Tag Archives: feminism

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On whether blow jobs are anti-feminist

Are blow-jobs feminist? Are shoes feminist? Are Cadbury’s Mini-Eggs feminist? Come on, feminists, get your fucking act together. There needs to be a Feminist List of things that are OK to do, and things that aren’t, otherwise we’ll be dithering around forever and will eventually be crushed under the weight of bikini-waxing strips we’re not entirely sure we’re allowed to use.

Every now and then someone publishes an article letting us know whether a particular thing is either feminist or not. We’ve had high heels, no make up selfies, Game of Thrones, any number of things. Basically there’s an idea that says feminism can be defined by a bucket-list of tickboxes, and if you check the right ones in the Buzzfeed-esque “How Feminist Are You?” test then you get a special golden hammer with which to smash the patriarchy.

It’s mostly toss.

I’m not an expert in high heels, or selfies, or any of that bollocks, but I am certainly pretty opinionated when it comes to sex. That’s why, when Any Girl Friday published a very balanced and interesting blog discussing the feminist merits (or demerits) of giving blowjobs, I was all over it like my own lips on cock.

Are blow jobs anti-feminist?

No, they are not. And you can probably tell that I’m not going to take quite such a balanced view as AGF, because I love giving blow jobs, and I am a feminist, so saying that they are an anti-feminist thing would be to brand myself a disgraceful hypocrite.

Blow jobs are ‘feminist’ in the same way as almost any other act: there is no inherent quality of ‘feminism’ that can be applied to a particular thing. I make breakfast every morning, and that breakfast gives me the energy to write angry feminist rants, but the act of making of it isn’t an inherently feminist one.

I think what makes an activity ‘feminist’ is mostly about the context: your motivation, the consequences of the activity, and so on. The act itself plays only a very tiny role. For example:

Susan stands outside 10 Downing Street holding up a placard that says “equal pay for women.” Is this a feminist thing to do? Yeah, probably. But what if I tell you that the reason Susan is holding the sign is because her mate has gone on a toilet break. Actually she’s not that bothered about equal pay for women, she just wants to help out her mate. Suddenly holding the sign isn’t a feminist act at all.

So, let’s apply this to blow jobs. Any Girl Friday says that:

It’s wrong to ignore that potential pitfalls of unequal power distribution involved in the act of giving head… For one, the giver is in a submissive, subservient position. They are often on their knees or in a vulnerable position – this is clearly a situation where trust is paramount. In addition, we have a whole misogynistic nightmare on our hands with regards to the language sometimes used in porn, rap songs, media. I’ve heard men say things like ‘choke on this, bitch’ and ‘I’ll force you down and make you gag.’ … Instead of being a mutually beneficial sexual act, revered alongside giant chocolate buttons and unicorns, it becomes another way of men claiming our bodies and rights to our sexuality.

I’m down with some (although not all) blow jobs having submissive connotations: I’m a sub, and to be honest I’m mostly interested in giving head as a means for my partner to use me in all kinds of horrible, consensual, utterly cunt-drenching ways. But even female submission itself isn’t ‘anti-feminism’ – it only appears so if you strip it of all meaningful context.

Expecting all women to give head like that, to ‘choke on this’ and ‘gag on it, bitch’? That’s pretty anti-feminist. But when you add in the context – that this is something I not only choose to do but that gets me off pretty hard? Then it’s actually pretty anti-feminist to tell me I shouldn’t do it.

A guy once asked me whether my desire for buttsex was letting down the sisterhood, and I’ll repeat what I told him: sex isn’t a University debate, and what you do in the bedroom doesn’t have to impact your life outside it. Just as you can enjoy getting spanked by your girlfriend yet refuse to take shit from your boss, it’s perfectly possible for your dick end to make contact with the back of my throat and for you to still respect my opinions, and live with me in an equal relationship.

Does head have to be reciprocated in order to be feminist?

AGF raises an interesting question about reciprocation: are blow jobs expected in a straight relationship while cunnilingus falls by the wayside? Obviously it depends on the relationship, but she does raise a fair few examples of people claiming that giving head to a woman is more intimate/difficult, thus it isn’t be a cornerstone of regular straight activity in a way that blow jobs are.

That’s a shame, it really is. Because, you know, if your partner likes getting head just as much as you do, and there’s an unequal balance of head-giving in your relationship, then that’s pretty crap for your partner. But likewise if your partner likes you to cook for them and you never bloody do it, that’s pretty crap for your partner too. Whether it’s anti-feminist or not depends on the context – in this case, the ‘why?’

