eLust 73 with me!

Ht Honey by a fence
Photo courtesy of HT Honey

Welcome to Elust #73

The only place where the smartest and hottest sex bloggers are featured under one roof every month. Whether you’re looking for sex journalism, erotic writing, relationship advice or kinky discussions it’ll be here at Elust. Want to be included in Elust #74? Start with the rules, come back September 1st to submit something and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

 

~ This Month’s Top Three Posts ~

My shame
Has E L James broken erotica?
Sex Addiction is a Scam

~ Featured Post (Molly’s Picks) ~

Goodbye, I’m Gone
sharing my inspiration

~ Readers Choice from Sexbytes ~

*You really should consider adding your popular posts here too*

Eroticon 2015 Pay it forward

All blogs that have a submission in this edition must re-post this digest from tip-to-toe on their blogs within 7 days.

Re-posting the photo is optional and the use of the “read more…” tag is allowable after this point. Thank you, and enjoy!

 

Erotic Non-Fiction

Watching you
His Vulnerability Creates Magic.
It really was a Wicked Wednesday
Paper
His First Cuckold Experience
Humiliation of an ex-Nazi submissive 53
The Pole Dancer

Sex News, Opinion, Interviews, Politics & Humor

Gentleman Is the Opposite of Feminist
My Criteria for Rating Sex

Erotic Fiction

The Hunt’s Spectators
Peeping Tom
By the Sea, Part 1
Have You Been Naughty?
The Ritual
Triple Dog Dare
Eye Spy
Bound For Pleasure
Daddy Wants to Play

Thoughts & Advice on Sex & Relationships

Dealing With A Husband Who Can’t Cum
The Menopause Diaries
Balancing the Scales
On Cheating
On language learning and sex

Writing About Writing

What I Intend When I Write About Sex
Writing Erotica as a Disabled Top

Thoughts & Advice on Kink & Fetish

What else could be done with BDSM checklists?
Crafting Your Craft: Serving With Passion
Social Masochist
The Last Word
“Only submissive to someone special”

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Labour Leader Leaflets Lampooned!

The election has begun! I have my ballot papers for the Labour Leader, Deputy Leader, and National Policy Forum elections.

I’m sure I’ll have serious commentary to add later but I am feeling in a snarky, cynical, humorous mood. And, having also received little booklets in the post from three of the Labour leadership candidates, there will now follow some short paraphrasing and fun-poking at the said documents, in the order that they landed on the mat. I’m not going to focus on actual policies, but the stuff about their “vision” etc. (Kendall, apparently, doesn’t believe in the postal system.)

Yvette Cooper’s campaign booklet:

Pages 2-3: “My ancestors were the sort of person you’d respect, like northerners and shit, so I’m totes working class, me! Even though I went to Oxford University.”

Pages 4-5: “I created Sure Start, which means I’m practically the same as Nye Bevan and Barbara Castle rolled into one. Tories hate teachers and nurses but we can’t get mad, we have to get even!”

(Actual text: “We can’t sit it out for a generation. We know it isn’t enough to be angry at the world. We’re the Labour Party – we have to change the world.” I wonder if there could be a coded message in there about one of the other candidates?)

Page 6: “Tories hate our children, the BBC, and the NHS.”

Andy Burnham simply printed off his manifesto into a booklet. I already said my piece on that one, but here’s some added snark:

Page 2: “I’m the best thing since Clement Attlee created sliced bread and the NHS: Hugh Gaitskell, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan, Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock – who are they?”

Page 3: “I totes know what I’m talking about, cos I have a plan, see? No, even though I’m using all the same words as that other guy, *mine* is totes proper and his isn’t! Also, women, young people, trade unions! Did I mention I’m so awesome, I’m like Beveridge and sliced bread rolled into one?”

Page 6: “E-QUAL-IT-TEEEE! Amirite? Also, local powers for local people. And who’ll get the Lords out (who, who, who?)!”

Jeremy Corbyn’s Election Booklet:

This isn’t a booklet as such, but a folded over sheet. As such it has effectively a front and a back.

Front: “Yo, buddy! We need to, like, hang with everyone y’know? Some people got bummed out by our old ways, but if we just open up to them, and tell them how we feel, they’ll get back in the groooove, man!”

(Non-snark – his letter is addressed to “Dear friend”, and is clearly meant to be a rebuttal of the “Corbyn is unelectable” rhetoric from the others – and adopts some of their language)

Back panel 1: “We all think Jeremy’s totes amazeballs and sticks up for us! No to cuts! Yes to investment!”

Back panel 2: “Look! even SNP and UKIPers like his ideas for trains!”

(Actual text: “27% of SNP voters would be more likely to vote Labour if committed to publicly owned Scottish rail services. A November 2013 YouGov poll found 73% of UKIP voters backed publicly owned rail”)

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Amnesty International backs decriminalisation of sexwork!

Amnesty International listened to sexworkers and voted for decriminalisation as a campaign position.

Not really my battle directly (although I am hopeful my AdultWork services will take off soon) but:

YAY!

if earthquakes mean God hates gays, do rainbows mean he loves sexworkers?

Rainbows on AI SW day!

