Monday, 30 December 2013

Goodbye 2013 and all that.

You might well call it an interesting year, in a lot of ways. The  zombie apocalypse didn't happen, at least (sorry, have just got around to reading World War Z and am therefore quite glad) though we do seem to have more than our fair share of soulless, brainless, shambling undead in positions of power, which is not so good.

(that's me in zombie drag by the way)

In personal terms, well, I think I'll skip any boring on about repeated tedious (but not, ultimately, dangerous) health scares or the usual freelancer's struggle to get paid on time, or at all, in some cases. It's worth pausing for a moment to raise the Parting Glass to the unhappily high amount of friends who went back into the great atomic stream of the universe this year: Hazel, Velda, Nick, Bill, Clare, none forgotten.

Professionally, it's been what you might call a reawakening. After two or three years of really not writing very much and leaving fiction almost entirely alone I, like a few other people, got swept into the post-50-Shades excitement, and produced one novel, one novella and eight short stories. (Skim through previous posts for details of what and where and how to acquire your own copy). Yes, it looks a bit lame compared to the output of some of my new pals, but it's a start.

Ah, new pals. At the end of May I was invited along to the relaunch of In The Flesh, an evening of erotic readings in a Soho bar. Though that's seemingly in suspended animation at the moment, reading my work there led to invites to participate in readings at Sh!  and later to join the BritBabes and the Smutters and a whole gang of fellow erotic writers at Erotica. There is a bit of a belief among the general public that authors are twitchy, paranoid, competitive and obnoxious, and though I'd be inclined to believe that when it comes to the white, male, 'literary' types there's a bit of willywaving and snipey exchanges via the broadsheet newspapers, writers of erotica tend to be lovely, friendly, mutually supportive and forever ready to put their heads together and dream up new ways of introducing more readers to the masses of good stuff that's out there.

It does perhaps have to be mentioned, though, that this may be partly down to a shared need for support and encouragement given that not all the publishers in the field seem to be pulling their weight. Whether it's the shoulder-shrugging expectation that authors can bloody well do their own promo and, well, if it works that's nice but if it doesn't, whatever... - or the hassle it can be to get paid even when you're selling, it's unsurprising that there's a bit of a drift towards self-publishing. And perhaps even more unsurprising that self-publishing of erotica has been getting a bit of a kicking off the big boys and girls in the name of 'taste and decency'.

So I'm heading into 2014 with a degree of optimism. Censorship attempts from both the government and the big online booksellers have not, actually, gone down very well with the ebook-loving public, while live reading events have been attracting enthusiastic punters all over the place. And I have this massively good idea for a new book, as well...

Friday, 20 December 2013

Rape prevention advice for the party season

We all want to have lots of fun and stay safe at the same time, and there are things that can be done which make the social world a much safer place. Here they are.

Don't drink so much that you might have sex with someone without checking that s/he is awake and willing.

Don't assume that if you have had sex with someone on a previous occasion that this entitles you to have sex on that person whenever you feel inclined.

Don't assume that a person who enjoys or accepts one kind of sexual activity (such as kissing) is therefore available for any and every other kind of sexual contact that you wish to engage in.

Don't tell someone that s/he is 'safe' with you when you actually intend to rape the person.

If you know you get a bit rapey when you are overexcited, ask your friends to keep an eye on you and remove you from the party if you start crossing the line.

If you know one of your friends is a bit rapey, make sure that he is never left alone with someone who he might attack. In fact, stop being friends with that person. Rapists are not nice friends for you.

Stay safe and look out for your friends.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Sh! Oh and no shit Sherlock.

After another excellent evening at the Sh! Xmas Reading Slam I was feeling once again quite benign towards the world and proud to be part of the goodhearted, entertaining and multi-talented gang that is the British-based erotic writing community.

It's possible (or shall we say inevitable) that one of the reasons erotic writers tend to look out for one another, support each other and offer help unaided is that we know we're still a bit of a marginalized bunch, either ridiculed for our supposedly poor writing skills (yes, we know, because 50 Shades, but the existence of a lot of piss-awful crime novels doesn't stop the likes of Ian Rankin or Mo Hayder being good writers) or condemned as sickos who are a menace to society..
So the kerfuffel that's come up this weekend around Caitlin Moran and her oh-so-clever pisstake of fanfic writers was a bit interesting. The contrast between the generally dignified behaviour of the fanfic writer whose work Moran used without permission to take the general piss out of fanfic, and Moran's own behaviour in thinking it was a good idea in the first place is startling and infuriating. Quite a lot of 'successful' journalists are very quick to dismiss and belittle the work of independents, or amateurs, or people whose interests are not particularly mainstream. In some cases this is about reinforcing the well-paid writer and his/her readers' sense of their own normality. A big deal is made about 'objectivity' in journalism (which is, if you look at it closely, almost always a matter of writing from the viewpoint of a heterosexual white man with a reasonably good education, or as near as possible to those parameters). But sometimes it's a matter of reinforcing a hierarchy - the desirable are inside the gates, the 'outsiders' merit only derision, because otherwise they might start getting ideas above their station.
Still, the fact that Moran is getting her arse kicked round all four corners of the Internet might just teach her that holding someone up to ridicule and contempt just because you can is not great journalism or even crouw-pleasing entertainment, it's just playground spite.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Hey, Midwinter/Hannukah/Diwali/Winterval/Solstice! It's also Blissemas so let's party!

...Says the bird with the big Cthulhu necklace. I am not entirely sure if the Old Ones go in for midwinter festivities, being not quite that much of a geek, but I'm happy with the general idea. What with it being (at least in the Northern hemisphere) a bit cold and damp and dreary right now, declaring time to party, put up lights, get pissed, Eat All The Things and cop a snog and a feel and a multiple orgasm if you're lucky, well, no problem with that.

So I'm absolutely loving being part of  Blissemas, which is a feast and festival of lighthearted enjoyable naughtiness that happens at this time of year. You can all join in and win stuff! All you have to do is leave a comment here or on any of the other Blissemas posts, and you might land yourself an eReader or a fat gift voucher: do pile in and have a go. Prizes are drawn on Dec 21, the solstice.

 In the pervading spirit of the event, I offer you all a free seasonal short story, originally put out independently a year or two back and featuring some of the characters from Black Heart in their slightly earlier days.

There is an appallingly complicated procedure by which I could apparently embed this, but for now, if you would like to read it, either comment on here with an email address or email me direct at and I'll send you the PDF. If the stropping at my technical incompetence reaches a high enough level, I'll just post the whole thing on Sat 21st. And you could hear me read a very short extract from this particular story at the Sh! event on Friday anyway.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

When a public figure dies...

It's often time to get off the Interweb for a bit. Even if the deceased was someone you admired or respected, or who died young and tragically, the deluge of awful poetry and wonky Photoshopping of candles, flowers, halos etc is likely to trigger some digestive discomfort after a while. (You end up getting The Life Of Christ In Cats stuck in your brain.) And if the public figure was in any way contentious, it's pretty much guaranteed that both your FB and Twitter feeds will soon turn into a basket full of squawking, flapping, pecking chickens (unless you are the sort of saddo who can only cope with having friends who agree with you and each other about everything) because, hey, the best way to pay tribute to someone who spent a large part of his/her adult life doing good stuff is naturally to have a fucking fight... You know that's just what the bereaved family and friends would want: total strangers calling each other arseholes online.

