I was sexually harassed and touched at work and nothing was done

TW: Sexual assault and harassment

It has been 8 months since I was sexually assaulted and harassed at work and nothing has been done.

I had been sexually assaulted by different men (once at a house party, 3 times in public) four times previously and had never reported it. I had always wanted to play down what had happened and did not want to re-traumatise myself by going through the process of a police investigation for what I knew were ultimately very minor sexual crimes. I did report an incident to the police once when a group of us were flashed on the way home by a drunk man who was out with his friends. I was so fed up and furious that I ran and asked for help and some lovely men tried to stop him leaving in a taxi while I called the police – it took them more than 40 minutes to arrive, by which point I had gone home and the man had escaped. When the police called me to follow up the next day, they said “he did not seem like a predator” and was “just drunk”. This was obviously a minor incident but it is my only personal experience of reporting a sexual crime to a higher power and it did not fill me with a great sense of optimism.

On starting work at a Secondary School in September, I naively thought that I would be safe from work place harassment. In my first week, however, I had already taken note of how creepy one of the PE teachers was. Every time he passed me in the corridor he would wink, and he inappropriately called my line manager “a two faced bitch” in one of the few conversations we had. He would leer at me in meetings, giving me those horrible looks that all women recognise. In short, he seemed like a creepy, sexist older man.

At the Christmas staff quiz he was sitting on my table. I had had a few glasses of wine and was chatting to various members of staff on my table. My memory is hazy due to the alcohol, but I remember him making some kind of comment along the lines of “you have a great figure” and as he said this, he put both his hands onto my thighs. It was over very quickly but it made my skin crawl. I tried to brush it off with nervous laughter and moved to a different seat. I attempted to forget about it, but had this nasty feeling that he was testing the waters to see how I would react, to see how far he could push his behaviour.

After the Christmas holidays I was at a year group briefing early before school in one of the classrooms. I was sitting at the back, the other members of staff were in front of me. He came into the room late and so people were joking about him being lazy – everyone was laughing about it. As the meeting started and the other members of staff were distracted, he walked close behind me, put his hand under my hair on the back of my neck and said confidently (but so nobody else could hear) “very pretty.” He then moved calmly across the room to sit on the other side from me.

I was so astounded that I actually started to say thank you before I fully realised what had happened and felt furiously sick. The meeting was only ten minutes, but it felt torturously long because I was hot with rage and so deeply disgusted. He was so much older than me, with a round head, sharky eyes and a terrible haircut – the hair was thinning, grey and crunchy. He always wore shorts which revealed his waxy legs. I was furious he thought he had any right to my body. How dare he leer at me, touch me. It brought back all of those memories of the times men had taken my body as their right, grabbing my vagina as I tried to turn off the smoke alarm at a party, undoing my bikini top on a beach where I was alone, living in a foreign country.

After the meeting finished, I immediately spoke to a woman teacher that I trusted and asked if she had heard him – she had not, but she agreed that I should report what had happened. I felt confident because his behaviour had been so inappropriate leading up to this (second) assault that I was sure they would deal with it – a string of incidents is surely more likely to show how calculated his actions were?

Unfortunately all that followed was a humiliating investigation, led by an older male member of the Senior Leadership Team who, frankly, did not have a clue. They followed procedure, they said, and told me they were carrying out a ‘formal investigation’ – an HR woman from the council came in to oversee the process. I was interviewed multiple times, crying openly in two of the meetings. This was humiliation enough as a young woman new to a job. I also had to drag one of my colleagues with me to the meetings as my support as  I was not in a union yet (I had only been working there for a month and, stupidly, had not got round to joining).

I was sure that there would be some outcome – all I wanted was for him to admit he had harassed and assaulted me. I wanted my work place to see that I had been a victim of age and gender discrimination and to acknowledge that I did not feel safe or comfortable. Instead, after a horrific process over the course of two weeks, they decided there was not enough evidence to support what I had said (despite the fact he had admitted to saying what I told them). They told me that the problem was that they could not prove that the “unwanted sexual touching” had happened.

I was confused because I did not understand what process I had just been through. They had said it was a formal investigation but they then played it down saying it had actually just been informally working out what had happened. I tried to say that I did not care about the formalities and I just wanted to be believed and for him to understand what he had done. They offered for him to write an apology letter but this only infuriated me – how could he apologise for something he was denying he had done?

What is so frustrating is that they did not have any internal procedures in place to deal with structural issues like sexism. I can guarantee that this man never went through any kind of training about gender inequality and discrimination – how is this not a safeguarding issue? The man works with vulnerable children everyday as part of his job, yet the school were entirely incapable of taking seriously his harassment of a new, young colleague and how that could have the potential to be a serious issue for the children in the school.