Are you a straight dude who refuses to give head because you believe that blow jobs are more important/significant than female pleasure? Congratulations: you’re a twat. And you’re also not a feminist.

Are you a straight dude who refuses to give head because you just cannot stand the taste/smell/activity, and you’d much rather do something else? That is a sexual choice. And, while it might upset your partner, it is as legitimate a sexual choice as deciding not to do anal, or saying ‘no’ to hand jobs, or any of the other things that it’s totally fine to refuse. If your partner believes that oral sex should be reciprocal, then you might need to suck up the fact that you’re not going to get head if you don’t want to give it, but your partner cannot demand that you reciprocate just so that you don’t come across as a bad feminist. That’s shitty.

There is a huge problem with the way we talk about this stuff – the fact that in casual conversation blow jobs are often seen as a given, something that straight women absolutely must do if they want to be an enlightened, 21st-Century have-it-all kind of girl. I hate the assumption that if you don’t give head enough you’ll ‘lose your man’, the coy giggling way we pressure women to swallow spunk like they’re chugging tequila shots, and above all the occasional vague suggestion that giving head is a crucial part of a woman’s role in a straight relationship.

All of this is anti-feminist. All of this is shit. But it’s not the sexual act that’s shit, it’s the expectation, and the pressure. I don’t want that pressure on women to be replaced with a new, and equally unfair, pressure on men. If you don’t want to get on your knees and lick my chuff like I’m sponsored by Solero, then you never ever have to.

Which sex acts are anti-feminist?

I honestly cannot think of any. No, really. While almost any act, in a particular context, can potentially be good or bad for women, individual sex acts aren’t good or bad in and of themselves. Anal sex isn’t anti-feminist. Blow jobs aren’t anti-feminist. Giving your partner a hand job on the back of the night bus is not anti-feminist. As I’ve said before, sex is not the opposite of feminism.

What is anti-feminist is trying to dictate women’s sexual choices: tell them that they should or shouldn’t desire a particular thing in virtue of the fact that they’re a woman. Telling me I don’t have to give blow jobs if I don’t want to is entirely sensible and decent advice. Telling me I shouldn’t give blow jobs because I’m letting the side down is unnecessarily intrusive and repressive. Which brings me on to my final point.

Should feminists demand more cunnilingus?

In the article, AnyGirlFriday says this:

“I believe that women who give but don’t ask [for pleasure of any kind – not just oral] in return are contributing to a generation of men who believe they are entitled to pleasure.”

Which is a shame. We’ve chatted about it on Twitter and I struggled to explain why this sentence rubbed me up the wrong way.  In a few more words, and after a bit more thought, I think I’ve worked it out:

I don’t like getting head – it’s just not as fun for me as a hand-job or a shag, or any one of a million other things I do to get off. If I don’t like getting head, but I do like giving it, then it would seem that I can’t have the sex I like without ‘contributing to a generation of men who believe they are entitled to pleasure.’ I’m promoting sexual inequality with every dick I suck, and every time I pull his face up from between my legs and say “don’t bother, I just want you to fuck me.”

Luckily, though, that’s not the case at all. Because I don’t believe that an unequal distribution of head is anti-feminist, no matter how problematic society’s sexual attitudes may be. My individual sex life is about giving and receiving pleasure without being made to feel guilty about what I do or don’t want. It’s about enthusiastically sucking cock, and enthusiastically receiving hand jobs, and rejecting those things that don’t get me off.

In fact, let’s take this further: faking orgasms isn’t anti-feminist. Not getting much physical pleasure from sex isn’t anti-feminist. Choosing to have sex because your partner wants it even though you could take it or leave it this evening? Not anti-feminist. Again, these are simple acts, which only become feminist or not when given context. I’m never going to tell you that doing any one of these individual things is good, bad or ugly without fully understanding your reasons for doing them. You’re making a choice about what to do with your body. A choice that no one else gets to dictate. Not even feminists.

This blog post written with huge thanks to AnyGirlFriday for kicking off the discussion – please do check out her blog, which I’ve recently discovered. She writes on loads of interesting topics, and I hope she doesn’t mind my hijacking her thoughts to have a rant around the issue.

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On those pesky intimidating women

Do I scare you? Do I? Go on, you can tell me. I will never, literally, bite.

An email dropped into my inbox this week linking to an article entitled “Are women intimidating to men?” and I nearly fell off my chair. I would certainly have actually fallen off my chair if I hadn’t heard this question before. If I hadn’t, on numerous occasions, been told to my actual, scary face, that I am ‘an intimidating girl.’

What makes a woman intimidating?