It's also probably a good idea to sit quiet if you are enraged by being Joplinned, too. So I'm going to bugger off and get on with some work.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Doesn't matter what you wear, just as long as you are there: the LFF.

There's quite a busy buzz going round about this Sunday's London Fetish Fair, which is of course an excellent thing. It's moved to a new venue, which sounds terrific: the last one was very nice but simply too small for the event. As I rummaged around for the various components of the stock bags (everything having been vigorously redistributed round the office to get ready for Erotica the other week) I started reminiscing about the years I've spent standing behind a table piled with books and bits and pieces. A whole sixteen of them. Way back at the beginning, I was writing the Clubs column for Forum magazine, amongst other things, and used to sell, with the agreement of the then-publisher, copies of the current issue and any stray back issues we had around the office. Over the years, the stall which had generally been known as 'Zak's stall' or 'The Forum stall' turned into the Guild of Erotic Writers Stall selling Guild membership and copies of our anthologies along with printed slave contracts (a line of stock that always generated about ten times more press coverage than sales)  whatever I could liberate from the review cupboard into the early stages of Decadent Media, and now that's what it is today: a mix of books acquired from various sources, badges, stickers, fridge magnets and assorted bright ideas.

I've been with the LFF in a variety of locations: some nice and others less so. Moving around is no bad thing and sometimes necessary. Venues change hands and new owners either shriek with horror at the mere mention of sex and refuse to host, or operate a policy of not-so-benign neglect such as allowing the bar to run out of not just beer but any alcohol at all. Even when things went a bit wonky, as they occasionally did over the years, it's always been fun, it's always been interesting, and it's never been quite the same twice. And most of the time it's been marvellous. For at least the first four or five years of its existence, I used to recommend it both to new friends and in print as the best place to go if you were new to the whole fetish scene - you don't have to dress up, you are not going to be turned upside down and fucked up the bum the minute you step through the door (you'd have to wait till the afterparty and even then it would only get anywhere near happening if you asked very nicely) and the place is always full of friendly, cheerful and often very knowledgable people. I still would recommend it for the exact same reasons, but people these days are more able to look it up online for themselves.

So if you're new to the scene, or a full on fetish veteran, a player or a watcher, or just someone who fancies picking up something that will really blow heads off at the office party, stroll on down this Sunday.

I'll be the one behind the table of books and badges and stuff, and mine's a pint.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Things that go Hump in the Night.

It's still, sort of, Samhaim season, at least as far as the pubs and clubs and tourist attractions are closed. I could probably digress a bit about the juggling the retail and entertainment industries have to do when a significant festival date like Halloween or Valentine's Day falls midweek - binge on it the weekend before, the weekend after, or both?

That's actually one of my pumpkins, sitting on my very own gatepost. I did consider carving a cock on it, but I am a parent and need to get on with my neighbours and keep my filth-peddling side a bit quiet, at least locally. But I have been idly thinking about spooky erotica this week, partly due to having recently finished a short story on the subject. Horror and porn are two things that get unimaginative people irritatingly and predictably worked up, so it's not that surprising that mixing them results in a potent and exciting brew.

Back when I used to review porn DVDs, I had a lot of time for a company called Relish whose stuff tended to be both smart and silly, with an air that all concerned were having a bit of fun rather than exploited, degraded, trafficked, hated etc, and I have fond memories of them having a go at the horror genre...

There were also a few zombie-shagging efforts, though I don't recall anyone doing an actual porn film about werewolves (I am prepared to be corrected if someone has superior knowledge). In book terms it's been even more of a successful combination. I discovered the Anita Blake novels in the late 90s and was very taken with the blend of spooks, mayhem and soft-core sex which, in the later ones, got progressively harder, but that didn't stop me being a bit gobsmacked some years later to find that WH Smiths had a whole section devoted to what they called Paranormal Romance and what we had previously called vampire smut. Werewolves featured fairly heavily in the novels, perhaps on the grounds that writing a book about shapeshifting is easier than spending an extra chunk of the budget on fake fur and a skilled make up artist - but I don't think I've so far discovered much in the way of zombie sex in fiction.
It's not a genre I've done much with myself so far, but I think there may be possibilities in the concept of an erotic poltergeist. Given the state of my boudoir, I think I might have already got one.


Sunday, 27 October 2013

Books and bums and badges and beer - Erotica revisited.


Well, the new venue's an improvement on Olympia in many ways. Tobacco Dock is a lovely steampunky setting full of corridors and little rooms, so the vibe was rather more of an upmarket shopping centre than a lairy great aircraft hanger. And the endless subdivisions of the showspace did make it a bit easier to stay unaffected by the sound from the live shows. In former years, the stage noise was the thing that the traders tended to hate the most: not just the volume but the repetition, as there were something like six shows a day for three days, and every show the same. I still can't hear the opening riff to You Can Leave Your Hat On without swearing to myself.

The stand, organised by the wonderful Smutters queens Lucy Felthouse and Victoria Blisse was a couple of tables in a corridor, but this actually worked to our collective advantage, especially on Saturday when we were mob-handed and we had an amp and a microphone. We got a lot of through traffic, even if a percentage of it only wanted to ask for diretions to the loo... I've said it before but it's worth saying again: erotic writers seem to be such a lovely bunch of people. There's a lot of mutual support and enthusiasm and friendliness - perhaps because we're still seen, to an extent, as a rather strange minority so it's extra-delightful just to hang out with our peers and not have to go through the usual 'No, I haven't really done everything I write about. No, actually, I don't want to do any hands-on research with you, mate.'
The visiting public were enthusiastic and friendly as well, with books shifting rapidly to the extent that Victoria and Lucy were probably going home with empty suitcases. As I don't currently have much that's in print form, I took a scaled-down version of the Decadent Media badge tray with me, and that seemed to appeal to punters as well. I've certainly come back from my two days in Tobacco Dock feeling revitalised and inspired and ready to write a lot more stuff, which makes a change from past events when I often came home knackered, hungover and with a head that just spun with the line 'better luck next year.'

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Hi ho, hi ho, to Erotica we go..

Perhaps not 'with a bucket and spade and a hand grenade' - in my case it will be with a bag of flyers and quite possibly a sneaky six-pack. I haven't actually been to Erotica for a year or two, and haven't been an exhibitor since 2005, but I am quite looking forward to it this time round.

(flyers will naturally be featuring this. Can't upload the poxy flyer itself as it's a PDF grr)

I was at the very first one, in November 1997. I remember hearing about it that summer, and discussing it with my friends G and L, with whom I ran the Guild Of Erotic Writers. Initially we weren't going to go due to it being about £3K for a pitch, but then we heard that the Whiplash Fetish Market people had booked a massive chunk of space and were parceling it out at £300 a table, so in we promptly leapt. As I recall, we were flogging Guild books (Anthology no 1 and Deadly Strangers, our venture into horror), the opportunity to sign up for Guild membership, and - a bit of a forerunner of what Decadent Media would later become - I knocked up a bunch of 'slave contracts' on the office Mac and put them into clear film pockets and took them along as well.

