The cancellation of The Jeremy Kyle Show: Can we end poverty porn for good?

The cancellation of The Jeremy Kyle Show: Can we end poverty porn for good?

This week saw the daytime TV talk show ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show’ cancelled permanently by ITV after a guest committed suicide just one week after being publicly humiliated over a lie detector test whilst filming the show. A father, grandfather and an individual suffering from mental health, Steven Dymond’s death has garnered the attention of MP’s, psychiatrists and experts who are all calling for urgent action to be taken by production companies to provide up-to-par aftercare for their guests, with Downing Street adding that the case was ‘deeply disturbing’.

And that it is, but what is perhaps more deeply disturbing is how it has taken fourteen years of degradation of their participants- many vulnerable individuals- across three thousand, three hundred and twenty episodes for the show to be cancelled. Or how 1.5 million people regularly tuned in to watch what a district judge once described as ‘human bear-baiting’ unfold on prime-time tv with their cup of tea and toast as part of their morning routine. Or perhaps how anyone expected nearly twenty-odd-thousand guests, most seeking help with sex, alcohol and drug related problems, to be provided with top-level aftercare by a production company profiting off their pain. And maybe the most deeply disturbing of them all, is the hypocrisy of the MP’s claiming a tv entertainment show, for right or wrong, need to take responsibility for the care of their vulnerable participants, whilst child poverty figures sit above 50% in some of the most deprived parts of Britain.

Reality-tv has provided a platform to spread hate and propaganda towards our societies poorest and defenseless. From shows like The Jeremy Kyle Show who entice guests in with the promise of first-class therapists, a posh hotel and a cigarette allowance before Kyle screams judgements at them in front of a baying audience, pointing our their dowdy appearance whilst they sit in the tracksuit they’ve been encouraged to wear. To documentaries’ such as ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!’ which follows enforcement officers as they repossess the homes of those too poor to pay their bills; and ‘Rich House, Poor House‘ which sees families from opposite ends of the financial and class spectrum swap houses and budgets for a week, providing a cruel insight into the lives of their rich counterparts who take pity upon their debts and less-than appealing lifestyles, some of whom take it upon themselves to be their knight in shining armour and buy the poor family a new carpet, before slipping quickly back into their comfortable life in their sought after postcode. And let’s not forget reality shows aimed at a younger audience such as Geordie Shore, who handpicked young adults from working-class backgrounds and struck them off the dole and into the limelight; ploughing them with free alcohol and a new found infamy in the World of television. All of these shows garner Nationwide attention and aim to highlight the worst qualities of the lower-classes in order to humiliate and ridicule for the gain and entertainment of others, all the while whilst pushing an ideal supported by decades of austerity that these individuals are a nuisance to our society. And we the public buy into it every single time.

Reflecting our ancestors medieval traditions, we throw insult and judgement’s at those airing their dirty laundry on our screens, one rotten tomato after another whilst cackling at the despair of others like the sadist’s we so desperately claim not to be; Unfortunately social media only acts as an enabler to these views. I recently watched an episode of Blind Date which portrayed a lady as being a little ungrateful at being picked and who giggled along with the crowd at the appearance of her date. Twitter lit up with negative comments about this woman’s looks, her attitude, how she ‘wasn’t a looker herself’. Tweet after tweet nitpicked away at this woman’s body image whilst she desperately tried to personally reply to all the criticism coming her way by sharing how nervous and awkward the heckling audience made her feel, and that she wasn’t used to being on television. I felt extremely uncomfortable watching all of this unfold, it was as if she had been thrown to the lions and was furiously trying to crawl away, with I imagine very little aftercare on how to deal with such a scrutiny from the Blind Date team. This raised the question Why we as a society use TV as our output in taking so much pleasure from another’s pain? Watching someone else’s misery is a leisurely activity for us, our Friday night wind-down. Our Saturday’s are spent finding their social channels to tell them how we feel about their performance. And as Sunday comes around, we prepare for our own battles we’ll face in the week ahead that are, thankfully, not played out in the public eye, whilst our ‘willing’ participants (a term many like to use to support this theatre of cruelty) deal with the aftermath of their lives changing forever. Chris Lyons, a previous guest on The Jeremy Kyle Show has claimed the show “Ruined my life. All of a sudden, I wasn’t Chris Lyons any more. I was just that guy off The Jeremy Kyle Show”.

