Every so often, police, politicians, newspaper columnists and judges take it in turns to reissue what I like to call the Rapeability Checklist. Should you be unsure what this is then I’m guessing you’re not a rapist. Every rapist is an avid reader of said Checklist. It is, one might say, a kind of informal code of conduct for anyone who’s chosen raping either as a full-time occupation or just a hobby on the side.

Thanks to the Rapeability Checklist, every rapist knows which female behaviours and attributes are officially regarded as provocation. Other people may not realise it but this is incredibly important when you’re out raping. Without an utterly dehumanising attitude towards women and a massively inflated sense of entitlement, raping can be really hard work. You might feel guilty. You might think it’s wrong. You might, God forbid, get the idea that vaginas are different entities to unlocked cars or open windows. Thankfully, the Rapeability Checklist will set you straight. Nothing will boost your raping career like the message that you, the rapist, are unchangeable (it’s your natural vocation! You were born to do it!) and that every single woman is obliged to operate primarily as a potential rape victim (after all, isn’t that what women are?). (more…)

Whether you’ve been a mental patient yourself, or merely cared for someone who is, it’s easy to feel let down by system. It’s not that there aren’t plenty of devoted healthcare professionals out there, people who are more than ready treat each patient as an individual, but sometimes it’s not enough. Care provision can be patchy, medication unreliable and wider social support networks non-existent. Thank goodness, then, for the Sun.

With today’s 1,200 KILLED BY MENTAL PATIENTS front page the newspaper sent a clear message to an often uncaring society. As Stig Abell, the paper’s managing editor explained on twitter, the piece was all about creating “better communication between agencies” and enabling us to see the “ill as victims”. About bloody time! As the sibling of a paranoid schizophrenia sufferer, I’m sick of seeing the mentally ill being ignored. What better way to draw attention to those who are suffering and marginalised – and garner some much-needed sympathy in the process – than by making other people think that the mentally ill are out to kill them? Genius! (more…)

I am the mother of two boys. I know I’m not perfect but I do try to be a good parent. Unfortunately it appears that for the past five years I have been remiss. I have failed to “channel” my sons’ boisterousness.

According to James Delingpole – now the Ross Kemp of posh rightwing journalism – “we seem to have forgotten that boys will be boys”.  I for one am guilty of this. I look at my boys and think “they’re boys”. But rarely do I go on to conclude “and thus they will be boys”. This might sound like a minor omission but it’s not.  What it actually means – and this is a serious fact, because the Telegraph says so – is that they’ll grow up to beat the shit out of other boys. And possibly also girls. And maybe even household pets. Basically, because my boys have not been allowed to “be boys” (as defined by the Victor Book for Boys circa 1964) they will grow up to be violent hooligans as opposed to men of courage – the kind of men who win wars, slaughter beasts and present Top Gear.
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As the magazine More! is about to close, I decided to buy a copy. I’m pretty sure I bought the first ever edition so it seemed fitting to be there at the end. I haven’t bought it much in the intervening 25 years – and for that my sexual repertoire will no doubt have suffered – but I felt it might be interesting to see what the magazine’s like now. Short answer: still crap.

Long answer: possibly even worse than it was before. I don’t know for sure. I was twelve when More! was launched and while I didn’t religiously follow all the advice the glossies threw my way, I didn’t actively question it, either. I absorbed it passively, as you do when you’re working on the assumption that there’s lots of adult stuff out there which might look weird but that’s only because you don’t get it yet. Sometimes you question it, briefly, but ultimately hurry back to acceptance. After all, who are you to know better? I remember watching James Bond films in the 1980s, disturbed by the fact that it looked as though the Roger Moore character was raping women but concluding that he couldn’t be because mainstream films, like glossy magazines, are “proper”. And after all, this is 007 and he’s a goodie, isn’t he? Now I’m older I ask questions more, but to a certain extent I still have to force myself to do it. If everyone else appears to think something is acceptable, it feels arrogant to argue otherwise.
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Dangerous schizophrenics, eh? Can’t live with ‘em, can’t lock ‘em up and throw away the key, at least not until they’ve actually done something. It’s political correctness gone, quite literally, mad.

