Tag Archives: feminism

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Shock news: male sex toys are popular, and men read erotica too

Wankers unite! There is a revolution upon us and it’s important that you’re part of it. Wipe up the jizz, pull up your trousers, and join your brethren in the march for acceptance.

A while ago I wrote about male sex toys, and a desperately judgmental article at Jezebel that described the guys who used them as ‘lonely fucks.’ But it’s not just Jezebel – I’m frequently coming across examples of the double-standards we have around what men and women do to get off. The overall narrative goes a little something like this:

Men masturbate loads as a matter of necessity, and hence their wanking is something filthy and sordid that should be done behind closed doors, like defecation or voting UKIP. Women don’t really need to wank, because they don’t need sex, so female masturbation is empowering, yet also gentle and feminine and pink. 

From this narrative, a lot of bullshit flows, of which the following is just a tiny snippet:

  • Female sex toys must be pink and sparkly and ‘unintimidating’ and should mainly be used to ‘enhance’ a woman’s sex life with a partner.
  • Male sex toys are a bit shameful and dirty, and must be hidden in a drawer so no one ever finds out.
  • Porn for women is basically a romance novel with a bit of shagging in it. Which men will never read.

All these things are bullshit, but it can be hard to discern that they’re bullshit because so much of our culture plays along to this tune. But even the most basic of research (and I cannot stress enough just how basic my ‘research’ is) shows that sexuality – male, female, or not-easily-forced-into-a-gender-binary – is clearly far more interesting than that.

Male and female sex toys

How many times have you read a mainstream sex advice article that recommends straight guys include vibrators during sex to please their partner? Loads, right? And now count up the number of sex advice articles that recommend women use a masturbator when they give hand jobs because holy Jesus they’re amazing and they make it way more fun? I bet you could count those articles on one hand, and at least two were written by me.

Similarly, guys using toys during solo masturbation is only just beginning to get talked about – traditionally our culture told the dude buying sex dolls and wanking sheaths that he was a lonely, desperate perv. So what’s the deal – are male sex toys only bought by lonely dudes? Or are they, in fact, bought by a significant number of people?

It’s the latter.

Thanks to sextoys.co.uk for giving me some info – here are the most viewed toys on their site.

To be fair, they have recently been doing some research and surveys into sex doll use, so it’s possible that’s what’s bumped ‘Brad’ and the ‘sisters’ up the list, but of the three remaining one could be used by anyone, and two are specifically designed to be used on a penis. Taking a peek at the top five search terms…

See? The search terms are delightfully universal – some of these toys can be used no matter what configuration of genitals you have. And as for the top toys, most are aimed at people with dicks. I appreciate this doesn’t prove that every guy has a Fleshlight in the cupboard, but I think it shows that male sex toys are not – as the general narrative has us believe – things bought by the few to sate loneliness or desperation. Male sex toys are, in fact, exactly the same as female sex toys: fun, optional additions to your sex life, whether you’re with a partner or on your own.

Men reading erotica

If you’ve been reading my blog for more than a post or two then you have read erotica. I don’t call it erotica, though, I call it filth. And there’s a bloody good reason for that: as soon as you call writing ‘erotic’ people file it away in the ‘just for women’ bank. As if men can’t cope with porn that’s told via this mysterious medium of ‘words on a page.’

I’ve lost count of the number of times someone publishing-related (not my publisher though, natch) has told me ‘oh but men don’t buy books, and they definitely don’t buy erotica, so we make the covers to appeal to women.’ Can you see the flaw in this? Course you can – covers designed to appeal to women may well put men off, because men are human and therefore influenced by their peers: they’re less likely to buy a book with a cover they interpret as ‘female-friendly’ because someone has effectively painted a barrier around it saying ‘this isn’t for you. If you buy it you’ll be the odd one out.’

I’ve used Google stats for the following, and it’s worth noting that Google’s demographic info can never be 100% accurate (and it also forces people into a gender binary, which naturally is a flaw in and of itself). But anyway. Here are my gender demographics – blue is male, green is female:

Girlonthenet blog demographics

Sexuality isn’t simple

The info above doesn’t conclusively prove anything, so don’t go showing it to a proper journalist or anything. But what it does show, I think, is that sexuality is far more complicated than we’re tricked into believing.

