing her promiscuous behavior with her other slutty friends who do the exact same thing, has no goals or ambitions, has no personality, has no sense of morality or responsibility to behave properly, and has her head stuck up her ass.” Charming!

The group advocates virginity for women, but plenty of premarital sex for men. It also suggests you can check the virginity of your new bride by aggressively inserting two fingers into her vagina — which not only won’t tell you anything useful, but is essentially rape.

There are lots of misconceptions about virginity and the hymen. First off there is no reliable way of testing whether or not someone is a virgin. The hymen may or may not be present in a woman who never had penetrative sex. It can be torn riding a bike or horse or using tampons, and it can still be intact in a woman who has had multiple sexual partners. The hymen doesn’t cover the entire vaginal canal — if it did, young women would not be able to menstruate — but is a stretchy membrane. The reason some women bleed during their first sexual experience is more likely to be nerves and inadequate lubrication instead of the hymen tearing. What’s more, if someone has never has good old P-in-V sex, but has had plenty of oral or anal sex, can he or she really claim to be a virgin? Nope!

In some ways, the No Hymen No Diamond chaps are doing the rest of us a favour. If these men are holding out for a grown up woman who is not only a virgin, but an attractive, kind, decent human being who wants to marry a man who spends his time on the internet bitching about “sluts”, well they’ll be waiting a long time. No women with any self-respect wants to be with a man who disregards her personality, intelligence, achievements, education, sense of humour, life experiences, and all the many things that make up a complete person, but sees her value — or lack thereof — as wrapped up in a tiny, immaterial membrane of skin.

No self-respecting woman wants to be with a man who is completely stupid either, and since their sign actually reads: No Hymen, No No Diamonds, there’s an excellent chance these guys are not the sharpest tools in the shed.

Here’s another sample post:

“According to a source close to the White House, Donald J. Trump loves our page too! He loves it so much in fact, that when he is elected as president he is considering a $500 tax break for every like or share you deliver to #NoHymenNoDiamond’s fan-page! Talk about Making America Great Again – One like at a time!”

Hmmm… I don’t think so. Posts like these, which are so divorced from reality they have surely got to be satire, makes me think that No Hymen, No Diamond is a troll page. At least I hope so. But even if it is, the people following the page may well take it seriously. It would make me angry if it wasn’t so sad.

random surveys, science

Are hot women more likely to be straight? Doubtful…

A study recently presented to the American Sociological Association has argued that “hot” women are more likely to be straight than bisexual or gay. If that has made you do a double take, you’re not alone.

The study, conducted by Dr. Elizabeth Aura McClintock of the University of Notre Dame, tracked 5,018 women and 4,191 men from 1994 onwards and checked in with them at ages 16, 22 and 28 to ask what their self-reported sexual identity was.

Dr McClintock found that women were more likely to report being sexually fluid, and were more than three times as likely to change their sexual identity between the ages of 22 and 28.

So far, so normal — other studies have found that women are more likely to experiment with same-sex attraction, and are more willing to admit to it even if their sexual experiences have been exclusively heterosexual.

The McClintock study gets into a minefield once it tried to align physical attractiveness with sexual identity. McClintock claims that women who were attractive were more likely to be straight, but that there was no link between a man’s looks and his sexual identity.

The study suggests that women who are not attractive may feel less pressure to conform to heterosexual norms and therefore are freer to explore same-sex attractions. There are a number of problems with this conclusion. Let’s have a look at them.

First off, there is no objective standard for who is hot, and who is not. What one person finds attractive another may not. Chris Hemsworth was voted sexiest man alive last November, but nope, I don’t see it — and I love men with long blond hair. In this study, it was the researchers who decided which participants qualified as physically attractive or not, but the cliché puts it, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Secondly, beauty standards vary across time and culture. For example, the actresses Lucy Liu, Bai Ling, and Ming-Na Wen are all regarded as attractive in the West, but apparently the average Chinese person would disagree.

Thirdly, what is regarded as attractive in women is what straight men find attractive. A woman with long hair and wearing a dress is more likely to seen as attractive than a woman with a buzz cut wearing combats — by straight men. Plenty of lesbians would disagree.

