Naked and Free: Why are you so afraid of sexually liberated women?

Naked and Free: Why are you so afraid of sexually liberated women?

It’s the oldest story in the book, and I’m about sick of bloody telling it. Man sees women’s body, sexualises it, fine. Women has women’s body, sexualises it, not fine. The male gaze is a theory developed many years ago by Laura Mulvey and its core beliefs are still present to this day; simply put this is the concept in which women are represented and presented as mere sex objects for the pleasure of- and by – the heterosexual male viewer/audience. From film, tv, magazines and adverts- (my fave thing ever is the spoof ad by Women’s suit company ‘Suistudio‘ which depicts women in suits with naked men, directly touching upon the representation of women as naked objects in fashion ads) a women and her body has often been used to sell products and garner attention. Sex sells we are so often told. But what happens when the power balance flips and the women decide to take control of their sexuality; freely and openly objectifying themselves and using their body for financial gain? Well, they’re all tramps of course.

Little Mix “Strip” Artwork

Last week saw Piers- I will say anything controversial to please Daily Mail readers – Morgan take an un-necessary and uncalled for (like all of his opinions) swipe at girl band Little Mix for posing naked- bar insults they’ve received scribbled all over their bodies- to highlight body-shaming issues in society (oh the irony of his anger towards this specific campaign) and to promote their new single “Strip”; a song which encourages women to embrace and love their bodies with the lyrics “Finally love me naked, I’m sexiest when I’m confident”. Piers shared that “young female pop stars shouldn’t have to use nudity to sell records” claiming it was tacky and going as far as to tell one member to “put some clothes on, if she has any”…. original Piers, really original. He pretended to show concern for their young fans whilst shaming the trailblazing young women that they look up to, all in a lousy attempt to hide his misogynistic views that women’s bodies are something to be ashamed of and their sexuality damaging to young girls. In fact unbeknownst to the old Oaf, his attack only highlighted the underbelly of Little Mix’s campaign that women are constantly attacked and made to feel ashamed about their bodies. Point proven, Good one bruh. But in a World shit-scared of sexually liberated women, Little Mix aren’t the first female popstar’s to be targeted and shamed for their public display of sexuality.

For as long as my FizzTV watching, 12 year old self can remember, popstar’s like Britney Spears and Nicki Minaj have been writhing around my tv screen like the sexy, bad-ass women that they are. From crop top’s and hip slingin’ jeans to bikini’s and thongs, the women of pop have embraced their sexuality through their outfit choices and provocative dance moves, choosing to own their objectification- which would have been thrust upon them regardless -in a historically male-dominated industry, and cashed those cheque$$$$ in the process honey. But the glory years of women in pop (will we ever be gifted someone quite like Rihanna again?) have been tainted with criticism that these explorations of sensuality from ‘supposed role-models’ are damaging our gender with the ever-impending doom of being viewed as sex objects. Actress and writer Rashida Jones whipped up a controversial conversation on twitter a couple of years ago where she called out female popstar’s, asking them to reign in their sexiness and as she so politely put it- to ‘#stopbeingwhores’. Seriously? Who’s setting women back now? *huge fucking eyeroll* Other women engaged in the conversation, chipping in with opinions such as “There’s a big difference in being proud to be a woman and selling yourself” and “What ever happened to class and leaving something to the imagination?” Hey guys, the 1920’s called, they want their views back. Whilst Rashida has since shared her horror at the backlash and insisted “there is a difference between shaming and holding someone accountable”, this hypocrisy of attempting a call to arms amongst the female community by slagging off their fellow peers and labelling them derogatory sexual terms- an angle which is so often taken up by other women in the name of “Feminism” – is an attempt at ‘girl power’ I will never be able to understand.

Ironically, in comparison to everyone’s uproar of female pop artists, my first recollection of seeing semi-naked women in the media was when I loaded 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” single into my PC and a music video featuring Fiddy writhing around with topless women in a bath full of melted chocolate played on my screen. I was around thirteen at the time and I remember instantaneously ejecting the CD whilst coming to the realisation this song was not about licking actual lollipop’s at all, swiftly hiding it under a huge pile of STEPS CD’s and praying my mum never found my new found stash of soft-core music vids. I have to say, Britney Spears oiled up in a bralet and trousers, belly dancing whilst holding a snake didn”t quite have the same long term effect. If you’re searching for somewhere to direct your anger, aim it at the music industry, the executives, the agents, the consumer’s, the male rapper’s who use 50 naked girls in their music video whilst grinding with their tops off and calling them hoes. But aiming your anger towards those who are fighting similar battles as you are in society whilst attempting to break their own glass ceiling is just plain lazy, and to be honest it’s exhausted.

Oh the hypocrisy: Where’s the outcry?