I frequently talk about how women like sex too, and that it isn’t just a currency with which we barter for money or love, despite the constant stream of depressing sex advice that seems to assume it is. I think that male sexuality falls victim to the same assumptions. This idea that men are sex-obsessed, and only after one thing, is one of the foundations on which the original bullshit story is built. If sex is such a grotesque necessity for men then everything they do with it must be disgusting: the porn they watch, the toys they use, the dirty things they get up to alone behind closed doors, etc.

But actually that’s just as crap as the claim that women lie back and think of England. Not only does it paint every single man into the same sexual corner, but it spectacularly fails to understand the vast differences between individual sexuality (not to mention those who don’t identify with one side or other of the gender binary). It also fucks with morality, assigning moral actions to things which are at best amoral (such as wanking) and painting men as creatures incapable of making moral choices when their sexual desires are involved.

This started as a light-hearted blog, aimed at showing men that they’re being short-changed by society’s views on how they should and shouldn’t wank. It’s turned into something much more depressing. But it doesn’t always have to be this way. As women have gradually changed society’s views on female sexuality (Women can wank too! And watch porn! And be the architects of our own sexual fulfilment!) I think we can change what people think about men as well.

We can start by not giggling when guys buy sex toys, or read erotic stories. When we’ve mastered that, perhaps we can move on to the idea that men – like women – are unique individuals, whose sexuality can’t be easily generalised about or packaged. Then comes the wankers’ revolution. If you don’t want to join in then please step aside: it might get a little bit sticky.

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Strip clubs for sales targets

Do you know what can FUCK TOTALLY OFF? This news story about the rise in strip club takings. Specifically, the very first four words of it:

The City is back.”

Amid all the controversy yesterday of date-rape-drug detecting nail polish and a judge who reckons women need to stop getting drunk, there was one piece of fucked-up bullshit that seemed to slip through the net. When I read it my immediate thought was: hey! Look! A primer for all those people who try to tell me that equality has come on in recent years and there’s no such thing as male privilege any more. Can’t be arsed to read the article? Here’s a summary:

Smarmy club owning tossbag Peter Stringfellow has announced that takings at his strip clubs are going up, as a direct result of financial industry clientele flocking back. Apparently the recession hit these poor lambs hard, and they couldn’t throw down top dollar like they used to. The fact that Stringfellow’s takings are on the rise apparently indicates that the bankers are back in force, braying into their champagne and celebrating big-win deals by paying for people to take their clothes off.

So why am I angry? I mean, the recession’s bad, right? We see all those graphics on TV of wobbly graphs going down and scary sting music announcing that we’re all screwed. Surely a cast-iron economy-boost sign such as this should be cause for celebration?

Maybe. If you want to celebrate the end of the recession I’m not going to snatch the bubbly out of your hand, but fucking HELL. Fuck. Ing. Hell. If we live in a world in which an increase in strip club takings can be a sign of an improvement in any non-stripping-related industry, then I think it’s time the human race was sent to sit in a corner for a while and think about what we’ve done.

Do I hate strip clubs?

No. I haven’t written much about sex work here before, so I should probably clarify before I launch into this rant. I’ve been to strip clubs. I don’t have a problem with stripping or any kind of sex work. I do have a problem with exploitation. These things cross over sometimes, but I don’t think they’re necessarily dependent. You might disagree with me on this point, and I’m sure we could have an interesting and feisty debate about it, but please understand that when I have this rant, it’s not based on a fundamental problem with stripping.

What I have a massive and aching problem with is the fact that these outings are work related. They are so part-and-parcel of the job in a particular kind of industry that it is considered completely normal and not a little bit weird that the owner of a strip club is citing ‘increase in takings’ as an indication of that industry’s revival.

Naked people as job perks

Want to see tits? Fine. Tits are, I understand, quite popular with some people. Want to see cunt? Again, fine. Expect to be shown either or both of these things as a reward for doing your job? Then you’re a bellend.

