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The consent condom hurts more than it helps

The consent condom hurts more than it helps




You might have noticed that I went on a bit of a Twitter rant the other day.

Okay, I go on Twitter rants a lot - but this was bigger than usual.

An Argentinian company Tulipán has created a "consent condom" that can only be accessed if four hands simultaneously press buttons on each side of its box.

GIRLS, WE CAN STOP GIVING OUR FRIENDS THE FULL NAME AND ADDRESS OF EVERYONE WE GO ON A TINDER DATE WITH. THIS CONDOM WILL BE THE END OF ENTITLED MEN.

A few situations where this consent condom is an impractical pile of trash:
  • You are consensually tied up
  • Someone is amputated or disabled in another way
  • Someone prefers a certain type of condom (do they come in different sizes? latex free?)
  • There are more than two people engaging in intercourse
But really, the reason I'm so pissed off is not because of the practicalities of having to solve a fucking Rubix Cube to get some, it's because it does fuck all to fix the problem society has with consent. 

In fact, I think it actually adds to society's fucked up ideas of what consent actually is. 

If you're wondering what the fuck I personally mean by consent and how I see it operating in the perfect world, please read my 4,000-word rant on the subject. It's great, if shouty.  

I'm not going to go over what the fuck consent is, because the aforementioned blog covers that. What I will do however is rip this consent condom to shreds.

First up: coercion


In a perfect world consent would be a simple yes or no answer to the question "would you like to bang me?". But in the shitty, real world we actually live in people can be pressurised into saying yes to sex. Alcohol, drugs, power imbalances, mental health problems, and lack of assertiveness can all create environments where someone might say "yes" when what they really mean is "okay because I don't really know how to say no". 

That is not consent. 

Because: THE ONLY CONSENT THAT MATTERS IS THE ENTHUSIASTIC KIND.

The consent condom might get Agree To Press The Button Consent but that's not the same as Fuck Me, I Want You So Bad Consent. 

Second up: changing your mind

"I want to stop"

"Aww babe, but you pressed the buttons on the consent condom so you've consented until I blow my load"

Okay, I am being facetious with my dialogue. But this is an important part of consent that the consent condom doesn't cover: someone is allowed to withdraw consent at any time. 

You can say yes to sex, and you can click a fucking button or sign a piece of paper, but you are always allowed to change your mind. The consent condom flies in the face of that rule.

See also: consent apps on your phone where people fucking sign away their consent. Shudder. 

Third up: you still need to consent to the individual sex acts


Sexual intercourse is a broad term that covers a lot of sexual acts. When you're getting jiggy with it, you need to make sure the person you're with (and yourself, of course) are consenting to the particular sex acts that are being acted out. 

This is where so many of us (my younger self included) fail to grasp consent. There are many sex acts out there, and you'll meet very few people are happy with all of them, all the time. There are a few mainstream sex acts that I don't enjoy, and I have ended up in arguments mid-sex with people gobsmacked that I might know what my body likes sexually more than they do. 

Consent isn't just about getting that initial, overarching yes that this person is down for getting naked. It's about making sure that they are comfortable with whatever you are doing - from relaxed missionary with the lights out to an anal-centric threesome.

Fourth up: men hate condoms already


During my big 4,000+ rant on sexual consent, I mentioned a hill that I am prepared to die on: condom use, STD testing, and contraception is a consent issue. But I've never had a man turn around to me and ask "what are your feelings on condoms use? Are you comfortable going barrierless?"

Condoms aren't sexy and, yeah, sex feels better without them (don't @ me). But that doesn't change the fact that I'd rather lose a bit sensation than risk an STD or pregnancy (I'm not going to put my body through hormonal contraception while I'm single, so I rely on barrier). I only feel comfortable going barrierless when I'm steady with someone.

Making condoms more difficult to use isn't going to change that. They are already fiddly things: sometimes you need to spend 5 minutes finding one, the packets can be difficult to rip into, and sometimes you roll it on the wrong way.

I rest my case. 

Fifth up: it doesn't get to the root of the problem

Granted, the creators of the consent condom have said themselves that this is designed to fix the world - but it's to get people to stop and think about consent. I say bollocks to that, because (as I mentioned above) this condom reinforces the confusion society already has around consent. 