This is no small thing. This is Big. Like, REALLY big. It has no legal force, but it means that Amnesty will be putting pressure on governments to put sex workers’ rights first, and do the only thing that sex workers feel can help protect them. [Edit to add] Amnesty International have a video countering the prohibitionist arguments:

I’ve used this as an opportunity to quiz the Labour leadership and deputy leadership candidates (or at least, the ones who have even half a chance of winning my vote/2nd preference) on their positions regarding sex work, and the censorship of online “adult” material that is disproportionately affecting small businesses creating honest, ethical, positive and feminist representations of sex for pleasure, or sexual fantasy, rather than the more corrosive mainstream providers of porn. (Pandora Blake has been a vocal campaigner and is battling the censorship targeted at her site.)

But for now, sex workers are celebrating.

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REVIEW: Spycatcher, by Peter Wright

A few weeks ago, I found a copy of Spycatcher in a charity shop, and decided I should have a read.

Spycatcher, “The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer”, is one of those things that I remember from my youth as a cultural event. I was young at the time. It was the mid-Eighties, the Cold War still in full swing, my parents were active in the Peace Campaign and CND, I had yet to discover rock music (and 80s pop was abhorrent to me). Spycatcher was a thing that was on the news for what seemed like a very long time as the UK Government tried to ban its publication and sale in this country. I don’t recall whether it was the people or the technical information that was supposedly the problem (I was too young and not paying much attention).

[As an aside: I always love when a second-hand book has a dedication or note indicating it was a gift: my copy says “J__, Hope you find this interesting! A__.” (J being a ‘boy’ name and A being a ‘girl’ name, at least as commonly assigned.) I’ve no idea who these people were, or why J would find it interesting, or in what context, but it conjures stories in my mind.]

Anyway, to the actual book. The author is Peter Wright (sub-caption, “Former Assistant Director of MI5”) and the big deal is that he identifies whom he believes to have been the “Fifth Man” inside the British intelligence agencies along with Burgess, McClean, Philby and Blunt.

Wright’s background was in electronics and technology, and he discusses early on a whole bunch of the innovations in surveillance that he and his colleagues started using in the 1950s especially (he was recruited in the aftermath of World War 2 through family connections as MI5 sought to expand its in-house technical expertise). As seems to be a common factor with ex-military/espionage authors, the writer focusses on a message of, “If they’d only listened to me, everything would have worked out MUCH better, but nobody took any notice until it went wrong/they appointed my friend/they appointed the wrong person and sidelined me further.”

The meat of the book, however, is the suspicion of a mole inside MI5, and the intelligence and detective work that leads to his conclusion about that person’s identity. The book is not well written, and could easily have done with better work from an editor. That said, there is the makings of a pretty decent spy thriller novel here, had the book been written that way. It isn’t – it’s written as non-fiction, and an autobiography. As a storyteller, this frustrates me because I can clearly see how to make a much better book out of this. None of it needs to be fictionalised, but some of the fat could be trimmed, the language tightened, details irrelevant to the main narrative or subplots left out, and so on.

The worst part, though, is that to sell the book, the blurb gives away the identity of the mole (or rather, the person whom Wright concludes must be the enemy spy). As soon as you’ve got that, there’s no tension, no mystery and no excitement to the narrative. I spent the whole book thinking, “Get to the showdown already! we know who the culprit is!” Some stories can get away with showing the murder at the beginning (the Columbo TV series, for instance, generally shows who and how, and then introduces the eponymous detective and we watch him scrabble about trying to figure it out) but this story needs the mystery element. It needs the dawning realisation of how big the opposition is, until the reader, with the hero, is forced to the right conclusion. Given such a treatment, Spycatcher would have had a classic story arc, as outlined in various “how to write” books going back to Aristotle.

I hate spoilers. When the spoiler is in the blurb, it’s even more disappointing.

That’s Spycatcher as literature.

~ * ~

The other aspect of the book is the political and technical context and content. Two things leapt out at me from Wright’s discussion of his work and the changes he saw in the British intelligence agencies. The first is that the modern IT-based surveillance society is not a new thing. Even in the early 1970s the use of computers to track and plunder people’s personal data was being discussed:

I soon realized that the main interest F Branch had in the Computer Working Party was to establish widespread computer links, principally with the National Insurance computer in Newcastle. In the past, of course, we had always been able to get material from the National Insurance records if we really wanted. We had a couple of undercover officers posted up there who could be contacted for our files. But establishing a direct computer link was something different.”

The move into the computer generation signalled the relegation of the individual officer. From now on we were to be data processors, scanning tens of thousands of names at the press of a button.

(It’s interesting to note that, given the recent revelations of Special Branch infiltration of left-wing/campaign groups, and how officers would have sex with members to gain trust, that Wright states in the context of the above passage, “Agent running was no longer viable as the principal means of coverage. For a start, he could not infiltrate his officers into these left-wing groups since many of them lived promiscuous lives, and there were some sacrifices even an MI5 officer would not make for his country.”)

The other point is that Wright pretty much confirms that Harold Wilson was right to suspect a conspiracy against him in the mid-1970s. He describes how, as he approached retirement from MI5, a group of businessmen approached him and wished to employ his inside knowledge:

He said they were interested in working to prevent the return of a Labour government to power.