I’ll admit it – I’m not your average quiet type. Despite getting quakingly anxious when I have to meet new groups of people, for the most part I’m loud, opinionated, and usually ready to down two pints then give you an angry list of exactly what can fuck off.

I’m also tall, which I know doesn’t help matters. My tallness, broad shoulders, face piercings and angry frown combine to form a physical GOTN that is just as likely to blend into the background as the verbal GOTN: i.e. not.

So when people tell me I’m intimidating, I usually take it on the chin. I do not scream at them, I do not punch them, I do not launch a fly-kick at their face in the way I might if my life were directed by Quentin Tarantino. What I do is ask them: “why?”

Because more often than not their statement is only half-formed. They don’t think this dude to my right (a UKIP supporter holding forth on why immigration is a real problem for this country) or this guy to my left (a gigantic rugby player three pints into a game of pub golf) is particularly intimidating. Or at least, if they do, they have not decided to say so.

If you can tell me – to my actual face – that I’m intimidating, I am clearly not. What you really mean is: “you’re intimidating, for a woman, yet because you are a woman you cannot possibly scare me enough to prevent me from telling you.”

Women: know your limits

When I clicked on the article in question (I am not going to link to it), I expected to see a discussion of why people find women intimidating when they happen to display the same behaviour as men, possibly with commentary along the lines of ‘hey guys, equality isn’t scary, just chill the fuck out.’ But I did not find that, as you can probably tell by the steaming rage emanating from every single dot and pixel of this page.

What I found was a guide for women on how to appear less intimidating in order to get chatted up by more men. It included such advice as

“It’s a great sign if you are single and view yourself as smart, independent, happy, successful and fun. However these very traits can make you seem too intimidating for a man to approach you if you are not consciously acting open toward meeting a great guy.”

Oh, shit, sorry dudes! Did my independence scare you away? Are you twitching like a frightened rabbit because I am too fun and successful? I’d better start ‘consciously acting open’ lest my happy behaviour leads you to think I am a terrible, shrewish bitch.

It’s OK to be scared

I’m not saying it’s easy to approach someone. Talking to new people is hard, especially in an environment where your “hello” may easily (and often correctly) be interpreted as “you look like the sort of person I might want to get naked and roll around with.” You’re not a bad person because you’re intimidated by chatting people up.

But holy Christ, do I really need to point out that changing women’s behaviour is the wrong way to go about solving this problem?

Most of us are intimidated by chatting people up. But the solution is not to make the people we are chatting up less intimidating – to knock down people who are successful, funny, loud, or whatever. Because then we’d end up with a world in which all of us were quiet and demure and politely responsive and there’d be no variation in personality at all. Women would be a homogenous mass of smiling geisha, easy-to-please and inscrutable, yet never fully present or interested because they’re so busy worrying that their laughter might be too loud, their jokes too witty, or their opinions too different to your own.

Intimidating women

Are you a straight guy who’s thought to yourself that you’d love, for once, if women took the upper hand and asked the guys out? It’s not as common as I’d like it to be (although I’ve chipped in for my cause by stamping up to guys I like a few times and saying ‘fancy a fuck?’ to less success than even I expected) and if you’re a straight guy I imagine you’d like something cool like that to happen to you. But it’s rare, and for that you can thank words like ‘intimidating’, ‘bossy’, and all those subtle ways you tell us to sit down, bite our tongues, and laugh along with your jokes. Those times when you interpret “smart, independent, happy, successful and fun” as “intimidating traits” and call us scary for having the gall to be all of these things without your permission.

“Oh, but GOTN, you’re being scary right now. You’re doing that angry rant thing you do where you rip something to shreds then stand cackling at the sky like an evil feminist supervillain.”

Sure. I am ripping this ridiculous notion to shreds. But is that actually intimidating to you? Are these words so terrifying that you have to look away? That you’ll cross the street to avoid them late at night or cry yourself to sleep as you remember them? Bollocks. I’m having an opinion. I’m not wielding a samurai sword, backed up by a motorcycle gang, and – despite the wish I made when I cut my birthday cake – nor do I have an army of dragons.

Ironically, one of the things I find most intimidating is people who tell me that I’m scary in front of a large group of people, thus leaving me anxiously double-checking every statement, joke, and noise I make for the rest of the evening in case my scary self starts ruining everyone else’s fun. So, next time you meet me in a crowded bar, or even a dark alley, before you police my behaviour consider whether you are genuinely intimidated by me. Are you worried that I’ll punch you? That I’ll shout at you? That I’ll humiliate you in some way? Or, in telling me that I’m intimidating, are you actually just telling me to shut the fuck up?

