I have curves in all the wrong places and I’m shit in bed

This article was originally featured in an edited form on Subversive Press.

Subversive Press Article

Thinking of a late night rendezvous to pass the time on the summer nights? Here’s a heads’ up to save you the trouble; I’m sloppy, lazy, lacking in rhythm and haven’t shaved – probably just pushing a two out of ten at best.

Perhaps. Maybe I’m actually a sexual dominatrix who’ll show you the ride of your life? I might have a foot fetish, boobs like a supermodel or scream the digits of pi to 10 decimal places when I climax, but here’s the catch – you won’t be finding that information on Facebook.

During the last month, social networks have witnessed an explosion of “Rate A Shag” pages, where users are actively encouraged to rate their partners’ performance for all to see.  As one page for the University of Kent, now banned, asked: “Have any stories about your conquests? A ‘mistake’ you need to get off your chest? Or just want to give credit where its due for a job well done? Well here is your chance!”

It’s simple: just send a private message with the full name of your unsuspecting partner, a rating out of ten and any other notes you wish to add. What could be simpler? The page admins will even keep your name anonymous to spare any unwanted embarrassment. Don’t worry about feeling guilty for divulging private information either – it’s only “bantz, a bit of harmless fun” one student explains to me. Except sexual humiliation simply isn’t funny.

Whether you see sex as part of a long-term loving relationship or simply a recreational activity to fill time on a Sunday afternoon, there’s no denying that it’s one of the most intimate acts possible between two humans. It leaves us almost entirely exposed; and not just in terms of flesh on show. Making love, bonking, getting jiggy with it… Whatever you call it and whatever the circumstances surrounding it, sex is unquestionably an agreement of privacy and trust between two people. It leaves us at our most emotionally vulnerable and, for the most part, what happens in the bedroom should stay in the bedroom.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t talk about sex; on the contrary. Frank and open discussions about intercourse and its implications provide a clear benefit to society. Malicious online shaming, however, does not. One student I spoke to about such pages was aghast. “It’s absolutely disgusting. Firstly there’s no way to prove that somebody has ever spoken to or seen a person, let alone slept with them, and even then it’s a vindictive way of verbally abusing someone.”

Indeed, the whole system is inherently biased towards abuse. Protecting the name of the writer offers a further cloak of cyber anonymity and a clear opportunity for misuse. Of course we should all be free to be as liberal as we like when discussing our own sex lives – but not at the cost of someone else’s dignity.

And sexual humiliation can have devastating consequences. Charities and police forces alike have reported countless calls from “hysterical” teenagers, upset at rumours posted anonymously online. One 22 year old told the BBC she was even approached at work following an online “slut shaming”. She said: “There was a boy who had the webpage up and pointed at me and said, ‘Oh, so if I gave you twenty quid what would you do for me? My main worry was that my dad saw it. The moment he would have seen my name and the word sex by it, I knew that it would have caused uproar. He would fly me to the rest of the family in [the middle east]. It would be all over. I would never see England again and that would be how I’d live.” The girl even said she considered taking her own life.

While the main bulk of sites linked to universities have been shut down, the problem is far from gone. Copycat sites spring up in seconds and the Facebook staff themselves admit they’re having trouble keeping on top of the problem.  Perhaps more worrying, however, is the internet culture that is creating and feeding these sites and millions others like them.

The web may offer countless opportunities, but its very nature distances us from real life and morality. In the cyber world we’re all one step removed from our own identities – we can be whoever we want to be and do whatever we want to do – and crucially we’re one step removed from the consequences of our actions. The internet doesn’t come with tangible faces, voices or feelings, leading to a dangerous breeding ground of abuse, cruelty and humiliation that’s all too tangible for the victims.

So before you press enter on that “hilarious” picture of the weird looking guy to the “Spotted in _____” page, or reveal all on last night’s encounter, stop and think for a second. Would you really drag someone up on stage in front of millions of people to yell that they are crap in bed? Didn’t think so.

