This is a reminder, I suppose, that I should not laugh too much about the activities of American politicians, lest I look at the BBC website and find an equally ridiculous story about my own.

Basically: there’s a filter on the House of Commons internet, so that MPs can’t waste their time (and our money) looking at sites that feature “offensive or illegal content or are sources of malicious software”. Which is a good thing.

Unless, of course, you’re Adrian Sanders, Lib Dem MP for Torbay, who, because of the filters, was prevented from reading Lembit Opik’s column in The Daily Sport. Mr. Opik (MP for Montgomeryshire, apparently) is quoted as not believing that The Daily Sport was inappropriate.

Where to begin?

Firstly, when I did a quick Google search for the paper, it told me that related searches were for “FHM” and “playboy”. Not a good start.

Eventually, I found the website (either the site’s designers are shite at getting their hits up, or my internet usage is also monitored!) and what I found was… well, pretty much what you’d expect.

The front page of the website has a grand total of:

  • 6 pictures of  women, bare-breasted, with nipples showing
  • 6 pictures of women, bare-breasted, but with either bikinis or strategic signs saying things like “wanna be a stunna?”
  • 2 areas of constantly changing pictures, which during the time I was watching included such wonders as a photograph of a woman suggestively eating a banana, women in open-necked shirts suggestively pulling at the collars, and women posing in bikinis in what are presumably meant to be their own homes.

It should be said at this point (not that it will be a surprise to anybody) that where I say “women”, you may as well read “large-breasted, white, able-bodied, thin, young women”.

An advert at the top of the page shows yet another woman, reclining in what is presumably meant to be post-coital bliss, but looks to me suspiciously like boredom, next to the tagline: “life’s short – have an affair”.

The pages are broken down into six categories, of which the first four are:

  • Free Stuff (featuring “babe galleries”, “naked celebrities”, “search for a stunna” as the first three items; “news” is down in sixth place)
  • Rude Stuff (seriously, you don’t even want to know. Suffice it to say that “XXX” appears more than once.)
  • Play Stuff (amazingly, nary a mention of S-E-X; this category is for gambling. Yay.)
  • Read Stuff (“agony”, “Michelle’s sex clinic”, “students talk sex”, “girls who kiss”, “my first time”, “milf talk”… and oh, look! Lembit Opik appears three links down from that, after what I’m assuming are two other columnists.)

The only story visible without scrolling down is, funnily enough, this very one. Of course, their take on it is “the site is considered too raunchy for those surfing the web at the House of Commons.” There are many words I could use to describe this festering shitpile of ill-considered, tasteless porn masquerading as an actual publication, and “raunchy” is not the first thing that comes to mind, I can assure you.

In all honesty, looking at this site didn’t upset me in the same way that FHM upset me. I suspect this is because FHM is wholeheartedly and – if you like – professionally hateful. The Daily Star still retains a passing notion that it is claiming to be a newspaper, and is therefore torn in two directions; porn and not-porn. On the other hand, how on earth can The Daily Star actually claim to be a newspaper? Out of painful curiosity, I clicked on the “news” link. There were a whole 10 links. Yep, ten. Out of which 6 (six) related in some way to sex, or sexual areas of the body. Including “Eastenders star caught wanking” and “My boobs fell out!”.

This, to reiterate, is the website that Lembit Opik claimed was “not inappropriate”. Of course, he also referred to his articles as “my words of wisdom”, and let’s not forget, this is writing done for a publication that seems to have a deep and abiding love of ending words inappropriately with the letter “a”. Wanna; stunna; outa… the list is endless, and, for a pedant like me, deeply, deeply annoying. Frankly, I’d ban the bloody thing on the grounds of shite spelling alone, never mind the badly photoshopped porn that they’ve thrown all over it.


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.



Before I brave the snowy wastes of the Hill of Doom (a requirement of leaving my flat, these days!) I’d like to share a few stories I found.

The good:

Spinal Tap (of This Is Spinal Tap fame) are recording new material. I do have a soft spot for Spinal Tap, if only because of the quotes  that they provide me with. “Certainly, in the topsy-turvy world of heavy rock, having a good solid piece of wood in your hand is often useful” springs to mind. As it were.


The bad:

Carol Thatcher has referred to somebody as a “golliwog”. I say no more.


The ugly:

Yet another sexual assualt makes it into the news. This time by a sixteen year old boy, who’s pled guilty in Scotland to “lewd and libdinous practices and behaviour” towards a three year-old girl. He’s previously been convicted in England of taking an indecent photograph, and sexually touching a girl “under 14”, which earned him a 12-month referral order. Anybody think he might be getting worse?


The downright painful:

Doctors remove a healthy kidney (from a living donor) through her vagina. Apparently, “removing the kidney through ‘a natural orifice’ speeds up recovery and gives a better cosmetic result – avoiding a six inch abdominal scar”.

Altogether now… OUCH!

“Once the kidney was cut from its attachments to the abdominal wall and its arteries and veins were stapled shut, the surgeons placed the kidney in a plastic bag inserted through an incision in the vaginal wall and pulled it out through the vaginal opening with a string attached to the bag.”

