Things we need to know…. Periods

Oh yes, we need to know about periods. My mum just kind of let me get on with it. I can’t remember her ever explaining it, as such. Just showed me where the tampons and pads were kept. And gave me that book!
At school, as has been mentioned, boys and girls were separated while the girls were initiated into these ‘feminine mysteries’. Thus spawning a generation of young men without a fucking clue what periods are or do…… I apologise in advance if this seems incredibly basic, but it’s necessary!

Periods, menstruation, that time of the month, the decorators being in, being on, the reds playing…..
They all refer to the bleeding that happens to most women of childbearing age, roughly once a month. Ok, for the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to take that mythical woman, ‘the norm’.
So, she’ll have a cycle of 28 days – 4 weeks. In reality the cycle can be anywhere around 4 or 5 weeks. She won’t be using any kind of hormonal contraception, so her periods are “real” periods.
The point of the cycle is to prepare her body to carry a baby. To conceive. So, for the first three weeks of her cycle, the lining of her womb – which is generally a kind of spongy flesh – will get thicker, and spongier, and generally a nicer place for a fertilised egg to be.
Around about the second week, one of her ovaries will release an egg. This egg is pointless without sperm to fertilise it. (You know when you eat hen’s eggs? Same principle. Those eggs aren’t fertilised. If they are, you crack the egg and a little bloody eye and beak pops out.)
Back to humans – the egg hangs about for a week or so, waiting to be fertilised. If it is, and it manages to attatch itself to the lining of the womb, everything has done its job, so to speak, the woman is pregnant, and takes no further part in this discussion.
If it is, and fails to attatch, or if it never got fertilised in the first place, the womb gives up in despair, and begins to shed most of the excess lining – after all, it’s pointless without a fertilised egg.
So sometime in the fourth week, the woman will begin to bleed. It’s actually not that much blood. Only a few tablespoons, but it’s bulked out by tiny bits of womb lining. Mmmmm. Nice.
The egg will come out as well, but being only one cell, you wouldn’t notice it.
Beforehand, many uncomfortable things, like aches and pains in the small of the back, or the front, over the womb, or in the breasts, and water retention, bloatedness, may make her grumpy, or tired, or any number of different things. She’s not being hysterical, she’s probably not making it up, and she’s not in general any less capable of doing her job. Although she may have a shorter fuse.
While she’s bleeding, there may be more pain, proper cramps, etc, etc. Add to this having to schedule in sorting out getting rid of the blood, and you get a very, very grumpy me!

Personally, at the end of my period, I tend to feel curiously empty. It’s an odd feeling. But it’s nice when my bras fit again.

None of the taboos surrounding periods make that much sense. You can still swim, wash, be in the company of men, lead your normal life.

There are other things that affect periods. Girls who are underweight often have erratic periods, or none at all, simply because their bodies could not take the stress of supporting a foetus. Girls who have recently started their periods also often find them erratic, or lighter. A brown smear in one day’s underwear is apparently fairly common for a first period, if girls’ magazines are to be believed. (A heavy period will involve a lot of blood-coloured blood. There’s more of it, it’s travelling out quicker. A lighter period, or a period that has almost ended, and you find darker, or brown blood. Just one of those things. You can also get blood clots appearing. It happens.)

Many forms of contraception work by disrupting the cycle. The pill prevents ovulation – it stops eggs being produced, creating a hormonal state not unlike pregnancy. Although you still have periods, they are “pretend” periods – there was no egg to begin with – and they are often lighter. Girls with very heavy periods often use the pill to control them.
The implant or injection does, as far as I’m aware, roughly the same thing.
An IUD – InterUterine Device (nice name, huh?!) is, if I remember rightly, a coil of copper inserted into the womb that makes it less likely that a fertilised egg will implant itself into the womb lining. It has a string, much like a tampon, which makes it sound bloody weird to me, and makes me wonder whether you could use tampons without the potential to remove the wrong thing….