Yesterday evening I watched an ITV News report on Nicola Edgington, official, card-carrying DANGEROUS SCHIZOPHRENIC. Except apparently she has “borderline personality disorder” instead. I don’t know the precise distinctions – beyond the fact that one seems to make you more criminally culpable than the other – but I do know that “borderline personality disorder sufferer” doesn’t sound as good as “DANGEROUS SCHIZOPHRENIC”. Hence the report was at pains to highlight the link between people being DANGEROUS and SCHIZOPHRENIC. It isn’t much of a link, but still, it’s one that’s always worth exaggerating when you’re aiming to be sensationalist, ablist and utterly shameless in your reporting. (more…)

Is there any point in trying to understand how rapists view the world? Funnily enough, I’m starting to believe there is. Perhaps if we were more willing to engage with the rapist perspective, we’d all stop doing those things which increase the prevalence of sexual assault. And no, I don’t mean wearing high heels or drinking too much. Because that’s just silly, isn’t it? I mean seriously, why don’t we actually stop doing those things which make rapists believe that the rapes they commit are acceptable?

According to research quoted by Jil Filipovic in response to a Alyssa Rose’s claim that “Nice guys commit rape, too“, “cultural opposition to rape myths makes men less likely to commit assault, and acceptance of those myths makes sexual assault more likely”. I find this interesting, but not at all surprising. Indeed, it just makes sense. If we define certain rapes as worse than others – if we suggest certain attacks involve “grey areas” – if we perpetuate the idea that most “real” rapes involve violence, strangers and dark alleyways, then we are telling most rapists that they’re not like all the others. We encourage them to believe their situation is different. I’m not saying it’s therefore our fault that they rape, just that maybe, just maybe, some of us should think first before offering supposedly sensible advice to those we’ve chosen to define as potential victims. (more…)

A week ago I attended the switching on of the Christmas lights in Coleford. If you have heard of this village during the past year, it’s likely to be because it’s where this family lived. I don’t want to write about this particular story because there’s someone left behind and just trying to imagine her pain is impossible. All the same, it was strange being in that place, for that cheery, festive reason. Perhaps it isn’t so strange if you live there all the time, but to me, because I don’t, there was something unreal about it all. How do these things happen and how do communities go on?

Four years ago Jon Ronson – author of the utterly brilliant Them - tried to make sense of the community Christopher Foster left behind after he killed his wife, daughter, animals and then himself. In an article for the Guardian Weekend magazine, Ronson travels to Maesbrook in Shropshire to talk to Foster’s friends and acquaintances:
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When you’re lying awake in the dark there’s plenty of time to think, perhaps even to over-think. This Sunday morning – I don’t know the precise time – I found myself in a hotel room, eyes wide open, unable to sleep. Everything around me was silent, but I was still listening, just in case.

My partner and I were spending a night away from the children, just the two of us, as a special treat. At some point both of us had been woken by the sound of raised voices. I couldn’t work out what was happening at first. Two people in the next room, a man and a woman. The man was angry, the woman apologetic, fragments of back story echoing through the walls. Something about a fight in town. He’d been left without his phone or money. The police were mentioned, I’m not sure why. She’d returned to the hotel earlier, and he resented her for having done so. You left me for dead. She said sorry, tried to leave the room. He wouldn’t let her. She started to plead and that’s when we switched on the light.
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When the brilliant @therealsgm mentioned she was organising a bloghop as part of 16 Days of Action on Violence against Women, my almost-instant reaction was “I know! I’ll write something on VAW at Christmas!” Not because I’ve experienced it myself or because I’m an expert on the subject, you understand. Merely because I love Christmas almost as much as I hate violence against women, therefore … Well, anyhow, I didn’t think the general ignorance would be a problem. I assumed it would just be easy to look up stuff on the internet. Turns out it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to write about it.