I am a sex-positive motherfucker. I am so sex-positive that sometimes my enthusiasm for the sticky activities of consenting adults makes my clit ache. HOWEVER, no sexual activity happens in a vacuum. Much as I’d like to be the one dancing naked in front of you and scattering tit-shaped petals at your feet, I’m afraid if you go to strip clubs on work-related jaunts, I’m going to have to piss on your bonfire.

Giving hand-jobs to consenting strangers is totally cool. Doing it in the middle of your open plan office is not. Engaging in consensual BDSM is cool. Spanking your secretary at the AGM is not. Going to strip clubs – also cool. Incorporating strip clubs into your working culture? Utterly reprehensible.

Putting any kind of sexual pressure on anyone is unacceptable, and in a work situation it is very difficult to say ‘actually I’d rather not get a boner in front of my boss, thanks,’ especially when your boss is the one buying dances. On top of this there’s the obvious objection, which I’m sure you’ve thought of yourself: what about your straight female or gay male colleagues? For these people, watching naked strippers may not actually be a ‘treat’ but instead an awkward outing that they have to grin and bear in order to win the approval of a boss and/or client.

Moreover, given that a disinclination to watch female strippers is not always dependent on sexuality, what about your straight male colleagues who don’t enjoy strip clubs? Unless you’re the kind of person whose misogyny is generally seasoned with a large and complimentary dollop of misandry, and you therefore presume all men are  slobbering fuckdogs, you’ll agree that there are straight men who don’t enjoy strip clubs.

If you want to treat your colleagues or clients, get them a nice meal. Take them go-karting. Buy them tickets to sodding Disneyland for all I care. But if you work in an industry that has nothing to do with sex, and you make something sexual a standard part of your operating procedure, then you don’t deserve a job.

Women in finance

All of the above goes only some way towards explaining why the article I mentioned so many swearwords ago boiled my blood. What pushed me from silent fuming to a terribly un-British mutter of ‘fuck’s sake’ as I perused the paper on the train was the fact that strip club receipts were so unquestioningly accepted as a sign that the financial industry was ‘back on track.’

This tells us that the financial sector remains not only dominated by men, but dominated by the unconscionably banal and pathetic attitude that masculinity rules the world. The kind of macho ‘dicks-out, tally ho, woof woof, nice tits, I just made a million dollars’ culture that should have died well before Wolf of Wall Street was released.

I’ll get men commenting on this saying ‘we don’t all go to strip clubs, you know,’ and it will make me want to weep tears of actual blood, then smash through my computer screen with my weeping, bloodied face. Because this is not me saying ‘all men are dicks.’ This is a much wider problem – a culture that unthinkingly accepts that all men want X, where ‘X’ includes sexual service, a pile of money, and a BMW they can use to cut up cyclists in the city centre. There will always be some pin-striped arseholes who want to see tits on the company dime. As long as there are quarterly sales meetings there’ll be some twat called Henry who suggests they all trip down to Stringfellow’s as a reward for hitting their targets. Henry is a lubed-up prick, for sure, but shouldn’t shoulder all the responsibility. I hate him for acting like a swaggering piss-bucket, but I’m far more angry at the culture that lets him.

This pathetic world, which unthinkingly correlates strip club takings with a financial sector ‘bounceback’ and doesn’t go ‘wait a minute! Isn’t this fucked up on such a large scale we can see it from the top of the Chrysler Building?’

Get ready

I have a message for you, Henry, and for all your mates in the city. All the managers and bosses who turn a blind eye to this bullshit. To the people who’ll nod and smile and say ‘boys will be boys’ or talk about the ‘culture’ of finance and why it just HAS to be like this. My message is this:

We’re coming to get you.

We liberal lefty do-gooding bastards with our ideals and our rage and our charity-shop jumpers. We’re coming to get you.

Fifty years ago Mad-Men-style ad execs would think nothing of slapping a secretary’s arse. Twenty years ago you could bribe clients with strip club trips and claim it back from work. These days, things are different. Arseholes have to suppress their natural instincts – avoid sexual harassment, overtly offensive comments, and sticking their boners on expenses. It still happens, of course, but it’s rarer. It’s rarer because we’ve made it so: we do-gooding bastards are actually winning.

