The Betrayal

large (7)We’ve all done it.

Whether it’s about how much we weigh, how many drinks we’ve had or how old we are, lying is, unfortunately, a fact of life.

Pretending you’re ten years younger than you really are or being in denial about the effects of the latest fad diet on your thighs however, is not quite the same as lying about having slept with someone you shouldn’t have or kissing someone when you should be kissing someone else.

It seems to me as though most people wait until they’ve got a white dress, a three-tiered cake and a pair of neat brogues to even begin thinking about remaining faithful to each other. Surely this should come a little earlier and a little more naturally, being one of the fundamentals of a relationship?

I’m under no illusions that there are people who can’t even control themselves within the realms of matrimony. Married men cheat on their wives, women date ten guys at a time and friends have been known to sleep with their best mate’s other half. And I, although it’s probably hard to imagine, am not a saint either.

Relationships are hard, there’s no denying, but the question I’m asking is: when the fuck did morals go out of fashion?

At school we’re taught not to hit each other in the playground and to be nice to our friends. We’re told not to lie to the teacher and to choose our words wisely. Why then, isn’t there a time, perhaps in the latter half of one’s education, when teachers (or parents) get real and explain that cheating is inherently wrong? We’re getting pretty good at progressing from condoms, bananas and films from the 70’s to explain how our genitals work during intercourse, but we fail to explain to kids about when best to use them, perhaps because we’re still grappling with these issues as adults.

I understand very well that children learn best from making their own mistakes, but with some things, it causes more harm than good to let people figure it out for themselves. We don’t wait around for a child to kill someone before using it as an example to explain that it’s inherently wrong, so why don’t we do the same with cheating? Both cause pain and are irreversible, and both can be avoided.

If you think I’m being dramatic by comparing the two then it clearly hasn’t happened to you… yet.

Some people say I’ve had a ‘good run’, considering how common cheating actually is. 25 years it has taken me to join the Cuckold Club and only now that it has happened to me, do I feel like I can comment with conviction.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of finding messages on your partner’s phone, or even better, catching them in the act, then you should know that it’s probably one of the worst things to happen to a person. And the bigger the love, the worse it is. I could sit here and try and explain the feeling but I can’t; it’s indescribable how much it hurts. Forget a kick in the balls or an elbow to the boob the week before your period; this stuff hurts. A lot.

Excuses are void and can range from the desperate to the ludicrous. They’ll explain that they don’t know why they did it and, particularly the male variety, will tell you that they can have sex without it meaning a thing. (It’s at this stage that I’d like to point out that so can women and that doesn’t make it okay.) Another favourite of mine is the, ‘It wasn’t very good’ or ‘I didn’t even fancy him (or her)’. My response? Thank you so much for ensuring that you didn’t take pleasure from putting your penis into someone else’s vagina, maybe next time you’ll get lucky?

Cheaters of the world: whether you did it and enjoyed  it, knew him or just met him, whether she has crap hair and looks like a gnome or has the body of a Victoria’s Secrets model, we don’t care. You did it, it’s disgusting and we’re hurt, so let us move on, be it with you or without you.

In my younger, feistier and perhaps more naive years, I was so sure I would dump a cheater without a second thought. Watching my friends being cheated on by their boyfriends and seeing marriages fall apart, I thought it impossible to even contemplate going back there. But when you’ve actually invested in a future with someone yourself, it gets a little more complicated than the standard duvet day and Beyonce session to help you move on (although both are still completely valid and do still sort of help the situation).

It’s a fact that humans can revert to sex to try and make themselves feel better. We’re suckers for a coping mechanism, hence why we have alcoholics, sex addicts and all the rest and I have seen lots of couples make it through to the other side, changing them for the better. But why let it get to that point? I’m really not sure how many times I have to say this until people get the picture but if you treat people the way that you would like someone to treat your brother, sister or best friend, then the world would be a happier place. I genuinely believe that we have a social responsibility when it comes to people’s hearts and if we each did our own little bit then it could have a huge impact on people’s lives.

Whether you’re the person who is attached or the one who wants that guy with the girlfriend, take responsibility for your actions – gin sodden or sober – and be the better person and prove how strong you are by saying no. Cheating is always a choice, never an accident.

