Review – Rough: how violence has found its way into the bedroom and what we can do about it by Rachel Thompson (2021)

Rough, as the title suggests looks at various forms of violence that have made their way into our sex lives particularly in recent years. Some of these can be described as experiences that sit within a ‘grey area’ that might not fit traditional definitions of rape and sexual assault. The reason for this grey area, Thompson suggests, is that our society and by extension, the law, uses binary terms of rape or non-consensual sex vs. consensual sex.

The problem with this, according to Thompson is that, language feeds into the notion of a hierarchy of sexual acts, with some forms being more valid than others. This can invalidate LGBTQ people’s sexual experiences but also lead to the assumption that only some acts need consent. By removing this hierarchy, we can begin to address these ‘grey areas’ and bring about change in the legal language which fails to account for the full scope of sexual violence.

For example, in the UK, legal definitions of sexual assault and consent differ depending on whether you live in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England or Wales.

Many experts interviewed, are critical of the term ‘non-consensual sex’. Thompson explores why, by focusing on the importance of language, how we use it and how this is reflected in legal terminology. By using the term ‘non-consensual sex,’ it downplays violations and feeds into a culture of permissibility that has real consequences for survivors of sexual violence.  

Thompson goes onto look at some of the acts that could be seen as making up this ‘grey area’; acts that may fall outside the legal definition of rape or sexual assault, but nonetheless leave the victim feeling violated. These include stealthing (the act of non-consensual condom removal), non-consensual choking and spitting, facial ejaculation amongst others.

She hones in on BDSM and how it has become conflated with sexual violence thereby demonises the community. Thompson makes it clear, by looking at the importance of consent in these interactions, that there is a line between consensual BDSM acts and BDSM being used by perpetrators to get away with non-consensual acts. It leaves the door open for abusers to pass off their behaviours as kink. These acts that are written off by perpetrators as ‘rough sex’ are in fact it is ‘sexual violence’.

I found the discussions in the book, around consent interesting, particularly the notion of ‘strategic consent’ a term coined by Bay-Cheng. “Disadvantaged young women often don’t have the luxury of consent that is only about sex; their consent has to be strategic.” This is because consent must take into account the reality that many marginalised communities face around misogyny, racism, economic injustice.

Consent assumes that all women have sexual agency and this isn’t always the case. Bay-Cheng also talks about ‘transaction scripts’ where someone feels they ‘owe’ another person sex, for example perhaps because they’ve paid for a date. Again, this would fall into that grey area, Thompson points to. 

So what does she suggest we can do about it?

Whilst pornography, she acknowledges, does play a role in the rise of some of these acts, banning pornography isn’t the answer. Ethical pornography is going some way towards filling this gap, but what we need is to change our relationship with porn.

Another key suggestion is the improvement in the kind of sex education we receive. This includes incorporating anti-racism in sex education curricula, promoting healthy attitudes towards disabled people in the bedroom,

She also suggests that media portrayals of sex play an importance role in how certain acts are viewed. She points to shows like Bad Education, I May Destroy You and Normal People

But she’s clear that this education needs also to take place outside of the classroom and that as adults we fill in the gaps in our knowledge.

Thompson goes on to look at everything from the fetishization, hypersexualisation and desexualisation of certain communities (women of colour, those with disabilities, bisexual women and the transgender community) upskirting and digital sexual violations such as cyberflashing. The law has notably failed to keep up with these image-based violations.

Legal language is so important, Thompson argues, because the law is used as a moral barometer. But if the law falls short and if we can’t rely solely on legal definitions by the justice system, especially for those that are most marginalised on society, then what is the answer?

She writes, “we cannot place our faith in the law or in educational syllabi – both of which are controlled by lawmakers looking to serve the interests of their own political agenda. Changing our sexual culture has to start at an individual level, through thinking about how you treat other people – even if they’re complete strangers – on a human level. But on a macro level, we also have a collective duty to understand and fight the ways systems of oppression operate in our sexual culture.”

