Your Vagina: A How-To Guide

(Originally published here http://vagendamag.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/your-vagina-how-to-guide.html)
The vagina is pretty amazing. It can expand and contract up to 200%. It’s self-cleaning, like an oven. It almost never gets caught in your zip. If you’ve got one of these essential bits of kit, be sure you know the rules of ownership. If not they might introduce a licence, and unmarked vans with vagina-detecting sensors will sweep down on your house and instantly fine you £1,000.

What you can’t do with a vagina
Smell from it: If your vagina is expecting visitors, make sure you have a quick run-round first with the Femfresh wash or ‘shower-fresh’ wipes. You never know what people will check under.
Talk about it: In Michigan, just saying the word is enough to get you barred from the Capitol building. This is because if you repeat ‘vagina’ three times into a mirror, Andrea Dworkin will appear and shout at you. It happened to my cousin’s next-door neighbour, honest.
Bleed out of it: As ads for sanitary protection show, periods involve a thin blue liquid, similar to a capful of bleach. If you get yours at twelve and find you’re actually passing blood clots the size of grapes, for God’s sake don’t tell anyone. Just faint quietly in the back of Double Maths.
Discharge from it: Do not think you can befoul your underwear with the green slime women exude (or is that Alien? Potato, potahto). Buy some panty-liners that ‘feel like clean underwear’. Actual clean underwear is not enough.
Have a baby out of it: if you experience discomfort while a nine-pound infant makes its way out of your vagina, please stick to the accepted responses of mild muttering and clutching your husband’s hand. No screaming, tearing, or stress incontinence, please.
Hurt from it: If you’re finding sex painful for any reason, keep it secret. Your vagina is supposed to crave penetration with something huge and throbbing, be it from Anne Summers, the internet, or Darren in the petrol station.
Make noise from it: as Glamour might have it, ‘Hey! It’s OK if your vagina made a noise like fart during sex! Just laugh it off, then immediately leave the country, change your name, and have facial-altering surgery to escape the shame. LOL!’
Touch it: In some studies, only 38% of women say they masturbate at all, but if you’re one of these weirdos, make sure you only perform your onanistic shame with an expensive buzzing vibrator in luminous pink.
Show it to the world: You’ve seen the ‘camel toe’ shame-circles of celebrities in tight trousers. Copy Elizabeth I with a bustle like an ocean-going liner, and no one need ever know the vagina’s hideous true shape.
Let it get sick: anyone who’s had to get through a French oral Final with raging cystitis ‘excusez-moi, j’ai la cystite’, for future refs) will know that UTIs and yeast infections aren’t to be spoken of, even though over 75% of us get them. Drink some cranberry juice and ignore the fact it’s about as effective as dousing a house fire with your contact lens solution.
What you can do with a vagina 
Have it surgically altered: Does your vagina too closely resemble your Auntie Mary’s puce-coloured drapes? Then chop it up! Alter those curtains! A labiaplasty is really the least a man expects if he’s venturing ‘down there’.
Keep it nice and tight: Remember, a loose vagina is similar to a loose tiger – furry, dangerous, and liable to swallow things whole.
Search for new and hitherto-uncharted areas of it: Even if you’ve found your G-spot, you don’t get to graduate Summa Cum Clitoris. What about your C spot? Your U spot? Your vagina is not complete without the latest upgrade. Orgasm? There’s a (fl)app for that.
Wax it: At some point, bikini waxing went from being a human rights violation even the CIA would baulk at, to an essential grooming procedure. Smile and pay up as another woman rips off several layers of your skin.
Put things into it: from vibrators the size of a baby’s arm, to specula and transvaginal ultrasounds, your vagina is like a nightclub with an overly lax door policy. Everyone thinks they’ve got a right to be in there.
Do tricks with it: Not enough to just enjoy sex, you must also make your vagina contort, ejaculate, and jump through hoops. With only 30% of women able to come without clitoral stimulus, even the vaginal orgasm is like the high jump in PE – something most can’t do but everyone’s forced to try.
Vajazzle it: the unadorned vag no longer cuts it. Think of it like your folder at school- stick it with jewels, scribble on it with marker, or spell out the name of that boy you fancy. Who’s got the glue gun?
Bleach it: if one’s labia have become dark and discoloured, once again take inspiration from your Auntie Mary and stick them in a boil wash with some vaginal lightener.
Deep-clean it: douches, sprays, perfumes, and pessaries exist so one can spring-clean one’s vagina on a daily basis. And don’t think no one will notice if you skip the bit under the sofa.
Fill it with high-tech sanitary protection, so that when you have your period you can:
-roller-skate while walking a Dalmatian
-roll around in crisp white sheets having a pillow fight
-take part in the Olympics without repulsing everyone and being sent to a menstruation hut, which let’s face it we don’t have the budget to build.
I’m starting to think owning a vagina is similar to owning a dog. You have to wash it with special unguents, exercise it, clip it, and teach it to do tricks. Dribbling is discouraged. Letting it rub against people is considered poor form. I’m going to enter mine in Crufts next year

What does your husband think about your sideboard?