In other “We hate women being sexy” news, last week saw Australian Lingerie brand Honey Birdette face backlash after releasing their Christmas campaign. Not new to criticism for using provocative images, Honey Birdette have often been targeted for their sexy campaigns and shop-window displays, with a petition calling for their ad’s to be banned labelling the pics “porn-style advertising” and “hyper-sexualised”. One big issue which separates this brand from others is that they concentrate on women’s pleasure and sexuality as their selling point. DING DING DING, there goes the women enjoying sex alarm. Best put a stop to that immediately. Women’s groups and journalists alike have attacked the brand for “giving in to sexualised images”, immediately labelling them as derogatory for women, damaging to children and giving us all a bad name. One journalist in her critique towards the brand, saw her reference the recent case in Ireland in which a young rape victim had her choice of lace underwear used against her as a sign of consent, in her argument that this women’s underwear company needs to “have a responsibility to ensure their products- and their marketing campaigns- are socially acceptable” adding how the case “shows in the minds of many men, and some women, sexy underwear equals consent” Sorry, but What The Fuck? These people are so terrified of women being sexual beings that they are claiming lingerie brands should take some form of responsibility for their products and the supposed ‘message’ they give out. The same said critic also added that the image included “a good percentage of side labia” – if the crease which joins your leg to your groin is a labia then we’ve all been walking around swimming pools with our labia’s hanging out for fucking decades. Go back to sex ed’ class love, and give yourself a fondle whilst you’re at it, you might find out you quite enjoy it.

One of the images involved in the backlash to Honey Birdette’s Campaigns

Throw in Chrissy Teigen’s tweet about teem mom star Farrah- “Farrah Abraham now thinks she’s pregnant from her sex tape. In other news you’re a whore and everyone hates you.” and it’s clear to see that women are our own worst enemy when it comes to respecting each other’s sexual prowess. Chrissy continued her twitter tirade stating “Does calling this ‘slut shaming’ make you feel better? Like pulling the bully card? Ladies: you aren’t a super feminist for okaying super whores.” Ugh, sorry Chrissy, but I just can’t stan you on this one. For one, you’re best friends with Kim Kardashian so any validity when mentioning a sex tape and being a whore is void on your behalf… and two, why do you give a shit about another woman’s sex life enough to publicly shame and embarrass her for the sake of a few retweets? SURE the Farrah tape is a little, shall we say, explicit, but can’t a woman just live out her porn-star fantasy without being labelled an above-average whore?! Whether that be on one of the World’s most popular porn site’s or after a frisky Friday night down the local, this judgement and ridiculing has got to stop.

But seriously, does it ever occur to these critics that some women like to feel sexy? That some women enjoy being sexy? That some women like to wear sexy lingerie- or nothing at all- to empower themselves rather than project themselves as sex objects for the taking? This concept of women posing for sexy photo’s is not a new phenomenon. For years photo studio’s have held make-over days where every-day women get all dolled up and indulge in a sexy photo-shoot whether it be for their man, to celebrate their bodies or simply to treat themselves to a day of pamper and a ‘feel-good’ experience in the process. People pay for that fucking shit. Because they know how good it makes them feel. How much pleasure their naughty pics will give their husband. They accept it as a fun experience. Applaud it as a body-positive move. But switch up the roles to the woman being paid to wear the lingerie, to the woman getting all the financial gain and pleasure, and it’s suddenly disturbed and wrong. The mind boggles. We as women should be embracing more ad’s with the female as the dominator, the one in control- as finally switching up the roles amongst the sexes and in the bedroom, rather than attacking them. We should be praising female celebrities for being so open and care-free with their sexuality within the media, and their acceptance of the bodies they’re in, and not publicly shame them for it.

Why are you so afraid of women being sexy? This outcry every time a women sexualises herself is the product of an intense history of a patriarchal society, which has for so long solely viewed women as sex objects for men, instead of accepting that women can be sexy and sexual for themselves. The call for women to feel ashamed of their bodies being seen in public; that women can only be sexy behind the bedroom door is what sets women back and places their sexual well-being and pleasure, along with their health, in the hands of men. Calling for women to ‘stop acting like whores’ or to ‘put some clothes on’ isn’t going to change the society we are in, or a woman’s personal sexual behaviour. And so it shouldn’t. At a time where women’s progress and equality has never been higher, our rights to the choices we make over our own bodies are still in question. The next time you disagree with a women’s sexual way, agree to disagree, accept it, and look for somewhere more important to direct your anger and energy. There are better ways to fight the patriarchy and protect our children from harm than banning women in nipple tassels and getting vibrator’s taken off supermarket shelves (this really happened). In a World full of Piers Morgan’s, be an Emily Ratajkowski. Fight the good fight.