The problem isn't that society doesn't like the idea of consent, it's that we can't grasp it. A lot of people who have committed sexual assault don't even realise that they have. If I was to go back in time and pull up past partners for crossing the boundaries of consent, they would probably justify it one way or another (in fact, some of my past partners have been pulled up for touching me in a way I did not like - in some cases I had verbally said no - and they defended themselves rather than apologising and vowing to change). 

People are thinking about consent. We're having national dialogues about it. You can't get away from the topic right now. 

If you're a left-leaning, rich person who can do some good for the world, I don't want you to make products that encourage consent - because consent is not a gap in the market that needs to be filled. I want you to funnel that money into a campaign for better sex education, go buy 100 copies of some incredible feminist-leaning books about sex and give them out for free, or buy advertising space on a billboard and fill it with a banner that says "people are allowed to give consent and then change their mind". 

You know, something that gets to the root of the issue and makes people stop and think about their attitude to other people's bodies. 

Sixth (and last up): it sides with preparators more than victims

I know the creators probably had good intentions when they brain-stormed the consent condom. 

But the thing with the consent condom (and the other forms of 'proving' consent, such as filming your partner saying yes) is that it's more about people covering their backs than it is about making people feel safe. 

Because, as I said earlier, this condom doesn't actually guarantee that real consent was given. It just proves that a box was opened. 

Hypothetical situation: 
  • You consent to sex with someone
  • Open the box to get a condom (and prove your consent)
  • They start doing a specific sex act that you don't want to be done to you
  • You ask them to stop
  • They don't, because you gave consent (duh)
  • You end up assaulted, feel violated, but can't take legal action because they have 'proof' that you consented. 
I know men are scared right now (and you should be because too many of you are personified trash cans and you're getting your comeuppance). But if the conversation around consent scares you and you have a massive fear of being falsely accused, you need to sit with yourself about why that is. 

Why do you so desperately want proof that all your sexual encounters were consensual? Do you look back at some of your previous sexual encounters and realise that you could have practised better consent? Do you not believe all the stories from women that are currently in the media? Do you think false accusations are more common than they actually are? Do you actively want to assault women and think this is a good way to avoid prosecution? 

As far as I'm concerned, someone with solid communication and empathy skills shouldn't need to partake in a weird condom-opening ceremony to prove that their partner has consented. Consent, at the end of the day, is largely a communication and empathy skill.

And if you don't know how to communicate and empathise with sexual partners than you're probably going to cross a boundary at some point - consent condom or not. 

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My favourite shows of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival (aka, another instalment of Morag attends an arts festival and reviews it after it's finished)

My favourite shows of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival (aka, another instalment of Morag attends an arts festival and reviews it after it's finished)


The Wedding Singer

"I really wish there was a blog out there that reviewed live shows after they've finished their run"

Said no one ever. 

But when have I ever let other people's expectations stop me from living my best life?

Never.

First, it was The Fringe and then it was the Edinburgh International Improv Festival. Now it's the turn of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival to get a classic little-bit-too-late review from me. I'll never change.  

I'm a massive fan of comedy (including local, indie comedy) so I was there: multiple times, usually front row, and filled last weekend with a show a night because who needs sleep, really? I would have been at every show if I could duplicate myself, didn't have bills to pay, and didn't decide to book a holiday to Lisbon in the middle of it all. Because I was there so much though I've decided that I don't have the time (or the energy, or the patience) to write up mini-reviews of everything I attended. I saw some really funny shows but I also watched some questionable ones too, and I'd rather not hurt anyone's feelings. So instead I'm hand-picking my top 5, 

And, yeah the festival is over (boo!) so I've included at the end of each review the next performance by that act that I'm aware of. Because I need to write this post with some kind of purpose and a Call to Action.

Michelle McManus: Pop Goes the Idol

Remember Michelle McManus from Glasgow who won Pop Idol in 2003? I had totally forgotten she existed until I spotted her show on the event listings. Anything that involves 00s pop culture is up my street, even better when it involves a cheesy one-hit wonder. And I knew that even if it was awful, it would awful in the most perfect way possible. 

It wasn't awful. In fact, it was my favourite show of the festival. She was camp, adorable, and knows how to take the piss out of herself. Becoming a forgotten reality tv pop star probably wasn't the most fun thing that ever happened to Michelle and I think it's amazing that she's made something incredible out of it. Plus, she sang All This Time (and yes, I loved every second of it). 

Next time you can catch her show: she mentioned performing it at the Edinburgh Fringe, so keep an eye out when the programme is released in two weeks time.