We’re winning for a number of reasons. Perhaps it’s because we’ve got better messages – ‘equality’ sounds better than ‘jobs for the boys’, doesn’t it? Or maybe it’s because time and again we’re proven right – women enter a particular industry (be it factory work, finance, or tech) and manage to equal and often outperform their male colleagues. My favourite theory, though, is it’s because we’re just fucking right.

Call me a starry-eyed optimist but I believe the UK, despite making spectacular and regular fuck ups, is tending towards greater equality, and a much lower tolerance for sexist shit. Don’t cry ‘oh political correctness oh woe oh the horror’ – it’s not a scary thing – it’s a good thing.

Henry, we’re coming to get you, and when we do I hope you’ll welcome us with relief and open arms. I hope you’ll cry ‘thank Christ for that, I don’t have to live up to this weird cut-out stereotype of masculinity any more.’ I hope you’ll realise that bringing women into an industry and kicking obligatory sex shows out of it is a net win for all of us. And I hope that in fifty years time you look back not on the ‘good old days’ of Pete from Head Office treating you to a lapdance, but the even better days of not feeling forced into some weird misogynist ritual just to prove your worth in the workplace.

We’re coming to get you. Roll out the red carpet, or get run into the ground.

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On gendered products

ATTENTION MEN! MANLY MANLY MEN: Would you like to buy a toothBROsh? It’s a toothbrush, but for BROs. It’s meatier and more muscular than your average toothbrush – to prove it we’ve coloured it grey and printed ‘GRRR’ on the packaging.

Ever since someone put a selection of different meats between two slices of bread and decided that the resulting ‘manwich’ was so epic it could only be tackled by a rugged lumberjack, marketers have been gendering objects.

Gendered products are odd

My pet go-to example is the ‘man-bag’. Until the late twentieth century, gentlemen who wished to transport items would make use of a product known as a ‘bag’. Alternatively, perhaps a ‘rucksack’, a ‘satchel’ or a ‘briefcase’. These were all items that could be used indiscriminately – your carrying needs had nothing to do with whether you were a ‘Mr’ or a ‘Ms’.

Enter the man-bag. The man-bag is a special manly bag full of slugs, snails, puppy-dog tails and so much testosterone it could probably arouse the late Queen Victoria. This rebranding of the humble bag, despite shifting lots of units and gracing the style pages of all the best men’s magazines, was a complete and total failure. Not for the bag-makers, you understand, but for humanity.

Because ever since the successful gendering of a particular type of bag, men I know have been subject to a bizarre and almost completely incomprehensible form of mockery. “Nice man-bag,” say twats, to advertise their belief that carrying a bag is an innately feminine thing to do, “Do you keep your man-purse in it?” they continue, to the detriment of the entire species.

Thanks, brand people. You haven’t made ‘carrying a bag’ an acceptable thing for men to do, you’ve done the opposite. In trying to encourage people to buy more of one particular style of bag, you have placed another explosive on the minefield of gender presentation.

Other gendered products

It’s not just man-bags, there are plenty of gendered products that are tailored to appeal to our average shark-wrestling, macho dude:

  • Guyliner – it’s like eyeliner, but for guys! Because guys don’t wear eyeliner! Except the ones who totally do!
  • Guybrator – because until now literally all vibrators have been designed purely for women and no dude has ever stuck one up his arse.
  • Mandals – a type of shoe, similar to the ones Jesus wore, but now worn by men! Oh, wait.

There are plenty of other examples of these things – gendered marketing has been around for years and isn’t likely to disappear any time soon. But amongst the obnoxious pink laptops aimed at women, cute squirrel-shaped vibrators and the ‘it’s not for girls’ tagline on a Yorkie bar, these portMANteau words stick out like an even sorer thumb. They’re so obvious. So bizarre. And so utterly othering.

Apart from the fact that any of the above products can be used no matter what your gender, the whole thing is deeply, deeply illogical. You’re presumably saying ‘hmm, men will be nervous about purchasing this thing that is traditionally aimed at women, so to market it we will highlight the fact that it is traditionally aimed at women.’ You’re not saying ‘dudes you know it’s totally OK to use these things as well’, you’re saying ‘dudes it’s basically odd for you to be using these things, but at least now if you do then you have the excuse that you’re being stylish.’