I enjoy rebelling as much as the next person and can completely understand how the temptation of doing something you shouldn’t can be very attractive, but my experience has changed the way I look at things. Will I get over it? I’m not sure yet. But what I am sure of is that relationships aren’t mandatory. There’s no law saying that you must commit and if you do want to go out there and be ‘free’, then do as you please, but simply stay single while you do so. That way, when you jump in a cab back to theirs, nobody gets hurt, except if they’re into S&M, but that’s their prerogative.

All that I’m asking of you is that you take a couple of seconds longer to think about any decisions you might make in the future and to only partake in the gift of giving this season if you’re ‘giving it’ to all the right people.

Just. Be. Good. It’s really not that hard.

The Pornography

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Porn was first thrust upon me, much like anyone else who grew up in the noughties, in the charming form of Two Girls, One Cup. Suffice to say, I haven’t had a great relationship with the medium since.

The next thing I remember was a school trip to Wales, where boys who had only seen nudity in print, were passing a copy of Nuts Magazine around the coach. They shared their thoughts about a lack of pubic hair and different shades of areola, as us girls looked on with both intrigue and fright.

My boyfriend during these younger years was caught watching porn by his mum – an act as alien to me then as peeing standing up – and despite it being a moment of awkward humiliation for them both, she took it upon herself to stand there and give him a rollicking for objectifying girls: what a woman.

Following on from my teenage years, my male friends at university developed my fascination with porn by introducing me to the delights of ‘Sausage Pizza’. One of their favourite past times was to leave ‘Meat Spin’ running on my unattended laptop during dissertation time for me to return to as a treat after running off for a quick toilet break.(If you’re not sure what either of those food related porn titles are, take it from me, it’s better that way.)

Back in the day, and by this I’m only talking ten or so years ago, porn was taboo and the only way to get yourself off was to watch the 10 minute preview to an adult film on some obscure 900 Sky channel or switch over to TOTP where Rachel Stevens was doing her thing. Nowadays, we can access a whole world of sexual fantasy, in ultra high definition, from behind a computer screen, or even more conveniently, through our smart phones.

The majority of both my male and female counterparts watch porn on a regular basis and I’ve even known guys to share porn between friends. It has become so much a part of our daily lives that questioning the morality of it would be like questioning the morality of a roast potato. But aside from the fact that (some of) the stars of the small screen make a stack of money, how else is it enhancing the lives of these men and women who are having sex for cash? To me, there’s no difference between this occupation and that of a hooker on the streets of London, and any monetary transaction that exists when having sex, whether a punter or a production team is paying you, is just wrong in my opinion.

There’s obviously a darker side to the industry, and between the inappropriate videos out there and how easy they are to access, I can’t help but fear for future generations who are watching this stuff as children. Not only are they being educated in the art of bad sex, but these films are taking ideas of brutality and domination, and normalising them. In fact, these films are such a poor example of what sex is really like, that I’d probably give those sex education videos from my school days a little more credit. I also think more time should be given to educate those of an older generation who aren’t aware that these films are but a click away from their child’s reach, but I’ll save that for another day.

A guy I was seeing at the end of last year said that there was something he found shameful about masturbating and that he always felt a little self-deprecating afterwards, like he’d done something really wrong. I think it’s important to recognise that there’s nothing wrong with a little self love, but it’s the tools that are used to get you there that might be the problem.

Perhaps porn is a good way to vent mismatched sexual desires that you don’t share with you partner, or to tide you over until your next conquest, but we need to remember what it was like to be obsessed with what sex was going to be like before we had it. The whole world is obsessed with it because it’s amazing. And why is it amazing? Because you get to touch another person’s body, feel great and if you’re really lucky, connect on a higher level. Watching porn, albeit a fantastic form of contraception, just means more time spent staring at a screen as opposed to each other and I find that tapping at a keyboard to watch people have sex is much like staring through the window of a great restaurant to see people eating instead of heading inside and trying the menu for yourself.