“It could spell the end of all the freedoms we know and cherish,” he said.

The others nodded.

“And how do you suppose I can help?” I asked.

“Information,” he replied, “we want information, and I am assured you have it.”

“What precisely are you after?” I inquired.

“Anything on Wilson would be helpful. There are many people who would pay handsomely for material of that sort.”

Wright says he objected to this on the basis of his being a serving member of the Security Service. Later, as he reviews the Wilson information, he describes that younger colleagues inside MI5 also approached him:

“Wilson’s a bloody menace,” said one of the younger officers, “and it’s about time the public knew the truth.”

But the approach in 1974 was altogether more serious. The plan was simple. In the run-up to the election which, given the level of instability in Parliament, must be due within a matter of months, MI5 would arrange for sensitive details of the intelligence about leading Labour Party figures, but especially Wilson, to be leaked to sympathetic pressmen. Using our contacts in the press and among union officials, word of the material contained in MI5 files and the fact that Wilson was considered a security risk would be passed around.

~ * ~

Both the computer surveillance and the anti-Wilson plots seem strongly relevant in today’s political climate. In particular with the wild hatred directed at Jeremy Corbyn by the right-wing bastions of the establishment, and his anti-militarist policies, we might anticipate that similar machinations would be a part of the run-up to a 2020 election with Corbyn at the helm of a newly radicalised and revitalised Labour Party. Reading the fictional “A Very British Coup” (or watching the TV version on Channel 4’s “on demand” website, though they don’t call it that any more) is a warning. Does this mean we should shy away from supporting Corbyn? Of course not. But we do need to be aware that there will be more sinister forces than Liz Kendall arrayed against him and his programme if he wins.

There are questions demanded about just what is meant by “defend the country” (and/or “democracy”), when the powerful bodies who claim to do so, seem to pick and choose who or what counts as legitimate, and seek to manipulate or subvert the will of the people as expressed through the ballot box.

But the main thing I took away was that literary sense of, “this could have been so much better, if only they’d only listened to me.”

Posted in Politics, Reviews, Writing about writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A quick look at Burnham’s manifesto: “It’s good, but it’s not quite Corbyn”

(The title is a reference to the adverts for Carling lager)

I get regular emails from the Labour Party, forwarded on from the various leadership and deputy-leadership candidates.

Last night, I received one with the link to Andy Burnham’s manifesto (PDF file).

It’s a pretty good piece of work, and I’ll be honest, it’s a manifesto that does seem to bring out some semblance of the Labour Party I wanted to vote for. The trouble is, as good as it is, it sounds like Burnham has been cribbing from Jeremy Corbyn’s speeches. I’ve looked back at the notes from the debate the BBC televised with the canidates, and while I recognise some of Burnham’s language, his priorities look like watered-down versions of what Corbyn said, on housing, health, education and so on.

This is a good thing in some ways: it means that the original objective in Corbyn’s nomination for the leadership has been met: he’s forced a debate, and moved the debate to the left, with Burnham clearly responding to the surge in support for left-wing politics that Corbyn’s campaign has awakened.

The bad parts are that Burnham rather overstates his case: “To do this, I will bring forward the most radical and far-reaching Labour vision for the country since the 1945 post-war Attlee Government. That Government civilised the last century. Mine will do the same for the 21st.” Under his healthcare proposals, he writes, “The NHS was the greatest achievement of the 1945 Labour Government. Today, Britain needs another great Labour achievement.”

Yeah. That’s a pretty big comparison to make, considering some of the manifestos the Labour Party produced in the 1950s and 60s. And more, Burnham wants even stronger comparisons with Attlee’s government, by proposing “a new Beveridge-style commission” that will address, “debt, insecurity, inequality, climate change and fear of old age.” in the way that Beveridge dealt with “squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease”.

I would suggest, Mr Burnham, that those five evils have yet to be vanquished, and victories against them have been rolled back. Your commission might want to take a fresh look at the old ones as well as the new ones.

The thing is, the Attlee government Labour Party was still a socialist party, and its vision was a genuinely socialist Britain. No one currently has that radical a vision for Britain. That’s okay. I don’t believe any radical restructuring of the political and economic power will come through elected MPs anyway. But to claim to be “the most radical and far-reaching Labour vision” since Attlee, you would at minimum have to reinstate the old Clause IV:

To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.

Andy Burnham won’t do that. I’d hazard not even Jeremy Corbyn would propose that change in all seriousness. I was only joking when I made reference to it in my reasons for joining Labour in April.

All-in-all, there’s nothing wrong with Burnham’s manifesto, and he certainly gets my second preference, but I want someone who’s been saying this all along, who won’t be swayed by this or that opinion poll or focus group, and who’ll see it through with force, conviction, and sincerity. That person is Jeremy Corbyn.

But I would love to see Mr Burnham in a Corbyn Shadow Cabinet (and in 2020, Government).

