Feb 282009

Inspired by a conversation last night debating the merits and shortcomings of the feminist movement in general and the feminist lobby specifically, I’ve been toodling around these interwebs following further trains of thought and have come across an obscenity appearing in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Forty years after liberated women felt able to say “no” to their partners’ demands for sex, they have been urged to say “yes” more often to keep their men happy.

Sex therapist and psychologist Bettina Arndt said different libidos were creating a generation of men who were “miserable, angry and really disappointed” that their need for sex was “being totally disregarded in their relationship”.

Up to this point, I have a certain amount of sympathy for Arndt, her research, and the poor men who expected to continue having sex with the women they got involved with. If my partner never seemed interested in sleeping with me, not only would I feel rather inferior as a lover, I’d quickly become hyper-receptive to other people who did seem interested. Fulfillment of sexual needs is one of the more attractive aspects of having, as they say, ‘a relationship.’ My partner would never expect me to remain with him if he weren’t fulfilling my emotional needs; a person’s attitude toward sexual needs should be no different. It’s no giant surprise, then, that men whose ‘need for sex’ is being ‘totally disregarded in their relationship’ are ‘miserable, angry, and really disappointed.’

However, there’s a simple solution: end the relationship.

But no! The task Arndt has taken upon herself, as a sex therapist, is to find a way to prevent this. Somehow it seems wrong to end a relationship because one partner is sexually dissatisfied; the emotional connection, the years and years of investment in one another, the fact that non-sexual attraction has not abated – surely these are worth preserving! In order to falsify sexual excitement in a relationship that has become platonic (at least on one side), somebody is going to have to perform some impressive mental and emotional contortion.

And I think we all know who that’s going to be.

First, however, we should have a look at some gory, anecdotal details.

Arndt has written a book based on the diaries of 98 couples, who kept records of their sex lives for periods from six to 12 months. The Sex Diaries, an excerpt of which appears in Good Weekend today, revealed women dreading bedtime and men hurting from rejection.

A woman, 54, from Hobart spent the first 10 years of her marriage fighting about sex, always nervous about an unwanted advance. “He’d be snoring loudly and I’d still lie there worrying that the hand was going to come creeping over.”

On the other hand, a 43-year-old Townsville man wrote: “I just feel so lonely. We get on really well, we don’t fight or argue, but when it comes to intimacy, or sex, she doesn’t want to know.”

Woman from Hobart: it’s not that she doesn’t like sex; it’s that she doesn’t want it when she doesn’t want it. What’s wrong with that? It’s not that I don’t like pizza; but I’m not going to force myself to eat it when I’m in the mood for curry.

Townsville man: your lady is, de facto, what I like to call a ‘friend.’ You know, the people you get on with really well but don’t have sex with. You’re not entitled to sex with the rest of your friends, are you?

Arndt said while giving women the right to say “no” to sex was an undisputed success of the women’s movement, “the female libido tends to be a fragile, easily distracted thing that gets buffeted by normal life and a couple can’t afford to have their intimacy reliant on that fragility”.

Yes, we all know that women had to be ‘given’ the right to say no, because although your right to control your body when it comes to slaving in the fields was recognised in the early nineteenth century, it wasn’t extended to slaving in the bedroom until much, much later.

Since this entire piece of cock-waffle appears to be based on anecdote, I shall now proffer my own. I was in a relationship once with a man who didn’t give me nearly enough sex. His libido was, like women’s, ‘a fragile, easily distracted thing that gets buffeted by normal life.’ Were I still in that relationship, I would have read this article with interest; after all, both my partner and I would have been grateful to know how to overcome his lack of desire for sex.

Arndt said low-libido partners, which are mostly women, needed to put sex on the “to-do list”, even if they didn’t feel like doing it.

“The notion that women have to want sex to enjoy it has been a really misguided idea that has caused havoc in relationships over the last 40 years.”

With the right approach from a loving partner, if women were willing to be receptive “and allow themselves to relax … they would enjoy it”, she said.

