Sex Education: A little more conversation, A little more action please.

Sex. We’re all sort of doing it- whether it’s with ourselves, or each other (Sorry you had to find out this way Mum). But none of us are talking about it. And by talking about it I don’t mean commenting how you’d “love to have a go on that ass bby 😜😍🍑🍆💦” underneath girls’ Insta pics (seriously, please stop doing that). I mean really talking about it. The real shit. The “Am I doing this right?” or the “I’m not doing it at all” shit. Which is why when Netflix’s new teen phenomenon “Sex Education” premiered last month the entire female generation collectively let out a sigh of relief when it highlighted the groundbreaking revelation that yes, girls totally masturbate too.

Tainted by societal views for centuries (although I’m damn right sure the Tudor’s did some freaky shit in their dungeons, we’ve all seen the tv shows) the arousing stigma that sex is something we should be ashamed of has penetrated– ahem – our soul from a young age. For the day you’re gifted your first training bra from Kylie at Mackays at the tender age of 10 years old, your parents begin to drill into you that sex is bad and you mustn’t do it because yes, you guessed it- you will get pregnant, and die (thanks for that nugget of wisdom Coach Carr). You’re told sex is a grown-ups game which they only engage in for the sole purpose of creating babies and not for any other reason like because it might actually be quite… nice? Gulp. You spend your whole adolescence being force fed by your parents and teachers the idea that buttering the muffin is bad, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible- all the while whilst your raging teen hormones are trying to tell you otherwise and you’re being exposed to the other extreme of the spectrum in the shape of blue waffle and two-girls-one-cup at the back of the school bus (it really is a rights of passage). Your token one-off sex ed’ class involves your form teacher demonstrating once, and once only, how to stretch a condom over a banana, whilst a class sheet is passed around detailing how if you ever want to engage in sexual contact, the likelihood is you’re going to catch gonorrhoea- and die. Do you see a theme here? It all ends up being really handy info’ that you definitely remember when you get down to the nitty gritty of a drunken Saturday night/ Sunday morning fumble five years on. Of course, you’re not expecting your parents to shout it from the roof top that dancing the devil’s dance could actually be quite fun- after all, what do they know about bumping uglies, you were dropped off by a stork and we’ll leave it at that shall we? But what ‘Sex Education’ so gallantly provided was exactly that, actual sex education. Not birds and the bee’s, or wooden penises and diagrams. But confused feelings of sexuality, the desperate hunt to lose your virginity, exploring queerness and how an abortion is not the end of the World.

Illustration by Anna Hardstaff

I’m convinced that my early development into womanhood *insert soon to exist period emoji here* rumbled up some confused and curious thoughts in me as a teen. By Year 5 I was bunking off school swimming lessons because boys in my year would laugh at my boobs when I performed backstroke; Whilst in Year 6 the girls would quip that I must’ve been for a numero dos because I was taking so long in the bathroom- not knowing I had to fish around my school bag for the emergency period supply kit my mum had packed for me just incase. Fast forward through a few years of being exposed to high-school life, hormones and and an endless supply of teenage boys and I remember feeling as if me and my not-so-teen-like body were ready to tackle adulthood, when in reality I had just tackled my GCSE subject choices. At 15 I was sitting in an Art class when my phone buzzed with a text informing me that my semi-clothed pics that I had stupidly, and rather passively, sent to a boy a year older than me had been blue-toothed to everyone in the sixth-form centre, and beyond. Nothing prepares you for walking down the corridor knowing everyone in the school has seen you in your hand-bra (no nips thank you, that really was an exclusive for ZOO). Although this experience probably helped prepare me for walking down the street and knowing everyone really has seen my tit pics. That’s spiritual growth for you. But the contrast in the passiveness and somewhat feeling of empowerment and joy of which I sent them, to the shame and gut-wrenching “my parents are going to kill me” which engulfed me in their exposé were an important reflection of what I was actually feeling, to how society was teaching me how to feel. Of course I was underage, so it was bad and my parents were rightfully pissed off, I get that. But the bottom line is that sex is inevitable. We’re all probably gonna do it. And if we’re not doing it, we’re certainly exposed to it. Perhaps if it were acceptable to be more open, and we were given more chances to chat about how we really feel, and informed of what is totally normal to feel, instead of all the ghastly repercussions that could come from it- we wouldn’t be seeking answers and exploring it’s rabbit holes in quite so unsavoury ways (Fess’ Up, who else used to secretly watch Sexcetra as a teen?). Basically, we could all do with a little more Maeve and a lot more Otis in our lives. And don’t forget about Eric either.

This theory doesn’t just lend itself to school life. From University and morning-after pills, to Adulthood and One-night stands- Sex comes part and parcel of exploring this thing that we call life. As sexually charged and somewhat freaky mammals, we are forever expanding our knowledge, our kinks, our fetishes and our feelings around the big event. What is groundbreaking for me about ‘Sex Education’ is it’s representation across the board of not just sex, but the sub-topics in which that feed into it- such as religion, sexuality and childhood trauma. Having a safe space to speak out about sex without having ‘JeSs Is A sLaG” scrawled into a toilet door or being labelled as frigid is a concept that could benefit those across genders and generation’s. Because let’s be honest, getting all your tips from Fake Taxi or Babe Station isn’t the greatest way to bag you a bang (you can have that tip for free boys, you’re welcome). It’s time to flick a condom in the face of the stigma associated with Sex and show a ‘Maeve special’ middle finger to the shame and dirtiness that surrounds it. One visit to Otis’ six clinic at a time.


Series 1 of “Sex Education” is available now on Netflix- I promise you, you won’t regret it.