And it was probably one of the most exciting weekends of my life. The event ran from Friday lunchtime to Sunday evening, as it still does, and on the Friday evening I had to hand the stall over to G and bolt up to Manchester to take part in one of what we used to call 'the regionals' - a late-night live talk show that would feature a panel of experts and an audience spiked with picked contributors who had something to say. I think this particular one was Granada Upfront but it might have been Central Weekend, or something else entirely. I remember trying to articulate what the first day had been like: a non-stop rush of giggly, excited, generally lovely people, all eager to explore what was on offer. I'd said to friends and fellow traders at the time: it's like the start of a revolution.

Part of it was sheer good luck as, only a short time before the event, the BBFC had awarded licences to a couple of porn films. One was called Batbabe, the other was, I think, Pyramid or The Pyramids. When I was setting out my piles of books, I saw a bloke wheeling a trolley piled high with videos (yes, videos - I'm not entirely sure there were DVDs at that point) of these two titles. By Sunday night, nearly all of them had gone. This relaxing of censorship had got everyone talking about porn, sex, acceptability and the rest of it. Also, the people behind Erotica had made a conscious decision to market it to, as Savvas Christodoulou told me later on, women and couples rather than just heterosexual men.

In the late 90s, quite a few shows and events sprang up, hoping to grab a slice of the erotic pie for themselves. Pretty much every one was a disaster - I know because I generally went to them, plugging the Guild and later trying to get Decadent Media going - often because the organisers either forgot or rejected the idea that women like sex too and making an erotic event female-friendly gets higher attendance and more money spent. There was a particularly ghastly one at Wembley which was 'laddish' to the point of being a bit scary; an under-attended weekend in the Midlands that I enjoyed immensely on a personal level (outlaw bikers, charming erotic artists, lovely locals and a hilarious amount of outrage from the local church) but which was financially a non-starter for the Guild.  Erotica, for several years, remained immense fun to participate in, but then seemed to lose its way mid-Noughties. There came a point when the stall prices went up a ridiculous amount, so that most of the smaller traders couldn't afford to take any space. The organisers also took to courting mainstream businesses and offering them free pitches: the Vegetarian Society and the RSPB had stands there one year, along with homeopaths, cosmetic dentists and diet food peddlers.

I'm looking forward to this year's do, though. I know I'm going to be catching up with a lot of mates, potential new friends, clients and colleagues. And not having to lug crates and crates of stock with me will be a relief, as well. Let's just hope it turns out nice for us all.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Trigger warning of.. stuff. Yes, there's stuff everywhere.

Trigger. Erm, that's a horse. (Who pulled the fastest milk cart in the west). It's currently a bit of a ... thing to label your blogposts and your comments and your general social media behaviour with 'trigger warnings'. To an extent, it's a matter of good manners: let readers know in advance if what they are about to read is potentially going to upset them, but it's also becoming a bit of a self-righteousness indicator. It's not good to have a conversation completely obliterated and drowned out by people screaming that it 'needs a trigger warning but refusing to discuss whatever it actually was.People who have been traumatized in any way can be badly upset by all sorts of things - rainfall, blue trousers, the smell of cheese - and while those close to them can tread carefully and avoid any known upsetters, there needs to be a balance between one person's distress and another's right to discuss stuff ,be themselves, live their lives. 'I've been triggered' is sometimes used as a justification for bullying. attention-seeking behaviour - when it comes to discussion of something contentious, does one person's need not to hear it trump another person's need to speak?
An obsession with policing what is and isnt' 'triggering' is just another version of censorship. I'm certainly not going to label any posts after this one as 'trigger warning' - only two people and a dead dog read this blog anyway - if you don't feel too good, or something upsetting has happened to you, confine your internet activity to comfortable, gentle websites and good luck to you. But the rest of the world doesn't have to stop.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

No, we won't put it away, actually. Why should we?

I wasn 't going to bother about the whole Miley Cyrus malarkey. If she wants to spend the next couple of months/years of her fame going LOOK AT MY PANTS! LOOK AT MY TITS! LOOK AT MEEEEEEE! then fair play to her.

She's quite nice to look at, if your tastes run to slender, well-styled, young white women. It's a pity her records are so utterly fucking boring.

Thing is, Sinead O'Connor's records are pretty fucking boring, as well. Mandinka was about the only one I ever liked. And her whole schtick and selling point has always been BOOHOO LOOK AT MY AGONY. Which I don't think is any more - or less - empowerfulizing than 'Look at my chuff! Look at my boob job!'

Miley Cyrus is doing the sort of stuff you'd expect from anyone who spent her adolescence being forced to stay squeaky clean and pretend she didn't have a chuff at all. Daniel Radcliffe, don't forget, went straight from Harry Potter to getting his cock out and abusing horses.

Oh FFS. Of course I mean he took the lead role in the play Equus. Whatever Daniel Radcliffe gets his actual jollies from is a) perfectly legal I'm sure and b) none of my business. Or yours. But no one seems to have spent any time wailing at him about how doing That Sort Of Thing would end up with him being prostituted and corrupted and dying in rehab and shit.


I got my kit off to 'further my career', once. Well, once very publicly. Sadly no record of it seems to remain - and of course I have looked. Repeatedly. It was a late night Channel 4 show 20 years ago, featuring a panel of 'names' and a chunk of enthusiastic 'audience-with-something-to-say', all of whom were clothing-free. I'm slightly sorry that the damn thing isn't lurking on Youtube, actually, as from what I remember from actually watching a mate's videotape of it a year or so later, I looked quite nice.

And I don't regret doing it at all. It wasn't the greatest experience of my life - it was freezing cold in the studio, and I developed pleurisy a week later; my parents were seriously annoyed with me and I got choked off by the presenters before I got to say what I wanted to say - but I still feel better about the fact that I did it than I would feel if, looking back now, I remember only bottling out.

I didn't terribly want to do it. I didn't scrabble at the door till they let me in or anything. At the time, I was the editor of a small magazine at a large publishing house, and we had a chap whose job it was to get publicity for the magazines any way that was going, and one of the ways he did so on this occasion was to book me on to this Naked Chat Show. And tell me after it was booked.

I didn't want to do it, but I reckoned I had to. But this was absolutely not because I was a good obedient girl who didn't want to spurn the hard work done by the nice PR man. I didn't want to do it because I was a bit chubby, and a bit pallid, and a bit ungroomed, and I didn't want the watching millions to be going 'Eurgh, look at the fat flabby ugly minger!' I didn't like those thoughts, and I didn't agree with them, and I don't agree with them now. Back then - and today - I've written quite a bit about the fact that most of us don't have 'perfect' bodies, but that our bodies, even imperfect, are still valuable and desirable, and the non-spectacular majority of us still generally manage to attract partners we desire despite their imperfections.

I suspected I was being, if not exactly set up, at least expected by the production crew, to do the 'We're all lovely in our imperfections' role while the cameras lingered on any visual flaws they could find, so I decided to fuck that up a bit. I bought some stick-on tattoos and an eyeliner pencil which I used to write various slogans on myself. I used tons of spray and mousse on my hair (1993, OK?) and put on huge diamante earrings. I swaggered. It was, sort of, a lot of fun: I had a couple of mates with me and I seem to recall a certain amount of free drink being involved.

