We like the winds of change, especially when they are blown as a result of popular vote, as if it means we, as a species, have evolved a little, that we have become a tiny bit better.
Ireland’s vote to legalise gay marriage is a welcome change. It is a victory against the Church’s obdurate dogma and a show of Irish people’s maturity and goodness.
In comparison to many other countries, Ireland has done well. Although homosexuality was a crime only 22 years ago, this is a good deal of progress.
The result of the Irish referendum is great news. However, I cannot agree that upholding human rights should require a popular vote. It is always dangerous to ask the majority about the rights of a minority. But where in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does it say that a country has to resort to a referendum?
In Part 1 of this article, the evidence was laid out that writers are wary of presenting sexual detail. Peter Stothard, a Booker judge, had read 145 new British novels in one year and concluded that our writers prefer to close down the action at the bedroom door.
The article also considered the psychological and cultural constraints and the idea of taste and decency.
Some writers are now saying that this avoidance of sexual detail in literature is unwarranted. Sarah Hall, author of Haweswater, said in a recent Guardian interview, ‘Most novels avoid sex like the plague, but I love writing about it.’
She said she likes extreme situations: ‘people pushed out of their comfort zones; the civil veneer stripped off. Sex does that.’
So why are other writers more wary and how much of this is to do with the mechanics of making a story work?
What is it that is shocking about sex when we read the details? Is it just that it comes in breach of a custom of silence and that, if that custom was broken for long enough, we would find it as normal to read a description of a penis as of a hairdo or pair of shoes? Or is there something in the nature of a penis or a vagina that makes it a bum note to describe it in the middle of a love-scene, even though it is fully present in it and there is no love scene without it?
There are unmentionable parts of human experience. At least, many writers seem to think so.
The chair of the Man Booker judges in 2012, Sir Peter Stothard, observed before the rash of Fifty Shades inspired erotica distorted the picture, that literary sex had ‘gone out of fashion’. He reached that conclusion on the greatest possible authority, having just read 145 new British novels. This is not what was expected when legal changes freed writers to describe copulation more lucidly. Then it seemed that the main obstacle to sexual candour was the danger of being banned or imprisoned. But clearly there are other restraints at work.
In terms of literature, some of these restraints may be psychological or cultural and some may derive from the mechanics of constructing a story.
When it comes to British politics, sex doesn't sell. Amid a war on pornography, there has been no mention of it during the election nor any promise one way or the other about how it should be treated.
The British press loves sex when it comes in the form of scandals or scantily-clad young women, but it's not so keen on covering it as part of the news. Political parties feel no need to discuss their policy on sex or pornography, so major changes to the law, such as clamp-downs on online porn or significant changes to the rules around sex work, are ignored at election time and often passed with little debate during a parliament.
Any return from a visit ‘up-country’ is greeted with at least mild interest in the Old Doom Bar. If it is to London the attention is closer. Most of us make trips of greater or lesser frequency to the Great Wen and so are not entirely unsophisticated. Still, the stuff that happens there, happens here later, if at all. So it’s worth finding out about.
The first thing your correspondent was able to report was the revival of the scantily clad female on posters in the underground. Backalong, ladies in their underwear were liberally displayed alongside the escalators and in the station concourses. Then they vanished in proper response to feminist complaints and the changing times.
Now, at least one advertiser has broken ranks. Proteinworld.com offers what seems to be a slimming product on the premise of asking if one’s body is ‘beach ready’.
‘Girl Power 3.0’ is how the Observer described Ladybeard back in 2013, while over on Radio 4, Jane Garvey hailed it as ‘stylish’. This is an unusual level of hype for any student publication, and raised Ladybeard from the masses of magazines that are born and die each year in universities across the country. It had a lot to live up to when in late 2013, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, ‘The Body Issue’ was finally published.
The editors describe the magazine as ‘an antidote to the toxic feminine and masculine ideals promoted by women’s magazines’. After a launch party in Cambridge, the first issue was distributed for free in ten universities. Then the money ran out, editors got sucked into exams, and Ladybeard went silent. It seemed that ‘Girl Power 3.0’ would suffer the same fate as its student mag compatriots; consigned to a box in the corner of a childhood room recently requisitioned by an unemployed arts graduate.