New Year: Don’t Look Back in Anger

As the year draws to a close I’ve found myself musing over the past 12 months and torturing myself on what didn’t quite go to plan. “This will be my year” is a phrase which has penetrated my vocabulary and exposed itself simultaneously each time January comes back around. The notion that the clock strikes midnight on December the 31st and shunts a “new you” into formation is an idea in which I have indulged in through the seek of pleasure and to rid past disappointments. January the 1st has become a metaphor in so many of our lives; A scapegoat to the trials and tribulations of the past 365 days in which we barely kept our heads above the water. “This year will be different”. We thrust all our hopes and dreams which have built up over past ages into a new realm, beaming with the possibility that things won’t go to shit over the next 13 moon cycles. But what if this approach is only setting us up for failure? You see, the issue which has evolved within me of the decrepit catchphrase “New Year, New me” is that behind it’s glossy and buoyant exterior is the underlying notion that there was ever something wrong with the old me, the matured me, the battered and bruised through approximately 9,371 days on this planet me.

When things are going good, then it’s fucking great. That awe-inspiring feeling of your avenue into eternal happiness finally laying it’s marble tiles in alignment with your dreams. I’ve been on this path way and skipped up my sunflower-lined avenue many of times in my 1338 weeks on this earth. I’ve planted trees across the Atlantic and smelt the roses as far away as Tahiti. I’ve scattered my petals across publishing houses and studio sets, and swam in the most crystal of seas. I’ve rooted myself amongst some of the finest flower beds on this Universe, entangling myself with a unique array of species I now call my best friends. But whilst burying myself in a rabbit hole of disappointment this year, I almost forgot the tunnels in which I have ran. 2016 was a specifically good year for me. One in which I continue to reminisce on whilst stealing any potential future happiness through comparison, with thoughts that nothing will ever live up to those first-time experiences and fire-igniting discoveries within myself. Anything since then has just been catch up. A chase in which to reach the end of the rainbow that I potted approximately 36 months ago. I’ve read that some of the lowest points for young adults often affect the most ambitious. Those who set their bar so high that they are destined to fall before they can fly.

We live in a culture where we are obsessed with setting goals and achieving things; With living our lives as if they are a shopping list, ticking off buying a house and getting married like you’re picking up bread and milk from the supermarket. But our lives are not lists and our journeys do not begin with a trolley and some eggs. Our avenues are not always tiled in marble but paved with cracks and missing stones. A year of setbacks or failing to manifest everything on your calendar within the given space of 525,600 minutes should not be cast down as defeat. Of course having ambition and a vision for what you are going to work towards is a healthy and important aspect of life. It ignites the fire in our bellies and wraps us in purpose, but we must not endorse it as our only purpose.

A handful of some of the highlights of my year ❤️

What I have come to realise this year is that we are so much more than the house, the car, the job, the relationship, the baby, the holiday. We have wasted not one of our 31,536,000 seconds this year. This was our year because we are still here. I was prepared to look back on this year as a write off, a crestfallen chapter to my happy ever after. I placed all my value on my goals and achieving professional and material status. I haven’t done this so I can’t be that. Next year I will be this so I can be that. I was willing so fruitfully to toss aside 365 mornings of waking up alive and healthy as a failure, because I have not reached the industry level that I so nobly set upon myself 365 evenings ago. But whilst my shopping list may not have been complete, I have sank my roots much deeper than they were 52 weeks ago and added an immeasurable and invaluable ring of experience to the pattern of my life. I have spread my pollen further, scattered my petals wider and planted my seeds in a bottomless pot of endless opportunity for growth and hope.

This year saw me pick up a bike for the first time in thirteen years and cycle across France on an invaluable memory making journey with my Dad, whilst raising funds for a wonderful charity. For my 25th Birthday, I raised a glass of bubbles in Beverly Hills with two of my best friends and danced front row at Coachella to some of the World’s most talented artists, surrounded by people I love. I have watched my relationships with my family grow to a deeper level through strength and resilience as we drew closer whilst loving, and losing, the head of our small dynasty. As cliche as it may sound, I have laughed harder and smiled wider with my friends than ever before- seriously, you all fucking rock. I have (occasionally) beat my inner procrastination monkey to finally set up this blog (That IS something I can tick off the shopping list!) and although I have slipped off some stepping stones along the way, I have never given up on chasing my dream; I have never given up on the old me. This January I won’t be saying hello to the new me, but commit to watering the 25 rings of my life with love and gratitude; Preparing to sprout new buds of abundance and seasoning my avenue with lessons learnt, filling in the cracks one marble tile at a time.

Raise a glass of bubbles to your personal achievements of the last 12 months, however big or small, and remember it’s okay to pat yourself on the back and remind yourself of how far you’ve come in- even if that is just waking up this morning.

Cheers to you!

Happy New Year!

X

Body positivity: Can it outlive the turnaround of fast-fashion?

So you have a body. And you’re positive. Congrats, you’re body positive. But I want to delve deeper into this public display of acceptance which is sweeping Instagram and leading brand campaigns, and see if body positivity can outlive the cut-throat turnaround of Fast Fashion, or if it is just another trend to be cast aside to the bargain bin with stretch chokers and disco pants.

The fast-fashion industry is currently riding a wave of self-acceptance, with industry power houses Missguided and PrettyLittleThing taking the lead with their inclusive campaigns. Featuring “plus” (I won’t dive into the irony of celebrating “everybody” whilst listing them as plus size aka bigger than “normal”) sized girls and those with “imperfections” (Are freckles really a flaw?) these brands promise to encourage you to “Keep on being you”, but what happens when the trend runs thin, does the acceptance and positivity disappear too?