I tried to explain to the investigating team that, for me, this was not just about the incidents themselves, but about the inherent power imbalance that was at play in everything that had happened. He was able to treat me in the way that he did because I was new, because I was young and because I am a woman. He was a long-standing member of staff who I feel was testing the waters with me from the minute I arrived to see what behaviour he could get away with.

Unfortunately, my experience is not unique and on the scale of sexual crimes, it is very minor – if I had reported this to the police, I would have had no hope whatsoever of getting any kind of justice. A 2016 TUC survey of 1,500 women cited 52% as having stated that they had been sexually harassed at work, and a quarter of those women experienced unwanted touching. This is a systemic issue and it is to the shame of the local authority school where I work that they have absolutely no training in place around these issues for staff.

It is 8 months on from this and it has been totally brushed under the rug. I asked for a meeting with the investigating officer when I received a whole staff email from my harasser wishing all of us “ladies” a happy international women’s day – he had attached a photograph of a man holding a bouquet of flowers… Aside from wanting to gag, I was apoplectic with rage that he had had the audacity to include me in his stupid, sexist email after everything that I had had to go through.

When I complained about this email I explained, yet again, that he very clearly had no understanding of how to behave towards female members of staff and asked whether there would be any training provided so that he could understand the string of terrible things he had done, and be able to put together some kind of formal apology. The investigating officer attempted to appease me by claiming to understand but, since that meeting, absolutely nothing has happened and they claim that no such training course exists.

I flinch every single time I pass my harasser in the corridor. I feel embarrassed and anxious anytime a member of staff from the PE department is near me. I worry that the Senior Leadership Team think I overreacted and lied. In short, it has made my life at work extremely difficult. I was referred for CBT by my GP and in those sessions truly realised how much anxiety work was causing me. Thankfully I am leaving in 4 weeks time, but I must endure those weeks knowing that nothing has been done.

My experience is part of a vast picture of harassment, intimidation and violence against women, LGBTQI+ and non-binary people within the work place. It is no shock to me that work places get away with creating and nurturing these unsafe spaces for us, but it is really important that people are aware of how widespread this kind of behaviour is. I wish I had had the strength to shout out in that meeting for him to get his hands off me, but in the moment, I froze.

We need strengthened unions that stand up for workers and protect us from harassment and bullying and proper training and development for members of the workforce who are sexist – it is disgusting to allow this cycle of sexual assault and harassment to continue.  Thankfully, I am able to leave my workplace and move on to something else – although I suffered, ultimately, I have been able to keep living my life when, for others, this is not the case. Sexual harassment often causes women to be pushed out of work causing a devastating economic impact on the woman victim. It can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other serious mental  health issues. It has a knock on effect to almost every part of the victim’s day to day life and a huge social impact within the workplace (if the woman has not felt like she has no other option but to leave).

We must continue to fight to kick sexual harassment out of the workplace and remember how many thousands of women, LGBTQI+ and non-binary people are impacted each year by the insidious sexist culture that pervades our work places.

 

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Why it is time for Labour to place a truly anti-racist message at the heart of its politics 

Lily West

In support of International Women’s Day, I attended ‘Invest in Equality: End the Tory Austerity Assault on Women’, an event organised by the Labour Assembly Against Austerity (LAAA) and Momentum. The all-female panel condemned the Tories’ ideologically-driven austerity for the disproportionate effect it has on women and a discussion was then opened up to the floor. Although the event was a great success, unfortunately, as any woman, BAME person or anyone from a marginalised group will know, ‘the floor’ can often mutate into a hotbed of microaggressions which in turn makes you (understandably) live up to the ‘hysterical’ or ‘angry ’ stereotype that the white patriarchy has so conveniently used as another attempt to silence us.

Prior to this inevitable occurrence, it was refreshing to hear each speaker emphasise that WoC have shouldered the greatest burden of the austerity measures. Both Cat Smith MP and Sian Errington (LAAA) referenced the analysis from the Women’s Budget Group research which showed how poverty, ethnicity, and gender magnify the impact that austerity has on BAME women. In her message to the meeting, Dianne Abbot MP shed light on Labour’s commitment to ‘build upon current equalities legislation… after consulting on how we can best remove obstacles that prevent women, BAME people, and the disabled from reaching their economic potential.’ Maya Goodfellow, a Guardian journalist, stressed the importance for Labour to position an anti-racist sentiment at the centre of its policies to challenge and counteract the consistent erasure of WoC in the discourse around austerity.

Massive shout out to all these women. In a world where you can so often feel like you’re screaming into a vacuum because, whether the prejudice you’re experiencing is overt or insidious, there are still people who want to deny its existence – you made me feel as if someone was listening.

This ‘YAAS QUEEN’ moment unfortunately had to be cut short by the first hand that shot up during the open discussion with the panel. As I’m sitting there, shamelessly fan-girling and basking in the feeling of bittersweet glory that had arisen from the speakers powerfully acknowledging and condemning the variable experience of austerity’s severity depending on the combined interaction of one’s race, gender and income, my serenity is interrupted.