~ * ~

For the record, here’s the bits I liked best:

  • “I want young people who aspire to apprenticeships to have the same clarity, ambition and sense of purpose as those who aspire to go to university. So I will propose a national UCAS-style system for apprenticeships and extend access to student finance to help people to move to take up an apprenticeship.”
  • “I will lift the arbitrary central government borrowing caps that prevent local authorities from building more social housing, freeing our councils to deliver good quality homes once more.”
  • The rent-to-own option (although curious whether housing benefit would be possible to put towards that?)
  • “I am committed to extending the NHS principle to social care – where everybody is asked to make a contribution according to their means and where everybody then has the peace of mind of knowing that all their care needs, and those of their family, are covered.”
  • “When it comes to the TTIP deal under negotiation between the European Union and the USA, I will call for an exemption for all public services. I will fight proposals for private tribunals with the power to sit in judgement on national governments.”

On the other hand, I am unconvinced by the “Secondary Mandate” where one vote counts both for MP, and for a PR House of Lords. I’d rather see a separate vote for each House, and a clear explanation of the differing purposes of the two bodies or of the people elected to them (for example, my MP is supposed to be my voice in government and representing local concerns; what would an elected upper House representative do for me?)

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Questions and therapies: why CBT might not be for me

I have heard a lot of people either swear by the system of cognitive behaviour therapy (or CBT – not to be confused with cock’n’ball torture!) or criticise its misuse or poor delivery (the criticisms being more common recently). The idea that it might be used in jobcentres being a particularly bad example of a misuse.

However, while I had a vague idea of the concept, I didn’t know much about what’s involved until today I saw at Beyond The Binary an article which cited an exercise:

Not everyone gets on well with CBT, but it was a lifesaver for me – maybe give this a try, and see if it helps you? Get a sheet of paper – a large one – and write down your main fear. Maybe that fear is ‘I’ll regret the changes I’ve made’ or ‘I’m not sure I know what I’m doing’. Then write down how much you believe that fear – how much you believe it when you’re feeling calm, and how much when you’re feeling panicky. And then, scribbling all over the page, start to break that fear down. What, genuinely, is the absolute worst thing that could happen? How likely is that outcome, and what would you do if it did happen? How much is it simply a natural fear of the unknown, or of making a mistake? How much is a fear of losing control?

This puts me in a place to say why the popular conception of CBT is unlikely to be helpful for me.

The simplest way to put it is that, the way my anxiety, or depression, or stress, or whatever it is that makes me panicky about stuff, works is that it plays these questions in my mind all the time. I overthink everything.

“What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen?”

Well, I’m a writer. It’s pretty much my stock-in-trade to imagine the most horrendous things and make them happen to my poor, innocent characters. Even if I wasn’t doing that, I have an imagination that conjures every scenario, and of course the worst can leap out at that.

How likely is that outcome?

This is where it breaks down. Things that people tell me are unlikely, and bad, have happened to me. Things that should be likely, and good, have failed to materialise even when there seems no reason why they wouldn’t happen. So when these questions run through my head, and I reassure myself that it’s unlikely that the bad versions have happened/are going to happen, there’s always the voice of past experience to say, “Yeah, well, you said that last time and look how it turned out.”

I don’t have a sense of how likely or unlikely the bad things are because experience tells me that those Bayesian probabilities are no guarantee of what actually does happen in my particular instance.

What would you do if it did happen?

Again, this is what I think about all the time. When I reviewed The Never List, I wrote about my own “Never List” type thought processes:

When I read thrillers, or watch movies, I picture myself as the victims: “How would I avoid this situation? Could I survive it if I found myself there? How would I do so? What would I feel, and could I handle it?” As a result, I have a version of a Never List which is more like an “Action-on List”. I sometimes joke about it, “What would I do in the zombie apocalypse?” but it’s ever-present. I don’t walk across darkened spaces, at least, not without a torch that I use to scan all around. I always sit facing the door so I can see what’s coming. I hate having someone be just behind me. I have my own Never List.

I imagine scenarios, and then I try to think my way out of them before they happen: how will I avoid being in this situation? If I find myself in this situation, how will I deal with it, and what are my chances of surviving (or of meeting my minimal goals, or of avoiding unacceptable losses)? What will I do, and how might things turn out?

Obviously, these thoughts do very little to calm my nerves: they help to drive them!

There is the retort that thinking is different from writing, and this is true up to a point. The aim of taking the time to put it into a concrete form, and then re-evaluate, is going to change the context.

The interesting part is the comparison between “how much you believe it when you’re feeling calm”, and “how much when you’re feeling panicky”. For the most persistent fears – the ones that prompt the most stuff on my never-list and action-on-list and are referred to most frequently – I don’t think the level of belief changes; what changes is how far I can put them from my mind, or how relevant they seem to the specific situation (e.g. “I might be assaulted in the dark” is not very relevant when i’m walking in the middle of the day, or sitting at home on the computer).

Writing the things down, I believe, does help create a more dispassionate perspective on those beliefs, but the process of re-evaluating them to me seems impossible, because it requires evaluating – and my problem is that I can’t put values on the “how likely is it?” or more accurately, I come up with multiple valuations of the fears.

There is also the difficulty that, when bad things haven’t happened, sometimes it can be directly attributed to the fact that my fear made me go through the never-list type of process and that helped to make sure that the bad thing that could have happened, I successfully averted.

