Male art that dehumanises women vs. female art that illuminates the reality of sexual violence and female objectification

Nordic Model Now!

Rae Story reflects on how when male artists create works that dehumanise women it is taken to be a comment on society as a whole, while women’s resulting brutalisation, isolation and objectification is seen as little more than a sideshow. She compares this with the powerful art of Suzzan Blac who mines her own traumatic memories of abuse and prostitution to create a blistering commentary on pornographic, female objectification and paedophile culture.

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Sex Worker Voices?

We have to listen to Sex Worker’s Voices. Quite who ‘We’ are and quite who ‘They’ are has yet to be solidly established. I guess on the surface the We is anyone who happens to be having any kind of discussion about prostitution, who has never been paid to flap about in gaudy knickers or been infiltrated by other folk’s body parts, at any stage in their pearl clutching, blue stocking, dry cunting lives.

Even if that discussion isn’t happening whilst your hovering over a bit of legislation. Even if your casually chatting in your back garden, with your feminist mates – who all hate sex – and who perpetually wear a  special form of mosquito net to prevent so-called ‘Men’ from touching their damsel flesh. Yes whilst you are having that oh so praxis garden party and you veer on to the topic of prostitution, a Sex Worker will be shipped over the wall – much like as happened at this 2014 Festival of Dangerous Ideas Debate – to ensure that you understand just how pathetically ignorant you are on this and, probably, any and all topics.

‘They’ of course are the opposites of ‘We’. They are the sugar coated, candy canes of postmodernist sexuality, who are largely made up of middle class PhD students, transwomen and heterosexual Chippendales, who sell intimacy and affection and counselling and  legal advice and vegan recipes, to disabled virgins  and poor hen pecked husbands, who spend the rest of their money on keeping their hag like wives happy. Despite the fact that said wives purposefully had their own vaginas sewed up just to spite them. Bitches.

I’m being facetious now, of course. Bad form. This is a serious topic.

Of course in reality who ‘We’ are, is rather more difficult to define, as is the case of who ‘They’ are. If anyone has spent any time fingering around the debate, you’ll notice how easily permeable those membranes are, how quickly and efficiently those boundaries can shift. A Sex Worker Voice might not only be someone who works in prostitution or stripping or pornography or webcam modelling. It might become someone who runs a brothel, who manages a strip club or who directs porn films. It might be someone who has worked for twenty years, or only two days.

Contrary wise the person who works in the sex industry but hates it, and openly criticises it, might have their story nullified as a ‘lone voice’ whose bad experience is an anomalous misfortune; sad, but not really of interest.  A charity or advocate who has worked for decades with women, damaged and troubled by prostitution, is a pesky interferer, who cannot be trusted to account for themselves/herself as witness. A former prostitute can be disregarded, at best, because her feelings ‘no longer count’. At worst, her whole public character may be  ruptured by accusations of duplicity, fraudulence, bitterness or insanity.

The Sex Worker who has been a webcam model for six months may find her voice counting more, than a former prostitute who has been schlepping about in the trade ever since that hallowed time before you could buy soft pornography at Poundland. That brothel keeper’s convenient advocacy for that apex of hyper capitalism – the Mega Brothel – considered of more value and authenticity than the women advocating for exit services.

Indeed, this flighty and idiomatic phrase seems to me to be predominately used to shore up a person who has their cards in the full, absolute no questions asked or futures considered, profiteering decriminalisation hat, and to undermine anyone who has even the smallest shred of ambivalence. To reiterate, for actual prostitutes who might disagree, there will be found another little crack for them to be pushed down. Heck, I’ve been witness to debates where a bloke who ostensibly has no stocks in the pro-prostitution conversation (ostensibly being the key word) mouthing off unabridged, and yet anyone who voices concerns has their tongues snipped at the root. Perhaps he once took photographs of his girlfriend in her underwear and then showed his mates down the pub. Perhaps that makes him a sex worker?

