Dear Mariella…I think you’re talking judgemental bollocks.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably watched porn. I mean that not as a value judgement but as a statistical fact. We are living in the 21st century. We are curious creatures, resourceful ones, we have broadband, and a lot of us (including myself) have very high libidos. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t. I would posit, however, that this does not make any of us despicable perverts incapable of love. Mariella Frostrup appears to believe otherwise.

I write this in response to today’s article in the ‘Dear Mariella’ section of the Guardian – http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/aug/10/boyfriend-addicted-to-porn-so-i-left-him-mariella-frostrup – where Mariella Frostrup gives life, health and relationship advice. In this article, a 17 year old teenager, clearly upset that her boyfriend has been watching porn and is claiming that he is ‘addicted’, has broken up with him. Mariella is in full agreement and proceeds to impart her wisdom on why ‘porn is poisoning our culture’.

First of all, the letter itself is very short and very undetailed. Whether or not this has been edited down by the Guardian, I’m not sure, but it fails to give any insight into the details of the relationship. Did this girl discuss these issues with her boyfriend, try and ask him for an explanation as to why he had been watching porn and what he felt about it in relation to her? Why was she examining his laptop in the first place? Has she spoken to her peers about this? Her boyfriend ‘acted like he didn’t care’ when she broke up with him (which, if it is true, is admittedly dickish behaviour whether or not he genuinely means it or is just putting up a male front; I’ve been through the same thing myself.); however, we are given no additional details of this either. So, even just at the start, we and Mariella Frostrup are given a basic issue on which to form a basic argument.

In Mariella’s mind, the act of watching porn as a teenager or young adult and being ‘totally adrift from the intimacies of a loving relationship’ are one and the same. This seems not only just a misinformed generalisation but a huge insult to the emotional capacity of young people, or anyone who is an occasional viewer of pornography. It is true that online porn has the potential to give people a skewed idea of what sex consists of (and how the participants should look, and act), but to assume all teenagers will take it as automatically realistic or aspirational is to label them as extremely gullible and misguided. When they reach the point of having sex with someone for the first time, whether as a one night stand or within a relationship; if they are misguided enough to use porn as some of kind of teaching aide, they will quickly realise it is the opposite of helpful. I had watched porn before I had sex, and I found the real life experience more intimate, more beautifully nerve-racking and full of joy and lust than anything I’d ever watched online. In my opinion, porn doesn’t ruin real-life sex; it’s the other way around.

A teenage boy (or, indeed, anyone) who watches porn whilst in a relationship is not inherently a bad person. Anyone who watches porn and lets it affect their relationships and perceptions of sex and love in increasingly brutal and sadistic ways, without the full consent of their partner, IS someone best avoided. The frustration stems from media figures such as Mariella Frostrup lumping these two groups of people together in the same category. Yes, many killers and rapists have viewed violent pornography and have gone on to commit awful acts; however, this was combined with violent, psychopathic tendencies, long-term misogyny, and more often than not severe mental health issues. These are the minority. To label porn-watchers as inevitably heading towards that state of being is hugely simplistic. It’s reminiscent of the incredibly irresponsible media reporting of Mick and Mairead Philpott’s manslaughter of their six children. To create sensationalism, scores of politicians and the right-wing media placed the blame on ‘benefit culture’, on unemployment, and an entitlement to state hand-outs which made Mick Philpott act this way; ignoring the fact that it was domestic violence, intimidation, borderline sociopathy and bullying on his part which fuelled the act in question.

We are fallible, all of us. Watching some porn whilst in a relationship does not necessarily indicate boredom with your partner, or an inherently unfaithful state of mind. It may indicate a sense of curiosity, a relief or pressure-relieving exercise elsewhere. I have plenty of friends who I know have watched porn before, and may still do so from time to time, but are good, faithful, honest people who would die to protect their long-term partners. The world is not a sea of emotion-free sex drones. And, as is the case within this letter, if this is capable of causing a rift between two partners, TALK. Discuss the reasons behind it, how your sex life could be improved, whether your partner is satisfied by you or not. A relationship will thrive on honesty and openness; condemning and turning your back will not necessarily solve the issue. This is not to blame the girl for the end of the relationship, but to encourage both to communicate more if there are problems stemming from this behaviour.

Finally, I’ll address Mariella’s point of ‘the extent of human misery beyond their viewing delectation’. She is correct; unfortunately, lots of porn is made off the back of exploitation, violence, drugs and coercion. Not all, but certainly a proportion of it. And of course, this is despicable behaviour on the manufacturers’ part, and we cannot always distance ourselves from it or ignore these facts. However, to single out porn as a poison on society due to the suffering inherent in its making wilfully ignores our positions of privilege in every other aspect. We wear clothes which are made by slaves on less than minimum wage. We buy and use i-pods made under appalling conditions by long-suffering workers abroad. A huge portion of what we consume is manufactured through suffering; porn is by far not the only example of this. This does not make any of it justified; as I said, we are fallible, and we are trained by capitalism to turn a blind eye. However, to focus on porn and to ignore everything else is irresponsible – if you are travelling down a particular path of logic, you cannot pick and choose your arguments.