This isn’t a straight topic, and it doesn’t have a black and white answer. I know the counter-argument will be that the hope is these brands will continue to move forward with their inclusivity, and the trend will never die. But this is fashion. And what’s hot right now will be more, not, in a couple months time. You see, my issue is- I struggle with the authenticity of the body pos’ movement within the fashion industry, and how they claim to represent all women and men, whilst well, not representing all women and men. Is that even possible? And is the industry venturing into murky waters- making fashion all about the models, instead of the clothes they’re wearing?

The inclusion of models who are a variety of sizes is and should be- welcomed in fashion, and in all aspects of advertisement for that matter. But there is a salty-ness in the air towards the models who have traditionally been represented. Get this girlfriends, we can lift ourselves up without putting anyone else down. Sounds crazy right? The example which stands out for me on this dates back to when I was watching the Lorraine show a year or two ago. She had Hayley Hasselhoff, a “plus” sized model on who was discussing her career after recently attending one of the many fashion weeks held Worldwide. Both women gagged and cackled at how “those other models look like they need to eat” and that “they were probably starving backstage!” All the while whilst championing body positivity and applauding women for their confidence. In typical “millennial being offended by everything” style I sent out a tweet highlighting the irony in their display, in which Hayley replied something along the lines of how “it wasn’t intended like that”. And I’m sure it wasn’t. But here’s where it get’s confusing. Body positivity is not engrained in us. Society has not raised us through generations to look at every body as being beautiful. To look at our bodies as being beautiful. Subconsciously, we forever lift one ideal up by stamping on another. Comparison and competition is within our blood. And a couple of money-making campaigns encouraging us to “feel good” is not going to knock the ancient judgement out of us. Is it really possible for us as a society to embrace and accept our bodies as beautiful?

A more recent example of this is US-underwear brand Knix and Simply Be’s “We are all Angels” campaigns who, using ‘plus-sized’ models, launched a press campaign alongside the annual Victoria’s Secret show which took place last month. The problem with this statement is: No we’re not. And that’s okay. We don’t all need to be angels or held at that standard. We are after all, more than our bodies. This may be controversial, but there is a reason that these women are positioned on a hierarchy on this specific platform- they work fucking hard for it, their whole career’s, to walk that one show. The VS brand is built on striving for the out-of-this worldly looks of the angels, it was never created to be relatable or to represent “real” women (That expression in itself grinds my gears- you identify as a woman? You’re a real woman. Simple as) As their head of creative Ed Razek controversially stated, the show is intended to be a 42 minute “fantasy”. Now, this absolutely does not mean I don’t think there should be a more diverse representation on the VS catwalk; And for Ed Razek to argue that “no one had any interest” in seeing plus size girls in the VS show because of an unsuccessful attempt to cast over a decade ago is out of sync with the industry and it’s new direction. However I’m just calling for models to be cast because they’re good at their job (HELLO Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence as perfect candidates for this!), instead of using models to fulfil and push a political agenda that doesn’t adhere to their brand image. I also strongly believe that VS should never rule out using transgender models because these women are fucking taking over the World right now, and Carmen Carrera would slay those angel wings. However, this time of year always see’s “pro body pos'” brands come out to attack the angels with counterpart campaigns and it just does not sit well with me. We can all feel beautiful and accept ourselves for who we are, without quaffing at the achievements of others in return.

Lane Bryant’s “I’m No Angel” Campaign

Another side note to this is the argument that these VS models represent an unrealistic body image. Being 5ft 11 inches, with long legs and a 30 inch’ hip width is unrealistic to me. As is the opposite end of the spectrum. But this doesn’t mean it is unrealistic to every single person out there. Being impeccably ripped is unattainable for me, because I won’t put in the hours to achieve this, but it’ not unachievable. Someone out there will put the hours in, and will achieve and attain that body image. It just won’t be me. And that’s fine. We need to be careful with who we alienate and who we are putting down when we are attempting to applaud multiple beauty ideals. Seriously, what do you mean by a real woman? I fucking hate when people use that phrase.

Another one of my issues with the body pos’ movement is its representation of sizes. You have your slim (size 6-8) and your “plus” (size 16-18), but where the fuck is the middle people? Where are the women that me and my friends can relate too? Yes, it’s time to get out your tiny violins folks and check my priveledge, but in all seriousness the industry seems to ride this body pos’ wave for profit by using one extreme representation to another. These brands drill into us that we are all beautiful, whilst ignoring an array of sizes and heights and shapes and curves. And I’ll be damned if I see a 5ft 4′ girl with huge tits, or a pear-shaped “plus” sized girl grace the campaigns of these brands. SURE they’re using females who are more shapely than the traditional castings, but these women are still models. They’re still perfectly in proportion and fit into their sample size whilst being 5ft 11′ with perfect teeth. Of course they’re fucking beautiful. That’s their job. We sit at home scoffing in excitement that a brand uses someone with stretch marks who’s face was carved by the Gods and forget that although we can relate to these small flaws, these women were picked from an agency who accepted them onto their books because of their model-esque beauty. I’m not saying this is wrong. There is a reason models are models. But the way these brands capitalise on “normal” peoples’ insecurities whilst using ridiculously beautiful women seems hypocritical to me. Just don’t mention it, and use them as the norm. Make them as aspirational for us as consumers as any other model used is, instead of attempting to make us relate to these goddess-like females on a “we both have stretch marks” level to sell a couple of GRLPOWER tee’s.

