The Girl with the Daffodil Tattoo

A Welsh girl let loose in a wild world



Carnality and consent: how to navigate sex in the modern world

Welcome to dating in the post-Harvey Weinstein era. Four months on from the Hollywood mogul’s downfall, the ripples are still spreading, moving out from sexual harassment at work towards more intimate relationships. Nights that might once have been grimly chalked up to experience, classed as bad dates or near misses, are being exhumed and re-evaluated. It is as if women are watching the film of their lives from a different vantage point, searching for something they missed at the time. Stop. Rewind. Look again.

It is in this climate that online magazine Babe’s infamous account of a date between the comedian Aziz Ansari and a young woman called Grace went viral last month – it catalogued in excruciating detail his allegedly relentless attempts to get her into bed and her apparent inability to extricate herself. It resonated with younger women precisely because of its ordinariness – because the feeling of being alone with a man who is all hands, feeling pressured and panicked, but unsure quite how to get out of it, is so instantly recognisable, even if women are divided over what to call it.


Unsurprisingly, this leaves many men looking nervously over their shoulders. After all, Ansari says he did not realise anything was wrong on the night. How many men might unknowingly be the bad guy in another story? Social media histories are being quietly edited and sometimes virtue-signalled. The dating site OkCupid saw significantly increased mentions in profiles of the words “respect”, “feminist” and “woke” in 2017.


Many older women, however, are left puzzled and uneasy by a world where even the 90s sitcom Friends is suddenly deemed “problematic” (Ross’s jealousy and Monica’s relationship with an older man, among other plotlines, offend some millennial sensibilities). Few might want to defend men’s “freedom to pester”, as an open letter signed by 100 women including the 74-year-old actor Catherine Deneuve put it, or agree with Germaine Greer that it is too late for actors to start “whingeing” about having felt compelled to sleep with someone for a part. But there is a generation gap opening up between older women – worried that focusing on microtransgressions gives men an excuse to ridicule the #MeToo movement, rather than reflect on their behaviour – and younger ones who think life cannot be compartmentalised so neatly. When the US TV host Ashleigh Banfield accused Grace of undermining a clear anti-harassment message with her story, she was attacked as a “burgundy-lipstick, bad-highlights, second-wave-feminist has-been” by the young reporter who published the original story.


In a piece for GQ, the writer Justin Myers said men need to take a long, hard look at their behaviour. “We tell ourselves it’s a ‘grey area’, the rules around it so murky and undefined that all we can do is go for it and hope nobody gets sued,” he wrote. “Consent is seen as something to be tangibly and forcibly withheld, not asked for – we pretend men don’t have to check themselves or read the room; it’s up to his partner to stop them, tell them no, move away from them, leave if possible … Don’t pretend you haven’t noticed their body language just because it’s inconvenient for you to do so right now.”


Alarmed by the use of her private details, Midwinter complained to JustEat; exasperated by its lacklustre response, she posted her exchange with the driver and the company on Twitter. Then the floodgates opened. She was deluged with stories from young women sick of being hassled for dates by men who got their numbers through work: taxi drivers, delivery guys, shop assistants, maintenance men who texted suggestively within minutes of leaving a single woman’s flat. What seems to have grated most is the assumption that women would be flattered by the attention, no matter what the situation; that they are always up for being propositioned.


The point is not that a man should never try to chat up a woman, she argues, but that barging in uninvited is presumptuous and scary. “Usually, you talk to somebody first, then you feel comfortable giving them your phone number. A man doesn’t just take it. People go: ‘Just say no,’ but the guy was quite persistent. I said something like: ‘Stop messaging me, you’re making me uncomfortable,’ and he just asked why. He didn’t seem to understand.”

And that, writ large, is the problem. The old idea of courtship as a pursuit – in which men do all the chasing while women coyly resist, at least until there is some commitment on the table – has its downsides. It fosters an assumption that reluctance is normal and pushing is required; if a woman suddenly retreats or freezes, that is par for the course. Keep pestering for long enough and eventually a no might turn into a yes.


Yet “no means no” is increasingly seen by younger women as an embarrassingly basic approach to consent. They argue it encourages men to assume that, so long as their partner did not audibly say “no”, they are covered, even if that partner was shrinking away, asking them to slow down or frozen with fear. Badgering someone into queasy submission might technically be within the law, but it is not the road to a happy sex life and it may no longer protect a man from public censure. What young men should look for, Tillman argues, is not the potentially ambiguous absence of “no”, but the enthusiastic presence of a “yes, yes, yes” or affirmative consent. “In 2018, ‘no means no’ is totally antiquated. It puts all the pressure on the person in the most vulnerable position, that if someone doesn’t have the capacity or the confidence to speak up, then they’re going to be violated,” she says. “If somebody isn’t an enthusiastic yes, if they’re hesitating, if they’re like: ‘Uh, I don’t know’ – at this point in time, that equals no.”


