i-saw-you-on-tinder

Snog, Marry, Avoid was a fairly trashy TV show which involved making over women who were deemed a bit trashy, and making them classy. The title hinted at the fact that dressing and wearing makeup in a certain way might get you a snog, but it wouldn’t get you a ring, and if you wanted him to put a ring on it you needed to shape up because the snap judgements men  made about the way you look could make you miss out.

I think I might have admitted this before, but in a moment of midnight madness and curiosity, I downloaded Tinder. It didn’t last very long, approximately 5 minutes. I don’t say this in a sneering way to belittle those of you who have used the app as an aid in your romantic (sexual?) endeavours. It just took all of 5 minutes for me understand that my particular demographic – black, female, born again Christian,waiting till marriage to have sex and looking for a man with similar values, was possibly NOT Tinder’s target demographic and that I was extremely unlikely to swipe and land on a 28 year old man who was currently deciding whether to read Revelation or Matthew next and investing his pent up sexual energy in 5 mile runs. It was swiftly deleted and I went to sleep.

I was watching a (fairly low brow) documentary this evening called Face Value, which explored how central our faces are to..well..life. Wars have been waged over faces. Millions of pounds have been earned from the simple genetic lot of facial features.Most importantly, in 2016 especially, potential life partners have been selected or discarded on the basis of their face.

I often hear people say that your twenties are the time for having fun when you’re dating. We get told not to get too tied down to one person, not to spend time being patient with someone who isn’t meeting our expectations, to ‘get it out our system’. The assumption is that once this period is over, we will be ready to settle down with a long term life partner. Once we’ve gone through a 10 year period of making snap judgements, impulse decisions and allowing ourselves slightly more superficiality that we would expect from a ‘proper’ adult, we can then go on to blossom into a a more mature connoisseur of  love and relationships.

Essentially, your twenties are your snog, marry, avoid years. Your Twenties are your Tinder years. You have the youth, the good looks amd the free time to swipe as you please. Your fertility can withstand your snap judgements and there is no receding hairline to force you into low expectations and settling. Some people are comfortable with moving from person to person because they have their whole life ahead of them to be boring and committed and tied down.

But what if you never get out of your Tinder habit? What if your brain becomes so accustomed to swiping, avoiding, hooking up, discarding and transactional sexual experiences, that come 35, no woman can hold your attention for long enough?  What if you find out too late that you haven’t learnt the steady, sometimes difficult uphill hike of learning to grapple with someones flaws and reflecting on your own?

Would it be worth it? Maybe we’re delusional in believing that our brains, marvellous in their ability to form habits and build neuronal pathways that reinforce these, can suddenly adjust when we and society decide that it’s time for us to grow up. I read a diary entry I’d written at age 14 – it  listed the things I liked about myself and the things that I didn’t like, things I wanted to change and work on. I’d scrawled in my notebook ‘I’m good at talking to people, I have a quick mind, I can be very loving…I can be selfish sometimes, I have a quick temper, I’m disorganised and messy’. I would like to say that I’ve changed dramatically, but apart from having a much slower temper (thank God) , I’m still a bit selfish and I’m still quite messy and disorganised at times. In fact, it’s frightening how many of both my good and bad qualities were solidified during my teenage years.

The fact that my temper has improved quite significantly gives me some hope – I prayed a lot about that and I’m thankful that I’ve changed. Change is possible. But the other things on my list serve as a warning to me that every day I’m making choices about who I will be in 10 years time. I’m fooling myself if I think that who I am today at 26 and who I am at 36 will be different just because I decide that it’s time for me to grow up. Life doesn’t woirk that way.

So next time you decide to swipe in real life, or on Tinder, ask yourself how swiping is changing the way you look at people. And remember that who you are in 10 years may be so similar to who you are now, it will surprise even you.

burkini

I was up later than I should have been a couple of nights ago and I can no longer blame it on the disrupted sleep pattern my body was forced into by two night shifts a couple weeks back. It’s not the rota coordinator’s problem anymore, it’s all me. I’ve failed to self regulate and I find myself meandering into intemperance and insomnia more nights than is healthy. On this particular night, I had just finished watching a documentary on Donald Trump (will he become President, won’t he? Is this all a dream?)  with my dear old Dad, and casually flicked through the channels with the intention to head to bed. As I flicked, I came across 3 naked women, standing in booths, and another woman scrutinising their bodies as a presenter teased her, asking what she thought, who she liked best. I saw the title of the show, Naked Attraction. Ah, this was the show I had heard others talk about and had determined not to watch. The nudity wasn’t as shocking as the sheer banality of it all. Clearly, TV has run out of ideas. And when you’ve run out of ideas, naked women will generally keep the party going for a bit.