Check out my other blog on sexism within the media here

Have a topic you’d like me to discuss? Let me know! jabberwithjess@gmail.com

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Less Fast, More Sass: The Fashion Revolution

Less Fast, More Sass: The Fashion Revolution

Hi , my name is Jessica Davies and for 10 years I have been a slave to fast fashion. Phew, it always feels better when you say it out loud. For as long as my bank account can remember, I have been a whore to cheap online stores who lined my inbox with flash sales and 50% discounts. From splashing my Saturday job wages (all £15 a day of it) on Boohoo when I was 15, to Missguided hauls as a skint 18 year old student and right up to my present ancient 25 year old self, panic-buying cheap last minute festival garms’ on PrettyLittleThing; it may come as a surprise to some of you but I am a huge bargain hunter when it comes to fashion. 95% of the time I’ll only ever buy if there’s a sale on or if I have a discount code. Seriously, has anyone ever sorted their browsing by Price High>>>Low?! I am constantly scouring the internet for 20% off coupons and a last minute under £20 night-out look that I can spruce up by painting a decent face and throwing on some trusty *bigger the hoop, bigger the hoe'” hoops.

My flat is filled with Ikea bags over-flowing with clothes, clothes that I barely even like, clothes that I brought because I would rather spend £15 on a dress I tolerate than upload a picture on Instagram of me in the same dress I wore out two months ago. I will openly admit that I have bought more clothes than I need, more clothes than I could ever use. And the problem is, brands have made it so fucking easy for me to do this, I would even say they encourage it. Enticing me with secret sales and infiltrating my phone with their apps and early access codes; paying influencers to front their campaigns and flooding my social media with promotions and celebrity “edits”. Instagram has exploded fast-online fashion to astronomical sales, but what may have been on-trend this week, can end up in the basement bin by tomorrow morning. Because as soon as Kylie Jenner stops wearing it, we all move onto the next style like an army of cycling-short baring, corset-wearing disciples, desperate to grasp on to some sense of celeb’ luxury without the burden of luxury prices. So where does all our unwanted, throw-away cheap clothes end up? The answer doesn’t lie in fobbing’ off all our shitty items to charity shops anymore because well, they’re just shitty. The cool kids that shop in thrift stores are searching for garm’s worthy of an Instagram post, not a faded graphic tee adorned with last months phrase of the week (RIP to all the Love Island T-shirt’s, but srsly, please stop buying these) and unfortunately the reality is, most of our £3 tee’s end up in swanning around in landfill. In fact, it is estimated that £140million worth of clothing goes into landfill each year. So exactly what burden is this forever changing, cheap fashion having on our World? And what can we do to help change this?

The other week I watched Stacy Dooley’s new documentary, where she investigates fashions dirty secrets and dives into just how much damage throw-away fashion is having on our planet. One of the most-shocking finds in the doc’ was that fashion is the second most-polluting industry in the World, alongside the oil, coal and automotive industry. Another staggering statistic from the show was that it could potentially take over 15,000 litres of water to grow the cotton need to make a single pair of jeans. An insane figure in which I could never fathom when I ‘throw’ on (I wish it was this easy to get a pair of jeans over this ass- and those cankles) my pair of £20 ASOS jeans. Toss in some breath-taking imagery of a dried up sea-bed in Kazakhstan due to water being diverted to fend for cotton fields, and visiting one of the World’s most polluted rivers in Indonesia which runs alongside some of the most in-demand clothing factories used by top High-Street brands, and it is clear to see the substantial impact our desire for low cost, seasonal fashion clothing is having on the environment. So what are the big brands doing about this? Well, unfortunately not a lot it seems. Many of the top names including Primark, ASOS and Topshop all refused to provide a comment on their commitments, or lack of, to help maintain a more sustainable fashion industry. And this is where our call to arms comes in, folks.

After this aggressive wake-up call to the impact my shopping habits are having on our planet, I’ve tried desperately to cut down my purchases on the sites mentioned in this post. I’ve turned off notifications to the apps and forced them into a small folder on my phone where they’re not constantly staring back at me (No, I haven’t completely deleted them yet- baby steps). I’ve revisited my wardrobe and picked out some of my favourite pieces I already own- some which still have the tags on them- and started wearing them more than once. I even posted an Instagram pic in the same outfit this week- BIG MOVE MY FRIENDS. And you know what? No one batted an eyelid.

Outfit Recycling. January 2018, November 2018.