#ManchesterInfluencer #ManchesterBlogger #ManchesterMum #SexBlogger #SexBlog #SexBloggerCommunity #BDSMCommunity #BDSM #Rough #BookReview #ReadingRecommendation #ManchesterBookBlogger #MancheserBookReviewer

 

 

Book Review- Pretending by Holly Bourne

TW: Rape, sexual assault

Synopsis:
April finds herself constantly being rejected by men. So in a bid to take back the power she feels she’s lost, she creates the imaginary Gretel. She’s the kind of woman she thinks men want; funny, sexy, carefree with no baggage.

Pretending to be Gretel, April meets Joshua and decides she’ll make him fall in love with her, and then reject him, as she has been rejected. After all Joshua,is just another man and for April, all men are the same…arent they?


What can I say about this book? It’s not an easy read and for good reason because it’s suppose to make you feel uncomfortable.

I’d take notice of the trigger warnings. This is a book that deals with pretty upsetting subject matter, so look after yourselves and give this a miss if the subject matter is too close to home.

But for others, dont let the serious subject matter put you off. It’s also funny in places,  thanks to the monologues (especially around online dating).

April is such a complex and flawed character. Her journey through recovery is sensitively done. It’s full of raw emotions that meant it was a book I had to dip in and out of and is definitely one you need to be in the right frame of mind to read.

It also comes with a strong feminist message, sometimes a little too strong and in your face. Aside from that I’d have liked a stronger plot which is sacrificed for the sake of character development.

Rating: 4/5
I’ve chosen not to do a spice rating on this book due to the subject matter.

Book Review- The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

Synopsis:
Art-gallery owner and newly divorced single mum Solene Marchard expectedly finds herself escorting her daughter to see August Moon, her favourite band, in Vegas. But it’s during VIP meet and greet backstage, that Solene meets band member Hayes Campbell.

An instant attraction between the two leads to an agreement to lockup, only for Hayes and Solene to embark on a globe trotting love affair. Solene more reluctantly so, with the weight of their age gap and the lack of privacy that comes with dating someone famous, weighing heavily on her.


I remember rolling my eyes when I first read the blurb for this book. It sounded cheesy as hell and not my usual kind of read. But any preconceptions I had were soon dispelled when I found myself finishing the book in two days.

Like the novel’s protagonist, The Idea of You is a classy, sexy affair. Despite the outlandish premise of an older woman dating a famous musician and following him around the world, it all felt very believable, which is no small feat.

The sexual tension between Solene and Hayes was some of the best I’ve ever read. Its never cheesy or smutty, just adult descriptions of two people enjoying sex.

What I loved was the way the book used this relationship to explore societies double standards when it comes to an older woman dating a young man. This is held in contrast to Solene’s ex-husband’s relationship with a younger woman, one that goes unquestioned. It showed the price Solene pays an older woman, the judgements and the extremes of fandom.

The band, August Moon, reminded me of One Direction, and Hayes is a Harry Styles doppelganger, particularly his early relationship with an older woman, Caroline Flack and the abuse she received.

Undoubtedly, The Idea of You has become one of my favourite books of 2021 and one of the hottest, at that.

Rating: 5/5
Spice rating 5/5

BOOK REVIEW: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang


Thirty year old Stella is under pressure from her mother to settle down. Stella has Aspergers which makes her socially awkward and sex is uncomfortable for her.

“Husbands meant boyfriends. Boyfriends meant dating. Dating meant sex. She shuddered.”

But it’s a passing comment by Philip, a colleague, and just the type of man that her mum wants her to marry, that starts her thinking. He says,” a word of advice from a man who’s been around the block a few times: Get some practice. When you’re good at it, you like it better, and when you like it better, men like you better.”

If practice makes perfect, she thinks, “then maybe sex was just another interpersonal thing she needed to exert extra effort on.”

