It must be Valentines’ Day, because with four stories about sex , the BBC are clearly obsessed. There’s that old British repression coming through again! Whether the story is that there’s too much of it, or too little of it, or the wrong people having it, they just can’t stop reporting on it, and evidently I am not helping.

Starting with the story that has created “almost universal outrage”, a thirteen year old boy has clearly been having sex, because he is now a father. And yes, that is how it has been reported. Perhaps the story of a fifteen year old girl giving birth to a healthy baby girl just isn’t as interesting? Still, once again, the BBC have done us proud with yet another headless pregnant woman to illustrate the story. If I got my information purely from pictures, I would have concluded by now that pregnancy makes your head fall off.

The Guardian has “MP ‘saddened’ by father aged 13 urges better sex education“, The Telegraph leads with “boy of 13 becomes a father” and The Daily Mail, who are never averse to slut-shaming if they get the merest hint of a chance have the headline “Teenage sister of boy who became a father at 13 had baby when she was the same age“. Rather amusingly, the Mail’s article also contains the following burst of vitriol:

“But its significance may be lost on Alfie, whose immaturity is evident during the brief video clip, filmed after the couple’s story was sold to The Sun and they appeared on the newspaper’s front page yesterday.”

Daily Mail, meet jealousy; jealousy, Daily Mail. Perhaps their bid just wasn’t high enough!


Moving on, Scotland is reforming its sex laws with a new Sexual Offences Bill. This one bill replaces a number of previous common law offenses – “rape”, “clandestine injury to women”, “lewd, indecent or libdinous practice or behaviour” and “sodomy” – which, if the Bill passes, will all be abolished in their previous forms.

It gives new, broader definitions of rape, which includes cases where the penis or vagina or both are surgically constructed, defines consent as “free agreement” (which makes me wonder what on earth it was defined as before this bill was created) and gives an offense of “administering a substance for sexual purposes”, which, paraphrasing, also states that if one person lets another think that the substance given is less strong or less in quantity than it actually is, then this is equivalent to administering the substance without that person’s knowledge or consent.

Which, shortened again, means that if an aquaintance of mine buys me doubles all evening and tells me they’re singles, that’s just as bad as slipping rohypnol into my drink.

The Bill, which has just passed stage one, now has to pass stages two and three before it can be signed off. Roll on the day because, paraphrasing again, the reason that Scotland’s rape conviction rate is 3% is because a lot of things that should be called rape are currently not, according to Lord Advocate Elish Anglioni.


In other news, the BBC can’t make up its mind. Will the recession lead to more sex, or less? Tough call. They also incidentally mention that the day that the Dow Jones Index crashed (29th September last year), the gay dating site “Manhunt” – so it’s gay to mean men, this time, rather than gay to mean “everybody who isn’t heterosexual” – had its largest membership sign-up.

I confess, I’m not entirely sure what this little nugget of information was meant to tell me. Are all stockbrokers gay men? Or, is Manhunt just a really crap site, that happened to have two people sign up one day rather than one?


Lastly, I’m sure you’ve all wondered just how many of us are illegitimate. No? Well, what kind of stable, non sex-obsessed person are you?! Apparently, “urban myth” gives the proportion at 10%, thus bearing out the allegation that 87% of statistics are made up on the spot. Of course, 7/5 of all people don’t understand fractions anyway, so I don’t suppose it really matters.

Anyway, it turns out that “if you look directly at families without any prior suspicion of non-paternity, then you find a value of about 1% or 2%.” The study naturally (ha!) focusses on men, since with the joys of what the researchers call “hereditary surnames” and I call “the Patriarchy”, only men have a link to their (male) ancestors. Women don’t have a hope in hell, since not changing one’s name on marriage is even now linked to being thought of as a pain in the arse.


Which reminds me: a woman I spoke to recently gave me a “feminist dilemma”; whether to change one’s name, or not, on marriage. Actually, she started it with the words “my boyfriend has proposed to me”, and initially I wondered whether she was asking my advice as to whether or  not she should marry him! Anyway, I gave her a short answer then (roughly, that I personally will keep my name, but do whatever works for you) but I’d like to highlight The F-Word, which has at least two – and probably a lot more – articles on the subject: “in the name of the father” and “a bride by any other name” are the two that I found first.



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It’s Carnival time!

Over on A Second Thought (hey, we’re all good with gratuitous self-reference here!) I tend to refer to the place as my own, virtual pub, with myself as sole proprietor – which is great, because that means that for the first Carnival of Feminists of 2009, the virtual drinks can be on me! Happy January everybody, and thanks to everybody that sent in reccomended reading.

I’m not the most organised of people, and didn’t specify any particular themes. Which meant that I got a whole host of great, wide-ranging submissions, and had to try to classify them. And, of course, I did this in the most logical and least time-wasting way possible… with the cunning use of lolcats!

