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Consent, Kink and Community

♦ I mentioned recently that I’d been to the Bristol Alternative and Burlesque Fair and had a few qualms with the compering of the event. Now (especially as the compère himself left a comment and seems like a really nice guy), I don’t want to badmouth what must be a very hard job that I likely couldn’t do, but I want to set out what it was I had a problem with and why.

Because (although I didn’t like his style anyway) it isn’t about personal taste, though it may be about personal ethics. It’s about something which I feel has big implications for the kink community and the people, whether part of that community or not, who were there. And because, though not everyone may agree with me, hopefully raising these qualms might get people to examine these issues.

The compère had what seemed like a pretty tough job to get the crowd going (I myself am practically allergic to audience participation), but I wasn’t that impressed. I mentioned “cheap “saucy” humour, being patronising, and displaying a seeming ignorance of informed consent” in my earlier post and it seems I even cleverly put them in order of importance too!

Though I didn’t like the humour and tone, that’s just my taste. Just because I don’t really like the “Phwoar! I love a bit of cock!” sort of attitude to sex, doesn’t mean much (though I do wonder to what extent the “saucy postcard” mentality might hold back wider acceptance of sexuality, but that’s a topic for another time) and no-one need pander to me more than anyone else. I also personally don’t think than audience really needs to be told to applaud when a woman takes her clothes off. Isn’t that second nature? But again, it’s likely a rhetorical trick that just didn’t land well with me.

No, it’s the consent stuff that really bothers me.

The early parts involved saying hello to people you didn’t know next to you and paying them a forced compliment (already too un-British for me). The problems, though, started with getting everyone to stand up (I was hovering near the seating area at the time) and turn to face to their right. Then the compère instructed the audience to give the person in front of them a small spank. Now, from my poor vantage point (and the fact I was quite busy cringing), I couldn’t tell you how many people did this, but that’s not the point. Did anyone know what they were getting into when they stood up?

Look, I’m not trying to sound the prude here. Nothing wrong with spanking, nothing wrong with public spanking. I like both myself (and got a twinge just writing the latter). But none of these people consented (or rather communicated consent: for all I know they were fine with it, but consent has to be communicated somehow) to even being touched, let alone being spanked. As I said to Crush at the time, my response to the person behind me would have been “You fucking touch me…”.

Later (by this time my friends and I were at a table), we were told that each table should get someone up onto it on hands and knees. No-one at our table, even the hardened kinksters, were having any of it and it’s at least good to see that, general cajoling to everyone aside, when only about three tables produced participants, no issue was made of it. We were then told that the aim was to spank the volunteers as a table and whichever table produced the most moaning (oh, so hard to fake) would get a prize.  Again, none of the volunteers OR the people supposed to spank them knew this when they were called to be involved. Sure, I suspect no fuss would have been made of anyone backing out, but that’s not really how healthy consent works.

Now, this might not seem like a lot to get angry about, but consent is paramount in all things, especially in the realm of kink. And consent isn’t just volunteering. No. To be true consent, consent must be informed. To be good kink, kink must be negotiated. It doesn’t have to be long and involved and stuffy, but people (whether being done to or doing to or both) should know what they’re getting into, boundaries should be made clear and consent should be given enthusiastically with clear ways to withdraw that consent (such as safe words).

A hypothetical person in that line of unknowing spankees had no way in the circumstances to be informed, give enthusiastic consent to what could be a complete stranger, or indeed withdraw that consent in the time between the instruction and the incoming spank. Am I the only one that thinks this dodgy?

Not only this, but this was a mixed fetish and non-fetish event. They carefully made sure to split the fetish stalls off from the alternative/burlesque ones, so some concern for the muggles must have been in the planning somewhere. But there was no mention of any fetish play, no matter how light and innocent, in the programme of events as far as I saw. Surely it’s people’s right to decide what they see and don’t see?

What sort of message are we giving off to non-kinksters, who thanks to bad press and bad books might have a warped idea of BDSM anyway, of public play among complete strangers with no communication and no consent? These spaces are a perhaps rare opportunity for our kinky community to speak for itself to people who might otherwise not get to hear us (and to teach good kink practice), shouldn’t we be a little more careful about how we use that voice?

I’d certainly love to know your thoughts on this, kinky or not. ♦

Blacksilk, Porn User?

Or, what’s the use of using “user”?

♦ Those of you who keep up with sex positive news may have seen the ruckus caused recently when BBC’s Newsnight changed the title of one of their commenters from “Dr Jude Roberts” to “Jude Roberts – Porn User”. There’s since been an article by Dr Roberts herself about it, in which she explains that she doesn’t feel the slight was intended or malicious, nor does she even feel it as a slight. It’s just A Thing That Happened.

But the “porn user” incident, along with the recent debate around porn filters, made me really think about the phrase used itself. Porn user.

Porn user?

"Porn User"  - Dictionary definitions of "User"

I find it such an unnatural turn of phrase. Surely we don’t “use” porn? We watch porn. Just like, even if you wank to it, we read erotica, not “use” it (but honestly no-one is talking about erotica here, it’s pretty clear that’s not what they mean when they say “porn”). No-one would say “use”, surely?

Indeed, when I asked people, the response was that they’d describe it as they “watch porn” not are a “porn user”. I think most people would, in fact. So I find it weird, and unsettling, that the media and the government seem to have a picked a different phrase entirely.

It’s clear that Jude Roberts feels the same way:

I’m happy to be labeled a ‘porn user’. I am a user of porn. Although the connotations of the word ‘user’ are somewhat unnecessary. I use porn in the same way I use other forms of culture – for stimulation and entertainment. These, after all, are what culture is for. And make no mistake, porn is a form of culture, just like any other. Just like TV, films, books, computer games, theatre and the visual arts, porn reflects and reflects on the ideas, concerns and attitudes of the culture in which it’s produced.

So why do we treat it so differently?

Why indeed?

Some suggested that it’s because porn comes in many forms: moving images, still images (both photographic and drawn), the written word… But so do, for example, cartoons and no-one would ever say “cartoon user”, even though cartoon can mean film or book or animated or still.

Some suggested that “porn user” is similar to calling someone an “Internet user” or computer user as above, but that just can’t be the case. Surely, if it’s similar to anything, it should be like a “TV viewer”. You certainly do “use” (or browse, of course) the Internet, but “using” the Internet is a far different experience to watching porn (even when you get to your porn via the Internet, like many of us).