“I don’t really think there’s a need for race to be included in the discussion”, said (you guessed it) a white woman.

* Yas Queen moment is officially over. I’m back in the vacuum, screaming into silence.*

She goes on… “As we’re discussing women’s issues I think we should try and stay united on that front and not bring race into it as it often makes people uncomfortable or alienated and can become quite divisive.”

* My eyes are now seizing as they’re conflicted between rolling right back into the depths of my skull whilst also wanting to continue throwing copious amounts of shade all over this woman. *

It is not my intention to vilify this woman, but rather to shed light on the ubiquity of racial prejudice and how people of colour continue to encounter white people’s discomfort and often denial of racism in even the safest of spaces. Whilst it may suit us to assume that only the right-wing are capable of embracing racist rhetoric and implementing measures that bolster existing racial inequality, this is a misconception. We need only look back to Labour’s ‘control on immigration’ mugs to remind ourselves of the party’s ability to stray from their responsibility to encourage tolerance and diversity in Britain.

Racism is inextricably linked with our country’s history which is what makes it so pervasive and difficult to challenge. It speaks volumes that I was so elated by the speaker’s recognition of race playing an integral role in peoples’ experience of austerity. It shows that Labour’s reluctance to overtly speak out against racism has become so part of the fabric of our mind set that when they do, it causes a reaction. A party who is willing to call out racism should not be seen as refreshing or radical, and above all it should not make people feel ‘uncomfortable’.
After having heard a panel of women each recognise the necessity to look at austerity’s impact on women through an intersectional lens, this white woman still chose to ignore the facts presented to her so that she could unsuccessfully veil her own ingrained prejudice under the guise that race makes ‘people feel alienated and uncomfortable’. Whilst she was prepared to condemn the injustice of austerity measures having a disproportionate impact on women, she was not willing to look further and see that it is low income black and Asian women who are paying the highest price. Her apprehension to talk about race and inability to acknowledge her white privilege was disappointing and is something that BAME women hoped had been addressed several waves of feminism ago.

This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, where a white person dismisses racism as an issue, and it is the very reason why I want to thank Maya Goodfellow for emphasising that the Labour party position an anti-racist sentiment at the very centre of their politics.

In 2017 we have seen both Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as President, two successful campaigns that were plagued with racist rhetoric in order to prey upon and exacerbate existing prejudice. The argument that left-wing parties should resist identifying as explicitly anti-racist in order to be palatable and to avoid making (white or racist) people feel uncomfortable in order to secure their vote, is no longer good enough.

Politicians have a responsibility to challenge society’s ingrained prejudices, rather than avoid them in an attempt to remain popular. The fact that we have allowed racism to resurface as a ‘populist’ policy is a failure that has to be addressed. The reluctance to ardently speak out against racism is legitimising people’s prejudice, and allowing people, such as the woman at the meeting, to deny their white privilege.

The confused approach to Brexit and unchallenged concerns about immigration are serving as a vessel for voters to float away into the hands of the right. Labour’s current leadership HAVE to offer a strong, pro-migration message that destroys the divisive myths created by racist agendas, that exposes the attempts to scapegoat disadvantaged people, and that emphasises how integral immigrants are in our society.

Meanwhile, those of us who aren’t in politics have a responsibility to challenge racism when we see it, harness the enthusiasm that is being generated from current campaigns and channel it towards dismantling the current structures that nurture inequality. Those who feel like they ‘don’t see it’ and find it uncomfortable accepting that racism is still alive and well, there are a few simple things you can do: Listen to those who tell you they’ve experienced racism and try not to let your discomfort convince you that it’s a personal attack on you. We are not looking to you for an apology or to provide us with a solution there and then. Vocalising our experiences is an attempt to make you understand and help you open your eyes to see what (perhaps with good intentions) you do not want to see: a world so entangled in structural racism that it seems easier to ignore it than to be an ally and help continue to try and solve it.

Lily West

 

 

Ched Evans’ Acquittal: A Dangerous Precedent Set For Future Rape Trials

royal_courts_of_justice

Royal Courts of Justice, London

TW: Rape, Rape Trial, Institutionally facilitated misogyny

Ched Evans was today cleared of rape in a retrial that was granted after he won his appeal in Easter 2016. I sat through the two days of Ched Evans’ appeal case as a representative of a women’s organisation to ensure that we had notes that accurately reflected the events that unfolded – we didn’t feel we could rely on the press for this. I want to use the details of the appeal to highlight how dysfunctional and unfair our justice system is and also to provide the specifics of that appeal in order that members of the public have a clear idea of the circumstances under which it was granted.

Why was the appeal granted?