Ultimately, people are not ideas, and it is intensely problematic to try and utilize them as such. Such orchestrations of protest, sit dubiously and dangerously atop the thin floor of purported  objectivity. We are so petrified to express, openly, ideology, notions of morality, codes of ethics and philosophical questions, in our neoliberal society, that we just pretend that they simply don’t exist. The pro prostitution protest has done a phenomenal  PR job of selling itself as ideology free, as supported by Sex Workers, who don’t just have insight but Absolute Authority. Statistics that support them are in service of The Great Truth of absolute, full decriminalisation and any statistics that problematize their view are the flimsy nay sayings of troubled and troublesome women whose predominate interest in prostitution is really about defending their husbands from temptresses. Whilst also, curiously, hating men.

But the pro-prostitution argument is ideological. And moral. And subjective, and so too are the opinions of those who flog it. In the end, prostitution is not simply a private matter – it is a matter of commerce and social policy,  and everyone to greater or lesser degrees has cause to take interest. Everyone has their say.


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Hookers, It Isn’t All About You

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The blog posting platform Medium has a useful reading statistics organisation. Unlike on WordPress, it differentiates between people who have clicked on your post, and those who have actually read it. I don’t know exactly how it works this out (perhaps by counting all who scroll to the end, but this seems far from foolproof) but I do know that a great number of the hyperventilating people who tweeted angrily at me about an old post on said platform, were in the category of ‘haven’t bothered’.

Not that it matters. Because the post was about married (or paired up) men who use prostitutes. And the angry-s were members of the ‘ain’t sex work pretty’ Twitterati; those vested interests, their drooling male patrons and purported libertarian feminists who have come to ride the wave of populism.  They are usually the type of feminists that are nifty with a select bunch of stock phrases and sentiments and think dying their hair turquoise and having once kissed a girl, makes them  maverick supremos.

The type of postpostpostpostmodern maverick-ism that is still more or less constructed around a bourgeois, conservative lifestyle and outlook, but occasionally visits strip clubs, has a predilection for burning incense and buys ‘bohemian looking’ floral print cushion covers from House of Fraser. Like, way to gut the system, doods.

Or if they are the ‘sex workers’ themselves – the usually white, Western, good at feigning middle classness ‘sex workers’ who like to make an awful big meal out of themselves -they are the types that have reduced the feminist, civil and gay rights movements into a grim performance of self glorification, tinged with predictable photographs of their tan slicked bodies in shiny underpants and their legs kicked out into the air like they have just fallen elegantly from a tall building.

Combined they are like bad hippies, because at least the hippies had Joni Mitchell, comfy Nordic sweaters and a vague sense of collective optimism. Oh, and they ‘discovered’ the avocado.

And yes I can be so mean and catty because I am sure I used to be this narcissistic and self interested when I was younger. I used to muddy every delicate fraction and indentation  of the world into being Something to do With Me; I used to project out into the cosmos my own tediously thundering image of myself. And if what was occasionally reflected back at me wasn’t as painstakingly manufactured as the self-image I had created  in my own head, I would get pretty narked. Its this kind of psychopathology that ultimately leads people without any discernible talent to go on reality TV, before getting terribly upset when it doesn’t work out for them. I feel for us all, really, in this way, because mortality does often look and feel terribly bleak and life so aimless, that it is understandable that we try to make something… anything… out of it.

And also because writing that some people, these days, have vain and post-modernity pickled brains,  is at least no worse than being called a Bitch. Cunt. Prude. Pearl Clutcher. Moralist. Whatever that means. Oh I remember…its “Someone who has a different outlook to me.” Or it is Peter Hitchens. Or on this occasion, me.

I’m not entirely certain what response you are supposed to give to such epithets, other than “You know that never really hurt me much the first time I heard it. Certainly nowhere near as much as that article I wrote giving information to women about the behaviours and attitudes of married men who pay for sex, seemingly hurt you.”

The article didn’t actually say much at all about prostitutes themselves, other than to point out the fact that when a man rents a woman for sexual interaction, there is a pretty decent chance that she doesn’t really want to do it and what is more… he knows that. And doesn’t care. And possibly doesn’t much care if she is addicted to drugs, pimped or coerced either. He only knows that she needs the money. And even if a prostitute does loooovvvvve her ‘work’ she cannot reasonably deny that many don’t, and that that  makes the paying for it from any punter, inherently morally problematic. Because he can never accurately know which are which, seeing as there is an economic prerogative for all women involved to mask their truths. But again, I put it to you, that he mostly doesn’t give a jam sandwich.

