Do you think Christian Grey a violent obsessive with a downright nasty jealous streak? Or is he just another romantic, powerful hero in a similar vein to Heathcliff or Darcy? I ask this because the 50 Shades of Grey film comes out in February, just in time for Valentine’s Day lovers to bond over popcorn and butt plugs. I’m going to see it myself with a gang of other 30-something mums, so I’m thinking of making us letter t-shirts that spell out ‘T-A-R-G-E-T A-U-D-I-E-N-C-E’.
The recent attacks in Paris have filled everyone with renewed foreboding and re-awakened memories for me of the fascinating years I spent in a liberal, peaceful, ambitiously tolerant Cairo back in the 1980s. Life in Egypt and much of the Arab world, most notably Syria, has changed drastically since then. The levels of violence and anger which surfaced during the demonstrations in Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring were shocking. Although Mubarak was ousted, and then Mohamed Moris, along with his strict Islamic agenda and the sharia basis to the constitution he was proposing, tension still remains. The wonderful country and welcoming people face dissension and regression. Tourists are staying away, cutting off vital sources of income. Worse still, previously independent women are often closely monitored, prohibited even from roller skating, or being downright abused. I'd already noticed in the TV coverage of the demonstrations the almost universal wearing of hejabs and more severe abayas by the few visible women in the crowds When I was there my uncovered English head wasn't particularly remarkable or inflammatory because less than half the local women were covered, and if they were they wore beautiful scarves rather than plain, repressive black.
I was born in Iran, raised to become a good muslim. My last name was Sheikholeslami, which translates to 'The Wise Man of Islam'. I was wise enough to know this wasn’t me. I’ve dropped my name, my religion and my country. One of the reasons I emigrated to the UK was the fact that I aspired to be surrounded by values such as freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of press. When I came across Have I Got News for You in Britain, I imagined an Iran with its own version of HIGNFY would be a democratic Iran, a free Iran. The truth is people who cannot laugh at themselves are dangerous people. The world of political Islam is, sadly, one devoid of humour and hung up on self-righteousness. The assault against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris is an attack on all of those values that I sought to have, and all in the name of political Islam.
Just before Christmas, we were all very baffled down here in The Old Doom Bar about what that lot up-country were playing at. It is a commonplace among us lads to express our appreciation of an attractive female with the phrase ‘I wouldn’t mind her sitting on my face’. And just when BT had brought us broadband and we could settle down to a bit of vicarious face-sitting, the ghost of Mary Whitehouse has risen to deprive us of this innocent homage to the female body.
2014 has been an interesting year in the world of erotic fiction; sales of romantic erotica, in particular, have been boosted by Sylvia Day’s Captivated by You, the fourth instalment in the Crossfire series. Apparently, Day’s first novel in the series, Bared to You, was not only Penguin UK’s biggest book of 2012 but also the publisher’s ‘fastest-selling paperback of the last ten years’.
In our second piece on the current legislation concerning pornography, Jane Fae looks back on the UK's long history of censorship, from Lord Campbell's 1857 Obscene Publications Act to Peter Johnson's ATVOD of today. It's an alarming picture. Despite much public froth to the contrary, the Government has NOT just banned squirting, face-sitting or even trampling from video on demand. They have not even banned BDSM or pain play.
Where are the liberals when pornography is attacked? They are silent. Where are the feminists when dominatrixes are censored? They say nothing. Pornography is the great silencer. It makes usual defenders of free speech hold their tongue and proponents of equality forget their values. For years now, pornography laws have been contrary to the fundamental values of British justice. People are branded sex offenders for images they do not know they possess, whether by being sent them unsolicited on social media or because they featured somewhere on a website they once read. Quite simply, it is impossible for any user of pornography, no matter how mainstream or infrequent, to know they are not breaking the law.
This evening an exhibition of photographs of artists by Kevin Davies opens at Timothy Everest’s atelier in Shoreditch: it will be on view to the public for a week from tomorrow. At a recent show of Auerbach at Tate Britain (Frank Auerbach: Paintings and Drawings from the Lucian Freud Estate) one of the drawings is after Davies’ photograph of Frank Auerbach with Lucien Freud, taken in 2002. They are having breakfast at the Cock Tavern in Smithfield.
When I was ten years old, my mother sat my brother and I down and told us about sex. “When a man and woman love each other very much and are married,” she began, “the man puts his penis into the woman’s vagina, and that makes a baby.” I frowned. “Did you and Dad do that?” “We don’t talk about that,” my mother replied, visibly uncomfortable. “Do you and Dad still do that?” “Ariane, I’ve said we don’t talk about that!” she snapped (no doubt because, when she was growing up, people really didn’t talk about sex).