You’re once, twice, three times…

If I had a pound for every woman who found me unattractive, by now they wouldn’t find me unattractive.

And although that is basically the same joke as Jane Austen’s “It is a truth universally acknowledged…” my inner feminist still makes the telling a little uncomfortable.

You see, feminism had made such an impact by the time I was growing up in the 70s I was not alone in suffering tangible gender guilt. Men, we were told, (the rotters!) had suppressed women throughout history and I, having been born with a willy, was guilty by association. Like any young idealist I was convinced that I would be a beacon, supporting women in their struggle against male oppression. I modelled myself a New Man, a fad with the longevity of a postcoital erection, which quickly shrivled with the publication of Loaded and the rise of the 80s ‘lad’ as depicted with bandwagon jumping, excruciating, awkwardness in the TV series Men Behaving Badly and still being rehashed by the elderly dissidents of Top Gear.

Of course those “lads” can act as complete twats and they suffer no status loss. But since Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1792 Vindication of the Rights of Women there seems to have developed a golden rule that women in books, theatre or films can never be idiots or fools. Men in comedies and tragedies can be downright morons and twits but woebetide you if a woman is depicted as anything less than smart. You laugh with, not at. Personally I can only think of one idiot female in modern comedy, Alice in The Vicar of Dibley, but then she was curate to Dawn French, by far the smartest, most sensible, person in a village full of dolts. It seems that decades of the perennial smart woman/dumb man dichotomy has not been without effect on male self-esteem.

When I went to university, feminism chimed in nicely with academic trends. Post-structuralist theory set out to prioritise culture’s fringes, taking the focus away from the centre, in order to discover the truth about history; not by re-examining what we’ve been told to look at, but by looking at the periphery where unvarnished reality might show itself. There was more to be learned from a Clapham omnibus ticket than the works of Winston Churchill. Feminists argued that women were the denizens of those unseen margins; they had succumbed to pushy testosterone-led, male chest thumping and had been relegated to be the quiet underdogs of history, doomed to getting on with the important jobs of humanity: child bearing, rearing, nurturing, fuel/food gathering and praising sisterhood whilst simultaneously sharpening nails for eye scratching. It was a potent argument and I’d take my hat off to the feminists… but they really don’t like that.

The dictionary (and yes I do realise the irony of referring to a book that trumpets the androcentricity of language by starting with the word “dick”) says feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.”

But, now, over fifty years since the flammability of Playtex was tested, the meaning of “Feminism” is being torn apart both from within and without the movement. Indeed, just in case we had forgotten, last year reminders were issued to celebs on T-shirts claiming “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” – mostly worn by blokes on Instagram as a sort of dare. But if Glamour Magazine had to name U2 frontman Bono “Woman of The Year 2017” maybe there really weren’t enough people who actually menstruate ready to stand up and be counted.

So now “Third Wave” feminists are looking to broaden the definition, arguing that feminism should intrinsically embrace the LGBT community, while old-timers fear that forgery devalues the currency. On the other side, a virulent anti-feminist agenda is emerging in the form of “Men’s Rights” groups. “Feminists claim they want equality,” whines the Red Pill Handbook, the user guide to one of the internet’s most popular Men’s Rights forums, “but what they really want is power without responsibility. They desire both male and female privilege consolidated into one … They want the privileges of being women (privilege such as being economically provided for, getting opportunities based on their beauty and protection from physical harm by others) as well as male privilege (authority, respect for having a career, to not be judged so harshly based on appearance etc.)”

And the trouble is, though I find the messengers abhorrent, I can see the attraction in their iconoclasm. I have always just accepted that the reason men appear to have dominated the shaping of our species and civilization has been, in part, through forcing women to succumb and take a back seat. But, men’s rights activists argue, it is women who are not only responsible for their place, it’s actually the best place to be. Women have created their own coy, eye-lash batting, ‘little me’ subservient role to exploit men to do all the hard, hunter-gathering, defending, protecting business whilst they get a free ride, make all the sexual selection choices, and play with the kids. The androcentric world is not the result of male suppression, it’s female strategy.

Furthermore forget equality. “Women are irrational and inconsistent,” claims the handbook, “they have a capacity for logic but it is not their modus operandi, that is to say that they must exert effort to be logical as it is not their factory setting. A logical woman is easily baited into becoming emotional; women are easy to compromise. Their decisions are based on their current emotional state rather than the abstraction of logic. It’s this proclivity to change so quickly which causes them to act inconsistently and in contradiction.” Whereas men, I presume, are Mr Spock and entirely rational all the time.

Don’t for a minute think that these arguments are only appealing to some sad-sacks on the internet. I guarantee you know a bloke who will nod at these ideas. This is sophisticated thought-candy, designed to press the buttons of disenfranchised, dispossessed and disappointed men. And there are a lot of those. Men who’ve found themselves working for women, or rejected in love, and wondering why this is happening when they were brought up to believe they were the dominant gender.

“Women are hypergamous,” says the handbook, “they feel entitled to a superior mate. You have to be richer than her or at least equally rich, more educated than her or at least equally educated. You need to be better looking than her or at least equal looking, you need to be more popular than she is or at least equally popular. You can offset one area (LMS – looks, money, status) with another, but if you’re lower in at least 2 areas just forget it… this is why 20% of guys are fucking 80% of the chicks, women date up, men date down.”