To clear up the mess, you get a variety of things – tampons, pads, sea sponges, little cups….
Tampons are cylinders of cotton which are inserted into the vagina. They are roughly the width of a finger, for ease of insertion, and once inside, expand with the dampness to provide a snug fit. They have a string to pull them out once they’re full, and get thrown away, or flushed away. You know when they’re full, because the blood starts to soak the string, like a candle wick. Because they dry out the vagina, however, these can’t be used for a whole day without taking a break. Vaginas are meant to be slightly wet. All kinds of nasty things happen if they aren’t, and besides, it feels weird, and makes it difficult for another tampon to be put in.
Pads are worn outside the body, in your underwear, and have one sticky side – to stick to your knickers – and one soft side, to catch the blood. If there particularly bulky, it feels like you’re wearing a nappy, and indeed, in a pinch, a large pad can be used as a nappy. Useful to know. Some of them come with ‘wings’ – sticky flaps which curl under the knickers to keep the pad more safely in place.
Sea sponges and little cup things also go inside the vagina. They are designed to be reused, and are more difficult to find. They pretty much do what it says on the label – sponges act like tampons and soak the blood up, the cups just collect it.

There, nice and informative. Periods are not evil, or scary, or weird. They just hurt a bit.

Losing Faith

Thank you Jon, thank you Mark, Hadley, Pete, Dan, Alan, Toby, Steve, Courtney, Shaun, Denzil, Winston, Vince, Fulvio, Augusto, Hassan, Walter, Hoang, Mervyn, Wayne, Darren, Lyndsey, David, Antonio, Colin, Jamie….. every man I know to be a good, decent person, because after wandering the internet I am losing faith in men, and it’s you who stop me losing it entirely.

There is a woman. Over here: Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty

She writes about politics I don’t understand as well as I would like to, although I do know I lean towards the left.
Incidentally, the left (as a direction or area, not in terms of politics) apparently used to be associated with femininity, and womanhood. Coincidence, or something more sinister?! (And incidentally again, the word ‘sinister’ is derived from the Latin word for ‘left’. I sense a theme!)

Anyway, a political oponent of hers, and his friends, have resorted to scary, scary tactics.

The “she just needs a good fuck” tactics.

When a woman makes a reasoned, intelligent political statement, you DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DISCREDIT HER BY TALKING ABOUT HER SEXUALITY.
This is irrespective of whether you agree with the statement or not.

Imagine the uproar if it was a man.
The initial comment was, “Nothing a big black dildo won’t fix……”
You can imagine it now, can’t you.
Somebody disagreeing with a stance Gordon Brown has taken and saying “Nothing a big black dildo won’t fix……”
Or saying, “well, he obviously hasn’t had any in a while”
Or “nothing a good wank won’t solve”

Actually, I’m going to go off on one again (go on, label me ‘just another hysterical woman’ if you dare!)
There are two things I find incredibly offensive in those seven cretinous words…..

1 – the implication that women are incapable of forming rational opinions without having regular penatrative sex (with man or dildo)
2 – the insiduous racism.

“Big black dildo”?? Don’t dare try to tell me that wasn’t meant to be about race. I won’t buy it.
I’ve seen porn sites too, you know.
I’ve read the “interracial love” stories on literotica.
What the fuck has colour got to do with anything? It seems to be the last refuge of racism, in porn – and nobody argues overmuch with it, because either they’re wholely against porn, want it banned in its entirety and thus don’t worry about the details of why these things are wrong, or else they use porn and don’t care, or accept it as part of the territory.

It’s still wrong. On so many levels, it’s still wrong.

P.S. I am aware that I haven’t linked to Maia’s oponent in this post. If you want to read it, go through her blog, because I really don’t want to dirty my blog with it.
It really is that bad.

The Dangers of Public Transport…. number 2:

This link
merits capital letters and lots of space, because I think it’s that important.

It’s about street harrassment. Not in a blog, in a paper. In with News and Features.
And it doesn’t brush it off like it doesn’t exist, like all women love it, like we go out looking for it!!
I feel vindicated.
The paper’s based in Washington, but it doesn’t make it any less true for me, here, in London.

Actually, I haven’t had anybody be creepy at me recently.
Well, I say recently. I’ve managed to go a whole 20 days without it.
Unless of course you count the group of five or six guys who woke me up when I was asleep on the train last week, very deliberately, by singing about various sexual practices that Yogi Bear might like to participate in. And staring at me, and the place where my jeans have worn through, on the seam on my inner thigh.

Hmmm. So maybe I’ll scrap that comment.
I have had people be creepy at me recently. And they were really, really fucking creepy. It’s just that I didn’t immediately think about that, because they didn’t ask me for my number.