Fourthly, women from conservative or religious backgrounds are more likely to accept gender roles as natural instead of cultural. They are therefore more likely to adhere to conventional standards of proper femininity in their self-presentation. They are also more likely to repress their experiences of same sex attraction and self report as heterosexual. That’s because in conservative social circles there are greater costs associated with defying gender roles and or being anything less than 100 percent straight.

Finally, beauty is often as much the result of effort as it is of good genes. Yes, there are features and physical characteristics that are generally regarded as attractive, and these can cross many different cultures, but while some of these are innate, a huge amount of them are the result of grooming.

Hair can be grown, styled, coloured; teeth can be straightened and whitened; diet and exercise can give your a fitter body; a dermatologist and a good skin care routine can make a helluva difference to your skin; and lipstick and a decent bra and give the impression of fuller lips and fuller breasts. Sure, genes and age means there are limitations as to what can be achieved, but most women can look better if they have the time, inclination and money to do so.

This is important — only heterosexual women have the inclination to make themselves attractive to men. So yes, heterosexual woman are more likely to adhere to cultural beauty norms. The more attractive to men you are, the more men you have to choose from.

Straight and gay women look for mates in different contexts, and therefore they use different physical cues to attract sexual partners. If you are not attracted to men, you have little or no motivation to be “pretty” in the ways men like. If anything, you may choose to present yourself in a manner which is off putting to straight men, but attractive to other women. As this clip from the wonderful Cameron Esposito explains, her look — masculine clothes. side mullet — are purposely chosen not to attract men but women.

The conclusion of the study — that less physically attractive women are less likely to be able to snag a man and therefore gravitate towards women — is not only insulting, it’s bad science.

News, sex work, sexual frustration

Are all men potential rapists? No.


Prostitution should be legal to stop men turning into hormone-fuelled rapists. That’s not my opinion, but Dr Catherine Hakim’s. Hakim is a “social scientist” — using the term loosely — who argues that the sex industry could reduce sex crimes because men want sex more often than women.

“The male demand for sexual activity is going to manifest itself in some way or another and decriminalising prostitution would make it easier for men to go to prostitutes,” she told Pat Kenny on Newstalk.

There are a couple of things we need to discuss here, but to begin let’s deal with Hakim’s outrageous assertion that the average man will turn to rape if he doesn’t get enough sex.

First off, and most importantly, it’s not true. Not even a little bit. But she is not the first one to suggest it. You may remember the SlutWalk movement from a few years ago. This was sparked by Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto Police officer, who argued that if women wanted to prevent themselves getting raped then they should “avoid dressing like sluts.” Hakim and Sanguinetti both see male sexuality as dangerous, uncontrollable and prone to violence. But if sexual frustration, or short skirts, turned generally decent men into sexual predators, then a whole lot more men would be rapists.

Here’s the important thing to remember: rape is common; rapists are not.

An 2002 American study found that only 6 percent of men in the US have committed rape. However most rapists have multiple victims and will continue raping until they are caught and jailed. Unfortunately very few are. In the US, 98 percent never spend any time in jail.The States has a population of over 320 million people. If roughly half of the country is male, then that 6 percent translates into approximately 9,600,000 rapists.

Unfortunately we don’t have figures for Ireland and so I am forced to extrapolate from international data, which is definitely less than ideal as the cultural context makes a huge difference. But bearing this in mind, in 2013 the UN published a study on sexual violence which surveyed over 10,000 men in Asia. Nearly half of the rapists they interviewed had multiple victims. Interestingly enough, these rapists would agree with Hakim — The UN study found that rapists justified their behaviour by claiming that men can’t help themselves and that because of that, they are entitled to women’s bodies.

The idea that men are slaves to their hormones and think with their dicks is not a new one — but it is not very old either. In the Middle Ages it was generally believed that women had insatiable sexual appetites, which made them akin to animals, while men were more cerebral and less prone to carnal thoughts. At some point this changed. Social historians have traced the flipping of this script to the influences of Victorian ‘idealism’ in England and evangelical Protestantism in the United States during the 19th century. By arguing that women were not that sexual after all, women could claim some sort of moral and intellectual equality with men.