No one can prepare you for the mass judgement of others, whether you’re semi-aware of the publicity the show brings i.e: being a contestant on Love Island, to filming a one-off tv appearance you thought would be ‘a bit of fun’. The cancelling of The Jeremy Kyle Show is a step in the right direction toward ending poverty porn and the glee in which others find in it, but whilst production companies have a duty of care to their participants, we have a responsibility as humans to be a little nicer to each other; And to recognise that we are contributing to a class-divide problem which stretches much wider than the channels encased in our small screens. Would Steve Dymond have felt the immense pressure and humiliation which led to him taking his own life from just Kyle’s comments alone? Maybe. But a heckling audience and the thought of the widespread embarrassment and judgement from failing a lie detector test in front of 1 million viewers to come might have just been his tip of the iceberg.


If you are struggling with your mental health and would like someone to talk to, please contact mind.org.uk or call 0300 123 3393.

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The currency we place on our bodies: Mental Health Awareness Week.

The currency we place on our bodies: Mental Health Awareness Week.

This week marks the annual Mental Health Awareness Week, and this years theme is a topic which effects most of us, across all ages and gender- Body Image. Body image is the way we think and feel about our bodies.

Recent statistics show that 1 in 5 adults have felt shame over their bodies in the last year (MHF, 2019) and over a third have felt anxious or depressed because of concern over their body image (MHF, 2019)


Last week gifted us the hotly anticipated MET Gala, and after a Twitter Moments feature showed up on my feed of model and activist Emily Ratajowski’s appearance at the event, it also blesssed me with a Twitter exchange which got a few of us hot under the collar, for all the wrong reasons. Ending in damaging hashtags such as #aimfortheconcave in reference to Emily’s stomach being thrown around as a ‘joke’ and accusations that I was tweet shaming (is that a thing now? I’ll take it) it was clear to all that this women’s body got us all fired up. But I’m not here to psycho-analyse and breakdown each tweet- Lord knows I’m not perfect when it comes to my views and we’re all welcome to our own opinions and being able to share them online, I mean that’s the beauty of Social media, right? – but instead of hide this exchange under a bed of RuPaul’s Drag Race retweets, I wanted to sit in all it’s uncomfortableness and explore and explain why these words offended me, and Why, when it comes to validating- or criticising- women’s bodies, we shouldn’t all have to ‘ Calm down, sweetie‘.

The initial tweet was one of thousands, and I mean thousands, referencing Em Rata’s body at the Gala. Sure, she was wearing a stomach showing dress so I’m sure she was well aware of the attention it was going to garner. Tweet after tweet queried how hungry she must be, how she’s probably never ate, how is she human, how do her organs fit in her body. All remarks that aren’t that offensive, right? I mean, people are saying how skinny she looks! They want to know her secret! Who would get offended by that!? But slim-shaming, or perhaps even more damaging, slim-praising, is just as unhealthy to our society and to young, impressionable individuals as it’s treacherous cousins, fat-shaming and obesity worshipping. We wouldn’t dream of publicly tweeting about how someone’s organs must be bursting at the seams because of their large size- it certainly goes both ways. I understand the many of these tweets were meant with no malice and as throw-away comments, not to be broken down on little old me’s blog pages, but it’s not individual comments I want to concentrate on. With hundreds of women taking to social media to praise and fawn and critique and judge the body of a woman who spends a good proportion of her time championing the fact she is more than her body and image- I’m curious, What is it about the female body which leaves us obsessing over each other’s biological being?

There were men at that Gala. Many men. I did not see one tweet commenting on their bodies. I mean jeez, these guys turn up to the hottest fashion event of the year with the theme being none other than ‘CAMP’ in a black suit, and have fan girls Worldwide drooling over them. These women turn up in a gown they’ve spent months designing, going to fittings, HOURS in hair and make-up, and their bodies are immediately scrutinised under a microscope, from the way they’ve parted their hair to the colour of their toenails. It is rare that these men are subject to the vast amount of scrutiny, or validation, over their bodies as their female counterparts. The female anatomy has, for many years, been a pawn for society. Used as a weapon in this game that we call life to belittle, or give currency in the form of validation, to women who fell under it’s spell.