And while we often certainly “use” porn to get off, I’m still certain the correct verb for just looking at some porn is “watch”. Just think of it as a point-and-click adventure game. When you mouse over the pixellated porno on the screen, would the pop-up text say “Use Porn”? Really? Come on, no.

I mean, technically, sure, “use” is a pretty general word that can apply as a sort of supergroup to lots of better, more specific words like “read” or “eat”. Technically, you “use” books, you “use” food, you “use” signs. But no-one says that. It’s unnatural to describe watching a (porn) film as using a (porn) film just as it is to describe eating food as using food.

So, why do the media and government, despite what seems to be all common sense, want us to be porn “users”? Is it to make it sound a bit like a drug habit? I think it miiiight be!

Because I remain convinced that this word has been chosen purposefully. Because the goverment, and certain sections of the meeja, has an agenda. Because I think “user” really has some connotations that are being intended here, as per the dictionary quote above. Drug use, for one. Perhaps “user” as in emotional use. Drugs, abuse, someone who does something dirty, something wrong, something exploitative. I’m convinced that employing the word “use” in this way serves to try to render watching porn as grubby, grimy and akin to substance “abuse”.

In fact I’d say the anti-porn types, like the government, are certainly using (in the exploiting sense) the connotations of the word quite well. So, I agree with Dr Jude when she says the connotations of “user” are “unnecessary”, but I just can’t go as far as her in saying I’m happy to be labelled a “porn user”, an addict, an exploiter. And thus Blacksilk, Porn Viewer, I shall remain. ♦

Bindelphobic Bisexual

♦ Julie Bindel is a bitch. There, I’ve said it. The ad hominem that sheer anger wants to force on the page is out there, we can get it out of the way.

It’s tongue-in-cheek, sure, but I do have a point there, which is: I don’t think I have ever seen Julie Bindel (writer for the Guardian among others) write a single thing I don’t find wrong-headed and absolutely hateful. So it shouldn’t surprise me that she recently wrote something that made me apo-fucking-pleptic and I probably shouldn’t dignify it with a response.

But I’m going to. Because when someone with an impressive platform spews abhorrent bollocks, people need to shout “NO!” in reply, just to be seen. The last thing I want is for some poor bisexual to stumble on that ‘article’ and actually believe a word it says.

It is beyond biphobic and beyond ridiculous. She starts her HuffPost piece with a question “What makes some of us uncomfortable with bisexual women?” I was discussing this on Twitter not that long ago and find it really hard to conclude that it’s anything other than biphobia or narrow-mindedness and Bindel hardly helps here.

In today’s post-modern, queer-focused world, bisexuality is being promoted to lesbians as the latest fashionable trend. This has resulted in lesbian politics, namely feminism, being passed over for sexual hedonism, where the only thing that matters is sexual pleasure and desire. Similarly, bisexuality is sold to heterosexual women as some type of recreational activity far from their “natural home” of straight sex. It is seen as “temporary lesbianism.”

Oh, there is so MUCH wrong with this. Firstly, I’m not entirely certain how she thinks the world is “queer-focused” or what that even means. I can’t understand how a world where queer people have it so hard and where probably the majority of people don’t even understand the word can be called “queer-focused”.

Secondly, the “passed over for sexual hedonism, where the only thing that matters is sexual pleasure and desire” bit can go right to hell. Bisexuality, she implies, has meant we all care purely about fucking instead of feminism or politics. (Heck, I even feel like her wording suggests that lesbian politics = feminism and vice versa, but I could be wrong) Oh, of course, because being bisexual is just about being greedy and wanting lots of sex and that’s it. I’m bisexual because I only care about sexual pleasure. You’ll probably find that’s why I don’t really love Crush and am just using him for sex. Bollocks.

The idea that bisexuals are just greedy or are shallow (she likens a bisexual fling to getting a new handbag later) is so old and so untrue. I’m sure you all know this, but just because you like more than one gender, doesn’t mean you’re going to fuck more people. And even if it did mean you were going to fuck more people, that wouldn’t mean you only cared about selfish pleasure and nowt else. This is basic stuff, Bindel.

Thirdly, there is absolutely no way, whether bisexuality is sold or promoted to women or not, that it’s seen as “temporary lesbianism”, that’s just insulting to both bisexuals (the idea that you’re “just experimenting” or are indecisive) and lesbians (the idea that that’s all it takes to be a lesbian). Her twisted notions of  the most basic concepts don’t get any better:

Whatever our views and politics about lesbianism may be, we cannot deny that women face compulsory heterosexuality from birth. Despite huge progress since I came out in 1977, it is still not really acceptable to reject men and choose not to live under their guardianship, whether you are in Saudi Arabia or the U.K.

Er, yes we can deny it. Do you know what compulsory actually means? It means required by law or driven by force. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never EVER been forced straight in my life in this country and if non-het sex is illegal, I might be in trouble. It is legal and totally acceptable to “reject men” (what this has to do with bisexuals, I don’t know) and definitely fine to not “live under their guardianship”. I mean, I do that now. I live with men, sure, but I’m not “under their guardianship”. I’m a young professional who sorts herself out, like most of the women I know.

The weirdest part of her article comes when she tries to tell us that it’s not just lesbians or even straight women who mistrust bisexuals, it’s also bisexuals. Yes.

One U.S. study of bisexuality, which draws on interviews with 400 self-identified lesbians and bisexual women, found that a substantial number of bisexuals prefer to hang out with lesbians instead of other bisexual women in social situations, and have greater political trust in lesbians than they do in other bisexual women. It was also found that “[s]ome bisexual women actually doubt whether bisexual women exist at all.

Not only do bisexuals not trust bisexuals, they apparently don’t believe in them either. What. I mean, does that even make any fucking sense? Genuinely, can anyone actually explain this to me?

Not that it matters. Only “some” of the 400 women studied didn’t believe in bisexuals.  There’s already a lovely group on Facebook which shows that far more than 400 women who are called Sarah believe in bisexuals, a la Project Steve. Sorted. Turns out, we do exist. But although that’s the most bizarre part of her diatribe, it’s not the most out and out offensive. I’m not sure what is, but she really gets into gear in the last half and the winning sentence has to be from among the ones below.

I personally feel that straight women are missing out on the best sex on the planet, but that is their choice.

