Girl, Interrupted

Glance down my blogroll, and you will find Girl With a One Track Mind, the diary of a sex fiend. Abby, or ‘The Girl’ as she calls herself, has just published her memoirs, putting the highlights of her two years online onto the printed page.

The diaries are often funny and usually titillating. However, there also exists in Abby’s writings a confident feminism and a highly moral outlook. Some of the best posts, which inspire the greatest reader response, are those which deal with overcoming harassment, and fighting against the sexism of the film industry. Being a nyphomaniac does not mean the same as ‘loose morals’ and ‘The Girl’ is actually very particular about who she chooses to take on her adventures. Honesty and full disclosure are her watchwords. Her diaries are fantastic guidance for anyone who wants to be true to themselves and their desires, while still respecting oneself and other people…

The diaries work so well in online form because they are anonymous – Abby is obviously not her real name. If ‘The Girl’ were to interact with people who knew about her writings, the entire nature of the relationships she experiences would change beyond all recognition. Her comments on hitherto anonymous lovers would become unethical and impossible, since a fairly wide circle of people would know who they were. Anonymity is crucial, and the blog cannot work in any other way. This fact is obvious to anyone who has ever read the blog, and will be apparent to anyone who buys the book.

No so obvious, however, to the idiots at the Sunday Times, who have ‘outed’ Abby, publishing her real name over the weekend – (a journalist tracked her down via her publishers). The result, claims ‘The Girl’ on her blog, is that she has had to confess her lifestyle and blog to members of her family. She will now find a whole new kind of prejudice within the film production community, if indeed she gets any further employment at all from this sector. The blog posts may well dry up as a result. Finding a boyfriend will be a nightmare. And all for a poxy, soulless, off-the-front page expose in a Sunday newspaper, by a stupid journalist, Anna Mikhailova, who has missed the entire point of The Girl’s output. The real identity of ‘The Girl’ was never important. Shame on you Anna – for spoling our fun, and quite possibly the life of a decent, talented person. You have done no good.

79 thoughts on “Girl, Interrupted”

  1. Thank you Robert, for understanding completely, just why I wanted to remain anonymous in the first place. Not many others seem to have grasped that I wanted to uphold others’ – as well as my own – privacy and that only by writing under a pseudonym, would I be able to do this.

    Not any more, sadly.

  2. Robert, your point that the real identity of the Girl was never important. I’d go further and say this: it was important that the identity of the Girl should not have been revealed. She was free to write without restraint and her readers were free to let their imagination run riot. Anna M has really crapped on everyone’s parade.

  3. Katy’s still recovering from writing a political post I think. Agree with what’s been said though, I wasn’t a regular reader but I did always enjoy it. Now, everything is compromised.

    Yes, I was curious, but I didn’t really want to know, knowing means it ends. Just have to hope the book sales make up for the loss of other income for her. Stupid journalists

  4. Dear Katy, I feel sad for being a bit harsh with you now during the other debate -I think in these sultry days you should have been having a siesta at 4.27pm and not trying to make sense out of the meanderings on this blog – leave it to the early hours like me!

    I totally agree with you and Rob – what was that journalist thinking of to out The Girl?

  5. I do not see “a confident feminism” here at all. If this is feminism, I want a sex-change.

    And as for the anonymity issue – it’s funny that no-one is wondering why it is such a big deal, or what it means. No, I guess it’s more comfortable not to address that…

  6. I have to agree with Clarice on the confident feminism bit. Why would a confident feminist want to titillate? Confident yes but feminist? Your Girl interrupted piece made me read some of her blog and I must confess to finding it rather tedious but i would defend her right to to remain anonymous.

  7. Oh yes, I’d quite support her right to remain anonymous. I’m just interested in what it tells us that she wished to exercise it. If I were her, I’d have insisted on some contractual obligation on the part of the publisher to protect my anonymity as a condition of publication. In which case she could now sue for breach of contract. But that’s by the by.

    I’ve got nothing against titillation per se, but it strikes me that this blog is tantamount to a conceptual version of flashing your tits. Which is fine, but then let’s look at it for what it is, and let’s look at her audience for what they are. I also think (speaking as a woman) that certain of the content is disingenuous, manipulative and proscriptive.

    And, while I would not presume to dictate how anyone should conduct their own private sex life, without wanting to get too heavy, I nonetheless do have to question the psychopathology of such an alleged lifestyle.

    None of these remarks are very sexy or titillating though. So no bestseller for me then.

  8. … there also exists in Abby’s writings …

    Empasis added. The feminism and confidence doesn’t come in the bits that are metaphorical tit flashes. Elsewhere, I think.

  9. Ah. Can I face reading more of her blog to confirm or refute this? Methinks not but then what you expect of a granny!?

  10. Good one, Rob. I feel rather the same as Granny Rose about facing more of her blog though. I do not relish the idea of wading through more metaphorical tit-flashing and a very much unexamined anti-feminist perspective. These two aspects of the blog are definitely the most prominent, and I just don’t think it’s very clever.

    It’s a shame you’ve had your fun spoiled, but the internet is full of this clap-trap, so I wouldn’t lose too much sleep.

  11. Also, while she was anonymous, wouldn’t it be dreadful, but yet interesting if her father, or brother, or even her cousin had been inadvertently getting off on her writings?

  12. Well, yes. Two things rather stick in the craw you see:
    a) To be promiscuous does NOT equate with “feminist”, and neither does having discussions about whether women should or shouldn’t do, not do, or enjoy sex, and do or not do diets. If she and zoe williams seem to think so, that’s rather harmful, irritating and poorly-thought-through. Since when was it feminist to attack a woman (even a fictional one) for a lifestyle which it hurts no-one, or for her hopes and fears?
    b) “my aim is not to titillate” – methinks the lady doth protest too much. Does she think she’d get the readership she has (a large portion of which is male) if it weren’t for all the titillation? What a disingenuous idiot. I’d be perfectly supportive of her if it weren’t for her and others’ pretensions to her feminist outlook. It isn’t, and it’s harmful to say that it is. I shall now go and write to Zoe Williams to this effect.

  13. I think you’re almost wilfully missing the point, Clarice. The only anti-feminist sentiments I’m getting here are from you. Nowhere does Abby suggest that being promiscuous equals feminism – she’s not quite that binary, or lazy, in her thinking. As for the discussions about diets etc – well, she’s allowed to disagree with other women, you know, and moreover with the agenda set by the media FOR women. I think you’re perceiving an ‘attack’ where you want to.