But perhaps my favourite (definitely my favourite) conscious fashion change I have made so far is my switch to shopping in vintage stores. Dye my hair pink and call me a #hipster, for I have sinned against the high-street giants. I’ve always loved vintage-esque’ clothes: oversized printed shirts, floral dresses and baggy Levi’ jackets are all staples I have adopted into my wardrobe over the years but the popularity of #retro garms has seen the price for anything listed as “vintage” soar on sites like Depop and Ebay to levels my tight-pocketed self could not correspond with. This is where my new found love of kilo-sales comes in. Kilo sales are where you pay per the weight of your items, instead of each item holding a value. This is the holy grail of my fashion whore-ness. Low price, staple-making fashion which is sustainable and recyclable. UNHHHH. These take place in pop-ups around the country, and as more permanent stores. Also, don’t rule out charity shops to find some hidden gems. The great thing about clothing is that it can be washed *shock face* so buying something second hand really isn’t the end of the World. It’s time for a Fashion Revolution. Raid your parents, your grandparents (it’s okay, this is cool now), your siblings wardrobes. Swap and switch your clothes with your friends. Say au revoir to the shaming of wearing clothes more than once and welcome the feeling of falling in love with your clothes again. I’m not declaring that I’m going to stop shopping in high-street or online stores anymore because well, I’m a realist, and I’m a sucker for on-trend fashion and good deals. In fact, *confession* time, but whilst researching some flash sales for this blog post I was drawn in by NastyGal’s 50% off store-wide offer and ordered two dresses well, just because I liked them. I’m an addict in recovery guys, I haven’t made it over the hill yet. But next time you buy something off these sites or high-street stores, especially in the thrill of Black Friday season, buy it because you love it, and because you’re going to wear it until it falls apart, and not because it’s a quick fix outfit for a Saturday night, or just because it’s on sale. Those trends wear thin pretty fast.

Keep an eye out for my posts on my vintage finds coming soon.

Check out wrap.org.uk for more information on sustainable fashion.

“Not another mean comment”: What makes you press send?

“Not another mean comment”: What makes you press send?

The phrase “trolling” is one in which we’ve all become accustomed to since the rise of the 14th district we so lovingly call social media. It’s meaning has seasoned like the funk off some old cheese, tangled in a web of twitter spats and matured through countless blockings on Instagram. It is described by both Wikipedia and the Urban dictionary as an act which see’s people (dickheads) start quarrels and cause upset on the internet by posting “inflammatory and digressive, extraneous or off-topic messages” with the intent to start an argument and provoke a totes-emosh response. Or in simple terms, it’s people being dickheads. But what about when people aren’t saying mean stuff to start arguments or provoke a response? What about when people are just saying mean stuff to well, be mean?

A couple of weeks back I wrote a piece on here about my Life as a Glamour model and accepting your career is over at 25. I dived into the deepest pits of my stomach and laid myself bare for the World- or to the thousand odd people who read this blog- to see. And come thru Miss Worldwide because this led to me being contacted by a Welsh online News site who wanted to run a feature on me about my blog post and what I was up to now. Never one to seize an opportunity to talk about myself (jks my friends, I’m trying to re-brand myself here, a girl needs press) I was more than happy to oblige. Fast-forward to last week and a reporter and photographer showed up on my door. We chatted away casually whilst I overshared my life and once again laid myself bare for the World- or some of Wales – to see. I spoke openly about being a young woman struggling to find my way in life; I delved into being a proud feminist and how we should encourage women to do what they like with their bodies and I boldly discussed how upsetting online abuse and judgement from strangers can be. In fact,the exact words I poured over in the video coverage were:

“The worst bit (about my career), is you do get, you know, a lot of people judging you which people will say well you kind of expect it but it’s one of them things that when people are commenting on you as a person when they’re just strangers, it’s hard to kind of just, ignore it and you kind of take it to heart”

My feelings sprawled across this article as if I were opening up to my closest friends and I eagerly awaited my story to be shared as to find comfort in the hope that I am not the only one out there trying to find my way. But as the post went live this “worst bit” in which I had shared my fears and tried so often to ignore came flooding back in written form.

Shared online without a care in the World was judgement after judgement, comment after comment of unnecessary opinions and hurtful words. I don’t believe you should “expect” people to say mean shit to you online just because your in the public eye of some sort. The job role doesn’t come listed with a mandatory kick in the teeth for every three positive comments you might get. I am not superhuman, and as I told you time and time again in the article in which you’re barrage stemmed from, this hurts. Now, I don’t live in la-la land. Everyone has an opinion and everyone passes judgement. I get that. But what I don’t get is how having an opinion in your mind or bitching amongst your friends (we all do it, again I am not superhuman) has transformed to beholding a sense of entitlement that you can share this opinion so fucking openly online, direct with the one you’re bitching about, with apparently no conscience. Did your mum never teach you that if you haven’t got anything nice to say, then don’t say it at all? Or at least have the decency to say it behind my back? The internet has created a safe space for bullies to share their inner saboteur to the World with no consequence or compassion. If people said this kind of stuff to your face in a public place they would be called out and vilified for being a crappy person. But because these comments are made online you’re expected to take them as part and parcel of the job, or of life for that matter. It’s all part of the game. But neeeeewsflash, playing with somebodies emotions is not a game that entices most humans with a moral compass.