I can’t necessarily argue with all of Mariella’s points; however, to give this teenage girl a tract based on her own judgment rather than a more empathetic, more well-rounded worldview with the possibility for human error, is narrow-minded and irresponsible.

I’d welcome any debate on this.

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How it feels.

This is how it feels.

It can be triggered by a number of things.  Lack of sleep.  Lack of food.  Something going wrong at work.  A mistake, or a frustrating comment.  A loud noise that takes me by surprise, that just won’t stop.  Being trapped, physically, being nowhere near an exit by some frustrating conglomeration of people, tables, chairs and narrow walkways.  Or, sometimes, it just happens as a result of nothing – it just rears its ugly head, and then it starts.

It’s both aggressive and lethargic.  It attacks everything I’ve ever done, or wanted to do; every man or woman I’ve ever wanted or loved or missed out on, denigrating my life and hobby choices.  You’re not going to make it to America.  You’re barely going to make it out of Lancaster.  Stand-up?  Fuck off.  Only you could get a hobby which is basically standing in front of an audience screaming “VALIDATE ME!”  All you’ve got is an empty bed and some completely unworkable ideas. Look around the office. They all hate you.  They all hate those stupid jokes you make.  Shut up.  Shut up.  Shut the fuck up.

At the same time, it drags me down.  I walk slowly, methodically.  I flinch at loud noises, at fast walkers, at enclosed spaces, at any questions, no matter how reasonable.  I’m good for nothing but sleep – nothing is more appealing than pulling the covers over my head and shutting out the world.  My eyelids droop.  The litter and mess in my bedroom piles up around me.  It’s too much effort to walk the few yards to clear it up.  I’m being dragged down into the bog by this THING in my head, which picks the most inopportune times to remind me of everything idiotic I’ve ever done.

He never did get back to you.

Shut up.

All that fun you have but no one’s in love with you, are they?

That doesn’t matter.

Go to bed.  No one will miss you if you’re not around.

And linked in even with that is both incredulity and guilt that I’m even feeling like this in the first place.  My life is fine.  I have a job I enjoy, wonderful friends and a brilliant, supportive family.  I’ve experienced no trauma, no tragedy, no injury.  I’m the farthest thing from alone.  Why on earth am I feeling like this, and making it worse by overblowing it in my own head?  There are people who’ve experienced some awful things that cope better than I do.  Anti-depressants.  Jesus.  Anxiety and self-deprecation about depression – it’s like some fucking Mobius strip.

And, in flashes, occasionally – never explicit, never planned, never aspirational, only speculative, the thoughts which really worry me.  It could be easy.  Not being here anymore. There’s no point, after all.  I can’t see anything good happening beyond here.  I could do it.  There are all sorts of ways.

They never last, and they’re hardly in focus, these thoughts; like the world outside the bus window when it’s raining and it’s steamed up from the inside.  But they’re there, and that scares me.

It lifts, after a while.  My energy and positivity returns, my hyper and happy bouncing and chatting and foghorn laughing – the sort of attitude which has friends declare, “But you’re the happiest person I know!”   I love those times, and I exist within them the vast majority of my life – everything is fun, life is endless and ridiculous and I’m sharing it with the most brilliant of people.  Some of them might be reading this.  If you are, you have no idea how much I appreciate you.

But I can never relax, because I know the low is coming, and I’m dreading it.  I’m waiting for it to grab me by the ankle and drag me down into the bog again, and I worry that it’ll drag me all the way down this time, without any glimpse of the sunlight.

But through friends, medication, CBT when it eventually starts up again (that’s a whole other, incredibly infuriating story), positivity and things to look forward to, my head’s above water.

More comedy and silliness soon.  I just had to get it out.  How it feels.

It’s all a journey of alternating self-loathing and massive narcissism.

*deep breath*

This is the first filmed proof of my stand-up efforts. Perhaps one day this will be bootlegged and admired as the beginnings of a wildly successful and inspirational journey. This seems unlikely at this juncture, though, because as first filmed proof sets go…oh, I wish they could have chosen a better one.

I’m around 3:33 in (though you should watch it all as there’s some thoroughly, brilliantly silly balls in there from fellow comics), and though I leave myself to your judgment, consider that a) my sets have normally garnered a better response than this one, b) This is literally the only time I’ve had a blank half-way through a set and c) I sincerely hope I’m not normally that sweaty.

I’ll fuck off now. Enjoy.

This year. This bloody year.