Ms Bindel, you do realise that this is the same sort of thinking applied by arsehole men who claim that all a lesbian needs is “a good dicking” to turn them straight because “they don’t know what they’re missing out on”, right? They’re NOT missing out BECAUSE THEY DON’T LIKE VAGINA! The idea that there can even be such a thing as “the best sex” is ludicrous. This is why I get equally pissed off at the few sanctimonious idiots into BDSM who feel vanilla sex is just inferior and look, aren’t we the best because we have the best sex, definitively. All that matters is the sex that’s right for you and much as most lesbians won’t enjoy cock, most straight women won’t like doing it gaywise.

For bisexual women living under the tyranny of sexism, choosing to be lesbian is a liberatory act. […] I believed then, and I believe now, that if bisexual women had an ounce of sexual politics, they would stop sleeping with men.

How on Earth will be restricting my sexuality down to only loving women (and given Bindel’s views on transgender, only cis-women) be liberating? How will caging my sexuality, my desire, my heart, set me free? I am attracted to men, I am attracted to women, I am attracted to people who don’t fit either of those categories. I am attracted, pretty much, to people. Just not all of them. Why should I change that? I love my Crush and he loves me. He makes me happy and supports me and I enjoy being with him. Should I give him up just because he has a cock? Doesn’t the very idea that I should judge and ditch my partner based purely on the fact that he has a penis go against the very ideals of the equality that feminism should be promoting? The idea that our bodies define and limit us?

As a comment on this counter-argument says, “I’m sorry, but if Julie had an ounce of sexual politics, she’d understand that sexual politics is about the revolutionary idea of sleeping with & loving the people you WANT to sleep with & love instead of the people outside forces tell you that you SHOULD sleep with/love.” And that’s basically it, really. Sexual politics is about no-one being in my bedroom except those I let in. Not the government, not religion, not my peers or parents or the public and not Julie Bindel either. The idea that I couldn’t possibly know or care about sexuality and sexual politics because of who I am and who I fuck is so very oppressive and shallow. After all, “What do you know? You’re a bisexual” is on the same level as “What do you know? You’re a woman.”

Bindel’s article is muddled and destructive, like a Pokemon attacking itself in its confusion. She as much as states that bisexual women are greedily hedonistic, shallow and fickle without any sense of sexual politics whilst at the same time implying that they may not even exist. She promotes lesbianism as the ONLY way to be a true feminist, to be a thinking woman, to be independent and free and also as the only way to get THE sex. You know, the only kind worth having.

Bisexuals and others alike, take note, this is trash of the highest degree. Your sexuality does not define you. There is no “right way” to fuck or to love. Bisexuals are people too. An it harm none, do what ye will.  ♦

White and Nerdy

♦ You might wonder where I’m going with this, but bear with me. A week or two ago, geek deity George Takei (who you should all love) hosted a photo competition on Facebook to search for his nerdiest Facebook fans. This is the photo that won the Biggest Male Nerd. It was submitted by one of the kids in the photograph, now grown up, who gave it the caption of “Future 40-year-old virgins”.

It is at this point that my imaginary clipboard appears and I start making furious notes, as those who know me well slowly back their chairs away. Because, frankly, what is up with that?

And it’s not just one guy being a bit self-deprecating either. This is a thing. The comments below were similarly full of “Set phasers to virgin!” and “The virginity is strong with this group.” (Wrong series, guy). It’s not just Star Trek nerds either. We posted up some photos online from the gaming event we ran recently and the first comment on a picture of a room full of geeks was “So many virgins”. TV Tropes even has a trope called Nerds are Virgins (don’t click unless you want to spend all day on a trope loop) and when TV Tropes says it, you know it’s true.

The joke that being sufficiently geeky will render you an unwilling virgin has become such an Approved Comedy Standard Joke that you’ll even find it parroted, as in Takei’s competition, by geeks themselves.

Enough is enough when it comes to the constant reinforcing of the idea that geek men (because it almost always is the men, women occasionally get a pass under the umbrella of “thinking man’s bit of crumpet”) will never have sex and never be sexy. Not just because it pisses me off or because it’s not true, but because it’s pretty nasty for men and women, geek and non-geek when you think about it.

So, male geeks are gonna be virgins because their playing Dungeons and Dragons or solving maths problems, for example, is somehow unattractive to women (I’m putting aside guys who like guys and girls who like girls for this to keep it simple, sorry). Not just “not actively attractive”, it’s repellent. Women, society seems to be saying, don’t like these things.  And we pretty much just do this with geeky things, as far as I can tell. When was the last time someone looked at a cricket match (not even an overly ‘manly’ sport) and said “Pfft, look at those virgins”? When did anyone ever make a comment of  “Look at that guy, he likes sports, he’ll never get laid.” and everyone just sort of accept as a Standard Joke?

On the geek side, it’s offensive to male geeks because we label them as sexless, frigid, awkward, desperate and even creepy. And, sure, while there are gonna be male geeks out there that are some or all of those things, that’s just not the case as a whole. I run a gaming society and the sheer amount of members who have slept with each other is ridiculous. Heck, that’s how I know Fractal and Crush.

What about female geeks? Great news, it’s offensive to us because what “guy geeks are virgins” is saying is that female geeks don’t exist. Think about it, saying that women don’t find watching anime or playing wargames attractive is saying that there aren’t any women out there who value these things and therefore essentially that there can’t be any women that actually do them. Hooray, I don’t exist!

Even if you’re a non-geek, it’s not looking good. Society sees geeks as intelligent and society says that male geeks don’t get sex, which basically evens out to mean that society says women don’t appreciate intelligence, or at least a certain type of intelligence. Savvy business men? Sure. Chess champions? Hell no. Worse than that, to me at least, suggesting that women don’t appreciate intelligence suggests that women aren’t intelligent. Am I going too far with this?

And for men as a whole, geekiness aside? Well, you’re only attractive if you do certain things and like certain things. Good luck. But hey, don’t fret, it’s OK. As this video shows, sometimes geeks are “in” and therefore it’s acceptable to find them hot and the world goes “Ooh, yes, geeks, they’re in, they’re attractive, didn’t you know?”. Because also women only like fashionable things.

I’m not saying we can’t ever make derogatory or offensive jokes about people, I love jokes in poor taste, but we can’t just keep lazily falling back on the “geek = virgin” stereotype. It’s so common, it’s boring. Sure, be funny, but don’t just phone in with “Haha, virgin” every time you see a lightsaber. That’s not a joke, that’s just being a dick. Labelling geeks as sexless losers means that we’re degrading male geeks, denying there are female geeks at all and possibly even implying that women are fickle and made of stupid. It needs to stop. Now.

