Love, sex and interminable pop-culture references

Category: Opinions & Advice

ILB’s opinions and advice, in blog post form

It’s my name and you can’t have it!

I wonder if there is a checklist somewhere, or a flow chart, that parents have to work their way down when one of their children gets married. Of course, one of those is the egregious “why aren’t you going to have children?” discourse (GOTN has an excellent post about this) – as if that’s the default, or something. I, of course, have already given my family my reasons for this.

In fact, I’m not sure any of the five left in my generation want to have children. The family continues with my one niece and nephew!

So they moved onto the next box.

“Have you talked about what to do with your names yet?”

Strangely enough, it’s not the sort of light conversation that I had thought of having, at least not midway through our cute honeymoon in Stockholm.

I have thought about it, though.

When I was 16, I had started to envision what married life would be like if I ever managed to marry my current crush. (I even built up a sitcom-style introductory sequence in my head, complete with theme tune.) At that point, I was dead set on taking her last name, rather than having her take mine. I quite liked the way it sounded, and if you add the fact that her father (for whom I used to work) did the same thing, it kind of made sense to continue the tradition.

I’m not overly keen on my surname anyway. It’s difficult to spell – since it’s a homophone for another word that already exists and people keep spelling it that way – people have had issues pronouncing it, too. In fact, I have the same first, middle, and surnames of my great-great-grandfather… and his father… and his father… and, you’ll never guess what… his father.

And they were all butchers, apart from Grandad, who made weapons.

I am so pleased my dad became an actor.

I feel, as you may understand, very little connection to this family who were founded on principles which I believe to be ethically wrong, and our coat of arms is particularly stupid (it’s a red cock on a shield and there’s nothing else). My immediate family is very important to me, sure, but historically? No. I don’t really need my surname.

But then of course there’s the issue of my wife’s name, one which is also impossible to spell and pronounce, plus it’s their dad’s surname, and they never had a particularly good relationship with their dad. Their assumed Internet name of “Sleight” suits her much better, and I’ve ever started thinking of them as “Jill Sleight” in my head.

But back to me. I’m keeping my own name for the simple reason that the legal hoops I’d have to jump through would be a massive headache. I’d need to change bank details, passport, work details, qualifications, student loan accounts, Government documents… I’ve claimed benefits for a while so that would be changed, too. Not to mention the subscriptions I have for Nintendo, Cineworld, and Green Party membership. Oh, and my trade union membership and probably about a million other things that I’ve forgotten to list here.

And people refer to me by my last name at work, so I’d need to deal with that somehow.

I’d need to pay to change it, as well.

Just thinking about this makes my head hurt, and I wouldn’t wish to foist this extra amount of stress onto my wife. I’m fairly sure neither of us want to burden the other with a surname which carries an amount of baggage, and seeing as how only one of the married couples I know (Robinson and Lovely) have taken that step (and it took her years, as well), I can very much see the rational behind it.

But then it hit me that I’m married now. I did it. It’s done. We have a life to lead, and as to what my wife’s name is, I genuinely don’t care.

It’s their decision and I’ll go along with whatever they decide, because it really shouldn’t be an issue.

My family can move on to the “so are you going to buy a house?” question whenever they want. I’ll give them time for that one.

TMI Tuesday: Doin’ it on the line

On LiveJournal, LiveJournal
Makin’ fun of your friends behind their back
LiveJournal, LiveJournal
Chronicle your gerbil’s heart attack on LiveJournal

Oh boy, oh boy, oh (innocent lover)boy. This has been a really busy week so far and it’s only going to get busier. Bashing out a few blog posts was something on the back of my mind – say, one every day leading up to my wedding and one the day afterwards – but that may not be the most realisable thing. We shall see.

Anyway, here’s the meme I’m using in lieu of writing any real content. Today’s TMI Tuesday is almost entirely about online dating.

LiveJournal: Because you can't masturbate all the time.
My first
relationship
started here!

I’ll point out here that I haven’t actually done a lot of online dating. It is true that I have met all four girlfriends online, and even then it’s been via blogging rather than dating sites – LiveJournal, Blogger and WordPress are my dating sites. In a few days’ time I’m marrying someone I nominally met on Twitter.

But I have set up profiles on dating sites – mostly adult ones. I’ve also had a stab at some of the more conventional ones. Were I single now, I’d almost certainly be trying one of the hookup apps… but then, I’m not single, am I?

1. What is your go-to question to ask in online dating?

This is difficult, because I don’t like asking questions; I’m much better at answering them. That’s not just an excuse to talk about me, it’s just something I’m more comfortable doing!

I like popular culture, so sometimes I’ll ask a question in that direction. The French au pair I once met on a dating site wasn’t very forthcoming with conversation until I asked her if she had seen The King’s Speech. She hadn’t, but she liked Natalie Portman and wanted to see Black Swan.

In the end I went to see Black Swan on my own. She moved back to France shortly after this.

2. How old is the picture you use for your online dating profile?

Since I don’t have an active profile, I can’t really answer that fairly.

Here’s something fun. When I was about 25, I got a picture taken of me in which I looked perhaps my best ever. It wasn’t truly representative of what I actually look like, but I did look pretty good in it, so for a while I used it for everything – Facebook profile picture, MySpace avatar, LiveJournal icon, and, yes, dating site image.

On my about page is a digital recreation of that very picture – it’s the one I sent to Boots for reference. I even once tried to use that as my profile picture on FUCK.com (but they weren’t happy about that!).

So, yes, that was my dating site image.