Do gendered objects make money?

As I’ve said before, I actually don’t give a flying fuck if this stuff works. I’d hazard a guess that certain words (guybrator, for instance) help enormously with PR when you’re trying to get a new, and seriously intriguing concept product to market. Saying ‘it’s a vibrator for guys which you wrap round your dick instead of put up your arse’ is a bit of a mouthful, whereas ‘guybrator’ trips off the tongue and makes people want to find out what it is.

But here’s the thing: there are a million and one things that we know are going to help make money. Charities could show grotesque pictures of dead people, payday loan companies could write letters from fake lawyers,  bloggers could include shameless promotional sponsor links and tell you that if you don’t click on them and buy stuff they’ll kill a basket of kittens.

We could do that, but most of us don’t (honest – no kittens will ever be harmed in the marketing of this blog) because we know that it’s wrong, and a bit uncomfortable. Those of us that do think only about the bottom line are usually called out on mistakes, as people recognise that although money is important, ethics matter too.

Most marketers probably think there’s nothing wrong with peddling a manbag, or even a toothBROsh. I’m not saying ‘guyliner’ is as bad as fake legal threats, of course – it isn’t even close – but in slapping a gender label on something otherwise universal, marketers are contributing to a world that focuses on exclusion rather than inclusion. One which stacks us all into neat piles according to the way we’re presented, and draws a circle around the things we can do, have, and be. Gendered products maintain the cycle that made gendered products necessary in the first place. In the short term you’ll shift a few more pairs of ‘mandals’ to guys who were worried that ‘sandals’ were too feminine, but in the long-term you’ve just chained yourself to notion that certain products can only appeal to half of the human race.

So in making that choice, ‘Mandals Incorporated’ has ensured that there’s a huge crowd of customers they will never be able to acquire. A pile of money that they can never take to the bank. I hope someone else does.

On two-dimensional women

I read a book recently that made me so angry I nearly threw it into the sea.  It wasn’t designed to be controversial – it was a light, funny holiday read that I’d downloaded because it looked fun.

The book itself was good. I mean really good. It was laugh out loud funny, at points. It was interesting and had twists, turns, car chases and a fair bit of blowing shit up. Unlike my own book, it didn’t have much wanking, but you can’t possibly have everything. Unfortunately, despite being a bloody entertaining read, it made me angry – the author had gone to great pains to draw all of his male characters as interesting, in-depth individuals, but when it came to the women he’d obviously got bored. Each had just one characteristic, which was her primary motivating factor and drove everything she ever did: there was Bitchy woman, Supportive woman, Bossy woman, Hormonal woman – like a lazy misogynist retelling of the seven dwarves.

Our dashing, complex hero battled villains with backstory. Our bit-part dudes and walk-on cronies had needs and desires and flaws and foibles and all that good shit that humans have. Our women? Well. One of them had a sexy nun costume.

Women as filler

The book came in the middle of a period where I’ve watched lots of TV and films in which women have been there purely as fodder for the development of male characters. Whether it’s a wife getting killed in the first episode to give her husband dark reasons for revenge, as a tempting prize for our hero to win in the second act, or as a scheming harpy obstacle for our dashing gentleman to overcome, it pisses me off.

Yeah, some female characters are always going to be cardboard-cut-outs: I don’t expect you to tell me the tortured history of the lady whose only contribution to the plot is that she fixes our hero’s car at the beginning of act one. But what I do expect is that if women play a major part in the story, they should be more than just furniture or the faceless catalyst for a painfully bad sex scene.

What do two-dimensional women do?

It’s not just the poor characterisation and ‘but women are so complex I couldn’t possibly write one as if she were a human being’ – the women-as-insignificant message is woven into the story itself. Here is a list of some things that men in the book got to do:

  • Drive tanks
  • Have epic car chases
  • Fire guns
  • Be on TV panel shows
  • Invent new scientific instruments

Here are some of the things the women got to do:

  • Fuck the main character over for child support
  • Have epic temper tantrums
  • Give massages
  • Dress in aforementioned ‘sexy nun’ costume

At one point a woman got to join in a fight, and she beat the guy by – can you guess? Go on, guess – kicking him in the nuts. Of course she did! Because men, while infinitely more powerful and violent than women, do at least have one weakness.