And actually lots of us have plenty of sex. So there. Kthxbai. ♦

Jelly Destruction – Rabbit

♦ I’d like to say that by now the news that jelly toys are bad should come as no shock to you, but I’ve learned how easy it is to happily wank away without knowing what’s going inside you. So I’ll say it again: jelly toys are BAD.

You’ll have seen me mention this before on the blog when I talked about my own experience with a jelly ‘dong’ that gave me burning sensations and serious discomfort. Yes, it burned. Yes, it put me in pain. But I think the worst part might even be that I had no idea it wasn’t my fault. I thought I was hurting myself through impatience. I thought it was the price I paid for a sneaky midnight wank.

It might sound like I am, but I’m not stupid. I was in the sex blogging world, I was sexually open and inquisitive and I still didn’t know about the dangers of jelly and phthalates and all sorts of horrible chemical crap. Please take the time to educate yourself on this stuff if you haven’t already. It’s in your interests.

And, for the love of all that is orgasmic, throw out any old jelly toys you have lying around. Replace them with silicone alternatives if you like, they’re better quality, safer and will last longer.

In fact, I pulled out anything jelly from my toy drawer a while ago and have been waiting to give them suitably violent deaths. The Savanna jelly ‘dong’? That’ll have to wait for something spectacular for all the pain that’s given me. But for now I thought I’d settle with ripping apart my old version 1.0 Jessica Rabbit.

Yup, turns out one of my first ever toys is jelly too. Can you see it’s gone a bit crappy and mucky and has picked up a few black marks on it? That’ll be a giveaway then. (All these photos can be seen embiggened on the clickthrough, BTW)

It’s a shame, as I quite enjoyed this toy back in the days before I discovered dildos. And it never burnt me like the Savanna ‘dong’ did. (No, I won’t stop putting that word in quotes). But it’s clearly porous and icky, the marks show me that. So it has to go.

Getting the little beads out of their chamber was quite fun, though they were a little… greasy at first. They’re plastic, though, and pretty, so I’ve kept them. Not sure what for yet.

To be honest, the whole thing was greasy, actually. There were layers of jelly I hadn’t expected and between each of the layers was a sort of… stickiness. Lovely. And I bet that stuff doesn’t only leach inwards.

I’ll be honest. I took these photos for a couple more reasons than just to talk again about how jelly sucks: A) because I find the inner mechanics and workings of sex toys fascinating and hope you will too (not everyone gets to rip vibes apart) and B) because I really wanted to stab the stupid jelly bunny in his stupid jelly face. Ugh.

Serves you right for being so awful. I kept the beads, bunged everything else away and then washed my hands. Twice. Then I made sure to upload my jelly destruction photos of doom to the Crystal Delights RIP Jelly Toy Wall of Shame, because it is a fantastic idea and very worthy. The more manufacturers and bloggers and consumers speaking about this, the better.

Anyway, the Jessica Rabbit is gone now. Dead, destroyed, gone from my toy drawer and banned forever from my vagina. As it should be. The Savanna ‘dong’ still remains though. Any creative destruction methods for that one?

Unlike Mr Bunny here, I’m all ears… ♦

What Is This, I Don’t Even

♦ You might remember me ranting to you recently about jelly sex toys and why they are completely horrendous. Well, my housemates and I went into town just recently and discovered some vibrators that are a different kind of horrendous altogether.

Heck, you might have even seen me commenting on my Twitter not too long ago taking the mickey out of the product descriptions of some sex toys (mostly vibrators) with a hashtag I call #StupidSexToyBlurb 1. We don’t even need to get to the blurb stage here (though, fuck it, I will). These products alone are awful enough as it is.

Now, admittedly, we weren’t in a sex shop. This wasn’t, like keyboard cat comments, serious business. This was the “adult” section of the kind of shop that sells lava lamps, slankets, head massagers, scraper foil, magic tricks and rubber dinosaurs all at once. I suppose in a shop selling basically tat (though admittedly I did buy some tat because I am a big child), I should have expected tat.

And I did, but this was pushing it.

Nestled in amongst the penis drinking straws (don’t judge too soon, shops like Ann Summers and Lovehoney sell this stuff too y’know) and giant breast pillows were two sets of boxes that drew my eye:

OK, so the first one is likely to be something you’ve seen before (we’ll move on to that terrifying second one in a moment), I think I’d vaguely heard of the concept, but really? Really? A chocolate vibrator?

Well, no, not really. It’s not even got the balls to be actual chocolate. By ‘chocolate vibrator’ we apparently mean ‘rubbish brown piece of plastic that might vaguely smell of chocolate’. I don’t think I understand. It smells of chocolate? What’s the point of it smelling of chocolate? Am I supposed to be using it on my nose? You do realise that the nose and the vagina are actually quite far apart, right?

Why on Earth would someone make a basic plastic vibrator and have it smell ‘like chocolate’? Well, let’s have a look at some of that blurb (told you) after all and see if we can glean anything, shall we?

“What do women love? Sex and Chocolate!”

Ah, right. Incidentally, do you carry any vibrators that also function as working guns?

Of course, of course, it is a truth universally acknowledged that women like chocolate. If I had to think of the two things off the top of my head right now that women love, it’d be sex and chocolate. It wouldn’t be, say, love and happiness or acceptance and success or friendship and peace or maybe sex and hope or I don’t fucking know because we’re not a hive mind. Of course, it’d be really hard to make a vibrator out of any of those, so resorting to a lazy stereotype that rings with a sort of marketing-truth is probably a lot easier. After all, the materials for love and happiness haven’t really been pinned down yet, so our best hope for a pair of things-women-love that could be made into a sex toy material is when carbon nanotubes allow us to make vibrators made out of Win and Future.

But I digress (into SCIENCE!)… What the fuck is going on with that second one?

I mean to write a post soon about vibrators with faces (as well as glitter, gems and gawd-awful girliness), but this is really taking the biscuit! This isn’t a cute little disturbing-in-its-own-way mushroom man face like the one sadly under my rabbit vibe, this is a full-on I-will-kill-in-your-sleep-and-wear-your-skin-like-a-cape face. It looks like a cross between Ghostface and Dr Frankenfurter.

WHY WOULD YOU PUT THIS NEAR YOUR VAGINA?!

As if it isn’t bad enough that I will be having nightmares about that face tonight, the vibrator also talks and it seemingly isn’t too happy about it. To quote from the box: “Usually he’s your friendly, faithful servant, ready to do your bidding, but sometimes…………. he’s just plain grumpy!”