3. What is your biggest dating pet peeve?

Ghosting. I can’t stand it.

I’ve been ghosted many, many times – by people I’m talking to online, people who I’ve arranged to meet and haven’t turned up, and of course I’ve been a jobseeker, so I’m used to potential leads just vanishing into the ether.

It probably isn’t too difficult to say something like, “I’m sorry, but I’ve found someone / I’m not interested / I’m too busy / You are about as attractive as a buffalo’s bum,” or maybe that is difficult (I’ve never turned someone down so I wouldn’t know!), but it’s much politer than to just leave someone hanging.

I tend to invest a lot in romance, and I put a lot of effort into this sort of thing, so to be casually cast aside without being told I was cast aside did a massive number on my self-confidence.

At one point in my life I was responsible for hiring. I wrote back to every single applicant, even if they were applying on-spec when there weren’t any vacancies. I felt like I should be able to do for them what I wish had been done for me.

4. What are your goals with online dating?

Yeah,

So.

On the few times I set up online dating profiles, I was really just looking for sex. Anything else would have been a bonus.

This was, once, relatively successful. The… whatever I had… with Alicia was the result of flirting on an adult dating site. We had great sex and shared good company with nice food. It was never going to be a long-term thing, but for what it was, this was a brief success story for me.

It also broke my years-long dry spell, so I was grateful to find that I still had the knack.

5. Have you ever slid into a stranger’s DMs? Did they respond?

“Slid” sounds wrong. I’m aware that “slid” is both the simple past and past participle of the verb “to slide”, but it sounds wrong. Mind you, so do “slad” and “slud”.

What was this question about again?

Oh, yes. I’ve never sent a DM to a stranger with some sort of ulterior motive, and never really to flirt, If I want to talk to someone I know on social media, I’ll follow them first, at least. If I’ve got a lot to say, e-mail is there for that purpose!

mIRC logo, complete with Pac-Man-lookin' smiley face thing
I didn’t use this to date. But to flirt, sure…

When I used to spent a lot of time on sexchat, I got a lot of unsolicited DMs (known as “PMs” or “queries” on IRC), mostly from angry, horny men who didn’t realise that I wasn’t a lady, since I had a fairly gender-neutral IRC handle and was both chatty and smart in the channels, which was usually a sign of someone not being a dude looking for cyber.

These I mainly ignored.

Bonus: Do you think a couple’s finances should be together or separate?

This question came up recently. I was aghast at the assumption that my fiancée and I had a joint account.

I’ve actually got three: my current account (which is always overdrawn), my savings account (empty), and a third account to pay rent and bills with (which is – as of today – also empty). My other half has two, although I’m not sure how much is in either of those.

We’re going to need money for our honeymoon. I’ll puzzle that one out later.

I genuinely don’t see the point of going through the rigmarole of setting up a shared bank account for two people earning different amounts of money at different times. Having separate accounts, where one of us bails the other out, has saved our lives at a few points.

Plus, I don’t think I’ll ever do it. My sister did it with her ex, and they broke up shortly afterwards. She lost a lot of money from that.

TMI Tuesday: Costello

Look at this sandwich! It’s made of cheese!
Cheese is the best kind of sandwich!
(We do not have toasting facilities.)
SANDWICH! SANDWICH! SANDWICH! SANDWICH!

Stephen Colbert and Elvis Costello
Two people I don’t know much about.

I have lots to say, but very little time to say it. In the meantime, please make do with this here meme.

A bit of trivia before we start. I actually have the complete works of Elvis Costello. My parents bought me a box set for my birthday once (and, if it wasn’t the complete works, it was damn well near, even including B-sides and the like), despite me not really knowing who he was. A couple of weeks later the box set vanished, and I only found out where it had gone when Elvis Costello songs started appearing on my parents’ mix tapes.

Today’s TMI Tuesday is lifted entirely from questions asked to Costello by Stephen Colbert. I don’t know who Stephen Colbert is either.

1. What is the best sandwich?

Here’s another bit of ILB Trivia: cheese sandwiches are my favourite food.

I will diversify, of course. Cheese and tomato. Cheese and spring onion. Cheese and chives. Cheese and (vegan) ham (alternative). Cheese and egg. My very favourite treat in the world, surpassing even my beloved sherbet lemons, is an honest-to-God cheese toastie.

Harris + Hoole do a really good one, but the sandwich shop just around the corner from us will do basically the same thing at a fraction of the price,

And now I’m hungry. Obviously.

2. Scariest animal?

I like all animals, and I can’t honestly say that I’m scared of any of them.

When I was a very young child, I was scared of spiders, or at least I thought I was. I had a quasi-nightmare once in which I would see a crowd of spiders and shout “SPIDERS!” at them until they ran away. I was once asked why I was scared of them and said, truthfully, that I wasn’t; I was just scared that I might hurt them if I got too close.

I was also terrified by the animatronic dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, even though I like animatronics, I like dinosaurs and I like the Natural History Museum. Again, I was very young at the time.

3. Ever asked someone for an autograph?

Yes. I will admit to being a bit of an autograph hound, or at least I was in my teens and early twenties. I’ve got the members of James several times, plus Mark Lamarr, Skreen from the Cuban Boys, Phillipa Forrester and CJ de Mooi.

My favourite experience of collecting an autograph was from Mel Smith. I was at a West End musical for my 18th birthday and he was in the audience. I asked him for his autograph and explained who I was and why I was there. He signed it with, “Happy 18th, from Mel Smith.”