The Wedding Singer

Full disclaimer: one of my best friends starred in this show and I bought a slightly discounted ticket. It was her first show in a few years and I had to show my support because I was very proud of her getting one line in her role as Waitress 3. 

Truthfully, I enjoy musicals but I'm not in love with them. So it says a lot that I'm choosing this as one of my favourite performances. I love the film The Wedding Singer and they did a great job of bringing it to the stage with infectious energy and fun dance routines (little known fact: I'm an ex-dancer, and my eye is still trained). The casting was also spot on and you can see why people were cast in their roles. 

Next time you can catch the show: keep an eye on the Theatre South Productions website for their next production.

Absolute Improv

If you know me, you know that improv is my favourite form of comedy - so you can bet your ass I was at all the improv shows. TBC Improv has been on my radar for months but they are Edinburgh-based, so I was excited to finally see their show Absolute Improv. And they did not disappoint. They did an hour of short-form improv (which I would take any day over longform) and I was howling throughout. The audience was also on top form. 

Next time you can catch their show: keep an eye on the TBC Improv website for their next show.

Improv Killed My Dog: Magnum P.I. 

Ever heard of Magnum P.I.? A cop show from the 80s? I hadn't until Improv Killed My Dog announced their show. But apparently only one person from Improv Killed My Dog has seen it, so I was good in company.

Yes, they decided to do an improvised episode of Magnum P.I. live on stage based on audience suggestions when 3/4 of the team have not seen a single episode. It sounds like an awful idea on paper, but Improv Killed my Dog are my favourite improv team so I decided to trust that they had thought this through. 

They did pull it off. And I laughed. A lot. Despite not really understanding half the references because I didn't exist until 1990 (I've been feeling really old with 30 only 18 months away, but writing that sentence has put a spring in my step). 

Next time you can catch Improv Killed My Dog: they put on a monthly improv show on the second Monday of every month, so like them on Facebook to keep up to date.

Improv Thunderdome

This event was described as "competitive improv" and to be honest - despite attending about 467893837 improv shows a month - I didn't have a fucking clue what the fuck that meant. Would there be an actual Thunderdome? Would Tina Turner show up? Would there be points? Does the audience decide the winner? All I know is that I love improv and I've seen the participants in multiple other shows, so I was confident it would be a good night. 

There were two teams (Merchant Kitty, and Neil Buchanan Street because....why not?), along with a host, a neutral extra improviser to take part in some games, and someone to keep track of points. All games were short form and had a point scoring system: such as the first team to run out of witty statements, a Spelling Bee competition, and another where someone had to leave the room and guess the audience suggestions when they came back. 

The show was high-energy and didn't disappoint. It was my favourite of the improv shows, and I would see it again if they brought it back for the next festival.

Next time you can catch Thunderdome: (to my knowledge) it was a one-off event, but the participants were a mash-up of two members from Improv Killed My Dog (next event here), three members of Trojan Hearse (next event here), one member of The Clap (Facebook here), and one member of Couch (Facebook here). So, uh, if you want to start watching as much improv as I do, I've given you a head start.

Were you at the Glasgow Comedy International Festival? Let me know in the comments and tell me what your favourite show was! 
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I prefer my International Women's Day served radical, but cutesy Instagrams are nice

I prefer my International Women's Day served radical, but cutesy Instagrams are nice


Illustration by Camila Rosa

Today is International Women's Day. Which you would think would be my favourite day of the year. But, meh. Can take or leave it.

I'm going to sound like an anti-capitalist hag (which I am) but it's commercialised and lost a lot of its original feminist meaning.

According to Wikipedia:

"After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, March 8 became a national holiday there. The day was then predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations."

Today I've seen a lot of memes, inspirational quotes, and people laughing at Richard Herring. A lot of it is fluffy. A lot of it is posted by brands looking for more engagement on social media. A lot of it is not really inciting any actual change or recognising the big fight we still have on our hands.

I am 100% a believer that fluffy pop-culture feminism has its place. It's great at catching people's attention and creates a non-threatening introduction to social justice. Just as much as you shouldn't teach someone to read with a copy of Wuthering Heights, when you're introducing someone to left-wing politics you start with something like fairer taxes, or free higher education. You probably shouldn't storm in there with "most crime is created by inequality and prison is shit, sex work is real work, meat is murder, white people shouldn't wear dreads, and if you're a white, straight, male you probably have done some oppressive shit in your time. Oh, and I'm going to spit on you because you don't know what demisexual or polyamorous means".