For the record, creepy guys,

Staring at me and my inner thigh — that’s creepy
Hiding behind the train seat like you’re a little child that’s been caught out doing something a bit naughty — that’s creepy
Revelling in the fact that you’re a group of men and I’m a lone woman and that makes me horribly, horribly vulnerable — that’s creepy
Taking that for granted — that’s creepy
Pretending to be nice when I can see you’re bloody not — that’s creepy

Oh, and also……
If you put your head into a lion’s den, don’t cry when you get bitten.
So if you were shocked as I started to shout at you, all of you, creepy guys — well, just remember you provoked me.
Just remember, women can get angry too, and you woke me up with your crappy songs and your creepy staring, and fucking hell was I furious.

That’s why I wouldn’t provoke a strange man on the train. You never know what people will do when they’re angry.

Sex Education

Because yes, I feel it merits a post on its own.
What was your sex ed like? What was mine like? What effect did it have on us? Was it useful?
I am a British national, and although it’s true I am more proud to be a Londoner than I am to be British, I still have some attatchment to my country. I say British here not because I’m an idiot that can’t differentiate between Britain and England; the Scottish and the Welsh, stop waving flags, I know you exist, I promise! I say it because I have a lot of Irish blood in me, and sadly there is no such thing as a ‘UK’ national!
Anyway. As a British national, I can rest secure in the knowledge that children in my country will, by law, be taught of evolution and sex. In some way. At some time. Evolution was Year 7 biology lessons.

Well, for me, there was that bizarre lesson during which the boys and girls were separated, and the girls were told about periods. I never did find out what the boys did during that time.
Then there was my “facts of life” book, which talked a lot about puberty, a lot about babies, and had the same amount of space devoted to beards as was devoted to sex.
It was because of this book, as I believe has been mentioned elsewhere, that I was under the impression that one could only kiss (in a heterosexual way) sitting down on a sofa, in an awkward, mostly-facing forwards position, with hands between legs and on breasts. Perhaps that had something to do with my disappointment at not having breasts for many, many years…
My mother also managed to confuse me quite successfully – I was talking to her about the book, no doubt being arrogant and assuming it conferred on me great wisdom (as was my way!) when she commented “but there are plenty of other things that are ‘facts of life’ that your book doesn’t talk about – like going bald…”
Suddenly the book of knowledge was fallible, just like everything else. Ah, disillusionment. A wonderful thing!
It was around this time that I found a ‘grown-up’ book. I have a feeling it may have belonged to my uncle, who was living with us at that point. In any case, it was a proper grown-up’s novel about proper grown-up’s things, including sex, or rather a lack of it.
My introduction to sex scenes? Well, the Irish heroine was determined to stay a virgin, which immediately put a damper on things! I can recall four distinct scenes, all of which I carefully bookmarked with creases at the corners of the pages. During one, she actually manages to sprain her cousin’s…. well, in the interests of not causing any reading men undue phantom pain, I’ll leave it to your immagination. But I found it fascinating, as an eleven year-old!
Anyway. Apparently it was meant to be a murder mystery……

Secondary school, and things were different.
The mechanics of sex, as such, were biology, and all taught in a very cold, scientific, “…and this is how the female becomes pregnant” kind of a way.
The other facets of sex were PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) and that concerned itself mainly with STIs and pregnancy and how to avoid them.
So there was that memorable lesson where one poor girl had to demonstrate putting a condom onto a banana. Classy.

On the whole, I’d say my sex ed wasn’t too bad. It was taught, in a halfway decent fashion.
But the thing is, I wish they’d linked it.
I wish they’d said, Ok, this is the procreation bit, this is “when a mummy and a daddy love each other very much…” but before they become “a mummy and a daddy” these people might be “a girlfriend and a boyfriend” and do exactly the same things.
Because they separated it so far that sex for teenagers seemed somehow different to sex for “a mummy and a daddy”. And that’s not right.

I also wish they’d talked about sexualities other than hetero. They never really did that, that I can remember. Oh, there might have been a few passing comments about “some girls liking other girls” and “some boys liking other boys”, but never in any serious way.
Never in a grown up way. And being bisexual was only mentioned as ‘a phase’, if at all, and anything else, like transsexuality…. nope, never mentioned.
In fact, if they were mentioned, it tended to be in the context of discrimination, and not sex. I don’t mean that they were actively discriminated against, by the way, I mean that it turned up in PSHE as “is it right to discriminate against people who…… X, Y, Z…. etc…… No, children, it’s wrong, so don’t do it”.