From a young age, I have been fully aware of the body I am in; How it looks, it’s flaws, it’s, it’s highs, it’s lows. I remember shaving my legs at around the age of ten and taking a chunk out of my ankle (who knew you’re not supposed to shave your ankles?). I remember lying to my teacher that I had my period so I wouldn’t have to take part in swimming lessons and have the boys in my class make comments about my growing breasts, at the age of eleven. I remember hating my chunky thighs and how they looked in my football shorts, at the age of twelve. I remember shaving half my eyebrows off too look like tadpoles at the age of thirteen, because I thought the ‘bushy’ bit was too bushy. My teenage years were tinged with a dark cloud that loomed over it, in a constant state of worry from my feet, to my earlobes, of the way my body looked. But perhaps most telling of my shift towards full awareness of my body and it’s acceptance within society- and why terms that are applauded on pro-anorexic sites like #concave trigger me- is that by age 17, I frequented these sites too.

What ironically started off as a sixth form project where I had to investigate a topic and write a diary following my journey and my findings (honestly, I’m dumb-founded how this was ever signed off by my teachers) turned into a regular habit of me browsing pro-ana sites and eventually engaging in content. Starting my interest in body image and Feminism young, I chose to explore the pressures on young women and whilst searching for individuals I could interview, I came across a forum which included teenage girls praising each other for not eating that day; posting pictures of them looking extremely skinny and other girls commenting underneath how jealous they were of their bones sticking out. Aha! I had my subjects. I browsed these forums regularly, chatted with girls on there, lifted exchanges and comments and embossed them into what was probably the hardest-hitting Welsh Baccalaureate essay the school has ever seen (probably?). But as I studied the behaviour on these sites I soon realised after a few months of anonymously engaging, I kind of…. wanted in? I posted a couple of pictures my friends had taken of me celebrating the end of my exams at the beach where my ribs sort of poked out, and waited for the replies. And they flowed in thick and fast. Girls fawned over my boney physique, sharing their jealousy and how they wish they looked like me. It was bizarre, and strange and a time in my life where I was very, very, unsure of who I was and what I was doing. I kind of tried not to eat much, but I wasn’t very good at it. Luckily, I was not a victim of an illness but just an impressionable teenage girl and once I had finished school for the Summer I was lucky enough to have my attention directed away from these sites and towards a boyfriend and my friends. And I’ve never visited them since.

I’m absolutely not taking anything away from those who suffer from the debilitating and evil illnesses such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or any other eating disorders, and I am no way in a position to begin to share what it must feel like to suffer from those diseases. But what I can and hope to do is highlight how impressionable we are from a young age, and throughout our life, and how the habits and opinions of others when it comes to body image and the way we look can invigorate, embody and overtake us for all the wrong reasons. How do we possibly begin to combat this epidemic of obsession over the way we look, that has been drilled into us by society from a young age? I don’t have the answer for that. But a good place to start would be to eliminate the currency in relation to our body image, the idea that the way our flesh and bones are formed make us any better or worse of a human. Any more or less worthy of love and respect. The admiration of others, the judgement of others. The shaming. The praising. The fact that a women’s stomach is Worldwide news.

Roughly ten years on and I still have a very up and down relationship with my body. I’ve worked in an industry which profits solely off of my body. I’ve profited off my body. This means I’ve had to pay very close attention to it’s weird and wonderful shapes, it’s reoccurring dimples and stretch marks. I’ve put on weight. I’ve lost it. I’ve had people comment I look too slim. I’ve had people comment I look too chubby. I’ve filled bits out (literally), and I’ve wanted to take parts away (also literally). Do I still look at my body in it’s undressed state every morning in the mirror and subconsciously evaluate it? Yes. Do I allow myself to be validated by my body anymore? I’m working on it.


For more information and statistics about mental health awareness week and this years theme click here .

If you, or anyone you know, have been affected by any of the issues discussed in this blog , you can contact BEAT, Beating eating disorders, for help and support here .

For mental health support and advice, contact MIND, at https://www.mind.org.uk 7

FYI: Always take No as an answer.

FYI: Always take No as an answer.