Ched Evans’ defence lawyers were granted the appeal under extremely questionable circumstances. His defence claimed that ‘fresh evidence’ had been uncovered that would’ve added to Evans’ defence at trial. This ‘fresh evidence’ consisted of two witnesses, who the defence claimed had had ‘similar’ sexual encounters with Evans’ victim.  To those unfamiliar with the law, this may seem fair – if similar sexual encounters had occurred with the same victim that were not rape, what makes Ched Evans’ case different?

So what makes this ‘fresh evidence’ questionable?

Section 41

This is a section of the Youth and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 that is supposed to challenge the (sexist) notion that “unchaste” women are more likely to consent to sex and such women are less worthy of belief when reporting rape. In theory, it prevents defence lawyers from trawling through women’s sexual history to use it against them in court. The point of this part of the law is to highlight that having sex with someone in a certain way at one time does not provide evidence for the consent of any other separate sexual encounter i.e. the only thing that is relevant to a rape trial is that specific incident – a woman’s character, clothing, sexual tastes and preferences or previous sexual encounters should have nothing to do with it.

Evans’ defence argued for the restrictions of Section 41 to be lifted in this case, claiming that there was a thread of commonality in Evan’s victims’ sexual behaviour when she’d had too much to drink. Their appeal hung on the notion that sexual encounters with two different men had been “too similar to be coincidence”. It is for this reason that the two new witnesses were allowed to give evidence at the appeal.

This case has now set a precedent for the future – what is to stop any defence lawyer in a rape case using Evans’ appeal as a case study to argue that Section 41 should not be applied to their client? Are we to regress to a time when being considered a ‘slag’ would be enough to mean you couldn’t possibly be raped?

The ‘Fresh Evidence’ – connections to Evans and his family 

When the two witnesses were then called forward to give this fresh evidence, I was somewhat taken aback to discover how closely connected both witnesses were to Ched Evans and/or his victim.

Witness 1 was contacted by one of Evans’ victim’s friend’s boyfriends to urge him to give a statement to the police about a sexual encounter he’d had with the victim. Witness 1 then called his cousin (who just so happened to be a good friend of Ched Evans) who then told him to get in contact with Evans’ new lawyer. In a nut shell, he was told by someone closely linked to Evans himself to give a statement. When pressed by the Prosecution, he admitted his cousin had filled him in on what had happened to Ched Evans but he claimed  he didn’t know any of the details of what had happened on the night of the rape.

Similarly, Witness 2 went to Primary and Secondary School with Evans’ victim – they were in the same year group and their mums were best friends. This was the same school that Evans himself attended. Witness 2’s brother was in the same year group as one of Evans’ friends who had been outside the window of the hotel the night of the rape. Witness 2 called the police on the day of Evans’ original conviction – he knew that Evans’ had raped the girl in a Premier Inn from the papers but said he didn’t know much detail. The Prosecution pressed Witness 2 on whether the friends that were urging him to go to the police knew Ched Evans to which he replied “I’m not sure”. He said he was shown a post on Facebook by a friend that suggested Evans’ victim was after money (which was then revealed to be complete nonsense). He saw many posts about the case on Facebook but, like Witness 1, claimed there were no specific details about the rape.

The Defence argued there was not enough evidence to show that both witnesses were connected to Evans or that they knew the details of the night of the rape. This was despite the fact there had been years of articles in the press, a vicious campaign by members of Evans’ own family (that revealed the identity of his victim illegally) and many Facebook and Twitter posts discussing the case. I will never understand how the judges at this appeal allowed this new evidence, given the clear connections both witnesses had to Evans and the sheer volume of information that had appeared in the press or online since his conviction – how could any of the evidence be considered credible?

The ‘Fresh Evidence’ – Trawling Through Evans’ Victims’ Sexual History 

Both witnesses claimed that they had had sex in the same positions that Evans had had sex with his victim. Witness 1 alleged that the girl had said “fuck me harder” – a carbon copy of the words Evans claims his victim said and the reason he thought her to be consenting. Witness 2 described the girl as telling him to “go harder” – a phrase sufficiently close to be similar, it was claimed.

The fact that this evidence was accepted in the appeal and is essentially what has ended up getting Evans off is an absolute disgrace. Any sexually active young woman is highly likely to have used one of those expressions – it is a porn cliché and something that would be considered extremely normal for young women to say during a sexual encounter. Considering that Evans’ victim remembers nothing of the night, we only have his statement to go by – is it possible he pulled porn clichés out of thin air to defend himself?

Equally, being proactive by choosing sexual positions in two other encounters has absolutely nothing to do with the night in question. The suggestion being that because a woman engaged in consensual, proactive sex at one point with a man, she must’ve engaged in consensual proactive sex with another – one bears no relation to the other.

The suggestion that Evans’ victim was regularly drunk and having sex again has absolutely nothing to do with the night in question. The witnesses’ evidence should never have been allowed to be considered: it is irrelevant.