(originally pubished here http://vagendamag.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/the-mid-life-crisis-of-womens-magazines.html)

 

There comes a point in every woman’s life when she tires of reading about blow jobs (like, tell me something I don’t know) and yearns instead to read of paint jobs. The questions that keep you awake at night are no longer, What does he really think of my new leather hotpants? or, Is it possible the G-spot is just an elaborate con?, but rather, Should I paint my new sideboard duck egg blue or crushed biscuit beige?, and, Why can’t I get my home-made chutney to set?

For a while you carry on with your usual reading material – Glamour and Cosmo and Company, with an occasional side of Heat. But you know it’s not the same. They no longer fulfil you. You want something bigger, longer. A magazine that costs more than a Starbucks coffee. Then it happens. You pick up a copy of Easy Living at your mother-in-law’s (you have also somehow acquired a mother-in-law) and think – finally! The article on knitting your own pants that I’ve been waiting for! Those sensible navy trousers from Jigsaw look just the ticket! Wait, I’m not the only one with a raging crush on Jeremy Paxman? Congratulations, you’re now in the world of grown-up womags.
Understanding this marks a transition in your life. It’s a bit like that sad day, aged fourteen, when you realised you knew all the answers to the anguished questions posed by Sugar magazine, e.g Why does he ignore me at the bus stop? A: Because he’s a douche. Why is my friend so mean to me? A: Because she’s jealous. Also, she’s a douche. You’d graduated from the Junior High of Feminine Inadequacy and were ready for the next test. It was time to open your question paper and learn to worry about such things as: Should I let my boyfriend touch me down there? If I do, will I get pregnant? If I get pregnant, can I keep my Saturday job in Woolworth’s? What will happen if there’s a global recession and Woolworth’s ceases to exist? (No, even in our darkest hours we never worried about that. How horribly naive.)
Grown-up mags like Red, Easy Living, and Marie Claire are the Graduate School of Inadequacy. They need to be smart to catch us out. We’ve come up via Bunty to Sugar to Mizz to Cosmo and shaken off those anxieties (e.g Does my scrunchie match my socks? I snogged Phil at the bus stop, will I get syphilis? etc, etc.) We’ve mastered the dialectic of empowerment. We know it doesn’t matter if we stay home on Saturday nights and watch Mad Men instead of downing Rohypnol cocktails in a dodgy backstreet club in SoHo. We know that if a man doesn’t call, he’s Just Not That Into You, and we don’t really care. Surely no magazine can make us feel bad, awesome liberated women that we are, who can drive and use eye-liner and understand how the stock exchange works? (OK, I can’t, but I’m pretty sure someone else has got that covered).
I was initially delighted to find these magazines. They dealt with interesting topics for the mature woman – cooking not cunnilingus, furniture not fingering. Holidays, decoration, family, gardens, books. They know not everyone wants to spend five grand on a skirt (take note, Glamour). But gradually I realised that I was reading them with a little notebook, so I could write down all the new things I now needed to worry about. We were way past the ‘does he like me/if not, why not?’ school of worry. Inadequacy could now be found in the simplest everyday acts. To prove my point, here is my list from my last perusal of such a magazine.
If I occasionally eat a burger, will I dry up and age overnight like the dude at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? I didn’t realise it before I read these helpful magazines, but every food I’m eating is likely to cause cancer/give me wrinkles/make me barren. Avocados are now a source of deep anxiety. Do I eat enough? Is eating sufficient, or should I be smearing them on my hair/face/nether regions? Does guacamole count? Should I paint my sideboard a shade of avocado? And so on. See also green tea. It tastes like rancid grass, but since the deluge of articles linking it to everything from smoother skin to cloning dinosaurs, I feel I should start drinking it. Or maybe put it on my hair?
-Are his sperm Just Not That Into Me? In my twenties, I thought the only food that could possibly cause pregnancy was the suspicious late-night kebab I had after ten pints of Snakebite. But I was wrong. Apparently, there’s a whole conception diet we ought to be following, and guess what, it seems to involve a lot of avocados (does someone out there have shares in these things?) Such articles reflect the subtle shift in the anxiety market as you move from your twenties to thirties. Should you be pregnant by now? What if all your eggs have dried out and died willingly with small subsonic cries of ‘that’s it, we give up!’? You begin to lose confidence in sperm. You spent your twenties imagining them bearing down upon your cervix like a ravening horde, but now you wonder if in fact they’re wandering about your uterus, as lost as a tour group in Leicester Square. Did they even bother to leave the testes, or was there a marathon of Men Behaving Badly on Dave? Would your uterus be more inviting if you accessorised it up with home-knitted cushions?