Ah, well. That low-libido partner and I would have been fucked, and not in the sense we wanted, by this article. Arndt’s solution won’t work with men, you see. Unlike women, men ‘have to want sex to enjoy it.’ Even more to the point, men have to be enjoying it to be doing it at all.

Women, on the other hand, have no such impediment. To violate their personal space is perfectly easy, and painless if you have a bit of lubricant. Never mind that they don’t want it and don’t enjoy it; they must lie back and think of the good their sacrifice will do their relationship.

The whole idea that mismatched libidos can, or ought to, be evened up in this way is disgusting and senseless. Women should not feel they have to hand over control of their bodies in order to stay in their relationships; men should not feel they have to stay an a relationship that doesn’t satisfy their needs.

And Arndt’s plan won’t work. I guarantee it. Because what these people really want is for their partners to want to have sex with them. And that can’t be falsified.

[H/T Twisty.]

Feb 242009

A tip of the millinery to Old Holborn, who flagged up a lovely example of how not to write that appeared in today’s Guardian. On a normal day, I would have seen this myself, my mild masochistic instincts kicking in with the morning coffee at work, but it’s been a shitty day, and I found that I just couldn’t face the Grauniad until I was home and on the outside of a generous glass of wine.

I’d like to open up a prodigious can of whoop-ass on Blunkett’s piece, but unfortunately, I can’t seem to figure out what the hell he’s saying, and the title of the piece (‘Protecting liberty’) doesn’t appear to reflect the content. Perhaps the Grauniad subs put the title of a David Davis op-ed on by mistake.

Take, for example, the following paragraphs:

If, in the name of liberty, we allow individuals to act in a way that damages the wellbeing of the whole, it will inevitably mean the breakdown of mutuality, thereby changing the very nature of our society.

We need principles upon which we can base actions that, in the name of protecting freedom and decency, may otherwise become oppressive, intolerant of difference and self-destructive.

Slicing out the subordinate clauses and adverbial phrases, I find that he has said, ‘If we allow individuals to act, it will mean breakdown. We need principles.’

I also note the peculiar word choice of the opening clause: ‘If, in the name of liberty, we allow…’ Oh, the irony!

Moving on:

Three areas in particular strike me as urgent. Firstly, the use of powers outside those originally intended. It has almost been forgotten that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 brought in proper restrictions and oversight over what had previously been a free-for-all. Years later, we have the absurdity of local officials trying to use the powers to tackle dog fouling, or waste management misuse.

Not quite – we have the absurdity of local officials succeeding in using the powers to tackle excretion management. But why does he mention RIPA anyway? This is all he says about it; why does it concern you, D? Where’s the ‘urgency?’ Should RIPA be amended? Do you still possess the capacity to make a definitive statement you can hold to for longer than five minutes? Do you?

Secondly, data sharing. This is an area of major public concern even where the data held is simple – for example, what has previously been taken for granted on driving licences, or passports. Greater clarity on why, when and with whom data can be shared is urgently needed. Clause 152 of the coroners and justice bill needs to be examined thoroughly. It’s not simply whether intentions are benign – undoubtedly they are – but whether powers are likely to be misused.

Come on, D! What data is on driving licences and passports? Do you even know? The data held on passports has changed since you were home secretary, hasn’t it? Who, in fact, ‘takes for granted’ what information is held where? A bit of specificity would have worked well here, methinks. Note, also, his failure to articulate whose intentions are benign, and whose powers might be misused. Perhaps he is under the impression that if he omits the words ‘the government’s,’ that piece of reality will cease to exist.

There is a misconception that the database for biometric passports and ID cards might be misused. That’s why I’m coming to the conclusion that we may have to consider simply making passports universal. If people wanted an easy-to-carry card, as with EU travel documents, they would be able to buy one voluntarily (with ID cards remaining compulsory for foreign nationals).

Translation via excise: ‘The database for biometric passports and ID cards might be misused. This will be compulsory for foreigners.’ Our data, apparently, merits no particular consideration.

I remain to be convinced that a centralised solution is either practical or desirable.

He remains to be convinced – not: ‘I am not convinced.’ This is what we language-type people call periphrasis, lit. talking around the point. Prevarication is a kind of periphrasis – are you prevaricating here, D? I wonder.