    There’s nothing ‘harmful’ – I mean, come on now – in anything Abby writes. Her writing is very open and personal and she always qualifies any generalisations she makes – she’s not preaching to anyone. She does self-define as a feminist, and she is one – not because she defines herself as one, but because by any objective standard she is a feminist. You’re being rather narrow in your perception of what feminism can entail, I think, and you sound a little bit freaked out that someone is taking this particular (and not all that radical, actually) route. Try and look past the sex – she is independent, intelligent, frank and honest with herself. She constantly questions herself, reassesses – she is mature. If that isn’t feminism then I don’t know what is.

    I don’t think you can argue against the dreadfulness of the original Times article, which is straight out of a tabloid circa 1974 – peppered with gleeful words like ‘shameless’ and ‘seedy’. Maybe you think Abby goes too far, but look at what she – and the rest of us – have to kick against. We’re all sitting on a veritable Vesuvius of bubbling sexism, and the worst of it comes from women, too. It’s not just her they’re taking a pop at – they’re using her to take a pop at highly sexually active women in general.

    Actually, I just realised the delicious ironing here:

    ‘Since when was it feminist to attack a woman (even a fictional one) for a lifestyle which it hurts no-one, or for her hopes and fears?’

    ‘What a disingenuous idiot.’

    Ahem. Who does her lifestyle ‘hurt’, exactly? I don’t mean put out, perturb or upset, I mean hurt, in the way that you presumably meant it there. You’re attacking her because she doesn’t fit your definition of a feminist. This is where feminism was weakened in the first instance – when feminists started quibbling over the issue of sex and porn. We’ve never recovered from that schism, and I think it’s time we started to think a bit, um, outside the box.

  14. Ooh, now hello Bee. Where shall I begin?

    1. I never said that Abby explicitly said that being promiscuous equals feminism. Your remark about binary, lazy thinking however, certainly applies to many consumers of media, and people who produce media are irresponsible if they do not take this into account when they produce it. The promiscuity = feminism message could very easiy be the interpretation of many consumers of her writing (eg Zoe Williams, apparently), though yes, it is only potentially implied (by omission of refutation) and not explicitly stated.

    2. Of course, everyone is allowed to disagree with everyone else, whatever their gender. But Zoe Williams’ attack on Bridget Jones does not seem to embrace this philosophy. She sets up in her article a lazy, binary distinction: women who care about diets = bad, unfeminist, unenlightened, vs women who don’t care about diets = good, feminist, liberated. I find this despicable, precisely because of its binary laziness, and because it is potentially undermining to many women, depending on their cognitive capacity to critique what they read in media, and to withstand criticism (in general, and in the media).

    3. There is plenty harmful in what Abby writes – the harm I refer to is in the way it is open to be interpreted, not necessarily in the intention or explicit statements that she makes. If she was having private conversations with friends, it would be different, but by virtue of her writing entering mass media circulation, it takes on a different hue. As I have stated in reply to another post here, the media is a double-edged sword, having (among others) two simultaneous functions: it describes life, or reality, or whatever you want to call it (which of course, Abby, or anyone has the perfect right to do), while at the same time, proscribes, creates, or perpetuates reality (depending on the particular content in question). For this reason, once a communication becomes a mass communication, the responsibilities of those who produce it change. I think that is just basic psychology and understanding of media function: there is no anti-feminist agenda there. She may not think she is preaching, but to some extent, that is exactly what media does, in one sense.

    4. I think we do disagree over what feminism is. Being “independent, intelligent, frank and honest with herself” does not make her a feminist. By that definition, you exclude any woman who does not match that definition, and I think that’s wrong. Feminism, I would say, is about championing the rights of women to self-determination, and to be free from the restrictive control of what men (or other women) say or think they should be, or do, or say, or wear. Abby does this only to the extent that there is a YMMV qualification to what she says. While this is true in certain individual posts on her blog, relating to specific topics that she addresses, I do not see that this is explicitly true in a global relation to the general premise of the blog. And that’s all I’m objecting to. It is not anti-feminist to critique a woman – far from it. It is also not anti-feminist to expect media producers to be responsible in what they produce. It is also not anti-feminist to champion the rights of those women who don’t happen to match what another woman feels or is doing, but whose experience is nonetheless equally valid.

    Questioning oneself, reassessing and being mature are also orthogonal in my view to what feminism is. I have no doubt that “immature” or dogmatic women would still be hurt by, and object to, say, not having access to contraception or to abortion, assuming they embrace a feminist viewpoint, namely that to deny women who want it the right to such things is profoundly unethical. Ditto for being told (even implicitly, which of course is harder to refute) that they should or shouldn’t be doing or enjoying sex, that their feelings and experience are not valid.

    5. I never saw the “original Times article” you refer to, and I would of course object (in the name of feminism) to an argument that attacks sexually active/confident women, just as I object to an endeavour that potentially implies an attack on less promiscuous women as being unfeminist.

    6. You misunderstand me: I never said her lifestyle hurts anyone. I was referring to those women who do not share her lifestyle, but who see hers as being championed as somehow more feminist, or more valid than their own. That hurts. It may perturb or upset also, but it hurts.

    7. I am emphatically not attacking her because she does not fit my definition of a feminist. I am merely critiquing a definition of feminism (hers, yours, or anyone else’s) that excludes less confident, less intelligent, less independent women, and one that implies that to be feminist entails promiscuity, when it demonstrably does not. To be feminist, you must allow promiscuity in those women who choose it, but more importantly, you must respect the sexual choices of all women, promiscuous or otherwise, intelligent or otherwise, mature or otherwise. etc etc etc.

    8. Feminism was weakened, well, it was always weak, because of misunderstanding and disagreements about what it is, and because true feminism involves thinking outside the box, which is difficult for a culture mired in a history of binary, lazy thinking. If you disagree with my definition, I’d be really really interested in your reasons why.

    Finally, I also think it’s difficult for someone who claims to never have read any feminist thought to know whether or not they belong to the category. If one doesn’t know what feminism is (that’s her own admission), then how can you seriously claim to be (or not be) a feminist? It beggars belief. But hey, she’s “intelligent”.

    Phew, that was long.
    x

  15. Clarice, I think if a journalist called you ‘the voice of third-wave feminism’ you too would respond with a self-deprecating remark…

    Otherwise, some very good points you made in your comment. Debating about feminism is good: it keeps it current, and therefore at the forefront of our lives.

    Cheers,
    Abby

  16. A good working definition of a feminist might be: someone who supports equal rights, treatment and standards of behaviour for both men and women in and out of the workplace.

  17. Abby, hi.

    Well, if I thought I was the voice of “third-wave” feminism, or had pretensions to it, then I might be inclined to agree with any suggestion that I was. Although that wouldn’t be very ladylike. But if I thought I wasn’t, and I had the media ear, I’d probably try and explain why not.