Some of these pro prostitution agitators will often admit that many women in prostitution don’t want to be there, but they won’t draw the lines of the logic together. They would NEVER denigrate punters as a group, especially seeing as many of the most vociferous and outspoken use the same names and platforms to be ‘activists’ as they do to plug their wares.

But ultimately, what they don’t get, is that the article about punters and their personal lives are not about them. My piece was about the other women (who comprise a larger statistic, incidentally) who are married or with male partners and are not, even in a hipster tangential fashion, chouette about being in a  relationship with men who enjoy acting out sextube videos  with women who can’t wait for it to be over so they can go spend their 100 bucks on drinking away their childhood dreams. Oh that was close to the muscle, wasn’t it? Well I’ve been there. And I’ve seen it.

Women who have found themselves married to a punter, will have lived through  years of lies and condescension and  may often have developed, subtly or overtly, a deflated self esteem. If they do begin to develop an inkling and drop the question, they will have been gas-lit, stonewalled and furtherly and more endemically lied to. In other cases they will find out – having had no small clue – by being hit by a proverbial block of bricks that will smash them into the conscious realization that their conception of their own world was based on a scurrilous fib.

And  I don’t blame the women involved in prostitution at all, I just don’t think saying these things to other women has much, directly, to do with them. My ‘critics’ felt angry because they saw me paint a negative image of the world they seek to defend, but ultimately what women who are not in prostitution choose to think about it, in relationship to their own personal lives, is not their fucking business.

No, being a prostitute is not like being a racial or sexual minority. Those ‘sex worker’ critics of radical feminists are keen to assure everyone that they are not victims of the patriarchy and make a willful and happy choice. In which case it is  richly convenient to suddenly become a victim because someone else have a negative view on the industry that you are openly choosing to engage in. Especially if the negative view has specifically to do with your patrons or profiteers. You are welcome to argue that no-one should criminalize your punters, but you don’t have a right to say that no-one can criticize your punters. That is the line to be drawn between activism and lobbyism.

Those lobbyists are quick to tell silly wives that monogamy is not feasible, that it would be preferable for women to butt out their husband’s sexual business, or even that their presumed expansive attitudes to sex are something that all women should adopt. But they have no  right to impose their social values on to other women, or to dictate what conversations or knowledge exchanges that other women have, who don’t have such a romantic view of prostitution as they do.

But like Napolean the pig, they are intent on hacking to death  Snowball – the architect of the initial rebellion –  who simply wanted to de-stigmatise those women involved in prostitution, and create that heartfelt of all things, a better world.  Now, like the Stalin pig, they have a new mode of acceptable being for women. A new female ideal, a new do as we say,  a new  we-know-better landscape. But its over your parochial, domestic head, loves. You who gave up your job at 30, raised three children and made dear hubby a nutritious meal each night. Or heated up one squelched inside of freezer bag. Not that it matters. Because seemingly, nor do you.


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Why I Still Support Corbyn, Despite Decriminalization

 

When I was kid, I remember the general adult riposte to my regular protestation ‘Its not fair!’ being, ‘Well, life is not fair.’ Yes, the superficial vein was (dis)honest cynicism, but the adage has a more profound subtext. And it continues to be the most important political lesson I have learnt to date.

Life is nefariously, continuously, and variously always unfair. How it is unfair, in what capacity and to what degree, changes with the tide, the generations, in line with political, social, cultural and technological shifts. Sometimes unfairness is beaten like a bass drum. Social hierarchy is not only forgiven but taken as an absolute, a natural state of affairs. Sometimes such unfairness is more insidious. Women gain access to the vote, but not to full political representation. People of colour can no longer be kept hostage as slaves but suffer residual discrimination and social brutality. Working class people are no longer openly discussed as being intellectually and morally lesser, but blind eyes are made of the fact that social mobility is basically a myth, and meritocracy is a thin plaster atop a ripped off extremity. No real bandage against the chronic blood spewing of infrastructural, socio-economic inequality.