Last week’s meanderings by Stella Rimington and the report by the self-styled International Commission of Jurists are so dismissive of the genuine threat that new forms of terrorism pose as to be counter-productive to a meaningful debate. We are not a “surveillance state” – only those who have lived in a police state can appreciate just what that term means.

So what you’re saying is, we won’t be considered a surveillance state until someone who’s lived in a police state confirms the similarities? But who determined that place to be a police state? And the one before it?

A mere ten seconds having a look at Wikipedia could have alerted him to the unfortunate stupidity of his remark; that authoritative worthy says of a police state (emphasis mine):

The classification of a country or regime as a police state is usually contested and debated. Because of the pejorative connotation of the term, it is rare that a country will identify itself as a police state. The classification is often established by an internal whistleblower or an external critic or activist group. The use of the term is motivated as a response to the laws, policies and actions of that regime, and is often used pejoratively to describe the regime’s concept of the social contract, human rights, and similar matters.

Er…whoops. Bad strategy there, D, to mention both the internal whistleblower and the external critic right before you assert that they’re unqualified to classify Britain as a police state.

And Blunkett rounds off the opus with this incomprehensible gibberish:

The strength of our democracy is that we are able to challenge those who presuppose their knowledge of the threats faced, as sufficient justification for protecting mutual interest at the expense of individual freedom. That is when we should assert ourselves, lest the mistakes of the past allow those in power to abuse their position.

Juxtapose that with this earlier paragraph, which I repeat for your convenience:

If, in the name of liberty, we allow individuals to act in a way that damages the wellbeing of the whole, it will inevitably mean the breakdown of mutuality, thereby changing the very nature of our society.

After justifying the protection of mutual interest at the expense of individual liberty by claiming it will prevent the breakdown of mutuality, Blunkett asserts himself to challenge…himself. Well done, D. Masterful. Masterly.

Poor word choice, internal contradiction, weak research, deliberate obfuscation, and the total absence of a thesis: at the end of it all, I can’t figure out whether Blunkett has written (a) a shitty and ill-expressed defence of civil liberties, or (b) a shitty and ill-expressed apologia for those who would violate them.

Feb 232009

This article is on the front page of the print edition of the Times today, although not, oddly, on the website:

Plans to axe new laws that would increase costs for businesses, including enhanced maternity leave and tougher equality legislation, are threatening to blow open a Cabinet rift over how Labour should respond to the economic downturn, The Times has learnt.

The proposals, outlined in the Queen’s Speech just two months ago, and championed by Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader, are at risk after Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, and the Chancellor called for a moratorium on any measures that would add to the current financial pressure on businesses. Right-to-roam legislation and powers to allow councils to ban alcohol promotions are also under threat as the Government prepares to gut its legislative programme in the face of the recession.

This proposal is so eminently sensible that I have trouble believing that Mandelson himself is the originator, but lo! Somewhere along the line, he twigged that imposing extra costs on businesses during an economic slump was a fairly counterproductive move.

But my delight continues to grow:

Senior figures say many of the policies targeted are those promoted by Ms Harman, who has argued Labour should take a harder line on those to blame for the financial crisis and do more to protect its victims.

Snigger, snigger. Looks like Harman’s intention to become party leader when Brown finally cracks – as signalled, apparently, by a critical speech to her constituents and speculated upon heavily last week in the blogosphere – is being nipped in the bud. Ah, the Machiavellian machinations!

Sources close to Lord Mandelson defended the move to stop the new laws. saying that proposals to enhance maternity leave were almost certain to be scrapped, as were new measures to ensure that government contracts were awarded to firms with good records on equality.

Some regulations, such as a ban on cigarette displays in small shops, have already been delayed.

And so, at long last, Mandelson is doing his job and defending the interests of the business community (though not, admittedly, of the banking sector). It’s a positive step at the very least; even more preferable would be not a moratorium on such intrusive social engineering but a stop to it entirely – but any move critical of the government’s zeal for excessive legislation is better than no move at all.