We’ve all seen nudity on screen, be that via an X rated site, a film or even an advert for washing up liquid. This generation of westerners is suffering from nudity fatigue – we’ve seen so much nakedness it no longer excites in the same way.  The existence of Naked Attraction is just one more story to add to the particular secular liberal narrative that wants us to believe that nudity (women’s in particular),  is sexually liberating.

France’s recent ban on the burkini, a modest swimsuit cleverly named to allude to the burqua, was met with astonishment and derision by many liberal media outlets.  It’s a shocking display of disregard for religious liberty. It polices women’s bodies. It makes Muslim women bear the burden for the atrocities committed by a few renegade terrorists who many Muslims would not even consider to share their faith. It’s oppressive. I agree with all these statements, but I wonder how we can separate the ban from the prevailing attitudes towards female bodies and sexual liberation that we have incubated in the West for the past 50 years, as if the two aren’t directly correlated.

The reason why the burkini is so ‘other’ is not merely becuase of the head covering although this is significant part of it. It’s also because of the idea of modesty and covering the female form that is such a stark contrast to our current social norms.

We live in an age where some women can propel themselves into fame and fortune sheerly off the back of sex tapes large bottoms and where women, (black women especially) with considerable musical talent often face overt and subtle pressure to act in an extremely sexual manner in order to achieve success. (I specified race because fuller figured black women who sing better than Adele and like her, aren’t overtly sexual, are not achieving her level of success, and yes, it’s at least partially a race thing).

Despite this being to my mind obviously oppressive, there is a relentless insistence from some sectors of society that these women are sexually liberated and concurrently, the subtle suggestion that modesty and covering are rooted in oppression. Although many liberal pundits in the wake of burkini will loudly proclaim that it’s a woman’s choice whether or not she dresses modestly, we have created a culture where uncovering is by design. Our fashion magazines, our shops, our advertisements and our media all propel us in a direction of nudity under the guise of freedom and despite declaring that we support women in whatever choices they make, we have created a culture that celebrates, orchestrates and rewards nudity. Is it any wonder then, that in our subconscious mind, the burkini is an assault on our ‘value system’? Could it be that despite condemning France for her actions, we have as a collective, played a part in facilitating an environment where to be modest is to be constantly othered?

Arguably, the situation in other countries that are less secular ,where women are forced to cover is far worse than what we currently have in the west. I would be the first to say I would much rather live in a country where I could be naked or burqua’d without retribution (and France is now excluded from this), but oppression is not always as bold as morality police and Taliban soldiers. Both societies have failed to reach a place where women’s bodies are not dissected for mass consumption, where women’s bodies are fully their own without the enduring threat of breaking under standards that are constantly placed on them without regard for their emotional, mental, even spiritual well being.

When I cannot walk into a high street shop and with ease find a dress that does not have a random hole cut into it, a thigh high split, or plunging cleavage, in a not-so-subtle way, I am being told how I should be as a woman. There are a thousands of items of clothing, but so few that allow me to not be forced to conform to the narrative that I a freer when I am less covered.

We may rightly condemn France but we are wrong if we do not examine how, maybe almost imperceptibly to some, we have all allowed this to happen.

mum and dad

 

I was chatting with my brother earlier today about children being brought up to be a specific gender and the roles that come with that. There’s been a lot more conversation in the last couple of years about children and gender. Many question whether it’s healthy  to bring up children with a specific gender or whether we should raise children as gender neutral.

I usually try to be quite diplomatic in these conversations because I feel that these issues are quite complex and that for families where children have questions about their gender identity, all the articles in the world will never be able to give the right answer on how to deal with when your child who is physically female tells you that they believe mentally, and emotionally, they are a boy.

However, I am becoming increasingly more frustrated with the formidable nonsense amongst those who are insistent on promoting this ridiculous and contradictory notion that gender is something wholly imagined by society with little biological basis, but who at the same time insist that some people are born in the ‘wrong’ body and therefore their need to change their body to match their gender. Clearly, these two ideas are logically incompatible. View Post

sex ed

I read an article earlier today by Peter Tatchell with a blueprint for sex education in schools. It’s what you would expect from Peter Tatchell i.e. , an extremely liberal approach.  While I agree with him that sex education should be taught in schools and that it is extremely important in safeguarding young people against abuse, as I read the article I became very uncomfortable with some of his proposals.