After having an online presence for 6+years, being on the receiving end of mean comments is nothing new to me. Whenever I discuss trolling with people, friends, journalists; I laugh it off and take it on the chin. Everyone tells me I deal with it so well. But the reality is that I don’t have much choice. If I didn’t, I’d be a shell of a person. Being judged and having your flaws pointed out to you by other women whilst the World rides the wave of Girl Power and Self-Love is a beautiful blanket of bitter-sweetness. Comments from men about my looks can relatively be tossed aside with the excuse that they’re just being jerks because they can’t get in your pants, or because they just fucking hate women 🙃. But the remarks from other females seem to cut deeper within, carving out the memories I’ve pushed to the back of my brain of girls in school scrawling my name alongside the word slut on the bathroom walls. These fellow women are all facing similar battles in life as me and yet take the time out of their day to stamp out these words on their keyboards with no other possible outcome than to make me feel shit, or to what, make them feel….better?

They’re just jealous” is a saying in which many have tried to comfort me with over the years. But I don’t believe this is ever really the case. I have scoured the internet for some “professional” explanation of trolling, some sort of psychological justification in which to prove their actions anchor from deep within. But I can’t really seem to find any. Joe Boyd, a writer for Huffington Post describes it as a “virtual road-rage“. You feel safe to say whatever you want within the comfort of the four doors which armour you, but would you really go that extra-step of getting out of the car and saying something to them in person? Some of the other reasons he gave where that it is comforting, it is free entertainment, it is power, it is boredom, and ultimately- it is natural. For unfortunately, some people just can’t help themselves from being dicks.

A comment I received on one of my blogs recently.

A few weeks ago as I was trying to relax in the the bath with a glass of red and £4.95 Lush Bath Bomb (I had planned this bath for days honey) I was interrupted by my phone and the sweet sound of a notification. I opened up my emails and was confronted by the comment above staring back at me. As I sat there alone in my flat, I honed in on this attack of my body, my personality, my feelings that I had so honestly shared with the World. I read them over and over again until, I just cried. These words had invaded my personal space and I had no option but to engage with them. I tried to salvage what was left of my relaxing bath plan- thanks a fucking lot those bath bombs aren’t cheap- and attempted to pull myself together, sending the email to my junk mail and disapproving the comment on WordPress. But as I settled back in with a much needed sip (gulp) of merlot, my phone pinged again with another infringement on my inbox and those words greeted me once more as the poster so desperately attempted to make his feelings known. This time I sent the comment straight to the trash, only for my phone to be infiltrated once more, forty-five minutes later with a third attempt at leaving the same comment about my (once) very fat tits. But now I just laughed. Your life seems great, hun. Best of luck.

All it takes is a simple scroll. A scroll in which would preserve your dignity and keep my emotions intact. But so many people choose not to scroll. Why? The internet has become a thief of reality for those who are lost and those who are lonely. Their boredom lines their hateful words which acts as a coat of arms to their inner collaborator of unhappiness. They spout about freedom of speech as if these three words give them a get-out-of-jail-free card for having the human right to comment on how your weight loss has made your tits saggy. Well guess what Karen* (insert standard ‘Can I see the manager’ name to fill this role) the Freedom of speech isn’t there so you can spend your lunch break spouting shit online to make people feel bad. I don’t know what else I can add, but it really isn’t rocket science folks. Mean comments hurt people’s feelings and there is a human being behind your screen who will carry those comments with them a lot longer than the thirty-seconds it took you to write it.

I’m going to leave you with this inspiring comment which unfortunately *cough* was not made about me but one of my friends, because trolling does not discriminate, we are all fair game to these people. I’m all of a sudden peckish for some pudding, you in?

WE’VE GOT TO STOP CALLING EACH OTHER SLUTS AND WHORES. Or do we?

WE’VE GOT TO STOP CALLING EACH OTHER SLUTS AND WHORES. Or do we?

Feminist Icon Amber Rose popped off on Instagram last month, calling out the double-standard that she faces from brands who seem to endorse and take influence from her “slutwalk” movement, whilst refusing to acknowledge or book her due to her past life as a stripper. Amber also called out her ex Kanye West and rapper Lil Peep for their recent song “I love it”. Quoting the lyrics, Amber said on Instagram Two men made a song that said ‘you’re such a fucking hoe I love it’ but if I refer to myself as a hoe, take back any derogatory label and turn it into a positive or be confident in my sexuality in anyway mufuckas need 30 showers“. The “30 showers” comment is a direct reference from when Ye’, whilst trying – and failing – to big his current wife Kim Kardashian up in an interview, shared that “It’s very hard for a woman to want to be with someone that’s with Amber Rose… I had to take 30 showers before I got with Kim”. As if 30 showers could solve all of Kanye’s problems. Ambers insta “rant” (is it really a rant if you’re pointing out the obvious?) isn’t just reflective of her own personal experiences, but of the double standard women face in the media and society everyday. As Ye’ and Lil Peep’s song about getting their junk’ seen too hit the Top 3 of the UK charts, this contradictory standard which exists between men and women as sexual beings, or more importantly as the owner of their sexuality, had me thinking back to my uni’ dissertation where I explored a similar topic of gender inequality and if it is ever possible for women to objectify themselves, and take back control of their sexuality.