I suspect that, administered by someone with a lot of in-depth training and more awareness of the types of issues that I have, CBT might over time produce something positive for me in terms of reducing anxiety. But I remain sceptical, and the above goes to illustrate why.

Posted in SCW | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Corbyn and the Electoral Graph

This is a topic I’ve had on my mind for a couple of months now, but as the excitement over the Corbyn Phenomenon grows in the media, this seems like the apposite moment to actually write it up.

Some great posts by Jemima over at Sometimes It’s Just A Cigar, plus the hysteria in the national press, have come together neatly with an article in the New Scientist about electoral tactics that I read recently (it was actually published before the General Election, but I’ve got a backlog of New Scientists to read).

The article was about a system being used in the USA by the Democrats to target their “swing voters” by assessing them on a chart like this one:

ElectoralGraphPollsters

A vertical axis of “How likely are you to vote?” and a horizontal axis of “Support us or Support them?”

Rather than waste time on the fringes of the graph (because people who are very unlikely to vote, aren’t worth the effort to convince; people who are hardline opponents can’t be convinced; and people who are hardline supporters don’t need convincing) they sent their canvassers only to the homes where people in the middle (not sure whether to vote, and not sure who they’ll vote for – the pale blue region in the middle of my diagram) live. It cut down on their costs, and increased the effectiveness of their targeted strategy.

Because the Democrats are doing it, of course, Labour want to try too, ignoring the fact that we are not a 2-party system in the UK (the New Scientist article referenced that point but made the case that the basic idea still works). They also have pursued something like it since the Blair years in terms of policy

Jemima’s piece, “The Myth of the Centre“, highlights just why this is a catastrophic approach in the long run for Labour’s electoral chances, both in terms of a “centre ground” that doesn’t really exist and in terms of the people whose votes they chase:

Blair did not win in 97 because he was centrist, he won because he offered an alternative, on a number of strands, that appealed to diverse groups of people. Labour lost in 2015 not because they were not centrist enough but because they did not offer an alternative. The race for the center will always be lost, because the center is an El dorado, a mythical land which can never be reached. Labour won in 97 because they showed, in a number of ways why they were different to the tories. They will win in 2020 by doing the same.

The thought I had when I read the New Scientist piece is that, in chasing the people in the centre of the graph, it is possible to alienate people who are more likely to support you, but are undecided whether or not to vote at all – people on the right arm of the graph I drew. It may also have an effect on people on the top arm (very likely to vote, but undecided). I’ve shown these patches in orange on the diagram. Implicit in the assumptions of the pollster-driven campaign is that, if someone is unsure of who to vote for, they are unlikely to be undecided, and conversely, if they are sure about which side they support, then they are unlikely to abstain from voting. This creates a rough “V” shape where most voters will be found, that must also encompass the central patch where they target their campaigns. Outside of that V, there are assumed to be very few voters. A bit like this:

...or 'Vendetta', if you're outside the graph?

‘V’ For ‘Victory’!

This is a catastrophically flawed assumption in the British electoral system, and in British politics. The assumption is flawed because there is not only “us” versus “them”, there are other parties to support. There are also many more views than those contained in the “consensus about what “the centre” is and “the people” want. For my birthday, I was given Tariq Ali’s “The Extreme Centre” and, while I haven’t got far with it yet, this idea of an alienated mass outside of the central politics seems to be in there (it was published before the General Election, so he didn’t know about Corbyn). What Corbyn has done is appeal to the bottom right hand corner of the graph, moving people who want to support Labour from “unlikely to vote” into the “likely to vote” region:

ElectoralGraphCorbyn

This has revealed the flaw in the pollster-driven argument, because his campaign has taken off. The Guardian has a piece about just how effective the appeal to the bottom right-hand corner of the graph has been:

The longserving MP has tapped into the strong public antipathy to slick, PR-trained politicians, careful with their soundbites, sticking close to the centre ground. What especially angers them is being patronised, being told their views are old-fashioned and redundant, and that their preferred candidate is incapable of winning the 2020 election.

“There seems to be too much of a view around Westminster that only people who have ever been involved only in Westminster have any views on anything,” Corbyn said. “Well there are tens of thousands of people out there who have very good, very intelligent views. And they need to be heard.”

One of the young Corbyn supporters, Heather Shaw, 23, who met the candidate in London on Tuesday, echoed this, listing some of the issues that mattered to her. “A large part of his support is from young people. People say he is an old left-winger or an old Marxist but to my generation his ideas seem quite new,”

Shaw, originally from Wigan, works for an online company in London. She recalled how despondent she and her friends had been after the election, gathered in the Cock pub near Oxford Circus. “We were talking about how there was no hope. Nothing good is going to happen. Labour will not get in for the next 10 years. It is only because of Jeremy Corbyn that there is excitement in British politics.”

If it had only been Cooper, Burnham and Kendall in the contest, she said she would not have become involved. “I would just be watching from the sidelines,” Shaw said.

Houbart, who was at the Luton meeting, said [Corbyn] had created a sense of excitement in politics not just for her but among her friends in Brighton. “It is the first time in our lives that there is someone in Labour we can identify with,” she said.