That would scare people, and you don't change people's mind by making them feel stupid or defensive.

I might be a pure radical lefty now, but I started out a centrist. I even voted Liberal Democrats once upon a time ahahahahahahahah. Oh, my.

But I grew and learned and I'm here. Heck, I accept that I probably still have blind spots. And that's why I read about 5 non-fiction books a month trying to unlearn oppressive shit.

While fluffy feminism is a great introduction, that's where its usefulness ends. If we want to really pull down the shackles and dismantle patriarchy, we have to get radical. That means education, organisation, and tackling all kinds of oppression (because they interlinked).

One of my favourite internet people Sophie worded it perfectly:

Fluffy pop-culture feminism rarely covers any issue that doesn't relate to white, middle-class, heterosexual, thin, monogamous, cis-gendered women. Not saying that issues such as childcare, short skirts, women in sport, or leadership opportunities for university educated women aren't important - but they only scratch the surface and already receive a lot of airtime.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: if your social justice activism only focuses on issues that affect you, then you're doing it wrong (read my review of Hot Feminist, where I originally touched upon this).

That means giving a shit about issues that might affect lots of other women but not yourself. If we want the men to take our issues seriously (because every social justice movement needs allies with privilege) then we need to take the issues that affect under-represented groups of women seriously. Read a memoir by a woman of colour. Ask people their pronouns instead of assuming. Remember that bisexuals exist. Respect someone's right to be fat. Donate money to a charity that supports sex work. Stop judging young mums. Share an article by a disabled woman. Say fuck you to capitalism.

Sharing a cutesy quote on Instagram about girls supporting girls isn't really doing anything.

I'm a big fan of the saying "the personal is political" and this is my favourite analysis of its meaning is (also from Wikipedia):

"The personal reflects the political status quo (with the implication that the personal should be examined to provide insight into the political); the personal serves the political status quo; one can make personal choices in response to or protest against the political status quo; ... one's personal choices reveal or reflect one's personal politics; one should make personal choices that are consistent with one's personal politics; personal life and personal politics are indistinguishable."

To me, social justice slips into every area of my life. From always voting for a left-wing party. To only being friends with people who share my political values. To boycotting beauty brands that test on animals. To my commitment to using non-violent communication in my personal relationships. Even just being nice to waiting staff. And definitely my decision to be vulnerable on the internet and share my stories.

All while also recognising that some of these decisions can only be made thanks to my privilege as a middle-class, white, university-educated, cis-gendered woman.

A big part of finding your own place in the social justice movement is recognising your own privilege and knowing when to sit the fuck down. Supporting trans women does not means speaking over the top of trans women. It means listening to their stories, amplifying their voices, and not using slurs (and probably other stuff too, I'm not an expert). You'll never see me write a blog on trans issues (or any issue that doesn't affect me) because what the fuck do I know about trans issues? I'd just be another cis-gendered woman clogging up the conversation.

And it means challenging yourself. This is the part where a lot of people get defensive. Changing the world does not mean shouting about how shit everyone else is and acting like your shit don't stink. We've all been subjected to the same social conditioning, albeit some more than others, so we hold oppressive views and have done oppressive stuff. I've dressed up as a Native American for Halloween, I used to judge fat people, and I got weirdly angry about teen mums. I have zero time for social justice warriors who can't admit their own problematic bullshit. It's political Nice Guy Syndrome.

I became the woke bitch I am through years of active unlearning, reading a fuck ton of feminist non-fiction, and calling out my own bullshit.

In other words: I wasn't born this way, baby.

I know this blog won't win me many party invites. But I'm not here for those anyway. It's the revolution I want an invitation to. Or I'll just turn up. But, what I know is that the path to the revolution isn't lined by pink glitter and corporate slogans of female empowerment. It's dirty, and it's uncomfortable. It might make you cry and shake with anger. But I think there's an Instagram quote somewhere that a rainbow only shines after rain?! Something like that.

Today, on International Women's Day do one thing to initiate radical change - whether it's within yourself or for the wider world. The patriarchy won't dismantle itself, no matter how many cutesy Instagram quotes you share.

Peace x
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I visited the new Glee Comedy Club in Glasgow and had a really grand time

I visited the new Glee Comedy Club in Glasgow and had a really grand time





If you're ever looking to bump into me on purpose (which I'm sure you all are), attend some comedy shows in Glasgow and I'm guaranteed to show up at some point. For the purpose of this blog, I've even worked out that I've attended an average of four comedy shows a month since September (this is when I fell into the rabbit hole that is Glasgow comedy scene). 