Journalism Degrees; Worth it or worthless?

Screen Shot 2013-05-07 at 18.43.37

Last week an article appeared on student journalism site Kettle, where final year magazine journalism student Vicky Finn reflected on her four years at university, coming to the ultimate conclusion that her degree was a pointless waste of time.

Perhaps unsurprisingly it provoked a storm of debate on twitter, with student journos all over the country arguing for (and against) their studies. Finding myself sat at home in my room in Devon, I couldn’t help but wade into the debate and asked to write a retaliation argument, which you can now view online!

Quotas are not “quick fix equality”

Sometime last year a friend of mine posed a very interesting question. We had just finished dinner and were well on our way through our second bottle of wine when he mentioned some problems he’d been having at work. As the organiser of promotional events and conferences for a charitable organisation, the booking of speakers fell solely on his shoulders. Yet for some reason he had found there were simply not as many women speakers as men. His answer? Introduce a quota.

 

The idea is simple. Set a percentage of how much of a certain group you want within your organisation and rigorously enforce it. In the case of my friend this meant simply asking more and more women to speak until they finally made up half of the programme. The idea is also nothing new. Quotas been banded around several times in recent years coupled with happy and righteous tag words like “equality” and “positive discrimination”. Only yesterday an EU debate on the subject was postponed.

The latest proposals, brought by the European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, would see it made compulsory for companies to reserve 40% of their seats for women. However the plans were put on hold after as many as 11 of the 27 member states expressed objections and the legality of the move itself was brought into question. I couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief.

It’s easy to see why the idea looks attractive on the surface; currently women make up a mere 15% of board positions throughout the EU. Some may even go as far to suggest that as feminists it’s our job to fight for our fair share of boardroom space. Yet I couldn’t think of many things more patronising and degrading than being picked for a role solely for the purpose of filling a quota.

Women should fight for their rights to be in boardrooms and other high flying areas, but they should do this through being damn good at what they do. Job applications should be based on the merit and capabilities of the candidate – not on what may or may not be in their pants. If I got hired I’d want to know it’s because I was the best option out there. It’s easy to slate a company for a poor ratio of females at the very top, but if the men were simply the better candidates at the time we should stop fishing for a pity vote and up our game. It’s business sense.

That’s not to say that sexism in the boardroom does not exist, but the way to tackle negative attitudes is through education – not with measures which only mask the true problem. Enforcing mandatory quotas will not change social attitudes overnight. If a company are biased against women, forcing them into hiring more won’t suddenly change that. If anything, quotas have the potential to let biased employers parade as one offering equal opportunities.

If we really want to address the gender bias perhaps we should start looking for the root cause of the problem. Quotas are not “quick fix equality”.

Sky New Day 14/15: I wrote it, Kay Burley said it

Whilst I’d like to think I’m not one to brag about my achievements, if any, I’m also not ashamed to admit that I do like them to be known. It can sound a somewhat contradictory notion, but to me it seems perfectly achievable. I want my byline on the piece, so I can prove it’s mine and justifiably slap it down on the table mid job interview and say that was mine, I did it, all by my little old self. But by the same token I’m not looking to ram it down anybody’s throat. One of the things which has always left me slightly dubious about working within broadcasting is that though I’m not searching for the limelight and gagging to get in front of the camera, I’m not quite comfortable with the idea a lot of hard work goes generally uncredited and is completely untraceable.

I guess she can be the star of her show if she wants too..

Working with a production team was always going to be a test of that attitude; everything you do goes into the programme and there’s not so much of a closing credit to say what you did and getting to work on some of the NIBs to be read out in the bulletin was perhaps one of the weirdest experiences I’ve had at Sky so far. They’re hardly substantial; about 15 seconds of text to be read out over the top of some live visuals by the presenter, who just so happens to be Kay Burley. Having edited and written a few myself I didn’t really think much of the whole anonymous affair until whilst rushing around like a blue arsed fly trying to get graphics for the latest  British golds (oh yea, GO TEAM GB!!! The Olympics makes into an excitable and hormonal teenager all at once) I happened to hear Kay Burley reading something that I wrote earlier on. And, I have to admit it made a bit of a funny feeling in my stomach and I felt kind of proud; something I’d never have expected.