    I’m not sure I quite get what you’re getting at though.

    I also think it’s a great shame that for men to be interested, there has to be some titllation on offer. How many non-titillating blogs with a feminist perspective get anything like the attention yours does? Something is definitely very wrong.

    All the best
    Clarice

  18. Hi Katy

    A definition of feminism which includes the word equality is bound to be fraught with disagreements and misinterpretations. It’s a fine and easy word to use, but can be interpreted to support quite odious outcomes.

    Traditional and prevailing Aristotelian definitions of equality involve treating likes alike and unalikes unalike. Given that men have largely controlled cultural output for the vast majority of human history, they have treated male as the norm and females as deviating from this norm. Somewhat a male-centric perspective you might say. This justifies treating females “differently”, since they are viewed as “different” from males. Which of course they are, but this view omits to acknowledge that males are equally different from females.

    The bottom line should be that both males and females are human, and therefore both should be treated with equal human dignity, though their needs and strengths and weaknessess are different. A strict claim to equality (using the definition above) could be used to deny women the right to abortion; since men don’t need or want abortions, to allow them to women does not constitute equal treatment. Ditto for pain relief in childbirth. The discussion about equal prize money for men and women at the Wimbledon tennis tournament focussed notably on the fact that women don’t play the same number of sets, and therefore should get less money. But if you assume that both genders play the agreed maximum for their gender, taking into account established normative gender differences in strength and endurance, then it is clear that they have the right to equal prize money.

    I also think it’s rather sweet that you feel the need to specify “both in and out of the workplace”. Doesn’t that go without saying? If the grounds for treating women properly is based on human rights and women’s humanity, then how could anyone justify doing so in one domain and not another? Anyone who tried to could surely not have understood the basic principle underlying the endeavour. If the basic principle is understood, then our job is done.

    And finally, I also think the language of such debates is interesting – we speak of “treating women” xy and z, but we don’t tend to speak about “treating men”. Is this because traditionally, men have seen themselves as the ones doing the “treating”? We also speak of “allowing” women to have sex, abortions, driving licenses and so on. Who is doing the “allowing” here, and who made them the arbiters of permission? We do not tend to speak of “allowing” men to do things.

    My definition of a feminist then is someone who challenges the rights of men (or women) to “permit” or “prohibit” anyone’s behaviour on the grounds of their gender. It also contains some attempt to curb the feeling of entitlement to women’s sexuality that many men seem to feel, as evidenced by sexual assault, harrassment and abuse. It’s about mutual respect, it’s not exactly radical or complicated.

  19. Clarice,

    Very quickly, because, well, I have about thirty emails needing replies to…

    I think it’s insulting to men (not to mention me), that you state that ‘there has to be some titllation (sic) on offer’ for them to be ‘interested’ (in what? Feminism? A blog? My writing? You don’t make that clear…)

    I find this viewpoint rather sexist; as if men can only enjoy writing if it has a sexual slant. It may surprise you to know that I have had hundreds, if not thousands, of emails and comments from men, thanking me for giving them insight into a woman’s* mind. They have told me that reading my blog has helped them understand their own partners a little better – both in and out of the bed.

    They’ve also stated that they don’t read my blog for the erotic content: they read it to get another perspective on women – and how women view sex – that they don’t get elsewhere. So whilst you’re basically accusing all men of reading my blog, for its potential titillatation, you’re completely undermining the possibility that some might actually enjoy the material because of its intellectual and psychoanalytical content. Rather insulting, don’t you think?

    Plus I should point out, that there are also many many WOMEN that read my blog purely for its explicitness – I have hundreds of emails and comments to prove it, as well as links they have given me on their own blogs, praising my sexual openness. Does that surprise you? Or is it only supposedly men that are prone to titillation? A rather sexist viewpoint, I’m sure you’ll agree…

    And rather than attacking the fact that there is a lot of interest in my writing (in your view, because of the explicitness; in my view, because I say I am a feminist, and thus leave myself open for attack in the media, which is happening as we speak), how about we celebrate the possibility that because all this publicity is throwing certain issues into the public sphere – feminism, equality, sexuality – it gives us – women – a better platform with which to debate, question, and challenge them. If we can get women (and men) to talk about feminism in a positive, constructive and intellectual way, then surely we should be embracing that possibility, rather than attacking a (female) writer, just because she mentions a few cocks, pussies, and wanking every so often.

    *obviously I do not speak for ALL women, just me. (Though many others seem to feel the same way, according to the feedback I have got over the last 2.5 years).

  20. Hi Girl, thanks for that. Hope Rob doesn’t mind the extensive commentry, but I’d like to respond to what you said.

    “I also think it’s a great shame that for men to be interested, there has to be some titllation on offer”.

    Without wanting to split hairs, I don’t see how you can know that this is insulting to men, when by your own admission, I haven’t made it clear what I’m referring to. For that, I must apologise. I was referring to feminism in general, and perhaps I overstated the case. As long as you are getting more readers with the titillation than you would without (and that’s obviously just a speculation), then I think that’s a shame. If your blog were called Feminist Girl, I reckon that’d turn a lot of people off, whereas I think the One-Track Mind thing maybe brings in a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t have found it appealing. While I think this is a bit sad (in the sense I have stated above), I also don’t think this is entirely a bad thing – if more people are being exposed to a new perspective, maybe encouraged to give a bit more thought to things, then that’s a good thing.

    Obviously, I never said that men can only enjoy writing if it has a sexual slant. That would clearly be ridiculous and untrue. I suspect you know this perfectly well anyway. Straw men can be rather fun. What is true (ie is tested by some fairly reliable research) is that in fiction, men tend not to want to read something with a female protagonist unless it has an explicitly sexual slant. That’s not me being sexist, that’s what a majority of men themselves said when asked about their reading preferences in this particular study. I believe research on actual book sales bears this out. I’ll look up the details if you’re interested. Of course, you could not have been expected to know this if your interest in feminism hasn’t extended to reading any feminist thought.

    As for not reading your blog for the erotic content – they would say that wouldn’t they (that would be my cheap response). But what you’ve said actually illustrates very nicely one of my objections, namely that many people will read it to get “an insight into a woman’s mind”. Now, you and I might know that you do not claim to speak for ALL women, but, as I have said, unless you explicitly state this, then that is exactly what is likely to be assumed by a large number of readers. This is not your fault, but I would say to some extent it is your responsibility, if you are seeking to be read by large numbers of people. It is potentially harmful to women who do not share your perspective or tastes, if men are reading it to get an insight into “a” woman’s mind which they then apply to “another” woman, or indeed to women in general. It’s potentially feeding or generating a stereotype, that’s all. If it’s going to be generalised, then you are potentially violating other women.