The article goes on to say that the surgeons hope that this will mean that more women become donors.

I’ll leave that thought to sit for a while, along with this one: is it only me that’s wondering whether vaginas scar too?


And, just for good measure, I had a quick look at The Grauniad, and by ignoring any articles likely to annoy me, I found two that I actually liked. Amazing! Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science* column says that “nothing has changed, people continue to have stupid ideas, newspapers continue to laud them, and lives will be lost”. Worth remembering. Stupidity really can kill, especially if you deny the existance of HIV/Aids.

Lastly, Kira Cochrane has issues with all of the newspapers going for sensationalism over sense regarding the Children’s Society report – perhaps she read my blog and extrapolated?! Funny, she seems to have missed her own newspaper from her list. But they do devote a good five paragraphs to the working-mothers debate. Out of sixteen. Just less than a third of the article, then. So maybe it’s not too bad. Right? Or maybe, since it’s The Grauniad, it was just a typo that left it out of her list? Yeah. Must be that.

Edited To Add: Can’t anything be good? Ben Goldacre, I am officially disappointed.

Hat tip to The F-Word.

I am simultaneously impressed, and disgusted.

Impressed, because this is the first really creepy guy that I’ve encountered so far in Sheffield. Disgusted, because Sheffield was doing so well, damn it! And also because his excuses, although ingeneous, were frankly bizarre.

To set the scene – I was on my way home, walking up West Street (a big main road, full of bars and buses), when two teenage girls walked quickly past me, closely followed by a man who was in his forties at least. The I’ve-been-pickled-in-alcohol, leathery-faced kind.

He was being bloody weird, and so, donning my humourless feminist mantle, I turned round and shouted out to the girls to ask whether he was bothering them (“yes”) and whether they knew him (“no”).

He was still trying to follow them, so my next – loud – question was “do you want me to call the police?”

It’s amazing how quickly you can get a creepy man’s attention doing that. So he walked back to argue with me, and the girls quickly disappeared. And we had an exchange that involved the following statements from him:

  • He doesn’t want to be on the front page of The Star (South Yorks newspaper).
  • I shouldn’t “lump him in with… them” because he has a wife. And daughters.
  • He knew those girls really.
  • He’d had a drink.

Call me hard to please, but I personally wasn’t impressed by any of those things. But presumably he was impressed by me, because he really was very insistent that he didn’t want to be in the paper. Perhaps I looked like a journalist. Or an undercover police officer, moments away from radioing for backup. Or a superhero, with the mandatory cleavage-enhancing PVC outfit. It must have been quite disappointing for him when I turned and walked away, still wearing my hoodie and jeans.

I wish, I really wish it were April Fools’ Day.

Failing that, I wish I hadn’t seen this in The Metro today.

The headline?

“No time for a real woman? Date a robot instead”


Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!!!

I would be more coherent, but… but… what?!

“She doesn’t need holidays, food or rest and she will work almost 24 hours a day. She is the perfect woman.'”


The [male] inventor of the “fembot” (I kid you not) truly believes that the ‘perfect woman’ is an automaton without feelings or life?

Well, doesn’t that explain a lot?!

Oh, and also – “Mr Le denies he built his ‘partner’ for sex, although he does admit she could be programmed to climax.”

Uh huh. Sure. Even though the name you gave your robot means “love child”, even though you “never had time to find a human girlfriend”, even though “men want to touch her”, even though “she has a stunning figure… and can orgasm on demand”, you didn’t build her for sex.

How silly of me!

Also, as an aside, I’d like to give a dishonourable mention to The Metro for the assumption that their readers are only sexually interested in sex dolls women. And another mention for promoting that tired stereotype that real women ‘can’t do’ directions. All in the first paragraph.

What do we think to this article?

Is it more bad than good, or more good than bad?


At the moment, I’m ambivalent. And that’s because it seems to go, roughly speaking, Good Quote – Bad Quote – Good Quote – Bad Quote. And so on.

For example, taking one paragraph straight from the article:

Good Quote – “Afterwards, I wonder whether my disgust with my denuded body signified a deeper discomfort with the transformation itself.”

Bad Quote – “Is a man chasing a heightened feminity, I ask myself, actually draining himself of his essential juices?”

Good Quote* “Or maybe it has to do with the fact that, whichever way you dice it, I am a ginger and my skin was not designed to be exposed.”


It is not as offensive as it could be. I don’t think it’s entirely inoffensive either, however. I did think that this quote was worth mentioning, though, so that’s what I’m going to leave you with:

“I understand that [flamboyant drag] is also an attempt to tell the world of your aspirations. Quite whether those aspirations could ever match up to reality is another matter, especially when this feminine ideal is one created entirely by men.”
Emphasis mine.

* It’s a Good Quote there in the sense that he redeems himself slightly for being a bloody fool by being foolish in a way that tries to negate the previous (more serious) foolery. Not because I have anything against ginger people!

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!