Hakim argues that men are twice as interested in sex as women and that this is true across all ages and cultures. She sees this as biological, instead of cultural. However, it is impossible to divorce culture from our sexual attitudes. People in liberal cultures are more likely to have liberal attitudes to sex; people in conservative countries generally hold conservative attitudes to sex. The way we think about sex influences our sexual behaviour. It also influences what we are prepared to admit to researchers.

A 2013 study found that men and women routinely lie to researchers about their sexual behaviour, even in anonymous studies. When they are hooked up to a lie detector, men report fewer partners and women more. Since Western culture tells men they ought to be studs, and tells women we shouldn’t be “sluts” we tend to lie, to ourselves and others, that our sexual behaviour is in line with dominant cultural attitudes. If men are more interested in sex, well, that’s because Western culture “allows” them to be. This is true of much of the world, especially when you consider that the English speaking world, and Europe, are generally more sexually liberal than the Middle and Far East and much of Africa.

Let’s talk a bit about Hakim. Essentially she is Katie Hopkins with a vaguely academic twist — prone to making controversial claims, which she tries to justify with references to academic research. You could say her views on men are downright misandrist, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But Hakim has about as much respect for women too.

You might have heard of Hakim when her book Honey Money was released in 2011. In it Hakim claimed that women should use their “erotic capital” to snag a rich man while young, and because of that, women would be better off going to the gym than college. Hakim listed all kinds of studies to back up her assertion that this was in a woman’s best interest — and she argued that most women would prefer being a trophy wife to having a career. Hakim doesn’t do any original research herself and she was criticised for her sloppy understanding of statistics, for misinterpreting scholarly research, for a poorly argued and contradictory theory and for misrepresenting her affiliation with the London School of Economics. In other words, you’d want to take anything she says with a large dose of salt.

As I am sure you’re aware, Amnesty International has recently been debating the merits of decriminalising the global sex industry and has said that the right to sell sex is a human right. This has set off a firestorm of opinions. Many sex workers and advocates praised Amnesty for this stance; others, including former sex workers, academics, advocates and even Hollywood stars condemned the proposal as one which will empower pimps and exploiters instead of the men and women in the sex industry.

There are many arguments to support the legalisation of the sex industry; and many arguments against it, but that’s a topic for a different column. However you feel about legalising sex work, claiming that it will prevent rape is nonsense. For one thing, even in countries where prostitution is illegal, it is not hard to find sex workers. What’s more, except in the handful of countries where buying sex is illegal, it is the sex worker, not the client, who is at the mercy of the law. By and large across the world men have access to prostitutes if they want them.

Rape is rarely about sexual need, desire or pleasure. It’s about power, control and sexual entitlement. The UN study found that more than 70 percent of the rapists they interviewed claimed they raped because they were entitled to women’s bodies; 40 percent said they were angry or wanted to punish the woman; and around half of them said they did not feel guilty about their actions.

Whatever benefits or disadvantages there are to legalising prostitution, it is not going to have any effect on rape. In fact sex workers are at a greater risk of rape than other women. It is estimated that they have a 45 to 75 percent chance of being a victim of sexual violence at some point.

Hakim, like Katie Hopkins, has become rich and famous by making contentious statements. They both love the glare of media attention and will do, or say, anything to make sure we give it to them. I wish I didn’t have to give her any. But unlike Hopkins, Hakim claims to be an authority and expert. Her latest assertions are false, dangerous, and hugely insulting to men. Ignoring her is not really an option.

celebrities, sex scandals

Kim, Kanye and that Glastonbury Flag

By now you’ve probably heard about the Kim Kardashian flag that was waved by an audience member during Kanye West’s Glastonbury set. The flag, featuring a blowjob scene from Kim’s leaked sex tape, caused quite a reaction on Twitter. The tweets fell broadly into two opposing camps: One, that this was a vile and misogynist act; or two, that Kim, who made her name by revealing her body is a fair target.

It is true to say that Kardashian has traded on her body, looks and sexual appeal – and parlayed that into a sizeable fortune. It is also true to say that the sex tape helped cement her celebrity status. But none of that means she deserves to be mocked and shamed twelve years after the fact for giving her then-boyfriend a blowjob.