    Also, your point that plenty of “WOMEN” (your caps) enjoy the titillation aspect of your blog is kind of by the by, and proves/disproves nothing. Of course it doesn’t blooming well surprise me! How thick do you think I am? – don’t answer that 🙂 While sex is biologically determined, and largely (but not entirely) dichotomous, gender on the other hand is a multifactorial continuum, and for this reason, not all people of a particular sex will share all the gender characteristics typically associated with it. This is not a new or radical piece of info, and I would say it’s kind of inherent in an ethical feminism. Reserve the right of all people to match or not to match their culturally defined and socially constructed gender roles. What I have said about “men” (in general) and “women” (in general) is clearly normative – a statistically significant sex or gender bias does not need to be (and most likely won’t be) 100% in either direction. To try and refute someone’s argument because the effect does not apply to 100% of the population is rather weak, if I may say so.

    I have never “accused all men” of reading your blog for the titillation. It is lazy and tiresome and insulting of you to state that I have. To my mind, this is far less forgivable than your (unfounded) claim that I undermine the possibility of any content other than titillation in your blog. I demonstrably do not.

    I have not anywhere attacked the fact that there is a lot of interest in your writing! I’ve no idea where you get that from. I also think it’s kind of sweet that you feel the need to remind me of your gender when referring to my “attack” on you (as if that is in some way relevant?). I don’t believe I have anywhere “attacked” you, only some of the things you have said/implied/done. If you thought that being female makes you immune to critique then I suspect you have already had a rude awakening.

    As you will see from my extensive comments here, I certainly am embracing the opportunity to talk about feminism. Thank you.

  21. As long as you are getting more readers with the titillation than you would without (and that’s obviously just a speculation), then I think that’s a shame.

    Hmm. This raises the question about the nature of blogs, and GWAOTM in particular. The Girl’s blog has a particular hook – sex – which takes up a large proportion of the blog. But it also takes in other subjects too, and also (perhaps more importantly) the posts about sex carry an underlying, yet (I think) pretty overt message.

    That message concerns itself with how women can liberate themselves from constricting societal mores and expectations of how women should behave. I imagine many of The Girl’s messages of thanks come from women who have been able to liberate themselves in this way. It appears that the criticism she has received has been, for the most part, from those who think those restrictions should remain in place. Bee described (above) their attitude as being from the 1970s.

    So I don’t see how it is a ‘shame’ that the blog gets readership because of its sexual content. Its point is to take on particular attitudes, and perhaps change them. Its not seeking to remove every strait-jacket, but for the ones it does unbutton, it does so in a very successful manner. That’s a feminism, no?

  22. To your first paragraph, oh yes, absolutely!

    To the second, however, I would be somewhat more equivocal, in fact, I would disagree. The message does not appear to be to do with how women can liberate themselves from restrictions per se, but to replace one restriction with another. Unless I misread you, you seem to have got the message from her blog that to be promiscuous = to be liberated. My concern and my objection was that people (particularly but not exclusively men) would have exactly this reading of her blog. This reading is not only wrong (it implies that to not be promiscuous is to not be liberated, which I refute in the strongest possible terms), but also harmful and damaging (to both men and women).

    I was not saying it’s a shame that a blog gets readership because of its sexual hook. I have no objection to that whatsoever. I was saying it’s a shame that feminism pretty much only gets sizeable readership when it’s associated with sexual content. The fact that she named her blog with a sex-related name and not, say a feminist-related name tells me either that it’s the sex that’s more important to her than the feminism and/or that she believed it would get more readership that way, that the readership she wanted was the kind of person who’d be drawn to a sex-related blog rather than the kind of person who’d be drawn to a feminist-related blog. There’s nothing wrong with this – if she were an actual feminist, I’d say it was actually quite clever.

    My objection is not that it doesn’t unbutton every straightjacket, but that it noisily unbuttons one, while silently replacing it with another (more titillating) one. The woman doesn’t seem to understand either feminism, or how media works. She’s courted the power of the media, without possessing the wherewithal (or apparently, the desire) to shoulder the responsibility. It’s dangerous, cringe-inducing and morally bankrupt.

  23. ps Just to underline my point – in the reader’s review of the book on amazon, the man interprets the book as a view of “the modern female pscyhe”. So, as I feared, I am tarred with the same brush. Thanks a lot, Girl.

    The reviewer also goes on to say “to my next girlfriend, you have Abby to blame for the things I did last night”. Whatever he did, please note, he says “blame”, not “thank”.

  24. To the second, however, I would be somewhat more equivocal, in fact, I would disagree. The message does not appear to be to do with how women can liberate themselves from restrictions per se, but to replace one restriction with another. Unless I misread you, you seem to have got the message from her blog that to be promiscuous = to be liberated.

    For starters, there’s promiscuity and promiscuity. The Girl doesn’t advocate sleeping around for the sake of it with anyone who comes along. As I said, there is moral dimension to whom one chooses to take on an adventure (ah, don’tcha just love euphamisms). Second, I don’t think that The Girl preaches that if you’re not busy shagging like a rabbit, you’re repressed and in need of a rescue. Simply saying that women can be happier if they have less inhibitions is not the same as saying they will be less happy if they are more reserved. Reading it like that is to misunderstand the writings.

    I think this is your worry: That harm will come to women who misunderstand what has been written; and that harm will be perpetuated by men who misunderstand what has been written. In both cases, this would be a misreading on their part, and not The Girl’s fault… especially as she is careful to nip such misreadings in the bud. As I said, I think her underlying message is fairly overt.

  25. The reviewer also goes on to say “to my next girlfriend, you have Abby to blame for the things I did last night”. Whatever he did, please note, he says “blame”, not “thank”.

    Sorry, Clarice, but why would you put so much effort into constructing a well-thought out argument and then knock it all down with such an asinine comment? Are you going to blame Abby for the poor English of her commenters? It offends me more that he got his tenses so tangled than that he used the word ‘blame’ rather than ‘thank’ (I think he meant whatever he will have done last night, at some point in the future, to a woman he hasn’t yet met. Possibly. So it’s purely hypothetical putative sex badness. I think).

    I don’t want to get bogged down in syntax – or do I? – but I’d say ‘blame’ in this instance isn’t referring to anything violent or unsavoury. However, if he really has misinterpreted the blog to such an extent that he’s going to forcibly arse-fuck the next woman he gets his hands on whether she likes it or not – as you seem to be darkly implying – how exactly can Abby be blamed for this? You’d have to do some seriously inventive twisting to come up with that result from the stimulus provided, and she’s not responsible for that in the least, any more than a filmmaker is responsible for a real-life act seeming to reflect his work.

