Part 80: The Pill

All hail the pill! Flagship chemical of female emancipation! Weeny tab of compressed hormones that lets you enjoy heterosexual sex without your body making babies! And stops you having periods (but creates a withdrawal bleed so it feels like you’re still having periods)! And sometimes gets rid of acne! And makes millions and millions of dollar for those nice pharmaceutical companies who definitely DON’T ever put money before human health (you can tell because they sometimes sell little pots of paracetamol for 19p)! I’ve also heard there’s a brand called Yasmin that makes your boobs grow bigger.

I’m sure the pill has loads going for it. I’m certainly a fan of that particular shade of metallic moss-green my friends’ blister packets come in. But I don’t trust it. I don’t trust the pill one little bit, which is a massive moral conflict for me and probably not, now I come to think of it, unrelated to the state of sexual affairs I was moved to report on this very blog a couple of weeks ago. You see, on the one hand, the pill – like abortion and emergency contraceptives – is completely important for all the single ladies (and the married and attached ones too). We should definitely, wherever possible, be able to control what grows inside our wombs – especially when it’s a miniature person who will likely depend on us to ensure it doesn’t die.

I am down with that.

the pill

On the other hand, it is a serious and mostly over-looked problem that in order to enjoy sexual freedom healthy women have to walk around drugged up on hormones that interfere with important bodily functions and might give them a stroke. Also, the advent of the pill does seem to have contributed to a cultural paradigm in which you’re kind of expected to do it with the caddish alpha male you only just met in All Bar One. Even when you’d rather go home and finish reading that copy of Gwynne’s Grammar you bought second-hand on Amazon.

Because taking the pill means women are walking around every day, prepared for imminent sex without unpleasant reproductive repercussions – and because the modern lady is pretty much expected to take the pill (or be fitted with the contemporary, slow-release version of it in the form of the implant) – I feel it is entirely the pill’s fault that I have experienced frequent and mostly unwanted pressure to appear sexy and sexually available at all times since developing breasts. (I’m sure it will come as no surprise to regular readers to discover that I have very often failed to be either of these things).

But the real beef I have with the pill is that it reduces sex down to its most basic, uninspiring parts. There are plenty of sensual sexual activities that don’t result in sperm swimming up one’s cervix (just ask lesbians). The reports I hear from the front line are that these ‘other’ activities (’m feeling too coy to be specific) are a lot more enjoyable for most red-blooded women than straightforward intercourse. So wouldn’t it be more emancipating to encourage heterosexual couples to find ‘alternative’ ways to sexually connect on the few days of the month when she’s fertile – if they really can’t bear to use a condom?

I don’t understand how developing a medicine that promotes penetrative sex above all else can be considered a Good Thing for women. (And, as you might remember, I’m not anti-penetration). But there you go. Capitalism has led to the existence of many things that others understand and I don’t; such as the Simpsons, Reggae Reggae Sauce and the career of John Simm.

What is fortunate is that I’ve realised I am anti the pill while I’m single; because, as you know, not being on the pill is a whole lot easier if you’re a single lady than if you’re one with a steady, faithful lover. I’m not going to preach about the importance of barrier protection here, but of course you’ll agree that it makes literally no sense for the promiscuous single lady to be taking oral contraceptives. For the celibate, it makes less sense still – when you’re sexually abstinent contraception is something you literally never have to think about. Unless you’re moved by idiotic social rhetoric to blog on the subject, or a friend calls to tell you about the blundering doctor who tried to remove her coil.

This is lucky because it means I can now close my laptop, eat a bit of cheese and cease thinking on such things until my libido is revived.

I’m kind of hoping that won’t be soon.

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Part 79: Learning to Drive

There is quite literally nothing sexier than being in a car with a man, as I’m sure you’ll agree straight single ladies, especially when he’s driving it – watching his hand clutch gearstick. His knuckles undulate as he moves into fifth. Even better: when it’s late and you’ve both been drinking. Ooh the thrill! The very naughtiness of it all. The life or death adrenaline rush. The haze of cigarette smoke. The bass of the music throbbing like your very own disco heartbeat. The skidding of the tyres as he takes a corner in the oily rain.

Being driven by a carefree cad is just endlessly decadent, apart from the fact that you might die a burning death in a flaming ball of twisted metal. This is not really a risk worth taking, unless he’s driving a soft-top bimmer. (Although it’s one I haven’t needed to take since I was twenty-one anyway, because at that point all the carefree cads started driving sensibly. Or found other girls to career around being dangerous with).

My penchant for being driven has meant that since becoming a single lady I have spent a fair amount of dollar on taxis – both to sate my appetite for masculine motoring* and to get me to work on time. It has also meant that I’ve made it to the age of not-quite-thirty without the ability to drive a car. And my firm belief that a lady most certainly does not need a man (not even for baby-making now that those biologists in Oregon have managed to clone a human embryo), has recently led me to have a word with myself in the bathroom mirror and book some driving lessons. After all, a grown up woman should not throw her hard-earned bank notes at taxi-drivers. She should use them to learn to drive instead – in case she should have to make a sudden getaway on a Friday after midnight, when taxi cabs are notoriously impossible to locate.