Having done that myself, I feel very much inclined to be annoyed with those who go on (and on and on) about how women in particular will only be 'respected' if they cover themselves up. Our bodies are just us, and why shouldn't we have fun with ourselves if we want to?

Friday, 11 October 2013

Same shit, different way?

I was thinking about the Beatles the other day. Bear with me, it's probably a bit of an age thing; I'm nearly 50 and the Beatles were just... there all the way through my life. Up to and including that time when Paul McCartney seriously narked me by stealing the news coverage I had planned for my dance team (if you want that story, say so. It involves the Evening Standard, some undignified scuffling and a prat in a box).

The thing about the Beatles - and the Stones, as well, really - is that, in the course of their artistic careers, they were allowed to change, and change dramatically. If you listen to something like She Loves You and follow it almost immediately with Blue Jay Way or Within You Without You (or, for the Stones fan, compare Satisfaction with Emotional Rescue) you struggle a bit to remember that you're listening to the same band. Whereas if you took the first Oasis album and the last one and stuck the two on shuffle, anyone who wasn't fairly dedicated to the band would probably struggle to say which track came from which album and not from any of the ones in between.

Nowadays, nearly any band that gets listened to widely for more than a couple of years' worth of music-producing seems to produce nothing more than slightly-twiddled versions of the hit single and the not-quite-such-a-hit single, over and over again. If you started out as Goths, Goths you must remain - coming up with a bit of ska or Britpop or classic disco will get you nothing more than a smack on the head from the record company. If you want to do something a bit different to the Thing You Do, you have to run off and do it in your own time, usually with someone other than your regular bandmates, and you often have to give yourself a different name.

Similar restrictions seem to apply to writers, as this blogpost from erotic writer Janine Ashbless shows. It seems to apply in particular to writers of erotic material - as recently as 1996 a how-to manual was advising authors to have a 'separate pen name' for their filth, though this was more on the grounds that writing about sex in an enjoyable, arousing way was something you were supposed to fence off from your 'proper' writing. But the current trend seems to be that if you write erotica, you're supposed to stay in a little tiny box appropriate to the type of erotica you write. So if your first widely-read book featured predominantly BDSM, or LGBT, if you want to write about spanking or polyamory, you need to change your pen name. And if you have sold a few books under the branding banner of 'hot romance' and you want to add a bit more group sex or fisting to your next one, it's better to give yourself a new identity, or your regular readers will shit the bed and pass out.

What irritates me is that I don't actually think the majority of people who like to read books *are* this stupid and stubborn. I think that (again, particularly with regard to erotica) a lot of the publishers are the ones who think the readers are dimwits who have to be peddled the same thing over and over again, and that people who read books - and come on, readers are basically the top of the food chain - are quite capable of enjoying something that isn't just the same as the last thing they read.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Bonk The Dinosaur - well, why not?

You've probably heard, by now, that the 'latest thing' is dinosaur porn.
Yes, we can start with a good laugh at the spectacularly shit photoshopping on the cover, even though, conceptually, the cover is a work of genius in that it signals exactly what you're going to get from the book. We can, if we've looked into it in the slightest, have a bit of a mutter about the fact that the 'authors' of this genre (apparently two American students) are charging upwards of three quid for very, very short stories about shagging extinct reptiles while wearing some sort of brass bra, and quite probably lipstick and suspenders as well. We could maybe quote and mock the admittedly bloody awful prose style - yup, you thought EL James made Dan Brown look like Stephen King; Christie Sims and Alara Branwen make EL James look like at least the average Sun leader writer.
My own immediate, personal reaction is, of course, furious jealousy that these two utterly terrible writers, are getting worldwide publicity when I am not. I doubt that there are many erotic writers who don't feel at least a flicker of it. But there is something quite interesting about the way this concept has suddenly exploded all over the media. It's being treated as something amusing, a bit strange and maybe a little bit icky, but so far no one is screaming and shitting the bed about it being an Awful Threat To Our Young People, and no one is demanding it be classified as Extreme Porn and banned.
Of course, a lot of people would say that it's only a story, and therefore there is no need to worry about real women (or indeed real dinosaurs) having been coerced into performing sex acts for entertainment or other people's financial gain. But Darryn Walker's piece of equally badly-written and entirely preposterous fiction, Girls (Scream) Aloud led to him being arrested, charged and prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, though he was eventually acquitted. While it's likely that Walker got into trouble because his story was about real, named individuals even though there is a longstanding tradition of fanfic about both copyrighted fictional characters and actual living celebrities, there's also the possibility that erotic fiction that is written, aimed at and consumed by women rather than men is perceived as silly and unimportant. The concept of mythic-beast-shaggery was dealt with in a male-oriented, male-created film, The Beast (Walerian Borowczyk) which basically features a bloke in a monkey suit with  a giant willy being wanked off by some woman's feet. Oh and a girl sticking a rose up her chuff and some horses having genuine horse sex. The film is variously described as subversive, dangerous, beautiful and truthful, and was banned for decades: having seen it at some 'transgressive' film festival years ago, my verdict is more along the lines of 'unintentionally hilarious'.
Some people's sexual tastes are, well, weird. They are not shared by the minority. That doesn't mean they are necessarily wrong. There is one faulty brand of cod-feminism which insists that any kind of paraphilia (sexual interest in something other than a partner's erogenous zones) is exclusive to men, and that women want 'love', but there's plenty of evidence that women can be just as sexually interested in objects, concepts and physical impossibilities as men might be. Just grab yourself a copy of My Secret Garden - the huge range of women's fantasies in that book include all sorts of BDSM, bestiality, supernatural stuff. The truth that if you can think of a thing, someone, somewhere, is wanking over it applies just as much to women as to men. Mostly, though, niche smut tends to be screamingly amateurish. Back in the Guild Of Erotic Writers era, we often had to try to explain to would-be authors that very, very few people are going to be as thrilled as they are by 3000 words on the precise flavour of the thirty different cheeses that your protagonist shoves up his ringpiece, and you really don't need to do a drawing in the margin of the specific brand-name box with a hole in it that is the object of your desire.
Author Aishling Morgan, aka Peter Birch, achieved well-deserved success by being the first - and is quite possibly still the only - author to combine an interest in fairly out-there filth (nappies, pony play, lactation, mutation) with an ability to write well, and Googling for 'dinosaur porn' doesn't lead you to any product that isn't by these two particular authors - or is just yet another Eek Boo Hoo Tee Hee opinion piece on the 'phenomenon' - which consists of about seven short stories and nothing else.
The authors have, apparently produced a lot of other stories which they describe as 'beast sex... designed to unlock your darkest fantasies' and which apparently feature orcs and weretigers as well as giant lizards. I'm ever so slightly inclined to get in touch and ask them what they could do with the concept of the Illuminati and a story of Prince Philip and Peter Mandelson turning into giant lizards while bonking some picturesque pauper.
Actually, maybe I should write that one myself. Two pages and £3.99 on Amazon. That will do. Or maybe what I need is, you know, some really filthy thoughts about...

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Innocence, guilt and 'trial by tabloid.'