    It does concern me that you’re taking the word of an Amazon reviewer as a summation of your identity, just because he’s decided Abby’s done something definitive. You don’t have to be ‘tarred’ with anybody’s ‘brush’, neither Abby’s (although I’m not sure she really has a ‘brush’ of her own, in that sense) nor that of anyone who suggests she’s the new feminist messiah (which idea rather embarrasses her as she’s already pointed out).

    Also –

    If – if – feminism only gets readers when it’s yoked to sex – well, it’s not ideal, but isn’t it more important that the message gets through one way or another? We can quibble about methodology when we’re a bit further down the road. And as for the sex-related blog name – I believe it’s meant to be somewhat ironic, considering that there is much more in her life than what she’s put into the blog. It’s about how society might perceive a woman with a high sex drive and a lack of self-consciousness about that – and she’s right, that’s how you perceive her, as a dangerous influence with no grasp of what’s going on outside her own knickers. I don’t think you could be much further from the truth on that. Some between-lines reading is necessary, I think. She might be inviting misinterpretation on that score as on others, but other readers seem to see through it well enough. She credits them with enough intelligence to do that, and she isn’t responsible, as I said, for anyone who doesn’t have the intelligence and gets it wrong. That’s the necessary risk. (And she’s hardly Eminem.)

    Oh, and I think ‘what a disingenous idiot’ etc would count as an attack or a dig or whatever you want to call it, if you want to split hairs. If you haven’t attacked her, then you’ve certainly patronised her with your ‘I think it’s sweet’. I’d rather be attacked outright than patronised, myself. See, this is what I find depressing – we just end up squabbling amongst ourselves, don’t we?

    Who, out of interest, do you think does speak for you? Abby doesn’t necessarily speak for me all the time, but I don’t really feel the need to find someone to get behind, someone to make a little shrine to in the corner of my bedroom. Is that what it comes down to? I thought feminism was about learning, one way or another, to speak for yourself. I understand that it worries you that the world at large is going to think Abby speaks for you, but y’know, it could be worse, you could be a moderate Muslim.

    Yeah, a cheap relativist shot, but I am tired.

  26. Now, Rob, this is interesting.

    Fundamentally, your third paragraph there has me right. My concern is the misreading of what has been written, which, given the evidence, is likely to be the norm, not the exception. To repeat myself (again), my view is not that this is her fault but unless she is claiming ignorance, then it is her responsibility. I don’t think she does very much to explicitly refute the overstatement of the link between feminism and promiscuity, and that, since she is explicitly, and by her own claims, riding on the back of feminism, I think is objectionable.

    Which takes me on to what I thought was interesting, namely your distinction between two kinds of promiscuity – one of which (Abby’s) you seem to count as feminist and moral, and the other (less discerning, perhaps) as presumably immoral. What I am trying to say is that it’s not OK for anyone to judge a person’s mutually informed and consensual sexual behaviour (eg as moral or otherwise) on the basis of their gender. If I were sleeping around for the fun of it with everyone who came along, that would be no less moral than what Abby does, it would just be a different preference.

    “Simply saying that women can be happier if they have less inhibitions is not the same as saying they will be less happy if they are more reserved.”

    Um… yes it is Rob. That’s exactly what it’s saying. I hadn’t quite got her down as saying this outright, but if it is, then my objection is all the more justified.

    Also, it may seem surprising to hear, but it’s perfectly possible to have a fully satisfying, adventurous, “liberated”, uninhibited, very enjoyable, prolific sex-life and be able to count your total partners on the fingers of your hands, or even on one hand. Or even with your thumbs. Or even with one life-long partner, shock horror, hold the front page.

    ps It should be “fewer” inhibitions, no? “Less” is for a mass noun, “fewer” for a count noun.

  27. Dear Bee

    Oh dear. Please please stop putting words in my mouth. Please also stop repeating things I’ve said as if I never said them. It is very dispiriting that it seems that no-one can understand me, and only Rob seems to be making any effort in that direction.

    In answer to your q, the people who speak for me are the people who claim to speak for me, or who allow others to make that claim or assumption about them. But as you can see, I’m fairly capable to speak for myself.

    If you wish to call debate, disagreement and discussion “squabbling”, then yes, that’s what we’re doing, but I think that’s perfectly healthy; I don’t see that it’s depressing. What is depressing is being in a world like this.

    I do think the woman’s blog behaviour is (among other more positive things) disingenuous and idiotic. That doesn’t mean I wish her harm of any kind, or think she’s a bad person.

    I’m going to ignore everything else you’ve said I’m afraid, because it is either wrong, or foolish or irrelevant, in my view, and a perhaps more careful reading of my posts above will indicate why I think that. I’ve done too much repetition here already. Perhaps I’m not being self-deprecating enough in keeping with my gender, but if you look at the facts of what I’ve said, hopefully you will see that there is some sense there.

    Loving your moderate muslim comment
    Lots of love
    C

  28. I said:

    “Simply saying that women can be happier if they have less inhibitions is not the same as saying they will be less happy if they are more reserved.”

    Clarice said”

    Um… yes it is Rob. That’s exactly what it’s saying. I hadn’t quite got her down as saying this outright, but if it is, then my objection is all the more justified.

    I disagree here. I don’t think anyone believes that The Girl is being categorical about how all women should live their lives. Nowhere on the blog is The Girl claiming that there is One True Way, and that Her Way is The Way. She is merely saying that “this works for me, it could work for you too.” And apparently, a fair few people are saying “thank you, it does work for me.”

    Regarding the “promiscuity and promiscuity”, I think this is a semantic discussion again, albeit an interesting one. I was making the point that “promiscuity” carries several negative connotations, not just that one has had many sexual partners. For example, it might sugegst that one cannot control oneself; that one’s activites are ultimately self-harming; or that one is acting “immorally” in the adulterous sense. The negative coverage Abby has received make these implications. This is the 1970s attitude we mentioned earlier.

    But none of these things apply to Abby. In fact, the opposite is true. Much of the blog deals with her choosing not to have sex with someone, because she values her self-respect more than her carnal desires – In fact, I think the book begins with one such lamentation! Its taken for granted that men go through these conflicts all the time, and hearing that some women also feel the same, is precisely what makes the blog so interesting and popular. If The Girl was bedding every man she met, then her stories would be less interesting. More importantly, far fewer people would be recommending her lifestyle to others.

  29. Yes, I know that female promiscuity carries several negative connotations in the minds of some people, and yes, this is anti-feminist. Even some of my own male cousins have been known to use the word “slag”, for instance, presumably thinking they were in some way justified to judge a woman’s sexual behaviour, or possibly not even thinking about it at all.