I also once got one of the Jedwards at the premiere of Keith Lemon: The Film. As the signature was an illegible squiggle, I’ve still no idea which Jedward it was.

4. Favourite action movie?

Despite the fact that I’ll always tell you first that I prefer comedy, fantasy and sci-fi, I do have a lot of love for action as a genre.

Jason Statham vs. a shark. Yes, really.
Sharkboy, sans Lavagirl.

But there’s a lot of crossover there. Sci-fi films have a lot of action in them, usually. Are superhero films action, or are they fantasy or sci-fi themselves? What is Deadpool if not a comedy? Avengers: Endgame has a time travel plot, so is it more sci-fi than action? The live-action Cutie Honey adaptation is fun, but is it just that: fun?

For that matter, where do the Star Wars movies go? There’s plenty of action in them and I could watch all nine over and over again.

In fact, the only movie I can think of which is “just” action that I enjoy the most is the Jason-Statham-versus-shark flick The Meg! And even that’s funny!

5. Favourite rom-com?

My first instinct is to put Four Weddings and a Funeral, because my uncle is in it, but then again, my uncle’s been in a lot of stuff. Anyway, it’s not really my style.

I quite like When Harry Met Sally, Love, Simon and Warm Bodies. But I’m going to go for Muppets Treasure Island. Yes, it’s totally a rom-com. I’ll be taking no further questions.

6. Window or aisle?

These questions don’t give a lot of detail, do they? They may as well be asking whether I prefer the aesthetics of the word “window” or “aisle”.

Assuming that this isn’t the case and that I’m meant to be thinking about seats on public transport, my default answer is probably “window”. Whether I’m gazing dreamily out of a coach window, seeing the only oxbow lakes I’ve ever been aware of while speeding through countryside on a train, or even on a bus to work, I like to see the rest of the world from my little travel bubble.

Last week I took a plane (for the first time in years) to Germany and back. On the return trip I had a window seat. I intended to spend the flight looking down at Germany and France, then the Channel, until I touched down in Stansted. This worked well enough until clouds got in the way.

I’d forgotten about clouds.

7. Favourite scent?

I have a few of these, and some are the classics – fresh bread, newly-cut grass, brewing coffee, that sort of thing. I also like lemon, as I’m a citrus person, and wood smoke, as I’m a camping person! It’s very calming to me!

My favourite perfume is Flower by Kenzo, although that’s probably bias because the Seamstress used to wear it (she probably still does!). It’s a nice scent nonetheless.

But my very, very favourite scent is new books. I love it, and I especially love it when I’ve bought some to breathe in as well!

8. Least favourite scent?

Cigarette smoke. I genuinely can’t stand it.

The Seamstress (again!) once accepted a cigarette from a friend when offered one, a decision I found difficult to parse since she was, nominally, a non-smoker. Her rationale was that it was difficult to say no to a friend, which I also felt sounded weird – even if it’s a friend, what you’re saying no to is sticking a roll of burning leaves in your mouth, pouring tar into your lungs and dramatically increasing a risk of several interestingly-named deadly diseases.

She didn’t see it this way. It was only years later that I realised that, for a person who spent a lot of her time telling me to be more assertive, this was a moment of weak will from her, for the sake of something she probably didn’t enjoy anyway!

9. Most used app on your phone?

Twitter. I don’t really use my phone for anything else. I keep in contact with people, mostly, through WhatsApp, but Twitter is genuinely the app I’ll open first, even if purely by habit.

Unlike a lot of people, I don’t game on my phone. I’m a console gamer, mostly, and can’t really justify paying even a small amount for a momentary distraction when I could be playing Kirby and the Forgotten Land on my Switch, which is about two metres from the place I usually use my phone!

10. You only get one song to listen to for the rest of your life, what is it?

Wow, this is a long meme.

I genuinely can’t answer this question. I’d get sick of any one song, even one of my favourites, if I had to listen to it over and over again for however long I’ve got to live. I’d probably end up choosing one of my own, if I had to, as long as I didn’t inflict that on anyone else, as being in my presence they’ve probably suffered enough!

Bonus: Describe the rest of your life in five words.

“The rest of your life” already is five words, genius.

#FiveThings / #KOTW: Clothes

Since I’ve been struggling to think of things to write, I’m once again grateful for the existence of Five Things. MPB has been unwell for a while, which means that the meme appeared to have stalled for a while. It’s back tomorrow, and there’s an accidental crossover with an upcoming Kink of the Week, so I can be a massive troll and take part in both memes before the link parties open.

ILB, you crafty little rascal.

Anyway, so, clothes. I can do that. I wear clothes.

1) My Look

I don’t really have what could be termed a ‘look’. Throughout my life I’ve stuck to casual wear as often as possible – ranging from tracksuits to combat trousers. I wear T-shirts most of the time, as well, as opposed to shirts – which I wear to work – and I’ll generally put on the first thing I can find, without making some sort of attempt to co-ordinate.

I also don’t tend to source my clothes from any particular place. I hardly ever buy any – I sometimes get a few for Christmas. Some of my favourite clothes have been in my possession for as long as I can remember, and some I’ve owned since I was 14!

If you’ve met me at Eroticon, you’ll probably have noticed that I turn up in a flannel shirt. Rose once tried to talk me out of wearing it to Erotic Meet, so I didn’t. I tried to stop her, but she overpowered me!

2) Not My Look

I strenuously resist, and will continue to resist, fashionable clothes. Despite knowing people who work in the industry – and I even went to a Viktor & Rolf exhibition once – I’ve never become attached to the idea of being a fashion victim.

