My year of not reading men

Since November last year, I set myself a challenge: not to read any books written by men for at least a year. As of today, I still haven’t.

What’s perhaps been most notable in this challenge is how little I’ve actually changed my reading habits. I have no doubt that mediocre white men will scoff into their lustrous beards at my preferences, but I like my books to include at least some of the following: mythical creatures, sex, spaceships, lesbians, swearing, poetry by imagined cultures, lesbian sex.

Much, but not all, of what I read this year was completely new to me, even if it wasn’t necessarily new. However, I did also revisit a few old favourites: I reread the Harry Potter books for example, and concluded that Hermione probably wiped her parents’ memories and packed them off to Australia a hell of a lot earlier in the series than the point where she admitted to it; I binged on the Adrian Mole series and wondered on which side Pandora would fall in the rise of Corbyn; I treated myself to my favourite Sarah Waters novel, Fingersmith, which has something for everyone, if what you like is crime capers and lesbians. What I’m including in my round-up list of my top books that I read this year is only books that were new to me, the discoveries I made along the way.

Did I miss reading books by men? Honestly, no. All of the male authors I particularly love are dead, so it’s not like I’m going to be missing out on anything new. Pretty much the only words from a novel written by a man I ended up reading this year was Morrissey’s Bad Sex In Fiction Award-winning sex scene, featuring barrel-rolling tits and bulbous salutations, and frankly literally everything I read this year was better than that. 

If you’re considering trying your own personal experiment with not reading men for 2016, I would definitely recommend it. Fucking do it. You’ll be surprised at how little you miss it, and delighted by how many excellent reads you pick up along the way. You could start with some of these…

Imperial Radch series (Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, Ancillary Mercy) (Ann Leckie)- Without a doubt, this trilogy of space opera novels are my books of the year. What Leckie has done here is build a fascinating, compelling world which I could spend forever reading about but definitely wouldn’t want to live in, and a host of characters who are complex and layered, but I definitely wouldn’t want to spend five minutes with. Through the lens of a sprawling space empire (and the eyes of a former sentient spaceship), Leckie examines colonialism and class.

Tiny Pieces of Skull (Roz Kaveney)- This is Kaveney’s semi-autobiography, a romp through the trans subculture in the late Seventies. I wrote a fuller review of it here.

The Companion Contract (Solace Ames)- If you’re judging a book by its cover, this is ebook erotica. However, it’s so much more than that: it’s a book about immigration and identity, a discussion of sex work and other work under capitalism, a story of trying to find community. And on top of all that, it’s also ebook erotica, with oodles of hot sex scenes. In a way, it’s like Lace–a feminist porn novel–except with  more modern feminist politics (i.e. without Lace‘s heterocentrism, racism and transphobia).

The Dispossessed (Ursula LeGuin)- This is about anarcho communists that live on the moon, and if that hasn’t captured your imagination already, we probably have very different taste in fiction and you’ll probably not enjoy any of my recommendations. This was my first time reading what is essentially a classic that I should have read a long time ago. If you’re interested in theoretical physics and/or what an anarchist society would look like under conditions of scarcity, this is a very good read.

Trans (Juliet Jacques)- The only non-fiction text on this list, and for a very, very good reason. You’ve no doubt seen this book listed on every “book of the year” list, and it deserves to be there. I wrote a fuller review of it here.

Scale-Bright (Benjanun Sriduangkaew)- I’ve no doubt that including this book on my list will prove controversial, since Sriduangkaew is a controversial figure, but forget about the author. This is an excellent novel, blending Chinese mythology with queer urban fantasy: it’s sexy, it’s hypnotic, it’s haunting, it’s evocative, and it’s urban fantasy which doesn’t focus on western myths and pantheons.

Kushiel’s Legacy series (Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen, Kushiel’s Avatar) (Jacqueline Carey)- If you’re looking for porny medieval fantasy, this is pretty much exactly what you want: follow Phèdre, a woman chosen by a god to experience pain as pleasure, as she uses her unusual gifts for political intrigue and divine purposes.

The Gospel of Loki (Joanne Harris)- A fun slant on Norse mythology, from the point of view of the trickster god Loki. This novel manages to be laugh-out-loud funny, and doesn’t fall into the trap of turning a bad guy into a woobie: you’ll enjoy the misfortunes of its narrator.