You could argue that Kardashian made the sex tape chasing fame; however given that the tape was made in 2003 but only made public in 2007, it seems unlikely. She did sign a distribution deal with porn giants Vivid Entertainment for $5 million, but by that stage the tape was already available on the internet. Not many people would walk away from a huge payout, particularly when it would have been impossible to scrub the online evidence.

Kim Kardashian is not the first woman to gain fame because of a sex tape or sex scandal — and she probably won’t be the last. There’s two possible responses to finding yourself in the middle of a scandal storm: capitalise on it, like Kardashian and Paris Hilton have done; or disappear to live the quiet life, as Monica Lewinsky unsuccessfully tried to do.

The first seems to be the most successful strategy. Kardashian and Hilton remained in the public eye, and at this stage they known for more than just their sex tapes. Lewinsky tried to avoid the press for nearly two decades, and so she remained, in most people’s eyes, the young intern in the blue dress who blew the Commander-in-Chief. Since nobody would let Lewinsky forget it, she decided to take matter into her own hands and is now and advocate for preventing bullying and online shaming.

I’m not a fan of Kardashian, and as talented as Kanye is, his extreme self-regard is a little hard to take. His Glastonbury gig was controversial from the outset. Over 130,000 people signed a petition to have him removed from the bill. No doubt plenty of attendees were unhappy that he was the star attraction, but so what? It’s a festival — there are lots of other things to do.

But no matter how I feel about reality television stars and self-important rappers I still recognise bullying and slut shaming when I see it. There are plenty of sexualised images of Kardashian available. Using any one of these would have been fine as Kardashian had consented to having them taken and published. Using an image from a leaked sex tape, something that Kardashian has repeatedly said that she is embarrassed about, was an attempt to heckle Kanye by slut-shaming Kim. It was a cheap shot.

Kim Kardashian gave her boyfriend a blowjob — big deal. The flag’s creator went to the effort of finding Kim’s sex tape, taking a screenshot of a blowjob, cleaning up the image for large format printing, paid to have it printed as a flag, packed it along with their tent, beer and socks, carried it from their car to the campsite, and waved it around. That’s a whole lot of effort for a misogynistic joke. I think it is pretty damn obvious who is the idiot here.

opinions, Out and About, Sex and Gender



Yesterday evening as I was walking home a man followed me.

On the bus I noticed him staring at me, and when I got off, he did too. As I crossed the road, I realised he was behind me and that we were going in the same direction, up the same quiet dark street. I hung back on the busier main road corner and fiddled with my handbag. A couple stopped to ask me for directions. After about five minutes — plenty of time to create distance between us —I continued on my way. As I reached the next corner, there he was — standing in the shadows beside a hedge. I turned and fled back down to the main road.

I realise there is a possibility — even a probability — that I over-reacted. There are a hundred and one innocent explanations for his behaviour. Perhaps he had not been staring at me on the bus, but had been thinking of something else while looking at me. Maybe he wasn’t waiting for me on a dark corner. He could have been lost. He may have been delayed because he stopped to answer his phone or remove a stone from his shoe. Maybe he was a creep, or maybe he was just an “accidental creep” — a person who doesn’t realise that their actions are unnerving to others.

Every woman I know has a scary story. I have plenty — I’ve been followed on several occasions; grabbed unexpectedly by strangers; had insults and threats shouted at me from cars; and had an encounter with a knife-wielding would-be attacker who followed me into a public bathroom. When I walk by myself, especially after dark in quiet areas, I am constantly alert to danger. After your first bad experience — and if you are a woman you’ll almost certainly have more than one — you learn to be cautious. I realise that men are not immune to random attack either, but the threat of sexual violence is not an ever present fear for most guys.

Most men don’t realise the state of semi-paranoia that is the lot of many women when we walk down quiet dark streets alone. Because of this, men sometimes behave in perfectly innocent ways that terrify us. The accidental creep is not someone with bad intentions, but someone who is oblivious to the effects of their actions. If that’s you, I’d like to make you aware of the little things you could do so that you don’t accidentally creep someone out. These are not rules — you are not obliged to follow them — they are merely suggestions.

If you find yourself behind a woman walking down a quiet dark street, please keep a reasonable distance. Most women get a little freaked out hearing footsteps rapidly approaching from behind. Yes, I realise you are probably in a rush to get home, but a few extra minutes won’t make a huge difference.