Throughout my adolescence and young adulthood I made a conscious effort to not appear fashionable. I wore the most outdated things I could find and, if something suddenly appeared to be ‘in’, I stopped wearing it. Until the age of about 12 or 13 my garment of choice was an oversized Super Mario Bros. 2 tee, often coupled with blue shorts.

I’ve never been cool and have no desire to be, so why try?

3) Rock ’em, sock ’em

In an attempt to placate the vague implications of participating in KOTW.

When I was a child I never wore socks. I once asked my mother why African tribesmen in TV dramas never wore footwear and she said something about having tough feet due to walking through deserts. While I’m not sure that was actually true, I spent years attempting to toughen my feet by going barefoot while playing my adventure games in the garden or alleyway behind my house.

Cartoon of ILB wearing nothing but a pair of blue pants and bright green socks, typing on a laptop.
Green socks.
I’m not even sure if I own any.

Which is ironic, really, because socks are my favourite clothes. I don’t have any special ones – they’re mostly black, grey, or blue. But I like the way they feel – they keep in the large amount of heat one loses through the soles of one’s feet, they are pleasantly soft and comfortable, and the few times I’ve had sex wearing them, it’s always been pleasant…

I’ve also appeared in ES Magazine wearing nothing but pants and a pair of socks! (I’ve tried to tell my family this, but they didn’t believe me.) It’s not a fantastic likeness, though; a quick glance at the issue reminds me that I look more like the bloke on the next page whom GOTN is trying to seduce.

4) My Colour

I don’t have a colour, as such.

Some people do. My fiancée wears nothing but black (yes, I know black isn’t a colour); my youngest cousin favours vibrant colours including bright green hair and yellow nail varnish. My uncle wears Hawaiian shirts. I don’t really do any of those.

Most of my clothes are blue, grey, blue-grey, dark green, or khaki. It’s not a deliberate attempt to do anything, but it does tend to suit my mood. I’m struggling now to think if I’ve ever owned anything yellow. I don’t like red (the colour; I don’t care what I wear), but I once owned an oversized red jumper with a white stripe down the middle.

Which I’ve just realised is the Austrian flag. Fantastic.

5) …and a sex thing.

Basically in order to fit this into what is ostensibly a sex blog.

I’ve very rarely had sex with any clothes on, although it’s occasionally just happened. My favourite trope, despite this, in soft porn is for people to have sex with some of their clothes on – often just their shoes – and my favourite look on a woman is for her to be topless but still wearing blue jeans!

Before I had sex for the first time, my girlfriend and I used to engage in dry sex – that is, the movements (and some of the noises), but with clothes on. It was fun, cheeky, and now that I think about it, probably quite cute.

“Do you know what the problem is?” she said once, as we lay in a tangle.
“No,” I said, worried that she genuinely wasn’t enjoying herself.”
“Clothes,” she said simply.

Five Things
Kink of the Week

TMI Tuesday: Savour

Say I love you, girl, but I’m out of time
Say I’m there for you, but I’m out of time
Say that I’ll care for you, but I’m out of time
Said, I’m too late to make you mine, out of time

Attractive curly-haired black lady eating a cupcake and looking like she is thoroughly enjoying it.
An appropriate picture since I’m the King of Cake.

Wow, okay, it has been a while since I did a blog post.

Time has not been on my side. I have spent two weeks caring for a fiancée with incredibly debilitating COVID-19 (worse than when I had it; I just slept most of mine off). The art project I’ve been doing has been pretty stop-start as a result of this, and although it started well, I genuinely don’t think I’m going to finish it before the deadline. I’m also still looking for a job and, every now and again, have a trial day somewhere that fails, or get given a start date somewhere that ghosts me.

I genuinely want to blog – it’s one of my favourite things to do, even here partway through year fifteen. However, with everything going on at the moment (even though it seems like I have a lot of free time, I genuinely don’t), blogging has had to fall on the back burner.

It’s fitting, then, that one of the few snatches of time I’ve got to knock out a post is on a Tuesday, when there’s a handy meme to get the fires burning. I don’t know if there’s a theme with this one (it appears to be “savour”, as evidenced by the image), but it genuinely allowed me to get my geek on.

1. What did you last savour and when?

Three Batman-themed OREOs. Just now.

OK, I will explain. There are now OREOs with Batman’s face on them, to tie in with the upcoming release of The Batman. They don’t actually taste any different from normal OREOs, nor do they cost more. But I am a gullible fool, and yesterday I was having a Batman marathon thanks to a box set I got for Christmas, so in the evening I saw a pack and bought it.

J'onn J'onzz sitting in a chair holding a glass of milk surrounded by OREO cookies.
J’onn and his one true love.

I’m still not going to get over the fact that they’ve never made Martian Manhunter OREOs. I mean, he’s the superhero who actually manages to savour them.

2. Athletic, mind-blowing sex or slow, sexy romantic sex, what do you want right now?

Can’t slow, romantic sex also be mind-blowing?

In any case, having not had sex for about six or seven years now, any type of sex would be good for me. I’ve put on a bit of weight and lost the use of my left arm since, though, so I’d be a little nervous about not being that good any more!

(Is my excuse, anyway. I’d probably just get her to orgasm via oral and then see what happens.)

3. You are being interviewed and asked to comment on sex work. What do you have to add to the discussion?

Nothing that hasn’t already been said, although I have plenty to say about sex work.

I was once stopped by a madam in Soho who offered me girls, and when I politely declined, boys. She also said that I didn’t actually have to have sex – she could offer massages with or without happy endings to savour – but I again politely said no, thank you, I was in a bit of a hurry anyway, but thanks for thinking of me.