An absolute cornerstone of the law is that a person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Accused, arrested, charged and put in the dock, you are still not guilty of the crime until a jury of your peers has heard and seen the evidence against you and the defence your solicitor has made, and decided that the evidence against you convinces them beyond reasonable doubt that you did the Bad Thing.

Anyone who has any problem with that is a buckethead. Mistakes happen; even when it seems pretty clear that A did something awful to B, it might not actually be true. B could be a liar, or mistaken. Yet there are still plenty of people who will insist that, even after being acquitted of doing a Bad Thing, A probably did do it, really. So being accused of a crime is a pretty horrible thing. The fact that being accused of a crime now seems to be a cue for the tabloids to declare open season on your life, your family, friends, career and personal habits is also a pretty horrible thing. Just ask Christopher Jeffries or Colin Stagg, convicted of murder by the press rather than in a court of law and forever portrayed as dangerous and evil when both were wholly innocent and the crimes they were accused of later proven to have been committed by other people.

So it probably doesn't seem all that unreasonable to call for anonymity to be granted to those accused - but not yet convicted - of rape. Michael LeVell has been acquitted of rape but only after the papers had a gleeful rampage through every aspect of his personal life; alcoholism, infidelity and, for all I know or care, the odd overdue library book. As he is innocent according to the law, it's considered a bit much that his reputation has been so comprehensively trashed and now, apparently, an awful lot of people are going to carry on thinking that there's no smoke without fire and anyway he's got weird eyes so he must have done something, etc.

However, there is a bit of a problem when it comes to conflating the fates of those  accused of murder and those accused of rape, and the problem is that, in a rape case, the victim is there, in court, and able to name the person - had already, often repeatedly, named the person who committed the crime. In a case of murder by a stranger, or by someone outside of the immediate family, there's often quite a lot of room for error on the part of the police. The murder victim, being dead, is unable to name the criminal or pick him/her out of a lineup. The victim of rape who chooses to press charges is alive, is a witness to the crime and much less likely to be mistaken. (Yes, sometimes a victim is mistaken as to the identity of the attacker; that is one of many reasons why a person accused of a crime has the right to trial by jury. Etc.)

So there is, actually, a very good case for preventing the media from naming - and subsequently mounting an attack on every aspect of the life of - an individual accused of murder. There's a good case to be made for restricting the tendency of the press to rummage round and snark about the personal life of those accused of a crime to the extent that the accused has been convicted of the crime by the media before a trial occurs. There's a case for reminding the tabloid press that newspapers are not the equivalent of a jury.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Feeding the ever-hungry monsters and not letting them bite you.

I first heard the phrase at the London Bloggers Meetup in April, and while it was being discussed with regard to musicians, it applies equally well to writers (and artists, and photographers and jewellers, and probably people who make balloon animals as well). Maybe if you're under 21 and have grown up with social media as part of your landscape, it comes more easily to you - or maybe it's a question of how much of your self you are offering up with your work.

I got a little fright, and then I got a little surprise, last week. I'm not a total newcomer to the public eye - back in the 90s I did quite a bit of TV but (again) it was all a bit different. I could go and make a total willy of myself on some live-broadcast regional chatshow feeling quite comfortably secure that my mum wouldn't see it and that those of my mates who lived in the relevant area would be in the pub when it was on. These days, if you get pissed and depart from the official line on even some obscure late night satellite channel filler show, some bastard will have it up on YouTube before you've recovered from your hangover. So I was Googling myself, as you do, and to my horror found a link offering Pictures. Of me. Once I'd finished shrieking, I found that it wasn't actually that bad - it consisted of a couple of perfectly reasonable headshots and portraits that I had given someone permission to use when I was interviewed for their website a few years ago. Along with the current profile pic from my Facebook profile, which I hadn't given anyone any permissions about - or so I thought - as it was a gurny unflattering photo I'd chucked up there to show off a drastic hair restyle and not bothered to change.

No it wasn't this one

I still wouldn't have bothered, if not for a cheery, chatty email from someone organising an event I'm going to be involved in, which had attached a poster for that event. Which featured the gurny, unflattering Facebook photo that some clever little sod had merrily downloaded. I used to think that people who kept their Facebook profile photo as a cartoon character or a picture of a piece of cheese were being a bit twee - well, consider that a lesson learned. Naturally I immediately changed mine to a shot of the old badge tray, and then emailed the organiser a quickly-shot selfie which is probably only slightly less horrible than the one that was originally used but at least doesn't have my actual road where I live in the background.

random picture of public transport...

But the monsters still need feeding. I set up a Facebook page for the book, thinking oh well, OK, that's my book, hello adoring public, and then found that my own Facebook page, which had been a merry melting pot of old pals, former work colleagues and new acquaintances, was getting horribly unbalanced. I'm still totally defeated by Twitter, which remains in my mind the equivalent of shouting at passing cars. And now I'm thinking that my 'other identity' probably needs Facebook and Twitter accounts as well given that 'her' books are a bit different to a lot of 'mine' and therefore published under another name. For a while, I had another blog about my day job, a clean cute fluffy one, which ended up being more of a general rant thing so I started this one for More Rants as well as More Smut and meant to make the other one more cute and fluffy.

And then I remain amazed that I don't get a lot of sleep.

Saturday, 31 August 2013


It's out. There's a mountain of work on other stuff I need to do, let alone the even bigger mountain of housework,  but today I will mostly be barking and running up the walls - or at least clattering all over the internet, repeatedly Googling myself and wondering why I didn't get more of a move on with this sort of thing ages ago.

I'll be posting something more about social media and using it and not being eaten alive by it and stuff shortly, but really today is all about the fact that BLACK HEART IS ON GENERAL RELEASE!

Oh yes it is!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Writers' gigs, my new favourite thing

Erotica writers are really lovely people. Not just 'normal' people, as the slightly condescending Women Behind Erotic Fiction project insists - Ooo, look! They're not all actually running around with their fannies out and doing strange things with the contents of the bathroom cabinet! - but friendly, witty, kind and thoroughly supportive of one another. I've only met two absolute whangers over the couple of decades since I started getting involved in the erotic fiction business, and one was a walking advert for why Twelve Step programmes are useless, the other a self-aggrandizing silly moo who has long since disappeared.

But over the past few months, as I've been exploring the world of erotic fiction reading events, I've found nothing but fabulous new friends, and I'm remembering and rediscovering all sorts of things I had totally forgotten about.

(pic from the SH! website)

Last night I went along to the Sh! Erotic Poetry and Reading Slam in Hoxton Square, and had a most excellent time, as I had sort of expected. OK, anything involving free drinks and cakes and smut is going to appeal to me, but there was something else going on as well and when I got home I was full of ecstatic tipsy jabbering and sat up till about 4pm telling my long-suffering co-parent about All This Stuff Is So Exciting. Because it is. Way way back - in 1995 as it happens, I was involved in setting up the Guild of Erotic Writers. This was pretty much pre-Internet (yes, I know that there were dial-up bulletin boards and the Net existed, but it was still mainly used by geeks and freaks - I actually devoted about three pages of a book I wrote in '96 to describing the arcane and complex process of going to a Special Internet CafĂ© and Sending Someone An Email), and one of the reasons the Guild was begun was in recognition that erotic writers were a slightly lonely lot, and would jump at the chance to meet others of their kind. We held conferences, with panel discussions on a set theme, and there would always be drinks and a buffet afterwards (the fact that these often ended up with me shagging a publisher is quite another matter). The mid-90s was a reasonably good era for erotica, particularly stuff aimed at a female audience: it seemed as though a new imprint was being launched practically every month.