Women: know your limits

I’m not just angry because the women didn’t get to be president or whatever, though – in this book they didn’t even get to perform basic human functions. For example: our hero’s girlfriend had a job. We know this because he made repeated reference to ‘her job’, and talked about her ‘leaving for work’ and all that jazz. Yet at no point were we told much about what she actually did. Compare this to other minor characters, whose entire backstory was fleshed out in the space of a couple of paragraphs, and we were told not only what they did but how they felt about it, whether they liked their colleages, and if they’d ever had an amusing office incident involving a photocopier or a bottle of Tipp-ex.

Amazingly, one of the women didn’t even really get to speak. As the baddies and goodies were fighting at the climax of the novel, she – who had up until that point remained almost completely silent – was asked how she felt about something. She responded by letting out a ‘shriek of rage’. That’s it, just a shriek. At a certain point (the point at which bad women fight good women because that is how it’s supposed to be) I think she manages a word or two. But although we’d fleetingly been told she was a ‘bossy’ person, at no point did she utter a word when men were in the room. Unless – and I shit you not – it was for one of the scenes where she had to fawn and drool over a guy. Then, with ‘oh baby’s’ and ‘I love you’s and slobbery kisses, she piped up a fucking treat.

Full-blooded women

Sure, there are some awesome female characters woven into amazing literary masterpieces. This is just one book out of many many millions, and it wasn’t ever intended to be the defining literary masterpiece of a generation. But it’s not the only one, it’s just a neat example to use because it makes so many of these common mistakes in just one story. There are plenty more where it came from, though – TV dramas and films in which women are there purely so the male character can have an epiphany/get laid/perform a daring rescue.

Sometimes these things are wholly necessary, of course – we need the hero to go through scrapes in order to come out on top. And having one or two cardboard-cut-out characters is necessary for a story. But does it always have to be that way round? A tortured, complex guy leading plastic women to safety as they shriek in fear then fall at his feet? How about you give a girl a shotgun and let her storm the castle?

I know some male authors complain that female characters are hard to write. Or, in the case of video games manufacturers, that our soft bodies and gigantic battering eyelashes are so difficult to animate that to create playable women would cost more money than there is in the Universe. I originally wanted to refer to this as a problem of misogyny – these writers are unable to believe in their female characters or female audiences because they fundamentally don’t care about women. But that’s not the problem really, is it?

The problem isn’t a lack of empathy, money, or basic human decency: it’s a lack of imagination. Which, if you’re writing fiction, is a tricky hurdle indeed.

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On whether women can have it all

Women: what will you do first – have that glittering career you’ve always dreamed of, or get babies quick-sharp before your maternal need reaches a shrieking climax and you’re left yearning for the children that will make your life complete?

Kirstie Allsopp has been in some pretty hot water today over comments she made about life choices. She pointed out (quite rightly) that if you have a womb and ovaries, your chances of using those to make a baby drop sharply after a certain age. That’s obviously common sense. Unfortunately, she then used that to say that if she had a daughter she’d advise her not to go to University early in life (i.e. shortly after 18) and instead focus on having a family and saving studying and a career for later.

She’s taken a lot of crap for saying this, and has taken a lot of agreement, too: from people who did have children young, or those who wish they had.

Here’s the problem: Kirstie gave what is essentially some good advice. If you want kids in a certain way (and if you’re able to have them in that way), you have to plan relatively early. Unfortunately, this good advice was presented in a way that rested on a huge number of assumptions. It’s not the advice that’s bad, it’s what it rests on.

She has, in no particular order, assumed that:

– All women want the same things (career and babies).

– All women are biologically capable of having children and will want to have biological offspring.

– A career is always a choice, as opposed to something many people do because they need to put food on the table.

– Women shoulder the responsibility for the propagation of the human race.

Can women ‘have it all’?