Scrolling vigorously through Twitter for the eleventh time that hour I caught on to a theme in which had been imploded onto my timeline over the last 48 hours. For this week, Twitter has been alive with the sound of men having to be told that no means no. And I’m not talking the deep, dark, deadly bloody serious rape terms of ‘No’. I’m talking in terms of “Hi Can I get your number?” And the answer being ‘No’ category. For something that may seem rather innocent, and I’m sure for many it starts out as just that, these spur of the moment advances can take a deep turn into the “Is this guy gonna follow me home and murder all my cats” lane pretty quickly.

I’m not saying men have a problem with rejection. But men have a problem with rejection. If that churns a feeling of anger or irate in you, you may possibly be relating to that on some kind of level. And I’m not judging you, because it is engrained deep in in our past. In women being viewed as objects, as something to own, as a mans property. Something you are well within your right to claim ownership of. Except, you’re not. I know this sounds cave-man like, and we’re like, totally in the 21st Century you guuuuuys, but this is not an occurrence which only happens in the dregs of the dark ages. You see, worryingly I cannot recall a single time in my life where I have turned down a guy, whether that be for the offer of a drink, a dance, a date, or to give my number out, where I haven’t felt the need to give an excuse. I’m just going to repeat that for effect. FELT THE NEED TO GIVE AN EXCUSE. Because when it comes to respecting a woman’s simple ‘No’, this seems to be a concept of which is extremely difficult for some men to process. “WhY nOt? HaVe YoU GoT A bOyFrIeNd?” No. Can I just not fancy you? Can I just not want to give my personal number which holds the key to the backdoor of my fucking Narnia to a bloke who’s not wearing any socks and has strolled over here after approximately – eiiiight? We’ll guess eight– pints of lager? There’s an entitlement. They want an answer. They want a reason why, like they deserve it. Guys, I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you, but you don’t deserve it. And no, I’m not trying to tease you (HONESTLY whoever decided to teach us all as little kids that we’re being mean because we like you has a lot to fucking answer for). I’m not going to change my mind if you keep following me around the club, cock-blocking me whilst pretending to be my boyfriend every time a guy steps within four foot of me like it’s cute and endearing- it’s not, it’s fucking crazy! Honestly, if a girl acted like that (and I’ll hear you out boys, I know they’re out there) you’d be marking her down as a psycho before she could mumble the words “Beeeeb, do ya wanna buy meh a drink?”

New age Feminist Icon (and slowly becoming my fave person ever) Jameela Jamil tweeted this week of her experience when a guy asked for her number and she said no, well, sort of. She explained (are you catching on to the trend here?) that she had a boyfriend. And then THANKED HIM for the offer. That’s right folks, we even thank you for the privilege now! Thank you for considering me kind sir, but this young maid already has an owner.

What comes as no surprise but is equally as terrifying is how quickly the ahem- kind gentleman- starts reeling off threats and insults. Ahhh, the insults. I know them all to well. “Don’t fancy you anyway you slag” “Didn’t wanna shag you anyway you minger” Awww, that’s the reason you came all the way over here just because you don’t want to get in my pants? Weird flex but ok hun. Jameela continued:

Jameela’ s confessions impacted me on a level in which I could relate. The “I’ve got a boyfriend” trick is the oldest in my little black book of excuses. As someone who’s stayed relatively single my whole adult life (honestly I’m FINE *insert Ross Geller voice) I’ve had to arm myself with a plethora of weapons, ready to unleash as soon as those five dreaded words drop out of a guys mouth. “Can I have your number?” is a phrase which lives on a level beyond the “What’s the WiFi code?” And just below the “Why don’t you have any kids yet?“. Because “Can I have your number” means “I want to see you again”. It means this has gone swell. All 30 seconds of it. It means you want me to invest my time, which you don’t know how little or much I have considering you met me one gin and tonic ago, into messaging you. It’s a commitment. And it’s not one I’m going to jump into lightly with some guy I just bumped into at the back room bar of Revolution. Of course, I’m not that much of a cynic. I’m not talking about the once in a lifetime attraction. The “we’ve just eye-fucked across the room for two hours and snogged on the dance floor and she’s told me about her Aunty Sue’s alcohol addition and we’re going to run away to Vegas and get married” attraction. If there’s a spark. Then go for it. But know when there isn’t. Like, erm, two minutes after you’ve met. Or when I serve you the drink that you’ve just paid for because it’s part of my job. (Are you keeping up?)