As they say, the price of liberation is eternal vigilance. A useful philosophical nugget, attributed to everyone from the Buddha, to Lincoln, to Jefferson, it lucks in to something rather fundamental about political progressivism. That if I or you or anyone wants life for humans (and variably other species) to be as fair as it can be now and proceeding, I recognise that I am always have to deal with some form of base level unfairness and I am always going to have to make some compromised decisions. Political pragmatism is dealing with the world as it is, not as I would like it to be. It is as though I am in a boat that leaks from multiple parts of the hull, as I mend one, so too another rips open. To stay afloat, I must be forever on my guard, forever mending, fixing… forever aware of the rain.

What has all this to do with Jeremy Corbyn?

As you probably know by now, Theresa May has gunned for a snap general election, in order to solidify her position and increase the Tory majority. Though Corbyn has welcomed the decision, you don’t have to be a political analyst to come to the conclusion that the timing is not exactly great. That we on the left could’ve done with somewhat more of it to shake off the rabid assault by the Murdoch presses on Corbyn’s leadership.

But no matter. We who support the party will have to do our best all the same. However, for me, the Jeremy Corbyn leadership has caused a small amount of difficulty for altogether different reasons. I was enthused by his election, excited by the growth of the movement that came with him and angered by the immediate backlash of hot potato throwing that occurred, painting him as any form of unreconstructed evil that the right wing presses could concoct. But, along came a quandary.

I am feminist who has vociferously opposed the full decriminalisation, industrialisation and neutralisation of prostitution. Not long after Corbyn’s ascent however, it was revealed that, to that political analysis he was at odds. My disagreement with his support for a laissez-faire economic policy surrounding prostitution is not, for me, a minority political sidewinder, but a fundamental core of my own personal and political life. Deciding to support him and the Labour Party nonetheless, has not been an easy decision for me to make. Bitter pills have been swallowed. But ultimately I have swallowed them because I still believe that a Corbyn led Labour Party would do more for those in prostitution, long term, than the Tories would in any term.

The growth of the acceptance of the commercialisation of usually poor women’s bodies, is inexorably linked to the conservative orchestrated neoliberal project which combines firstly, cuts to social security and an ever growing bifurcation of boss and worker wage slips, with a boisterous and delirious form of cultural individualism. The latter adequately preventing the sort of collectivisation needed to tackle the former. The desire to industrialise the sex industry is not simply an organic reaction to such a context, it is also an extension of the project. Corbyn, of course, understands and wishes to tackle this first issue, even is it is true that he hasn’t fully made the connection to the second. So half baked as it is, this still means he supersedes Theresa May in my estimation, who both supports austerity measures and has been opposed to progressive industry sex critical legislations.

Added, Corbyn himself is contextualised by the fact that the most open and vocal political party critics of the sex industry come from within the Labour Party’s ranks, with affiliated organisations such as TUC Women supporting the Nordic Model. Even if Corbyn himself supports industry decriminalisation, the idea that it would become party policy any time soon, seems hugely unlikely. Much more unlikely that the damn near probability that the Tories will continue on with lawn mower austerity cuts that disproportionately affect women and place working class women in particular within prostitution’s avaricious sights.

This is a compromised position. I, as a left wing feminist, would love to see a party on the ballot that fully and energetically stood against austerity cuts and understood the fact that the sex industry sits on an axis of sexed and classed based oppression, which would only be cemented or even furthered by industrialisation. But I don’t have that; I have a party that has been smashing up the welfare state and is looking to further its position as our absolute overlords on the right, and a party that seems to have a discordant and difficult relationship in its discourses between socialism and feminism on the left, with some of it admirable feminists such as Harriet Harman having previously supported welfare cuts on the one hand, and some its admirable socialists, such as Corbyn supporting, sex industry profiteering discrimination on the other.

But I have no choice but to veer left, with my nose held closed and my eyes stretched open. That willingness to compromise is needed, as is that eternal vigilance, to not allow any of the holes in our boats go unattended. It does not seem like a fair choice. But then as any good working class women will tell you, life is indeed, unfair. And it is that fact that gets me up each and every morning.