If possible, cross over to the other side. I’m always grateful when a man does that because it means he is sensitive enough to be aware of his actions and is clearly indicating that he is not a threat.

Let’s say you are walking down a street; a woman is walking in the opposite direction on the other side. You need to cross over. Fine. But please don’t cross over walking towards us. It looks like you are coming for us, even though you’re just aiming for the corner.

One evening I was in the dog park. It had been a raining all day and the park was empty. Then a man arrived. He asked if my dog was dangerous. I said no. He then walked up towards me, held his hands out towards my face and told me I was pretty. Now, by themselves each of these remarks are innocent. In combination — especially with his actions — they seemed like he was wondering if he would get bitten if he touched me. A minute later, a second woman with a dog arrived so I distanced myself, told her what had happened, and we stuck together for the duration of our time in the park. I’ve spoken to plenty of men in the park, and I don’t think you should never talk to a woman in quiet areas, but flirting is a bad idea here.

There may be occasions when you accidentally frighten a woman and you realise she is looking at you as if you are a potential rapist. To the average guy, this is insulting. I know that, but please don’t get offended or angry. This will only make the situation worse. Don’t try to explain either. The best thing to do is excuse yourself and walk away.

Most men are perfectly harmless — I know that, you know that, everyone knows that. What women don’t know is whether or not any particular man is a threat or not. We also know that statistically speaking, a woman is far more likely to be sexually assaulted by someone she knows. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t worry about “stranger danger” — we do. It is not pleasant to be regarded as a threat; but I’m pretty sure being on that side of the equation is better than the heart-stop fear of feeling threatened. Please be aware of that. Use your judgement — and a little consideration. Trust me, it’ll be appreciated.

music, opinions, rockstars

Creepy Songs!

If you follow American politics then you’ll know that former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee — a fire-breathing, gun-toting, god-fearing, right-wing Republican — took issue with Beyonce in his latest book, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy, calling her music “obnoxious and toxic mental poison.”

Funnily enough, Huckabee had nothing negative to say about his friend and fellow Republican Ted Nugent. I guess Nugent’s cheery little ditty “Jailbait”, about sexually abusing a 13 year old girl is just good ole family values, or something.

This got me thinking about songs that are actually pretty creepy, especially the fact that there are so many of them. Some of these are obvious such as The Police’s stalker anthem, “Every Breath You Take”, Rod Stewart’s female sexual predator “Maggie May” and Robin Thicke’s rapey “Blurred Lines.”

Now songs can be creepy, but you can still enjoy them — so I’m not saying these songs are bad, or that the artists are spewing “toxic mental poison” but the lyrics, they do give you pause for thought.

Bruce Springsteen — “I’m On Fire”
A song that’s heavy on the stench of ‘creepy uncle’. What were you thinking, Bruce?

Hey little girl, is your daddy home?
Did he go away and leave you all alone?
I got a bad desire, I’m on fire

Blondie — “One Way Or Another”
A tune in which Debbie Harry turns all crazy Fatal Attraction…

One way or another I’m gonna find ya
I’m gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha

One day, maybe next week
I’m gonna meetcha, I’m gonna meetcha, I’ll meetcha
I will drive past your house
And if the lights are all down
I’ll see who’s around

Robyn — “Dancing On My Own”
More stalking!

I’m in the corner, watching you kiss her, ohh
I’m right over here, why can’t you see me, ohh
I’m giving it my all, but I’m not the girl you’re taking home, ooo
I keep dancing on my own
I keep dancing on my own

Maroon 5 — “Animals”
In case you miss the message, the video features Adam Levine stalking a woman (his wife, Benhati Prinsloo), taking photos of her while she sleeps and covering her body with animal blood. So romantic!

Baby, I’m preying on you tonight
Hunt you down eat you alive

Alt J — “Breezeblocks”
Nothing like murdering your love to keep her close…

She may contain the urge to run away
But hold her down with soggy clothes and breezeblocks
Germolene, disinfect the scene
My love, my love, love, love

If you’d like to chip in with your suggestions, fire away!