So she comes up with the idea of hiring Michael, a male escort, to teach her about sex and how to be a good girlfriend.

The premise of a Pretty Woman style role reversal (which they even joke about at one point) was what drew me to this novel.

The Kiss Quotient has quickly become one of my favourite novels this year. Not only is it a heartwarming story but boy is it steamy! I have to hand it to Helen Hoang, this book had some of the hottest sex scenes I’ve read in a while. The girl knows how to write a good sex scene, or five.

As a former teacher, I laughed out loud at Stella’s “lesson plans” with Micheal which included, ‘hand job lecture and demonstration’, ‘hand job practice’ and ‘performance review’.

The only reason I didn’t give this a full 5/5 was that i didnt quite buy into Stella suddenly losing some of autistic traits, such as those to do with the way Micheal smells and being touched by him.

What I did love, besides the smut, was the sense of community when exploring Michael’s Vietnamese heritage and the lighthearted scenes with his family and this is probably where the book works best.
.
Rating:4/5
Spice rating: 5/5

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence, a classic erotic novel

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

A classic I never get tired of re-reading is D.H.Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

This sexually explicit novel caused a scandal in Britain at the time and saw the publishers Penguin Books put on trial for obscenity.

It became notorious for its explicit descriptions of sex, its use of then-unprintable four-letter words and a reference to anal sex, which was illegal at the time.

Lawrence’s 1928 novel tells the story of a love affair between an upper class woman and a working class man. 

Constance Chatterley’s husband is paralysed from the waist down due to a war injury. Sexually and emotionally unfulfilled in her marriage, she begins an affair with the gamekeeper Mellors.

Lawrence,in this book, writes some of the best descriptions of sexual experience in the English language. He maps the full erotic experience by talking openly and honestly about it.

Lawrence, rather than writing a work of pornography, as some claimed (and still claim) has produced an passionately erotic novel that shows sex should be about pleasure and not shame.

Sex in literature still provokes strong reactions and it was one of the reasons why I wanted to set up this account, to address society’s continued discomfort with these kinds of books.
.

BOOK REVIEW – Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski.

Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski.

This is one of those books that I wave under the nose of anyone that’ll listen. So let me tell you more.

Come as You Are explores why and how women’s sexuality works, all of which is backed up by groundbreaking research and brain science. The aim, to transform your sex life. A bold claim, certainly but one that recognises that each woman’s sexuality is unique and therefore how we respond is equally unique.

The two models that form the scientific core of the book are what she calls the gas and the brakes or SES/SIS. In short,  it doesn’t matter how sexy the situation is, you’re not going to want to have sex if there’s something putting you off of it. Obvious? Well we’re use to hearing all around us that sex and our desire for it should just come naturally, but as the author states,like anything it takes work and preparation. Not sexy but very true.

The second model is around nonconcordance. This means that just because your genitals are responding to situation, it does not naturally follow that you’re enjoying yourself.

This ties into her model of expecting, enjoying, and eagerness, which describes different stages or types of arousal, and she explains how to use your awareness of it to understand what’s going on with your body. She talks sensitively about trauma, and how with the rates of violence against women, discussing trauma is inextricable from female sexual health (but she does give warnings if you want to skip those sections).

The book is written with a layman in mind, but includes enough science to make it a challenging read for those really want to get their teeth into the research behind her claims.

The author acknowledges it falls short when it comes to the transgender experience, mainly due to the current lack of any meaningful research. That aside, this is a book everyone should read, whatever your sexuality.  It’s a sex-positive book that aims to empower women, by stripping away a lot of the misconceptions and out right lies that we hear in the media and magazines.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5/5

BOOK REVIEW: Vagina: A Re-education by Lynn Enright

Vagina: A Re-education by Lynn Enright

Vagina: A Re-education by Lynn Enright, explores everything from the labia to the hymen, from the vagina to the clitoris.

Enright acknowledges that today, the word vagina is frequently used when what is really meant is vulva, and this makes it even harder for women to discuss their own bodies.

