Happy birthday, NHS

Without the NHS, I would probably be dead of broken, murderous brain. Today, I wish the NHS a happy 63rd year, and think with pride and gratitude about all of the lives it has saved, all of the people it has mended and all of the highly-trained professionals it has taught to save lives and mend people. It is a beautiful, special thing, the one thing that makes this country great.

To quote Aneurin Bevan, a great person from the days when politicians cared about the people:

The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith left to fight for it.

I think it is apparent that there are. I certainly am.

Our precious NHS is under attack from the Tories. Nye saw this coming over sixty years ago:

That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin. They condemned millions of first-class people to semi-starvation. Now the Tories are pouring out money in propaganda of all sorts and are hoping by this organised sustained mass suggestion to eradicate from our minds all memory of what we went through. But, I warn you young men and women, do not listen to what they are saying now. Do not listen to the seductions of Lord Woolton. He is a very good salesman. If you are selling shoddy stuff you have to be a good salesman. But I warn you they have not changed, or if they have they are slightly worse than they were.

As a present to the NHS, talk about it to everyone. Express your pride and vow to protect it. It needs our help.

I cannot believe this shit needs to be said

Trigger warning for rape and systemic abuse of a rape survivor

There are, apparently, “major holes” in the credibilty of the woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted by Dominique Strauss-Kahn.  A powerful man, Strauss-Kahn can afford a powerful legal team, and they have been working at full capacity.

The forensic evidence shows sexual contact did occur, so they have attempted a different method of defence: smearing the alleged victim. She is said to have lied on her application for asylum and spoken to an incarcerated drug dealer on the telephone following the alleged attack. While the legal team are deny being behind the rumours that the woman was a prostitute, they are certainly not doing much to stop this being splashed all over the tabloids.

I do not know whether Strauss-Kahn attacked the woman or not (please note: she is a woman, not a “maid”).

What I do know is that undermining the credibility of the witness says nothing about whether Strauss-Kahn attacked her or not.

Her immigration status and her alleged contacts are thoroughly unrelated to what may or may not have happened in that hotel room. Someone whose immigration status is dubious can still be raped. Someone who knows a drug dealer can still be raped.

Yet this is treated as though it is exonerating evidence. It is thoroughly unrelated. Immigration status does not indicate consent. Knowing a person in prison does not indicate consent. This cannot show that the sex was consensual.

I cannot believe anyone needs to say this shit. It should be patently obvious that these two characteristics of the woman are not related to the alleged crime. Yet this sort of thing is used in courtrooms repeatedly: unrelated facts which supposedly prove innocence. A woman’s clothes, her prior sexual behaviour, her job. These things are not consent. They are not relevant.

Another woman has come forward, also accusing Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault. By his defence team’s logic, this means he is guilty as sin. In this case, at least a prior allegation of sexual assault is dimly related to the notion that he may have committed sexual assault. Of course, it is not relevant.

Immigration status and incarcerated friends are thoroughly irrelevant.

Techno and rat cocks and Class As, oh my!

Readers, you have been very good to me these past few months, and I have an end-of-term treat for you.

Let me present to you what is quite possibly the greatest academic paper ever written: Effects on rat sexual behaviour of acute MDMA (ecstasy) alone or in combination with loud music by Cagiano and colleagues. The paper is open-source and I would thoroughly recommend reading it through as it contains some absolutely blindingly brilliant lines. The keywords alone are the stuff of genius: MDMA, Loud music, Sexual behavior, % of ejaculating rats, Copulatory efficiency.

Those who have ever taken MDMA or attempted to fuck someone with a penis who has taken MDMA will be familiar with a problem which can most delicately be described as incredibly willing spirit in combination with incredibly weak flesh. Less delicately, “disappearing cock syndrome”. Cagiano and colleagues politely describe the problem as “impairing human sex drive and behaviour”.

Like good scientists, Cagiano and colleagues acknoweledge that there are a number of confounders to studying the effect of MDMA on vanishing dicks, such as environmental context. For these reasons, the authors decided that the best way to study the effect of MDMA on sexual behaviour would be to introduce the variable of loud music, as MDMA is often consumed in places surrounded by the sort of music that can really only be appreciated with a vast quantity of chemical aid. Therefore, the authors decided it may also be prudent to study the effect of music.

In the study, therefore, some male rats were given varying doses of MDMA, others only a placebo, and some were exposed to music while some where not. The authors are coy about the type of music used: in the introduction, techno music is discussed, while in the method section we are only given information about the sound frequency of the music. Given the frequencies involved, it seems more likely to be techo than dubstep.