Over the years, though, the whole thing seemed to fizzle out: Headline Liasons, Idol, Sapphire, Nexus all bit the dust, and the Guild had faded away around the turn of the century for various reasons. But now there seems to be a whole lot of new life in the erotica genre, and it's not just down to EL James; the momentum's been gathering for a while. And these days, there's so much more opportunity for people to get their fantasies and feelings and filth out there to a wider audience.

I'm looking forward to whatever's going to happen next.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Bored with Femsub

Don't get the wrong idea, this is not a rant about my kinks being better than other people's. I have no problem whatsoever with the fact that some women prefer to be on the receiving end of the whip or the cane or the hairbrush or anything else. Nor do I have issues with people writing erotic fiction about women submitting to men and yes, I have written some myself, though it's always been a bit more of a challenge than writing about group sex, gender-blurring sex or queer sex - or femdom sex. And I don't think I've ever written any femsub fiction that doesn't feature at least one incident or mention of femdom action in it somewhere.

I didn't actually read the 50 Shades books. Well, I picked one up in Tescos and read a few paragraphs and went 'Eurgh' at the atrocious prose style and put it back down again.  Nor have I read the handful of others touted as 'even better/more authentic/sexier/the real thing.' I really, really didn't need to, because I have read so much erotic fiction over the years that I know this: femsub doesn't really do it for me. A whole novel about one woman being introduced to kinky sex by a man who does it all TO her is just Not My Thing.

Again, if that's your thing, that's fine, I wish you joy of it. What actually irritates me is the insistence that Vacant Virgin and Cruel Sir Jasper in modern guise is what  all women really want, an attitude that obviously peaked last summer, but isn't that new. Back in the days of the first erotic fiction 'explosion', when half a dozen publishing firms were putting out 'adult' imprints, I got told more than once that 'readers don't like stuff about dominant women' and 'it won't sell, can't you make the heroine more submissive'. It's one of the reasons I pretty much gave up on writing erotic fiction for several years (the others being general idleness... oh, and parenthood of course).

Yes, things are getting better than they were in the 90s, a lot of which is due to the generally magnificent efforts of Xcite Books and the thoroughly diverse range of erotica they publish. And there is of course my own fabulous commissioning editor Peter Birch who said, I want a femdom novel, get on with it. But there still seems to be the same kind of disconnect - a look along any shelf selling erotic novels will show femsub, femsub, 'romance' and more femsub, with maybe a bit of LGBT-lite, and yet whenever I'm selling a mixed bundle of books on my stall down at the LFF there are always punters going, got any femdom? I like femdom and it's really hard to find.

Maybe the tide is about to turn. I'm trying, anyway.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Troll mockery: an unappreciated artform

It's horrible to have your inbox full of abuse and threats. It's not nice to look at your own stuff on any media network and see a load of obnoxious insulting bullshit attached to everything you've said.

But while the current frenzy over revolting insults to individuals on Twitter is being discussed as a polarization between Stop Busting Freedom and We Need A Boohoo Button, the concept of simply laughing at the sad little keyboard warriors seems to go unreported. And it's the same old shit of needing to 'protect' women 'n' children by restricting the right to say anything, anywhere, ever.

So I feel inclined to offer up a little list of sentences you might want to tweet and retweet at anyone spouting obnoxious nonsense. Taking the piss out of trolls is the option that seems to have been forgotten. Wonder why.

All these are absolutely free to use and share whenever applicable.

Hahaha woman-hater. Fail.

Your mum must be ever so proud of you

Oh look everyone! Inadequate needledick!

0/10. Check your spelling.

0/10 Try to come up with something original.

0/10 couldn’t be bothered to read to the end.

That isn’t physically possible. You’ve never had sex, have you?

Yes, pop round. I’ll have the kettle on and the restraining order ready.

Maybe you need to get out more. Ask for the tag to be taken off.

Everybody point and laugh, epic MRA needledick fail
And just KEEP POSTING every time some needledick goes hatstand on facebook.....

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Finishing books (and getting back on topic)

I finished my book, OK? I finished my book. That's why it's been a bit quiet on here for the past month. 

Finishing books is one of life's Great Things or at least one of my life's Great Things. I did it a few times in my teens and early 20s, and though the books concerned were unpublishable crap (yes, of course they were, and of course that didn't entirely stop me sending them to publishers; at least I'm old enough now to know how bad they were) I still vaguely remember the surge of excitement at typing The End).  Finishing the first sort-of-proper book (ie the one that got published, even if only in 'magazine' format), Cathouse, was a bit special. I still remember sitting in the almost-deserted office, banging out the final chapter while the wind howled round the building and the office radio, rather appropriately, played Guns N Roses and Metallica... and then charging off into the West End and running shrieking round the pub telling everyone that I had finished the book, FINISHED THE BOOK. 

Finishing the second one was followed by another night in a West End pub, talking to a lot of vampires and grinning stupidly. This time round I felt the same, the best, the delicious surge of triumph even though I was sitting all by myself in a silent house with only Facebook to squeal at. I think the status update was 'Don't know whether to laugh, cry or throw up.'

Because on the one hand it's sheer joy: the work is done. And (because I am lazy and easily distracted and unmotivated) it's quite often been preceded by a lot of crying and swearing and sitting up all night as the deadline passes approaches and whoever commissioned it starts phoning or emailing and asking pointed questions as to its whereabouts, having actually completed the job is a source of relief.

However... I start to miss my characters. I start to miss worrying about them, and thinking about them, and fixing their problems for them. I get to a point where I don't want it to be over.

The natural cure is, perhaps, to write another book. Maybe.

(Surprised at this post? OK, well, this blog was originally going to be all about writing books and selling things, and that IS what it's really supposed to be about. It's not that the world has stopped Being Annoying, it's just that my blog is all about MEEEEE really. Mkaaay?)

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Feeling hurt and confused at the number of Facebook friends who have kicked your arse this week? Let me help.

Honestly, I'm going to at least try to be nice about this. I'm nice to the people on my own timeline - I call them racist dickheads but I don't ban them, or go round their houses to administer a slap or anything. And it's not at all unreasonable to have been upset by the murder of Lee Rigby. It was pretty fucking horrible that a young man was hacked to death in the street, in broad daylight. He had a family and friends who loved him and who are going to be in terrible distress.

But if you're handling your understandable upset by showing yourself to be a racist dickhead, then your arse is going to get metaphorically kicked on Facebook. It probably won't get kicked in the pub or at work or while you're walking down the street, because the vast majority of people still don't actually feel that it's OK to launch a physical attack someone they disagree with. The majority of people, whether or not they have religious beliefs (and whether that's Jesus, Allah or the Tooth Fairy), prefer to get on with their neighbours, love and be loved and just enjoy their lives without starting pointless fights about nothing. However, people are a little happier to be a little more assertive when it comes to online discussion. So, naturally, after the incident in Woolwich, everyone with internet access has been squalling at everyone else. And an awful lot of people who previously posted about nothing more alarming than their cats/dogs/hamsters and their delicious lunch suddenly found themselves getting unfriended.