I should start off by saying that personally, I will teach my children about sex (in an age appropriate way) as early as possible. I want my kids to grow up understanding that sex is good, normal, natural and safe in the right context at the right time. I want them to be comfortable with their bodies and their right to say no to anyone – be that relative, friend or potential partner who approaches their bodies in a way they don’t feel comfortable with. I want them to grow up to be confident in their own moral choices, but to also be respectful of other people who don’t share their belief system and make different moral choices than they do. I want them to be able to respectfully articulate the choices they have made in regards to their sexual behaviour. View Post

modesty

Dear Christian men,

It’s summer time and once again, you’re engaged in a battle for your mind. It’s everywhere – the short skirts, the crop tops, the see through leggings, the cleavage, the too short shorts. And guess what?

This isn’t a blog post suggesting that any of the above items of clothing are things that I or any other Christian woman should  be wearing. This isn’t a blog post by someone who isn’t sympathetic to the fact that modern society means that there is an onslaught of images that make it difficult for the modern Christian (because contrary to what you’ve been taught, many women are just as visually orientated as men)  to adhere to the standards we have in regards to sexuality. This isn’t even a blog post by a woman who feels that men and woman have zero mutual responsibility to each other when it comes to sexual behaviour.

However.

However,

I’m sick of Christian/Muslim/random men who despite my attempts to dress modestly still feel like it’s appropriate to rest all the blame for their lust….on me. In fact, I’m sick of the church in general portraying men as helpless puppies, who sit in front of Jezebel women, panting and jumping up and down at the behest of their scantily clad owners.

This isn’t about what women wear or don’t wear, it’s about a historical legacy of sexism in the church that harms men AND women because it disempowers you and shames us. It tell you that your locus of control is entirely outside yourself. That sexual sin is something that ‘happens’ to you, thrust in your face by seductive women who are out to devour you.

It doesn’t really matter what I wear – if I was  in the most Amish friendly skirt, maybe my perfume would be to blame for the fact that you’re turned on. If I wore eau de tap water,  it might be that the way I walk is a little bit too sensual. If my walk was stiffer than a German police officer in a Zumba class, it might just be the way I flip my braids. Once your thoughts and behaviour become primarily women’s responsibility and not your own, we are ALWAYS to blame.

You see, you’re right that Christian women should have regard for you as your sisters. And you should have regard for us too. Thing is though, there are a lot of women out there who aren’t Christian – they walk the streets in summer too and they’re very much entitled to make their own choices about what they wear on their bodies. At some point you’re going to have to go outside. And and some point you’re going to have to learn to cope with the fact that some women just don’t care about what you think. They’re not dressing for you today or tomorrow –  they’re never going to dress with you in mind. Your belief system doesn’t occur to them when they slip into their crop tops. So what are you gonna do?

Make comments about their body? Walk up to them and say ‘Hey you!Cover up!’? Ogle their breasts? Blame them for the fact that you can’t control yourself?

I hope not.

Because your sexual behaviour is ultimately YOUR sexual behaviour. So when I turn up on Sabbath morning with my past knee length skirt and non cleavage revealing top, and you still feel a little hot under the collar, please don’t make me feel ashamed and act awkwardly around me. Cos I like my Sabbath morning hugs.

And when another young lady turns up with her cleavage out and flashing a lot of thigh, I would hope that despite her inappropriate attire (I’m really not here for outraged feminists who believe that modesty is de facto oppressive), you can still recognise that your response to her is entirely in your control, not hers, and that she deserves to be treated with the same level of respect as anyone else.

Actually, there’s no reason for you to feel guilty that you find me, or any other woman sexy. Sexy simply means ‘sexually attractive or exciting’. I’d be pretty worried if you as a heterosexual man were surrounded by attractive women and felt no sexual attraction  to them whatsoever. And I’d be pretty bummed to marry a man who at no point up until my wedding day found me either sexually attractive or exciting.

In fact, here’s a thought..maybe part of the reason you find it so difficult is that you’ve absorbed so much shame around your sexuality that you’re beating yourself up for things that aren’t even wrong. Maybe you’ve begun to sexualise parts of women’s bodies that aren’t even primarily sexual because you’re so hyper aware. Maybe we all need to sit down and take a good look at what the Bible ACTUALLY says about sex and sexuality instead of blindly accepting this hodgepodge mixture of Victorian ethics and modern day sex-obsession.

And maybe we need to stop being so scared of being sexy.