Saturday, 23 February 2013

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.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

So, I SUCK at photography

You know when you really wish you were good at something? When you look at someone's hobby and think- wow, I'd really love to be good at that. The things I would do to be good at that.

You dream of picking up the relevant hobby-tool -a guitar/Photoshop/a hammer- and discovering that- wait a minute- you have a real knack for this stuff! This is it! Your natural skill! You were born to be a musician/graphic designer/carpenter(...)!

Well, my thing is photography.

I've always quite secretly thought I've got what I like to call "an eye" for photography, I just lack any training or equipment. But man, let me get hold of a camera and I'll be fronting National Geographic in no time. In no time whatsoever.

So, I got myself a camera. In fact, I got plenty. (Let's just take a quick second to pay our respects to the cameras I have disrespected in my quest to become a semi-decent photographer. The one I lost in Reflex during Pub Golf 2011. The one I got so much sand in, the lens refused to open. The one I lost the charger to in one of my many house moves, and was therefore subject to a slow, painful death. I'm sorry.)

Fast forward several deceased cameras later (RIP), I'm now on my shiny bridge camera. It's an Olympus SP620UZ. Lots of bells and whistles. Lots of megapixels. Pop-up flash. Looks the business. One problem though- I haven't got a clue how to work it.

I was (naively) expecting it to come a lot more naturally than it has done. I'm sure after some real playing around with it, and getting in lots of practice and advice, I'll be fine. I've already seen massive improvements. But in the meantime-

I keep ending up taking pictures like this:

My picture.

Where the slightest movement makes the subject look like something out of Paranormal Activity. It's not the camera's fault, either. On a recent trip to Edinburgh, my boyfriend had hold of my camera for about five minutes before he managed to take this:

Jonathan's picture.
Screw you, Jonathan.

Friday, 8 February 2013

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.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Two Northerners on a London adventure

My London adventure started off with all the usual mishaps and flapping around that generally accompanies me wherever I go. The standard stuff, like running for buses that may as well have "FU" instead of "No.44" in lights on the front, and having a minor nervous breakdown upon the realisation that I'd forgotten my railcard when I arrived at the train station. This trip, potentially career changing, was off to a good start.

Emma Bennett and I were heading to the Big City for a careers Open Day, run by the Creative Pioneers folk, and I also had an internship interview. This was a massive step in the right direction for me- namely the Taking Active Steps Towards Avoiding Lifelong Unemployment direction. It had to go smoothly, or else I'd sulk for ages afterwards.

Arriving in the capital, we were at a bit of a loss as to what to do with ourselves for the next 15 hours before our little career day. After a little bit of googling "Places in London", we decided that Leicester Square was as good a place to start as any, so embarked on an unnecessarily troubling tube-trip, found ourselves in the midst of a buzzing city centre, and did what any Northern girl would have done in that situation. We went to the nearest bar.

Ordering a bottle of wine and a sharing platter, we nestled ourselves down and recounted everything we had learnt about London. They used weird teabags here. They run everywhere. The Tube isn't as complicated as the map makes it look. Leicester Square has a M&Ms world. We even managed to come up with a pretty solid reasoning on geographical cultural differences within the UK.

"In the south, they don't have time to chat to everybody. Think about it, that's why it's such a culture shock coming up North. Up North, you've got to make best mates with a bus driver, the parking guy, the ticket-checker, the fella at Costa, and the receptionist before you've even got to work. Here, everything is a machine and it gets shit done. No faffing about making friends with every bugger you walk past. I'm busy, I don't want to be your best friend, bus driver."- Emma Bennet, North/South Philosophiser.

Having solved this great cultural mystery, we proceeded to skip a main meal and go straight to dessert; two slices of pecan pie and four shots of Goldschlager. Next, onto the nearest place that offered us free drinks for a dance with some bad-breathed Australians. I think we must have been quite drunk by the end of it all, because we ended up taking selfies sat waiting for a tube at quarter to twelve.

To sober us up, we bought some toothpaste at a corner shop, trampled around the King's Cross area trying to find our hotel, and engaged in a little chat with a stranger who rather impolitely, and I daresay aggressively, told us we needed to give him 20p. Luckily, the direction we ran from him in happened to be the way to the hotel, and within minutes we were tucked in bed watching some Superskinny/Supersized pseudo-documentary. All in a night's work.

Up early the next day, with our 20ps intact, we got dolled up and set off to my interview. It had been arranged for 10.30 and -feeling overlyconfident about the Tube- we set off at 9.30, and immediately got on the wrong train. I was almost twenty minutes late to my interview, and gave myself a whistlestop tour of many back streets of the city centre trying to find the right building. By some small miracle, the woman interviewing me empathised with my Northerner-down-south-distress and all was forgiven and, thankfully, my internship secured.

"London is exhausting" we concluded, slumped down on the train home later that night. Then Emma accidentally kicked the armrest of the person in the front, sending their arm flying. We quietly pissed ourselves laughing for the two hour journey home, and I swore to myself that next time I came to the capital, I'd bring Emma. Or a map.