I’d be less angry about comments on careers and children if it weren’t for the fact that it is always presented as a choice that women – and only women – need to make. Incidentally, as I stand up loudly and proudly and state that ‘not all women’ want to have babies, to correct this incredibly common assumption, I look forward to the men who recently commented on my ‘sex entitlement’ blog to join in with me, correcting those gender assumptions they so hated when they believed them to be directed at dudes.

Sarcastic asides over, men are never asked ‘hey, are you sure you want to have this career now? Shouldn’t you have kids first?’ Of course no one ever asks men this, because society has an inherent aversion to male child-rearing, and feels that kids are the sole preserve of women. This puts massive undue responsibility on women, and leaves men standing on the sidelines being patronised by strangers when they take over the duty of ‘babysitting’ their own children. Not to mention it makes women like me really bloody angry when they keep having to answer the same tickbox list of questions.

Conversations about my potential future offspring fall into two broad categories:

a) relevant and interesting conversations (these are the ones I have with my partner, where we discuss our thoughts on The Future)

b) totally unnecessary, irrelevant and intrusive conversations (the ones I have with every other twat who thinks they know better than me what I think)

The latter type usually consists of a friend or family member telling me in syrupy tones that one day I’ll just wake up and – BAM – suddenly I will want a baby so hard I will be unsure how I can ever have wanted anything else in my life. They tell me that having children is the best thing that ever happened to them and that, ergo, it would be the best thing to ever happen to me. It might be, I don’t know. I’m not a fucking psychic. All I know is that right now – right this instant – I don’t want one. And you nagging me about it is unlikely to make me start ovulating. So, if you’re one of those people who likes to tell people to have kids, pay attention.

Five things people need to stop telling me about children

1. You’ll change your mind one day.

I’ve been fairly open about the fact that I don’t really want children. I may well change my mind one day: I’m a human, and we have a habit of doing that. But you don’t get to tell me that unless you have actually lived inside my head. That’s not only impossible but undesirable – it’s a terribly sordid place.

2. It’s the only real purpose for us in life!

By ‘us’ do you mean ‘people’? Because sure, it is a purpose of the human race to survive. And we, as a species, need to make sure we don’t die out any time soon. But there’s a huge leap to be made between ‘survival of the species’ and ‘my individual choices.’ If I’m one of the last people on Earth this argument might hold weight, but given that there are around 6 billion of us, I don’t think my uterus is the vital pivot on which our survival depends.  I no more have a moral responsibility to breed than I have a moral responsibility not to die.

3. Your biological clock is ticking…

I’m getting older, if that’s what you mean, but I’m fascinated as to how you have such an in-depth insight into the state of my reproductive system. For all you know it might not work. For all you know I might not have one.

4. Oh, you must hate children then.

They’re OK, I suppose. They are like adults, only smaller and they say hilarious stupid things sometimes, and also if you have a child you have an excuse to do things like play with the Brio train sets in the Early Learning Centre without being asked to leave. I bloody love some kids (usually ones I am related to, or particularly well-behaved offspring of my friends) but there are many kids who are – let’s face it – twats.

I don’t ‘hate’ or ‘love’ kids. As with adults, I will form my opinion on them based on discussion with the individual in question, and possibly a Frozen singalong. Only then can you get the true measure of a person.

5. Don’t you think it’s a bit selfish to choose your work over children?

No. Nor is it selfish to choose travel, hobbies, or sitting on the sofa staring blankly into space for forty years. All of these things are legitimate life choices, no more or less selfish than the decision to have children. You know why? Because I haven’t had children yet. That’s the beauty of it! If I did have children then certainly I’d be pretty selfish if I ignored them in favour of writing angry blogs and eating ice-cream at 11 am on a Monday for no reason. Given that I don’t have them, my choices can only be selfish or unselfish in relation to how they affect the people I know: people who actually exist right now, as opposed to some possible future person who may never even come into being.

So there you go. Some thoughts on kids. If, like me, you are a 30-year-old cis woman and people are constantly nagging you about your biological clock, feel free to shout this in their face until they stop talking to you.

Kids: have ’em, don’t have ’em, dither over your decision for years before you make it – it’s none of my fucking business.