Do I need more sperm on my face? I’m 30. I don’t use face cream and I still get ID’ed in Sainsbury’s. Should I be paying £150 for a pot of something made of whale sperm? Is it really good to rub sperm on your face? (Clearly, there are some crossovers with the magazines of your twenties.) Should I rub avocados on instead? If I do, will I get pregnant?
What do your cushions say about you? Ah, the decoration articles. The grown-up equivalent of the free posters in Just Seventeen, except once you’re past sixteen it’s not OK to have pictures of topless boy bands in your bedroom (apparently). A rich vein of inadequacy, provoking questions such as: Do I need to get a sideboard and paint it myself? What if I already quite like the colour? In that case should I deliberately make it look crap, like with a blow torch or something? You must also never ‘buy’ your interior furnishings. You must ‘source’ them. ‘Darling, I’m off out to source a new light bulb, this one’s blown.’ ‘That’s nice, darling. I remember the days when I was blown.’ ‘Sorry, I don’t have time, these cushions won’t knit themselves, you know.’ In this manner you may possibly keep up with the hat designer/accessories buyer/retired model whose house they have profiled (and probably decorated themselves) in the magazine. You can also worry about why your house is so much dirtier than hers, even though she claims to have four children called Miffy, Ophelia, Jago, and Tarquin.
Should I be dressing up more to do the school run? I’m a freelance writer and as such I tend to accessorise with biscuit crumbs, dog hair, and free-floating despair, but I now know I must instead go around in knee-boots, gilets, and ‘statement’ jewellery. The only statement my clothes usually make is ‘could get a second job as a bag lady.’ Big mistake. There is also the slight problem of not actually having any children. (See previous anxiety). If I were to use avocados/sperm to their full advantage and finally acquire a child of the school-age variety, I would then have to compete with other mums, fashion-wise, at the school gates (it’s never dads. Despite paying lip service to feminism and equality and loving ourselves, this article is still about feeling inadequate if you pick up your kids in a tracksuit.)
What does my husband think about my sideboard? These magazines thrive on articles which fail the ‘who gives a fuck’ test, i.e. if you could replace the entire article by scrawling those four words over the page instead. Past gems include: What does your husband think of your wardrobe? What does your husband think of the fact you didn’t take his name? What does your husband think about avocados? I would suggest many of these Level 5 Anxiety Questions could be answered thus: ‘He doesn’t. He is thinking about his fantasy football team/something in real life that makes some sort of logical sense.’
To summarise, the womags have failed to come up trumps in the ‘not tearing your life apart with insecurities’ stakes. Things I now worry about: the antioxidants in green tea. Sideboards. Husbands. Gilets. When it’s time to have just a small touch of Botox. Cushion covers. School runs. Our ovarian reserve. The aching void in our lives that used to be filled with booze and bonking, and is now only assuaged with antique fairs and vintage Cheddar. The existential fear that we didn’t have enough fun in our youth. The knowledge that every day moves us closer to death (actually, this one was just a wild card slipped in from Sartre.)
In other words, does Easy Living make living any easier? Au contraire, my friends. Au contraire.

Keeping Up With The Kirsties

(Originally published here http://vagendamag.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/keeping-up-with-kirsties.html)

 

Christmas these days seems to be all about the ads. What latest witchcraft have John Lewis employed to jerk upon our tear-ducts like the evil scarf-peddling puppet-masters that they are? Who’s that dancing in the M&S ad, a smile on their face as they quietly survey the ruin of their career and the inevitable slide into panto? Which Hollywood star is the latest to sell out hawking Eau de Starlette, or whatever? And the supermarket ads, of course. You’ve seen the Asda one. The woman does everything: decorating, shopping, wrestling with a turkey, preparing a Mont Blanc of sprouts (which no one likes anyway! Is there any more damning indictment of patriarchy than the fact that a woman has to knock herself out peeling a vegetable no one even enjoys? I’m going to write a feminist book on the subject: Burning Our Brassicas). At the end of all this costume-making, chopping, Christmas card addressing, and general slaving, she collapses into a chair with an expression that suggests she’ll be checking into a psychiatric ward as soon as she’s done the washing-up. Then her husband actually gets up off his arse and carves the turkey…this being beyond the skill of a woman who’s single-handedly organised Christmas, apparently.