I couldn’t fault her sales patter – offering viable alternatives according to the customer’s needs – but I think she was as surprised as I was that I stopped to talk to her!

4. Should sex work be decriminalised?

Yes, and it should have been already.

I’m astounded that it hasn’t been. From what I can tell, criminalisation is dangerous, the Nordic Model is overly regulated, and because there are so many different types of sex work (full-service isn’t the only type – do you count a porn star or an erotic masseuse as a sex worker?), it would be impossible to introduce a law to protect them all.

Decriminalisation is the only way, and it’s only really because of the social stigma that this hasn’t been given a higher agenda. I’m saying this now: if I ever become an MP, it’s the first thing I’m mentioning.

5. Fill in the blank. Don’t…

…throw fruit at the computer.
Don’t what?
Don’t throw fruit at the computer.
Don’t what?
Don’t throw fruit at the computer.

Who do they think I am? Some kind of fool?

(If you know what this is, I love you.)

Bonus: Are you bored with people who are successful and unhappy? Why?

No; people who are successful and unhappy are fascinating. It’s interesting to see exactly why people can be emotionally down when economically up, and it’s also a refreshing antithesis to the “greed is good” philosophy of the ’80s and the already-rich silver-spoon élitism of the Tories.

I’m more bored with those who are successful and happy, or even worse, successful and smug about it. Even if (and this is overall not the case) they have actually worked for it, the way they overtly savour their wealth is sickening.

Of course, a lot of the most interesting people I don’t know have no idea what they want to do with their life. There are a lot of cultural riches to be found within the average Joe, and so many more than you will find behind the vacuous smile of someone so often in the spotlight.

Youth is not wasted on the young

I was an opinionated little boy. Ask ten-year-old ILB and he would tell you that he was a pacifist. At nine, he became a vegetarian. At eight, he cried to his mother that he was upset by boys in his class using the word ‘gay’ as an insult. At two, a Tory canvasser came to the door and he squeaked “Vote Labour!” while sitting on his father’s shoulder.

I had my moments at the age of eleven, just after I started secondary school. A woman in uniform came to assembly to recruit young children to be cadets and I got up and walked out. My head of year said we had visiting rats who came to the playground after dark so I left food for them in hidden corners. I complained loudly about the school selling Nestlé products and refused to use the tuck shop unless they stopped (they didn’t stop; I stopped buying tuck).

My one blind spot was sex.

I’ve known about sex since I was about two, but the concept never appealed to me. I’d missed out on the year 5 sex ed video because I was sick that day, but I didn’t miss anything I didn’t really know. I knew, basically, the mechanics of it all, but I considered it dirty, and disrespectful, even – that is to say, I pretended I did. In reality, I was starting to get interested in sex; I still didn’t want to have any, but I found the concept a fascinating study.

And this was a rapid change.

A teasing young girl came up to ask me if I was interested in someone I’d never heard of before. When I said that I wasn’t, she answered with “So you don’t think she’d be good in bed?”
“I don’t know what it’s like in bed,” I said theatrically, with an eye-roll. Later that day, I tried to envision what it would actually be like. The following day, I did the same. And again, and again, and again…

My brain invented my sex machine once we’d had the biology module and I knew what sex could actually look like. By this point, I was too far gone – and, although I wasn’t masturbating (because I knew that was wrong), I had come around the idea that sex, although it still wasn’t for me, was okay.

By the end of the year, the eleven-year-old boy who wrote the sentence “I don’t know why humans would want to have sex other than to have children” was twelve, standing in his RS classroom, making a speech about how sex outside marriage was perfectly OK, consent to such an act was perfectly dependent upon the individual, oh, and that there was nothing wrong with being gay. (That wasn’t in the question: I just added it on.)

Young ILB grew quicker than he would have liked, but his opinions kept coming. He fiercely defended his opinion on gay people in year 9 when his History class seemed resistant to the concept. He stood outside biology classes when they dissected animal hearts. He stopped fights by standing between the belligerents, preferring that they hit him instead of each other.

And, by the time he was fourteen, he was a full-on sexual justice warrior, fiercely defending the right of people to have sex when, how and if they wanted to – talking freely about consent, what an orgasm was, how to use a condom, and wondering exactly what periods were, since they didn’t tell us that bit. I even tried to talk to my parents about sex (they were a little abashed).

Remi Himekawa from eroge game True Love. Fan art by ILB.
Young ILB’s first real sexual obsession.

At 17, I was one of the first (and few) young people in my year to lose his virginity; by 18, I was one of the… two? three? ish? people in the year who was actually having regular sex with a regular partner. I was dumped when still 18, and until the age of 21, while not having any sex at all I was getting in touch with my sexual identity, pleasuring myself all the way through university.

36-year-old ILB looks back and wonders where the binary switch was.

And now it comes to me that maybe I wasn’t alone here. Maybe everyone had a moment where they woke up and suddenly a “sex is gross” / “sex is great” volte-face clicked into place. Possibly a single epiphanic event or possibly a number of experiences. Or, like me, it just happened.

It’s just occurred to me that I’ve never really asked anyone.

So I suppose I’m doing that now.

Institutional casual transphobia, and why it sucks

Something that most of you may have missed:

During the week a local councillor was suspended from the Green Party of England and Wales for transphobia. As co-chair of the GPEW’s “Women’s Group”, she made the “unremarkable factual observation that transwomen are not female” (not my words). She was ousted from her position for this.