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Pretty Woman. Before Disney.

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Edward: “Go ahead. Vivian doesn’t care. She is used to six guys a night. Just be sure you wear a condom, she is careful about that.

Instead of whacking Stucky across the chops for his boner-boy harassment of Vivian, here Edward tells him that he is quite welcome to have a crack. Vivian’s body is a democratic locality for men with money, and like all commodities, one that can be ritualistically exchanged. That is the nature of prostitution.

But Disney didn’t want you to see that.

Garry Marshall’s Pretty Woman (1990), was originally based on a script by J.F.Lawton and given the working title, 3000. However, having been bought by that purveyor of all things unholy, Disney, the tone of the original script shifted dramatically. Before the effervescent ingénue could be (re)constructed by Julia Roberts, Vivian Ward was a troubled crack addict. Before Richard Gere could play the handsome and sophisticated Edward who just ‘happens’ upon the prostitute, and becomes beside himself with her, he is man who regularly buys the attentions of prostitutes, and pointedly seeks her out. And rather than saving each other, instead Edward rejects Vivian’s refusal of the money paid for her time and body (borne, presumably, of her foolhardy attachment to him)  drags her out of his car and tells her to bugger off and get a’hold of herself. Dejected, she uses the $3000 to take her friend, Kit de Luca, on a bus to Disneyland.

Because just as the punter buys the sexual fantasy, so too Vivian must by the fairy tale.

Yes, optioned to be performed by the ‘edgier’ acting double Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeifer, the narrative was softened into a bubble gum bit of romancing for adolescent girls the world over. Key to this transition, was indeed the casting of Roberts – significantly younger than Gere – whose almost bottled, clean linen loveliness mitigates any realistic prickliness that remains in the film. Unlike all the street walkers I’ve ever met, she looks impossibly confident, in good health and of course, free from drugs. Because Disney’s heroine could sell sex for a living, but heaven forbid she ever got intoxicated in order to cope with that reality!

And we never see her actually ‘trick’, taking it as a given that Edward is not really a trick in the ordinary sense. No, we can casually forget prostitution was ever her material reality and emotionally fix on the idea of this impossibly beautiful Hollywood star,  drenched in whore’s garb, and playing at prostitution as though it were a form of street theatre. Pretty Woman is a film created in order to appease the Anne Summers style reveries of   the relatively privileged, who imagine (and want to consume) prostitution as a set of outfits and paraphernalias  , not as an activity as done to, usually, poor or otherwise disenfranchised people.

She is not like other prostitutes, no, she has some shinning inner aura that bleeds through the noir streets of night time LA, with its pimps and its clubs and its dead hookers in dustbins. Like Lady and the Tramp, she is just too beautiful to be in that kennel. Unlike her earthy, drug addicted friend, Kit – who is the tinge of pessimism that exists on the periphery – she is in position of the right kind of feminine charm to give her the currency to escape that nihilistic, Bukowskian landscape.  Towards the end, the idea is floated, that Kit might become a beautician. A more fitting aspiration for the lesser whore, in the unlikely event that she ever get off drugs long enough to do it. And should the spectator ever really care.

Of course, there is a subtle self reflexivity in Pretty Woman. An awareness that Hollywood is the paragonic Fatherland of fiction over fact, that marbles together the predominance of grimed poverty, with intermittent speckles of gold licked fortune. It is in the city’s very topography, from the dilapidations of Downtown to the pretty penny streets of Beverly Hills. It defines its cultural texture; a ground zero for a contemporary value system that would sooner remake unedifying, truthful tales into out of reach fantasias. To settle our necessary anxieties about the world. Indeed, the feminism of today has come rooted out of this very bulb, with many wishing to re-orchestrate in their minds, films like Pretty Woman to become Feminist staples. Tales of empowerment and chutzpah. As Edward and Vivian save each other atop the staircase, that leads up to her grotty pad, a local man crosses the street and declares, “Everybody who comes to Hollywood got’a dream, Wass your dream? Wass your dream?”