I brought three books with me when I moved to Paris on a £14 Megabus: one of them was The Story of O. I'd squirrel away in the predictably unheated top-floor bedroom-cum-kitchen-cum-occasional bathroom (I would say "garret", but it'll make me sound even more of a nob) and read it, while I waited for Ab Fab to stream. Published in France in 1954 by the appropriately monikered Jean-Jacques Pauvert, it's a dirty great romp of chains, castles, masks and leather, and its author was a 47-year-old editorial secretary, whose boyfriend had mouthed off that no woman was capable of writing an erotic novel. Anne Desclos, noted variously as 'prudish' and 'nun-like', wrote under a pen-name at Gallimard Publishers but invented a new one – Pauline Réage – for O, which became an immediate success, was banned in court, and whose author only revealed herself 40 years post-publication. I believe the phrase is "slam dunk".
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For Books Sake's star has been gradually rising since its launch in 2010. Its aim is threefold – to champion writing by women and girls, reform the mainstream media's gender bias, and to petition national exam boards to better reflect equality and diversity. As a charity it's all done voluntarily, with a dedicated cast of reviewers, editors, feature writers and commissioners. And now it has launched a short-fiction anthology dedicated to erotica by women, compiled from an open call for submissions and featuring emerging as well as established writers.
High Society: Kevin Spacey's tenure at the Old Vic is almost up, after an 12-year jaunt that's taken the theatre to as many corners of the thespian globe as it's possible to go. The success of last season's Clarence Darrow saw queues snaking round the side of the building (I know because my mum was one of them, hunched in the doorway in a sleeping bag at 4am). And what better way to bow out than on the sparkling pink cocktail that is High Society – at once sexy, jolly and naff.
Ali May’s debut collection of erotic short stories, Geography of Attraction, takes the reader around the globe, pausing breathlessly to observe the fleeting flirtations and longings of others as nationalities and philosophies entwine and people connect through that universal language, desire.
A new book about breastfeeding reminds us that them hooters have a more serious raison d'être. As an ex-marketing employee of Sainsbury’s, Melissa Addey knows her stuff: she understands how a product should look, where it should be placed and who is going to buy it. She’s a very clever woman indeed. She's also a skilful writer with a chatty manner and a nice, easy-to-read style. She's the mate who is sweetly dispensing advice, just like a good mate should. Both the NCT (National Childbirth Trust) and Mumsnet have given this guide their nod of approval.
This is a call to arms. Sexism is alive and well, and yet, as Caroline Criado-Perez shows in her book Do It like a Woman, there are amazing women out there doing their best to kick the shit out of it. She asks us all to revel in their achievements and to join their ranks. No false moustaches or male pseudonyms required. Just do it like a woman.
VENUS is the antidote to the subversive and edgy nude photography that dominates the art bookshelves. These photographs of nude female models set in grand English houses taken by Grace Vane Percy are worthy of the great goddess herself in their beauty and purity. The classical nature of her subjects is enhanced by photographing them in black and white on film, the most organic of a modern artists’ arsenal of technological techniques. Most of the poses are derived from traditional poses attributed to Venus from classical Greek and Roman sculpture. Text accompanies the images detailing the iconography, poses and importance of the ancient deity. This book emphasises the sheer beauty of line and moulding of the female form.
The step-mother figure's a handy little plot device and Leaving Things Unsaid, Karen Barratt's first novel, makes gripping use of it. Beth's married to Ralph - happily, it seems - and works as a teacher. She's inherited his history and his two children, but it's his home - where he once lived with late wife Caroline - that's unsettled her from the moment she carried herself over its threshold.
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JOSHUA HAYES PHOTOGRAPHER
is a London-based freelance photo-journalist with a passion for Social documentary and political unrest. Working towards developing not only our understanding of what is around us but the wisdom and passion that is within us all.
Joshua’s work can be seen here
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Eve Made A Wish
Eve Made a Wish
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Did Johann Salvadorus kill the Homecoming Queen? No, he did far worse…
Why not treat your Kindle (or other eReader) to a first-class read? Now available from ER BOOKS, Heart Killer is a dark, erotic, time-tripping crime thriller by Andy Nowicki.
Heart Killer is Nowicki’s fifth novel, with close thematic links to his controversial 2011 novella, The Columbine Pilgrim
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