Kathryn Bristow, her co-chair, is a transwoman – or, as the co-ordinator for the Bridgwater Green Party puts it, “a man who wishes to be identified as a woman”. The GPEW councillor in Sunderland weighed in on this, including sentences like this:

“I have witnessed female colleagues issued with death threats and threats of rape by trans rights activists, so in comparison, I have only had a small taste of this vile behaviour.”

gpew sunderland councillor

The prevailing wisdom in the under echelons of the GPEW is that, despite the fact that we passed a gender self-ID motion at Conference, trans people (and, more specifically, M-to-F transwomen) are dangerous to women and children. Pink News reports on this story here.

Yesterday I received an e-mail from my local Green Party (of which I am still a paying member) in which the writer, a party contact, said this:

As a party that claims/seeks to respect science it is outrageous that someone has been suspended for saying that transwomen are not female. Firstly, it’s true. Transwomen have XY chromosomes, the definitive marker for male sex.

local green party contact

He followed this up by saying that “telling the truth is, for [him], a matter of conscience.” So I did the same.

My e-mail read thus:

Much as I shouldn’t be surprised by any of this, I am astounded that this sort of viewpoint exists within the GPEW and maybe even some fringes of [my local GP].

Transphobia is not, in any way, an acceptable point of view, and as much as it can be an ‘accidental’ prejudice, it is nevertheless a prejudice, and both dangerous and damaging in every imaginable way, comparable to racism, sexism and homophobia. I have already had my issues with whorephobia (SWERFism) in the GPEW; on this issue, however, I am not content to be silent.

First of all, although ‘sex’ is biologically defined by chromosomes at birth, ‘gender’ is a social construct, and often weaponised. As a cisgender male, I’ve been subjected to “boys don’t cry” narratives (occasionally with those exact words); the recent tragic death of Sarah Everard has added weight to the right-wing media’s “girls are weak” and/or “need protection by men from men” sort of thing. All these viewpoints are damaging. They are insulting. They do not help. They also promote gender stereotypes which we should be working to eliminate.

We should not be focusing on ‘protect our daughters’, rather ‘educate our sons’. However, it is equally important to acknowledge that not everyone is a daughter or a son.

As a social construct, and as a matter of consent, gender is intrinsically flexible and changeable, and it is the individual’s right to make that decision (as many times as they wish; gender identity can be switched at any time, and as there are more than two genders in existence, this decision can be made multiple time), it is incredibly dangerous to label someone as one gender, especially if they have explicitly said they identify as another. If you are uncertain, it is possible to just ask someone what their gender identify and/or preferred pronouns are; neither question is offensive.

It is grossly offensive to call someone who identifies as a woman ‘a man’ or ‘male’. This is a genuine insult and has no place in acceptable, moral discourse. Trans people have suffered under the pressures of societal norms for far too long (and they shouldn’t have suffered to begin with). The right-wing press label trans activists as unnatural; they are seen with suspicion or unwarranted curiosity for the simple act of not being cis, or hetero, or both, or either. Even at an inclusive event, trans people are often singled out – a lesbian activist group at Pride in London came under fire for handing out anti-trans leaflets, saying that transwomen are not women. Jess Phillips MP recently read out a list of “women and girls” in Parliament, purported to be a list of all female victims of violence, but excluding all transwomen, who weren’t on the list as its author considers them to be ‘not real women’.

Do you have any idea how insulting this is?

It’s been said at some point that the GPEW is tying itself in knots about trans rights when we should instead be focusing on the climate emergency (and we should, but we are not a single-issue party and I would urge us not to become so). But we shouldn’t be. It is not an issue to be debated, it is a simple fact:

Trans women are women
Trans men are men
Some people don’t have a gender
Gender is something you identify yourself

and

TRANS RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS

and I will not stand by while anyone says anything different. Come at me if you will, but everything I have said above is correct.

ilb (he/him)

I make no apology for anything I said in the above. I joined the GPEW in 2010 because I saw it as an inclusionist, radical left-wing party and this is the first time I have been genuinely shaken by something somebody in the party has said (even if it goes against party policy).

I am sharing this on my blog because I feel that it needs to be highlighted before the press gets their hands on this story.

I am not resigning from the GPEW, but I plan to challenge these damaging and transphobic views in my local party’s upcoming AGM. I will, of course, update you with anything else that arises from this.

“It’s Not a Him, It’s an It.”

When I was a very small child, I was cosmically in tune with the universe, insofar as I had a genuine belief that everything – even obviously inanimate objects – was alive, and both conscious and sapient. (I still hold the same opinion about non-human animals.) I did the schoolwork in Year 3 which suggested the opposite, but I didn’t believe it.

My mother helped shape my beliefs by using the word “hurt” as a synonym for “damage”.
“You’ll hurt it,” she’d say. “Don’t do it like…” (and then whatever I was doing wrong, likely to cause damage, like trying to shove one of my plastic dinosaurs into an electric plug to “power him up”.)
In time, I adopted this figure of speech, except for the pronoun, which I substituted for a gendered one every time (“Stop doing that! You’ll hurt him!”).
“It’s not a him, it’s an it,” my mother would say in a tired way. “And you can’t hurt it.”
“But I’m just using your phraseology,” I said, “and the message is clear, so why should it matter what pronoun I’m using?”

Only I didn’t say that.

Today is International Pronouns Day, which aims to raise awareness that people have different pronouns. There are multitudes of pronouns out there, and if you don’t like them, you can just make one up. My pronouns, in case you’re wondering, are he / him / his; I chose these pronouns when I chose my gender, and while I don’t like the connotations, they are easy pronouns to use. So I use them.