A protester at the Amber Rose “Slut Walk”

“I love it” isn’t ground breaking in its lyrics (soz Kanye). Rappers have been singing about fuckin’ “ho’s” since before Lil bo Peep was born. But why do we, as women, lap up this plain disrespect? Females being referred to as sluts and whores by men in the music industry has become such blasé practice that by-day we post Instagram quotes about being strong-willed independent women and, as the clock strikes 9pm we’re twerking to lyrics about giving Flo-Rida’s whistle a seeing to and 60 year-old Snoop dogg wanting to fuck us. Every other rap or hip-hop song mentions bonking and bitches’, but it’s the outfits and dance moves of female rappers’ that are being called out for indecency and being ‘trashy’. When women, such as Nicki Minaj and Cardi B sing so brazenly about enjoying sex just like their Male counterparts, they’re labelled as “slutty” and bad role models for young girls. Yet no one is out here throwing down derogatory sexual terms about male entertainers, we all just accept it as the norm. That and their five baby mamma’s. So Why do women get slut-shamed?

This hypocrisy amongst genders and sexuality isn’t limited to the music industry. The term “slag” is one of which I became a victim of very early on in my life. I distinctly remember being 11-years old and in Secondary school, yet to have my first kiss, but being harassed on msn and followed around the corridors by older girls calling me a slag. This word continued to follow me around my whole school life. It was commented below pictures of me on Bebo and I was harassed at school. You’re a slag because my boyfriend of two days nudged you on msn. Alright Hun. Why aren’t you calling your boyfriend a slag too? My sex life, or lack of it, became such an interest of topic to total strangers at such an early age that these phrases of “slag, slut and whore” lost all value to me by the time I was 16. This is probably one of the reasons why people’s judgement of me as a topless model meant so little to me. I know that they hold no value to me as a person. We’re all aware of the typical view, where men are praised for their bedpost accomplishments whilst promiscuous women are frowned upon. If my friends patted me on the back and gave me a hi-five in the pub for being a top shagger, every man within a 50mile radius would instantly strike me down as “not wifey material”. But why does a women’s sex life affect how she’s judged as a person, more than a guys does? And I don’t want to hear the ‘loose’ excuse boys. A vagina does not lose shape any more after 100 penises, than it would after the same penis, 100 times. *EYEROLL TO THE LACK OF BASIC HUMAN BIOLOGY*

It’s not just our fellow peers who are not-so-silently judging our sex lives. Did you know that female ejaculation is banned from porn in the UK? Yep that’s right. Women getting it off has been banned by the British Board Of Film Classification under the “extreme” acts category. Other female strong-hold acts to be banned for being too hardcore and offensive include many typical dominatrix scenes including face-sitting and spanking, along with anything involving menstrual blood. Are you uncomfortable yet? Imagine being a fly on the wall when a group of old dudes came together to decide that seeing a woman orgasm is offensive. Something you haven’t seen before boys? Of course, the main uproar in all of this is that Male ejaculation is still perfectly legal and acceptable. OF COURSE IT FUCKING IS. Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon described the significance of visible male ejaculation and the possible reasons for its god-like status as standard viewing in porn: basically, it is an expression of male dominance. Anything other than your Male cum shot is a fetish, abnormal so to speak, and that includes the female orgasm.

Throw in the double-standard of Lads Mags being banned for their sexual nature whilst Women’s Lifestyle mags include a “Torso Of The Week” feature and I think you get where I’m going with this. For centuries women have been viewed as nothing more than sexual objects, existing thru the male gaze for a man’s pleasure with the aim to reproduce. But somewhere along the line some bad-ass women decided that hey, women are sexy and we enjoy sex too. So what if we are all sluts? Is that really such a bad thing? It doesn’t seem to be for guys. Tina Fey aka Ms Norbury once stated “…you all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores. And she’s right, sorta. Except we as women have no responsibility for how men behave. It’s not our fault that guys call us these names. But what we do need to do is say au revoir to the shaming segment of “slut-shaming”. We need to banish the negative value we give to such phrases when we put those labels on each other and instead claim them as our own as proud sexual beings so that men, and women, can’t use them to hurt and de-value us. Amber Rose’s slut-walk movement holds a lot more power than she is being given credit for. It’s representing women re-claiming their sexuality from a typical patriarchal society and encouraging females to enjoy sex again, without any shame. More Pussy Power to it, I say.

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

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.

Tits up: The Rise (and Fall) of How I became a Glamour model.

Tits up: The Rise (and Fall) of How I became a Glamour model.