And lastly, my question is HOW? How do I feel beautiful in your clothes when they’re still too long for my short stumpy legs? How do I feel confident in your tops when my boobs poke out the bottom? How do I “make my mark” when I can’t get these jeans up over my hips? You can throw all the two-minute body pos’ campaigns at me in the World, and I’ll still feel shit about my rolls and how your sizing is off, forcing me to buy a size bigger and feel even shitter about myself than before. Cater to what you’re trying to achieve, we are begging you. So what happens now? Where do we go from here?

Savage X Fenty are leading the way with their body positivity and creative direction

A brand who I believe is leading the pack when it comes to body pos’ right now is Savage X Fenty by Rihanna. Their debut fashion show showcased women of all shapes, sizes, skin colours, and even some heavily pregnant models. The show withheld an aspirational and inspirational ideal of beauty and fashion whilst representing all females. The products and design element were not pushed aside for a political agenda and the creative aspect of the catwalk was simply iconic. If anyone needing schooling on how to empower all women to feel sexy, then this is the brand for you. However even Rihanna can’t bypass criticism when it comes to this movement. The brand has been criticised for promoting their products using ‘plus’ sized girls, whilst their sizing only goes up to a DD. And some of the images used to promote their underwear has seen women’s boobs poking out the bottom of the bra’s and overflowing at the top, begging the question are they really catering for all women, or pushing this as an agenda to drive sales?

The issue with body positivity, is that you can’t please everyone. It is impossible to represent every single shape and size and height and imperfection in the fashion industry. And whilst diversity should be applauded, no amount of fashion campaigns can make me love my cankles, or make me not have to turn my trousers up for being too long. Brands make these bold statements preaching how we should all love ourselves, without giving us the steps on how to get there. And of course they haven’t, they’re fashion brands, not our therapists. But when claiming ownership towards our feelings through their campaigns, these brands need to take some responsibility of the sheer volume of the task they’re putting upon us. Self-love is not a cash cow, and there’s no quick fix. I hope as the industry continues to evolve that the inclusion of diversity in all forms expands and that the underlying sentiment of these campaigns are of good intentions, and not a trend that will be cast aside along with our feelings when the Kardashians decide to claim curves are out next season.

It’s been a while. I’m sorry.

Hey there. It’s been a while. I’m sorry. Or am I? I started off this blog page with the intentions of living freely; posting whenever, whatever, because I no longer have to conform to deadlines and “do-good” views (or basically having no views at all) that you’re chained to when writing under a brand. I’ll post one blog a week, I told myself. “But it doesn’t matter if I don’t hit those targets”. So Why am I left wracked with guilt that I’ve been a bit shit and not updated this for 10 days?

I never wanted this to be a chore, something that I do for the sake of it and not because I actually have something to say. And it’s not. This guilt I’m feeling doesn’t stem from my blog. The blog is just a metaphor for the guilt towards my lack of lustre for well, anything lately. Anything productive that is.

The reality is, I’ve been busy. Busy drinking with my friends. Busy on a walking holiday with my family. Busy spending money I really shouldn’t be spending. Busy staring at my phone for 7 (yes, seven 😳) hours a day – thanks Apple Update for the screentime setting, really making me feel better about my life. I’ve been Browsing and Shopping and Posting and Liking and Reading and Sharing and doing anything really, anything but progressive movements towards building my future. This is the guilt. This is the procrastination. This is the blaming having to wait on everyone and anyone else to get back to me, instead of sitting at my desk and writing. Writing emails to potential clients. Writing blogs for potential features. Writing pitches for potential jobs. Writing measurements for potential fashion designs. I know what I need to do, but the last couple weeks I just haven’t been able to grasp it. The road up ahead seems such a long one that I’ve burned myself out by doing nothing at all. The irony of feeling fucking shattered by your lack of work, lack of hope and lack of faith in things finally happening, is exhausting.

Oh, but I have wrote something. I have wrote lists. And plans. Fuck yes, lots of them. I’ve wrote lists of plans and plans of lists. I know what I want, I’m just dumbfounded at how I get there. I’ve read about this “planning procrastination”. Writing lists and pinning endless Pinterest posts to make you think you’re being productive, when you’re in fact avoiding all your tasks with pointless projects which never get you any closer to where you want to be. Apparently this procrastination stems from stress and anxiety. Something I think a lot of young people attempting to uncover their golden gated path in life whilst dealing with social relationships and discovering new truths struggle with. I have so much angst about where I want to be in my life and where I am right now, that tackling the middle ground of actually getting there feels like the impossible task. I came across an article on LAPP the Brand a couple weeks ago where Victoria Secret model and LAPP Founder Leomie Anderson shared her fear of FOMOMGFear of missing out on my goals. And boy I felt that. We spend so much of our time comparing our lives to others. Their paths, their journeys and their destinations. We panic about where we want to be. Where we are not. We work ourselves up about how we are ever going to get there, that we forget to give ourselves a pat on the back for where we are now. Right where we’re supposed to be.

Sometimes I don’t want to write a blog post. Sometimes I don’t want to reply to that email. Sometimes I don’t want to hang out with my friends. Sometimes I don’t want to go to the gym. Sometimes I just want to be alone. Sometimes I want to watch a film with a glass of wine. Sometimes I want to go out and get drunk with my friends instead of put together that pitch for a client. Sometimes I want to eat a pizza instead of a salad. Sometimes I want to go for a walk and sometimes I want to lie in bed all day. And sometimes I want to do absolutely nothing. And that’s ok. Because Self-love doesn’t just consist of meditating and yoga and going to the gym and eating kale when you really want a burger. Self-love is about taking care of your mind. Self-love is being able to sit in your bed all day because you don’t feel like moving and not beat yourself up about it. Self-love is about knowing that you’re doing great, even when you don’t feel like it. Self-love is looking after number one. Whether that’s with an Indian takeaway, a spin class or a walk amongst the fresh air. You don’t owe anything to anyone but yourself. ❤️

Friendship: A love letter to my friends.

