Category Archives: opinions

THE ACCIDENTAL CREEP: DON’T BE THAT GUY!

LURK

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.

HANG BACK
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.

CROSS OVER THE ROAD
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.

DON’T CROSS OVER TOWARDS A WOMAN
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.

DON’T FLIRT IN QUIET AREAS
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.

DON’T GET OFFENDED
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.

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!

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.

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?

Hackergate: Is it a sex crime?

Jennifer Lawrence recently spoke out about celebrity hackergate. In an interview with Vanity Fair, the actress called the release of her private naked images a “sexual violation” and said that, “It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime.”

Lawrence makes an interesting point. On the one hand, technology has given us new ways to interact sexually with one another. Whether you send a nude image, engage in long-distance sex play over Skype or make a porn at home, we all recognise that this behaviour is sexual. Therefore, the theft and distribution of sexual images could be seen as a sexual violation. On the other hand, you could argue that seeing this as a sex crime does a disservice to victims of sexual assault. After all, Lawrence’s images – not her body – were the target.

Just after Lawrence’s interview became public, trolls defaced her Wikipedia page, replacing her picture with one of the stolen naked images. Luckily Wikipedia caught that and the page was returned to normal within 20 minutes. Someone, it seems, was not happy about being called out on their behaviour.

What do you think: is stealing, distributing and using someone’s sexual images a sexual violation or just a privacy violation?

Kelly Brook: Serial Abuser

If you’ve been reading the US media for the past few weeks, you’re sure to have seen the shitstorm around the American football player Ray Rice, who was caught on an elevator camera punching his then-fiancee, now wife, Janay Palmer. In case you missed it Rice hit Palmer so hard she passed out and Rice’s team, the Baltimore Ravens, suspended him for two games.

The Baltimore Ravens’ response to the incident is not surprising given that Rice is a star player and brings in a lot of money – but after a media and public outcry, Rice was fired by the team and indefinitely suspended by the NFL. Some commentators argued that Palmer married Rice after the incident, which they took as evidence that she didn’t mind been punched in the face by her partner, while others took the view that one’s personal and professional lives are separate, and it is not up to your employer to police your behaviour outside of work. However, by and large, most people were disgusted by the incident and the slap on the wrist Rice initially received. That’s as it should be – so why aren’t more people up in arms about Kelly Brooks’ admission that she has punched two of her previous partners, Jason Statham and Danny Cipriani?

You could argue that when talking about domestic abuse, size counts. Certainly Brook is no match physically for Statham or Cipriani, just as Rice significantly outmatches Palmer in terms of size and strength. In one sense this is a perfectly valid argument: a punch or kick that causes permanent damage or breaks bones or leaves marks behind is a worse thing to experience than a slap that doesn’t.

The 2005 National Crime Council and ESRI research into the domestic abuse in Ireland found that 1 in 7 women in Ireland compared to 1 in 17 men experience severe domestic violence. Chances are you know an abuser, and a victim, if not more than one of each. According to this survey, women are twice likely to be injured as a result of domestic abuse; more likely to experience serious injuries; more likely to require medical attention as a result of abuse.

But domestic violence isn’t only about the physical abuse, but the emotional toll too.

Western culture (at least the English speaking part) prefers to pretend domestic violence only happens infrequently or that the perpetrators are almost always uneducated men from low income backgrounds. This is not the case. Abuse happens across the socio-economic spectrum, and abusers can be male or female, gay or straight. We particularly have a blind spot when it comes to female on male violence, treating it – or the victim – as a joke.

The fact that Brook felt free to publicly admit to her violent behaviour speaks volumes about how we treat male victims of female domestic abuse. Brook did not expect to be castigated for her behaviour. Instead she’s been making a meal ticket out of it. In interviews over the past few days, Brook has engaged in victim-blaming: “I started to think all these men are absolutely spineless” and “I’ve wasted so much time with stupid boys and doing stupid things.” When TV host Phillip Schofield called her on her violent behaviour, Brook suggested that the men were to blame: “I’m not going to do that in the future, I’m just going to pick more wisely in the men I be with.”

Sure, Statham and Cipriani are both bigger and stronger than Kelly Brook, but that’s not really the point. The point is that nobody, no matter what your size, deserves to be their partner’s punching bag. Cipriani has admitted to cheating on Brook, but that doesn’t excuse her behaviour either. Why has Brook been largely given a pass? Is it because she is a woman, and an incredibly attractive one at that? I suspect it is – and that’s not nearly good enough.

 

 

 

 

Do Straight Women Secretly Hate Themselves?

Are you a straight woman who prefers the old P in V to oral sex? If so, maybe you are suffering from internalised misogyny and body issues.  That’s according to an not-very-scientific study done by vlogger Arielle Scarcella.

Scarcella hosts the popular “Lesbians Explain” YouTube series, and she wanted to know what kind of sex her viewers preferred, so she asked 500 of her straight female viewers and 500 lesbian viewers whether they prefer oral sex or penetration. She found that a majority, 55 percent, of her straight female viewers preferred penetration, but only 25 percent of lesbian viewers agreed. Scarcella wanted to know why there was such a large difference, and analysed the responses.