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On feminist infighting

You know what really ruins feminism for all of us? Those yappy, uppity, stampy women getting all angry at each other when really they should be pulling together and joining voices to fight for the same cause. Can’t you just agree, ladies? I mean, how on earth are we supposed to start smashing the system when you’re all too busy tearing shreds off each other? When you can’t even all agree what it is that you, as a collective entity of half the human race, actually want?

Here’s a blog for people who are sick of ‘feminist infighting’ or, as I like to call it ‘disagreement’.

Disagreement does not equal death

I love a good debate. I have friends with whom I’ll specifically pick fights, or raise difficult topics, because they argue well and interestingly, and because sometimes bouncing my opinions off someone thoughtful and articulate is a great way to work out whether my opinions are actually valid. Sometimes it helps me to hone arguments about things I believe very strongly, and other times it’s good to hear the walls of my certainty collapse with an almighty crunch as someone points out a point of view I never considered.

There’s nothing wrong with disagreement. If someone else’s feminism does not equal mine it does not make theirs invalid. Likewise it does not make mine invalid. What it might make is some fascinating discussion, and an opportunity for us both to think a bit harder about what our instincts might have knee-jerked us towards in the first place.

The power to disagree

You know who else disagrees with someone? Fucking every single person who has ever held power. Politicians, CEOs, generals, Newsnight presenters, newspaper columnists, comedians – everyone with influence and an opinion. But I’ve rarely ever heard people say:

“The problem with sport today is that managers all disagree on the best way to play football.”

“You know, humanitarian charities would be so much more effective if they could all just agree on the most important problems to solve.”

“Well, if only big businesses would all just sit round a table and decide what their collective priorities are, it would be so much easier to fix the problems.”

Of course they don’t, because part of being respected, part of having power, is being given the opportunity to disagree. Contrast that with any campaign for the rights of anyone in a position of less power, or who is trying to fight back against a certain type of systemic repression:

“I met a gay person the other day who isn’t bothered about gay marriage. Why can’t they all just agree?”

“But some women are actually anti-choice! So how can abortion be a feminist issue?”

“It’s sad that so many feminists spend so much time disagreeing with each other on Twitter.”

Etc, ad infinitum until I want to throw up.

You’re not a real feminist if…

I don’t want to be told that I’m not a real feminist if I like watching porn, or if I support the rights of sex workers. What I do want to be told is why you think those things might be unethical, and I’d love to be able to listen to what you’re saying, discuss the points you raise, and either change your mind, change my mind, or agree to disagree. The great thing about disagreement is that I’ll usually come away stronger for having had it – whether by learning something new or developing my arguments and ideas.

Likewise someone else might have different priorities to me. After all, if we’re talking about equality across the entire human race, there are a million and one individual battles to be waged in the wider war on inequality. The fact that we can’t all agree which problem to tackle first is inevitable, natural, and completely acceptable.

All hail debate

Perhaps this blog is actually ironic, and I’m citing my love of debate then telling them there’s one way in which they can’t disagree. But I don’t think saying “calm down ladies and stop shouting at each other” is really a disagreement at all.

The most irritating thing about the smug-smiling people who decry “feminist infighting”, is that they’re not actually contributing anything to the debate. So tell me you disagree with me, by all means, but by sighing a faux-lament about how feminists should all just get on and agree with each other, you’re contributing nothing of your own, and ignoring the valid and important arguments that we’re actually having.

It smacks of trying to keep people in their place. It smacks of telling us we’re unladylike. And yes, it smacks of patriarchy. Of course feminists don’t all agree on which problem to fix first. Of course we don’t all agree on how best to solve problems. But that is because – and correct me if I’m wrong but I believe this is one of the foundations upon which equality is built – women have opinions too. We aren’t a homogenous mass, united by our gender, incapable of disagreeing with other members of the sisterhood: we disagree.

If you genuinely think this about every issue – if you want Londoners to all ‘stop infighting’ and agree on where to put the cycle lanes, if you want all Labour MPs to vote the same way on every major issue, if you want men to all take part in Movember because they should unite to fight the issue of testicular cancer, then by all means tell feminists they should stop infighting. But if, as I suspect, you don’t, then either join the debate or leave it. Just stop telling people they shouldn’t be having it.

The right to disagree is universal, so don’t smile and sigh and lament our argumentative movement as you try to take that right away.

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On whether I hate men

Some people think that because I’m a feminist I must hate men. I definitely, truly, genuinely do not. So here’s an open letter to them all… Dear men,


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On losing weight

New year’s resolutions are generally a bit crap, but as it’s timely I’m going to tell you about a resolution I’ve been working on for the last month or so, which I’ll carry through into the new year because time is linear like that.