I glance across the table as you take a sip of your drink, red wine of course, we’re adults now. We catch up as we swap stories of our adventures and glee, of beer fear and the hangover anxiety that claimed you last week, as it does after every heavy night. Laughter engulfs your face from your mouth to your eyes like a thief of sadness, and his merry men take over mine too. I bask in this happiness, the reliable waterfall of sun rays between us as we reminisce on old times and dream about the future ahead. This is joy. This is friendship.

I have spent so much of my time joking about having no friends, feeding into this gag of being alone and offering myself up as the jester. Yet somewhere amongst all the satire I have regretfully bypassed the ones who are right there. The ones who have always been there. I have, perhaps selfishly (most definitely selfishly) watched my friends grow whilst expecting our friendship to stay the same. As priorities change, then people change too. This is something I did not understand, or perhaps more something I did not want to understand. Why don’t you want to come get drunk with me last minute, on a school night, when you have an exam tomorrow? I convinced myself that my friends were dispersing, abandoning me to enthral themselves in lives of boyfriends, and jobs, and new friends, and new cities. In lives where I was not invited. But it seems the invites were always there, I just forgot to RSVP.

They say if a friendship lasts 7 years, then you will be friends forever. I have several of these friendships. I have friendships that span nearly twenty years, built on the basis of fear as a six year old in an unfamiliar town and grown as my own personal comfort blanket of warmth and familiarity. I have friendships that started on the cusp of my freedom, formed at a burly block of student flats and made between jäger bombs and the-day-after-the-night-before chats where we would all accumulate in one bed to eat pizza. I have friendships that grew from a friend-of-a friend to a deep intimacy and companionship of understanding where no secret, or story is withheld. I have friendships that evoked in an old town pub, between 80’s hits, Cointreau and a love for getting pissed. I have friendships that have formed from bra-shedding, nipple flashing and a complacency for each other’s nudeness. I have friendships which are less than 7 years old, but feel like they have been there my whole life. I have friendships founded at work, and tested in a Karaoke bar in New York. I have friendships I can call upon in my hour of need, be it for a drag show companion, a moan down the phone or a prosecco gulping Saturday afternoon, to moan a little bit more. I have friendships with those who are older, wiser, whose life experience both provokes and galvanises me. I have friendships where months and years pass by without seeing each-other, yet we always seem to pick up where we left off. I have friendships who have seen me cry over a boy and overlooked as I ignored their advice, Friendships who were still their to hug me a week later when I cried again over the exact same thing. I have friendships which have made me laugh until I couldn’t breathe and cry through tears of happiness and disbelief that these are my people, and these are mine. I have friendships.

I don’t know if this appreciation for those around you grows as you get older, but as I roll in after another night out, another quick drink, another walk with the dog, another VK, another city break or another shared tray of chips, the completeness in which runs through me feels like an ever expanding infinity pool, with no end in sight. A text, a WhatsApp, a ‘liked’ picture or a voice note. Every expression of affection soars through me like a bird of prey and sometimes, usually after three tequila shots, I feel like I could fly. The high you get from receiving love from someone you care so deeply for is a drug I wish I could be addicted too forever. The feeling of love from like minded people, from your chosen ones, from your extended family, is a love which I will to never disappear. As your lives change, I hope I will change with them, adapting and bending to keep these special people entwined within this new family tree I’ve grown. I may not have enough friends to fill a church, but I have enough friends who fill my soul. And so, I would just like to say to you and to everyone here, “Gracias para vivar en la casa, en la escuelas, en… en la azul… “markada”. Tienes con “bibir” en las Fortuashla?”. You are my best friends, and I treasure you. ❤️

Me…. Too? : Why is it so difficult to believe claims of sexual assault?

Dr Christine Ford was forced to take up centre stage last week at the hearing of Superior Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The eyes of the World honing in as they passed judgement on if she was indeed telling the truth, or not. The claim in question was that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Ford when they were at a high school party in 1982, drunkenly forcing himself on her and trying to remove her clothes: “I believed he was going to rape me,” she said. This week, despite calls for an FBI investigation, an extravagant and emotional testimony and several other sexual assault claims, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court.

The last two years has seen a movement where multiple women, and men, have bravely stepped forward and shared their #metoo stories, all to be accosted with doubts and scrutiny from the public and senior figures.

They were asking for it”, “They didn’t say no”, “They should have reported it sooner”, “They’re lying”.

Ignorant individuals have pushed these stereotypes onto victims, refusing to believe- or choosing not to acknowledge- that their favourite celebrity, friend or politician could be capable of carrying out these heinous acts. Research for the home office suggests that only 4% of cases of sexual violence reported in the UK are found or suspected to be false. Whilst studies carried out in the US show rates of between 2% and 6%. These figures are no different to the rates attached to other crimes, yet the authenticity of sexual assault reports are often immediately met with counter accusations that they’re not true.

Sexual assault happens. And it happens a lot. There’s an average of 293,066 victims aged 12 and older of rape and sexual assault each year in the US. In simple terms, that is 1 sexual assault every 107 seconds. Many seem to not want to accept that, whilst others seem to simply not care. You make a choice the day you decide to turn a blind eye to the suffering of thousands of women and men, or worse, when you actively mock and encourage the taunting of those who have bravely spoken out. Instead of attacking the accuser, we need public figures to acknowledge and accept that this is happening. It is happening right now, and it was happening 36 years ago. The reaction and responses I have read online, in the papers and to my own social media posts have led me to raise the question: Why is it so hard to believe that sexual assault victims are telling the truth?