The crux of all of this being, though, that the Defence’s case did not convince me that the lifting of Section 41 was at all warranted. The appeal should never have been accepted and the retrial should never even have occurred.

Money and power

Ched Evans spent two and half years in prison (not serving his full sentence). For the entirety of Evans’ sentence, his family and friends conducted a fierce campaign to prove Evans’ innocence. The name of his victim was made public, snatching her legal right to anonymity away from her – she was forced to change her identity several times. There were countless online posts.  A lot of money was pumped into Ched Evans’ innocence campaign, part of which included a £50,000 reward for information. Ched Evans managed to fast-track himself through the appeals system and pay for an expensive QC to defend him. There is no doubt that he was granted this appeal because of his status and economic position – a poor man convicted of the same crime would never have been capable of getting as far. This is the same appeals system that leaves women convicted of perverting the course of justice for reporting rape on waiting lists a year long.

Evans had the money to buy his appeal and the status as a popular local footballer to get his family and friends on a mission to find men who had slept with his victim that were willing to give a statement. It is essential to repeat that this should never have been allowed. There should never be an instance where a woman’s sexual history can be used as evidence in a rape trial.

“Justice”

Given the details of the appeal, it is important to remember that Evans has just been acquitted for rape when the details of the night in question are as follows:

Evans turned up to a hotel in the middle of the night after a friend rang him and said: (something along the lines of) “I’ve got a girl”. He proceeded to lie to the hotel receptionist to gain access to the hotel room. He walked in, had sex with a drunk woman he had never met and then left the hotel through the fire exit.

Despite the jury aquitting Evans, it is essential that the public understand that a “not guilty” verdict does not mean “she lied”, something that has been thrown around social media all afternoon and which is loaded with misogyny.

In a world where we now know for certain that our sexual histories can be used against us in rape trials despite the protections that are supposedly in place, are women supposed to refrain from kinky sex? Orgasms? Directing our sexual partners into the positions we enjoy for fear of these being used against us in court?  It is an absolute disgrace that this is possible in 2016. As far as I’m concerned, this trial has been a witch hunt instigated by Evans’ family, friends and acquaintances and facilitated by social media. I dread how Evans’ case will be applied to future rape trials and send love and solidarity to rape survivors globally who, statistically, will never get the “justice” that Ched Evans was able to buy.

 

 

 

 

 

The Burqini Ban exposes the hypocrisy of the “Secular” French State

Burkini

Photograph: Franck Pennant/AFP/Getty (The Guardian Online)

Sara Khan

This month – while the Scottish have officially allowed the hijab to be worn as part of police uniform – French politicians have given us a clear demonstration of what constitutes liberté, égalité, fraternité. In a nutshell, women are liberated only when armed white men patrol their beaches, dictating what they should and should not wear. Of course, it’s only oppression when brown men are doing it.

Never mind that an estimated 40% of burqini wearers are non-Muslim (see Nigella Lawson, who wears one in order to protect her skin). Never mind that white French women are allowed to wear full body wetsuits and swim caps – you know, covering exactly the same parts of their body as a burqini, save maybe a bit of neck – without being forced to strip. The important thing here is the word: burqini. Bring an Arabic word into it and suddenly it’s evil. By definition, the term burqa simply denotes a loose garment covering the body from head to foot; it is not mentioned in the Qu’ran even once. In several countries, such as Saudi Arabia, women are forced to wear these, and that is wrong – whether or not a woman wears a burqa should be her choice, her decision to express her modesty and her faith in a certain way – but it is equally wrong to prohibit them from doing so. Women can only reclaim their bodies when they are able to choose how to do it. Remember, while burqinis provoke terrorism, short skirts and tight dresses provoke rape. Either way, women’s clothing is inevitably the reason for appalling and immoral actions committed by men; it’s not like men have agency over themselves or should be held responsible for their own actions.

The French public have shown overwhelming support for the outright racism and sexism of these politicians. Mathilde Cousin, a witness to the incident at Nice, said that “the saddest thing was that people were shouting ‘go home’, and some were applauding the police.” According to an Ifop survey, 64% of French people are in favour of the burqini bans, while another 30% are indifferent. That’s 94% of French people suffering from either active or internalised racism, Islamophobia and sexism. And it is extremely important to note that this figure includes women. That’s an overwhelming number of white “feminists” supporting the bans (because the liberation of women only counts when in accordance with Western ideals).

French politicians keep saying that the burqini opposes secular French values. Since when did secularism translate into “the authoritarian imposition of atheism”? If secularism is about the separation of the state from the influence of religious organisations – which it is – then it does not entail the suppression of religious expression. Secularism is about taking an unbiased standpoint; it’s about protecting people from being imposed upon. When practiced correctly, it should entail the elimination of discrimination on the basis of religion, and it should protect the rights of religious minorities. Looks like it’s actually the French authorities whose actions are flying in the face of secular values.