Taking all of the moral questions surrounding the industry such as how these people are being treated behind the scenes and how many of them have chosen this as a career choice away, I don’t actually have a massive problem with it being watched, even within the realms of a relationship. I’m safe in the knowledge that my boyfriend isn’t thinking about me as he watches Jenna Jameson’s puppies jump up and down onscreen, but I’m cool with that; after all, my boobs will never be as big as hers and I wouldn’t want him to miss out, being the boob man that he is. But when it comes to my turn, why am I expected to enjoy ‘female friendly’ films?  I feel a need to let all of you porn producers out there know that not all of us girls want to be caressed with scented oils or fed fresh strawberries and I find it simply hilarious how this new age porn industry can be so regressive at times.

As you can see, I’m not 100% sure where I stand on the whole porn debate, but as a little experiment, I think I’ll steer clear of it for a while.

Think that might take too much will power as the winter nights draw in? Film your own and be safe in the knowledge that both parties have consented, are being taken care of (in more ways than one) and I’m sure you’ll feel far more satisfied watching a demonstration by someone with a good working knowledge of the female anatomy, because FYI, what they do in porn films is not good sex and I can guarantee it will not get your girlfriend anywhere near where you want her to be.

I am, shamefully however, looking forward to Fifty Shades of Grey coming out at the cinema next year.

Does that count as porn?

Who even knows anymore.

The Wait

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It’s almost as if our generation is as screwed up as everyone says we are.

If a bloke fails to attempt to get into our knickers on the first or second date, we worry that we’re not attractive. Equally, if a girl doesn’t try and unzip your Levi’s early doors, she’s not keen. I’m wondering where along the line we disregarded the third date rule and adopted a far more “ready” approach?

For me, I think university had something to do with it. Had I resided in London to study English for three years, I probably would’ve lived at home. With this in mind, there would have been far fewer opportunities to bring people home after nights out, but also, my Catholic extraction would have been less likely uprooted by alcohol and debauchery. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been that religious. I did however undertake a purely Catholic education, leading me to think of sex as something of a sin until sixth form. Even then I thought I would only ever sleep with my boyfriend of the time, get married and give birth to would-be-angels.

But on arriving in Exeter, after an interesting year out, I realised that not everyone felt the same. People here had sex. WITH PEOPLE THEY DIDN’T KNOW. However bewildered and excited by this however, I still didn’t really partake in this past-time, and managed to hold down a relationship for the best part of three years. But I looked up to these people! I wanted to be more like them. Now, on returning to the homeland, I’m not so sure- it’s almost as if people trust the Mayan predictions, but instead of gathering rations and loved ones, we’re reaching for the Durex. Boots; watch your back.

Despite this, I can’t blame everyone for this outlet. In a time of uncertainty, a lack of permanent jobs for graduates and a hell of a lot of rain, we’re all living in limbo, where feelings rarely, if ever, come to the fore. We’re searching for a different sort of buzz from success. This means that more of us are heading out, doing lots of drugs that will probably cripple us in later life, downing gin and bonking because there’s nothing else to do. It’s almost like we’re bored and living in Hull in 1962.

But what is it actually doing for everyone?

With the increase of people logging into these ghastly dating sites, we’re clearly quite keen to settle down. But how often do you hear of people striking up a relationship with someone these days? Having casual sex is far more “normal”. Imagine for example sleeping with someone for the first time (even if you really like them), sober. I bet the thought of that makes around 70% of you wince. There’s Dutch courage and then there’s that.

What I’m trying to say is, is that waiting is underrated. And there’s something to be said for not being so easy. For example, when a male friend was questioned why he wouldn’t have sex with the girl he was getting with, he replied, “because I actually think I might like her”.

I’m not saying lock up your pants and throw away the key, but if you’re more than simply attracted to a person, then sex can still really mean something. Even in 2012.

So whatever the reason for doing it, I can almost guarantee that waiting will turn up the heat…

But as with most things, I guess only time will tell.