Because that’s what you want. That’s what you really need. Oh, hey, I feel like having my inanimate (dear God, I fucking hope so) objects berate me for using them tonight, let’s get the talking vibrator out! Because what I really want is for my vehicles to sexual satisfaction to resent me as a person.

And grumpy he is. Here’s the four phrases that lucky lady is going to hear every time she opens the box:

“Go away, I’ve got a headache”  – No. No, you don’t. Nor are the voices telling you to kill, kill. You’re a sex toy, you don’t get to decide you don’t want to make me come.
“Mmm, you’re looking cute tonight, honey” – Your skin looks great on you, but it’d look better on your bedroom floor…
 “Hell, can’t you get a real man?” – WHAT.

Nearly every single website that mentions this product goes on about how this is such a great gift for a friend. With friends like that, you would not need abusive psycho-bitches, I can tell you. What kind of friend gets another friend a maniac-faced vibrator that has a 25% chance every time she uses it of telling her that she will, essentially, die alone and unloved? Ooh, yeah, baby, my inability to find a man gets me so hot! I get so horny thinking of my own feeble inadequacies!

Worse than that, this fucking sex toy is making the wonderful assumption that women only use vibrators because they can’t get ‘the real thing’. Because, of course, the myth that to own sex toys is to fail at flesh and blood relationships and therefore your purpose in life as a woman (to find a man, naturally) is really one that needs perpetuating. THANKS, MANUFACTURERS.

So, to sum up, Winter is Coming  and the festive season is drawing near: why not buy a nice gift for that special woman in your life? She’s bound to be grateful, patronised or terrified at the thought. Just so long as it’s not me. I was bloody freaked out enough by Lilarcor the mad-but-harmless talking sword in Baldur’s Gate 2.

Of course, if anyone is still actually thinking they’d make an acceptable gift for someone you genuinely like (how?), then please, do yourself and them a favour and go spend the exact same amount of money on this instead. ♦

Notes:

  1. Which I’m considering turning into a proper thing somehow, only I’m not entirely sure how. Ideas? If nothing else, I’d do something myself, but having others able to contribute ones would be great too. Or should I just stick to hashtagging Tweets? I just feel this kind of stuff needs to be ridiculed and that people’d find it funny to see some of the stuff they write!

I Don’t Think I’m Ready For This Jelly

Or, Why My Sex Blogger Licence Should be Taken Away and Jelly Toys are Evil

♦ I’ve come a long way, baby.

Back in the day, nearly two years ago in fact, I was reviewing my second toy for Vibrator.com. This was a strap-on called the Vivid Girls Designer Savanna Harness. At the time I was just beginning to experiment with my desire to play with gender boundaries and androgyny and genderfuck. I certainly still am now. So, I remember my main feeling at the time when trying to decide on what toy to review was excitement at getting to maybe review a strap-on and own my own cock. And, hey, if I met any nice girls…

So I was really excited about strap-ons, which may somewhat have clouded my judgement. Furthermore, I remember that my overriding worry at the time was finding something that would actually fit me because I’m overweight, not realising that quite a few decent strap-ons actually cater for bigger builds. Also, it was the past, so I was more stupid and less knowledgeable about toys then. I probably still need to learn a lot now.

I guess this is all a way of saying, forgive me? Yes, that’s right, it turns out that not only was the strap-on ‘dong’ (really, dong? I should have known) made from rubber but it also isn’t even phthalate-free. Oh, thanks, Doc Johnson, thanks a lot. I just sort of naively assumed that only really shit sex toys had phthalates (not knowing that Doc Johnson actually has quite a bad reputation among properly awesome toy reviewers like Dangerous Lilly). I should have checked.

I was recently linked somehow to Lilly’s post about jelly toys being dangerous, having missed it being published during my blog hiatus, and read a number of comments in her post from people saying they’d used jelly toys and experienced uncomfortable burning sensations or other strange complaints.

Suddenly, a scary penny dropped. I’ve used the dildo from the Savanna strap-on only maybe half a dozen or so times on myself over the couple of years (for which I am now exceedingly grateful), but the last couple of times I’ve used it I’ve noticed a weird and until now perplexing thing happening. It sort of burns.

I mean it actually feels all chemical and burny and it won’t go away unless I slather it with E45 and even then not for ages!

I didn’t think much of it at first because I’ve a tendency to use the thing at night when I should be asleep but can’t be until I come. Crush is sometimes asleep and so I’ve sneaked away once or twice for a quick one. I just sort of assumed that because I was in a rush and the dildo is quite big that it was hurting a little because I’d forced it in a bit fast and wasn’t quite ready. Now, having read reports from others, I know that it’s probably because JELLY IS FUCKING BAD FOR YOU and I’m an idiot.

It also explains why the dildo has recently picked up a couple of weird black lines on it from just sitting in the drawer.

As I’ve already told you, though, I found all this out through Lilly’s post, which I’ve said is brilliant, informative and much better at telling you what you need to know than this is. So why am I writing this?

Well, I guess firstly because I am fucking angry with the company for making it, with laws for allowing it and with myself for being daft enough to fall for it (as a sex blogger! I suck!) and then secondly because I do think that adding my voice to those others that say they’ve had crappy experiences with jelly will help. Maybe there are people out there who read this blog that still don’t know the dangers. Maybe you don’t read Dangerous Lilly (you should) or other sites that warn about this. Maybe like me you’ve had an old toy for years and not realised the harm it could and can do.

And also, of course, because this is a sex blog that I try and write honestly, so I fully plan to tell you about my cock-ups and sex suckiness when it’s relevant just as much as the awesomely hot sweaty naked bits (I’m so serious about this that I didn’t even hyperlink all that to past sexy posts).

I didn’t actually finish the review of the Savanna harness at the time because life suddenly got very hectic and because I had no-one to try the strap-on out on, but I’m now really glad I didn’t. I mentioned in the first half of the review (about wearing the harness) that the smell was really strong (another clue I missed), but I then gave it a pretty good review and I’m sure that I’d have only said nice things about the “jelly dong” at the time too.

So here I am, I guess officially renouncing that whole damn thing. The verdict is a while in the making but I’m here eventually: I will never put that thing inside me again and neither should you. The Vivid Girls Designer Savanna Harness is awful because it makes me burn and you should avoid it at all costs.

That said, I really suggest you go read Lilly’s thoughts on rubber if you haven’t. I mean, thanks for reading and all and I’m glad I’ve now said it and woken up on the matter, but she’s put it far better than I can and is far more knowledgeable about it.