Roughly speaking, we’re talking Science here, which means we range from articles that are actually about science to ones which merely go crazy with the number-crunching:

Veronica at Girl With Pen writes eloquently on Why We Need a Scientifically Literate Citizenry.

“Science is portrayed as the only field that uses big words… and thus intimidates many to think one needs to be a rocket scientist to be well, a scientist.”

Greg Laden in his eponymous blog talks in great length about  The Natural Basis For Gender Inequality.

Barry Leiba at Staring At Empty Pages does the number-crunching in Women, millitary academies, and sexual assualt.

What we worship, how we worship it. With a little social commentary thrown in, for good measure.

Lindsay from Female Impersonator writes about  Gendered Language and Early Christian Thinkers in part 4 of an ongoing series.

The Professor from Professor, What If…? asks herself: What If You Could Buy Social Justice (part 4 – the Church of Disney).

Jender, writing at Feminist Philosophers, provides the only social commentary entirely unrelated to worship here: On Tomboys.

Yep, some feminists get angry. And looking at the posts below, you can see why.

Genevieve from Une Femme Plus Courageuse gives us a Question Based On Usual Blog Patterns

Steph sends in a post from …Or Could Be Again about one guy’s opening words: I Don’t Mean To Be Weird Or Gross But…

Jane Doe from Written On The Body tells us Alanis in OK Magazine: Hopefully this is all a misunderstanding

Brianna J at Fourth Wave Feminism posts about  Male Authenticity

On parenthood, and who gets what share of the dirty work.

Renee at Womanist Musings writes about The Easy Bake Oven In My Vagina: The Role Of The Good Mother

Bad Mom, Good Mom posts about Virginia Woolf in You Call That A Feminist Icon?

And finally, a Feminism 101 category!

Renee from Womanist Musings is back, and on the subject of  The Illegal Hijab

Nandita sends in a post from Cold SnapDragon about A Guard At Kotla Ferozshah. I’m using my host’s perogative to also reccomend the latest post, A Rape-Defense World, because it goes very well with:

Marcella’s post at abyss2hope on Understanding and Misunderstanding Genuine Consent

Lindsay from Female Impersonator appears again to point out that Fashion Is Not Political News, part 3 – Catty Bitch Edition

Lastly, I had a late submission from Robin Reed from the National Women’s Law Center. It’s a video post by Melanie Ross Levin, one of her colleagues, which I didn’t want to include without a transcript, but luckily, it’s short, interesting, and she sent me a nice email about it!

“Hi, I’m Melanie Ross Levin with the National Women’s Law Center and I’m so, so happy to report that the House of Representatives just passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.  This is huge news that we should all celebrate! Now the ball’s in the Senate’s court to do the right thing by women and pass both of these important peices of pay equity legislation very quickly so that President Elect obama can sign them in his first few days in office. Take a moment to write to your senators to make sure that they know that these acts are important to you. Information on how to do that is available on our website. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done so far to help pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. I can’t wait until they’re signed by President-elect Obama and we can really celebrate!”

And that concludes the Carnival for this time. There’s been so many good posts to read, I can only assume that you’ve all decided that I don’t really need to pass my exams!

Submit an article to the next Carnival of Feminists using the Carnival Submission Form, and check out past editions and future hosts here.

There was some horrible stuff in news this week. But for the good of my sanity, I’m trying not to think about them too much. So, because I’m a coward, I’m heading back to the somewhat safer option of sarcastically commenting on articles involving “statistics”.

First things first, and the BBC, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail have all reported on the findings that “intelligent men have better sperm”. I would dearly love to see Ben Goldacre (he of Bad Science fame) covering this one, because it seems to me that a correlation described as “marginal” by the lead researcher should not be condensed down into “intelligent=virile”.

More interestingly, from my point of view, was the way that said researcher was described;

The BBC refer to her as “Lead researcher Dr Rosalind Arden”;

The Telegraph call her “Ms Rosalind Arden, lead author”;

and The Daily Mail? They describe her as “researcher Rosalind Arden” and thereafter use “Miss Arden” at all times.

Interestingly enough, all three articles mention another researcher, a man. And while they differ in their description of his research field (in the same order as above, he is either “an expert in fertility”, a “Senior Lecturer in Andrology” or “a male fertility expert”), they all three refer to him by title as “Dr Allan Pacey”.

If ever you needed a simple guide as to the politics and intelligence of a publication, it’s right there in the titles!


Moving on; my second story of the day is from The Guardian reporting on a statement from the Department of the Bleedin’ Obvious:

“Most slimming products are a con, claims nutrition expert”.

You think?!