I ask this question, because I have been on the receiving end of this hostility. 14 months ago I was a victim of sexual assault. This is my story.

I had been on a night out for a friends birthday. We’d been drinking, we’d been dancing, we’d had a fun night. It was gone 5am when we decided to leave the club, get some food, and head home. We headed down a street nicknamed Chippy lane and darted into the closest open kebab shop. In turns our food was ready and a couple of the girls wandered off to find a taxi. My food was last to come out. “I’ll meet you there”. I knew this street like the back of my hand. It was light outside, and the last of the girls had only headed off 30 seconds before me. As I stepped outside and started walking down the street, two men appeared either side of me. They’d been hanging around the kebab shop, they might have even been inside. I couldn’t remember. They weren’t anyone I had had to pay attention to, until now. They were talking over me, making comments which were gestured at myself. I instantly felt awkward enough to have to hold my food over my chest, hugging myself to try and stop them from taking anymore unwanted notice of me. I was wearing a jumpsuit. Not like it matters, but I know some people will be wondering. Then they started talking directly at me and I laughed along, desperately trying to diffuse any situation. Both of them were on either side of me, invading my personal space from all angles. My food was burning my chest through the wrapping. I couldn’t walk fast enough in my heels. When will this fucking street end. I knew the taxi rank was just on the other side of this street. Then, as we approached the corner, one of them grabbed my arm and aggressively tried to pull it away from my chest. They were in front of me now. As I tried to push them away, one of them grabbed my breast. Half in and half out of my clothing. It was a hard squeeze. It hurt. I called out in pain, in shock, in trying to get them to just fuck off. I pushed them off me and continued scuffling with them. By now I was crying, and trying to walk around them. They called me a slut, a whore, they laughed at my expense. We’d turned onto the next street and I heard someone shout my name, “JESS!” The two guys stepped away and it was like the sea had parted in front of me. I could see my friend hanging out the taxi door, gesturing for me to come in. I shuffled as fast as I could over to the car and jumped in, slamming the door behind me. By now I was hysterical. They followed and were both at the taxi window, knocking on the glass and trying to get in. They were laughing. “DRIVE!” My friend was shouting, and the car sped off. Thank fuck, I was safe.

I tried to tell my friends what had happened through broken cries and catching my breath. In that moment I was a child again, vulnerable and scared. “That wasn’t ok. That wasn’t ok” I kept saying. I was so confused. I knew I was one of the lucky ones. That this was a minor assault. That it wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t know how to feel. I had an overwhelming feeling that this encounter was something I had never experienced before. Aggressive, intimidating, being mocked and laughed at. This wasn’t just “banter” or someone playing around. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how I was allowed to feel. Do I call the police? For a boob grab? I couldn’t even remember all the details. But I just kept telling myself that this did not feel right, it wasn’t something I could just ignore. When I got home I reported the incident to 101, the non-emergency helpline.

When I woke, everything was a bit of a blur. I still didn’t know how to feel, how to act. It had happened now, that was that. I didn’t really want to tell my mum, so I dragged it out all day until the evening to call her. When I eventually told her, it was in a passive comment. “It’s nothing, it’s fine.” And I was fine. The incident was fucked up, but thankfully, I was okay. However, what left a lasting feeling of anger inside is how I was treated after the assault.

Soon after I had told my mum, a family member who was in the Police themselves called me, asking what my local force were doing about it. I hadn’t heard anything all day, and I had no reference or number to call. I was prepared to forget about the whole thing and brush it off, but they convinced me to follow it up and told me to make sure I was taken seriously. After calling 101 and asking for an update I was told an officer would be in touch. I woke up to a voicemail left at 2am and after a couple back and fourth’s of missing each other, I finally managed to speak to an officer. I relayed the story and all the information onto them again, the time, the street, anything I could remember. They told me not to wash my jumpsuit as they might be able to lift fingerprints off of it. We arranged a time for an officer to come round my house the next day to take my statement. I offered to go into the station but I was told it wasn’t necessary. They’ll come to me.

The next day came and as 10 am hit, I was waiting for a buzz to let them into the building. I waited, and waited, but nothing. I know how stretched our police force are and appreciate the huge work load they have to do. This wasn’t a priority case, I knew that, so I waited to follow up with a call until it was around 3pm. As I spoke to the officer on the other end, they informed me that it had been noted down that someone had tried to get in contact with me and take my statement but I wasn’t available. That’s impossible, I told her, I’ve been in the house and stuck to my phone all day. She looked over the records again, and as she was relaying the information onto me she noticed that the officer marked down as attempting to contact me wasn’t on shift that day, so it really was impossible. For some reason unbeknownst to the both of us, someone had either lied on my record, or there had been a mishap. She would get the Sergeant to give me a call. I waited and waited, but heard nothing. Then, my phone rang, it was my friend who had been with me on the night of the incident. “Have you heard anything from the Police babe?” I continued to relay the happenings of my day onto her, and explained how I was waiting to hear back.

They’ve just phoned me, asking for more details about the night” she said. What? Why have they phoned my friend, before talking to me? “They asked me what street it was on, as you’ve said one street and they think it’s another.”; “They said you could’ve just been drunk and couldn’t remember”; “They said that as your story matched my story, it seemed believable”; “They said that you’ve been trying to call them all day, so it seems like you could be telling the truth, that most people don’t bother calling and following it up”; “They said that it’s the lowest level of crime, so they probably won’t waste the money on getting the DNA taken off your clothes”; They told me to tell you that they will probably just call you tomorrow now”.