In The West Wing (my go-to source for apposite political commentary from fictional media), Amy Gardner as consultant to the Stackhouse (Independent) Presidential campaign explains to Josh, “When a 3rd party candidate wins, don’t you think it’ll be down to those unlikely to vote?” Well, while again pointing out that the UK system isn’t like the US one, this is the electoral mathematics that Corbyn’s leadership bid is pulling off. And, with good management, may yet win the 2020 General Election.

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Labour vs “They can’t govern themselves”

Time for a bit of politics.

A few days before the General Election earlier this year, I joined the Labour Party. I had been convinced that Ed Miliband had a chance of reforming the party back onto its left-wing principles and that, at last, my voice might mean more inside than outside the party. And if the worst came to the worst (which it did), then I would be in a position to help direct the party towards the left-wing principles that give it purpose.

For a while, it looked as though there wasn’t going to be a candidate I could vote for in the Labour leadership election. Jeremy Corbyn stepped up at last to ensure there would be a “debate”, and fill that left-wing position on the ballot paper.

And now, people are voting for him.

Through the week I saw “scare” stories about how senior Labour Party figures are panicking that Corbyn might actually win. The i Paper reported during the week first that there had been secret polls conducted by other candidates showing him in the lead; and that he had in fact won as many constituency party nominations as Andy Burnham, one of the other candidates, which parliamentary party members described as “threatening to split the party”. (As if it wasn’t the rightward lurch that really presented such a threat.) Everywhere, it is treated as a huge surprise that a candidate of the left could possibly garner grassroots support in a party that is supposed to represent the left in this country.

There has been, at least since the mid-80s, a tendency that whenever Labour feel threatened electorally, they run rightwards towards “the centre” (which correspondingly moves farther right), while when the Tories feel under pressure at the polls, run towards their roots, and the right. This presumably is down to the Michael Foot election of 1983, an unmitigated disaster for Labour and fought on left-wing policies. Perhaps people see in Corbyn another Foot (and sadly, given that my understanding is that Foot didn’t want the leadership but stepped up to fill a role he was called on to do, Corbyn has initially approached this leadership election with similar rhetoric). But if 1983 was a disaster, then so was 2015, and only Blairites (and the Tory press) think Labour were left-wing in 2015.

It then transpired, via the Independent again, that Labour MPs are plotting to mount a coup against Jeremy Corbyn should he be elected in “the most democratic leadership election the Labour Party has held”. The Telegraph reports that some of those MPs who nominated Corbyn “to ensure there’s a debate” are now upset that people aren’t just debating, they’re also voting.

This is the language of dictators, tyrants and despots. Certainly since Oliver Cromwell’s revolution, and used by such leaders as Napoleon, Lenin (or it may have been Trotsky), and so on. Others better versed in political history may well be able to point to other examples from farther back in time.

“The people cannot be trusted to vote properly; therefore we must prevent their votes from counting.” It’s not only despots, of course. This was the avowed purpose of the bicameral system and the “balance of powers” of the three branches of government in the US Constitution. It is also the plot of the novel (and TV mini series) “A Very British Coup”, although in that story it was the rightwing establishment in Britain when a socialist Prime Minister was elected that set out to destroy the new leader, it wasn’t the Labour Party doing it for them.

It also shows just how out of touch with their own party, and with the people of Britain, the Parliamentary Labour Party have become. They genuinely appear to believe they have their positions by divine right, and that we, the members of their party, should be loyal followers blithely accepting every neoliberal lie we are fed and obediently doing our bit. The idea that we could upset their comfortable little oligarchy by choosing someone not of their kind to be our leader is astonishing and, it seems, in their eyes rocks the firmament on which the world rests no less than did the revolts against the monarchy of the barons, the “peasant” middle class, and of course Cromwell’s New Model Army. (In each case, of course, the idea of a monarch or ruling elite was not opposed by the leaders of the revolts, although the Levellers and such in Cromwell’s time did.) The “natural order” of things seems ready to crumble.

But their pronouncements about what “the people” want, and statements like John Mann’s (quoted in the Telegraph) that support for Corbyn shows a “desire never to win again”, show just how little they understand about the world outside their elite, London, environment. The party members (including me!) are saying unequivocally to the leadership, “Your policies fucked us over in the last election, we need to try something different.”

I wrote in the aftermath of the election result:

The other point I see is that people wanted an end to austerity. After Nicola Sturgeon’s performance on the UK-wide debate English people were saying they wanted to vote for her and her anti-austerity message. The SNP are the big winners out of the election (although now we have a Tory majority, their wins mean nothing). The Labour message of “yes, we will make some cuts, but not as much as the Conservatives” just wasn’t different enough, distinctive enough, or attractive enough to win votes.

And added, “Labour needs to have the courage to be The Labour Party.” In discussing how Labour needs to woo voters, I quoted dating advice: “An attractive man [party] … will stick to these opinions when challenged or disagreed with; and he will take the lead.”

In 2010, there was a chance that a Lab-Lib coalition could have been formed. Some old-school Labour MPs balked at the idea (and even suggested that a period out of power was a necessary wake-up) and that screwed any chance of a workable majority for such a coalition. We all know how that ended up.

