The problem with porn

Admit it, you watch porn. I know it. Your housemates know it. Your internet history thinks it knows it, but I guess the memory got deleted right around 1am that Tuesday night no one was in last week.

The point is, people watch porn. And yet the only times people admit this truth hands-on is either on the internet, in anonymous capacities, or when they’re purposefully being self-deprecating. Oh, and when they’re men.

No, I don’t think I know a single woman who’d openly and casually talk about porn in a way that wasn’t politically fuelled. “Oh, did you see RedTube’s newest video? The one with the sailor on leave? Yeah, that really rocked my boat.” Yeah right. We’re more likely to hand back the vote, as far as I can see. I think there’s two reasons for this, and I’m going to solve these problems for you.

  1. Porn is embarrassing.
  2. We should be embarrassed of porn.
1. It’s embarrassing because you don’t want people to know that you’re sexually active on your own, you don’t want people to assume they think you’re pathetic or weird or a pervert. You don’t want to get caught out and you don’t want to admit that watching a video of two (or more) people going at it turns you on because ew

Solution: They’re totally watching it too, they’re just better hypocrites than you are. Also buy some Porn Headphones.
2. We should be embarrassed of porn, because despite it simply being a visual depiction of a natural (mostly, there’s some weird stuff out there) sexual act, it’s awful
At risk of inciting feminist hatred, I’m going to quote my favourite feminist on this matter.

In a world where you can get a spare kidney, a black-market Picasso, or a ticket to a ride into space, why can’t I see some actual sex? Some actual fucking from people who want to fuck each other? – Caitlin Moran How To Be A Woman

Porn sucks. The music, the heavy eyeliner and fake tan, the creepy set ups. I would ask who actually gets off on that stuff, but it appears to be working well enough to spawn a mutli-billion dollar industry, and hey, who am I to judge your tastes. 
On the darker side, we should be embarrassed because it’s intrinsically unethical. Not all of it, and not the act of watching it. But you’d be surprised how much child porn [edit: link to BBC news article on increase of child porn allegations] there is, how damaging “revenge” porn is, and how many people are involved non-consensually- from “upskirt” shots to rape. Links are SFW.

Solution: Buying some special porn headphones isn’t going to solve this one. People aren’t, unfortunately, going to stop downloading unethical porn just because I’ve written a blog about it. But a conversation I had on campus with some friends about Lad Mags got me thinking.

What if Lad Mags were able to go the extra mile, and were allowed to publish free porn videos on their website? That way, there’d be editorial control over who was involved and how ethical the scenes are. They could be as explicit as ever- I wouldn’t suggest all explicit porn be banned- and would make money the same way other free porn sites do, through advertising and “pro” membership.

Editorial control would ensure consenting partners earned a fair wage and were over eighteen, and could even be in charge of quality control- no unnatural orange tans here thank you. This kind of “healthy” porn would be less embarrassing (sort of) to admit to watching, and would tip the balance of what is ethically acceptable online in our favour. As a consumer of porn, you’d feel slightly less guilty because the site you’re watching doesn’t link to, or involve any unethical videos/images. Sure, the bad stuff would still exist, but if there were less of an audience for it, there’d be less production of it.

I don’t think we should go the full mile and ban violent porn like Iceland, simply because people will want to watch it anyway, and they’ll find a way. But if it was regulated- in terms of people involved, not in how explicit it is- then we could potentially be one step closer to a porn industry we wouldn’t be ashamed of.


Mrs Carter & Ms Kelly

I met Beyonce once. Technically I met all of Destiny’s Child, back when I was eleven, but Michelle basically doesn’t count and Kelly Rowlands didn’t appeal to me until after she was a judge on X Factor, and it’s cooler to say just Beyonce in any case.

She asked my name, to which I dutifully replied. “Farrah? That’s a beautiful name.” I told her I didn’t like it because it was weird. “My name is weird too, but I still think it’s beautiful.”. We posed for a picture, backstage at the MEN Arena, and I galloped off, happy as could be.