But it also requires women to get over any coyness about articulating their own desires and to stop expecting men to read their minds. For affirmative consent puts female pleasure unashamedly centre-stage.

Like generations of feminists before them, millennials have been accused of being puritanical killjoys or making it practically impossible to have sex at all. But, in some ways, the reverse is true: their whole point is that sex is meant to be fun, that being browbeaten into it is miserable and that more communication should mean better sex for everyone. That is the point where two halves of the millennial psyche – the #MeToo movement and a lusty, libidinous sex-positive movement seeking to reclaim the word “slut” as a joyful thing – come together.


Book to read: Brick Lane

The decade did, however, bring legislative progress, most notably with the introduction of asylum gender guidelines in 2004, the Civil Partnership Act in 2005, and the gender equality duty, which came into force in 2007, placing a legal duty on public authorities to promote equality of opportunity between men and women. I cheered the appointment of the first black woman cabinet minister (Baroness Amos), the first female foreign secretary (Margaret Beckett) and the first female home secretary (Jacqui Smith).

By the end of the decade, I had re-engaged with feminism. The plurality of voices of the third wave brought not only a fresh energy, but also a fresh confidence. Embracing individualism means not having to be apologetic for valuing yourself. That’s a lesson I wish I could go back and teach my 18-year-old self.

Monica Ali is a writer and novelist whose book Brick Lane was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize

Jacinta Arden

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How bad was it? “It wasn’t Helen Clark circa 2005,” says Ardern of New Zealand’s second female prime minister and her own former boss and mentor. “I remember that campaign. There were some horrific moments in there. So I, you know, note the progress. And I don’t take that lightly because other people have gone through quite a bit in order to get you there.”

“I got a call from a journalist who wanted comment on it, and the said journalist was quietly enraged by the portrayal, and I had this huge hesitance. I thought, if I say anything particularly negative will I be portrayed as humourless? And that’s probably a little bit indicative of how I’ve sometimes treated those issues. If you say something do you further your cause or make it worse? And yet, over time I’ve decided there are enough young women watching that I just can’t choose to say nothing every time.”

How’s her reo (te reo, the Māori language)? “Poor. It’s poor. I’m working on my pronunciation. I’m just finding, in amongst everything else that I’m taking in the constant briefing phase, that my memory for the reo isn’t what I’d like it to be.

“I’m really mindful of it, because I’m right on the cusp of a generation that should be better, but isn’t. Right on the cusp. So I feel a weight of expectation.”

To do list

-look up all the women interviewed

-put their names in a collage on my wall

-read their books

-break the patriarchy

A Quote on Writing

It is my belief that the writer, the free-lance author, should be and must be a critic of the society in which he lives. It is easy enough, and always profitable, to rail away at national enemies beyond the sea, at foreign powers beyond our borders who question the prevailing order. But the moral duty of the free writer is to begin his work at home; to be a critic of his own community, his own country, his own culture. If the writer is unwilling to fill this part, then the writer should abandon pretense and find another line of work.

-Edward Abbey, naturalist and author (29 Jan 1927-1989)

Old (Basque) Men

Last night I was reading and an old dude came up and started talking to me about the music in the bar, the book I was reading. When he started to touch me (on the hand) I asked him not to and returned to my book. He then started shouting at me and stormed off angrily.
My friends arrived. I was outside with them. He shouted at me again briefly.
Last week I saw a similar thing happening to another woman on the bus. She was from here.
The old man was short, thin. I could have easily knocked him out. He uses the fact that it would be shameful to physically accost someone so weak in order to try to humiliate young women he wants to harass.
When I walk home from the gym, old men make comments about my body, with their old men chums. My hair is plastered to my head with sweat.
When I’m at a bar, old men are shouting “NIÑA” so loudly at the woman who runs the bar I feel sick. She herself looks disgusted but says nothing.
I remember when I’d left my keys at home, and went to a bar across the road from my house. An old man started shouting about how they shouldn’t let women in the bar. I was tired and sad about my mothers death so I pretended I hadn’t heard and just read my book.
There’s a young man who sexually harassed me two years ago. I went sick and lost all my friends. Our friends in common gave excuses for him, said that he was sad about his mother’s illness. I took care of my mother and watched her die slowly, her face twisted in agony. Only men get free passes.
Whenever he sees me with another woman or alone, he calls my name. Whenever he sees me with a man, he says nothing.
There’s a lot of men here who could do with a good slap.
I am tired of patriarchy.

Why you will marry the wrong person

Favourite bits from a Ted Talk/New York Times article from Alain de Botton

In a wiser, more self-aware society than our own, a standard question on any early dinner date would be: “And how are you crazy?”

——I had a date like this in December.

The problem is that before marriage, we rarely delve into our complexities. Whenever casual relationships threaten to reveal our flaws, we blame our partners and call it a day. As for our friends, they don’t care enough to do the hard work of enlightening us. One of the privileges of being on our own is therefore the sincere impression that we are really quite easy to live with.