Now we see the same thing again. Corbyn, and his support in the party, aren’t threatening to sink our future election hopes or tear it apart. It’s the people who are making those predictions. They are literally saying, “We would rather lose than work with this man to create a strong party with the left wing policies our members want.” It is in their minds worse to admit they do not know everything or have any God-given right to lead, than to sabotage their own party – my party, since I’m a paying member of Labour now – and tear it apart.

Above all, the attitude demonstrated in reaction to this show of democracy within their own party, is what makes Labour an ineffective and desperately weak party, and loses elections.

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What else could be done with a BDSM checklist?

So a couple of weeks ago, @waitingirl13 and I were chatting on twitter about BDSM checklists.

For those who don’t know (and if so, hello and welcome!) a BDSM checklist is a long (sometimes very very long) list of kinks, sexual activities, and non-sexual roles or activities, that might come up in a BDSM context. Clarisse Thorn explains the utility of such a thing, and Scarleteen has a non-BDSM version.

The basic idea is that you give each of them a score out of five, with 0 being “No way nu-uh” (or “hard limit” in the parlance) and 5 being “OMG yes, yes! YES!”

What @waitingirl13 mentioned that caught my eye, was that the version her partner gave her had options for placing conditions such as “Yes, but only to please my Dominant”. [Edit To Add: waitingirl13 explains in comments that she chose to give him her completed checklist but this wasn’t initiated by him.] I thought this was an excellent idea, and it prompted me to think about all the various ways in which a single measure, however graded, between “no” and “yes, yes, YES!” was insufficient. For instance, something I often have wondered about is having a second variable, “How important is this to you?” Not everything we absolutely love is something that we necessarily have to have, and some things we absolutely must have, might not be stupendously hot but to not have it would be intolerable. Like, a guy enjoys receiving blowjobs and finds them the hottest, but if his current partner isn’t into giving, then he’s cool with that, too; but equally, she doesn’t get turned on at all unless a guy is into her breasts so if he’s only about the butt, she’ll be an unhappy woman.

But the idea about conditions made me extend that kind of thinking further.

Not everything we really enjoy sexually is actually going to bring about stupendous arousal and orgasms, for example. So there’s two variables right there, which we might call “fun” and “hotness”. Like, I might really love kissing a partner’s buttocks, but it doesn’t give me an erection. Equally, something might be amazingly hot and arousing but very serious and focussed (for instance, some of the more edgy types of play in BDSM) so the pleasure is less about “fun” and more arousal-based.

Of course, arousal isn’t only physical, it’s mental as well. So it might be helpful to have a notion of “Body responds”, where you know that being touched or addressed or treated in a certain way is going to get the physical arousal going regardless of the mind (useful for a partner to know to check in verbally, for example). And on the other hand, you can have, “Mind responds” – things that you know make you more interested in sex, in most circumstances.

That leads to another important safety point in BDSM, which is the phenomena collectively referred to as subspace. It would be handy to know what things make a bottom more likely to “space out” in a scene, so the top is alert to the fact. so that’s another variable. It is also helpful for a bottom to know what sorts of topping activities make their partner go into a “topspace” mindset.

One thing that stymies me a little in exploring my bottoming side, is that the thought of rope bondage freaks me out but I also find incredibly hot as an idea and I want to try it. In order to bottom to someone in a rope scene, I need a huge amount of trust with them, just because my mind is going to be in a very high state of squiffiness and need someone I trust to keep me from freaking out. There may be other reasons why a person feels a particular activity or scene type needs a lot of trust (either to top, or to bottom, in that scene) or scenes for which they feel very confident and find it easy to trust. So putting one’s personal “trust level” would also be helpful (and save annoying things like feeling hurt by rejection of a favourite activity).

The biggest thing that struck me as I explored these ideas was that our kinks do not remain static over time, and over the past decade of involvement in the BDSM discussions online, and in real life, I’ve learned that for some people, hard limits can end up being the hottest thing ever and sometimes, things unfortunately go the other way as well. As a Dom especially, I would very much like to know about the “rate of change” and “amount of change” that a partner experiences.

I thought first of all about “recent changes”, thinking, say, over the past year what is the range of “yes” or “no” for this item? Effectively, the “peak” and the “trough” points. But also, how rapidly has it changed? Has it changed up and down frequently, or has it moved in one direction for the most part?

Then I thought that “lifetime change” could be treated the same way.

But perhaps the most significant point for partner communication is not so much the longterm (although that gives a good idea of how likely the relationship’s sexual element may be to stay firm) but the short-term, session-to-session level change. I might be totally hot for an activity one day, and cold on it the next, while still intellectually (that is, on a BDSM checklist form) aware that I find it super hot. It’s only fair that a partner should know that some days I might just not be up for that thing, however much I “love” it “usually”. Anyone, for any reason, has the right to say “no” to an activity, of course, regardless of how much they loved it last time. But knowing that one’s partner is likely to have those changes of mood is helpful. Equally, knowing that you can generally rely on one’s partner for a particular act can make things much more reassuring. (Like, if it’s very rare she’d refuse to perform cunnilingus, a woman might let her partner know by giving a low variability score to that act, and then her girlfriend would know she can always ask for that if she feels the need, and is likely to be satisfied.)