And with it seemingly so out of reach, it is easier to pretend we are already living it.


 

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Keith Vaseline

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When Keith Vaz was discovered to have sought to rent sexual favours from two migrant men (and seems to have offered to buy cocaine for them and poppers for himself) it disrupted the lukewarm response to the largely agreed upon modest reforms that the HASC suggested. It proposed a decriminalisation of soliciting (and thus of street walkers) and a wiping of the slate of prostitute’s criminal records. It was ground safely and stoically observed to be popular on all sides and thus, on its own, politically shrewd.

There were  critiques of its dismissal of the Nordic Model and its long term suggestion to consider industry decriminalisation, but in all, the response to the report was muted because the actual propositions, not its wider problems and suggestions, were uncontroversial. Seas seemed calm.

When Vaz was exposed, the sex industry lobby went into full flurry mode, because those within it knew that the rejection of the Nordic Model would be  newly viewed in relation to Vaz’s sex buying, from many quarters. Some sought to affirm that the report could still be credited, however the basis made for this is no more than the pro-industry and problematic ‘listen to sex workers’ rhetoric itself, which has little to nothing to do with whether or not there is a problem with an undeclared vested interest chairing the committee.

Some pointed out that Vaz has previously supported the Nordic Model, using pop psychology to play to the idea that he is some kind of Fred Phelps character, obsessing over the criminalisation of punters as a response to his own desire to rent people for sex. However – seductive and prime time American drama though that is – his support for the Nordic Model could hardly be described as consistent, obsessive or easy to pin down. In 2014 he sat on the APPG panel, where he was a non chair member in a group of 27, that proposed the Nordic Model. In 2016 he sat on the HASC panel where he was the chair member in a group of 11 that, indeed, more or less rejected the Nordic Model. What to make of that? Probably not much.

Of course Magnanti, and others, have sought to argue that Vaz’s  sudden change of mind, is a result of the virtuoso of her and other industry ideologue’s testimony. Even in arrogance, that seems rather a stretch.

It could  be more sensibly argued, as the others outside of the political debates surrounding prostitution have done, that Vaz is simply a duplicitous, slippery, megalomaniac character whose views, self presentation and position cannot be trusted.

How often has Vaz paid for sex? When did it start? Has he always supported the Nordic Model? Has he always not supported it? Has he seen it as politically advantageous to do so at some times and not at others? How much influence did he exert on both committees? Is he actually just some Trumpian figure who believes and cares about nothing other than his own career trajectory?  Is he  willing to oscillate wildly and quickly between different forms of policies or values because he  imagines, simply, that they won’t extend to him? Questions, questions – and if you care about Vaz with respect of details of this report – no clear answers.

In the end, it is not with respect to the sex industry only that this sticky business of  Keith Vaz, and his almost shockingly exquisite Janus Face, is so bothersome.

The general public – general as in of all political stripes and persuasions – struggles to trust politicians, doesn’t see them as honourable members of the community whose integrity and intelligence of vision can be seen to represent us or care for our needs. Perhaps, because they talk often about being in Power, not Political Representation. Perhaps also,  because of the perception of politicians as serpentine circumnavigators of  their own manifestos, whose game playing serves to undermine the whole concept of parliamentary democracy . You have to know  what someone believes, at least broadly, to  want to vote for them. To really want to vote for them.

If they’re outright bloody liars whose political capriciousness comes served with a personal side ordering of self gratification, self indulgence and scandal, they are not fit for purpose. Vaz’s duplicity, in and off itself, is what fundamentally unseats his position  as a public servant, an occupation paid up by the public purse. Some may argue that it is a private matter – an argument made ridiculous by the specifities of the case  – but this is also to ignore the position of politicians more generally. These are people paid handsomely, in taxes, well above the average earnings of a British citizen (not to mention the expenses and second homes) who require no specific qualifications or experience to do the job. You don’t have to be a saint, or a political hero. You don’t have to solve all the problems or fight a war (and win) or reclaim the Empire or Make Britain Great or any other of the egocentric fantasies that some of you politicians no doubt have.