Unfortunately but not surprisingly, Jameela’s story wasn’t a one-off case. Many women replied with their own experiences of having turned down men and their reactions, and some are quite simply fucking terrifying.

There are literally hundreds of them. This is our life. Day in. Day out. It is exhausting. I used to work at a pub where drunk guys would ask my sober self for my number. I would politely decline, even laugh along (that’s another one of our tricks, we don’t think you’re funny, we just don’t want you to get angry at us), but they wouldn’t stop. When it was quiet, I would have to glass collect. They would follow me around “Why won’t you give me your number then?” “Is it cos’ you’ve got a boyfriend?” ‘Yeah” I’d lie. They need the validation. They need to know that if you didn’t have a boyfriend, of course you would pick them. And then they go. One simple lie about a made-up boyfriend and they’re off to the next pub with nothing but a “I hope he treats you nice” on their way out. You see the thing that I have sussed out with guys is that they respect my made up boyfriend, more than me, as a human, standing in front of them, saying no.

Then there’s the drink situation. You offer me a drink. I decline. You get arsey. You offer me a drink. I accept. You expect something from me. One small gesture from you, is a mind-fuck for me. If I politely accept, then you’ll glare at me every time another man dares to talk to me like you’ve bought ownership of me via a £5.95 glass of Sauvignon. If I decline, I’m the stuck up tart who you and your mates make comments about every time I go to the toilet. I swap my ring to my wedding finger. It keeps the guys away. My friend and I make a pact to be lesbian lovers. It draws guys in.

I’m not saying that all men are shit bags. I’m not even saying these men are shit bags. But what I am doing is pointing out how consent and respect aren’t limited to the worst case scenarios. Something as simple as offering a girl a drink can be lovely thing to do, when it’s done properly. When it’s done wrongly, I’m being escorted to my car at night after my shift or walking home with my keys entwined in my fingers because you might still be lurking around waiting for me to finish work. No means no, in all circumstances.

*Featured image by Robin Duister https://cargocollective.com/robinduister/filter/drawing/No-Means-No-1


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Reality TV: Fame, Followers and Broken people.

Reality TV: Fame, Followers and Broken people.

I sat down for a meal Saturday night with my mum and my friend, right in the heart of a city that was alive with glee and celebration. People sang around us, laughter filled our table and drinks flowed at such a pace it was like water was turning to wine right in front of our eyes. In a brief lull waiting for our next tray of drinks to arrive we took advantage of the two minutes peace to catch up with the social media we had so happily neglected throughout the day. That’s when my friend saw the news. “Oh my God, Mike from Love Island has died”. The news hit like a ton of bricks as I tried to wrap my head around this information which was unfolding rapidly online. I actively refreshed my twitter feed hoping somewhere that it was some messed up rumour. My WhatsApp groups came alive with notifications of disbelief as the three of us sat there trying to process how, in a World where we were naively immersing ourselves in so much joy, an individual had been in so much pain. I didn’t know Mike Thalassitis. Neither did my friends. Or my mum. Or the countless people messaging on WhatsApp. But something about this abhorrent news hit us all hard, as if it could have happened to any one of us, our boyfriend, our friend, our brother, our son. See the thing with reality stars is that they are so good at being just that, real.

We build a relationship with these people daily for months on end. We engage with their friends via social media. We read about them every day in the news. We watch their families on morning TV. We see baby pictures of them printed in the news. We hear gossip about them trending on twitter. They are relatable in all their guts and glory; their insecurities and mishaps reassuring us that we are all human, whilst we can’t help but admire their undeniable beauty. They leave you feeling as if they really could be your best mate, but deep down you know you’ll never be cool enough to sit at their table. Like the popular kids at school, they’re attainable, they’re accessible, and you can’t help but want to know what Johnny got up to round the back of the school sheds, no matter how much you pretend you don’t care. The media and the public place them on a pedal stool for approximately 120 days of the year. 120 intense days where they are catapulted to a level of fame only a select few A-List, Media-trained celebrities have ever reached before. A level which no-one, no matter how many 20 minute psychological reviews they were given, could ever be fully prepared for.