Honestly, that was the first time I’d ever considered my name as anything other than something that couldn’t be properly pronounced, even by my sister. (Incidentally, I still occasionally get referred to as “Fa-rerr”). I became proud of my unusual name, as my new best friend Beyonce had taught me. Fast forward ten years, and I’m still happily proud of my name (or “title” as I sometimes like to think of it.)


Beyonce’s new tour, the Mrs Carter World Tour, threw up a few problems. As a feminist, was I supposed to be uncomfortable that such an amazing female role-model was announcing herself as Somebody Else’s Wife? Well, no. My feelings on this are wonderfully summarised in this Vagneda blog post, which basically said that she can do what she likes, she’s Beyonce for goodness’ sake. I’m too busy patiently waiting to buy all the tickets for her next Manchester appearance to consider the feminist impact of her show title anyway.

But it did get me thinking about my own name again.

Farrah Kelly, I like to think, has a nice ring to it. There doesn’t seem to be any one else with my name- not according to a quick Google-and it’s a solid part of my identity. My life’s work, however little of it there is, exists under that guise. Most importantly  it cements me as one of the three Kelly girls; Diane Kelly, Bethany Kelly, and me. If, when my mum gets married to Steve, she changes her surname to Yates, I’d be thrilled for her. But I’d always consider her a Kelly girl. Mama Kelly. If Beth ever changes her surname, she’ll always be Baby Kelly to me.

If I ever marry, which I think is unlikely given my tendency to demand an entire double bed and to get unnecessarily outraged when Coronation Street isn’t a priority for others, I’m keeping my name. there’s no real question of it for me. It’s my name, always has been, always will be. This doesn’t have any direct links to my political beliefs, I’ve just never been comfortable with the notion of renaming myself. Plus just think of the admin. I have enough trouble remembering which of the eleven potential postcodes I’ve given as a billing address on Paypal, nevermind having more names to choose from.

My upbringing, as the eldest of a single parent, has had such a resonance with me that I’m wholeheartedly entrenched as a Kelly. It’s easily the strongest part of who I am, that little girl on Ashton Road East with a mum and a sister, and it’s uncompromisable. I’m not wanting to disregard name-changing as a negative thing, I think it can be romantic and practical and I understand the reasons behind it completely. It’s just not for me.  In the same way, I understand why some people might paint their front door yellow, but that’s also a life decision I’m going to choose not to follow. As far as I’m concerned, in terms of seriousness these two things are on par.

When Beyonce said to me, all those years ago, that I had a beautiful name, I don’t think she understood that she set off a ricochet of identity in me. Maybe I’ll tell her so when I’m at her gig in Manchester. I’m sure they’ll let me backstage to have a quick pre-show chat about my life choices. We are best friends, after all.


Embarrassing sexism out of existence

It’s time for another feminism post. It seems that since my last stab at solving equality, basically NO ONE LISTENED, so I’m going in for another pop. Fingers crossed this time, I’m getting kind of tired of having to keep bringing this up.

Sexism exists. I know, I know. I’d literally rather sick up a chip than have to repeat that sentence, but there we have it. It’s like a really pungent fart on a train. No one wants to point out that they’re suffocating from it, we’re much too polite for that, and the fella that’s done it can’t even smell it- and even if he could, he’d be more outraged that you dared to call it out than accept any fault.

So, maybe it’s because I’ve been reading lots of Caitlin Moran lately, or maybe it’s because my best friend was told to “ask your dad” when questioning a cowboy plumber’s work, or perhaps it’s because there’s so much in the news right now on gang rape, rape apologists and victim blaming. Whatever the bubbling inspiration for this is, I’ve decided I want women to start calling out sexism. Routinely. Every time it happens. If you can’t beat them, beat it out of them (not literally, please.)

Calling out sexism is actually quite good fun. You feel a rush of self-respect, and are kind of satisfied that you’ve managed to embarrass someone for being a douche. Par example:

A few nights ago, I joined some friends on a night out. Wearing thick black tights and a leather skirt was apparently enough of a come on for a complete stranger, who decided he’d have a quick feel of my arse as I tried to get past him.