To begin with I was obviously going to adopt a smug, pseudo-saintly position, from which I would inform everyone that actually, abusing others IS BAD and surely at this time of year – AT CHRISTMAS, of all times! – we should all be nice and love one another. For the fact is, Christmas is a time for families and children and … well, that’s the whole problem. Violence really rains on the whole Christmas parade. (more…)

Here are some things which are personal issues:

  • deciding whether or not to like blue cheese
  • mooncups vs tampons
  • the acceptability or otherwise of being attracted to Lego Han Solo

Here is one thing which is not:

  • smacking other people

Smacking other people is wrong. This is the case even if said people are little and even if said people would not exist without your genetic contribution. I realise this sounds a little judgmental. Well, it’s meant to. After all, the whole problem with liberal lefties is that we’re supposed to be drowning in laissez-faire moral relativism (apart from when we’re being intolerant of intolerance). Anyhow, I’ve had enough of all that. I’m coming out 100% against smacking. Take that, pro-smackers (“that” is not, by the way, a smack). (more…)

Yes, rape is a crime and men (and in rare cases women) that commit it are beyond reprehensible. But there are ways that you can minimise the risk – this doesn’t shift the blame of the crime, but it can help the innocent. This isn’t blaming the victim – no more than advising people not to stand in certain areas of Manchester with their eyes closed waving a new iPhone around.

Comment on Independent blog, 26 July 2012

If i leave my front door open it doesn’t give thieves the right to nick my stuff but it increases the likelihood that it will happen.And if my insurers feel i was negligent in leaving my front door open they may well not pay out on my household contents insurance policy.Likewise if i choose to make myself drunk and incapable it doesn’t give people the right to beat me,rob me and possibly even rape me but it increases the likelihood that it may happen.So surely i have some responsibility to take steps to protect myself.

Comment on the Guardian Comment is Free, 26 July 2012

When a sensitive topic such a rape is discussed, feminists are often accused of not knowing the difference between victim-blaming and just advising people to take sensible precautions because hey, there are some innately evil people out there, people whose behaviour is in no way responsive to the culture that surrounds them. Well, as a feminist, I would like to show that not only can I copy and paste massive comments then write pointlessly long sentences at the start of blog posts, but that I do ‘get’ this difference. I totally do. (more…)

When people do terrible things, it can be hard for external observers to understand why. While it’s easy to rush to judgement, it’s vital to take into account the context in which hateful acts are committed.

Perhaps we’ll never know what was going through the minds of Luke Salkeld, Andy Dolan, James Tozer and Jill Reilly when they decided, in response to the deaths of Ceri Fuller and his three children, to compose an article trawling through the Facebook status updates of the grieving mother left behind. (more…)

The other day I was standing by the printer at work, waiting for my own stuff to appear, when I spotted an invoice lying on top. It was for £360 and it was money to be paid to one Chris Brown. My first thought: what the hell are we doing paying money to that violent tosser? Doesn’t he have enough? And, furthermore, is he even any good at copy-editing? My second: Oh, it’s that nice Chris Brown from downstairs. The one who recently went freelance. That’s okay then. I’m sure his skills are second to none. That’s the trouble with Chris Browns: there’s a lot of them about. But not all of them are SfEP approved.

Before his attack on Rihanna there were two things that struck me about Chris Brown (the singer, not the copy-editor). The first was that you cannot seriously pretend to be hard or radical when you are singing sub-boy-band bollocks like With You (and as for “when I’m with you I don’t need money” — well, hands off mine, matey. I’m sure you got enough for that Disney Channel appearance). (more…)

I’ve been trying to think of a succinct way to respond to the #IDontSpankMyChildBecause hashtag on Twitter. I wanted to add my own comment because a) I don’t spank my children and b) I really don’t want anyone else to spank theirs. It’s an issue that means a lot to me. Unfortunately, 140 characters did not seem enough for me to come up with anything that didn’t sound like one of the following:

  1. I’m damaged goods from a violent childhood
  2. I’m a smug liberal arse of a parent
  3. I’m a self-appointed expert on child psychology

None of these was, I felt, particularly convincing. So I felt the need to explain myself via something a bit longer. Hence this post. (more…)

Let’s face it, we’ve always known Lush were a bit shit. Naomi Klein said as much in No Logo, and that was published in 2001. And we read it and we thought “yeah, she’s got a point. But they do make exceedingly good bath bombs”.