The Valentine

I once spent Valentine’s Day in McDonald’s which, actually, has been one of my favourite love days to date. A Big Mac and a stroll through Exeter city centre and I’m all yours, apparently. And before you assume that I was only content with such a budget date because I was a student, I can tell you that I’d still much rather sit in McDonalds getting pea-shot-at by delinquents than paying double for a meal at Pizza Express, whilst rubbing shoulders with newly-weds and soppy couples called Roger and Tilly.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no cupid-quasher and am an absolute sucker for huge, romantic gestures, but something I’d like to see happen is for real love to be expressed on the most doting of days rather than just accepting the crappy Hallmark definition.

Carrie Bradshaw once said that she was, “Looking for love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, all-consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love”. And on first watching that final episode of undoubtedly one of the best television series of all time, I thought that this was romance at its finest. But as time goes by, I’ve started to wonder whether or not this is in fact something that lots of us crave, all the while totally taking for granted real love.

For love to be ‘all consuming’, it verges on an addiction. And an unhealthy one at that. For it to be “inconvenient”, it normally involves sacrifice of sorts. So one of you might already be attached or you could be living far away from each other. These components make everything far more intense and cause you to label your feelings as a matter of urgency, perhaps thrusting us into the label of love when in reality it’s something very different?

As I’ve mentioned before (on roughly 4576 occasions), I have been in love once in my life. And although it has recently come to pass, it did teach me what real love is. It’s not that bizarre teenage love that consumes you for the duration of sixth form. Instead it’s quite literally offering someone your last Rolo. Or leaving a great party early when they’ve had too much to drink or buying a train ticket to see them even when you’ve almost maxed out your overdraft.

I’ve come to realise that real romantic love should be as infinite and comparable to that which you have for your best friend (minus the canoodling of course). For instance, I would never in a million years contemplate swapping any of my best girl friends for any other women. And real romantic love should feel the same. If you look back at every Valentine’s Day since you were aware of its arguably pathetic existence, I can assure you that there will have been one new love interest per year. But I bet your bestie has remained well after you’ve closed the door behind all of them. That’s real love.

Basically, when you experience true love, the grass is always greener on your side of the fence.

My parents have been married for twenty five years and when I ask how she has managed to remain faithful, she proudly replies, “because he’s enough”. And as unromantic as that “enough” might sound to you, it’s probably the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard. It’s the contentment and utter acceptance of who each other are that I find so inspired. And that’s why I think they’ve lasted a whole quarter of a century.

Life is only full of ups and downs if you let yourself get taken along for the ride, and with the right person, even the most challenging of circumstances can be plain sailing.

So if you’re looking for someone to spend your life with, then you won’t want what Carrie calls ‘real love’. Instead, you’ll want friendship, with that certain je ne sais quoi thrown in.

Not just a shit card on Valentine’s Day.

Happy 14th February everyone.

The Virgin

Upon arriving at university it never really occurred to me that virgins existed this side of sixth form. When playing “I have never” and “would you rather” I didn’t really think about the fact that there might be someone squirming in their seat because they’d never actually gone past first base. Perhaps a little ignorant of me, but I don’t think I’m alone in assuming that the world and his wife have been having sex since the word go.

In my friendship group, there were huge gaps between each of us losing our virginity and it happened in various circumstances. Some lost it at university, some with their first boyfriend, some through the medium of a one night stand and some can’t really remember it. For some of us, it was a huge deal, and for others it really didn’t matter-it was just another hurdle you had to overcome on the road to adulthood. I don’t think we were to blame however for having this somewhat blasé take on what was quite a huge step in each of our lives. After all, it is nothing new to suggest that sex is everywhere. But the fatal flaw in this sexual propaganda is that everyone is missing the step where people actually start “doing it”. You see all these sexualised images on billboards and on the television of people having great sex and looking impractically sensual but the steps you must go through to get to this utopian sex life is never addressed. Young people are familiarised with sex before they’ve even tried it themselves. It’s a bit like trying to make a soufflé before you’ve even attempted beans on toast-how are you supposed to learn like that? By promoting idealistic images of sex, not only are you making youngsters feel the pressure of performance but you’re giving away the ending. Let them learn for themselves.