If you’ve ever had a driving lesson yourself, it won’t surprise you to discover that driving instructors are the exception to the rule I began this posting with. I can report with some confidence (after three instructors and nearly 200 lessons), that there a lot of things sexier than being in a car with a driving instructor – including being in a car with a rotting corpse in the boot. And I’m no necrophiliac.

Driving instructors are the least sexy thing you can be in a car with, and not just because they’re overweight and spend at least half the lesson on the phone reminding their wife to renew the TV licence. They also criticise you pretty much non-stop – niggling over every tiny little time you get distracted by your smudged eyeliner and don’t notice the red light, or the road works, or the Chinese student on a bicycle – which makes driving lessons feel like being trapped inside a moving vehicle with all the evil voices who have escaped from your head and turned into a nasal, conservative pedant with terrible breath.

Of course, there are dating options outside driving instructors. I am aware of this. It’s just that learning to drive has forced me to add one more profession to the ever-growing list of ‘jobs held by men I’ll never date’, which I keep in my purse as a handy aide-mémoire, and which I have decided not to post here in case it makes you hate me. Suffice to say it started with ‘no actors, no army’ and expanded out to include pretty much all the professions with the exception of criminal lawyers and Olympic athletes – and I’ve heard rumours that both these occupations require long hours, and don’t pay as well as you might imagine. So even if I do find a suitable lover, I’ll probably have to drive myself home and purchase my own soft-top bimmer.

As Jake Gyllenhall once said (under very different circumstances), this is one goddamn bitch of an unsatisfactory situation.

*Except on the rare and disappointing occasions that they send a woman driver

Part 78: Celibacy

If you, like me, were a teenager during the nineties – unplugging the house phone so you could ignore impending phone calls from the well mannered but unfortunately sincere youth you met down the Wimpy, smoking hashish that tasted like petrol and burned crispy ickle holes in your school trousers and watching American singles sitcoms like Friends and Sex and the City instead of dating – you will no doubt have been anticipating the myriad pleasures of adult life with some fervour. The Future, as the present was known then, was a promised land of caddish dark haired strangers. Orgasms alfresco. Studio apartments with purple doors. Quirky friends with flexible, but well paid jobs and no hobbies or family commitments that might impinge on an social activity. And LOTS OF SEX. Loads of it.

Basically, sex would be what you were doing or thinking or talking about ninety eight percent of the time, unless you were buying shoes.

But as you, like me, will have no doubt realised, it ain’t the nineties no more. It’s 2013 and adult life has completely failed to deliver on the gifts it once promised. All the dark haired cads either got married or decided to embark on extended periods of travel in South Asia with their girlfriends – or else they drink in different pubs than you do. It’s been too cold to bare so much as a shoulder alfresco since the summer of 2006. House prices are now at the kind of astronomical levels that mean you’ll be lucky if you can afford a garden shed in your life time. The tripple-dip recession has resulted in all your friends working 100 hour weeks and being too knackered to do anything on the weekends except sleep. And there’s no sex. None at all.

Sex is over, so far as I can tell.

The coupled people have stopped doing it because they’re married now, or pregnant, or post-pregnant and sporting stitches in their severed genitalia. Or else their libidos have been crushed by sobering details of the sexual antics of horny, lizard faced celebs who are currently being herded into custody like decrepit old cattle. And the single people have stopped doing it because they’ve realised casual sex is mostly gross. Especially afterwards, when the clammy stench of a stranger stains the bedsheets, and the fear of super sperm that has the power to leap through latex stains the edges of any residual pleasure. Which makes adulthood rather difficult to navigate. Particularly for single people who grew up in the late twentieth century and have literally no life blue-prints from iconic popular culture that they can follow without indulging in regular one night stands. It’s a right conundrum.

Luckily, I can report that not having sex is well underrated. You don’t have to worry about venereal diseases, unwanted pregnancies, failure to orgasm or rejection. You can turn the surface of your double bed into a handy storage centre so that you never have to be further than an arm’s length away from your mobile phone, laptop, PINsentry reader or copy of Adrian Mole: The Widerness Years. Nobody wakes you up in the dead of night by rolling onto your side of the bed, snoring or attempting to spoon you. Alright, there’s less in the way of tingly physical excitement, but scientists reckon you can totally recreate that post-coital high by eating spicy foods and chocolate.

The other thing is, when there’s no chance of sex you can stay in and bake and read good novels and watch Four in a Bed and not experience even the teeniest twinge of displeasure at the thought that you might be missing out. Conversely, you can leave the house and socialise with good looking people without being disturbed by the voices in your head that want to touch their private places. Which you’ll find makes social situations about six hundred per cent less worth turning up to. But still, there’s always Prosecco.

Who needs a blueprint when life’s this simple?