The Mirror Cracked

The mirror cracked. My partner pushed me roughly back onto the chest of drawers which partly collapsed under my weight. I slipped and fell, the large dressing mirror tumbled down behind me and fractured diagonally about two thirds of the way up. I knew that this was a one night stand I would remember.

This has started out as a social drink with a former work colleague. Wetherspoons curry (this was a Thursday night in Wolverhampton) might seem an inauspicious start to a evening of rough sex but the pub, with its sticky floor and uncleared tables became an oddly appropriate place to start the evening.. I don’t  remember at what point the conversation turned to sex and we both realised we were horny, fancied each other and just wanted to fuck. We went out for a cigarette and my friend made the move. We kissed, she fumbled with my bra strap, pulling it dwon my arm, lifted my top and began to explore with her hand.

“Not here” I hissed.

“Let’s get a room” she said.

There were two hotels nearby. We went to the nearer one, but left when we were quoted ninety pounds for a double room including the breakfast neither of us would be around to eat. Round the corner, the other hotel oozed seediness. It seemed the sort of place that just might have rooms to let by the hour. A heavy fug of cannabis hung in the air. The man on reception grinned with a kind of “I know what you are here for look”

We took the room. It was dingy, grubby, the sheets were soiled, and we didn’t examine too closely the debris under the bed. But it was so appropriate for what we were here to do. I pulled off her clothes….. pushed her onto the damp bed with its sagging mattress. There I went down on her.

Just over half an hour later, flushed and sated, unwashed, (the shower looked rather uninviting) we walked out past the unshaven man who grinned again as we handed him the key. I felt his gaze follow us as we walked out. We shared a cigarette, and after a peck on the cheek, went our separate ways. .

I have only seen her once since, for lunch, this time without hot sex. But I am not disappointed about this. After that spur of the moment quickie, there would almost be nowhere to go in terms of friendship. But I have such found memories of that evening It is as if the seediness of our surroundings enhanced the experience. Discomfort and no distractions turned us in to focus on each other’s pleasure.

I arrived home smelling of sex. In my exhilaration I didn’t shower before bed. I wanted my bed to smell of her, even my warm cosy bed that she would never see.

And back in the room a cracked mirror swayed drunkenly from a collapsing chest of drawers, reflecting a bed, sheets wet with pussy juice and stained with the fat from the pork scratchings we had eaten off each other. It was that kind of night. .

Identity

This post arises from the happy coincidence of two books I have been reading recently, books which, at first sight, don’t seem to have much in common. The first is Maya Angelou’s “See How The Caged Bird Sings.” We discussed it this morning at the monthly Birmingham Feminist Book Club. Part of a wide-ranging discussion revolved around literature as a means of self understanding, this arising from Angelou’s won discussion in her book of what reading the classics of English literature, and especially, Shakespeare, meant to her, and how she was able, by engaging with the texts, to make sense of her own experience.

This was a concept that was made real for me a couple of years ago when I was a volunteer buddy for a Community Interest Company that worked with adults experiencing mental health difficulties, in particular by encouraging them to read literature and sharing their experiences. To get a flavour of what they did I was invited to attend one of the meetings. We were reading Rose Tremain’s novel The Road Home. The group consisted of people of varying ages, many of whom lived in considerable isolation, an isolation made worse by anxiety and phobias. Some of them only left the house for the weekly meeting in a local library. Most of them had little experience of serious reading. From the discussion, however, it became clear that the book was opening doors for them and all of them were able to use the text to make sense of their own lives, at the same times bringing their won experiences to bear in interpreting the text. As they talked they gave me new insights into the book. This experience was both illuminating and humbling.

These experiences and thoughts are particularly relevant to the other book I have been reading. This is an anthology called Identity, whose contributors all attended the recent Eroticon conference. I have to declare an interest. I was one of the contributors. But that is now why I am writing about it. The content is pretty eclectic, some of it personal reminiscence, and painful reminiscence at that, some of it fantasy, some of it opinion, some of it seriously hot, you know, the stuff you read one handed.  And then there was Meg-John Barker’s piece on erotic fiction as means of self understanding which got me reflecting again on my own identity, or in this case my sexual identity and what it means to me. This short essay was in my head as I read the other pieces and enriched my reading experience.  This really is as a wonderful anthology and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Erotic fiction has changed my life. I really don’t know why, one day in 2012, I felt the urge tio write a story about a carer in a elderly person’s home who has a relationship with a gay man whose carer he is. Other stories followed. I went online, I set up a Twitter account, I read voraciously, I discovered Eroticon and became part of a community. And a new Eve emerged, an Eve who is kinky, bisexual, who is proud to know sex workers she can call friends, an Eve committed to the freeest possible expression of human sexuality (subject to consent). In short an Eve I could not have imagined even existed only 6 years ago. It is through erotic literature that I have discovered what was previously latent, and been able to articulate it.