Many of the straight women felt that oral sex requires a greater level of vulnerability, and felt uneasy about receiving pleasure without giving any in return is uncomfortable. That’s entirely believable given that simultaneous orgasm is the Holy Grail of straight sex – despite the fact that this is can be very difficult for many couples to achieve.  Gay and lesbian sex tends to be more turn-based, for obvious reasons, so it is not surprising that Scarcella’s lesbian viewers felt more comfortable being on the receiving end.

However Scarcella loses me when she concludes that a preference for penetrative sex “all relates back to misogyny and how women feel about their bodies.” Er no. I can think of several reasons why straight women might prefer P to O more so than their lesbian sisters that have nothing to do with sexism or self-esteem. Here’s a few:

1. Penises are better than strap-ons or dildos. No matter how fancy your strap-on is, it is never going to be as flexible or as fleshy as a dick. If you are in an exclusive sexual relationship you have skin-to-skin contact, which allows a man and woman a lot of sensory feedback about their partner’s enjoyment, which is not possible with a toy.

2. Furthermore, penetrative sex is *supposed* to be about mutual pleasure, if not necessarily mutual orgasm. If you are both having a great time simultaneously, that can feel more emotionally satisfying than taking turns.

3. Practice. Straight couples probably have more penetrative sex than oral. Orgasm is partly a learnt response, so if you have more P in V than oral, and learn to achieve orgasm this way, you’re likely to prefer it.

4. Many men are not that good at oral. If you have a full set of lady parts, you’re probably going to be better at dealing with them than if you don’t. No disrespect intended. I’d bet good money that the average gay man is better at blowjobs than the average straight woman too.

5. Having to return the favour. Many women just don’t like giving blowjobs, and if you nix oral in favour of penetration, you won’t feel obliged to.

That’s off the top of my head. Anybody have any other ideas? I’d love to hear them.

Brits worst lovers in Europe – Apparently

Ah, poor British people. A survey of sexual satisfaction in twelve European countries found that the British were the ‘worst in bed’. What’s more, it’s not decadent Europeans complaining, it’s the British themselves. When asked to rate their own sexual performance on a scale of 1 to 5, the UK came bottom of the table. When asked to rate the quality of their own sex lives, the results were the same. Despite this, the British were shown to be kinkier than any of the other twelve countries surveyed. According to the survey, the Swiss are the most self-confident and most sexually satisfied in Europe, followed by the Dutch and Austrians. Ireland was not surveyed because we apparently don’t have sex here.

Should we reclaim the word cunt?

This week, the satirical news site The Onion found itself in hot water over a tweet in which it referred to the nine-year old actress Quvenzhané Wallis as “kind of a cunt, right?”

The whole point of the joke was, of course, that little Quvenzhané is all kinds of adorable and therefore anything but. Many people took exception to it, and it’s not that hard to see why.

By and large, cunt is regarded as the most offensive insult you can term a woman. It was not always so. In the 13th century it was a standard anatomical term, and interchangeable with vagina. However, over the next few centuries it fell out of favour, and by the Victorian 18th century, the word was regarded as strictly taboo.

When we call someone a cunt, twat, dick, prick or a pussy, the power of the insult lies in the reference to the human body’s fiddly bits. However, you could argue, and many people have, that words referring to the genitals should not be seen as inherently insulting and that by doing so, we betray a deep-seated problem with sex and sexuality.

To reclaim these words as positive would – in a small way – contribute to a society with a healthier attitude to sexuality. But reclaiming words is no easy task, especially when they have a long history.

During the 2011 Slutwalk protests the term slut came under the spotlight. Of the many debates the movement engendered one of the most heated was whether or not slut could be reclaimed as a positive badge of identity, much like how queer has been shorn of its pejorative connotations.

It is possible, but it is worth bearing in mind that queer had been used as a derogatory term for less than one hundred years before being reclaimed – its first recorded usage is an 1894 letter written by Oscar Wilde’s nemesis, the Marquess of Queensberry. Slut has a much longer history and has been used to designate a promiscuous woman for about 450 years. Slut is of doubtful origin, but the earliest reference to it comes from as far back as 1402 – referring to an untidy woman.

The Onion has since apologised for the tweet and it was obviously meant as a joke. From an Irish perspective it may not seem like bad taste, or a gag that fell flat and therefore not such a big deal, but using the term in reference to a young African-American girl has implications we wouldn’t necessarily understand. Writing in The Rumpus, Roxane Gay noted that young black girls are regularly seen as hypersexual. In such a context, The Onion joke fails as satire because it reinforces a negative stereotype instead of holding it up to ridicule.

Since it refers to a body part, much like elbow or nose, theoretically it should be possibly to reclaim the word cunt and give it a positive spin – or at least remove its stigma. After all, we don’t use the proper names of genitals as insults. Obviously we could – “You sir, are a penis!”

I’d like to live in a world where cunt wasn’t an insult but seen as a positive term for a part of the female body that is a source of life and pleasure. But even if it were a sex-positive term, it would still be wrong to use it in reference to a nine-year old child – particularly in a widely read media source. First off because it is wrong to use sexualised words with reference to children; and secondly, because using the media to bash a child, even a famous, successful one, is just plain nasty.