This year’s Sexpo to be held in London

I can’t see Sexpo coming to Ireland any time soon, but this year’s exhibition is being held in London, which is just a hop, skip and an uncomfortable Ryanair flight away.

Sexpo is the world’s largest sexual health and lifestyle exhibition, and the 2015 event is being held at the London Olympia from 13 to 15 November. Granted, that is ages away, but if you were interested in attending, early bird tickets with a 30% discount are now available.

Saving money on the ticket is an excellent idea so you’ll have more to spend at the exhibition itself… I’m a fan of exciting new toys and some of the world’s most innovative adult retailers will be showcasing their newest, shiniest products. There will also be live entertainment, catwalk shows and a variety of performances plus a chance to meet adult stars, glamour models, and erotic authors.

There is also an educational aspect to the exhibit with a wide range of classes, seminars and workshops on a variety of sex related topics. Best of all, these are included in the ticket price! Nice!

For more information and tickets, see www.sexpo.co.uk.

News, opinions

Would you pay someone for cuddles?

The USA’s first “cuddle café” has opened in Portland, Oregon. Cuddle Up To Me is the brainchild of “professional cuddler” (eh?) Samantha Hess, who claims to have thought of the idea when she was at a low point and wanted someone to cuddle without any ulterior motives.

While it is a first for the USA, the idea is not wholly original. Japan’s first cuddle café opened in 2012. As you can imagine, the idea attracted a lot of press — but also a lot of customers. But perhaps that’s not so surprising — in the past few years, we’ve been treated to a number of reports suggesting that Japan’s younger generation has all but given up on sex. The government is worried about the declining birthrate, and Japan’s Institute of Population and Social Security found that a whopping 90% of young women believe that staying single is preferable to getting married.

If this lack of interest in sex, romance and relationships is as bad as it is reported to be, it is hardly any wonder that cuddles are hard to come by.

However, the same cannot be said for the States. Despite panic about the negative affects of “hook up culture” most young people have sex within the contexts of relationships (http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-11/l-ar110812.php). Although marriage rates have been declining in the US, half of all adults — defined as over 16 years old — are married. If you’re in a relationship that is fairly stable and happy, cuddles are part of the deal.

Given this, you wouldn’t think there would be a massive call for professional cuddling in the States. Nevertheless, Hess claims to have received up to ten thousand emails a week from people looking to hire her services. At $60 (about €50) for an hour, it is not exactly cheap either.

There are many reasons why people pay for sex, but paying for cuddles seems odd to me. I am a fan of cuddles, but while you don’t need a relationship to have satisfying sex, cuddling with someone that you don’t care about — and who doesn’t return your affection — seems pointless.

What do you think? Would you pay someone for cuddles, or can you imagine a scenario where hiring a professional cuddler would be a good idea? Personally, I think you’d be better off getting a pet than paying someone for cuddles. It may not be quite the same thing, but at least the affection would be genuine.

News, opinions, Technology

Do you Uber?

Since its inception Uber has rarely been out of the news, but not all the coverage it has been positive. The Silicone Valley rideshare service may have attracted investors in droves, expanded internationally in rapid time, and be worth a reported $41 billion, but — and pardon the pun — it’s been a bumpy ride

As you’d expect, much of the company’s trouble has come from taxi drivers who regard Uber as unfair competition, especially as the service is significantly cheaper than taxis in many parts of the world. Uber has been banned in Spain for this reason. After months of protests by taxi drivers, the Uber app was banned in Germany this September. Uber is challenging the ruling and is continuing operations in Germany. In a bid to win hearts and minds the company slashed fares on the budget UberPop service in October and asked the public for support.

More worrying are reports of sexual assaults on passengers and poor background checks on drivers. The most high profile of these happened in New Delhi after a woman was allegedly raped by an Uber driver who was subsequently arrested. New Delhi banned the app within days. But that’s hardly the first case. Numerous passengers have reported being sexually assaulted or harassed by their drivers.

Earlier this year, a Chicago woman sued Uber after her driver allegedly sexually assaulted her. Hers was not the first complaint. There have been several reports of driver and passenger conflicts, and claims of sexual harassment and assault.