You can just be honest, and vaguely consistent.

You are also not being asked to only drink green juice, forego gluten, never have sex,  get drunk, fart, have a predilection for Status Quo or The Wombles, never go on holiday, or ever again make a silly face lest it gets snapped and shoved up on Have I Got News For You for yucks.  You are just being asked – as  a representative of a wide variety of politically minded people – to avoid ethically and legally contentious behaviours and to Tell The Truth as you understand it.

Being a politician might be difficult, but it is still one of the greatest privileges that anyone can have bestowed upon them, and it comes with responsibilities and sacrifices. In order for our parliamentary democracy to work we need at least to vaguely trust in its operators. It does not instill much trust when a politician such as Vaz, can be found to be as trustworthy as cat with a goldfish, and yet still sweep in to the Justice Committee of all things, with 203 MPs agreeing to only 7 in dissent. That doesn’t sound like he is being made accountable.

Westminster, you need to pluck the bugs off of your salad bed, if you want us to eat it with relish.


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Review: Fatal Attraction

 

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Fatal Attraction

Glenn Close made it clear that she was not happy with the denouement of Fatal Attraction. The film, she argued, has done a disservice to the image of those suffering with mental health issues, portraying as it does, a hyperbolic narrative of a near demonic, sex crazed lunatic who throws herself into full scale mania, after a one weekend encounter with the decidedly average family man, Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas). Perhaps more specifically, it has perpetuated the mythology of the psychotic women who, so unbalanced by her own sexuality, is willing to set in motion actions that would potentially destroy her own existence. Simply after a few fumbles with a character predominately  constructed out of prosaic vapidity: otherwise known as, The Most Boring Man Who Ever Lived. All apart from anything else, all these years on, this controversial pot boiler just seems pretty unrealistic, to the point of carnivalesque absurdity.

Mr Gallagher is a successful lawyer married to a beautiful, devoted house maintainer, Beth (Anne Archer), father to a six year old girl, and walker to a docile, old dog. His personality, his life, his family, yes, even the dog, are all pretty beige and benign. Devoid of any hard edges, darling Beth is even shot in hazy focus, her loveliness and the loveliness she represents going so far as to soften the film reel. Anyone wishing to tip poison onto this domestic bliss would surely be evil indeed.

However, bliss must dull the senses, because our mate Dan, is not especially resistant to outside temptation. Whilst Beth is away for the weekend he encounters Alex Forrest (Close), a seductive publishing agent seeking to produce a novel about a women’s affair with a married politician. The writing is very much on the wall. As a lawyer, Dan’s assistance is required to defend the novel against an accusation from a real life politician that the story is based on his own affair that would, if published, destroy his career. Dan, with soft shouldered nonchalance, agrees to take on the case.

As has been established, Dan has a nice family life, but all the backbone of boiled spaghetti; clearly disassociation is required when considering the destruction of lives lived ‘over there’. Even his own wife’s, as is evidenced by the fact that after his meeting with Alex, he quite casually goes with her for a romantic dinner, followed by a brief, intense, sexual affair. Later he trundles home, displaying all the ambivalence and guilt of a cat slaying a mouse. Until, of course, the phone rings, and Alex makes her first invasion into  his cosy, marital home. Henceforth, their former jocular relationship, devolves into a stalking attack, with Alex being inflated into an obsessive Beelzebub gagging for a romantic clench hold onto this morally disengaged, ‘Every Man’.

What might have been a nuanced socio-cultural drama about infidelity and moral responsibility, turns into a horror story of operatic proportions. It is possible to enjoy the film in this vein; to delight in the unlikelihood of this previously successful women losing her rag after such a brief encounter, to such an unremarkable man. To scoff at the obnoxiousness of a narrative that permits his almost entire moral absolution, so enthused is the spectator to find the devil, not at home, but out amidst the deep blue sea. But really it is just a bad film, playing into some fairly weather worn anxieties about female desire and proliferating the conservative notion of the siren on the rocks. And perhaps therein lies the nub of this masculinist masochistic fantasy; what perverted bliss is it to be so unremarkable, yet to be so badly, so destructively desired?


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