Aheda Zanetti, who designed the burqini, recounts how when she was growing up, her hijab made it difficult to participate in sport. She remembers being afraid to go outside and to socialise because of rampant Islamophobic attitudes in the English-speaking world. She created the burqini – along with other sportswear for Muslim women – to give them the freedom to engage in a range of activities, to integrate and to be accepted. In denying the burqini, the French have shown that they are not interested in the rights of Muslim women, or of any women, really. The burqini ban defines Frenchness by whiteness, and it defines womanhood by sexuality. Consumer culture relentlessly commodifies women’s bodies, and women who choose to cover themselves are perhaps the most threatening of all, as they radically refuse to be defined by patriarchal, capitalist trajectories.

Unfortunately, these bans are only one manifestation of a terrifying trend. In France, Marie Le Pen and her racist Front National continues to rise, while in the lead up to next year’s election, Nicolas Sarkozy has announced that as president he would extend the ban on the hijab to universities, restrict access to benefits for women who repeatedly violate the burqa ban, and scrap laws authorising immigrants to be reunited with their families. Elsewhere, Donald Trump rallies vast numbers of white Americans against the immigrant population, and Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson have successfully lead us towards Brexit, resulting in exponential rises in xenophobic abuse. Racism and fascism are spreading, and they are spreading fast.

The world that many French, American and British politicians would have us live in is steeped in hatred, bigotry and fear. In particular, the claim that the burqini bans have been made in the name of counter-terrorism is completely farcical. The Nice ban specifically references the Bastille Day attack last month, but completely fails to mention that 84 of its victims were Muslim; the mayor of Cannes has said that burqinis refer to an allegiance to terrorist groups (because Islamist organisations are known for encouraging women to bathe in form-fitting swimwear on mixed gender public beaches). By pitting us against each other, the people that spread these lies hope to divide and conquer.

As ever, it is wonderful to see that the French authorities have their priorities in order. Instead of focusing on resolving the socioeconomic issues that affect migrants and that may predispose them to harbour negative feelings towards the state, they choose to aggravate the situation by alienating them further and making them more vulnerable to recruitment by extremists. Today, the French High Court suspended the burqini ban in the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, and this does bode well; the ban may soon be suspended in other towns across the country. State-sanctioned Islamophobia, racism and sexism are still alive and well in France, however, and we have not heard the last of Sarkozy, Le Pen, or Manuel Valls. When Islamist organisations next strike, remember to blame the government.

Sara Khan

 

Advice on Anal Sex: How I Like it Up the Bum

Photo Credit: The Street Where I Live

Anonymous

Before I begin sharing my anal discovery, I would like to express that all of my advice is from my personal experience as a heterosexual female. That being said, however, I feel like men’s bums can’t be so different and so hopefully this will be helpful to anyone interested in “doing it up the bum”. It’s also important to mention that of course anal sex is not for everyone – this is my personal experience.

During my teenage years of sexual discovery I was up for bonking in various positions, however, anal was a far cry from anything I would try. This  dismissal of anal sex was affirmed whilst watching Jaime Winstone in Kidulthood proclaiming “you can put it in my arse as well, it hurts, but I don’t mind”. Unsurprisingly I was firmly put off, and to be honest, satisfied with my more conventional forms of vaginal penetration. This quote by Winstone solidified my misconception that heterosexual anal sex was a male fantasy that women endured to please their sexual partners. Aside from this assumption, myself and many of my female friends feared what was deemed to be complete humiliation – shitting on your fella’s dick, or equally as worrying, a bleeding bum hole. Surely a bleeding bum hole couldn’t be worth the pleasure anal might bring? How wrong I was!

After leaving home, I set out on my path to anal enlightenment. I met a gay guy in my university halls to whom I’m forever indebted for helping to challenge my preconceptions by sharing his personal experiences as well as leading me to a very informative YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83lo7OqruJI) that guides you through the dos and don’ts of anal. Unfortunately my boyfriend at the time had a penis with the girth of a tree trunk which hardly fit into my vagina let alone my arsehole. After a single attempt to see “if it would fit”, I was confronted with an almighty shock – no, it did not fit. It could hardly pass the entrance to my anus. Tears streamed down my face whilst I desperately clung onto my tensed bum cheeks, my body convulsed across the bed as I moaned in agony. This really is no understatement of the pain I was in – it was unlike any log poo, it was searing pain in my arse. My then boyfriend lay there awkwardly wondering what to do or say. As you can imagine that was the only and last time we tried it. (I am giving you this graphic detail to warn those who copulate with a male whose penis is particularly large – be careful!)

