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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Article 

I've written a piece sort-of related to some of the issues in the post below over here.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Consent 



When I was 17 I was raped.

I had only lost my virginity a couple of months’ prior with my then-boyfriend; I had only had intercourse twice. Sadly we broke up soon after and upset, newly single and out with my friends at a nightclub I occasionally frequented, I got chatting to a boy I had seen around; but I had no plans or desire to sleep with him.

I had harboured a teenage crush on 24-year old Jim for a few weeks, so when he asked me if I wanted to go back to his place after the club finished “for a smoke”, I readily agreed, happy that he fancied me too. Soon after we bundled into a taxi together, and I waved goodbye to my friends with a smile on my face.

I mistakenly thought he lived in Clapton, which was not far from me, but it turned out it was Croydon we were going to, the arse-end of London, some twenty miles from my home. But I felt happy to be with him and safe, so even with the long journey and the lateness of the hour, I did not question or worry about the situation I was entering into: I just assumed we would spend the night talking and maybe have a snog.

When we arrived at his bed-sit, we shared a joint and chatted a little. He moved towards me to kiss me and I responded by kissing him back. But when he immediately tried to remove my clothes I just shifted uncomfortably. I wasn’t assertive then like I am now. I mean, I told him I only wanted to kiss and not have sex and I asked him to let things be, but I was so insecure doing so: I wanted to please him and I worried he might think me frigid.

So when he ripped off my clothes I didn’t scream.

When he forced his fingers inside me I didn’t shout for help.

When he made me gag and cry as he shoved his cock into my mouth, I didn't punch him in the balls.

I did say no. I did push him away. I did plead with him to stop, but he still forced himself on me, in me.

He didn’t stop when I asked him to.

He penetrated me with such force that he made my vagina bleed.

He raped me throughout the night as I tried to sleep.

He called me a dirty whore, a cunt, a slag.

And when he saw my tears he told me, “You know you want to do it – you wouldn’t have come here otherwise.”

At the time I thought he was right. I had chosen to go back there: he hadn’t held a gun to my head. I hadn’t tried to fight him off me. It was my fault for being there, for letting him do that to me. I hated myself. Even when I was in the bathroom, using toilet paper to soak up the blood dripping between my legs, I blamed myself.

Early the next morning he told me to leave. I walked out into the cold, blinded by the sun, and stunned by the situation. It was a torturous three-hour journey home by bus, and when I arrived I just smiled at my parents and kept up the pretence that I had spent the night at my friend’s. I ran upstairs to shower and I tried to wash him out of me, disappear it all away like the water spiralling down the plughole, but whilst my skin was cleansed, my insides still felt dirty. As I sat slumped and weeping in the shower tray, I swore to myself that I would never tell anyone about what had happened, so ashamed was I.

And for three years I didn’t: it was my dirty secret.

Then at work one day, I got into a conversation with a colleague. She was in her thirties and I looked up to her and trusted her. So when the subject somehow ended up being about women who have been forced into sex, I finally confessed my experience, shrugging it off as some bad sex I had had. I remember her staring at me, shocked, and then saying, gently, “Do you not realise you were raped?” And until that moment I hadn’t.

She explained to me what
date rape was and it suddenly hit home what it was that I had been through, what I had suffered. That just because he wasn’t a stranger dragging me off the street, and just because I had agreed to go back to his place, it didn’t mean that what he did to me wasn’t rape. He sexually violated me without my consent: he raped me. All that time, I had been blaming myself, thinking that perhaps if I had said ‘no’ more, or if I hadn’t gone back there, then it might not have happened; that I got what I deserved. I didn’t for one moment blame him.

I cried for many days after that conversation, but this time the tears were my anger at him rather than directed at myself.

It took me a while before I could pluck up the courage to get tested for HIV and STIs: I had spent three years in denial, what were another few months? So terrified was I that he might have infected me, I couldn’t bear to face the reality that he might have: it was hell waiting those two weeks for my test results to come back. They were all negative and I was relieved, of course, but the internal damage had been done; the rape had affected how I viewed my sexuality – and men’s sexuality – and
although I was guided by a sympathetic therapist it still took me years to work through my self-hatred and anger about it.

Looking back, half my lifetime ago, I can see what a naïve teenager I was; I didn’t for one minute think that going back to his place might put me at risk. But then I was only 17: ignorance comes with the territory. And regardless, I might have agreed to go back with him, but I didn’t agree for him to violate me: that was all his choice. Somewhere along the line, he had learned that it was OK to treat women with disrespect; that it was acceptable to disregard their needs, wishes and wants as irrelevant; and that it was his right to abuse a woman for his pleasure.

I don’t think all men feel like this about women, but hearing male politicians making a mockery of rape by saying, just days ago, “Young men do not want to have to take a consent form and a lawyer on a date” makes me angry.
If men do not take it seriously when a woman says ‘no’, then how can we ensure that rapes do not occur? How can we teach young men like Jim to know that they need to treat women as equals and value their needs? And how can we reassure young women that it is OK to say ‘no’ and that they have nothing to fear?