I need to lose some weight.

It’s not urgent, but I’ve decided that my happiness depends on shaving off a few pounds so I can jiggle around the house to showtunes without feeling my tummy wobbling out of sync to the rest of me.

There are three things I hate about this, and believe it or not none of them have anything to do with diet or exercise. Sure, I prefer cider to soup, and running my arse round the block is about as tempting as queuing for One Direction tickets, but these are just things you have to do to lose weight, so I bear no grudges against biology. But there are some things about dieting that bother me.

The detox bandwagon

The first and most obvious thing is the patronising, sexist market that surrounds female weight loss. Don’t get me wrong, there’s an irritating market surrounding male health too (Get ripped in 8 weeks, lads, with this one weird old trick). But given that I am a woman, the female stuff leaps out from the shelves and smacks me in the face more forcefully.

Magazines trumpet ‘detox time’, as if it’s a long-established calendar event: that all women, for the month of January, will eschew booze and munch salads. Because if we don’t do this there’s a very real danger that we’ll just disappear into a fatty swamp of chemicals.

It’s bullshit, mostly. There’s really no such thing as ‘detoxing’, and if we didn’t consume any chemicals we’d die. But since the first marketeer sat down and said “hey I’ve got this great new product it’s like water but better because it costs two quid a bottle” we’ve been dragged into thinking that ‘detoxing’ is not only a real thing but something that all women should do throughout the month of January. Unfortunately, the more of us do it, the more it reinforces the idea that we should all be doing it.

So now I am in a position where I feel guilty for dieting in January, because I am propping up a ridiculous ad-driven concept of the New Year detox, but similarly guilty if I don’t, because I am a woman and therefore should be thinking about calories every single minute that I am not either buying shoes or tearing hair from my pudenda. It’s a pickle.

The ‘oh but you’re not’s

Why is it that, when I mention the fact that I’m a bit chubby, people feel compelled to tell me I’m wrong? Seriously, why?

I’m wrong about a million and one things. Once I argued that the battery life on an iPhone was shorter than the time it’d take me to commute to and from work, and the other day I spent a good twenty minutes insisting that Brad Pitt couldn’t be a day over forty. Wrong on both counts, of course, but not everyone feels compelled to point that out: often they just roll their eyes and let me continue down the path to future embarrassment.

But when it comes to weight, people are keen to insist I’m wrong even when I’m plainly and clearly right. When I say I’m trying to lose a bit of weight (usually in response to someone trying to guilt-slip yet another mince pie down my throat), people leap insistently out of their seats crying “OH NO YOU’RE JUST BEAUTIFUL AS YOU ARE”, as if the world will stop spinning if they let me believe I am anything other than perfect.

Why do we do this? It is, of course, mean to walk up to a friend and announce “you could stand to lose a few pounds, mate.” But I’ve got a mirror – I can see what I look like. And what I look like is an averagely attractive person who could do with losing a bit of weight. You’re neither evil nor a bully if you let me get on with it.

To add insult to injury, although gentlemen friends are allowed to make self-deprecating jokes about their weight, as a woman any mention of weight gain is treated as blasphemy. The poor gents who actually do want reassurance are left out in the cold, listening to the lilting sounds of “who ate all the pies”, while girls hiss “blasphemy!” at each other if one raises the possibility of dieting. This situation sucks for all of us.

Will you still love me when I’m thin?

“I love you no matter what.”

It’s a lovely sentiment, designed to elicit the same warm fuzzy feeling people imagine they’re conjuring if they tell you that you don’t need to lose weight. And yet it’s rarely evoked the other way around. Someone who goes on a diet is rarely reassured “I’ll still love you even when there’s slightly less of you filling those knickers.”

Loving someone when they’re fat is seen as a noble and beautiful thing, as opposed to just something that happens when someone you love piles on a few pounds (or, indeed, if you fall in love with someone who doesn’t have the proportions of a runway model – i.e. almost everyone). If we really meant it then there’d be no question whatsoever about whether we’d stay with a partner who weighed more than average: therefore no need for any reassurance that our deep and true love transcends weight.

Moreover, as I’m confident the sun will rise tomorrow, I know that if I woke tomorrow lighter and tighter your love would not wane. It’s not my weight that’ll put you off, but the things I have to do to stay like that – the act of losing weight itself. You’ll love me when I’m fat, sure, but I think loving me when I’m calorie-counting might be more of a challenge. Will you still love me when I ask you to eat salad to keep me company? When I swap my legendarily awesome macaroni cheese for quinoa? When I neglect your blow jobs to go to the gym?

We’ll see.