But oh, the irony – the first link in the article takes you to the Guardian’s “Eat Right” homepage, which boasts “Thirteen personalised diet plans to choose from”. From the sentence that says that

“the only [slimming strategies] proven to work are low-calorie diets, exercise programmes, the drugs orlistat and sibutramine, and in some cases bariatric surgery.”

Seriously? The effectiveness of low-calorie diets as a weight-loss tool is “proven”? Well, maybe the Guardian journalists just don’t read the same articles that I do.

In the interests of research, I plugged in an approximation of my vital statistics. I say approximation because I don’t actually know how much I weigh, and until such time as I have to go to the doctors’, that’s how I will stay. But anyway, I plugged in my best guess, and hit the button that said “I wish to lose weight”.

So it came up with this:

guardian-bmi


A “calorie allowance” of 1400, and a “healthy weight” range that starts at 8st 12lbs? Frankly, I’m frightened by that. Since I haven’t weighed less than 10st since I was 16 (back when we still had scales in the house and I still weighed myself from time to time!).


I tried to see what fun and games they’d come up with for me, but sadly, the next page showed this:

guardian-diet-plan

This is where you can get, in two clicks of the mouse, from the article that starts

“Most slimming products are a con, claims nutrition expert”.

It’s definitely an eye-roll moment.


ETA: The day after writing this, what should drop into my spam folder but an email from the Guardian, with the delightful message that “your BMI was between 25 – 30 and this indicates that your health would benefit by losing some weight.”

Call me crazy, but the day before, they themselves told me that the “healthy range” for my height was between 8st 12lbs and 11st 1lb. It’s right there in the screenshot. I plugged in exactly 11st, which is, in fact, within the range that they gave me. This means that I am, by their standards, healthy. (Not forgetting that their standards have very little to do with reality, by the way!) But this means that they’re using scare tactics as well, because I didn’t pay for their product outright. “Healthy” the first time, and now, because I haven’t given them money, my ” health would benefit by losing some weight”. Charming.

So, remember, people: it’s all a con!

In some of my Statistics lectures this week, we had a quick revision session on the subject of bias – the problem of inadvertantly (or, if you’re a very bad scientist, deliberately) influencing a study in some way.

Clearly, I am a terrible scientist, because my weekend news-surfing only features what happens to interest me at the time. On the other hand, what has caught my eye this week ties in rather nicely to the meeting last Tuesday. Minutes of meetings will now be published the following week, so details of what was said will have to wait a couple more days, but the main ground covered was a discussion about Sexism (and thence to Sex) in Education. Fascinating stuff, and all the more so since the recent news about the UK sex education shake up.

In varying degrees of hysteria, the press has been dissecting the news that Key Stage 1 children are to be taught age-appropriate material on sex and relationships. In order of panic-inducing, we have:

Relationship lessons from age 5” from the BBC

Sex education to begin at 5 in all schools” from the Guardian

Children aged 5 to get sex education” from the Telegraph

Pupils as young as 5 to be given sex education” from the Times

Compulsory sex education for pupils as young as five could become law” from the Daily Mail.


Look at the difference – at the top of the scale, not a mention of the word “sex”. At the other extreme, not only is it now ‘sex’ education, it is ‘compulsory’, and it is for ‘pupils as young as 5’.

Interesting.

Putting all of the sources together, a picture begins to emerge. It would seem that the government has now realised that sex education for UK children is not brilliant, to say the least. And so, rather commendably, they are trying to do something about this. I am impressed, even if I do feel it could have come a little earlier.

Now, although I have said that I am not a good statistician, I know that there are some lows you should not stoop to. In consequence, I am not going to relate any of my various anecdotes on the subject and claim that this “proves” anything about our sex education as it is at the moment – although I would dearly love to.

What I will say is that pretending that relationships, sexuality and sex don’t exist is clearly foolish. We’re talking about children who have just started school. Yes, I know – as young as five! These children as young as five will see pregnant women, probably fairly often. If they have little siblings, they might have an inkling of where they came from. If they don’t, one of their classmates will. There are going to be some answers to the question “where do babies come from” – and if teachers aren’t allowed to provide it, that won’t stop the kids talking.

Also, as an aside, the Daily Mail article quotes a news story about a leaflet produced for six year olds by the Family Planning Association. Their concern? That children “would be asked to name genitalia”. What on earth is wrong with that? Genitalia are the external parts of the sexual organs – you know, the bits we can see. It’s frankly ridiculous to think that children won’t want to know what to call them. However, I’m going to stop there, because attempting to argue seriously with what the Daily Mail spouts is about as much use as arguing with a man who blindly insists that it’s a Tuesday when it is, in fact, Thursday.


And, on that note, I leave you with news (a little belated, admittedly) that the 67th Carnival of Feminists is now up at Jump Off The Bridge.

The 68th carnival will be held at Fourth Wave Feminism, which I’ve mentioned before and is certainly worth a read.