After all, they should take my licence away for this. ♦

Sour Apples

Or, Why I Didn’t Buy an iPhone Yesterday

♦ As you might have read on my Twitter, I bought a smartphone yesterday. It’s my first one and I’m pretty darned excited about it. So far it does pretty much everything I need and it’ll allow me to keep on top of all you lot (wink, wink) whilst on the bus or during breaks at work or whatever. Choosing one was slightly complicated, but luckily I had a housemate to help and also there was at least one major brand I could rule out instantly. Apple.

Why? Well, I’ll be honest, not all of the reasons were as ethicsy as the one I’m going to give you here, for a start I’m not an Apple fan in general and I find their products a little poseur-ish, but one of the big reasons was Apple’s attitude to sex, speech and the ‘obscene’.

Now, I’m not a tech-blogger, so bear with me here if my information is a little off in certain places, but the crux of the matter is straightforward enough and one that I came across from my interest in sex-related news. Basically, according to Apple-Man himself, Steve Jobs, the company has a “moral responsibility” to keep its devices free from ‘questionable content’. Essentially, it goes like this: Apple start getting uppity about certain apps in their App Store being ‘overtly sexual’ or ‘objectionable’ and remove a slew of apps from their products. One user writes Jobs an email rightly telling him that Apple are not “moral police” and Jobs replies with “We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone. Folks who want porn can buy and [sic] Android phone.”

Sure, it’s his company and his store and he can do whatever he likes with it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to call him a twat for it and then refuse to buy his stuff. As far as Jobs is concerned, porn is objectionable, adult content is offensive and we all need to have “freedom from porn“. Yes, that’s right. From.

Sample things Apple believes violates its moral sensibilities? An app called Wobble that lets you wobble certain parts of an image. Yes, admittedly it was marketed rather towards breastacular jiggle physics, but hey, these guys aren’t stupid, it’s pretty obvious that’s what a fair few people would use it for and it didn’t come with any images installed. Another fine example is that certain nippletastic magazines will have to censor their content to fit into the App Store.

Wobbling breasts? Nipples? I mean, nipples? These are “objectionable” now? OK, offensive to some, surely, but these are a “some” that probably won’t be looking for adult apps anyway except in a NIMBY kind of way. But repugnant? Unpleasant? After all, these are all in the definition of objectionable. Yes, Steve Jobs has the right to restrict content in his products just as we have the right to be informed about it and stay far away from his puritanism, but I don’t think he should.

After all, who is he to decide what is objectionable? Who is he to decide what is porn and what is not? Heck, people have been going over the art/porn debate for years and still not come up with a line we can agree on. Why can’t I just buy whichever apps I want and I can be  the judge of whether porn or nipples or whatever is suitable for me. For example, I could decide instantly that gay make-out scenes are absolutely great and not worthy of immediate censorship followed by a sheepish re-instatement when people call them out on it.

Apple can’t decide for me what it is appropriate for me to see. Apple can’t have moral responsibility over all of its users, not just for reasons of freedom but for the fact that logistically it’s impossible. The fact that it is even trying is laughable and abhorrent. Self-imposed arbiters of moral content never go well. Hey, we’re all adults here, not that that’s stopped Apple trying to make us ‘think of the children‘. Yup, they’ve filed a patent to ban users sending or receiving “objectionable” (there’s that word again) content via text, presumably in a bid to either prevent sexting or take over the world via Newspeak. Probably bad news if you live in Scunthorpe.

The Gawker article linked somewhere above says it perfectly when it says:

“Jobs’ issue seems to be thinking Apple can and should write the moral code for the tens of millions of global iPhone and iPad customers, who hail from a hugely diverse array of backgrounds. (…) Shackling them to a sadly homogenized digital marketplace built around Jobs’ personal tastes — grossly violent movies are OK, line-drawings of breasts in the 17-years-and-older section are verboten — seems to fly in the face of the CEO’s professional responsibilities. Both commercial and, yes, moral. “

So, there you have it. I didn’t buy an iPhone not just because I’m a PC-girl but because Apple, and particularly its CEO Steve Jobs, seem to have taken it upon themselves to ‘purify’, bowdlerise and censor content they find to be offensive or problematic in some weirdly twisted attempt at nanny-knows-best. It’s not right. I’m an adult and dammit I can see adult content if I want. I can make my own decisions about what is “objectionable” and what is not and I can make them a damn sight better than Jobs and his somewhat gung-ho approach to such monstrosities as nipples, gay kissing and simple human communication. Censorship is what is “repugnant” here. Sexual liberty is all the freedom that I need here. Freedom to, not freedom from.

Hey, but you know what? “Folks who want porn can buy and [sic] Android phone”, so guess what, Steve Jobs? I did. ♦

Living Dolls

I took an intellectual history class in my final year of university. I’ve always been interested in that kind of thing and talking to Fractal had increased my interest in it even further. It was, as I hoped it would be, intensely interesting, largely because we studied several ideas which I enjoyed analytically ripping to shreds: Sartre and existentialism, Foucault and subjectivism, de Beauvoir and feminism… In looking at feminism we were assigned to write an essay about one particular course text, an article by author Natasha Walter.

It was frankly ludicrous; a pile of über-feminist nonsense about socialisation and inequality and women in the sciences. It was fun to pull to pieces. So, skimming over an article on Comment is Free today (which attacks another angle from Walter’s book and is pretty darned good and well worth a look), I was almost gruesomely pleased to see a link to an extract from Walter’s new book, Living Dolls. I figured I’d take a look.

Walter describes the situation of forty-year-old Jim, a “self-confessed pornography addict”. Jim came across porn before the advent of the Internet, finding his father’s dirty magazines, and later videos, at a young age. As he attended a boys’ school, he devoured this material obsessively long before having any real contact with real girls. He found himself “unable to think of women except as potential pornography” and looked at them “in a purely sexual way”.

He finds the porn now available on the Internet to be, as Walter puts it, “dehumanising to women”, saying “The stuff I saw as a kid was what we called hardcore, but the idea in the text alongside was that it was based on mutual consent — mutual pleasure — but what I see now is more male domination”. He claims young men are seeing worse and worse images which change their attitude to sex for life.

Jim now finds nothing which can match up to porn. His long-term partner left him because he only knows how to “perform” sex, not feel it. Obviously, she is now very wary of the effects of pornography and its “threat” to intimacy. She says that its prevalence means that “all the innocence is lost”.