The book looks at how cultural attitudes have affected women’s relationships with their bodies. She writes about infertility, sexual assault, bikini waxes as well as periods , endometriosis,the menopause and orgasms.

In particular she discusses something 30% of women experience at some stage in their life, pain during penetrative sex.

What the book clearly does, is show how we all benefit from more openness and knowledge about the vagina so many others need not suffer.

I found the chapter on the hymen particularly interesting, because,  as it turns out, it’s not so much a covering but in the majority of people more like a crescent.

What’s also great about this book is that it’s highly readable, as it’s part memoir, revealing Enright’s own stories of sexual assault and struggles with infertility.

Her attempts at inclusivity succed as she concedes that not all women have vaginas, that not everyone with a vagina is a woman, and highlights the lack of data on those people’s experiences while also talking to trans women and men.

This is one of those books that should be handed out in schools. Educators really need to start teaching young people the truth about their bodies instead of omitting any reference to the clitoris during sex education. This book certainly is a great place to start.

5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

My TBR pile for August

August to-be-read pile

I’ve been on a bit of a book buying spree this week so i thought I’d share with you guys some of the reads I’ve picked up.

First up is Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman. I seem to be one of the few people who hasn’t seen the film, but I’ve heard great reviews so I decided to start with the novel it’s based on. I’m going in blind, knowing very little about the story other than it involves a relationship that develops between a teenage boy and his father’s assistant.

As I shared on my stories, A Curious History of Sex by Kate Lister has been one I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I’m a few chapters in and it doesnt disappoint.

I’ve been looking for an easy read to balance out some of the heavier books I’ve been reading lately so I opted for The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. I was never a big reader of romance novels until lockdown when all I wanted was light reads. I also find I zip through them quite quickly which makes me feel like I’m getting a lot read.

Finally, a book by R. J. McBrien called Reckless. I saw another bookstagrammer reading this and was intrigued to see if it was any good.

Has anyone read any of these or plan to?

Book Review- The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities, by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy

The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy

The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities, by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy was first given to me by a friend when we were talking about alternative lifestyles. She said this was THE groundbreaking book to read.

Both Easton and Hardy identify as queer and polyamorous and the authors set out to teach individuals and their partners how to discuss and honor boundaries, resolve conflicts, and to redefine their relationships.

The book has been significantly updated and expanded from when it was first published in 1997 to include sections on poly pioneers, black poly activism and shifting attitudes towards polyamory.

The conversational style will suit some and not others. Personally I struggled with the writing style but I understand their reasoning for wanting to write something that was less academic and more approachable and anecdotal. For those who know nothing about non monogamous lifestyles this is a great starting point. But if you have more than a passing knowledge, then many of the chapters feel not only repetitive but also dated.

Admittedly as a book about polygamy it is going to bang the drum for non monogamy but, it seems too simplistic in its advocacy of polyamory = good, monogamy = bad. It seems to take for granted that non-monogamy is superior and inherently better. For me it doesnt really address either the emotional side of polyamory focusing predominantly on the sexual side nor does it adequately address boundaries. The issues around jealousy were too simplistic.

Also, if you’re looking for depth this isnt the book for you. What it is is a good book for communication tips in all relationships and not just sexual ones, and advice to challenge views about sex and sexuality. The exercises and definitions are great for novices. Boiling it down, being an Ethical Slut is all about being honest with yourself and with others.

3/5

Learning about Tantric Sex

I picked up this book, Secrets of Tantric Sex by Claudia Blake, from my local Waterstones just before I got pregnant. I only managed to read a few pages before I had to swap tantra for baby books and now I’m keen to start dipping back into it.

Tantra isn’t something I know a great deal about so I’m fascinated to learn what’s involved. This book seemed like a great place to start.

What books would you recommend for someone wanting to know more about?

Secrets of Tantric Sex by Claudia Blake