So here's why unfriending might have happened to you.

1) You are whining about immigration.

This automatically marks you out as a lazy, complacent moron. Go and look up the actual facts and figures.

2) You are whining about Islam.

Religion is, as I previously stated, bullshit and frankly ludicrous. So is football. Look at it this way - if people wearing shirts that announced their allegiance to your favourite football team went out and committed a hideous crime, would you think it was fair and reasonable for anyone who knew that you supported the team in question to blame you for the actions of the nutters? That's what you're doing when you start insisting that 'Muslims' apologise for Lee Terry's death.  If Fred West, Harold Shipman, Ian Huntley or Stuart Hazell professed allegiance to a football team, should the players be expected to make big public statements dissociating themselves from murderous individuals, or is it just understood, because the players are predominantly white heterosexual men, that they are not responsible for a crime committed by individuals who happen to be in the same labelled box.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

'Culture,' violence and prejudice

Predictably, the bucketheads are out in force all over the internet, following the murder of a squaddie in Woolwich yesterday. Along with the usual sentimentalism of candles and poppies cluttering up Facebook, aside of the blatant racism of EDL wankstains, the two main themes are 'Stop being nasty about religion' and 'I'm not a racist, but...'.

Religion is quite simply the biggest mistake humanity ever made: a way of allowing bullies to seize and retain power over whole groups of other people in an unending game of 'My imaginary friend says you have to do what I say because my imaginary friend has chosen me as a Special Person'; they just change the rules every time it looks like they might be about to lose. This doesn't stop plenty of people who subscribe to one or other religion from being perfectly lovely, decent, kind, non-violent, ordinary human beings. They've imagined a friend for themselves who might be a bit funny about diet and dress sense but generally expects them to be nice to their neighbours, fair in their dealings and happy in their lives. The existence of subdivisions in all the myth systems demonstrates that plenty of people are happy to remake their imaginary friend in a kinder, gentler style and interpret the myths in a broadly pro-social fashion, though unfortunately plenty of others are just as fond of reinterpreting the tropes to justify a revolting, bigoted, dangerous worldview. Think Westboro Baptist Church for an easy, obvious example. 

As to the racism, the more details of this ghastly incident emerge, the more it looks like a couple of psychotic crackheads rather than an organised, politically motivated attack. It seems like it's only 'terrorism' (and an excuse for attacks on whole groups and classes of other people) when the murderers are, well, Not White. White loners weren't investigated or abused-as-a-group after the revolting David Copeland planted his nail bombs in the late 90s. Even though Copeland was in fact a neo-Nazi, there was no muttering and sideways looks at any young man with a shaved head, or suggestions that all white people needed to denounce him or be labelled BNP supporters.

But if we're going to start going after pressure groups and people with unpleasant opinions that could be said to incide others to murder, then what about Fathers 4 Justice? Where are they when, as has already happened two or three times this year, a man murders his own children to punish his wife for leaving him? Strictly speaking F4J could be and perhaps should be described as a terrorist organisation. Several of their members have convictions for violence, and the stuff that their members like to spout on discussion forums can be seriously frightening due to their blind, frenzied hatred of women. Yet misogyny is still seen as not terribly important. Well, unless you want to air a bit more Islamophobia and remember to tack it on at the end of your rant about foreigners...

Monday, 8 April 2013

Thatcher Bingo.

So it's going to be a right old shitstorm for the next few days. My deep and sincere condolences to anyone launching a new product, promoting an event or even beginning a single-issue campaign to make some aspect of the world a little better: you've all been thoroughly Joplinned.

Given that there's going to be little opportunity to read about or talk about anything else, may I offer you a chance to play a quick game of Dead Politician Bingo? And just to make it more interesting, the first person to get a full house and send it to me (links required) will get a prize of some description.

Here you go...

1) Sharing of links to footage of The Wizard Of Oz

2) Quoting any lyrics from Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead

3) Furious condemnation of a FB friend's 'lack of respect for the dead'.

4) Tony Blair doing his pompous gloopy-eyed professionally sad number

5) 'Feminist icon.'

6) Spectacularly misognyistic comment from leftwing male

7) 'She made this country great again'

8) Bizarre point-missing comment from minor celebrity not famous for intellectual abililty

9) Shouting about own working class credentials prior to unleashing stream of vitriol.

10) Shouting about own working class credentials prior  to championing Thatcher's greatness

11) Obvious confusing of Meryl Streep biopic with actual events

12) Rant about Hillsborough from someone who was still in nappies when Tony Blair was elected and who has never been within 100 miles of Liverpool

13) 'Arthur Scargill was a bastard too'

14) 'David Cameron is worse'

15) Reference to drinking champagne

16) Picture of mountain of plastic-wrapped flowers laid somewhere and speculation as to whether that's a stock shot from some other disaster...

I might add a new bingo card later...

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Stupid, wicked, or completely and utterly alien?

I'm not a great one for conspiracy theories, on the whole. Even though I have been known to rant about The Patriarchy after a pint or two, I don't consider it to be a cunning plan cooked up among half a dozen old white men sitting in a secret room. Nor have I ever been convinced by all that Illuminati/giant lizard overlords crap.
But looking at the antics of the current government keeps on making me wonder.

What the FUCK are these people thinking?

It simply doesn't make economic sense to carry on making poor people poorer. If they have no money, they don't buy things. If shops don't sell things, they close down. Then there are more poor people, and then they get even poorer.

So are the Lizardpeople operating with the idea that the creation of a desperate serf class will be profitable to big businesses by means of workfare? Again, it doesn't really make economic sense for the proprietors of shops selling cheap stuff to cut their labour costs by using bonded slaves: the bonded slaves can't afford to buy the stuff and the wealthy minority don't want to buy it. So who is going to buy it?

Is it malevolence that's driving them? Is it really just a matter of getting off on seeing how utterly you can crush people and make them suffer? Is part of the fun persuading them to tear each other to pieces while you watch? I've heard that ten percent of the population is made up of genuine psychopaths; people incapable of feeling empathy, guilt or remorse, but I doubt that people filled with a hatred and spite as deep and all-consuming as that would be capable of doing the work involved in getting elected without, you know, cracking up and biting some local newspaper hack's face off for asking awkward questions.

Or is it a pure and deluded selfishness, where they insist that because they are all right and can manage on £50 a week if they had to (forgetting that they have comfortable houses, well-stocked freezers and larders and expense accounts to sort out the washing machine when it dies) the only reason others fail to do so is because they are thick and lazy? I think that selfishness mixed with ignorance is the likeliest answer. They neither know nor care how profoundly isolating it is to be poor, how hopeless and excluded the impoverished can feel. The poor are mocked for wanting or having any kind of electrical gadgets, for instance, yet if you don't have internet access, you are pretty much crippled in many ways. It costs more to pay your bills if you can't do it online. Jobs are often advertised online only. You can't 'just' use the internet at your local library because it's been closed down.
You can't shop and cook in a healthy, sensible fashion if you are very poor, because you are restricted to the shops within walking distance, which probably only sell overpriced horsemeat readymeals and Pot Noodles anyway - you don't have freezer space to batch cook in your tiny kitchen and you may not be physically strong enough to lug sacks of potatoes and rice up six flights of stairs with a toddler in a buggy.