The Reality TV World is a phenomenon which is still relatively new, and a World which production companies and contestants are actively trying to navigate. Whilst shows like Big Brother were huge in their day, the introduction of social media means that the 2 million people watching at home are not just judging you to their husband sitting next to them on the sofa, but can actively tell you how much of a twat they think you are direct, online, for millions more people to see, to like, to retweet and to join in with. If you’ve been on Twitter when Love Island has been airing you will know exactly what I mean. The entire trending topics are filled with Love Island hashtags; Hundreds-of-thousands of tweets sent out about a girl who until last week worked in a local shoe-shop and now has the entire World watch her chase after a man she met 24 hours ago to stay in a game show with the allure of finding your soul mate at the end of it. Srsly, just read that sentence again. The social media World is so fickle, you can go from hero-to-zero in one 60 minute episode as #Loyal Georgia was soon to find out. Personal Home-made sex video’s that before now had only ever been seen by the two of you engaging in the act have now gone viral for everyone and their nan to see. Ex-partner’s tweet their stories about you, Childhood friends sell their stories on you, feeding into this villain character which this edited entertainment show has created of you, all for their 15 seconds of fame online and to be a part of this insane feeding frenzy which we all buy into like crack addicts waiting for our next hit. I always joke to my friends that I could never go on Love Island because of the embarrassing catalogue of old modelling pictures of me that lie deep, deep down on the web, knowing that they’d be splashed online for millions of people to criticise and point out the exact things that I already hate about myself. I’ve actually been approached by the ITV2 casting team before, and whilst the allure of instant money making opportunities no doubt plants a seed in your mind, you can’t help but ignore the harsh reality that once you’re in a show as popular as Love Island, you become public property, opening yourself up to your entire life- before, during and after the show- being up for criticism and judgement. That’s not something that your average gym receptionist, hairdresser or even doctor can mentally cope with.

And then comes the months after the show ends. When the personal appearances dry up, when no one wants a picture with you anymore, when the free gifts stop coming, you’re yesterday’s news. You can’t go back to your normal job because everyone knows you as the one who had sex on the tele. Your co-workers think you think you’re better than them. Your boss can’t be bothered with the hassle of people taking pictures of you at work. You’re at a complete and utter crossroads. But the one absolutely manic fucking thing to deal with which is thrown in the mix here is that once you’ve stopped reaping the financial benefits from this and the work dries up, you still have your followers. Millions of followers on social media. A currency which is useless in paying your mortgage, but actively feeds your ego and pets your ever-growing insecurities. You’re a someone, but you’re no one. It means nothing, but it means everything. I have dealt with this on an extremely minor level considering what these reality contestants deal with, but the allure of having hundreds of thousands of followers and feeling pressure to live up to this fake life that comes with it, posting content to make your life look overly exciting whilst you’re desperately trying to figure out how you’re going to pay your bills next month. I’ve been out on my birthday in a nightclub when a guy approached me saying I “think you’re someone special because you have 90,000 followers on Instagram”, who proceeded to push me down some stairs and follow me crying out of the club as I begged him to leave me alone, an event which ended in a physical alteration, fake rumours being spread about me, facebook posts claiming I said things I didn’t, and me eventually having to threaten legal action if the slander continued. Being ‘Instagram famous’ is such a new concept, that no-one knows what the right thing to do is or how to cope, it can be a fucking lonely place.

Seeing the senseless loss of young lives is heartbreaking for us all. There has been calls for the production companies to do more in supporting those who come out of reality tv show’s and have their lives turned upside down, and whilst I absolutely believe that they need to do more in supporting and preparing them for what lies ahead, the reality is that they cannot check up on their contestants from one, two, three years ago regularly. However we, as the viewing public who make these individuals famous through engaging in conversations online, watching the show and buying their merch’ have a duty and responsibility as human beings to not say nasty shit to people online. This is something so simple that we could all do that would really change people’s lives. Life is already tough enough and we’re all dealing with our own issues in private, that one tweet could be the straw that breaks the camels back. I fear this won’t be the last time something as tragic as this happens as we continue to make ‘normal’ people famous. I can’t help but worry about how Influencers in years to come will cope when Instagram disappears, when followers lose their currency, when they have to go back to ‘regular’ jobs but no-one will hire them as the online foot-print they’ve left behind is being used against them years later. We need to realise that we are in an extremely rare and unique social experiment that we’ve never experienced before, meaning no-one has the right answers, me included. If we want to keep reaping the benefits of reality tv and social media, we need to take responsibility with how we engage with it and remember that behind the glamorous tv show which provides us with sixty-minutes of night-time entertainment, or glossy Instagram posts of filtered Individuals, there are real people, with real lives, and real problems to deal with.

