Harry + Meghan / The Royal Wedding

I was awoken by shrieks this morning – Bethesda is the most dedicated royalist I have ever known – as Meghan Markle’s Roller drew up to the church. Bethesda insisted that I join her in watching it, and so I did. I found myself in tears at the transparent love Prince Harry, now the Duke of Sussex, feels for his bride. Years ago, a shockingly accurate clairvoyant told me that my soulmate would be my second husband, not the first, which perturbed me at the time but now fills me with intense joy and excitement. He said that my second marriage would take place in a US church, which would indicate that he is American. I watched Prince Harry’s features work with anxiety as he waited for Markle to enter the church: such a beautiful moment. It also made me think of the moment I will walk Bethesda down the aisle, as she has asked me to. A joyous celebration of love and devotion: I could not think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.


Adolescent girls, pornography + abuse

A GP, let’s call her Sue, said: “I’m afraid things are much worse than people suspect.” In recent years, Sue had treated growing numbers of teenage girls with internal injuries caused by frequent anal sex; not, as Sue found out, because she wanted to, or because she enjoyed it – on the contrary – but because a boy expected her to. “I’ll spare you the gruesome details,” said Sue, “but these girls are very young and slight and their bodies are simply not designed for that.”

Her patients were deeply ashamed at presenting with such injuries. They had lied to their mums about it and felt they couldn’t confide in anyone else, which only added to their distress. When Sue questioned them further, they said they were humiliated by the experience, but they had simply not felt they could say no. Anal sex was standard among teenagers now, even though the girls knew that it hurt …

For Sue’s surgery isn’t in some inner-city borough where kids may have been brutalised or come from cultures where such practices are commonly used as contraception. Sue works in the leafy heart of Hampshire. The girls presenting with incontinence were often under the age of consent and from loving, stable homes. Just the sort of kids who, only two generations ago, would have been enjoying riding and ballet lessons, and still looking forward to their first kiss, not being coerced into violent sex by some kid who picked up his ideas about physical intimacy from a dogging video on his mobile.

The harm, of course, is not just physical. A study this week revealed that the number of schoolgirls at risk of emotional problems has risen sharply. Scientists for the Journal of Adolescent Health were surprised to see a 7 per cent spike in only five years among girls aged 11 to 13 reporting emotional issues. Boys remained fairly stable while girls faced “unique pressures”. Researchers said the causes could include the drive to achieve an unrealistic body shape, perpetuated by social media and an increasing sexualisation of young women …

It explains why more than four in 10 girls between the ages of 13 and 17 in England say they have been coerced into sex acts, according to one of the largest European polls on teenage sexual experience. Recent research by the Universities of Bristol and Central Lancashire found that a fifth of girls had suffered violence or intimidation from their teenage boyfriends, a high proportion of whom regularly viewed pornography, with one in five boys harbouring “extremely negative attitides towards women”.

from “Pornography has changed the landscape of adolescence beyond all recognition”

An observation on female conditioning

It wasn’t that long ago I realised that I prioritised men’s feelings over my own. This is, in part, typical female conditioning, which is why I teach my daughter to be emotionally assertive. A man could be cruel, emotionally abusive and self interested but, when he burst into tears, my heart would soften. I am no longer than person. When a man is cruel, I now step back and think: I dodged a bullet there. I’ve also observed that the more emotionally abusive the man, the more consumed they are by self-pity and the more excuses they find for their abusive behaviour.

One man in particular was never there when I was lost, distraught or in need – he never once listened to or comforted me or asked how he could help but I was always the first port of call when he was agitated or depressed; my job was to mother and cheer him, to entertain him.

He had a reputation for using people – for taking what he needed (sexually, emotionally, financially) and then leaving without acknowledgment. “He kisses up and kicks down,” a person who knew him well remarked. He and I were only ever friends, but he abused that friendship by manipulating me with untruths, by playing games, by never letting me know where I stood in relation to the truth, and he never acknowledged all the emotional help I had given him, which was significant. In retrospect, I was blinded to his cruelty by my own preoccupations at the time – pressing (and deeply distressing) practical considerations.