All of which leads to the text fields. I mentioned that what set this train of thought in motion was that @waitingirl13 mentioned the conditions such as “Yes, but only if…”

Obviously, having a “conditions” field is important. Not only for things like “Only if commanded”, but also for other things that might, for instance, relate to the variability of interest. For my example of rope bondage, I would put “Need to be calm”. It occurred to me that two or three more fields would be useful. If an activity is affected by physical health conditions, that’s one thing. For me, rope bondage is affected by mental health considerations: I could conceivably panic and either have a panic attack, or otherwise “freak out”. A partner will ned to know that to be able to manage my mental state, and/or release me quickly if it goes too far.

Finally, a general “notes” box, just for any other useful information.

The Bondage.com checklists used to have a “experience level” variable, so I’ve included one in my idea.

Here’s an example entry to download, using “Rope bondage of the arms, bottoming” and my own entries:

Checklist Example

(Sorry, I couldn’t figure out a way to make it work as an integrated part of this post!)

I am sure other people will have ideas of possible variable I missed, or maybe thoughts on why some of the ones I’ve included are unnecessary or unhelpful.

Of course, an in-depth document like the type that this would produce, would not be for general consumption but only to be shared with someone trusted, and if someone did use a model like this, I would advise always feel able to skip entries that you’d rather not enter, and exercise some caution.

I offer the above not as a “Hey, let’s all do this” solution, but rather, as a seed for others’ future development to use, or not use, as they see fit. My copyright statement still stands, but nevertheless, for private use with whatever list of kinks you choose to apply it to, you should be fine!

Posted in Kink, Sex | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

The outtakes where characters reveal themselves

I feel like I haven’t written much about my writing recently.

Right now, I am working on scraping together the details for my next story, which is a sci-fi detective adventure. That means it’s going to involve a lot more world-building than the story I just finished and is waiting for feedback and my own critical read-through.

It also means building my characters. I’ve mentioned how I used the Kiersey Temperament Sorter personality test to create a rough description of my characters for the first novel. By going through the test and answering the questions based on what I needed my characters to do, or feel, or respond to certain situations that were going to arise, I could build a picture of who they were that would keep them consistent (and believably inconsistent) as I went through.

I adapted this advice from an article on The Erotica Readers & Writers Association website, where an author suggested using horoscope personality descriptions to create the differentiation. I don’t know enough about astrology to be able to use that method (and it’s very hard to work backwards from a personality to a star sign, rather than the other way) so I looked for something I found more accessible, and settled on the Kiersey-Bates book.

And there, I thought, I had my way of working. This was “the approach” that works for me, and I could rely on it in future. I could streamline somewhat my process for future projects. “Here’s my character. Here’s their KTS questionnaire and result. Here’s the description I’m referring back to when I need to.” I even set up a spreadsheet as a template on OpenOffice, to make figuring it out easier (just “save as..>” with the character’s name!).

However, that hasn’t worked out quite right for me this time. Although the nuances are different, two of my lead characters are going to be similar four-letter character types, and it felt awkward thinking through how I’d distinguish them easily. (In the novel undergoing feedback, there are two similar personality types but sufficiently different in motivations and other things as to make them easily individualised.)

Because it’s a world-building exercise as well – in that, the setting is a fairly recently settled world, and that the social norms there are part of what I’m building as a “what would they need/want/hope for?” exercise – there’s a lot of backstory to the setting and the roles people have in the society. There’s politics, intrigue, unrest and all those fun things to try to convey. One of the lead characters is the mayor, or president, of the settlement, the other is a social sciences researcher who gets pressed in as the closest thing to a detective they have. And these two came out as rather similar.

It occurred to me that Mr President would have run for election at some point. He’s basically taken over from the original leader of the colony, the whole, “big boots to fill”, and, “new challenges” as the colony grows and its status changes, and so on. SO I could attack the problem of getting into his mind by thinking about why he wanted to be president (which is relevant to the storyline) and how he appealed to the voters. Another significant event was going to be these two lead characters’ first meeting when the researcher arrives on the world to study their society. How did they develop friendship and how did they interact then?

I started by writing the murder scene. I knew I didn’t want to include it in the story (so the murderer is a mystery to the reader, I hope, until the big reveal) but having that bit of backstory/hidden action written out felt helpful. And that trend seems to be developing into the main way I’m doing the research/world-building for this. Rather than write out descriptions, and filling in the President’s personality type, I’m writing interviews and scenes with him, whole passages that are explicitly not a part of the story at all, but pure backstory.

So, I’m going to write that scene where these two meet for the first time. I’m going to write casual, non-plot-based scenes where the victim met the various suspects (and probably the ones that are relevant to the plot, too!) I’m going to write the significant social/family events from the point of view of one or more of the characters. Things that happened that give my characters a chance to speak in their own voices but don’t have any part in the main story. (It makes me imagine them as DVD outtakes to put at the end, possibly! Or maybe to use as teasers for the book.)

In a way, that was how I approached the first draft of my feedback-stage novel: I let the three main characters write it almost as diary entries, taking it in turns to describe how they saw the events. It works better as a third-person partial viewpoint but it let the characters shape themselves for me.

So, maybe my method hasn’t changed all that much from story to story after all.

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