If you are struggling with your mental health or just want someone to talk to call the Samaritans on their free, 24 hour contact line 116 123, or if writing it down is more your thing, send them an email to jo@samaritans.org You don’t have to be suicidal to contact them. You don’t have to wait until it’s too late.

My thoughts and respects go out to the families and friends of both Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon.

I am not a body, I am somebody.

I am not a body, I am somebody.

Staring into the mirror I prepare myself for another pep talk as the overwhelminginly familiar curtain of doubt and fear of pre-judgement draws down upon me once again; “You are more than just a pair of tits”.

This might sound like a crazy ritual but being able to distance yourself as a person, from your job, is an art in which I find difficulty in mastering; Not for reasonings on my own part, I possess full self-belief in my abilities and who I am as an individual (Well if you can’t love yourself n’ all that….). But once people learn of my job as a Glamour Model, it’s difficult for them to see anything else. Unlike many jobs where you get to clock out at 5pm and go back to being “Just John” who lives at Number 12, I don’t have a job- I am my job. Or so people think.

As a naive 18 year old to the big wide world of the internet, the thought of thousands of images of my boobs being available at a click of a button was not exactly something I gave much thought too. And it’s definitely not something you give a lot of thought too when you don’t see anything wrong with your job in the first place. “What name do you want to go by?” My agent asked as I enthusiastically signed my first modelling contract. “Erm, just my own?” I answered innocently, not foreshadowing the collective of cold-shoulders which awaited me in my years to come. Fast forward eight years and the realisation that people can judge me by one google search is a terror which haunts me every time I meet someone new. “What’s your name?” Are three words which send a shiver down my spine. My heart drops into my stomach every time I’m asked to note down my social media handles at an interview. Most people with hundreds of thousands of followers (barf- subtle brag) would be eager to boast to potential clients about their following, riding the wave of influence and outreach, but for me it’s just another hump in the road. Another chance for someone to see my body and link it to the idea that I must be a terrible person and incompetent at succeeding. I jump at the chance of meeting people in the flesh, where they get to encounter the real me, rather than the image they’ve curated in their head from a posed picture online. All of this has led to me having a love – hate relationship with my bosom; Thankful for the opportunities that have risen from being #blessed, but bitter at the stereotype they’ve forced upon me. So much so, that when I started the transition to working more behind the scenes in the industry, I decided to change my name. I set up a fake email address and a new Instagram account, full of crippling dread that a client I email could see my lady lumps online and never want to work with me, or the brand, again. I began to live a lie, pretending to be someone I was not all because the fear of rejection for being who I really was. I felt like a fraud. Being ashamed of my job, of my body, was not what I stood for and yet I was feeding into it out of terror of being criticised by the World.

I’ve recently started watching The Secret Diaries Of A Call Girl (I know I’m ten years behind but stick with me here) And something resonated with me in the way that Hannah is forced to live a double life. She’s petrified her family may find out about her job, unable to share her career with her friends and feels shame and unworthiness when it comes to finding a real partner to date, and yet she feels all of this whilst loving the job she does. Now perhaps comparing myself to a prostitute is not exactly the angle I’m going for, but the stigma which surrounds females who make a living out of their body- be it glamour models, escorts or webcam girls, is outdated and does not represent the woman behind the role. What the show did so well was expose us to the other side of Belle- the motherly, caring and witty friend, daughter and mentor. She was so much more than just a call girl.

And I know what you’re thinking: “You’ve put yourself out there; You must expect people to judge you for posing for topless pictures” But expect and accept are two very different things. I’ve unfortunately come to expect the judgement, but I don’t accept the stigma given to me because of it. Where my torment lies is in the rationale that I don’t see anything god-awfully wrong with making money from shedding my clothes. I chose to become a glamour model because I find empowerment in the human form in it’s natural state- my human form. The same way many other women do; The same expression which sees many other women applauded for their ‘body positivity’. The shame in which I feel has been involuntarily placed alongside me, like a ball and chain constantly dragging me down whenever I attempt to break free and fly. But after compromising my character for long enough I decided I was done with the pretending, the fake name’s and the hiding. If I am going to make it as someone, something, I want to do so as me, and not someone everyone deems as more acceptable to be. And if I’m going to fail, then I sure as hell am not going to go down quietly. Or fully clothed for that matter.