While Lord Mandelson has risen in my estimation this day, however, proof remains that many Labour MPs are still absolute tits (emphasis mine):

Jon Cruddas, an influential left-wing Labour MP, warned last night that the Government was split over how to deal with the downturn. He said: “If the most progressive of our policies are the first to go under the hatchet, that will cause deep unease across the party. Genuflecting to the free market got us into this mess and the solution is not more of the same. There is now a deepening ideological divide about what to do next.”

I wonder if Jon Cruddas MP ghost-writes for Polly Toynbee…

Feb 192009

As I sit here and listen to an enterprising builder outside whistle an excellent rendition of Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King,’ my thoughts turn to halls, and kings, and naturally thence, to the Middle Ages.

With my intellectual cap on, as opposed to my professional one, I am a medieval historian and have collected degrees in the subject in the same way that others might collect da Vinci sketches (i.e. expensively). In the hallowed drinking establishments of the world’s foremost institution of learning, I have pondered with fellow medievalists what it might have been like to live during the Middle Ages.

And, despite speculations about the scholarly aestheticism of monastic existence, or the bellicose excitement inherent in noble birth, we decided that it would have been utter shit.

So why – and I have seen this flagged up on Tim and the Landed Underclass already today – are there people, bred in luxurious modernity, who want us to go back to it?

Monty Don, the former BBC Gardener’s World presenter, said the UK could run out of food “within weeks” because the country is so dependent on imports and it was essential for the country to grow more of our own food.

He urged businesses around the country to follow the lead of the National Trust: “If every household, business, office or factory dug up a patch of land there would literally be millions of allotments made available. This is just the start of something really big.”

I will tell you when we really will run out of food, and that is when we stop depending on imports. In the Middle Ages, when importing food was impractical due to the obvious problem of it rotting in transit, local growing conditions meant the difference between a full belly and death by starvation. With the succession of overly-dry and overly-wet summer growing seasons Britain has experienced in the past four years, had we relied entirely on local produce, we all would have starved.

The other problem with eating only local produce is, of course, that delightful as these shores may be, we’d all be eating nothing but turnips and parsnips from November to March. A four-month diet of root vegetables might solve the nation’s obesity problem, but the incidence of malnutrition (particularly things like scurvy) would soar to fifteenth-century levels.

Dame Fiona Reynolds, Director General of the National Trust, said it was not just the recession driving demand for land to grow food but the desire to “reconnect” with the soil.

“More and more people want to grow their own fruit and vegetables,” she said. “This isn’t just about saving money – it’s really satisfying to sow seeds and harvest the fruit and veg of your labour.”

Oh, indeed – it’s very satisfying to till the soil and eat the fruits of one’s labour, as long as one doesn’t have to do it from sun-up to sun-down eight months out of the year, and as long as the fruits of one’s labour are sufficient to keep body and soul together. As the Landed Underclass points out, subsistence farming is hard on the body and, unless one has the luxury of farm-labourers and a horse-drawn plough, unlikely to generate enough produce for actual, y’know, subsistence.

But perhaps in addition to sharing allotments, we will all have the privilege of access to the village horse. It might even be better to have a system wherein the municipality’s food is grown entirely on common land, the care for a strip of which is allocated to every resident. Then we can all reconnect with the soil, and our roots, and our ancient heritage. While we’re at it, we can reconnect with bathing in the freezing rivers and defecating in buckets!

Christ, haven’t these people learned anything? If living off our own fucking local food was so great, our ancestors wouldn’t have escaped in relief from doing it as soon as conditions made it possible. Pardon me while I descend into teleological historicity, but isn’t one of the purposes of chronicling human development to avoid past mistakes, rather than to do the same stupid shit all over again?

Excellent burn

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Feb 182009

The pithy Tim Worstall makes my heart happy. Of John Harris, ignorant twat, he says:

For just as using a plough rather than a stick to scrape the earth for our food frees up labour to do other things, like wipe babies’ bottoms, treat cancer or go on Celebrity Big Brother, so reducing the number of jobs in retail frees up people to go and write fatuous columns for the national newspapers about how they misunderstand the basic concepts and tenets of the real world.