Surprisingly, I hadn’t always wanted to be a Glamour model. For a good chunk of my childhood I wanted to be a pop star. God I loved singing. Problem was, I’m bloody awful. I could do a whole blog post on the embarrassing mishaps my cursed voice has brought upon me. Getting laughed off stage at my 10th birthday party when I attempted an Sclub 7 classic on the Karaoke. Being ordered to mime in the school choir. And my personal favourite, being told by my teacher at 9 years old that “If I was a good friend”, I would let my best mate (who could actually sing) duet with someone else at the Eisteddfod. HEARTBREAKING. Anyway, it soon became apparent after constantly (honestly, could people not just lie to protect my feelings?) being told that I couldn’t sing, that I needed to find another way to “make it”.

Then it came to me. I was going to be a model. God bless my teenage confidence, I don’t know where it came from, I didn’t exactly look like Cindy Crawford at 13 years old. But I was pretty damn certain I could do it. I was scouted” at the Clothes Show in Birmingham for one of those Teen Queen competitions when I was about 14. I was seriously excited at the time, but it soon turned out to be one of those happenings where you pay £500 for the photos (chrz Dad) to then be told “you didn’t get through this time”. But nonetheless, having my first real photoshoot only stimulated my desire to be a model even more. THIS WAS MY PATH. There was only three things standing in my way. My height (obvious). And these two huge things that had grown on my chest (even more obvious).

One of the self-timer images I sent off to agencies

I applied to agency after agency, and even took part in some beauty pageants (come through Miss Wales Finalist 2010), but I kept getting the same response:

You should try Glamour modelling”.

They all enthusiastically pushed my eager, just-turned 18years old self towards the world of Glamour. And I wasn’t mad about it. I loved Jordan in her Peter Andre, braided hair days. Maybe they were right, maybe this was my calling. I sent a few amateur pictures off that I’d taken on self-timer to a Glamour model agency in London, and after getting a call back I dragged my friend down on the train and I met who was soon to become my agent. The wheels were finally rolling.

Serving up beauty queen realness at a Teen Pageant

My first real breakthrough in Glamour modelling came a few weeks later when I was on the train from Cardiff to London for a casting with Nuts magazine. I hadn’t even reached London yet when my agent called “Nuts want to shoot you today!” What! I couldn’t believe it. “They’re not going to bother casting you, they want to shoot you right now for their Next Top Model feature. There’s going to be a car waiting for you at the station to take you to the location. Have fun!”. Fuck. This was it. It’s happening! I’d never had a driver pick me up before. I don’t even think they have those kind of services in West Wales. I was so excited. I had a boyfriend at the time. He was less excited. In fact, he was fuming. He thought I’d lied and that I knew I had a shoot all along. I hadn’t of course, but I didn’t even care, I’d wanted to be a model for so long and it was finally coming true.

I spotted the driver in Paddington station holding up a sign with my name on it- (SO cool) – and he drove me to a huge townhouse in London. “We’re here, Miss!”. Erm, yeah thank you. Did I have to pay this guy? I couldn’t afford too. I just shuffled off quickly and hoped he didn’t follow. I remember what seemed to be a hidden garage doorway opening, and being greeted by a few guys who worked for Nuts. “Come in! We’re just having pizza.” I will never forget the site that I was met with that day when I walked in- all bushy tailed and bright-eyed. There in the kitchen were three, maybe four, beautiful models eating pizza in just a thong. This was every teen boys fantasy. I COULD SEE NIPPLES. I don’t think I’d ever seen another woman’s nipples. I didn’t know where to look. Am I supposed to make eye contact? God, keep cool Jess. It was like being the new kid at school, but luckily everyone was so friendly and welcoming. I barely said a word. I think there was a mutter of how I’d come all the way from Wales. Welsh girls very rarely leave the valleys you see. I was sent straight upstairs into hair and make-up. I’d never had my make-up done before. I felt like Béyonce. This world was so new to me. It was all so g l a m o r o u s. The house was spread across three floors and everything was painted white. How very minimalistic. These Londoners knew how to decorate. The photographer was a woman, phew, that eased my nerves a bit. I was decked out by the stylist (honestly, it just gets fancier) in black lingerie- suspenders n’ all, and thrust, quite literally, into the spotlight.

A shot from my first Nuts magazine shoot

God, I loved it. I felt so sexy, so confident, so beautiful. That feeling that comes over you when you’ve had your hair and make-up done, outfits chosen for you and been pampered and primped to an inch of your life whilst being told how great you look by a whole team of people is indescribable.

At that moment, you really believe your hype, and it shows through the lens. I guess that’s how they get great pictures. But then all of a sudden the hype came crashing down. “Okay, can you take the bra off now please?” What? Fuck. I hadn’t agreed to go topless. I hadn’t really discussed anything, it was such a whirlwind morning of excitement that I hadn’t even asked what the shoot would entail. Naive as it may have been, I was only eighteen and new to this whole world and didn’t know what to expect. I’d told my agent when I first signed with the agency that I wasn’t going to do topless, and I naively assumed that they would have relayed this slightly important detail onto the client.