Romanitas series (Romanitas, Rome Burning, Savage City) (Sophia McDougall)- McDougall’s alternate history in which the Roman Empire never fell is a disturbing and often distressing read, with images that stick with you long after you’ve turned the last page. It’s the dystopic speculative fiction where the fascists won that should have been turned into a television show.

Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys)/Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)- Reading these two as a double bill is an experience, especially if you do it in that order. While most people likely know the plot of Bronte’s classic, Wide Sargasso Sea focuses on a character who is treated only a nuisance: the mad wife in the attic. The novel looks at her struggle to fit in as a Creole woman, and her madness becomes a natural reaction. I never liked Rochester anyway, and Wide Sargasso Sea validates this.

Happy 2016 reading, everybody!


Let’s stop using the term “revenge porn”. Please.

Content warning: this post discusses abusive behaviour, victim blaming and misogyny

Every time I see the phrase “revenge porn” it hits a kind of berserk button inside me. I am writing this post to save myself having to have the same bloody rant every time it pops up: automating my own fury as it were, because I doubt the phrase is going to go away any time soon.

Revenge porn is not, as the name would suggest, like Kill Bill but naked. It’s the name the media like to give to distributing sexual images or videos (usually of women) without the consent of the person featured in them, usually to humiliate them. I’m not sure who came up with the name–it may have been men attempting to trivialise the violence they are enacting, or it may have been those well-meaning but ultimately harmful anti-porn feminists who have decided to have a pop at pornography. Either way, it’s a gross name for it, and as feminists we must be deeply critical of it.

Revenge porn is neither revenge, nor porn.

“Revenge” is inherently victim-blaming. It suggests that there is something that ought to be avenged: something that the victim did to warrant such treatment. There isn’t. Intimate images and videos aren’t released to avenge, they’re released to intimidate, to control, to humiliate. It’s probable that the perpetrator thinks he’s enacting revenge for perceived slight on the part of the victim, but that’s not what’s really happening, and it is not all right to keep on using the language that abusers will likely prefer.

“Porn” is perhaps harder to define, but most definitions tend to include that it is produced for the purposes of sexual arousal to distinguish porn from other reasons people might be naked in representations. Again, “revenge porn” does not fit this purpose. In a lot of instances, perhaps, the images or video were created because the people involved found it erotic at the time, but the public distribution of them did not have titillation in mind. The purpose was to intimidate, to control, to humiliate.

The usage of “porn” here is much the same as in the equally ghastly phrase “child porn” to describe images or video of the sexual abuse of children (and we should stop using that phrase too).

Put together, what we have in the term “revenge porn” is something which trivialises the violence being enacted, while simultaneously rooting for the perpetrators.

As feminists, it’s important we question everything, but it’s not difficult to see why, in a culture which helps abusers at the expense of survivors, the phrase “revenge porn” grew so popular.

So what to use instead of “revenge porn”? Instead of the euphemisms, I suggest we call it what it is, and here are a few suggestions:

  • Abuse
  • Humiliation
  • Sexual shaming
  • Violence against women
  • Non-consensual distribution of sexual images or video

You’ll note at least two of those are shorter than “revenge porn”.


Rape survivors are innocent until proved guilty

Content warning: this post discusses rape and rape apologism

It’s been an interesting few weeks regarding accountability for rapist. People believed Stoya and other women when they said they had been raped by James Deen, and took action on Deen. Serial rapist Daniel Holtzclaw has been convicted for preying on vulnerable Black women, hoping that misogynoir would let him get away with it indefinitely. And even the rat-faced embassy-botherer Julian Assange is set to face questioning at last.

But with small gains comes a kickback, and of course those who would like to help rapists keep on raping have been out in force. They feel sad that rapists are having their careers ruined, and people are believing the words of survivors. They’re saying the usual horrible shit.

Today, I’d like to talk about one of the favourite tired lines of the rape apologist: “innocent until proved guilty”. Now, notwithstanding the fact that “innocent” is never a verdict that crops up in court, nor the fact that even the figures for men admitting to having raped someone vastly outstrip the conviction rate for rape, those who cling to this framework are making a right mess out of their own logic.

See, when people defend rapists, they like to rely on a very boring narrative: “women lie”. They like to pretend that the accuser is making it up to ruin a man’s life for funsies, because that’s apparently a nicer thing to think than that chap they like is a rapist. And when they do that, they are therefore accusing women who speak out about their rapes of perverting the course of justice, of perjury, of serious, serious offences.