Immense inequality is harmful for everyone. Yet the government seem to be operating, at present, as though if they keep blaming the poor for their poverty long enough, the poor will conveniently die off.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Pranks and Prejudice: Littlejohn versus Christian and Greig

Michael Christian and Mel Greig, in case you've forgotten, are were recently most evil disc jockeys in the world, because they took the piss out of the Royal Family via a prank call to a nurse, Jacintha Saldhana, who subsequently killed herself. That they lost that not-so-coveted position is probably more due to the role of most evil DJ being suddenly and comprehensively taken over by a more deserving candidate, of course. Julie Burchill got herself similarly shoved off the winners' podium in the Great Transphobic Stakes this week by the thoroughly loathsome Richard Littlejohn, again a far more deserving candidate for the post.

It can seem, sometimes, as though gobbing off is a worse crime than actually picking up a lump of wood and having at someone.People who say things, write things, draw things, sing about things in ways which are 'offensive' can get vilified or punished far more than some of the people who actually assault or kill others. The sentences given to Justin Lee Collins and Matthew Woods in the same week would bear that theory out, as I said at the time

On the whole, I've always been on the side of the writers and the speakers and the artists when the views they have expressed have upset someone or other - even if the views expressed have upset me. However obnoxious someone's views, I believe in their right to hold and express those views, and have always maintained that the best way to deal with the public airing of ignorance, bigotry, misinformation or propaganda is to allow room for the equally public countering of such stuff. When something bad happens, someone somewhere always starts insisting that censorship of some kind is the way to stop it happening again, but this is never, ever true. Censorship doesn't stop spite, it doesn't stop ignorance, and it doesn't stop violence.

Holding Greig and Christian responsible for Jacintha Saldhana's death was always ridiculous and wrong. They had no intention of hurting her, certainly no intention at all of driving her to kill herself: they were thoughtlessly pratting about with little or no malice attached. Julie Burchill's notorious rant against transpeople was a piece of fuckwitted bigotry but still only the expression of an unpleasant opinion. Richard Littlejohn's piece about Lucy Meadows, on the other hand, almost certainly led directly to her death. He may claim that he didn't want her to die, but he certainly wanted her to suffer. He wanted her to lose her job, leave her home and be shunned by her community. He said so, in his piece.

There was no justification whatsoever for publishing that piece in a national newspaper. Lucy Meadows wasn't a celebrity, she wasn't a criminal, she wasn't a campaigner seeking recognition for a cause, just someone trying to get on with her life. Her story wasn't 'news'. It had no relevance to the vast majority of  Daily Mail readers, apart from feeding their prejudices. But the publication of that story, according to emails she sent to friends, pretty much killed her by making her life unbearable. Not only were the press hounding her and her family and friends, but enough identifying information was given in the police to allow every knuckle-dragging keyboard warrior in the country to track her down and bombard her with abuse.

Before writing this post, I did a bit of googling based on a vague memory of there being a crime of Malicious Publication ie making someone's private life public for no good reason. Unfortunately, I'd remembered it wrong: at the moment, you only have legal redress if what is published about you is untrue. There should be a law against publicising the details of anyone's personal life for no reason other than to insult or mock them when the person has not in any way sought attention or publicity. The implementation of something like that might be a fitting memorial to Ms Meadows. Well, that and and end to the idea that transpeople are the minority it's OK to hate and laugh at, just because you think they're not like you.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Rape Myths: what are they good for?

In the light of the BBC's recent helpful reminder to the rest of us that men's reputations matter more than women's safety - the DPP announced that false accusations of rape are actually quite rare, the Beeb reported this by yowling and yammering about how awful it is to be accused of rape when you haven't done it. Well, yes it is, though I would venture to say that it's probably a bit less awful than, you know, actually being raped.

Rape myths, however, they can't be that awful, because so many people seem to love them so much. In some cases I can see why: the myths around what kind of women get raped function as a kind of magical talisman to many women. If rapists pick on provocatively dressed, drunk, flirty women who walk home alone, the fairytale goes, then by staying sober, covering up and never going out unaccompanied by your male owner, you will be protected from rape. It's understandable to want to believe that if you are Good and Careful and Obedient, bad shit won't happen to you, but unfortunately it's stupid and wrong. Bad shit happens to Nice Girls all the time. Bad shit happens to nice people through no fault of their own, all the time.

The myths surrounding false accusations are a bit more problematic, though. Yes, sure, there are cases of mistaken identity, when the attacker was a stranger and the police pick up someone of a similar physical appearance, or when the victim is too frightened of the real assailant to name him and therefore accuses someone else. Being falsely accused of a crime is a dreadful thing to experience, especially if the crime is an unusually nasty one, to the extent that being accused of it puts you at risk of vengeance from the victim, the victim's family or indeed the local self-righteous hate mob. People wrongly accused of crimes have every right to battle for a public acknowledgement of their innocence, no problem with that. But this insistence that women are always, or at least nearly always, or at least loads and loads of times, really lying about rape, that's a bit more worrying. 

Sometimes, no one wants to believe a man's a rapist because he's Such A Wonderful Man. Charming, friendly, good-looking, wealthy... Does a lot for charity. Give me a J, give me an I, give me a double M - you can see where that one's going, can't you? I think that sometimes people who want to believe that a woman accusing a popular, successful man of rape must be lying are simply not wanting to doubt their own judgement. They like or even love the man, they would have known if he was a rapist, how could they be wrong about him? Underlying this is also, perhaps, the unspoken assumption that a Wonderful Man is actually entitled to have sex on whoever or whatever he wants, because he is important, and the victims are less so, with the real bottom line being that they are only women, after all. They must be jealous, or mad, or money-hungry, or something else wicked.

The nastier myth is that women accuse men of rape after sex because they are stupid, vengeful or don't know their own minds. A woman will claim to have been raped if the man didn't want to see her again, or went back to his wife, or didn't give her an orgasm, or because she doesn't want people to think she's a slut, or because she was drunk and now she's thinking it wasn't such a good idea to have sex with him - so goes this myth. And it's entirely misogynistic, because it portrays women as desperate, spiteful idiots who are incapable of having sex for the sheer enjoyment of it but use it as a form of currency and then want the equivalent of their money's worth. The thing is, women generally know the difference between crap sex and rape. We've often had crap sex with men - sometimes he promised undying love right up until the moment he took the condom off and then all of a sudden he wanted to go home, sometimes we did get a bit pissed and shag the bloke from the kebab shop when we shouldn't have, sometimes he was just a really rubbish shag and farted all the way through the performance while calling us Mummy or something. But that's just crap sex, we shrug it off, learn from it if necessary and move on. It just seems very likely indeed that the sort of men who insist that women are lying about rape because they can't tell the difference between assault and unsatisfactory sex are the men who are actually raping women and don't see why they should be held accountable for doing so.

(I haven't put any pictures on this one. Maybe you'd like to find yourself some Lolcats or something to lighten the mood a little, the Interweb is not short of them...)