    While it is undoubtedly a good thing that some types of promiscuity are now being “allowed”, or at least there is some debate about it, it is emphatically not a good thing as long as people still think a) it is any of their business and b) that they are in any position to “allow” or “prohibit” the sexual behaviour of women. Who made you the arbiter of what women in particular should or shouldn’t do? It is a 1970’s view to think that this is acceptable. I don’t see why this is so hard for people to grasp.

    I think it’s interesting also that you bring self-respect into it. I’m not sure I quite buy the notion that women’s self-respect and carnal desires are mutually exclusive. I don’t think they are. Again, that’s a perception that needs to change.

    Finally Rob, it really does logically follow I’m afraid, that saying women can be happier with fewer inhibitions, is also saying they can be less happy with more inhibitions. Looking at how Abby and Bee have understood my comments, I feel it’s fair to say that many people really do think that if you say “women”, you mean “all women”. Abby certainly thought when I said “men” that I meant “all men”. For this reason, I think one has to be very careful when making gender-based remarks, as to how they are likely to be understood.

    I have never said that Abby is saying there is one true way, and it’s hers. Why do people keep saying that I’m saying this? I’ll have one more try. BECAUSE OF HUMAN PSYCHOLOGY, AND BECAUSE OF HOW MASS COMMUNICATIONS, AND GENDER-BASED OBSERVATIONS ARE UNDERSTOOD, IT IS LIKELY THAT HER BLOG WILL BE UNDERSTOOD BY MANY AS IMPLYING THAT ONE WAY IS “BETTER” (EG MORE LIBERATED) THAN ANOTHER. The amazon review supports this, as does Bee and Abby’s (and possibly your) interpretations of my comments here. This is not about “crediting readers with intelligence”, as Bee suggests, it is about understanding human psychology, human communication, and media function.

    Fighting for the right to fuck is one thing, but feminism is about so much more. It’s about the right to not be judged on gender grounds, regardless of whether, when or how you do or don’t fuck. If people can understand that, everything else will fall into place.

  30. Jumping into the frying pan…

    My opinion is that, as I think Robert has said, she doesn’t seem to be claiming that the promiscuity is liberating, but instead that wanting to be promiscuous and *then acting on that* is liberating.

    I suggest that there is a difference between ‘inhibition’ and ‘reservation’. In this context, I think inhibition refers to a need to repress one’s actions because of external pressures – a negative influence (except when that external pressure happens to be law, perhaps!). When one modifies ones own behaviour due to reservations formed from moral belief, that is a different matter.

    I wonder if perhaps ‘The Girl’ should have thought a little more about the anonymity aspect before taking her escapades online, and subsequently to publishers. Her own anonymity was essentially the only protection afforded to the ‘subjects’ of her blog – there was an inherent risk that her identity would be discovered, and therefore an inherent risk to the subjects, which I’m not sure (the jury is still out, at least in my mind) she had the right to accept for them.

    Of course, I condemn the ‘expose’ for what it was – tabloid trash.

  31. Yes, I see the distinction re. promiscuity. I don’t think I’ve seen any explicit claims she makes that I have a problem with (other than her feminist pretensions). My problem is with what can be reasonably expected to be read into it all, as per what we know about how communications are understood psychologically.

    I see there could be a difference between inhibition and reservation, though I’m afraid I don’t agree with your description of it, and I can’t endorse placing a value-judgement on people who are subject to either. I also wonder where you think moral belief comes from, if not at least partially from outside influences, unless one is working from raw unexamined instinct, and/or lives in a socio-cultural vacuum.

    I thought I felt the same about the “expose”, esp. because it’s hurt her, but the more I think about it, the less sure I am. Everyone keeps saying how intelligent she is, so you’ve got to wonder, haven’t you…

    And if she’s prepared to make money out of hurting potentially large numbers of women, then she can’t really complain if other people try to make money out of hurting her. I’m not saying either is right, but it’s hypocritical of her to object.

  32. Well, in this instance I just picked two labels, Inhibition and Reservation, and ascribed simplified definitions for the purposes of the argument. Of course, you are absolutely right that moral belief can be viewed as an external influence, however my distinction was aiming to make clear a difference between the screaming hordes breaking down your door, and moral values you have come to realise yourself through the influence of your childhood, society, and personal experience.

    Though I realise I’m putting words in ‘The Girl’s’ mouth, I’d hazard a guess that it was not her own reservations she was attempting to break, but the inhibitions imposed by the ‘screaming hordes’ above. The site has shock value, whilst attempting to remain conversational and casual – at least that is how I’ve read it – attempting to ‘normalise’ a controversial theme.

    I don’t think it is fair to say that she was prepared to make money out of hurting potentially large numbers of women – that suggests an element of intent, which I think did not figure into the equation (yes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and all that). The blog seems to have been a somewhat exhibitionist (with the benefits on anonymity) and salacious ‘adventure’, intended yes, to titillate, but also to stimulate open discussion on issues of sexuality through the medium of commented anecdote.

  33. “Simply saying that women can be happier if they have less inhibitions is not the same as saying they will be less happy if they are more reserved.”

    I have trawled through all these discussions and have to agree with Clarice re the above.

    I maintain that anyone who writes, speaks,produces films etc etc for public consumption DOES have a responsibility as to how their message will be believed/perceived/interpreted. It is difficult, as one has to, I suppose ,know the intelligence or understanding, age, gender, ethnicity etc etc of your consumer.

    You cannot rule out all consequences but you can think things through carefully and wonder how differently people will react to what you have produced.

    The Girl’s blog will be a revelation to some men AND women and may allow them to follow their natural instincts as I believe that this is exactly what sexual behaviour comes down to – natural instincts – but I also agree with Clarice that if a reader or their partner’s natural instincts do not fall into her sphere then they are going to be disadvantaged.

    “Also, it may seem surprising to hear, but it’s perfectly possible to have a fully satisfying, adventurous, “liberated”, uninhibited, very enjoyable, prolific sex-life and be able to count your total partners on the fingers of your hands, or even on one hand. Or even with your thumbs. Or even with one life-long partner, shock horror, hold the front page.”

    Yes, you see I agree with this and some people, I am afraid reading the blog, will not think it is possible.

    It is similar to role models such as the ultra thin super models giving “SOME” young girls the idea that their beautiful Size 12 is FAT. Not all consumers can take a message and make the correct or beneficial use of it.

    Feminism to me is the state in which men and women can appreciate and understand their various strengths and weaknesses and to act within a human rights bubble to declare this without prejudice or disadvantage.
    We are all just people and in this day and age both some men and some women can and do have similar attitudes to sex. Feminist discussions though should not be restricted to attitudes to sex – it is much more.