I genuinely cannot understand why people do that. Are you checking it if it’s ripe, or something? We’re not in the fruit aisle of Tesco, bro, you don’t get to have a feel a la Try Before You Buy. Anyway. Whatever his motivations were, I’m not particularly game for a good round of casual sexual assault in a nightclub, so I politely asked him if there was anything in particular he thought he stood to gain by groping a passing woman.

He was mortified. He wouldn’t make eye contact with me, his friend looked awkward and turned away, and he certainly didn’t give me a satisfactory answer. Hmm? Was there something you wanted to say, treacle? You’ve got my undivided attention. I don’t know if he’ll do it again, but I’m willing to bet if he was confronted that way every time he copped a feel, he’d get the message.

There’s an amazing ongoing campaign called the Everyday Sexism Project. (Their website & their twitter are well worth a read). In practice, it’s this huge database of women’s experiences of sexism. If every single one of those instances, some of them casual, some of them harrowing, and most of them relatable, were called out, then we might be half way to putting sexism to bed.

I’m not in anyway suggesting sexism is in any way women’s responsibility, or that men are naturally, stupidly sexist and we need to carefully train them out of it. It’d just be brilliant if we could sit around, having cocktails or sleepovers or whatever girls do, and laugh about the time we called out sexism, rather than sharing embarrassing and often uncomfortable anecdotes of it.

So, next time you see sexism happening, or are at the brunt of it, tell that person to piss off. Next time someone asks how you think you’ll bring up children and have a career, or when they suggest you’ll be too busy buying shoes to care about important stuff, or when they grope you in a club, call them out. We can embarrass it so much that the ground really does open up and swallow it whole.


Could you donate an organ?

It’s been an important few weeks for us Yellies. Steve, my stepdad, has just undergone an operation removing his kidney. He’s not ill, thank goodness, he’s just decided to donate it. To a stranger.

Donating an organ to a stranger is a lengthy, costly and exhausting procedure. Steve has undergone around a year of medical tests to make sure his kidney is up to scratch, and that he’s in a physical (and psychological) state strong enough to wave goodbye to an organ. He lost weight, took countless blood tests, fasted and cycled across west Yorkshire to get to hospital appointments.

The operation was a success, and he’s now recovering in his onesie and a beanie hat at home for the next few weeks. He can’t do anything too strenuous, his meds can make him ill, his appetite is off, and he can’t drive or take the dog for a walk. Instead of feeling lighter, due to the absence of a hunk of meat inside of him, he is bloated from the things that have been pumped inside of him. He feels like a ‘rearranged suitcase’.

It all seems a lot. Especially when you consider he has never met, and most likely never will meet the person who’s receiving the spare organ. But he hasn’t complained- even where he’s had to cut out his beloved slice of bread before tea, or after an unpleasant stay in the hospital. He’s saving someone’s life, and that’s enough for him.

I couldn’t be prouder. He has no reason to voluntarily offer up his kidney, other than wanting to improve a life of a complete stranger. If you ever doubted altruism existed, then this would put you straight. Wanting no recognition or praise for his undoubtedly noble act, he’s quite content shuffling around the house making Coke Floats, happy in the knowledge that somewhere, a person can continue to live because of him.

Could you donate an organ? I’m sure we’d all like to think we’re dutifully to chop off limbs and spare bits to save a loved one in a desperate and unfortunate situation- but could you do it for a stranger?

It’s quite easy to donate blood- safe in the knowledge that our hearts will be powering to replete our levels. Once you offer up something your body can’t simply restock, it’s a different story.

Steve is one of the first hundred people in the UK to donate to a stranger. The name for a living donor of organs is an “altruistic giver”, and is spot on. Steve, and my family members, went to some lengths to ensure this donation would run smoothly. It’s not always been a walk in the park, and there are considerable improvements to be made to the entire donation procedure. But somewhere in London, a young woman has been given a new lease of life. And that’s the important thing.

Here is my virtual hat off, round of applause and tear of pride in my eye to Steve Yates.

If you fancy following in Steve’s footsteps and handing over your spare kidney to someone who could really do with it, or if you’re just interested in the process and people’s motivations for altruistic giving, check out this amazing but small campaign: One’s Enough. There’s also a fascinating article on the rise of altruistic givers in The Guardian here.