2013: Woke up in Preston, not alone. Walked across the hills and the rivers with my boyfriend and his mother.  Three weeks later, was called into an office and left half an hour later unemployed and with a face swollen from crying.  Woke up late most days after that, learned how to type my qualifications and my best qualities with my eyes closed.  Throat started seizing up from my housemate’s cigarette smoke; twelve sneezes in a row doesn’t equal an orgasm, no matter what you’re told.  Shouted poetry in front of a crowded library, hugged Eve Ensler and reflected on how doing good transcends everything. Signed on for the first time and learned to hate orange, lime green, and the cheap paper of the Job Centre.  Cried in front of my advisor, and that made him human.  Celebrated a year with my boyfriend; we saw a violent movie, he only wanted three poppadoms; we arrived at my flat to find the living room trashed.  Applied for this job, and that one, and that one, and that other one.  Interviewed. Walked through the rain in cheap business suits.  Wondered where the hell I was going.  Bought a TARDIS hat.  Wished my radiator would work. Sunk lower, and lower, and lower.  Talked to an NHS stranger, cried in a cream-coloured room with no plaster on the walls. Discovered my flatmate was probably a criminal, ran away, ran away hard and didn’t sleep properly for two days.  Found the house where I’m sitting now, lined up my books in perfect alphabetical order. Started feeling and thinking diagonally, bolstered by new kindess and coloured curtains.  He was no longer my boyfriend.  No more waking up in Preston.  No more waking up in a double bed.  Applied for this job, and that job, and the other job.

Then, got my job.  Wore a smart jacket and settled in fast.  Met people who cared, people who earned more and made tea, people who let me make mistakes and didn’t sell and barter and gamble.  Stunned by kindness.  Discovered coffee and became addicted for life.  Eyes started wandering; how about this, how about that, how about standing up in front of a crowd and making jokes about sex, about the South, about myself.  Laughter, applause, more of a cure for the blues than I’ve ever known.  The learning curve.  The crowd.  The cheat sheet.  The friends, one by one of them, coming through for me, understanding perfectly, taking me in as if I’d been there all along.  Him, and him, and him.  And him, the one I’ve never even kissed but who’s stuck like a bassline in my head.  Sometimes I want to dance, sometimes I wish I could switch him off.  The hot summer, the strange tanlines where my sandals were.  Theatre in the park; watching a beautiful sunset and feeling as if I was on the edge of the world.  Boredom and brilliance, too high, too low.  Muscle pain and happy pills, a GP’s worried eyes.  The experiment, the medication, the hazy delight.  Knowing where I’m at and what I want to do.  Mince pies and holly, my family together again.  A dying year.  An awful year.  A spectacular year.

This year.  This bloody year.

 

 

Strap on a pair of wings, Cupid, we’re in for the long run.

Inspired by a conversation at work today which lasted about six hours, I decided to sign up for OkayCupid, being a freewheeling singleton/desperately lonely and seeking validation through physical contact (I tend to oscillate between each opinion of myself depending on my mood.)

The very first message I receive:

“Hi do u like it up your”

I will be forever haunted by the lost potential of the end of that sentence. Up my what?! WHAT? ENLIGHTEN ME, SEXIST FOOL. ENLIGHTEN ME WITH YOUR UNPUNCTUATED LOGIC.

If I was braver, I would engage him in a rambling, up-yours message exchange designed to call him out on his sexist behaviour and teach him a well-deserved lesson.

If I was braver…which I’m not. Always in the back of my mind, is what can happen when a woman dares to throw her hat into the ring. The lengths that some men can go to to quiet a woman down.

On a quiet Sunday, a blog was born…

The last time I wrote a blog on a regular basis was from the ages of 14-18.  Entries varied from describing the intricacies of rehearsing for a half-hour production of Mary Poppins at school (I was the Bird Lady – the world will never know the subtlety and pathos of that particular performance), to the existential journey of becoming a fully-fledged teenager complete with crushes on unobtainable, lovely boys, and ending rather abruptly upon departing to university where I stopped posting because I, well, had gained a life.

That blog is probably out in the internet ether still, somewhere. I daren’t look for it. I don’t think I could handle the embarrassment of viewing my previous, slightly more idiotic self.

But here I am again! Whilst this is primarily a procrastination exercise on the Sunday night before returning to work, it’s an overdue exercise. This blog will get lost among the salad of more interesting and amusing others out there, I’m sure, but there’s always a chance it’ll get noticed, strike a chord, and be a place I can extol the virtues of Matt Smith, possibly whilst drunk.

Some facts about myself:

– My name’s Ros and I’m 22.  By day I work in a job I appreciate very much and will not speak of here.  By night I write poetry, perform poetry, take part in improv classes and improv performance, and am a fledgling stand-up comedian, currently based in Lancashire.

– A year ago I barely could have predicted I’d be doing any of the above things. I’ve dashed suddenly and head-first into stand-up, and now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

– I hope that this blog can be a third shameless self-promotion, a third distraction and activity for myself, and a third insightful comment about the state of comedy and whatever else might catch my eye.

– I can’t guarantee the resulting product will match ANY of the criteria above.

For now, I can fulfill the ‘shameless promotion’ part of the bargain – here are some gigs I have on soon!

– (Speculative) Thursday 23 January, County Comedy Club, Lancaster University
– Wednesday 29 January, The Comedy Balloon, Manchester
– Monday 3 February, Dead Cat Comedy, Manchester

My stand-up has featured, variously; verbal filth, Doritos, huge cardboard signs, observational anti-depressant humour, apocalypse scenarios and some cutting-edge, unique, maverick material about the North-South divide. And there’s more where all of that came from.

I hope you’ll keep up with me and that I keep up with you. I have a nose piercing and a TARDIS hat. Why you wouldn’t be interested in me is, frankly, a mystery.

Kiss kiss.