On top of the complaints, there is a seeming lack of response from the company. A London woman complained to Uber after her driver sexually harassed her. Her fare was refunded and the company gave her a £20 credit, but although Uber promised to investigate, they did not report back what action, if any, had been taken.

Here’s another one. A Los Angeles woman was taken on a 20 minute detour by her Uber driver, and driven to a deserted parking lot. The woman claims she repeatedly protested, but the driver ignored her. After screaming at the driver, he eventually turned the car around and drove her home. She regarded this as an attempted kidnapping and complained. Uber regarded it as merely an inefficient route. The company has also added a $1 extra charge for the UberX “safe rides” feature — meaning that there is effectively a tax on not getting assaulted by your driver.

Granted, these are just a handful of bad experiences, and Uber has plenty of dosh to fight the bad press —and is apparently not beyond digging up dirt on critical journalists.

Getting into a car with a stranger can be dangerous, and I have had a couple of unpleasant experiences with taxi drivers (you can read about it here) so I find Uber worrying — or at least, I wouldn’t use the service if I was alone.

I am curious about your experiences? Have you ever used Uber, in any country? Does the bad press worry you? Or is Uber merely having teething problems?

science, Sex and Gender, Sex and Psychology

Do heels make a women sexier?

Once back in the mists of time — well, truthfully, last year — I went on an OKCupid date with a man who had more than a passing interest in my shoes. Before the date he emailed me to ask how tall I was. I had neglected to include this nugget of information in my personal info for two reasons: firstly, I don’t care about height, either my own or a man’s; and secondly, I can never remember. Seriously, I know I’m “average” and somewhere over 160cm — hold on, I’ll check! I have just measured myself and it appears I am just over 164cm or around 5’4”, which is pretty average for women in Ireland — and taller than I thought!

You’d think I might have remembered this because I measured myself last year and sent the information to my date. He was French, and I’ll call him Pierre. Pierre expressed relief. He was on the short side, he told me, but taller than me. “Fantastic! You can wear high heels!” he joyfully informed me. I was less than thrilled by this, since I hate high heels and only wear them when I absolutely have to.

On the evening of the date I considered wearing heels, but it was a cold and miserable day. We were meeting for a drink, and personally I don’t see the point in getting dolled up to the nines for the pub — or for a man I didn’t know, for that matter. Heels would also have required a taxi, as the pub was more than ten blocks from my bus stop. I didn’t fancy either wet or painful feet, or worse, both. Taking all of this into consideration, I decided to wear boots. Pretty cool boots, even if I say so myself, and sexy in a Nancy Sinatra “these boots are made for walking” way, but definitely flat.

For the next few hours, Pierre quizzed me about my shoe choice. How often did I wear heels? How many pairs did I own? Were any of my shoes designer? Would I wear heels if we went out a second time?

Perhaps Pierre had a shoe fetish, or perhaps, like his countrymen, he just found high heels a lot sexier than flats. A study conducted by the French social scientist Nicholas Gueguen found that men are more likely to respond positively to a woman if she is wearing heels.

Gueguen conducted an experiment with a young woman dressed soberly in a black suit and white shirt. She approached various men asking them to take part in a survey. When she was wearing heels, 83% of the men she approached said yes; when she was wearing flat shoes the number of willing men dropped down to 47%.

Gueguen was also interested in whether or not this preference would be noticeable in “mate selection” and he wasn’t disappointed. It took men on average 7.49 minutes to approach women wearing high heels in a bar. For those wearing flat shoes, it took 13.54 minutes.

Gueguen hypothesis seems to correct — most men prefer women in heels. But meh — so what? I prefer to walk in comfort, and not risk bunions, hammer toes, nerve damage, stress fractures and ankle sprains. I don’t care that only 47% of the men I might encounter would respond to a request for help, or that it would take me a whole six extra minutes to find a dude in a pub if I was so inclined. Men may prefer high heels, but lots don’t care that much — and those are the men I prefer.

It won’t be much of a surprise when I tell you I never saw Pierre again, which was just as well. He was quite entitled to his preferences as I am to mine, Either way, we were not a good match. He hated my favourite boots; I hated being quizzed about my sartorial choices, especially by a man whose hair could have done with a wash… I don’t care about shoes, or height, but basic grooming? That’s just good manners.