I hate these ads. They make me burn with feminist ire, and want to find the advertiser’s HQ and shell it with copies of The Female Eunuch shot out of a vagina-shaped cannon. So why are they still on TV, in 2012? It’s fine, some people have said, because this reflects reality for many families. Er, OK. Except isn’t advertising all about aspiration? Since when did ads for makeup, shampoo, or cars actually reflect reality? Ad world isn’t the real world, or else everyone else’s periods really do come out blue, and there’s something very wrong with me. So when we produce and screen ads like this, what we’re actually saying is we aspire to a world where women do everything. We’re perfectly happy with that status quo, because, well, it’s Christmas.
I’ve long thought that Christmas, birthdays, and other celebrations would simply cease to exist if women acted like men. My husband barely remembers to text his best friend on his birthday, and only then when I remind him. I’ve slowly become responsible for his family’s presents too, and all because I don’t want to be shown up when it comes to unwrapping time. I still remember the year they showered us in beautifully wrapped gifts, box after box of delight swathed in silver paper, adorned with ribbons, sparkles, and shimmer. We gave them a hose. With a bow on it. I’m not even joking.
Recently, this women-doing-it-all trend has taken an even more sinister turn. I’ve noticed that some of my more middle class friends have started ‘making’ Christmas presents. You know this one? ‘Oh, we won’t buy things this year, we’ll make them! It will be cheaper and so much nicer!’ All very well if you already run your own cottage industry making cupcakes/cushions/cardigans, but not so good if you have to a) buy all the materials and b) teach yourself how to do craft from a basic level of complete incompetency. Me and fabrics don’t mix. It all stems back to school Home Ec lessons, failing to thread a bobbin into a sewing machine while being shouted at by a nun (crafts and Catholicism, my twin nemeses). And yet I too have fallen into this ‘let’s make our own!’ madness. Somehow, last Christmas, despite being hugely busy with work and shopping and travel plans, I found myself in the kitchen at midnight, spattered all over with scorching-hot cranberries, making festive jam. There’s nothing like a vicious pectin burn to bring your back to your senses. Why do we do this to ourselves?
Feminism has been kind to my generation, on the whole. We have jobs, and for the most part our menfolk share the domestic responsibilities. And yet we voluntarily don pinnies, go back in the kitchen, and wear ourselves out making cakes and hand-engraving cards and knitting jumpers. Why? Because it’s retro. Because it’s ‘nice’, and ‘thoughtful’. Because being women, we’re supposed to be the pleasant ones. Despite jobs and cars and liberation, we’re still somehow expected to hold together the fabric (ha!) of society by sending (hand-made) cards and remembering people’s cat’s birthdays.
The person I blame for this is Kirstie Allsop. Now there’s a recession and she can’t force people to buy fixer-up houses they don’t want and can’t afford, she’s on a mission to get us all baking, but not just that – flower-arranging, felting (I thought that was some kind of dodgy sex act), and even, yes, binding our own books. Who the hell actually binds their own books? It’s like she’s William Caxton in a pinny. But we have to do all this, because it’s so ‘nice’, isn’t it? It’s nice to add even more work to Christmas. It’s nice to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Now she’s got a new TV show helping ‘desperate’ families spruce up their homes by making their own cushions and visiting antique fairs. At the end there’s a helpline for anyone who’s never been to one (I might be making this up.) When I watch these programmes, I just feel it’s adding yet more things to the list that women are supposed to do, or supposed to be – fit, healthy, slim, pretty, glamorous, supportive, successful, industrious…what’s wrong with just watching Loose Women in your pyjamas, eh? What’s wrong with never brushing your hair, and only realising after three straight days you haven’t unbolted the front door once? (I love being a freelancer).
I say we stop this doing-it-all nonsense, and claim back our time by acting more like men. When it’s someone’s birthday, let’s take them out for shots and send a badly-spelled text, instead of spending weeks doing sugarcraft on their cake. Let’s not send Christmas cards, let’s buy the dinner in the supermarket, let’s give our families socks instead of something thoughtful that took us weeks to find (people moan, but everyone wears socks). Let’s use all that extra time to learn kick-boxing and invent a cure for menstrual cramps and run for Secretary-General of the UN. In short, let’s not do anything that’s stressful and tiring and leaves us with less time for being who we want to be. Who knows, our families and friends might even prefer us relaxed, happy, and already half-cut on eggnog, instead of quietly weeping with our hand stuck up a turkey’s bum.