This blog post is verging on the territory of deep and meaningful, which I’m concious to avoid like a runaway lion, but it seems to me there’s merit to being part of the bigger picture. There’s no way that journalism on a large scale can be achieved by one person alone and being just one of those tiny cogs that help make it all happen can actually feel quite rewarding, there’s even a weird sense of pride found in the fact that no one else know what you did. Perhaps sometimes, it’s alright to leave the limelight to Mz Burley.

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The Exclusives confirms everything I hate about reality TV

Earlier this year a friend of mine sent me details about an “exciting” new TV show to launch this year, marketed as the journalistic version of The Apprentice. Initially dubious about the damage (as opposed the fictitious benefits) a reality TV show could do to my potential career I decided to give it a miss. It wasn’t until what seemed like the entire population of Kent’s journalism course started applying I decided to jump on The Exclusives band wagon.

The Exclusives aired on ITV2 this week, and I’m glad say I’m not part of it

I filled in my application with a pinch of salt; I didn’t really want to go on this show. When asked what it would the experience would mean to me I explained it was purely to get one up on my editor (Sorry Sara, in fairness I think you’ve won now) and when asked about the best moment of my life so far I explained the glorious moment when J2O Maldives retweeted my message about their drink causing glittery poo. I wasn’t sure whether to be surprised or not when I got a call back.

Yet as the show aired this week on ITV2 it dropped lower than even my feeble estimations could have predicted. Whilst I understand  in the world of reality TV there’s more emphasis on looking pretty and having a strong character than any kind of actual talent, The Exclusives really does take the biscuit.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that these young people do not have any talents or worked hard, but the producers of the show have kept it extremely well hidden under layers of glamour modelling, sob stories and pulling pints. There is not a single mention in the entire programme of anything any of the contestants have ever done to gain their goal before.

The closest we get is a contestant who tells us that she sometimes writes for her local paper, when she’s not getting her boobs out for the camera. There’s nothing wrong with modelling, but surely the show should try and focus a little bit more on these people’s writing ambitions? She later explains that “writing is my escape”, which would be fine until she mentions that everyone thinks she’s mental when they read what she’s written and the accompanying video shot shows her doodling flowers.

Equally the show does nothing to enforce the realism of starting at the bottom of a very long ladder, with the contestants put up in a swanky London flat and told to “get some sleep” after they’ve completed a couple of tasks. It’s also highly implied the girls will be getting through on their sexual charm, which is definitely a stereotype that needs enforcing in a historically male dominated industry.

Whilst I understand that the show isn’t aimed at an audience of journalists, it’s distorting the profession beyond belief. At the least in The Apprentice they pretend to have business drive.

 

James Murdoch’s resignation: killing two birds with one stone?

News Photo: James Murdoch arrives at the wedding of Charles…James Murdoch’s resignation from News International is perhaps a rather effective way of killing two birds with one stone.

In the ever continuing midst of last summer’s phone hacking scandal, the reputation of the company has failed to recover. It’s been just six months since the closure of leading title News of the World and daily hearings at the Leveson Inquiry never fail to keep the flame of accusations alive. It was only this week that speculations arose about the launch date of Murdoch’s new titles the Sun on Sunday; hurried to get on the shelves before a spate of high profile witnesses.

It perhaps seemed to some inevitable that someone would have to get the boot. And as today’s massive headline’s flash across news sites everywhere, you’d almost be forgiven for thinking the Murdochs have done just that. Yet of course if things were that simple, there would never have been phone hackings in the first place.

In a statement released today News International stressed the decision came after Mr Murdoch’s relocation to New York. He’ll still be working within the company, focusing instead on international business and pay to view TV. In fact he’ll also be keeping his role at the company’s parent group, News Corporation, arguably the more prestigious of his two positions.