The main protagonist of my first story was Eric, an Oxford graduate who had been jailed for “gross indecency” in the dark days before 1967 and who experienced late sexual joy with a younger man. I killed him off at the end as the younger man had to move on and make his own way as a gay man in a different age, but acutely aware of the debt gay men, indeed all of us who are in some way not heteronormative, owe to those who suffered for daring to be different. I made sure, however, that Eric died happy, at peace with himself. I knew then that I owed him that. I know now that I owe him much more.

He’s In Love With Rock’n’Roll Woah

This year seems to be quite big for anniversaries. I have probably heard enough about Sergeant Pepper and anyway always preferred Revolver. The 40th anniversary of the first Clash album passed yesterday with rather less fanfare but it is a milestone of its own particularly for those of us old enough to remember it (and buy it). A lot of the songs still stand up, fast, frenetic and angry. Career Opportunities is probably even more relevant in an age of zero hours contracts than it was when it was written. Those who don’t remember the 1970s may not know who the first song on Side One was about. When I listened to it first, aged 15, I remembered this story from three years earlier.

I remembered reading about the singer Janie Jones being jailed for 7 years in  1974 for “controlling prostitutes”. What this amounted to in practice was procuring sex workers for prominent people who wanted paid sex, in this case at parties she organised. In effect she was a middle woman putting sex workers in touch with clients. The press reported extensively on this, with no end of titillating detail. The News of the World printed lurid stories about Janie in  Holloway, and the pink silk sheets she allegedly had on her prison bunk. These stories were really the fetishisation of Janie as “caged woman”, and evidence, if any were needed, that this was a newspaper for wankers. In 1977 Janie herself was not long out of prison and, seeking to lie low for a bit, not thrilled to hear that a punk band had recorded a sing about her. That is, until she heard it. She apparently loved the song and later worked with the band.

Her case is another example of the prurience and hypocrisy that still surrounds sex and sexuality in this country. She was made an example of to protect the better connected people who had been guests at her sex parties. Her 7 year sentence was, by the standards of 1974, an era before the sentence inflation of the last two decades, incredibly harsh. The cycle of hypocrisy was: it happens but we pretend it doesn’t. If it becomes public we find a scapegoat and fetishise them for the benefit of the plebs who also have to sign up to the hypocrisy.

If attitudes to sex in 1974 were essentially infantile, we may ask if anything significant has changed. In recent years we have had the ATVOD rulings on the depiction of things like face sitting and squirting, all this from a body whose Chief Executive, according to those who have had direct dealings with him, knows an awful lot about BDSM practices for a man who thinks mature adults need to be protected from them. We now have the Digital Economy which will bring in its wake further chilling of sexual self-expression. And all the time we have the tireless and rather unholy alliance of religious fundamentalists and radical feminists who think that consensual sex with an exchange of money is “violence against women” and that sex workers need to be rescued, even if they don’t want to be. Thus we have the ludicrous spectacle of feminists trying to control the bodies of other, usually less privileged, women in the name of giving them bodily autonomy.

And, in 2017 no less than in 1974, it is women’s sexuality that is stigmatised, women’s bodies that need to be controlled. We should be angry. Just as The Clash were forty years ago.

The Policeman in the Bedroom

It is nearly three years since I stumbled on the debates about sex work and its legal status and following the arguments about Rhoda Grant’s attempt to criminalise the purchase of sex in Scotland was certainly an education. This was particularly true of reading the cogent, well informed responses to the consultation by opponents of the proposal. Two and a half years on two responses have stuck in my mind. One was from a Scottish professional dominatrix who lives and works in England who raised the issue of the grey area legally that her work inhabits and pointing out what being unable to session with her might mean for many of her clients. The question of whether professional domination is sex work for the purposes of any legal definition is, as far as I am aware, still unanswered, The second response came from a Glasgow based feminist collective and argued that after the advances in sexual freedom over several decades which had largely removed the state from our bedrooms such a law would be thoroughly regressive.

Rhoda Grant failed in her attempt. Across the water in Northern Ireland Lord Morrow succeeded and, 21 and a half hours ago as I write, the policeman re-entered the bedrooms of those of the province’s women who make all or part of their living selling sex. To be fair to the police they didn’t want this and made a well argued submission to the consultation saying that they didn’t see it as their role to police sexual activity that they had no reason to believe was not consensual in the vast majority of cases, and that they considered that attempting to police such a law would divert scarce resources,from the fight against real trafficking. Tellingly they pointed out that clients are often a valuable source of intelligence about trafficking victims, a source that would be choked off by criminalisation.

Lord Morrow, of course, knew better and the PSNI now have to police a wholly unworkable but nonetheless damaging law. You may well have read in the newspapers today the litanies about “victims” “prostituted women” and so on. These comments are wholly disingenuous. It has been a criminal offence for clients to have sex with coerced or trafficked women for several years now. The sole effect  of Morrow’s law is to outlaw consensual sexual activity between consenting adults. I will say nothing about the legal arguments that will doubtless ensue  over what constitutes payment but finish by saying that in Northern Ireland the fears of the Glasgow feminist collective have been realised. The state is back in the bedroom. And that is bad news for us all.