My next sexual partner was casual – an older man with a little willy who knew how to use it! We spent our time together exploring the many wonders of sexual expression: domination, submission, role play, pain, pleasure and – you guessed it – anal. It was far less traumatic or even eventful as my previous experience of anal. When we tried anal, the small size of his penis and the excitement of sleeping with someone who was so compatible with my sexual expression overshadowed the actual act of anal penetration. It also didn’t last long enough for me to really gage how it felt. It was a success in the fact that his penis repeatedly entered my arsehole without a shock of agony, however, not much time was spent discovering the beauty that can be discovered during a loving session of anal play and so I was left with little to say on the experience. Despite the somewhat disappointing result, it proved to me that anal didn’t have to be an endurance test and could in fact be a fun addition to my sex life. 

Some years later, I met my current boyfriend who has a far more reasonably sized penis than the mammoth dick that first entered my arse. It in fact slides with ease into my back side with the help of a little lube (I use ‘Yes’ lube, it’s good for the body and the world).

How did I come round to having anal with my current partner? We had vaguely toyed with the idea and during a particularly curious evening one thing led to another and before I knew it, we were bonking up the bum. Was it what I expected and was it painful? No to both. It was far better than I expected and surprisingly there was not even the slightest bit of discomfort. The comfort and trust that I have with my current partner meant that not only was I relaxed when we first had anal, but also he understood that I needed to be in control in order for it to be pleasurable and, quite frankly, for it to work. The bum hole is so sensitive that sudden movements at the wrong time can be painful, this is not to say that the person penetrating can’t change speed of their own accord, but what it does mean is that there needs to be communication between both parties.

Since enjoying the new-found pleasures of my bum hole, anal play is a common activity in our sex life. Not only is anal sex quite an exciting alternative to vaginal sex, it also FEELS AMAZING! I have personally found that I can reach a far more intense state of pleasure at a greater speed than with vaginal sex. This discovery was a particularly important element to my journey to anal enlightenment as it obliterated my original doubts surrounding anal, and the idea that anal meant enduring pain in order to please a man. 

After realising the beauty of the bum, my partner and I have invested in some rather valuable sex toys, which include both anal beads and a trusty butt plug. A quick note on these toys: when it comes to anal beads, the insertion of the beads into the anus is quite a struggle. To uphold a straight face whilst you feed silicon balls into your partner’s rather tight, hairy bum hole is definitely character building, but not in my eyes particularly sexy. After this insertion, the toy will be hugged by the walls of your anus, and the delights that follow make the awkward insertion incredibly worthwhile. I should add that you get better over time, and eventually sliding a toy up your bum becomes second nature. The beauty of sex toys is that it enables you to do more things at once. The combination of vaginal sex, anal penetration and external clitoral stimulation might seem greedy but oh my god, it’s amazing! Be prepared to feel things you’ve never experienced before! The orgasms that I reach with anal play tend to be far greater than most climaxes achieved through vaginal sex alone, and I orgasm far quicker than with vaginal sex. The culmination of increased stimulation during sex, heightened pleasure and more immediate orgasms has meant that doing it up the bum has revolutionised my sex life.

My top anal tips:

  • Before any penetration, apply lube to both your anus and the penis or toy.
  • I would advise starting with a finger just to get used to the sensation of anal penetration and slowly building up to penetration with a toy/penis.
  • Try not to think about it before and during, if you over think it your bum can become tight. Relaxing and feeling comfortable are key.
  • Make sure that you are really turned on and relaxed.
  • It sounds counterintuitive, but relaxing your anus actually involves slightly pushing out (as if you’re about to go to the toilet) – this makes penetrating your anus far easier.
  • Whoever is penetrating you should know that the speed of penetration needs to be on your terms, this is in their interest too, as the whole experience will be far more satisfactory if you’re in control!
  • Start super slow, speed up in your own comfort. If it is uncomfortable at first stay still, concentrate on your breathing, apply more lube and remember that you’re in control. If it hurts do not feel pressured to continue.
  • Stimulate your clitoris (either yourself or have your partner do so).
  • My favourite position is “doggy style” as in some other positions it can feel like all your organs are smushed together. It is also easier to control the penetration by moving back and forth yourself instead of your partner doing so.

What to expect:

  • If it feels extremely painful straight away, slowly pull away.
  • It might feel like you’re going to cum immediately, especially if your clitoris is simultaneously stimulated!
  • If you cum and your partner wants to carry on until they cum, be warned it can be uncomfortable and I would advise that your partner cums in an alternative way.
  • NEVER DOUBLE DIP, you will get thrush or spread bad bacteria, which you will regret. Only go from anal to vaginal sex if you are using condoms.
  • If they do cum inside your bum, you will need to go to the toilet afterwards, expect to fart out shitty cum, no joke, not cute, but it’s worth it 😉
  • Your bum hole may be quite stretched, expect some strange poos afterwards and also noiseless farts, like wind down an alley.
  • Be gentle and don’t overdo it – your bum hole is very sensitive!
  • If you have a penis and you’re penetrating a vagina whilst a sex toy is inserted into the woman’s bum hole, you might feel it through the vaginal wall, I hear that this is nice but I suppose you can only find that out for yourself.