For a while – and I won’t say when, exactly, but for a while – I occasionally taught English to foreign students. It wasn’t a fantastic way to make income, but it was a way to both instruct people in the ways of language and indoctrinate them politically, and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to do that. (I wrote “UKIP” on the board once and added synonyms: evil, bad, beware, that sort of thing.) One of the things we discussed, of course, was the use of pronouns:

I am
You are
He is
She is
We are
They are
It is (…not a him, it’s an it.)

And, perhaps not surprisingly, none of the students knew of any gendered pronouns other than he and she. Because why would they? They hadn’t been taught them. Quite why they hadn’t been taught them was beyond me, but in 100% of cases, none of the students asked. And none of them mentioned any third gender, or genderfluidity, or trans identity, or agender, or… well, anything other than male or female, really.

Until of them them did.

A young female student (she/her, cisgender) asked, at one point, what to call a trans person. She had seen a news article about Chelsea Manning on the way in, and she was confused by the use of a female “she” pronoun to describe someone who was born, and still biologically was, male. Suddenly, the ball was in my court. I had the opportunity to give a speech about the fact that gender is a concept (which it is), not an identity (unless you make it so), and doesn’t need to stay the way it was when you were assigned it at birth (because, well, you can change it).

But that would have taken the whole three hours. As her teacher, I had been asked a specific question, and I needed to give a specific answer.

I spent a while writing third-gender pronouns on the board – they/them, he, xe, xhe, zhe, ze, hir… maybe a few more as well, this was years ago – and was pleased to see that she was, indeed, noting these all down.
“There are so many of them,” she said eventually. “What do you do – ask everyone what their pronouns are when you meet?”
I couldn’t, in all truthfulness, say that I did that. I didn’t like to assume – I still don’t – but it wasn’t my usual conversation opener.

[That right there is the sort of thing that International Pronouns Day is trying to normalise. A noble aim and something we, as a sex-positive community, should be striving for.]

Fortunately, I had an answer.

“If you’re not sure,” I said carefully, “you might be able to just use the gender-neutral pronoun they, until you find out. But I’ve found most people don’t mind being asked.”
“What about animals? You call them it, right?”
“Oh, no, no, no,” I said hurriedly. “An animal, any animal, including a human, is a he or a she or a they or a…” (and here I indicated the board and its list of pronouns) “…a plant, or an object, is an it.”
“But I’ve heard people use the word it to describe an animal!”

And we spent the whole three hours talking about that.


99.9%

I was told once, by a friend who had recently become sexually active, that one of the greatest aphrodisiacs was male sweat. It had worked, he attested, on his new girlfriend, and they were both enamoured of it when consummating their relationship, taking each other’s virginity when doing so.

I wasn’t entirely certain of the validity of this. I’ve become equally uncertain in the last few weeks of debilitating, sticky heat. Adding sweat to the unintentional beard I’ve managed to grow without particularly wanting one, the itchy red spots forming on my back as a result of whatever skin condition I have, and the sullen and complete lack of motivation that’s plaguing me right now, is not the greatest of combinations.

It’s not even as if I’m entirely sure that what he was telling me was the truth. I’m not overly a fan of the scent of sweat myself (male or otherwise) and I’m loath to test its attractiveness by skipping showers and deodorant and then turning up to somewhere full of hot people and waiting for the bonk-fest to begin.

There’s something to be said for the scent of sex, however. That has a little bit of sweat in the mix (although I’m more disposed to liken it to the scent of pee – you’re welcome for that connotation), but then it’s a very distinctive one, and usually as a result of a very pleasurable activity. You may be sweating during sex, but then if you’ve got that far, somebody probably already does find you attractive, so…

There’s nothing wrong with sweating, of course. It’s natural, and it happens all the time. I just don’t see the attractiveness. I don’t like the way it looks, or feels, and I certainly don’t like its scent.

ILB can’t speak for everyone, but nevertheless.

Anyway. I hadn’t quite formulated this post in my head until an hour ago, when I took it upon myself to don rubber gloves, get my arse outside and haul huge black sacks of refuse down the road. (Sexy, I know.) Half an hour of struggling with rubbish bags, throwing things into metal and walking back and forth… in the heat and the humidity…

…and I was definitely reminded what I didn’t like about sweat.

It gets everywhere.

Can’t we all just get along?

Wow, life is just awful right now, isn’t it?

I’m sorry I just said that, especially if (like me) you are trying to get through what may be a hump in your life or have taken a knock to your already-fragile self-confidence. I didn’t even want to write this post, particularly, but I felt like I kind of had to.

The issues I need to address were things I… well, I needed to address, really. I’ve been a bit slack in getting this post up, admittedly (I originally had a draft going on Blogger), and I wasn’t able to get my thoughts really into order. So, the issues going through my mind at the moment are…

Transphobia in the Sex Blogging Community

Like so many, I’ve found the sex blogging community to be a generally welcoming and accepting place, but with a nasty streak of elitism and self-righteous egocentricity rearing its head every now and again. I shouldn’t, therefore, be overly surprised that there are the odd incident of transphobia here and there… but I still am.

There’s a difference between transphobia and trans* erasure, but the issues that have surfaced within the community are more than just lazy trans* erasure. I don’t really feel as qualified to talk about these issues, not being trans* myself, but MxNillin has a post which covers the issues quite nicely and a Twitter thread you can get lost in, so go and read those if you want the details.