I’d say something needs to change. I might start a string of posts about things everyone should know……

The Dangers of Public Transport…. number 1:

You are a woman. You are sitting on the bus.
The driver stops the bus and tells you that your breasts are too distracting; he can see them in his mirror; you must change seats, or leave.

GROW UP!!!!!!
Breasts are only allowed to be fascinating to the point of putting yourself or others in dangerous situations when….

  1. You’re a sixteen year-old attracted to breasts without much experience of a pair of guest breasts -ie, breasts that belong to other people, but you are legitimately allowed to play with
  2. You’re a sixteen year-old wondering where your breasts are, as they have not yet appeared
  3. You’re a sixteen year-old wondering why on earth your breasts are so big, and why nobody does affordable big-size bras for them
  4. They leap out at you unexpectedly

This story was none of the above.

It is perfectly possible to ignore breasts. Really. It is. Ask any number of closet lesbians*. Well…. ex-closet lesbians* then. The good closet lesbians* tend to be quite difficult to find!

I feel a fitting punishment for this bus driver would be to have his hands chained to a steering wheel, being forced to accurately navigate a fairly dangerous (virtual) environment, while in his side and rear view mirrors, many pictures of naked breasts were played. While wearing really tight trousers.

Am I unduly cruel?

*EDIT – for ‘lesbians’ read “lesbians/ bisexuals etc”, and my apologies to anybody not mentioned.

Laughing My Arse Off….

…As the saying goes!
Idly browsing, I come across a spectacularly bizarre article about spectacularly bizarre people (well, young, rich, conservative Americans, anyway!). Within it, I find this quote about female promiscuity:

“I think one sexual partner for every 2-3 years is acceptable for a girl from a good family. Sex just isn’t something girls should be doing if they are interested in marrying me.”

*Space indicates blank silence which should, by rights, follow such a statement!

Shall I bother to comment? Er… yeah, ok….
Frankly, this, er, man, sounds like the kind of person second only to Creepy Guy on my list of people to avoid!
I’m not sure which implication puts me off most —
— “I’m so good, I’m worth the wait”
— “sex is something I shall enjoy, and my wife shall tolerate”
— “sex is something my wife doesn’t really want; therefore, she would never cheat on me”
— “my wife shall be from a ‘good family’ because I deserve no less” (I’m intruigued to know what counts as a ‘good family’ in any case – no convicts, lords or lunatics, perhaps?!)

I’m sure, though, he never meant the inference I drew from his comment, namely —
— “my wife had better not like / want sex, because I’m really, really crap in bed!”

You’ve got to laugh, really, haven’t you?

Actually, it made me quite smug to think that this man will never, ever go out with someone like me. Just think what he’s missing!

Write Your Own Chick Lit

I found a spectacularly bad (or good, if you like) example of Chick Lit in the book box at work the other day.

By the way, according to Wikipedia – you’ve got to love that site! – Chick Lit is comprised of “stylish female protagonists, usually in their twenties and thirties, in urban settings (usually London or Manhattan), and follows their love lives and struggles in business (often in the publishing, advertising, public relations or fashion industry). The books usually feature an airy, irreverent tone and frank sexual themes. ….. Variations have developed to appeal to specific audiences, such as Christian Chick Lit, Mom Lit (aka Hen Lit), Young Adult Chick Lit (also Teen Lit)….”

It’s worth adding that the women in these books are also, for the vast majority of the time, white, educated, middle-class and stoically, monogamously heterosexual.

Yep. Bet you’re aching to delve into the genre now, aren’t you? Go on, admit it, you want to find the sex scene!

Well, anyway, I was taken in by the book in the book box, believing that it might be a little more than a spectacularly crap example of the genre for the simple reason that the cover wasn’t pink. Oh, how wrong I was.
The blurb – which was written in a pink font, so I was wrong twice – was, to misquote Eddie Izzard, the cutting edge of Mom Lit in an extraordinarily boring way…

I can’t remember the blurb as such, but that’s ok; I’m just going to make a couple up, add a few [insert information here]’s and sit back, waiting for people’s attempts to flood in. Or maybe I’ll just laugh at myself. Who knows?