Where to start with this? Firstly, I *hardly* think that the personal testimonies of just two people who have had a bad experience with the consumption of pornography are a sound basis for any kind of theory or any claims about the effect of porn on *anyone* except the two themselves. Anecdotal ‘evidence’ is not exactly intellectually rigorous, is it, Miss Walter? (What’s the betting that that should actually be a Ms.?)

So the man is terrible with women, obsessed with porn and impersonal in bed and that is clearly and solely the fault of his early contact with the dreaded vice of seeing some people have some sex? It couldn’t *possibly* be one or more of the *many* other elements in a person’s personality and background? When someone is predisposed to obsession, do we blame the object he is obsessed with? Always? *Really*?

We also find Walter sneaking words into her witnesses mouths (“dehumanising to women”) and even blithely inserting her own viewpoint as if blessed by the speakers, attempting to connect it to their views on the matter, saying: “not only is the tone of pornography so often reliant on real or imaginary abuse of women…”

Sorry, *is* it? You can’t just say that kind of thing without some substantiation, seriously! Find me something to back that up, I’m certainly not going to take it as true. If I browse aimlessly for porn I will *not* find the vast majority, or even the majority, of it based on abusing women in any way. Heck, I only really find that stuff if I *look* for it and that’s because I happen to *like* it and I happen to be particularly searching in that specific niche. And believe me, it *is* a niche. BDSM is by no means mainstream. So, where on Earth is all this supposed abuse?

Jim says he now sees “male domination” where he once saw consent. Again, I’m really looking for some kind of substance to this claim. Show me it. Go on. Not to mention the fact that the term ‘male domination’ is so incredibly subjective and ambiguous.

In any case, Walter takes a bit of breather to talk about the prevalence of porn. She claims that “once upon a time, someone who was truly fascinated by pornography might have found, with some difficulty, 10, or 20, or 100 images to satisfy themselves”, whereas nowadays the Internet means we can get tons in just one click. I may be wrong here, but I really think that Walter has absolutely no idea what she’s talking about. Pornography was never as hard to get hold of as she thinks, OK, so the Internet certainly has made it easier, but it isn’t as if we were all innocent wee bairns before that. Has she never heard of the ‘photography clubs’ that used to be meeting places for men to share piles of dirty photos with each other? Where does she think all those hundreds and hundreds of photos of Bettie Page in bondage came from? Long before the Internet, my dear.

She claims that many people are now seeing strangers have sex before even vaguely having sex with anyone themselves. And? So, what? *I’d* certainly seen pornography before I ever had sex or even did *anything* sexual. Up to that point it was kisses only. What harm has it done me then, hmm? Not a jot. And it’s not just me. Chances are that you saw sex before having sex too. Did it do you harm? Likely not. The thing is, Walter, is that yes, many people do see sex before having it, but that’s hardly a new phenomenon. It’s been going on for a few years now. This generation of children are not the first to experience this. Quite a large number of my generation, the one before the current one, did too. So why aren’t we all sexually messed up? Why haven’t we seen a soaring rate of people with bizarre, impersonal, degrading notions about sex, love and relationships?

Don’t you think it better that children learn about sex before attempting it? Isn’t it better to learn how to operate the gears and the brakes before you get behind the wheel on the M4? Seeing sex can only help young people understand how the whole thing works, as long as they remember to take certain things with a pinch of salt. Coupled with a good sex education and support, it can only help them prepare for the real thing with less trepidation and upset.

Walter claims she rejects the classic feminist view of pornography which says it “necessarily involves or encourages abuse of women” and that she can see why some are now trying to create a pornography which gives women more opportunities. However, she sees porn as a threat to “many erotic relationships” and as characterised by “a vein of real contempt for women”, encouraging men to see women as objects and women to focus on “their sexual allure rather than their imagination or pleasure”.

Again, I’ve no idea where she’s getting this idea of contempt from, nor does she back up her claim that men see women as objects due to porn. Do I really need to rant about objectification again or does everyone already know what I’m going to say? I’ll assume the latter, but to sum up: sexual objectification does not exist on such a huge scale as many idiots imagine and where it does exist it is in no way more malignant than buying an apple.

The part about women focusing on their looks though, that she can back up – by talking to some university girls who agree they’d never have sex without shaving their ladybits. Wow. Good evidence. They want to look good for their men, how despicable! Those poor, poor creatures! Where is the harm in trying to look good for your sexual partner, hmm? Don’t we all do it? Don’t men do it? I know damn well they do, though perhaps without so much preening and fussing. What is wrong with trying to be more beautiful? If a woman wants to go and shave or put on make-up or even get bigger boobs because she wants to look better, why not? Walter seems to want to deprive women of the power to improve themselves physically and the right to alter their own bodies. Both sexes have wanted to be more attractive since the dawn of time, now it is easier for everyone to actually achieve that.

And apparently women focus on their looks rather than their own pleasure. Do they? *Really?* That’s why all those magazines like Cosmopolitan and Scarlet never tell you how to enjoy having sex, right? That’s why they never have, *without fail*, an article *every issue* telling you how to make your orgasms better or how to feel more pleasure in bed or how ‘your man’ can make you come more easily. Frankly, if there are women out there who are sublimating their own pleasure to look good, more fool them, they can hardly blame men for their own lack of sense.

She also writes of porn: “no wonder we have seen the rise of the idea that erotic experience will necessarily involve, for women, a performance in which they will be judged visually.” For women? Not men then? Not any? Never? Sorry, are you saying that men are the only ones who care about how their potential partner looks before deciding whether or not to fuck them? Bollocks. Men are judged on their looks just as much as women are. Look at Sex and the City and its constant references to big packages.

Secondly, the judging doesn’t really go all that far. Men don’t really care all that much about cellulite or a spot here and there or hair where there shouldn’t be, on the whole (yes, I do know that makes an awful pun, I’m leaving it there :P). Fractal didn’t care if I’d shaved or not, though he preferred the smooth look. When I asked Crush about this the other day he said he preferred my legs, and between them, to be smooth because it felt nicer, but he didn’t really care about my armpits. And? I prefer him to have recently washed his hair because it feels nicer. Is that a crime? Don’t we have the right to prefer things of other people? Don’t they then have the right to conform to these preferences if they want? Besides which, I know damn well that when it comes down to it, and by it I really do mean ‘it’, no-on cares if there’s stubble on your crotch because everyone’s too damn busy having fun.