Earlier this year we saw that soldiers were exposed for abusing women by carrying out “virginity tests” in Egypt. The women were stripped naked and checked over whilst male soldiers looked on and took photos. Elsewhere in the world these virginity tests are carried out on a regular basis to determine whether a woman is eligible to be married. Not only are these tests degrading and intrusive, they are scientifically inaccurate and unreliable. The issues raised around this debate served to remind me that a far greater importance is placed on virginal status outside of the UK and although I am in no way whatsoever agreeing with these humiliating procedures, I think we should start to think a little more about the importance of virginity in this country and place a little more importance on the start of our sex lives rather than only take an interest once it’s up and running.

Although I would urge anyone to wait for the right person, mistakes do happen and it’s not something to beat yourself up about. So one thing I cannot stand is women (or men actually) who claim that waiting until they were 30 to lose their virginity gave them a sense of empowerment and a dignity that those of us who lost it at a younger age do not have. I can’t see how this is true. Surely losing it with someone at a young age who you chose to is just as empowering as waiting an extra ten years for an equally eligible partner. Plus, those ten years spent searching are ten years that could’ve been spent trying to reach that sexual perfection!

However, I must now apologise for making the same mistake that most people make. I have written ‘lost’ or ‘lose’ virginity five times so far. Perhaps if we stopped passively referring to the first time we have sex as losing our virginity and start thinking of it as giving it to someone we trust, our decisions might hold a little more credibility.

I think here the phrase “start as you mean to go on” has never been more apt.

The Magic Number

In an age where cross-dressing is the norm and where people think it’s okay to wear denim-on-denim, it’s odd to think that the number of people one has slept with, still holds so much responsibility for defining a person. Normally, I’d be of the opinion that it doesn’t really matter. But as of late, I’ve had a change of heart and think that actually, it does have a lot to answer for.

I’m not condemning men or women for sleeping with lots of different people but I think that, in all honesty, it can change your opinion of how important you are to them in the first few weeks of getting to know each other. If a guy tells you that he’s only slept with a few people, a couple of relationships and a couple of regrettable one night stands, then you think; normal guy. But if he says that he’s slept with over forty women at the age of roughly 22, most of which were ‘awesome one night stands’ then (correct me if I’m wrong girls) alarms bells go off in your mind.

I don’t know whether or not this stems from my Catholic girls school education where if you even kissed a boy you were called a slut, but I really do think people should start choosing who they sleep with, with a little more caution. I have a number of Christian friends who believe that sex should be something kept within marriage and although I would never agree with abstaining, I’m starting to think it’s actually probably a very nice thing to do. I’d hate to know that on my wedding day, my husband had slept with a ridiculous number of random women. Although knowing that I was the one who managed to pin him down for more than one night of fun would probably be rather satisfying.

I’m not saying that people who sleep with lots of different people are ‘dirty’ and I’m certainly not ignorant enough to believe that they’re more likely to carry an STI; it’s really more of an ’emotional’ thing. I think it’s nicer knowing that you a) know all the names of the people you’ve slept with b) liked them all and c) you would still say hello to them if you saw them in the street instead of running in the opposite direction.

During a sex education class at sixth form, someone was made to stand on stage and have tape stuck to the hairs on his arm. The first time the tape was removed, it was painful, memorable, and the hall erupted in laughter and screams. But as the plaster was repeatedly reapplied and removed, it became boring and meaningless. This was the Catholic School’s answer to a sex allegory. Naughty eh? But despite the whole experience being completely cringe worthy and at the time disregarded, I can’t help but wonder whether they had a point. Does sex become more meaningless the more people you “do it” with..?

A guy asked recently what my magic number was and on telling him, he multiplied it by three and said that he believed that was closer to the truth. Looking flabbergasted, I asked him whether I looked ‘easy’ and he explained that for women you multiply whatever they say by three, and for men you divide it by three. And that’s the real answer. This made me start to think about whether or not people past the age of fifteen lie about their sexual history. Surely not? Despite being favourable of a more modest number, I still think it’s important to be proud of your past and if you feel it necessary to tell porkies, then you’ve got to realise that surely something’s up.

Being completely honest? I think it’s more a personal thing. If someone I really liked told me they’d slept with five billion people, I probably wouldn’t care. And if my best friend admitted to me that she’d actually slept with six hundred, I’d probably rate her…

Besides, on the subject of sex, practise really does make perfect.