It was only when he was abusive outright that I realised what I was dealing with: someone who literally didn’t care for me at all. He didn’t care if I was suffering emotionally or physically unwell; he had no interest in the details of my life, preferring to focus on his desires and travails. I was a species of service station to him – available around the clock, devoid of needs, to be used emotionally and spiritually as he had used all other women sexually for ego reinforcement.

He never once explained, he never once apologised, he never sought to make amends. He just took what he wanted, irrespective of the damage he caused. He hurt me terribly – I am a notoriously devoted friend – at a time when my emotional resources were minimal. It did not occur to him at the time that I was a single mother under extreme financial and emotional duress; all he wanted was to play a game to alleviate the darkness in his life (he had always used women in any number of ways to distract himself from a darkness that had its roots in early childhood). He did not consider the impact of his cruelty on me and, indirectly, on my daughter.

I was as nothing to him, and I had never even noticed.

Dreamcatcher / Kim Longinotto

Dreamcatcher, by the renowned British director Kim Longinotto, is the most affecting documentary I have ever seen. In essence, it deals with the human rights abuses we call prostitution, if stripped of the Sex Positive lobby’s propaganda. I had to turn it off for a time after the testimony of one white prostitute, who recalls that after her pimp beat her and broke her jaw, he forced her to perform fellatio and then sodomised her. (Just to show her who’s boss, you understand.) Another pimp explains how he charmed and then brutalised his “girls”, forcing his pregnant partner out on the streets in winter. As a result, his daughter died of lung complications after birth. Longinotto’s camera stops on the working features of a pregnant prostitute standing on one of the most dangerous corners of her city. This, then, is the price that disenfranchised women pay for the “fun” of emotionally detached men. Difficult, essential viewing.


They always try to trap me, he tells them. He depicts women as the police, as gaolers, coming for him with chains. It is, he tells a friend, entrapment. This is the way he rationalises his brutal lifelong exploitation of women, his verbal and emotional abuse, his sadism: as self-protection. He looks like a baby when he tells them this – that little moue followed by that sudden smile. He entertains himself with documentary footage of women being abused. This, he thinks, is fantasy (for him, not for them). He charms with sentimental stories about his little old granny but ejaculates every night over images of women stripped of their dignity, of women subjected to a sexualised cruelty and a brutality that, were it meted to prisoners of war, would cause political outrage. All women are fucking rubbish, he thinks. Little old granny never had a group of sneering men ejaculate and urinate into her face after a violent gangbang or had to perform ATM for rent: the very thought makes him feel as if the walls are closing in. But you can do what the fuck you like to other women; he couldn’t give a shit. Like a predator, he flatters and lies to achieve his aim, grooming women so he can seduce them and add them to his collection. Among the many innocuously labelled folders of pornography on his PC, he keeps folders of the pornography he asks women to make for him. All those photographs and videos, dating back decades. “Send me a picture of your garden,” he orders them. Sometimes it occurs to him that he’s a little like a serial killer with his sexual trophies, and then he laughs: because it’s funny. They make him feel safe, all those images, they make him feel like more of a man. He takes out on women all the rage and humiliation he experienced at the hands of men as a child, and here is his evidence. One of his friends said it was a little like seeing the piles of shoes at Auschwitz.

- Antonella Gambotto-Burke

Choking: the new hot

“Not all batterers got the idea of choking a woman from porn, but over 40 years of research shows a connection between viewing porn and violence against women. A recent meta-analysis of 22 studies between 1978 and 2014 from seven different countries concluded that pornography consumption is associated with an increased likelihood of committing acts of verbal or physical sexual aggression, regardless of age.”

- Gail Dines, “Choking women is all the rage. It’s branded as fun, sexy ‘breath play’”

The men I’ve known who are deeply involved with pornography are, without exception, disrespectful and dismissive towards women, have a near-sociopathic sense of sexual entitlement, are fundamentally emotionally brutal and – critically – do not know how to relate to, or really consider, women as human beings. In this era of anti-discrimination law, I remain astounded that this kind of material is not only freely available, but defended under the First Amendment. Billions of women are harmed not only in the making of such material, but as a result of the sexual and emotional violence it engenders in men.