These little insecure male, back of the mind, suspicions are given air on these forums. The idea that women in general are manipulators and should be treated with equally manipulative contempt is attractive to those who feel disarmed in the battle of the sexes. And of course behind sites like Red Pill, Adam Smith’s invisible hand of the market is in play. They are justifying and promoting a slew of “dating coaching” courses and advice books all teaching how to act and respond to manipulate women during pick-ups and dates to increase your shag hit rate; teaching how to appear alpha to get laid.

So maybe it’s about time to congratulate Feminism. It’s not facing its greatest challenge in the ivory towers of academia but in everyday discourse and as a way for angry men to get laid. The closer any cause gets to its stated goal, the more fervently it will be tested. Judging by the number of people ready to tear Feminism apart, it must be approaching it’s own ground zero. It’s been a long hard slog but if you’ve got this many enemies, you’re winning.


First appeared in

Sex and fear: What can I do you for? 


“What big eyes you’ve got Grandma.”

All the better to ogle you with my dear.”

“So this red cape, thigh boots and cleavage thing is working for you is it Grandma?”

Grandma drools and howls at the moon.

If you’ve popped into a costume shop looking for a little something for Halloween it’s almost guaranteed it will be a little something indeed.

In the last decade shop-bought Halloween costumes have become markedly less about the vampire and all about the vamp. This trend to sexualise our dressing up and put the whore into horror has been dubbed “Slutoween”; a meme that is currently exercising feminist debate especially for our puritan dissident descendants in America.

Fancy dress has always had a frisson of ‘what you fancy’, a chance to fantasise for a moment and unbutton from our daily uniforms. But in the last decade costume shop stock, especially for women, has been increasingly more revealing.

So, if you are a female habitué of Halloween attire, you can forget the seasonal “beach-ready body” pressure, the sand and sunshine will bleach out the bumps anyway, you’ll need all your will power to get fit for October 31st to strike a pose in your Sponge Boob No Pants, Princess Lay-Her or Fairy Queen Titty-ania outfit. With costume choices increasingly about how bare you dare it’s not long until we see gyms advertising programmes that promise to have you ‘fit to frighten’ for Halloween.

Complaints about the sexing up of Halloween have a particularly American twang and a whiff of the Scarlet Letter. In Britain where, it seems, many of us would rather express through dress than talk it out American style, dressing up is an integral part of life. All our youth movements had dress codes, an Oxbridge degree does not come on a certificate but confers the right to wear a particular gown and where else could transvestism in the shape of the pantomime dame become an institution? There was a time in the 80s when you not only assumed that everyparty was fancy dress, the influence of the New Romantics made sure that every photo we own from that period is excruciating.

In America fancy dress is more for special occasions and their special occasion par excellence is Halloween. But ‘moms’ are getting distressed because their teen and tween daughters are going straight from Pumpkin Pies to Treacle Tarts.

In the 2004 high school melodrama Mean Girls, Lindsay Lohan says, “Halloween is the one night of the year when you can dress like a slut and no other girls can say anything about it.” Unfortunately, in the real world, Lohan needed every day to be Halloween because, until her publicity machine eventually buried her, just about every day was filled with people calling her on her slut status.
‘Slut-shaming’ is still an all-girl sport in America. Feminist websites are fighting Slutoween’s sexy dressing up pressure, ridiculing the costume choices, advising girls on outfits they can make themselves and enlisting the girl band EmotiStyle who have produced a song called Things You Can Be On Halloween Besides Naked.

In this country where, on any Saturday night out in any provincial city the dress code is pure skin and stilettos, have we simply become inured to the likes of the Sinderella or Captain Hooker costumes? Or is prudish, party pooping, puritan founded America actually expressing its horror of sex itself? Halloween is all about what we fear. Sex is one of the most confusing isn’t it/is it taboo areas for teens and tweens and they’re the ones buying the Sexy Firefighter/Nurse/Cat/Dinner Lady costumes.

In an article in The New York Times called Good Girls Go Bad For a Day, one of America’s biggest Halloween costume retailers, which sells outfits with names like Little Bo Peep Show and Miss Foul Play, reported that, “Probably over 90 to 95 percent of our female costumes have a flirty edge to them,” adding that sexy costumes are so popular the company had to break its “sexy” category into three subdivisions.

So has America, the world’s largest consumer market, led the global costume industry to capitalise on one of its greatest fears, sex itself? And has that then turned the tap off on all the under selling frumpy costume alternatives?

Of course if Britain led the world consumer market then we’d all be dressing up as embarrassment on Halloween.

The marketing genius who came up with “Sex sells” forgot to add “but fear sells faster.” If Slutoween is fear and sex bundled together its appeal is unstoppable. I’m just waiting for the marketing geniuses in ISIS to catch on to this one. Watch out for Sexy Jihad.

Have a frightful Halloween (if you’re not having a filthy one).


Photo By: © Paramount Pictures

Source: Sex and fear: What can I do for you?