And because I can't quite get enough laughs in my life and four times a month isn't enough, I just had to check out the new Glee Comedy Club in Glasgow within weeks of its grand opening.  (I wasn't previously familiar with Glee Clubs, but they are a chain of comedy clubs with venues already in Birmingham, Cardiff, Nottingham and Oxford, so they're a big deal) 

Now, don't get me wrong I love the indie comedy nights I regularly attend in Glasgow (there is a blog on that half-finished in my drafts, but this blog is nipping ahead because Glee is topical and stuff). But almost all of these shows take place in a pub basement and sometimes you have to sit on those uncomfortable folding chairs with no padding. Look, I love a pub (there's booze) and I love a comedy show (there are giggles) but sometimes a girl wants a bit of glamour with her laughs. 



And that's the gap in the market that Glee fills. Not only does it put on weekly comedy shows, but it also boasts a generous food and drinks menu, and - as I would find out when I attended last night - it's also stylish and well-decorated. 

It's not bad value either. I won myself a discount code on Facebook for 50% off so me and my friend Emma (of Eat with Emma) managed to book ourselves a Show & Dinner Deal for £10 each. Normally it's £20 (which is still not bad!) and you can order your food in advance. You can choose from three pre-packaged meal choices (which is what we chose), or you can order a show ticket and add on some food from the wider menu. You can also pre-order your drinks, which includes cocktail pitchers, beer pitches (they looked a bit scary), and a bottle of wine. 


And since most people who read my blog are looking for vegan content and I need to stay on-brand: there's vegan food. Quite a bit actually. I pre-ordered the Penang Curry as part of a pre-packaged deal, but the wider menu includes a vegan Margherita pizza (which I also ordered, because food) and a superfood salad. Plus there is fish finger sandwich, and a Portobello Mushroom burger that can be veganised! They even mark out which of their alcoholic drinks are vegan (if you're new here, drinks companies use fish bladders to give drinks that clear look...eurgh). And my pizza came with a lemon-scented hand wipe! 


I know the next part of this review/rave is going to sound boring and like I'm turning into my mother, but bear with me. I'm a nervous person and a massive planner who hates leaving things to chance so I really appreciated the detailed confirmation e-mail (maybe it's the marketer in me who loves an informative e-mail). It had the normal things like confirming what show I had reserved, and for how many people. But it also confirmed that I didn't need to bring my email and instead just say my name at the desk, that we have been allocated a seat already, the rules of the club, and how I can add extra food and drink to my order. When we arrived a note was automatically sent to the kitchen to prepare our food. 

(Note: the only thing I didn't like was that you couldn't choose your seats. Thankfully, Emma and I ended up three rows back, but you could see the terror on a group's face when they realised they had the front row...lol).

So there's vegan food, and a snazzy confirmation e-mail, but what about the actual comedy?

Aye, that was good too. Glee Club stages have been graced by some of the UK's most famous comedians and to get on the stage, you have to be experienced. So while I do love an indie comedy show where I discover new and local talent...it's nice to go in and know that you'll be watching comedians who have perfected their craft. 

The comedians on last night were Rosco Mcclelland, Scott Gibson, Eleanor Tiernan & Ben Norris - and every single one of them made me clench my sides with laughter. Especially Eleanor when she talked openly about what it's like to be a vagina owner and how you never know "what will seep out of it next". I was remarking to Emma that it's refreshing to hear someone talk about a vagina on stage because (while I can appreciate dick humour) I can't relate (or always understand) when someone talks about having a penis, and a man turned around in front of us and said he agreed! 


And just one final thing: the decor. It was still in a basement because apparently comedians really like a basement. But it was a trendy basement, with portraits of famous Scottish comedians on the wall, wooden panels on the floor, hipster lighting, and flowers in the toilets. I'm not complaining. 

Seriously though, the staff at Glee Club offered some of the best customer service I've ever received anywhere, the comedians made me choke with laughter, and there was vegan food. Hands down, one of the best places in Glasgow for a low-key night out. It's a new favourite, and I might find my average number of comedy nights per month rise. 

Glee is open Friday and Saturday, and you can book your tickets in advance on their website. The venue is on Renfrew Street, beside the giant Cineworld and opposute The Flying Duck. 
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