    PS I think it was the 1960s rather than 1970s when the “sexual revolution” became public. Promiscuous was used in those days to refer to either sex who “slept around” In those days I venture to say that was frowned upon and certainly more so for a woman than a man but these days surely the term is less used as people are more sexually free and have a variety of partners whether it be two, twenty or more and both sexes enjoy this so called “liberation”

    However, I go back to my natural instincts point – one behaves sexually as you think is right – but as it is such a media driven subject ie used to sell products etc there is a real worry that people’s natural instincts could be curbed or devalued. I think it was jerehad who said that this was a shame (except when the natural instincts were criminal)

    I am very concerned that Clarice has male cousins who use the term “slag” and it would be interesting for her to question them as to their understanding of this term – I am hopeful that this was a thoughtless use of the term for which they should be chastised if it was thus. I am sure they have a respectful attitude to the strengths and weaknesses of women
    but are being crass

    Thank you for letting me comment on the anecdotes……buzz … buzz ..buzz

  34. Hi J

    Re. the moral hoardes vs moral values you mention – yes, I see this distinction, and obviously, in an ideal world, we could all follow our hearts, but I still don’t agree with the notion that those who are “inhibited” in the example you describe deserve to be negatively judged for it. Where people are persecuted, physically or psychologically, is it really fair to blame them for wanting to survive and protect themselves, especially when culture is a thing that gets internalised, often without us knowing it? Is a woman “inhibited”, or less liberated, or less feminist if she pays for a cab home for a five-minute journey because she thinks it isn’t safe for a woman to walk?

    I don’t think it does suggest an element of intent, merely recklessness, when I say she was prepared to make money out of hurting potentially large numbers of people. If I kill someone unintentionally through negligence, they’re still dead, and I’m still responsible.

    And I’d like to second what Rob said.

  35. Do people really have an obligation to cater to the lowest common denominator when they write blogs – or produce books based on blogs?

    I don’t think anyone here is in danger of being corrupted by ‘The Girl’ – there are almost certainly those in society who might take various ‘wrong’ opinions from the blog though. Should a writer moderate their work in order to avoid offending/misleading/confusing anyone who reads it? I do think this might lead to an awfully bland future.

    Is a website or book that covers a single issue automatically biased or misleading if it does not cover other loosly related issues? If said website suggests a notion without qualifying it with related facts as to how this notion fits in the ‘big picture’, is the author automatically to be taken to task for harming the argument? (Did that make sense?)

    Oh, and sorry about the ‘commented anecdote’ thing – I was looking for something snappier than ‘stories with reader comments’, and now feel a bit silly!

  36. Hi Clarice,

    I certainly don’t mean to negatively judge *people* who are inhibited – I think that inhibition (over reservation) is generally a negative thing though.

    In the example you gave, yes I think the the woman is ‘inhibited’ and ‘less liberated’ (but no, certainly not less feminist!) by taking the taxi – the inhibitions being a negative factor caused by an external force (the streets are not safe – perhaps a perception, perhaps a reality). In this instance, I’d want to ‘make the streets safe’, or if they were already safe, allow her to feel that this was the case.

    Transferring the argument to ‘The Girl’, perhaps she feels that she is doing both – making the streets safe by attempting to ‘convert’ opposing opinion, and allowing people to feel uninhibited by showing that it is ok to talk about such things in a public forum.

    PS – love the blog!

  37. I also think it’s wonderful if people (including men) are realising that “the inhibitions imposed by the “screaming hoards” might in some cases be limiting their sex lives. The solution to this though is surely to stop imposing the inhibitions by presuming to judge along gender lines, not to simply impose another set of pressures on women.

    I’m glad you said what you said, Kathy – it’s depressing being a lone voice crying in the wilderness.

    I think your comment about the supermodels is really true, but I would go further. It is not just that not all consumers can make the correct or beneficial use of a message – I’d say, given how our minds work, that most people in practice will take the path of least resistance (regardless of their intelligence or their ability to do otherwise). I would also say that the less thoughtful/questioning/intelligent amongst us are more vulnerable to harmful media messages, and that therefore the media has a duty of care to those it seeks to communicate with.

    As for the “correct” meaning of having super-thin supermodels – I don’t think it’s incorrect to believe that it gives the message that thin is better, and that it gives the impression that the “norm” is a lot thinner than it in reality is. A model is meant to be a generic token of a female – a role model is someone we seek to emulate and aspire to – it’s disingenuous to claim that a physical model is anything else.

    In human categorisation, natural kind categories (eg animals, plants etc) tend to cluster around prototypes of some central tendency of the category. Artifact categories (of man-made objects) tend to be slightly different, based for example on form-function correlations. Goal-derived categories (eg things to take on a picnic), which are a subset of artifact categories, are not based around normative observation, but around ideals and extremes. The way that women are portrayed in media (including supermodels) tends to suggest that we are viewed as a goal-derived category (I wonder what the goal is), and certainly not as a natural kind: The generic versions of “woman” that we see are idealised ones, not normative ones. There needs to be a shift in how men think of us, and in how we think of ourselves and eachother.

  38. I have to agree with Jherad. I’m really not convinced by Clarice’s charge that The Girl WAOTM is being irresponsible. As I’ve said a couple of times above, I think the meaning and intent of the blog as a) advice for those who want it, and b) “discussion through anecdote” is clear enough, that people will have to try very hard to misunderstand it. Its like blaming the authors of the Karma Sutra for spreading HIV.

    There comes a point where I think we have to demand a certain level of intelligence and understanding from the public, and I think that point comes well before any discussion about The Girl making money from her diaries enters the equation.

    Nor am I convinced that people who might like their inhibitions and hymens intact are being judged in a negative way by The Girl. The blog simply isn’t for them. If the ONLY advice available to women was The Girl With The One Track Mind then I agree we would have a problem. But that isn’t the case, obviously.

    Surely the objections to The Girl’s conduct is over the extent to which she is held up (by others, or maybe herself) as some kind of feminist beacon.

  39. “Surely the objections to The Girl’s conduct is over the extent to which she is held up (by others, or maybe herself) as some kind of feminist beacon.”

    Yes, absolutely! Here’s what I said (I’ve said it several times), in case you missed it:

    “I don’t think I’ve seen any explicit claims she makes that I have a problem with (other than her feminist pretensions)”

    “I don’t think she does very much to explicitly refute the overstatement of the link between feminism and promiscuity, and that, since she is explicitly, and by her own claims, riding on the back of feminism, I think is objectionable”.

    As for demanding “a certain level of intelligence and understanding from the public” – that is a really crap excuse, and an evasion of responsibility. My concern is not about thick people, it has nothing to do with intelligence, it has to do with how the human mind works. Every human mind, without exception.