I am not my boobs, I have boobs. I also have arms, and legs, and compassion, and ambition, and over-sensitive tear ducts when it comes to watching something mildly sad on TV (Don’t tell me you’ve never cried at an episode of Jeremy Kyle). I am not my body, I am somebody. I’m a glamour model. But I’m also a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a friend, a Bachelor of Science (of course I had to get that in there, it cost me £28k), a writer, a yoga enthusiast (albeit not a great one), and an extremely embarrassing drunk dancer. If you can look passed someone‘s job as an office worker, and see the glorious dishevelled, unique individual which lies behind them, then you can see passed me for “just” being a glamour model. I am so much more than a pair of tits. I am me.

Feature image copyright Anna Bressi https://annabressi.com

The Not So Lonely Hearts Club: Valentine’s Re-boot

It’s the evening of February the 14th, and after a day full of small gestures of self-love I’ve poured myself a large glass of Merlot and hunkered on down to put together this piece. The topic of being alone is one in which has graced my ‘blog idea’s’ notes for a while now, but there was something about today, Valentine’s Day it seems, which has magnetised me towards my keyboard and made me actually punch out some words.

A day full of “Boy done good” facebook posts and shouts of declaration, Instagram pics of throwback holiday destinations. Trending topics on twitter of how people try to snag dates, and reassuring messages from my family and mates. “There’s always next year” they lovingly share, worrying that I’m sitting home in despair. “I wonder who he’ll be, what he’ll do, what he’ll look like” I promise you mum, I’m really alright. For amongst all the glee, the roses and the clutter, I’m fine here alone, making pancakes with butter.

Image by Jessie Cave. Instagram @jessiecave

My Facebook memories flashed up with an old post reminder, of my housemate’s gallant efforts to wine and fine dine her. But the her was me, and the housemate was she and we dined in alone, the two singles of May Street. That night I was greeted by a “What you doing?” text, I should’ve said I’m busy, but we all know what comes next. Thirty minutes later and there’s knocking at the door “That’ll be for me!”, for that I was sure. In strides my blonde Valentine’s booty call, a bag of Haribos’ in hand, he’s not that bad after all. After a brief introduction and a token gesture chat, we ditch my housemate- I was fickle like that. Craving some contact, some romantic attention, we head on upstairs giving the day not much mention. For it’s really quite sad that we’re entwined in eachother, caved to the day’s pressures of needing a lover. February the 15th came and we said our goodbye’s, now don’t get me wrong- he’s a good looking guy- but did I feel any more satisfied, than if I’d of text back “I’m busy” and lied? I still had no boyfriend, no flowers, no date. Just bags under my eyes from staying up way too late. The fling was just that, a few times thing, turns out he wasn’t looking for a Queen to his King. So by the time February 14th came back around, I reassured myself I’ll be fine if he hasn’t been found.

It’s been six years now, and I’ve still got no date, but this time I’m less eager to go searching for a mate. For heartache and rejection certainly leaves a scar, but what is most damning is finding out who you are. I’m single, I live alone, I work alone too, and through my life lessons I’ve certainly grew. Through brushing off the embarrassment of standing alone at a bar, to travelling solo across countries, near and a far. To weddings and family gatherings without a plus-one, to realising I’ll be fine when my friends have all gone. And by gone, I don’t mean disappear off the earth, but follow along paths of marriage and birth. Pathways that I hope to step on one day, but I won’t let fear of being alone get in my way; Or force me down rabbit holes I’m not ready for, all because they tell me time’s ticking- and more. For being truly comfortable as single old me, can only prepare me for being a two– or a three. And when I fear most that I’m quite happy alone, I remember the thought of my house becoming a home. Love shouldn’t be forced just because I’m getting older, for fake love will only ever grow colder. I’m happy as one, I’ll be happier as three, but right now I’m content with just being me.

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

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.