A Few Wishes for 2014

2013 was a strange year for me. It was a year in which I met online a whole range of new people and was exposed to a number of debates of which I had only been dimly aware. The whole experience was educational, stimulating, absorbing, at times fun, at times deeply depressing. It might have been even more depressing but for the fact that  haven’t spent a lot of time on Twitter recently and missed out some spectacular fights. What I wish for 2014 is:

For me personally to continue to learn about my sexuality and enjoy my sexual self. I have recently begun to explore this in new ways and may blog about it in due course.

To meet some of the people who have inspired me. I know that at least four of them will be at Eroticon in March so that may be sooner rather than later 🙂

To learn how to make Polish poppy seed cake properly.

For everyone else:

I wish everyone the right to enjoy their sexuality as they please without condemnation from others, subject only to the fundamental condition of consent.

I wish it to be recognised by all women that being sexually submissive does not make a woman a doormat of the patriarchy

That anybody freely choosing to earn money by providing sexual services is allowed to do so, without condemnation, criticism and without others claiming to speak on their behalf.  I wish too that the Europe’s politicians see the propaganda for the ‘Swedish Model’ for the fraud it is.

That trans people are respected and accepted for who they want to be.

That issues can be debated and discussed without the rapid descent into personal abuse that has marked much feminist debate in 2013.

That our Bulgarian and Rumanian friends find a warm welcome and that anyone thinking of voting UKIP sees the benefits of having such hard working and enterprising people in the country and take their vote elsewhere.

That we have an end to moral panics about pornography.

I would have added England winning the World Cup but that’s a bit too much to ask for isn’t it? So I’ll settle for wishing that England’s cricketers avoid the Ashes whitewash that has looked inevitable. Which reminds me – late to bed again tonight!

Fruits from the Garden

I read voraciously. Yet while I am always looking ahead to the next book I always finish the one I’m on with a hint of regret. It was hard to put the novel I was reading recently back on its shelf as I had grown to like the main protagonist and saying goodbye to her was hard. On the other hand I could not wait to finish the other book I have been reading recently. I read it in the bath, read it on the bus, read it on the exercise bike at the gym. This was not because I disliked it, quite the opposite. I was desperate to absorb it, enjoy its treasures and out it down to reflect on what it all meant. This is a book you may well be reading. It is The Garden of Desires by Emily Dubberley.

In fact it is a book written by every one of those (including me) who responded to the invitation to complete a questionnaire and shared their sexual fantasies. It is not a dry scientific study but a wonderful journey into worlds of sexual imagination I was hardly aware of.

The fantasies are grouped by the various types into which they could be categorised. Clearly some crossed boundaries but some kind of categorisation was needed and the one adopted seems reasonable. It was striking to me how many fantasies, across all categories, involved activities that are usually associated with kink or BDSM. A few hoary myths are nailed along the way too. Fantasy and reality overlap but not all women want to live out all their fantasies and no woman really wants to be raped.

I was amazed at the sheer variety of the fantasies and relieved too, that my fantasies did not seem out of place, and that I was not alone in feeling, or having felt shame. If reading the Garden of Desires has taught me anything it is that I am normal and  have nothing to be ashamed about. That is a very liberating feeling not least because one of the messages of the book is how much women’s sexuality has been constrained by societal norms, conditioning, shaming. It continues to be as we enter a neo-Puritan age where even some feminists are seeking to invoke the power of the state to control women and slut shaming is rife. I was shocked to read about the vile abuse that Emily experienced when the Cliterati website was launched in the not so Victorian era of 2001.

The final chapter is a call to arms to women to fight for their sexual freedom against the puritans. Whether you are straight, bi, lesbian, trans, sub, domme,  sex worker, or whatever, you must be free to express yourself sexually however you want. The only restraint should be the need for consent. The battle for sexual freedom is inherently political and part, but a necessary part, of a wider struggle for freedom and equality. It is a struggle that I rather think it might be fun to fight. .

Men, too, should read this book. Our freedom is also your freedom and in any case women’s sexuality is a store of delights that might be available to you too if you put your patriarchal prejudices aside and ask nicely!

RIP Petite Jasmine

Sweden’s stigmatisation of women who choose sex work and don’t want to exit or be ‘exited’ has now led to a death. I am posting this for the benefit of those readers who may not follow the various debates and campaigns on sex work and may not have heard about last week’s tragic events. I have nothing to  add to what has been written already but would ask you to read this:

http://sometimesitsjustacigar.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/justice-for-jasmine/

If this makes you angry, and it should, please try to make time to attend one of the protests planned for this Friday. Details here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/552582234799603/