I was lost for words. As soon as I put the phone down I burst into tears. I was angry. I was embarrassed. The passiveness of his words, the throw away comments. I had been counter-accused of lying and told my assault wasn’t serious enough for a full investigation- all via my friend, without even having my statement taken. The officer hadn’t even provided my friend with a name. I called my family member up crying, who immediately insisted on calling the Police force in question themselves to demand answers. The sergeant was in a meeting when they called, and stated he would call back in half an hour. He never did. The next day I spoke with a PCSO (Police community support officer) and arranged to go into the police station to finally give my statement. I remember feeling intimidated. Humiliated. I had to now go and tell my story knowing that it’s authenticity was already in question, that I had already been prejudged. I turned up ten minutes early and the Sergeant came out to meet me. “It was me who spoke to your friend” he stated. Awkward silence. “I understand there’s been some accusations, I never said any of that and I did not accuse you of lying.” I let out a small laugh in a combust of disbelief that both my friend, and myself, have now been accused of dishonesty. Are we the bad guys in all of this? I knew my friend was telling the truth, and every signal he was giving off was of insincerity in a shit attempt to cover his own ass, now that he had been caught. “But the department might not put the funding behind it to try find any DNA, it’s up to them” he added. Ahh, so she was telling the truth about that though, hey. *eyeroll*

The Sergeant had to go, he’ll have to get an officer from another station to come and take my statement as none of his were free. “That’s fine, I can wait.” He picks up the phone and makes a call. I’m told that there’s no cars available, so can I drive myself. “No problem, I can go to them.” He passed the phone onto me and I was asked if I could return to the other station later on that evening instead. “No problem, I’ll see you later.” I was exhausted. Everything and everyone was pushing me in the direction of giving up, and I’m certain that if it wasn’t for my confidence and trust in the Police from growing up around them, then I probably would have. I couldn’t help but think how the situation would’ve been different if the victim in question wasn’t privileged enough to know someone who could phone up and highlight their failures.

We were four days in from the original attack, and I was not going to quit now. I was determined to have my statement taken. To have my story heard. I returned that night to a different station, one that is not open to the public, and knocked on the back door, standing in the torrential rain hoping someone would answer my call. A lady opened the door, I understand she was the Sergeant on duty and she told me if she couldn’t find anyone to take my statement, then she would take it herself. Five minutes later she returned with a young female officer who would finally after 132 hours and 3 different Police stations, listen to my story. I relayed the events of the attack to her, and she listed intensely, noting down as much information as possible. “Those bastards” she quipped. I opened up to the officer about how I was initially embarrassed to ring the report through, that I felt like it wasn’t a big deal, that I thought because I had been drinking and couldn’t remember much that I didn’t have a chance. But I also told her what I did remember. How I remembered it hurting, how scared and intimidated I felt, the what if’s of what could have happened if my friends hadn’t been there, how it had stolen my sense of security, and how I was determined to report it incase a similar incident happened, something worse, so they would have previous reports to back any future claims up. Thankfully I was reassured that I did the right thing.

My clothing was accepted for DNA testing and sent off for examination, but unfortunately there were no matches found. I was told via text message a couple days later that my case was closed. And that was that.

Much like Kavanaugh, if you asked my attackers if they did this, if they were guilty, they would most likely say no. And they would not be lying, in their eyes. Because I doubt that they will even remember. To them, this will be something so small, so insignificant. Nothing bad happened. They weren’t made to feel a certain way. They weren’t punished. No one has ever told them that they were in the wrong. Their brain probably did not process it. But it is engraved in mine forever.

This is not intended to be an exposé of the Police. This is just my story. I understand that mistakes happen, especially in high pressure environments, and I like to think that I was just unfortunate enough this time around to be on the receiving end of them. Although, I hope that my highlighting of how I was dealt with may make someone reconsider the way they react next time they’re faced with a similar situation. I am also willing, in this current climate, to stand up and speak out on how passively I was treated as a victim of sexual assault. And perhaps more worryingly, how willing I was to pass it up myself. I questioned how I was allowed to feel, and sought to seek society’s permission to my emotions and reaction.

The public are too quick to label victims as liars. They use the victims own timeline to attack them; the longer it takes for them to come to terms with their assault and report it, the less likely they are to be believed. They draw on the ‘money grabbing’ or ‘attention seeking’ label, subsequently rendering a get-out-of jail-free card to the rich and famous to use against their victims. But what many fail to grasp is that most individuals do not want the attention, that attention was put upon them when they were attacked. Supporters hang their every word off of the fact that the accused still walk amongst us, smugly declaring that this pleads their innocence, but not giving scope to recent statistics that show out of every 1,000 rapes, 994 of perpetrators will walk free. This does not mean sexual assault does not happen.

When our attempts as victims to speak up are met with such hostility, please don’t ask us why we did not report it straight away. When the pre-judgement and accusations of lying feel like another attack, please don’t ask us why we haven’t spoke out sooner. When our fight-or flight mode kicks in and we decide to save ourselves instead of every detail of the assault, please don’t ask us why we can’t remember everything. When you’re deciding if you care enough to believe, Please don’t ask us If we’re sure.

My relationship with Social Media: Make up, or Break up?