I would have liked to further express the pleasures felt during anal play but I worry that I would get carried away and this casual article could quickly turn into a clit flick. 

Just as a final note on my personal experiences with anal play from a woman’s perspective:  the muscles react with your mental thoughts and feelings in a strong way. With this in mind, for you to reach anal ecstasy you must listen to your mind and body and guide your partner to engage with your body in whatever way feels right for you.

Please share and discuss the insights that hopefully you have gained whilst reading this piece, spread the word and stay safe folks.

Anonymous

Lexit or Remain Part II: What’s Best For Women?

Sara Khan

REMAIN

It is truly lamentable that socialist arguments for the UK to remain in the EU cannot be more optimistic. As I am about to expound upon, however, the problem with many left-wing arguments to leave is that they are often too optimistic, ignoring many of the awful realities that leaving the EU would entail.

It is completely valid to say that it is grassroots action, not EU bureaucracy, that afforded women in the UK the rights we have today. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 was the victory of the women that led the Dagenham Ford strike of 1968, not the Labour politicians who enshrined equal pay in their 1959 manifesto promises, nor the Trade Union Congress, which vowed to support the right to equal pay in 1965. The fact that the gender pay gap continues to persist today in spite of this legislation is testament to how little bureaucrats care for gender equality even now. As far as the EU is concerned, its supposed dedication to equal pay has not warranted any substantial progress either, a testimony to the fact that the EU is an organisation primarily concerned with furthering the agenda of the ruling class.

Austerity measures disproportionately affect women, as domestic violence services and childcare benefits are attacked alongside other public services that women are more likely to need. Does voting to leave the EU really offer a tangible alternative to austerity, though? Voting to remain in order to alleviate the possibility of a Boris Johnson government is ludicrous – Cameron is no less right-wing than Johnson, even if he is somewhat more tactful – but it is equally ludicrous to vote to leave in the hope that they can be overthrown as a result. The Tories are already rapidly losing public support, and it is extremely unlikely that the government could collapse immediately as a result of a majority vote in favour of leaving the EU. If the dispute over the NHS has not compelled Hunt to resign, and millions of protestors against the Iraq War could not force Blair to do the same, why would a majority in favour of ‘leave’ push Cameron that far?

In addition, when we are told that Corbyn would be unable to nationalise the railways under the EU, we are often presented with a glaringly incomplete analysis. The argument is valid to an extent – it is true that EU laws are supposed to prohibit ‘public monopolies’ – but it is important to note that nationalisation has been possible throughout the EU anyway. While the NHS is currently under attack in the UK, a public monopoly on healthcare continues to exist in the EU states of Denmark and Sweden, which provide education completely free of charge as well. Corbyn wishes to renationalise the railways – how could the EU stop him, when it has failed to stop France, Italy, and Spain? In Sweden, full nationalisation of the banking sector has been hotly debated since its partial nationalisation in 2009, and in Germany, talks about the nationalisation of energy are still ongoing. It is perfectly fair to say that what we, as socialists, ultimately want is for an end to any EU prohibition of public monopolies, but if other EU states have done it, then there is hope for reform. In the meantime, nationalisation is possible within the EU, and EU legislation presents no truly tangible obstacles for Corbyn in this regard.

Thus far, I have only discussed why voting to remain in the EU is the lesser of two evils. The most important facet of this debate to me, however, is the argument that, in spite of its long list of flaws, the EU’s freedom of movement policy is something that can only be celebrated. As socialists, we must advocate the prohibition of restrictions on the right to move, live and work on the basis of nationality. Freedom of movement within the EU is an extremely important step towards a world in which all national borders are dissolved, in which people have the right to live as citizens of the world, not of nations. If we leave the EU, what will become of EU and non-EU migrants living in the UK? Tories in support of the vote to leave want to limit the rights of EU migrants even further, and to use the excuse of no longer being subject to EU policy to withdraw even further from the duty to aid Syrian refugees. In the UK today, countless women of colour are held in detention centres such as Yarl’s Wood, physically and emotionally abused on a daily basis on account of their citizenship. The EU may be an organisation which exists primarily to further the interests of the ruling class, but we cannot allow this to blind us from the fact that leaving the EU would devastate working class women from other countries. The erection of borders is an act of violence, and while left-wing arguments to leave the EU may not come from a place of xenophobia, we cannot believe those who say that leaving the EU is somehow more internationalist than remaining.

Having listed some of its facets above, I sincerely believe that there is a strong critique to be made of the EU from a socialist feminist perspective. However, I do not believe that critiquing the EU should entail the desire to leave it, especially when one takes into account the devastating effects that this would have on working class women living in the UK, especially women of colour. Leaving the EU would not advance equality for people of all genders, sexualities, ethnicities, and so on – it would be an enormous step backwards.

Sara Khan