The misleading, misdirected and almost entirely anecdotal talk then turns to lap dancing and prostitution. Ooh, I can see *this* is going to go well. Ellie is a girl who turned to the former when she wanted to be an actress and jobs were hard to get hold of. I’m not entirely sure what Walter thinks her story is trying to tell us, but it’s telling *me* that lap dancing is a growth market which the pretty and unashamed can make some money in, whether or not they might have to, shock horror, get a fake tan and dress like a tramp. Woe upon this poor woman and her completely free choice to make a decent amount of money on her body by stripping, an industry which, by the way, has very limited places for men.

Next we have Angela, a woman who turned to chat rooms to find no-strings encounters with men. Oddly enough, when she met random strangers on the Internet for casual sex she found that they were only interested in, would you believe it, casual sex. Which she then gave them, willingly. I think this story is trying to suggest that men these days are corrupted beast who ask for anal on the first encounter, but what it says to *me* is that chat rooms are rarely the place for a serious relationship and that many people expect casual sex to be about casual sex. Angela didn’t find her experiences with promiscuity all that engaging, fulfilling or empowering, so did she quit? No, she started to charge them money for it, prostituting herself. Of course, how silly of me.

So, from what this long extract tells me, this is going to be a rip-roaring book full of anecdotes, lies, misleading statistics, soundbites, wrong-headed theorising and, of course, cherry-picking. I mean, you did notice how all those quoted fit nicely into Natasha Walter’s own view of the world, right? Wasn’t she lucky to only find people who agreed with her!

It’s all a load of old tossycock, as Bernard Black would say. Walter wants to present a world where society’s increased openness, freedom and access to information leads the creators of pornography and the debasers of women via the media and adult entertainment to encourage men to objectify, degrade and mistreat women as the women themselves play the living doll and pander to their whims ever unaware of their own self-harm and corruption. It’s dark stuff, but thankfully entirely untrue.

Admittedly, this is just an extract, but it seems the book as a whole is going to be poisonous, harmful nonsense full of the usual narrow-minded scare tactics about sex, youth and the Internet, the usual feminist twisting and misogyny-tinted glasses and the usual dose of “young people these days” and  “Oh Noes! Teh Future!”. It’s almost like Walter isn’t aware that they were claiming society was apocalyptically debased centuries ago.

Stop whining about the Meeja and inequality and go and have an ice cream or something. ♦

Straight Gay Marriage

♦ Though I bat for team ‘B’ of the LGBT movement, I’ve always felt a tiny bit mixed about Peter Tatchell. On the one hand, he’s a tireless and stalwart campaigner for LGBT rights in the UK and elsewhere, on the other he has the tendency to occasionally get a little over-sensitive and a little rabid. On the third hand, he wants independence for Cornwall and he has the cojones to have attempted to arrest Robert Mugabe, which is pretty much the deciding vote in favour of Win.

In any case, he’s spot on in his support of a recent issue involving sexual discrimination and the right to recognition of loving partnerships by the state. Only this time, it’s not about the gays.

Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle, a heterosexual London couple, have just been refused for a civil partnership on the grounds that: “Part one of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 states that a civil partnership is a relationship between two people of the same sex and therefore we would not be able to take notice of your proposed civil partnership.”

The couple has basically been refused from participating in a legal institution on the grounds that they are the wrong sexuality. Oh dear, oh dear. You’d have thought we’d have learned something by now. What happened to equality regardless of sexual orientation or identity? Oh, that’s right, we never quite got it.

Ask most people, (indeed, ask the government) and they’ll probably tell you that civil partnerships grant the same rights and responsibilities as marriage. In many ways they do, dealing with property, benefits, children, insurance, death, etc. It’s got me thinking, though, about a number of ways in which they differ.

For a start, religious services and locations are banned from the signing of a civil partnership. No prayers, no mention of the Invisible Sky Fairy, no churches, no priests. No God while you gay.

Alright, so religion and homosexuality aren’t always the best of friends, but I’m sure there are plenty of gay couples who would want a religious element and plenty of religious figures and institutions who would be happy to provide one (the Quakers, at least, seem keen). This essentially strips gay couples of a fundamental right, banning them from expressing their religion on their happy day in the same way as straight marrying couples.

Secondly, adultery is not considered a valid reason in itself for divorce in a civil partnership, as opposed to in marriage. This one, I really don’t get. The cynic in me can only feel that I wouldn’t be entirely off the mark to suggest that maybe, just maybe, this smacks of some rather negative views of gay relationships. Why would the government feel adultery is grounds for a straight couple but not a gay couple? Do they, whether consciously or not, somehow believe that a homosexual relationship is more fraught with promiscuity? I hope not.

Thirdly, the name of the thing. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but why confuse the matter? If civil partnerships and marriage are supposed to provide the same service to couples, why the differing names? This one, at least, is easier to answer. In discussing the bill, my very favourite Jacqui Smith was quoted as saying that civil partnerships would recognise “the legal difficulties and sensitivities that perhaps not everybody in this Committee may share but certainly many people with religious views would share, about the particular historical traditions of marriage that might make it inappropriate for there to be same-sex marriages”.

Ah, I see. Somebody is worried about rocking the boat. We mustn’t let the gays use the term ‘marriage’ because it might make the baby Jesus cry. And not just the baby Jesus, but also anyone with their heads so entrenched in the past that they can’t cope with progression and change in society. We’ve got to ‘protect the traditional definition of marriage’. Things that seemed traditional and right once are obviously still just and wonderful, which explains why women take up embroidery after marriage and no-one has ever married across races or below their station.

Things change. Society progresses. We realise that the ideas we used to hold may now no longer apply. We used to ban homosexuality in its entirety. These days, gay couples are allowed to show their love for each other, but they still don’t have all the rights of straight couples. Likewise, straight couples are now being told that they cannot choose a civil partnership over marriage.

Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle have their own personal reasons for not wanting a ‘traditional’ marriage. To be fair, the concept of marriage does come with a lot of baggage, much of which is rather unappealing. What they have also said is that they refuse to get married until gay couples have the right to do the same, until the law recognises both heterosexual and homosexual relationships equally and without segregation.

And this is the point, in the end. What difference is there between a straight couple and a gay couple? Nothing but their sexuality and their biology.

Marriage is something I’m a wee bit ambivalent on, since I fail to see why the government should care who I love, who I sleep with or who I trust my life to, no matter what the gender. We need to keep traditions, religions and emotions separate from legal status and give anyone the right to bind themselves legally to whomever they please, subject to informed to consent.

Failing that, I’ll settle for everyone getting the same treatment, allowing gays to marry and straights to form civil partnerships, should they so wish. ♦