I know a girl whose one goal was to visit Rome, Then she finally got to Rome, And all she did was post pictures for people at home, Cause all that mattered was impressin‘ everybody she’s known”

The power of Social media as a tool for business growth is unquestionable. But somewhere on this path I confused myself with a business and got lost along the way. See, I don’t make any money from my social media, but I happen to have a lot of followers. I’m not an influencer, but I’m expected to post “interesting” content. Of course, I’ve put that expectation on myself; putting currency into follower count is probably where it started to go wrong. I would force myself to post daily updates to stay “current”- I’m not entirely sure what I mean by this, but I just remember reading articles that said you should post at least once a day- so I did, I’d post anything. Uploading throwback after throwback of my travels, selfies of me with a full face of makeup on, and generally making my life look pretty damn great. And it is great, but not for the reasons my pages would lead you to believe.

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My relationship with social media grew at the same time as it’s popularity. { Just as an FYI, I use Twitter and Instagram the most, and Facebook privately. } My following grew organically thanks to S/O’s from Lads mags *RIP TittyTuesday* and I was enjoying reaching so many people on different platforms, through my new found *fame* (insert extremely big finger brackets here, I use the word fame in as loose of a term as possible). Due to my job and my environment at the time, my feed was pretty much full of scantily clad females, plus a few standard celeb accounts thrown in. You would think seeing beautiful women retweeted on my timeline constantly would have set me on my way to an early social media meltdown, but ironically, this “era” was the most comfortable I’ve ever felt online. Of course, there’s a wonderful irony in this- with the argument that glamour models are bad role models for women; but seeing the bodies of my fellow peers and strangers so freely shared on my timeline with such blasé and no editing or filters, well, it was empowering. And so fucking n o r m a l. I guess you could say these were my influencers. And I sure as hell was not worrying about how even my eyebrows looked or if my lips were plump in my selfies- and trust me, I know there is some dodgy photo’s out there to back these claims up! These platforms were a fun space where we all came together on a Wednesday afternoon to tweet #Humpday pictures, swap lighthearted comments and just have fun. I remember getting messages from up and coming brands – “Hey! We’d love to send you a tshirt in exchange for a post?”‘ FREE SHIT. This was mental. At one point I was paid £50 to upload a post holding a tub of protein powder. FIFTY QUID FOR A POST. This was the best job ever, or so I thought. Of course, now I know I was hugely undervaluing my “posting charge”, do you know how much these fuckers are being paid these days? TO POST AN INSTAGRAM PIC? It’s mind boggling. Anyway, Twitter and Instagram were an exciting place; they were fresh and they were new and I was growing with them.

I know a girl that saves pictures from places she’s flown, To post later and make it look like she still on the go, Look at the way we live”

So what went wrong? I fell down the rabbit hole. The search for validation from strangers online, constantly checking my “likes” hoping my next post will be the most popular yet. And if it didn’t do well? Fuck. That sinking feeling. The confidence I felt five minutes ago when I posted it had turned into despair. Do I look shit? Do I look fat? My boobs are saggy. Should I delete it? Maybe I’ll wait ten minutes. No I’ll just delete it, it must be shit if I’ve not hit 1000 likes. I’ll just try again and upload it later .Yes, this really was my thought process. On every post. Every day. Then came the dawn of the influencers and you might as well have pitted me next to Naomi Fucking Campbell because from now on I wasn’t as good as anyone. “Why don’t I live in a house like that?”, “Why am I not in Bali?”, “Why don’t I have abs like that? A bum like that, teeth like that”, “Why don’t I enjoy eating bowls of kale?”. The list goes on. I even started posting about my “weight loss journey”, when I was a Size 10- max.

Comparison became the thief of my happiness online.

Not only am I having to Keep up with the Jones’s- I’m trying to keep up with the whole World. Which of course, you can’t. Fuck, these girls can’t even keep up with themselves. I put so much value into the opinions of strangers, that I stopped taking notice of how social media was making me feel. I felt like I couldn’t share the everyday parts of my life, the parts that made me, me- because they weren’t exciting enough, or glamorous enough, or worthy enough. This might all sound a little excessive, but I truly don’t think I’m alone in thinking like this.

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My “progress” pictures from my weight loss journey. This is what influencers do, right?

Oh God, It goes on. Having a bad day? Then I’d post, and the mere validation via the form of likes from people I’ve never met, would give me an instant feeling of gratification. This is a fact by the way. The instant “hit” from seeing a like roll in releases the same amount of dopamine as sex or a line of cocaine. So rock’ n roll.

I cannot go ten minutes without checking my accounts. I automatically reach for my phone when I’m working, and have to force myself to put it back down. Endless scrolling fills my days with mindless tweets and Instagram models that I will never look like, who live lives I will never lead. I post selfie after selfie, engaging in this constant cycle of comparison and validation, liking and posting, like I’m wired up to some automatic millennial mode. Some may even call it narcissism. Is it? I don’t think it is. I think it’s probably the opposite. A strange need to be liked by others. But I can’t stop. And do I even want to? We need to call out our social media usage for what it is, an addiction.

This light-hearted confession of my “addiction” to others is what made me take a long hard look at my relationship with social media. Instagram and Twitter have no real effect on my life, I know that, but I put so much value upon them anyway. Why do I care about what others think? Why can’t I just be happy being me? But actually, I am happy being me. My comfortable-ness with who I am right now has allowed me to be so brazen and open about my feelings for the first time in a while. So perhaps the question is, Why can’t I just be happy being me, online? I’m not sure if I’m pitching this as a rhetorical question, or an open-ended one. The answer could be obvious, but I can’t seem to grasp it.

I think in time, or that I hope, that this idolisation of others online will come crashing down, and social media will become a collection of friendly, fun and lighthearted platforms again. We’re all aware of the exaggeration of reality across the gram’, yet we feed into it nonetheless, desperate to be a part of this new-age movement of status and belonging that faces our generation. But how about we go against the current; We are so much more than our follower count, our likes and our selfies. Let’s make that our millennial revolution.