Blurb 1:

Curvy [insert “normal-girl” name in this place] used to think life was pretty good. She had a {fantastic/ loving/ considerate} {husband/partner/ best friend} and a {stimulating/ enjoyable/ interesting} job as [insert profession here].
But since Svelte [insert “annoying thin-girl” name in this place] appeared on the scene, all of this has come crashing down, and now Curvy can’t seem to hold on to anything she once had.
As she watches her life slip away, Curvy decides that enough is enough. She embarks on [insert life-changing journey/ experience/ quest here] hoping to solve her problems.
But things aren’t always that simple, and soon Curvy realises that she has her own difficult decisions to make…..

Chick Lit at its most uplifting; Curvy had a modest amount of everything, lost it due to the timely intervention of “Super-bitch” Svelte but in the end discovers that she was making do with second best, and ends up with a much better amount of everything. Woo.

Blurb 2:

Mumsy [insert “gentle older-woman” name in this place] has spent the last 25 years of her life being a perfect and devoted wife and mother for her husband, Mr. Man [insert “generic slightly-older man” name in this place] and their 2/3/4/infinite number of children [insert appropriate number of “middle-class teenage” names here].
But one day, [insert simple chance event here] changes everything.
As Mumsy tries to come to terms with the shocking infidelity/ stupidity/ duplicity of Mr. Man, she realises that the only way to make it is to confront her rival Svelte*, who, as a young, stunning blonde bombshell with 34DD breasts and a designer wardrobe that would make a WAG green with envy, is everything that Mumsy is not.
Svelte has a fight on her hands, though, as she realises that Mumsy might not be as sweet and cuddly as she looks.
And when the new, improved, toned, tucked, tightened and fully made-up Mumsy is revealed, Other Man [insert another “generic man” name in this place] and Mr. Man both see what Mr. Man had missed. But who will get there first?????
*Yes, Svelte appears in this one too. Well, you wouldn’t want to deviate too far from the chick lit norm now, would you?

Chick lit that not only makes you want to bash your head against a brick wall, it makes you want to build the wall first!

Ok. So. There are your blurbs.
These are the generalisations.

Girl will think herself perfectly content in her insular little world until something life-changing happens. She’ll have been surviving peacefully on a diet of take-aways on a friday night, cuddles and pyjamas in bed, and a vague, gnawing sense of confusion.
This something is always Another Girl, who will always be a “sex-goddess” skilled enough to put every hooker out of business, only far too up herself to try unless she sees a challenge and/or career advancement. She will, essentially, be a “bigger, better” version of Girl.
Another Girl will “steal Girl’s man” in a way that would “make you ashamed to be a woman” – cue gratuitious sex-scene (well, it wouldn’t involve Girl at this point, would it? She’s still curled up in her cosy pyjamas with a mug of hot chocolate, wondering where “Her Man” could be!)
There will be a long, messy, drawn out competition between Girl and Another Girl, with each attempting to outdo the other. Of course, because of the vast amount of love that Girl still has for Her Man, despite his massive cock-ups (usually fairly literally!), her determination to get him back is greater than Another Girl’s determination to keep him – a desire which only lasts until the next great shag / promotion anyway.
And so Girl beats Another Girl on her own territory, becoming even bigger and even better than her own “bigger, better” rival.
And story number 1 will pay lip service to common sense, with Girl telling Her Man that now she could have him back, she realises that he is a knob and not worth fighting for, and she is about to run off into the sunset with Another Man, who is himself “bigger and better” than Her Man. Her Man realises the error of his ways and lives sadly ever after. Another Girl loses everything and becomes a nobody, her worst nightmare.
Story number 2 does no such thing, and so Girl will carefully, reluctantly, joyfully let Her Man back into her life, just like it was before, Another Girl is beaten, shamefaced, and learns how silly it was to try to take on Girl like that. Girl and Her Man have a long talk and Her Man promises to be the ideal man from now on. And everybody live happily ever after, maybe even Another Girl.

Right, come on, I’ve written the blurbs, I’ve told you all the stories, now add your names in the proper places, and let’s all write our own chick lit……

Actually, I kind of mean that.
People I know in real life, I’ll buy a drink for the person who comes up with the most entertaining chick-lit blurb! (It has to be from your imagination, though! And I’m not buying Champagne!)