——I hold no such beliefs about myself… Although I do have a tendency to think that I, and my way of thinking is “right”, as shown the other day on a date where I told a guy “there’s no nice places to eat around here except place x” and we stumbled upon a nice place and had a wonderful lunch.

The marriage of reason was not, in hindsight, reasonable at all; it was often expedient, narrow-minded, snobbish and exploitative. That is why what has replaced it — the marriage of feeling — has largely been spared the need to account for itself.

——One of my closest friends asked me recently what I thought about arranged marriages. I said they could work as long as both people really, truly consented, and weren’t psychos. There’s nothing more terrible in my mind than a marriage where the woman doesn’t have the resources (i.e. education, money, opportunities) to thrive (not just survive in poverty with her children etc) on her own, or one where the man doesn’t want to leave and lose seeing his children every day.

But though we believe ourselves to be seeking happiness in marriage, it isn’t that simple. What we really seek is familiarity — which may well complicate any plans we might have had for happiness. We are looking to recreate, within our adult relationships, the feelings we knew so well in childhood. The love most of us will have tasted early on was often confused with other, more destructive dynamics: feelings of wanting to help an adult who was out of control, of being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger, of not feeling secure enough to communicate our wishes.

——Classic! After 8 years in therapy I thank god I never married, had kids, or bought a house with anyone. My “picker” was definitely not up to scratch; as a very young woman I vacillated between safe, caring, men, or exciting, narcissistic men who liked to wipe their feet on girls. I was on the floor. I’m (usually) not now…

How logical, then, that we should as grown-ups find ourselves rejecting certain candidates for marriage not because they are wrong but because they are too right — too balanced, mature, understanding and reliable — given that in our hearts, such rightness feels foreign. We marry the wrong people because we don’t associate being loved with feeling happy.

——Sad. I would like a “partner in crime”, someone who helps me to be the best person I can be and vice versa. I accept that I might not find that person, and that people grow, relationships change, and sometimes end.

We make mistakes, too, because we are so lonely. No one can be in an optimal frame of mind to choose a partner when remaining single feels unbearable. We have to be wholly at peace with the prospect of many years of solitude in order to be appropriately picky; otherwise, we risk loving no longer being single rather more than we love the partner who spared us that fate.

——I am truly happy being single at the moment. If anything, what I love most is not having to think about anyone else. It’s like why I love travelling alone. I only have to ask myself: “What do I want to do today?” and “What do I want to do now?”. Although travelling with someone else can be great as you share the daily tasks (researching where to stay, where to go next, and of course, you always have someone to watch your bags while you go to the toilet, which is especially useful when you have violent diarrhoea etc).

The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the “not overly wrong” person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.

——This is the key to why I broke up with my ex. There comes a time in many women’s lives where she is ready to have….a dog. He had worked as a postman, and had a phobia of dogs. I tried to compromise, suggesting that if one day we had a house with a garden, couldn’t we get one? He flatly refused. “Well, what about if we live in different apartments?” I suggested.

“If we live in different apartments, it’s a step back, and I will break up with you” he told me.

It wasn’t all him. I too have a phobia: of men. Many women are cautious with men, and men who are allies tend to be conscious that when they are walking home, they shouldn’t walk to closely to a woman as they’ve noticed she walks faster etc.


Watch the TED talk here:

The first 20 hours — how to learn anything

  1. deconstruct the skill: Euskera- listening, reading, pronunciation. Decide what you want to be able to do.
  2. learn enough to self-correct: Get books. Don’t procrastinate. Learn just enough that you can self-correct/self-edit as you practice
  3. remove barriers to practice: television, internet
  4. Practice at least 20 hrs: feeling stupid is a barrier to us, causing frustration and stopping us practicing.


Twitter exchange between Sarah Silverman and an angry/hurt dude:
Instead of ignoring the insult, or responding with equal aggression, Silverman took the opportunity to test the neutralizing impact of unexpected love. She took the time to read the Twitter feed of the man who’d harassed her, Jeremy Jamrozy, then gracefully responded that she believed in him, validating his pain and encouraging him to see love in himself.
Then, instead of leaving it at kind words, Silverman leveraged her 12 million Twitter followers and financial power to find back specialists in San Antonio, Texas, where Jamrozy lives, to treat his slipped disks.
“I was once a giving and nice person, but too many things destroyed that and I became bitter and hateful,” Jamrozy told My San Antonio. “Then Sarah showed me the way. Don’t get me wrong, I still got a long way to go, but it’s a start.”
Silverman and Jamrozy’s unlikely connection has resonated with many as an outlier amidst the brutal, self-centered bash-fest that social media often becomes. Entering a new year, Silverman’s selflessness and Jamrozy’s vulnerability offer a powerful antidote to cynicism and hatred.
Most of us don’t have the financial means to foot a stranger’s medical bills, but we all have the capacity to say the simple words Silverman said to her would-be troll: “I see you,” and “I believe you.”

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