“Um, erm, I, um don’t do topless sorry” I mumbled. Awkward silence. I continued to tell them how I couldn’t do topless as I was scheduled to take part in another beauty pageant in a couple months, and they had banned anyone who had posed nude or topless. Power to all females, right? *eyeroll*. The team let me take a break to call my agent who assured me that this was a huge opportunity for me, that they’d booked me without even seeing me, that I should just do it. But I stood my ground- Rule #1.

I learnt very early on that if you were going to survive in this industry, you needed to be strong and assertive when it came to marking out your line of what you will and won’t do. I think this is where some girls went wrong and ended up having bad experiences. I know of a few who were too shy or embarrassed to say that they were uncomfortable doing a certain shot or pose on set, and then would contact the photographer or client afterwards asking them not to use those shots of them. This would piss the client off because they’ve just wasted their time getting pictures they can’t use, and have to sift through thousands of shots picking out the ones you don’t approve. It was much easier, however awkward it may feel at the time (and it really does feel awkward standing their practically naked trying to explain yourself to a group of strangers), for you to just to say “Sorry, I’m not comfortable doing that” and then you could all move on and find a different solution together. This is what me and the team at Nuts did. We met at a compromise of implied topless, so bra off, nipples covered. This reluctancy to show everything right away actually proved to be a positive and became my main selling point in the industry, leading to me being offered lucrative deals from mags for my “first big reveal”.

I have to point out that the level of mutual respect between everyone on set, not just of this particular shoot, but every professional lads mag shoot I’ve worked on, was unquestionable. This is one of the reasons why I think the loss of Nuts and Zoo is such a shame and a danger to aspiring models who don’t have that support network or safety net around them. I still shoot with this same female photographer six years on, which is testament enough to how comfortable and respected I felt on that day.

Another shot from my first Nuts shoot.

So that’s it. I was now a fully fledged Glamour model. I was so pleased with how my images came out, although there was one issue. The main pull quote on the article read “GETTING MY CLOTHES OFF IS NOTHING NEW TO ME” WHAT. I hadn’t said that. This is where I learnt Rule #2 of the Glamour modelling world. Never say anything in your post-shoot interview that could be twisted into something suggestive. What I’d actually said was that I had done a swimwear round in a pageant before, but of course that wasn’t juicy enough for the male readers. From that day on my interviews were as boring as I could make them. I remember Zoo mag once asking me what I wore to bed. “Pyjamas”, “Well what kind of pyjamas?, “Fluffy ones”. I wasn’t giving anything away.

After a couple of shoots and losing out on one of Zoo mags’ new girl contracts because I wouldn’t go topless, I soon realised if I wanted to try and make a career in this industry, that I would have to free the nipples. By now my relationship had fell apart and I was being promised big bucks and opportunities if I would just throw caution to the wind and bare all. Everything came to a head when an uncensored aka nipples out image of me in a pink mesh swimsuit was published in a Nuts Summer Special Issue. I had been promised by my agent that my nipples would be photoshopped out- and I again, naively assumed this would happen. I remember seeing the image circulate online and I cried for hours. What have I done. But my family and friends were hugely supportive. To this day it’s actually my mums favourite picture of me (she’s not a regular mom, she’s a cool mom). So instead of wallowing in my own titty-pity party, I decided to take control and own my title as a topless model. I signed an exclusive retainer contract with Zoo magazine for my “big reveal” and claimed it as a big F U to any comments or judgements that I’d been on the other end of.

One from the Zoo magazine archives

Obviously it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies, the professionalism and fond memories I talk about are directly in reference to the main lad mags that I shot with. Outside of that, I’ve had some dodgy experiences, bad advice and done things that I regret. But I’ll delve into that another time.

Of course, the big bucks never came and all the amazing opportunities I’d been promised never materialised. Truth is, I started my journey at a time when the industry had already started to decline. Protests had began against Page 3 and a new-wave of feminists began speaking out about how Glamour models were bad role models for women. I was angry. They were wrong. This wasn’t my industry, my peers, my employers that they were describing. I could think of nothing that encapsulated feminism less than telling me what I can and couldn’t do, how I should and shouldn’t feel. These individuals were taking away our dreams because how they thought we felt, instead of actually engaging in conversation and celebrating our sexuality alongside us.

Attending a Nuts’ Magazine Birthday Party

Fast forward six years from where it all began, and all the lad mags have died. Big Brothers been cancelled. Donald Trump is President. Boris Johnson fucked us over. Toblerone’s have bigger gaps. Oh, and we’re now living through a movement where women are being encouraged to be more open, embrace and own their sexuality, and to free the nipple. I’m all for it, anyone that follows me will know that. However, I wish it wasn’t such a selective celebration of womanhood; but a unity of women supporting women in finding empowerment through which ever form they see fit. Whether that is in the pages of a glossy magazine, or at a political protest.

Image by Haris Nukem

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

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.

IMG_5479

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.