I’m using “we” but I really mean “me”. You probably weren’t even born in 2001. Besides, I need to take full responsibility for my continued use of Lush products. It’s the smell, you see. I just can’t resist the smell. Gets me every time.

I know some people consider Lush stores to be air pollution, pure and simple, but I love it. It’s all vanilla-y and jasmine-y and almost makes you want to puke, but not quite. It still keeps on the right side of brilliant. But Lush, I shall be sniffing your aromas no more.

Since their latest stunt – misogynist torture porn as a consciousness-raising marketing strategy – their bubble bars are history. Yes, Lush, my consciousness was duly raised. It’s through the fucking ceiling. But surely a nice picture of a kitten or a fluffy rabbit would have done the trick?

So I’m saying goodbye to Lush, but before I do, I have some special words to say to my favourite Lush products. You did me proud. But now, my friends, it’s over.

  1. Lush pudding bath bomb - You are a bath bomb in the form of a Christmas pudding. You used to be called Puddy Holly but changed your name. Why was that? I thought it was a good pun. Anyhow, you looked good but you made a right fucking mess of the bath. I won’t be missing that.
  2. Lust gorilla perfume - You smelled nice and sounded rude. But you made my neck go red. What was that all about? I thought we were friends.
  3. Ultrabland cleanser - Apparently 100% of Lush staff use you, you slag of the cleanser world. Which begs the question, why do Lust sell any other type of cleanser? Unless they only employ staff with a certain Ultrabland-suitable skin type. And that’s discrimination.
  4. Sonic Death Monkey Shower Gel - You smelled of coffee, lime and chocolate, and were suitable to use as shampoo. You were ace and then the fuckers retired you so that now you can only be bought as a “retro” product online. I’m sorry they did that to you. You know I wouldn’t ever have done that.
  5. Cupcake face mask - You look like chocolate, smell like mint and hurt my face. So, you know, I always had, like, mixed feelings about us.
  6. Rehab shampoo – Bought for me as a present, I didn’t read your label and thought you were body wash. I’m sorry. I should never have misused you. Still, you got to wash my pubes, which are almost like a full head of hair these days anyhow.
  7. Massage bars, all varieties - My partner would buy these for me to help ease the stress I experienced while writing my thesis. Now I cannot so much as look at you without all that stress coming back. A Pavlovian reaction, but still, please just fuck off now.
  8. Glitter bug - You are a solid body glitter bar. I also have a “glitter bug” which is a vibrator-type thingy from Ann Summers. But I always preferred you. The other one was like having an undersized angry egg motoring inside me. By comparison, you were tops.
  9. Rock star soap - You are pink and smell of bubblegum. I’d use you and I’d hear Courtney Love in my head, singing the fabulous “Rock Star” by Hole. Hole were fucking radical. You, alas, were not (but if Lush had produced a “Teenage Whore” soap, hell, I’d have bought it).
  10. Ladykillers - Hey you with muscles and the long hair / Telling me that women are superior to men / Most guys just don’t appreciate it / You’re just one convincing me you’re better than them … Hang on a minute. I’m thinking of Lush the 1990s indie band. You were okay, indie band Lush. You can stay.

So I guess I’ve said my goodbyes. Didn’t even mention the bubble bars, but they were never that bubbly. Off to get blood on my hands by buying my superfluous cosmetics somewhere else. And no matter how much soap you buy, you can never wash it off.

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