I’m not a fan of the Daily Mail but even I have to admit to checking out the Side Bar of Shame sometimes and I’ll tell you why. If you’re taking a temperature check on current issues, if you want to know how a cross section of people feel about the world, the DM comments section is as good a way as any of finding out where people’s heads are at. Even if you suspect they might be the kind of heads you would cross the road to avoid.
Which is why you could have knocked me over with a feather on Friday. It really has come to something when DM readers are bored by faux lesbian bondage porn stories. I’ve nothing against Kate Moss. I’ve got a little thing about Rhianna but that’s got everything to do with Chris Brown. Either way, here are two women at top of their respective games. I also appreciate beauty as much as the next person. But I find it achingly unimaginative that between the world’s most famous supermodel, the world’s most famous pop star and one of the finest fashion photographers in the world, a triumvirate of creative power if ever I saw it, they have managed to create yet another tedious fake porn shoot. I don’t know what surprises me more really. That or the fact that Daily Mail comments section managed to sum up my feelings so succinctly.
‘Can't imagine seeing David Gandy and Harry Styles in a similar photo shoot’ wrote one.
‘Seriously’ writes another. ‘It is all so depressingly predictable now. I think women are going backwards in society rather than forward, sadly of their own free choice in a lot of cases. I'm not so old at 37 but I think the last decade has been dreadful and as someone who does voluntary work with 7 to 10 year old girls I despair at the effect our culture has on them’.
I couldn’t have articulated it better. I too fear for the effect this has on upcoming generations of children, particularly female children. I was watching X Factor a couple of years ago. Chistina Aguilera was the special guest. It was 7pm and she was dressed in a black basque, a suspender belt and stockings. She bent over a chair whilst she sung, breasts dripping out of her underwear as a male performer simulated penetrating her from behind. At that moment, I thanked god that I don’t have children. Because if I did, I’d have try and explain what we were watching.
I have a male friend who once told me that his opinion of women changed forever when he first saw pornography as a young teenager. He probably had to look pretty hard because he’s almost 50 now. It would have been the tattered shreds of a copy of Mayfair dug out of someone’s dustbin that inspired this sea change in his youthful mind. These days it appears you only need to turn on the telly on a Saturday night to get the same effect.
I’m tempted to mock my Mary Whitehouse tendencies but I shouldn’t because this shit matters. There are ways and there are ways of being sexy and as any healthy person knows, if not as a teenager, then hopefully as an adult, sexiness doesn’t need to be overt or obvious. It could involve a suspender belt but it doesn’t depend on it. Sexiness can come from within and in my mind, that includes the knowledge that you don’t have to be a porn-star-style-sex-puppet in order to get the attention or the admiration of the opposite sex. I’m old enough to rationalize this stuff. Sadly Kate Moss, Rhianna and Mario Testino, legions of your young fans are not.
Where do we draw the line? Is it healthy to live in a society that draws lines? Difficult questions to answer but I return to the words of the Daily Mail commenter. ‘I think women are going backwards in society rather than forward, sadly of their own free choice in a lot of cases’. Older women are mostly cogniscent of the fact that we have been sold a really crappy version of equality. Younger women – and children that watch X Factor – are not.
Today’s storyteller looks at similar issues, but through the lens of a man. Young men are led down the same wonky paths as women, just in slightly different ways. Which is why I thank god for the work of Cindy Gallop. You will see why here. What I love about Cindy is that she is prepared to jump into the fray with her ‘opponents’ and meet them with courage, humour and elegance. She puts her heart and soul into it. She really wants people, even the most bigoted ones, to learn and see things from a new perspective. That she can turn a troll into a friend, and hopefully a happier man says so much. All hail Cindy.
Here, today's man chronicles his own search for some sensible information.
I am 23 and have lived in New Zealand for most of my life.
Let me say first that my knowledge of sex as I matured was developed through the media. I believe that there is a particular message that the media tries to push. While it has become less prevalent in my lifetime as societal attitudes towards sex relax, I think it is still there and rather harmful. The message is, basically, that it is only males that like sex, they think about it far too much and they push the idea onto females, while females dislike sex. Of course I can’t speak for other males of my age, but the effect of this message on me was to convince me that sex is bad and I should ignore my feelings and desires. But of course it is not easy for a pubescent male to ignore his desires, so I had a number of years of furtively looking at men’s interest magazines (or to use that wonderful British term, lad’s mags) and sex-related books while I was in bookshops.
There were a couple of incidents that helped me change my attitude towards sex. The first was while looking at one of these lad’s mags. I looked at the scantily clad model on the front cover and suddenly realised how sad it made me. While not wishing to pass judgment on young women who pose for such magazines, it occurred to me that they were basically paid money so that they could provoke a certain reaction in guys they would never meet. I was sad because that was not about love. It was about lust. There must be something more, I thought.
The second incident happened while I was watching The Chatterley Affair, a fictionalised account of the obscenity trial relating to D H Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover. This 2006 BBC production starred Louise Delamere and Rafe Spall as fictional jurors whose relationship (particularly the physical aspects) mirrored that of the characters in the novel. Apart from my obvious physical and hormonal reactions to the graphic sex being portrayed on screen, I noticed two important things in the film. One, the female character was enjoying the sex as much as the male character. In fact it was the female that was keen to try new positions. This was a revelation to me, given the ‘message’ that I referred to earlier. Suddenly, I felt a hell of a lot less guilty about my feelings. Two, the two protagonists clearly loved each other, and their sex had a magical quality because of that – more than the physical sensations, it was an expression of their love for each other.
After these incidents I began searching for material that expanded more on the romantic, rather than physical, aspects of sex. I also looked for material that discussed female perceptions of sex, so I could learn about what females thought and liked. The first website I found was My First Time (http://www.myfirsttime.com) which enabled people to post anonymously about their first sexual experience. There is a huge range of material on this site: short stories, long stories, graphic stories, romantic stories. The stories that affected me the most were the ones that discussed two friends who were emotionally close enough to each other to experiment physically, learn about each other’s bodies and eventually fall in love. A great example of this, which readers of your blog may be interested in, is story number 1330, entitled ‘Polly’.
The second website I found was Advanced Masturbation (http://advancedmasturbation.com). What inspired me most about this site was their mission to be completely non-pornographic and educational, to be a repository of information rather than, shall I say, a horniness bank. I have enjoyed reading the stories written by females, because I discovered that they like sexual pleasure just as much as males do.
The third piece of material I found was your book and blog. I am particularly interested in your commentary, and the life stories of the participants, because they lend so much meaning to the tales of virginity loss. Some of the stories are incredibly powerful in their evocation of an experience. I was particularly affected by the story of the young man around my age who has psoriasis, featured quite recently on your blog. He sounds like an individual with a wonderful attitude towards life given what he has gone through.
You have introduced me to some beautiful stories, and have helped me greatly in my journey to see sex for what it really is – a perfectly natural expression of love that can be enjoyed by both sexes. I don’t think it would be right to go into all the details of my personal virginity loss at this time, because the relationship has recently ended. However, I was very lucky in that my virginity loss was similar to that experienced by Polly in the story I mentioned on My First Time – it was about physical experimentation, mutual enjoyment and, most importantly, mutual love.’