Rape apologists are accusing those who speak out about their rapes of criminal activity.

Rape survivors are innocent until proved guilty.

If you’re one of those people who thinks you’re not a rape apologist and just cares about due process, &c., &c., then ask yourself why you’ll cry “innocent until proved guilty” while defending a man accused of rape, but never for the accuser, who you are implicitly (or sometimes explicitly) accusing of perverting the course of justice.

There are consequences to the accusations that rape apologists like to fling about. These accusations can ruin a woman’s life.

First and foremost, the accusations that rape apologists like to bandy about are a great tool for keeping survivors quiet (and therefore helping rapists get away with it). It holds a fear of not being believed… and a fear of severe consequences.

And these consequences can escalate into real-world tragedies, for example Eleanor de Freitas, who took her life when a man launched a private prosecution against her after police decided not to pursue the rape she reported.

The accusations that rape apologists make against survivors can literally kill.

When someone speaks out about their rape, whether in reporting it to the police, or publicly naming their rapist, or starting an accountability process, or any way they see fit to deal with it, they are innocent of lying until proved guilty.

Let’s reclaim this war cry from the rape apologists, and declare that survivors are innocent until proved guilty. Let’s throw it in their faces, and honk like sea lions at them, asking for evidence that this alleged perversion of the course of justice occured, urging them to be reasonable rather than levelling serious accusations. It cuts both ways, and their weapon can be wielded in our hands. Let’s bore them silly until that fucking hackneyed cliche stops cropping up in discussions of rape.

Survivors of rape are innocent until proved guilty. 

Things I read this fortnight that I found interesting

It’s link round-up time again!

Open Barbers need a new venue!– Open Barbers do queer friendly hairdressing/barbering. This service is really amazing and necessary, but they need money for a new, accessible venue. Please help them by donating or sharing.

How Stoya took on James Deen and broke the porn industry’s silence (Melissa Gira Grant)- Interviewing Stoya and other porn performers about sexual violence. This is a very important article.

Trans ™: how the trans movement got sold out (Ray Filar)- How capitalism is attempting to coopt trans.

We can save atheism from the New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris (Jeff Sparrow)- A good analysis of why the public faces of atheism are such seeping bellends at present.

“But I thought he was a nice guy?!” (Girl on the Net)- Great article on how rapists can appear to be nice guys… and often think of themselves as such.

Carceral Feminism: Stoya and Jessica Jones (Kiva Bay)- Why a lot of survivors don’t go to the police, examined through the frame of Jessica Jones and Stoya’s recent disclosure.

Sady Doyle on Mary Shelley (Sady Doyle)- A few tweets on why you are rubbish if you diss Mary Shelley.

When Feminism Is a Brand (Kitty Stryker)- How men use feminism as a brand or identity, and how this can turn abusive.

The Face in the Machine (Phil Plait)- How pareidolia produces something fucking terrifying.

Feminists dye fountains red in anti-austerity protest (Sisters Uncut)- Read why activists undertook this striking action.

Video: Rub (Peaches)- Probably don’t watch this video if you’re at work, or with your nan, or anywhere where it’s not acceptable to see lots of hot naked people and hear the line “Can’t talk right now, this chick’s dick is in in my mouth” on repeat.

3 Ways Men Wanting to ‘Focus On Her Pleasure’ During Sex Can Still Be Sexist (Ginny Brown)- This puts into words a lot of things I’ve felt but had trouble articulating, in particular how it turns enjoying sex into another emotional labour.

We marched for peace – not to ‘bully’ Stella Creasy (Sue Wheat)- The media have been curiously reluctant to tell truths that conflict with their narratives, so read the truth here.

And finally, here’s a woman mashing her face into bread. I don’t know why, but it’s kind of hypnotic.

Just FYI, Kyle Sandilands is a liar

So, if you came out here to yell at me because I allegedly fed Kyle Sandilands some of my bread without his knowledge, know that he is a total liar. That was not me phoning in, that was an impersonator. The entire thing was faked without my knowledge or consent.

I mean honestly, think about it logically. With Australian import laws as they are, do you really think I could have somehow managed to get that bread into the studio?

The dude made the whole thing up. Literally all of it. Sorry to disappoint. I know how much you lot like to believe misogynists, but the only people who have eaten or will eat my bread are those who know full well what it is.

(yes, I am currently exploring options for taking legal action)

UPDATE: The Daily Mail have apologised for writing fanfic about me.