I don’t know the answers, but rather than stereotyping all men as sexual predators, I’d like to see a more progressive debate around rape occurring. Where men can voice their feelings and concerns about sex, and sexual violence, alongside women. Where there is mutual respect and appreciation between the sexes. And where men and women can learn that with better and more honest communication, it is possible to have safe, sane - and fun - consensual sex.


And if I could go back in time and meet my 17 year-old self, I would say the following:

No man has the right to force himself onto you. And if he does, it is not your fault: it is because he is a prick.

You should never feel pressured to have sex with someone: if you do, then you shouldn’t be having sex with them – even if you do fancy them.

Good sex always involves mutual consent.

Always carry enough money on you to be able to jump into a cab if you need to; always have the means to exit a situation.

‘No’ means no
.


[If you are under 25 and would like to talk to someone with total confidentiality about sex or sexual health, call (UK-based) Brook on 0800 0185 023. You can get also get free support and advice from their website Ask Brook.]




Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Welcome 


Channel 4 viewers

You’ve arrived at my blog. Hello. You’ll see that it’s nothing fancy and looks pretty thrown together at the last minute. Bit like me, really.

On the right hand of the screen you’ll see four years’ worth of writing in the ‘archives’: feel free to peruse at your pleasure. For quick reference, you’ll find my biog here, contact details here, what the palaver was when I got “outed” here, and the outcome of losing my anonymity here.

You’ll also spot, on the right hand side, a list of other blogs, some sexblogs, many not. I urge you all to read them all: there’s some damn fine writing there.

With regards to the documentary The Sex Blog Girls screened on Channel 4 tonight, I must clarify some points, for the record.

1. Sexblogging did not begin, or end, with my blog. Contrary to what the film suggests, there are many other fantastic sexblogs out there and the ‘genre’ is still going strong.
2. The film incorrectly states that sexblogging in America did not start until after my blog became known. In fact the opposite is true: I began writing my blog at the beginning of 2004, some three years after American sexblogging had begun to take hold, and I was influenced by great American blogs like Erosblog and Tiny Nibbles.
3. It is implied in the documentary that male sexbloggers do not exist; for the premise of the film I understand this, but it is far from reality. In fact, some of my favourite sex writers are men. Bloggers like Easily Aroused, Naked Loft Party, Hot Action, Badman, and Rentboy all write from the male perspective and their writing is not only beautiful, but also an insight into the minds and emotions of men which are rarely seen in mainstream media.
4. The amount of gratuitous female nudity was unnecessary and, in my opinion, detracted from the message of the film. Given that every female sexblogger in the documentary writes about having sex with men, I ask this: where were all the naked men on screen?
5. I'm not sure if the extracts I read out on the documentary highlighted all my views on sex; you'll find my thoughts on the importance of challenging the sexist double standards about male vs female sexuality and my feminist/ female-centred sex-positive perspective in the archives on the right.



Overall, I hope that the film will help to stimulate debate about sex: it’s about time we challenged some of those old-fashioned, out-dated, sexist ideas, isn't it?

Documentary 



The date: tonight, Tuesday 11th December
The time: 10:00-11:05pm GMT
The location: Channel 4 Television
The event: The Sex Blog Girls
The people: Yours truly, and some other lovely sexbloggers

(Yikes.)


Monday, December 10, 2007

Brook 

PRESS RELEASE

10th December 2007


Brook appoints Zoe Margolis – Girl With A One Track Mind – as ambassador

Young people’s sexual health charity, Brook, has announced that author and blogger Zoe Margolis – aka Abby Lee – has become an ambassador for the charity.

Zoe will be providing Brook with valuable public support and promoting the values she shares with the organisation. She will raise awareness of the importance of sexual health in a good sexual relationship and she will direct the younger readers who make contact with her through her book and blog to Brook, to help them negotiate fulfilling and healthy sexual relationships.

Brook’s Chief Executive, Simon Blake, said:
“Working with Zoe gives Brook an amazing opportunity to reach young people with open and honest advice on their sexual health and relationships. It also provides a platform from which to improve the debate on sex and relationships in this country, a debate which is so often hijacked by people determined to judge young people on the basis of myths and misinformation. Zoe’s passion to change this debate and her public influence amongst our target group is a strength that Brook is looking forward to drawing on.”

Zoe Margolis said:
“I believe that everyone has a right to choose sex that is fulfilling, consensual and safe. Young people deserve this too and I’m thrilled to be working with Brook to help make positive, healthy sexual relationships a reality for more people.”

-Ends-

Notes to editors:

Brook is the UK’s leading provider of sexual health services and advice for young people under 25. The charity has more than 40 years’ experience of working with young people and currently has a network of more than 50 services in 18 areas of the England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Jersey. Brook services provide free and confidential sexual health information, contraception, pregnancy testing, advice and counselling, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and outreach and education work, reaching more than 200,000 young people every year. Brook sees over 1,500 young people every day except Sundays and bank holidays.

[If you are under 25 and want information about sexual health please contact the Young People's Information Service, Ask Brook or ring the helpline: 0800 0185 023]

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Geek 

I heard a text message arrive and scrabbled around my handbag to find my mobile.