For what it’s worth, I read the post by Inigo More when it was still live, and I just thought it was pointless. A lazy attempt at satire that completely missed its mark and ended up being offensive, all tied up with a metaphor which had absolutely no relation to what his message – whatever it was – was.

I shouldn’t need to say trans* lives matter, or that transphobia and trans* erasure have no place in our modern, outwardly-looking sex blogging community in 2020, but I have to. It’s a sad fact that I have to, but I do.

The J. K. Rowling Problem

A bit of history here. I grew up in a secondary school full of rowdy boys and snipey girls, very few of whom liked me. For most of year 7, before I had any friends, the only place I could escape was into my imagination, and I built up incredibly complex fantasy worlds which masked most of the pain, even if I did get thrown through doors and hit in the face.

In year 8, I discovered Harry Potter. My mum bought the first book on a whim, and the second immediately after reading it. Azkaban came out when I was in year 9, and for the rest of my education, I had a world not too dissimilar to the one I had initially created. Deathly Hallows was released one year after I finished university (and I was working in bookshops at the time, so I had a front-row seat to its release), and I’d been following the series religiously up until that final book. I’ve even taken a liking to the Strike series more recently.

JKR’s transphobic comments, whether she made them knowingly or not, are disappointing. JKR herself is clearly a very intelligent person, so why she made the now-infamous “people who menstruate” tweet is beyond me. It’s dumbfounding; it makes no sense. Clearly the tweet she replied to didn’t want to equate “people who menstruate” to “women” (and quite right, too), so why did she contradict them with a joke?

Her attempt to rationalise seems less like an apology and more like an excuse. She bravely speaks about her experience with abusive relationships, but that’s not really what this issue is about. This is about trans* visibility, and JKR appears to have forgotten that. Her quote (from the article):

“If you didn’t already know [what TERF stands for] – and why should you? – …”

Really says it all. Yes, I do think the level of vitriol and hate directed at her is too much – of course it is – but this sort of ‘la la la I’m not listening’ approach from a much-admired author whose work I love and respect is confusing, baffling, and antagonising. Once again, trans* rights matter.

The Harry Potter Race Debate

Where I differ from some commentators on the JKR issue is the fact that they have taken this opportunity to look hack on the Potter canon and pick holes in it, with accusations of racism, sexism, discrimination and homophobia. Some of these issues seem valid when looked at critically; a few of them have come from people who clearly haven’t read the books and are just going by the films.

In my opinion, of of the greatest things about literature (and the main reason who I didn’t want the Potter series to be committed to film in the first place) is that you build up an image of the world in your head, with nothing to guide you but the words on the page. The way JKR writes is incredibly visual, but there are some things she left out. Her attempts to fuck with the canon post-Deathly Hallows genuinely haven’t helped with this. The fact remains, however, that the reader visualises the characters as they see fit in their head (my mother has never envisioned Harry wearing glasses).

A couple of character pointers I take issue with (note: this doesn’t mean that you are wrong if you disagree; this is just my opinion!):

(i) Hermione’s race isn’t stated in the books. What’s canon with her is that she has frizzy brown hair and slightly large front teeth (later corrected by magic during Goblet), and that she’s intelligent. In the films, she’s white; in the stage production, she’s black. That doesn’t actually mean that either race is canon – both work (both are different continuities anyway; the books are a third). Reading the books, the reader is left to make up their own mind. I envisioned her as white, but that’s just my interpretation.

(ii) Gay Dumbledore. This was added by JKR after publication as an attempt to… what? Diversify? I have no idea. In any case, a gay friend of mine worked this one out after first reading Stone and was finally proved right. I repeated his theory to some fellow Potter fans throughout the series and they slowly came round to the idea, as well. Whether JKR ever actually planned to have Dumbledore be gay is something I’m doubtful about, but it’s not like it came out of the blue. Fuck off with your “intense sexual relationship with Grindelwald”, though.

(iii) Cho Chang isn’t, in fact, the only Asian character in the books – Parvati and Padma Patil have Asian names as well. Plus, she isn’t actually explicitly said to be Asian at all! She has a East Asian-sounding name, of course, but all that’s said about her in the books is that she is shorter than Harry, one year older, and very pretty. In A Very Potter Musical (by StarKid), she’s from the American Deep South… and I never imagined her as being Asian… I was picturing Lisa Boyle!

It’s hard to separate art from artist

And this is the kicker (that’s a Russ Meyer quote – someone I also have an issue with). It’s difficult to enjoy Potter or Strike with the knowledge of JKR’s transphobia, the same as enjoying Father Ted with what you know now about Graham Linehan or Glee with what’s come out about Mark Salling and Naya Rivera. But I like all of those.

Zounds, I play Mario games for hours on end, and apparently Shigeru Miyamoto’s terrible to work with.

I’ve always, always, always tried to see art as what it is: art. If you previously enjoyed something that you now can’t enjoy because you take an issue with its creator then you are completely within your right to do that. I don’t have much of problem with enjoying art for art’s sake, but that is another thing about art: it is entirely down to the consumer how much you put into it.

I don’t know where things are going to go from here

And nobody does. We didn’t expect a global pandemic to hit this time last year. The lasting effects of this period of isolation, coupled with resurgent #BlackLivesMatter protests, greater challenges against transphobia (including within our own community!), a progressively weaker and ineffective Conservative government and ‘ordinary’ proles taking the helm, I’d like to think that we’ll all come out of this well: stronger, more woke, more united, and looking to the future.

I’d like to think that.

I don’t, but that’s just one more reason to try to make it a reality.

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