Stephen Fingleton passes on the offer of coffee, thanks. He’s got an hour – before he’s goes off to a meeting round the corner in Soho – to impart his wisdom about sex, evolutionary psychology and film. More history professor than film director in appearance, he looks at me as though I’ve handed in a mildly disappointing essay. I get the feeling I’m about to be schooled. His towering frame sports a tweed jacket and an unexpected cravat. A bushy beard camouflages his youth of 32 years. The combination creates an academic’s air of chaotic brilliance. He removes his glasses to expose the full power of his hypnotic stare… repeat after me: ‘You will go and see The Survivalist’.
Zoë Apostolides: Tell us how it all started. What are you trying to achieve? Were early audiences receptive? Ursula Martinez: In a way, my new show, Free Admission, is a simple response to a lot of the feedback that I got from my last show My Stories, Your Emails. A lot of people commented on how much they had enjoyed my autobiographical stories and felt they could have heard more. And so that is what I decided to do. Although my stories and observations are quite personal, I tackle a range of meaty subjects that resonate with a wider audience, including religion, the Internet, gender inequality, war, racism… as well as the cleanliness (or lack thereof) of my bum-hole! I premiered the show this summer at The SouthBank in London and got an overwhelmingly positive response from audiences.
Last week, a few of us Old Doom Bar regulars and our partners hired a minibus and went to the Picture House Exeter to see the nationally streamed Greenpeace documentary How to Change the World. Only one or two of us were paid-up supporters but all of us were old enough to remember the astonishing impact of the movement’s early campaigns. We were of course much of an age with the main protagonists – young in the sixties, so there was a nostalgic element in our enjoyment of the film. The Greenpeace story is pretty heroic as the historic and long lost film clips linked by editorial narrative and present day interviews showed. Blood, guts and giant rusty whaling ships surrounded and threatened our hairy, hippy heroes – very close up and very personal. The results then and later were considerable, beginning with an IWC moratorium on commercial whaling. But the tale is also one of politics, power struggles and schism. These themes are it seems intrinsic to revolutionary movements of any sort.
There is a clear difference between the chemical aids to sexual enjoyment offered to men and women. Viagra is a physical aid. It acts on the body to reinforce the flaccid and the failing instrument of engagement. It is the equivalent of putting a sword in a fencer’s hand, equipping him for action on the understanding that he is already game for it. Addyi, the drug just approved by the FDA for enabling women to be more sexually active, is psychotropic. It is about putting her into the mood. In that sense it is more like readying a fencer for the challenge by whispering in her ear. Which maps onto the standard stereotypes about male and female sexuality, the presumption that the man is up for it all the time, if only he can get it up, and the woman’s problem is mood or failing desire.
…it is also the time of year when, given good weather, everyone feels sexy: it is the climate in which we think of hotel rooms and whirring fans in the afternoon; the consequences of a jolly al fresco lunch; a siesta when a swimsuit-clad body – which hinted at sensual delights around the pool and is now perceptually refreshed by a few glasses of wine – becomes naked on the cool sheets.
As far as socio-sexual meltdowns go, the Ashley Maddison debacle appeared to be a bit of a non-event. A couple of fake identities were released as proof of widespread hackery to a news-hungry media adrift in the doldrums of the silly-season, who then produced more hackery of a different stripe. On the female side there was much thinly disguised Schadenfreude at the prospect of millions of marriages thrown into disarray (but not, presumably, their own partnership arrangements), stuff about the ‘groin-cupping sleazoids’ and even one journalist who could not abide these websites’ ‘incitement to mortal sin’, bringing down the Wrath of Jehovah on the heads of these philanderers, as well.
This is how they shut you up. If you're producing non-mainstream porn, the British authorities are coming after you. They will threaten you, they will destroy your business, they will publish your real name and they will issue crippling fines against you. The penalties for producing ethically-made, non-mainstream porn are legion. Pandora Blake had just started turning a profit when it happened to her. After four years of running her own website, a letter came through the door. It was from the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD), a shadowy privately-owned regulator. Atvod is supposed to be the watchdog for video on demand services – stuff like 4oD and iPlayer. In reality it is an organisation which uses a twilight area of law to shut down non-mainstream porn, presided over by a man named Pete Johnson, who appears to be on a personal crusade against pornography.
Summer’s soft, warm breezes are back, bringing their own special memories: the end of exams; holidays on the beach; falling asleep in hammocks; but most of all, the first few exciting weeks of a new relationship. How many of us have enjoyed our first romantic relationship thanks to the revealing outfits that warm weather allowed us wear, the tanned limbs the sun gave us and the simple fact we had somewhere that wasn’t indoors to go and, well, explore? But when sun goes in and the Ray-Bans come off (somehow instantly losing that rose-tinted quality they possessed) we find ourselves ‘in a relationship’.
Every now and again, the wheel of fashion turns but discovers it has nowhere new to go, and suddenly bellbottoms and crop tops are back in vogue. The same cyclical patterns can be found in Gender Politics. Catcalling, quotas and ‘how-to’ books on feminism are all back on the agenda. And so it is that the question of body hair has become somewhat of a ‘thing’ lately, with the press reporting ‘hairy isn’t scary’, with a combination of fear and fascination that denotes it could well be the last taboo. Girls, rejoice! Sporting neon dyed underarms is proof your feminist credentials and a fashion forward-look for SS15. But is a bit of fluff really a political statement?
Down here there is special concern about whether an EU ban on neonicotinoid coated seeds will threaten the oil seed rape crop. Rape, apart from its colourful contribution to our landscape is apparently (do we detect the PR hands of the OSR Marketing Board?), a coming rival to disease-threatened olive oil in the kitchen. This issue was the cause of some discussion in the Old Doom Bar the other weekend. June arrived wetly so there was leisure time to consider whether to cover our verdant meadows with solar panels – like our neighbours in Devon or persevere with a cash crop such as rape. Rapeseed or brassica napus to give its proper name has nothing contextually or etymologically to do in its familiar form with the act of sexual violence. Nonetheless the term inevitably led someone in our little discussion group to mention the current issue of new CPS guidelines that enable being drunk as no impediment to a female’s claim of rape – that is, non-consensual sex.