 

50 Shades – an apology

My name’s Claire and I’m a book obsessive. I mean I own about a thousand. I like the smell, the feel. I get shivers when I walk into a book shop. I spend most of my work and leisure time writing, reading, thinking about, or talking about books. But I’m well aware that other people don’t feel the same. They’re like: ‘A book…is that that thing that’s shaped like a DVD, only bigger, and you don’t get deleted scenes?’ So I was very surprised earlier this year to find people – non-book people – talking, debating, and above all buying in shedloads, a humble book. At the time of the worst 50 Shades hysteria, I decided not to read it (I’m more inclined to jump off the bandwagon), but a week ago something snapped and I decided I had to give this a go. I can’t formulate an opinion on it without reading it – though that doesn’t seem to stop everyone else.

I’ve been amazed at the backlash. Ranging from ‘I couldn’t get past the first paragraph’ to ‘I will hide all your Facebook posts until you finish that book’ to ‘you are dead to me’ (joke…I think?) you’d think I’d been delving into Mein Kampf or 100 Days of Sodom, not a romance novel. It seems to be me there are two main criticisms of it. 1: This book is badly written. It does not deserve to have done so well; and 2: this book is anti-feminist. I’ll leave aside the ‘she doesn’t deserve her success’ argument as it’s moot. Books don’t sell because they deserve it. They sell because people want to read them, and talk about them, and pass them on to friends. 50 Shades has been a genuine word of mouth success, and for all those decrying its poor prose style, someone’s sure buying the thing in truck-loads. So.  Don’t be bitter. I’m quite bitter most of the time anyway (I’m told it’s one of my most charming features), but I’m not jealous of EL James. This is a one-off event, a publishing Black Swan. No one can predict them. She was lucky, to a large extent, and she struck a chord (Unlike Mr Grey, who strikes a cord, ho ho).

So, point 1. This book is badly written. To be honest, I don’t see it. Sure, the prose style won’t be troubling the Booker judges any time soon (but seriously, did you read Sense of an Ending? I’d rather go in the Red Room of Pain than wade through that turgid rubbish again). It’s clichéd – tablecloths and wines are always ‘crisp’, every secondary character is ‘an immaculate blonde’, and Christian’s business seems to consist of shouting into a phone at someone called ‘Bob’. It’s repetitive – he always smells ‘divine’, the orgasms are always ‘earth-shattering’, and that whole inner goddess thing is deeply, deeply annoying. She says ‘jeez’ and ‘oh my’ and ‘holy crap’ and even ‘crapola’ a lot. But, you know, Ana is 21, and at 21 people are often quite annoying. As for the good points, it flows well, the story bubbles along nicely, and it ends on a cliffhanger that I thought was quite clever, and means I’ll probably read the sequel, which I hadn’t planned on doing. There are some nice email exchanges that made me smile. And I found out lots about music and interior décor.

I’ve heard people say ‘but nothing happens’, and again I’d dispute that. It’s a romance novel. If you’re used to crime, then sure, there’s no dead bodies or autopsies or plot twists, but those aren’t common in most books anyway. Girl meets boy, girl and boy agonise over things, then get together, is the basis for most romance novels. So if you don’t like that, don’t read the genre. I found 50 Shades more interesting that a ‘women’s fiction’ book I read recently, in which the entire plot was ‘a woman is sad because her husband has died. She gets a new job and shags someone and is a bit less sad. The End.’

In conclusion – it’s a perfectly decent example of a specific type of book. It’s not the best-written one ever, but it’s definitely not even the worst-written I’ve read this month. At least I finished it. I’ve discarded about twenty other novels this week alone.