The rats were then put in the dark with a “sexually receptive” female rat, and their behaviour was monitored. The authors were fairly thorough about the aspects of sexual behaviour they were observing, including exciting-sounding conscepts such as “mount latency”, “ejaculation latency” and “next intromission in each copulatory series”. Sexual vocalisations were also recorded, including “duration of the 22 kHZ post-ejaculatory vocalisation in each copulatory series”. I can only assume that this means the grunt a male rat makes when he spunks, which is educational.

Until I read this paper, I had never really thought much about what rats do when they fuck. After reading this fairly comprehensive account of various aspects of rat-shagging, I am now, unwillingly, intimately familiar.

The researchers found that MDMA does indeed impair sexual performance in male rats at the higher dose. Surrounded by a lot of statistics, the authors describe how the rats took longer to get going, more of them failed to fuck at all, and they were less likely to ejaculate if they did manage to fuck. Some of this may seem somewhat familiar to anyone who has ever been fucked by a penis-owner on MDMA, or been that penis-owner.

The music had an effect on sexual behaviour among all of the rats: it meant that they ejaculated faster. Fucking to techno music apparently speeds up the time to orgasm. In the rats who had high doses of MDMA, presence of techno music was the only way they could actually manage to come. Without the music, they were highly unlikely to achieve ejaculation. The music also improved how many times the rats were able to fuck, and how frequently they attempted: at the high doses of MDMA, the rats showed higher levels of “copulatory efficiency”.

Again, some of this may sound familiar.

Of course, as a rat study, its results are not necessarily applicable to human experience, and female rat behaviour was not studied at all. It is an amusing study,one which raises a knowing smirk and a giggle. Its major contribution to science is that it provides an empirical account that environmental factors do interact with MDMA and affect what happens, which is quite important.

As with all science, please don’t try this at home, as it is a branch of research in its infancy. Nobody should have to expose themselves to techno until its necessity is proved.

Kallistei: the curse of Eris

Eris, the goddess of discord and strife, was pissed off. The other gods were having a party and nobody had thought to invite her. Perhaps they had snubbed her; she had a habit of ruining parties by disagreeing with everyone and trying to start a fight. Nobody liked to sit next to the goddess of discord when all she did was whisper gossip into their ears. “Hera finds your hunchback repulsive, Hephaestos”; “Demeter thinks you smell a bit fishy, Poseidon”; “You are literally the only Olympian Zeus wouldn’t fuck”.

It pissed Eris off, being left out like that: a perfectly enjoyable night of low-level discord at a wedding, which doubled the fun. She had been planning on seeing just how much she could ruin the happy couple’s union before the marriage were even consumated. If they had only invited her to the party, perhaps she would have played nice and spent just one evening without deciding that the world needed more wars and it was her job to make that happen.

Eris thought hard about how to spoil the party for those bastards who excluded her. Something simple, something divisive, something that would fuck shit up entirely. Turning an apple over in her hands, a plan formed.

Catfight, Eris thought. A catfight so epic it will be remembered for thousands of years to come.

Taking a knife, she carved a message into the apple. One word, a few letters with the potential to bring down cities.


The wedding feast was in full swing. Gods and heroes danced together, wine flowed. They did not see her there. Eris could have joined the party, but she was pissed off.

Eris lobbed the apple, high into the air. It tumbled, glinting gold. Heads turned skyward.

The apple landed with a bounce between three goddesses. Eris stood back to watch; a smile playing at her lips. They read the message.

Kallistei. For the fairest.

Aphrodite, goddess of love, declared that it must be hers. She was beautiful, she embodied passion and love. Surely it must be hers?

Cow-eyed Hera, the goddess of marriage, claimed the apple for her own. Her own marriage was a shambles: her husband Zeus fucked his way around the pantheon. They had never had the conversation about boundaries and limits. If they had, Zeus would not have heeded it, so Hera responded to his transgressions with vengeful wrath. Her insecurities led her believe that someone must see her as the fairest.

Even smart Athene, clever Athene, goddess of wisdom and warfare, fell prey to the apple’s message. Athene wished fervently that she were the fairest. She declared it hers.

To settle the dispute of who was most beautiful, the goddesses took what they believed to be the only democratic approach: they would ask a man to validate their beauty. They petitioned Zeus, king of the gods with a roving eye for beauty.

He refused. His relationship with his wife was fraught enough. Any answer he gave, he thought, would be wrong.