‘Three phones?’

I looked up to see my friend D peering into my bag.

‘What the hell do you need three for?’ he asked, somewhat incredulous.

‘Ah. Well this one’s my personal mobile,’ I said, pulling out my Nokia. ‘I’ve had the same telephone number for fourteen years: how sad is that?’

‘That’s fine, but it’s a bit chunky,’ D remarked. ‘Looks like a brick.’

I shrugged. ‘But it has fast internet access and instant email...’

‘And the other two?’

I picked up my other (smaller) Nokia. ‘Ah. Well this one’s my Abby phone…’

‘Your “Abby” phone?’ he interrupted. ‘What, like a Bat phone? When you get a call, Abby Lee springs into action?!’

I laughed. ‘Yeah, something like that: it’s now my work phone. But I got it two years ago when my book deal surfaced and I became very nervous about protecting my anonymity. It was just easier dealing with publishers and stuff, having two different phone numbers.’

‘And two different identities.’

I nodded. ‘It took me a while to get used to people calling me Abby. I felt so fake at first having that pseudonym, but nowadays I answer to it without a second thought.’

‘Did it work?’

‘What?’

D pointed at the phones in my hands. ‘Separating out those two parts of your life.’

‘For a while, yeah: I felt secure in the knowledge that the personal phone was just my normal, private, day-to-day life and the Abby phone was my secret blogger identity – and never the twain shall meet. But when I lost my anonymity last year that all went arse up: the press got hold of both my numbers – and my home phone – and then all my phones rang off the hook constantly.’

‘That must have been horrid.’

‘I was freaking out, so unprepared was I. Honestly, I felt like I was having a breakdown: not knowing who was calling me or whom I could trust. As well as the press, people I hadn’t seen for over a decade were phoning me, telling me that the tabloids were on their doorstep offering them money for gossip and photos of me. It was nuts. I couldn’t keep up with it and eventually just stopped answering any of the phones at all.’

‘And yet now you have three?!!!’

‘Actually I had three mobile phones back then too,’ I admitted.

D raised his eyebrows. ‘Pray tell, oh popular one.’

I pinched him lightly in jest. ‘Well, I had a third identity for a little while too.’

D shook his head. ‘Honestly, what are you like?’

I continued. ‘For some months last year I was also known as “Katie”.’

‘Katie?’

‘I became worried that people who I met, or dated, or shagged, might somehow figure out I was The Girl, so I created another identity entirely. That way I could be completely anonymous and if I chose to write about them, and they then figured out they knew me from reading the blog, then they wouldn’t have my real name or phone numbers, risking my anonymity.

‘You paranoid freak.’

‘Hey, fuck you, it kept me safe, plus it got me laid.’

‘I suppose there are some advantages to having a secret life…’

‘Well, for a while, but I ended up ditching “Katie” because it just got too confusing trying to keep up with all my different names and personas and lying to people all the time.’

‘So what’s the third phone for now then? You doing a ‘Katie’ again?!’

‘Nah. I’m just me now. I’ve given up trying to keep it all separate. It’s been a bittersweet full-circle having everyone know all the details of my private life, but at least there is no more deceit on my part: my friends and family know everything.’

I pulled out the (slim) white phone from my handbag and handed it to D. ‘I’ve got this one on trial: I am just testing it out for fun.’

‘A trial? Where from?’

‘Ah, one of the occasional benefits of being a blogger is that people sometimes loan you gizmos to try out. Nice, isn’t it?’

He nodded. ‘It’s cute.’

‘Sexy ain’t it?’

‘It’s alright.’

‘Well I like it. Fucking saved my life the other day.’

‘How so?’

‘I was doing this live book talk on Second Life...’

‘Second what?’ he interrupted.

I sighed. ‘Online virtual reality world, you luddite.’

‘Oh. Right. Continue.’

‘I logged in to Second Life and had only just said hello to everyone there, but because so many people had shown up, the whole thing crashed and almost immediately I got locked out of the event.’

‘That doesn’t sound very impressive.’

‘Fuck off. It was a success, hence why it crashed. And when I got locked out, I couldn’t get in again, due to the ‘island’ I was doing the event on being full.’

‘So what did you do?’

‘Ah, well, this phone has Skype built in, so the whole time I was locked out, I was chatting to the event organiser and he was able to feed information to the audience to let them know what was happening, whilst also guiding me through the tech stuff so I could get back in. The Skype thing was great: I hadn’t used it before.’

‘Now who’s the luddite!’

‘Yeah, well I’d never profess to be a top tech-girl, but I scored 83% Geek on a Facebook test so that has to count for something, right?’

‘Or the fact that you travel with three phones, a laptop and an ipod in your bag at all times...’

‘And condoms too. Let’s just say I am a girl who likes to come prepared.’

‘What, just in case you meet a geeky guy who won’t mind your being permanently connected to the web?’

‘Absofuckinglutely.’


[Whilst I don’t usually plug products on my blog, I am happy to recommend the 3 Skypephone because I am enjoying using it and plan on purchasing one myself. You can also win a free phone – which is nice.]

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