When the Murdoch’s last appeared giving evidence together, the distinct impression was that James Murdoch was the one holding the ship together. Mr Murdoch Senior was portrayed by the media as unsure and forgetful, possibly a victim of old age; hardly a figure the public would want to condemn too harshly.

In stepping down from his UK role James Murdoch takes himself out of the limelight; he continues on working with News Corporation whilst giving the impression he’s standing down. Rupert Murdoch gets to stay exactly where he is without too much pressure. In fact it seems things are going rather well for the Murdochs.

Dr Stevie Spring: Is there a future for paid journalism?

In three years’ time I’ll be 24. I will have finished my degree and I’ll officially be a grown up. Perhaps not unlike any other first year undergraduate, I find the prospect frankly terrifying; all I wish for upon my graduation is to wear one of those stupid hats, walk down the cathedral aisle without slipping on my backside and know I’ve got my dream job ready and waiting. Yet perhaps also just like every other student, I know I’m being incredibly naïve.

In reality it’s a big scary world beyond the safety of student halls and a degree programme pandering to your every need, and there’s no shortage of people quite willing to stab you in the back. With the threat of a double dip recession looming, now really isn’t the ideal time for job hunting.

For aspiring journalists the problem is even worse. If you put to one side the increasing culture of redundancies, falling profits and squeezed margins and look past the smears of the phone hacking scandal and gross malpractice, we’re still faced with the very tangible fear that our profession is dying.

In an open lecture last week at the University of Kent, Dr Stevie Spring, CEO of Future Plc, the largest exporter of licenser of magazines in the UK, attempted to address these problems. To put it bluntly, she observed how the innovative world of technology has both innovated and decapitated journalism. Whilst the internet has opened news to everyone and offered instant updates, it’s begun to breed a dangerous culture that news comes for free.

With the emergence of twitter and blog sites as news sources in their own right, it’s tempting to fall prey to the sensation of doom. It was only last week that news of Whitney Houston’s death was broken, not by a newspaper or even a news website, but by twitter. But sites like twitter are very much in their infancy and whilst talking to staff and students at the Canterbury campus Dr Spring made a compelling argument. Twitter is changing. And so is journalism.

Already the language of twitter has become less about what you can cram into those 140 characters and more about what you can share. Whilst we may have become our own editors, choosing what and when we read, we still swarm in our millions to the conventional news hubs. People don’t trust the Syrian national smuggling out messages from their bedroom in the same way they don’t trust the citizen journalist who blogs every day; they trust verifiable, accountable sources like the BBC, Sky and the newspaper industry.

Whilst it might be true the waters ahead are somewhat stormy and innovation is necessary for survival, this does not mean journalism is dying. For as long as trust in professional news sources is ingrained within the public mind set, there will always be paid journalists. For now it’s just a question of how we adapt.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

For the second time in his football career, John Terry was yesterday given the news that he was to be stripped of his England captaincy. Fabio Capello was left unconsulted and will once again return from Italy to find his team a shambles, a mere four months before a major tournament.

Source: Telegraph

Surely this begs the question of why 14 men in a board room can make such career defining decisions, based merely on allegations? Whether or not John Terry is innocent is irrelevant; we live in a democratic society whereby we are all innocent until proven guilty. Except in football it seems.

Whilst this ethos may become slightly more difficult in Terry’s case considering that the accusations come from Rio Ferdinand’s brother, surely the point still stands? Though David Bernstein may insist that the decision “in no way infers any suggestion of guilt”, the very opposite is inherent within it.

That the allegations reflect badly on the team is a charge that cannot be denied, however striking Terry off before a ruling has been made, equally does nothing to repair England’s reputation. The argument that the court process could affect Terry’s ability to do his job hold more weight; though surely this is a decision Terry and Capello would have to decide?

Unity of the English team is of course important, but surely players should be able retain professionalism at all times, regardless of any allegations? For me at least, this whole process appears somewhat shambolic.