Now point 2 – it’s sexist. Being well-known for my feminist views, this interested me. When it comes to spotting sexism, I’ve been there, done that, and I do quite literally own the T-shirt (a feminist one). I scoured the book very carefully for signs, and I believe it comes (sorry) down to this – do you think it’s possible to be a feminist, and still enjoy being beaten by a man? I think it is, because sex is something different, with its own rules, and if we only got aroused by the right wholesome things this would be a very different world (and I doubt 50 Shades would have sold so many copies). It’s made clear that Ana always has a choice, and what she can expect is unequivocally set out in a contract. Incidentally I don’t think a contract is a bad idea for relationships. Imagine – ‘my hard limits are: misuse of apostrophes, wearing white socks, and voting Tory. The rest we can discuss.’ He only hurts her properly one time – which she has asked him to do, so she can experience it – and when he does she finds it painful and degrading and immediately breaks up with him. It’s also not an explicitly gendered thing – we’re told he too has been a sub, for a woman. It’s a sex thing, not a sexist thing, I would say. There is a difference, I think.

I’d say it’s his other behaviours which are more worrying. Telling her what to eat, what to wear, and who she can spend time with are all classic early-warning signs of domestic violence. I think it’s possibly a little dangerous to set up the idea that if a man does this, he will stop when you ask him, just because he loves you. Or the idea that a man who’s so keen to hurt you would change all his rules so quickly. A sample issue in the book is resolved thus:

Christian: I want to hurt you.

Ana: I’d rather you didn’t. Can we cuddle instead?

Christian: I don’t do cuddling. I am tortured.

Ana: Oh. I’d like it, though. Holy crapola, this is confusing.

PAUSE WHILE CHRISTIAN TAKES HIS SHIRT OFF TO PLAY THE PIANO

Christian: OK then. Shall we just snuggle? Seeing as it’s you. You’re hot. Let me buy you another Macbook.

However, it’s also made clear that when she asks him to stop, he does stop (I’m not sure this would happen in real life, but it’s a romance novel). And I don’t think EL James invented these dichotomies. She’s just reflecting issues that probably do come up for real women all the time- where’s the line between chivalry and control? There are plenty of women who want to be bought presents, flown in helicopters, and have a man look after them, just as there are plenty who’d vomit at the thought of being told they couldn’t pay in a restaurant because it’s ‘emasculating’ (seriously, you’re meant to have a massive knob. A woman buying you coffee won’t cause penile shrinkage, Mr Grey).

Now, the sex – it is frequent, yes (and yet at no point does Ana come down with a nasty bout of cystitis. Clearly this is the most unbelievable part of the story), but it’s not THAT kinky. I’ve read much filthier stuff in mainstream Jilly Cooper, which I started on at the age of thirteen, and no one minded, even my mother, who banned Neighbours on the ground of inappropriateness. There’s never any other people involved, for a start (not something dear old Jilly could say), and although Christian says he will never spend the night with her, he does it ALL THE TIME. All mouth and no trousers – typical. Perhaps it’s damaging to suggest to young women that they will have three orgasms the first time they have penetrative sex, but I don’t think EL James is alone in peddling that particular myth. So no, I don’t think it is sexist. I think she has written a slightly stereotypical hero (rich, tortured, hot), but you know, that’s why people READ romance. Isn’t it? Women DO fancy rich, hot, tortured men. Otherwise, again, no one would have bought the book. So it’s not like James invented sexy, unsuitable bastards. To go back to Jilly C, her main hero, Rupert Campbell-Black, is an utter twat, who beats up women and horses, shags everything that moves, forces his pregnant wife into a foursome, and has dinner with General Franco (to be fair to Jilly, it was the seventies, when fascism and foursomes were socially acceptable)…yet we’re still supposed to drop our La Perla knickers for him – hello! Whereas Christian Grey is SAVING THE WORLD FROM HUNGER, by, er, doing something in Darfur involving Bob mumble mumble no one read those bits anyway did they?

Essentially, I think this is a love story, about a young woman who falls for a man with very serious flaws that keep them apart. We’ve all been there. Even if he doesn’t want to tie you up in his Red Room of Pain, he’ll probably enjoy watching cricket or vote UKIP or blow his nose loudly or something. Getting past the flaws of people we love is an issue we can all relate to, surely. Clearly, the millions of readers of 50 Shades have done.  I don’t think it’s the best book ever, or even the most erotic, but I quite enjoyed it and I didn’t feel violated as a woman or a feminist. Believe me, if someone was sexist-ing me, I’d definitely notice.

So, in conclusion, stop hating, start masturbating. If you want to, I mean. If you don’t just watch telly or read something else or have sex a man called Kevin who owns a push-bike and makes you pay for your own Pot Noodle. It’s your choice! That’s what feminism is.