And so they chose a mortal man, Paris of Troy, who had a decent track record in settling disputes. The three goddesses agreed that he could judge their beauty and tell them, once and for all, who was the fairest, and who owned the apple.

Eris smiled.

Paris chose Aphrodite in the end. She had the power of enchantment and love, and promised Paris the love of the most beautiful mortal woman alive. The other goddesses bickered, knowing Aphrodite had played dirty. They were gratified as a war began. Athene returned to her rightful place, strategising over the Trojan war. Troy fell after a war of ten years.

Eris smiled.

The golden apples of the days of gods with human failings shift forms. They were, after all, only symbols of scarcity.

Yet the curse of Eris remains as potent as ever. Kallistei, emblazoned across this season’s must-have Louboutins. Kallistei, tattooed on the arm of the rock star boyfriend. Kallistei, vajazzled across a bald cunt. Divisive symbols, belonging only to the fairest.

We squabble, we beg men to validate our beauty, and Eris smiles.

Brendan O’Neill is still a weeping syphilitic chode

Brendan O’Neill–last spotted declaring short skirts to be a “definite sexual invitation“–has done it again. This time, O’Neill has decided that the best thing for everyone would be for sexual abuse victims to keep their mouths shut about it.

In a stunningly dismissive opening, O’Neill asks:

If you were sexually abused by a Catholic priest nearly 50 years ago, and that priest was now dying or dead, would it not be wise to keep it to yourself? This awkward question invaded my mind as I watched last week’s BBC1 documentary Abused: Breaking the Silence. It featured mature, respectable and successful men recounting in eye-watering detail what was done to their penises by priests at a Rosminian boarding school in Tanzania in the 1960s. We were meant to be shocked by the alleged foul behaviour. I found myself more shocked by the willingness of these otherwise decorous men to make an emotional spectacle of themselves.

O’Neill, here, states that he is more shocked by men speaking out about abuse than he is by the abuse itself. He is more shocked by men displaying an emotional reaction to trauma than by the trauma itself. Such a reaction is, frankly, terrifying. Where is the empathy? Instead, O’Neill is a little more worried about having to hear about their abuse and the fact that the men involved may have been more than a little bit fucked up about it.

To his credit, O’Neill concedes that it was a terrible thing that the Catholic Church knew about the abuse and did nothing about it. This is secondary, though, to O’Neill’s main point: that this sort of thing shouldn’t be talked about. And that he cannot tell the difference between a decade and a century.

Yet at the same time as we rightly question the morality of a religious institution that seeks to cover up sexual abuse, we are also at liberty to ask about the motivations of those who reveal the details of that sexual abuse almost half a decade after it is said to have occurred. Why now? Why go on BBC1 in 2011 to tell a million viewers about something that was allegedly done to you in 1964 or 1965?

The rest of the article repeatedly rephrases this question, dotted with the declaration that the media has an obsession with people recounting trauma.

I agree with O’Neill that the media does have a ghoulish fascination with horrific tales which it replays in gleeful, pornographic detail. However, O’Neill conflates this with abuse victims speaking out, and presents his argument in the most astoundingly disdainful manner.

The trend for inviting Catholic men in their fifties and sixties to redefine themselves as mental victims of childhood experience is even more pronounced in Ireland and America. In Ireland, the state has explicitly invited its citizens to reimagine themselves as the hapless, unwitting victims of warped Catholic authority.

O’Neill’s contempt for abuse victims speaking out extends to state-led enquiries, and, according to O’Neill, the investigation made people who had experienced something reimagine themselves as abuse victims. Perhaps, before the state investigated abuse, they had thought that being sodomised by someone in authority was a perfectly ordinary part of Mass.

The fact is, if abuse victims are willing to speak out, they have every right to. In the case of the Catholic Church, it is particularly important to hear the voices of the victims: this is an institution which has systematically covered up institutionalised abuse of children–particularly young boys–for decades at the very least. Those who are in a position to do something about this, the bishops, the cardinals, the Pope himself, are thoroughly unwilling to put an end to this. The Vatican has refused to hand over documents regarding abuse to the police. The usual channels are powerless to bring justice for this abuse in the face such a cover up.

So people speak out. And they might do so over the television. It is the only way for their stories to be told, for the small chance that perhaps something may happen to prevent another generation of children suffer as they did. The public become outraged and, perhaps, more mistrustful of priests. With sufficient pressure, perhaps justice can finally be served.

Brendan O’Neill does not care about this. In his devastatingly simplistic analysis, all he wants is for these survivors to shut the fuck up and get off his telly.