    I note you don’t demand the same “intelligence” from Abby (cf her allegation that when i say “men” I mean “all men”). She made the “exact” mistake I’m worrying about. She fell into the trap. The same trap she’s (albeit inadvertently) set for people who read or read about her blog. And you think she’s intelligent. Either you have to modify that view, or you have to concede that intelligence doesn’t come into it.

    You can’t make use of human psychology and the media to deliver implicit messages, and then blame the human mind when someone criticises you for it. How do you suppose advertising works? That it works is not in dispute – do you hold human psychology responsible, or the people who exploit it to make money? It’s like bullies blaming the victims, Rob, or rapists blaming the rapee. It’s nasty. Really nasty.

  40. Again, I do think there are several steps here between the words that Abby writes (and now sells) and the possibility of people coming to harm. Its not like a bully or a rapist where there is just you and them in the equation, and they do not give you a chance to make a choice. Sure, someone could read Abby’s book, then decide that the lifestyle is for her, and then actually get into a more shackled (metaphorically, not literally) situation as a result. But it does involve people making a series of choices that are negative for them.

    So your ‘advertising’ analogy is better, but then the morality of that is much less obviously wrong, if at all. If she abused some kind of monopoly, then maybe. But the prevelance of other ideologies, Ways of Life, self-help books, and autobiographies on the bookshelves ensure this will never be the case. The book isn’t selling that well, yet. I’d be more worried about Harry Potter.

  41. Oh yes, I don’t believe that advertising is inherently wrong. I just think it’s wrong to pretend that advertising only works on stupid people, or that the onus of responsibility in the equation is with the “consumer” of (often unsolicited) advertising, and not those who use what is known about human psychology to push a very particular and largely implicit message.
    The analogies I was drawing with bullies and so on were about the active participant in the equation taking responsibility for their actions, and not, when they are criticised for them, trying to excuse themselves by blaming those who end up affected by them.

    I have repeated very clearly my objections in my previous reply. You don’t seem to answer any of the points that floor your argument. I am now officially giving up the ghost on this one. Flogging a dead horse.

  42. I have repeated very clearly my objections in my previous reply. You don’t seem to answer any of the points that floor your argument. I am now officially giving up the ghost on this one. Flogging a dead horse

    My argument? I don’t have an argument… I thought you had one. That was what I was arguing against.

    Very confused now.

  43. Hi Rob, sorry you’re confused.
    You say you were arguing against my argument. The points I’ve made in response which refute your counter-argument, if you want to be precise, don’t seem to be acknowledged, they seem to be ignored, if you will, in favour of more tangential points, which is why (I think) it has taken us this long and we are still saying the same fundamental things. This is fair enough, but we’re not going to get anywhere this way, and I’ve already repeated myself way too much on here. Hence my feeling of flogging a dead horse.
    All the best
    C

  44. My goodness, Clarice, you are a judgmental sort of person. What it comes down to is that you think the Girl should censor herself in the name of feminism. I think that’s kind of sweet.

  45. In courts of law it is now necessary for those that judge us to decide whether an act was caused 1. with intent 2. recklessly or 3. negligently and also whether harm was caused to what extent and whether harm was anticipated.

    Now I am not suggesting that any criminal act has been committed but if anyone is suggesting that some harm may be caused then surely it would be a good thing for the perpetrator to at least step back and “have a think” and then proceed in which ever way he/she sees fit.

    I am surprised at Rob on this one, because although I may not go as far as Clarice I do agree that her points this time have not been countered convincingly and I agree that horse dead and flogging do come to mind.

  46. Perhaps a better way of putting it would be that you would prefer the Girl to censor herself in the name of feminism? I mean, you’ve described her as idiotic, harmful and morally bankrupt. I assume from that that you would prefer her not to say what she does.

    I agree with you that promiscuity is not the same as feminism, but it is as possible to be promiscuous and feminist as it is to be chaste and feminist or somewhere in between, isn’t it?

  47. Hi Katy. No, you assume incorrectly. I have stated my objections quite clearly, which, for the sake of clarity, I shall repeat (again):

    “I don’t think she does very much to explicitly refute the overstatement of the link between feminism and promiscuity, and that, since she is explicitly, and by her own claims, riding on the back of feminism, I think is objectionable”.

    I am not objecting to anything she explicitly says (except for the “feminist” claim, for the reasons above). Of course it’s possible to be promiscuous and feminist! The point I am trying to make is that one’s sexual behaviour is orthogonal and irrelevant to one’s feministness, and that this point is undermined by Abby’s actions.

  48. I’ve had a think about this some more. I think part of the reason why your analysis seems unfair is that any claim of being ‘feminist’ or ‘riding on the back of feminism’ came after the blog was written and the book published. So I would agree that The Girl has not made herself clear, and not refuted those links, in the wake of all that controversy. Perhaps the interview in the Guardian was a mistake in that respect.

    What I do not agree with is the notion that the writings themselves are objectionable for the same reason. I think the writings are personal, and non-preachy enough in themselves that they do not need further clarifcation. Nor do they announce themselves as any kind of contribution to the feminist canon.

  49. Oh how times have changed. Didn’t Germaine Greer say that one couldn’t consider oneself a feminist until one had tasted one’s menstrual blood on the head of a lover’s penis?

    And probably, in those days, without a condom.

  50. Thanks for that Rob.

    The writings themselves, if they were intended to be read by large numbers of people (and the fact that they’re on the internet suggests that they are, as does the fact that she’s consented to a book publication) are objectionable in my view, for the same reasons, albeit less so.

    You yourself say elsewhere here that to have The Far Left held up as “typical” is a communication problem for The Left. A similar argument applies here, and I think it’s rather strange if you can’t see it. I will put it in simple steps for you:

    1. To have female promiscuity (or puritanism) held up as “the norm” (or “the ideal”) is a problem for women who do not share that particular lifestyle.

    2. Abby’s blog (prior to the book) runs a very real risk of her sex habits/desires being seen as “the norm” – see the all the women’s comments saying things to the effect of “me too!” (which support the view that hers is the norm), and the men’s comments of gratitude for giving them “insight” into “a” woman’s mind (which support my claim that her writings are at risk of being held up as “the norm”). See also the popularity of the blog for its titillation capacity, which might understandably suggest to those who witness the phenomenon that her way is seen as an “ideal”.

    3. Therefore Abby’s blog is a pr problem for all women who don’t share her way of life, because she has picked a particular topic where it is likely to be the case that one highly publicised (and popular) viewpoint will be seen as either the norm or the ideal.

    I’m not saying she shouldn’t have written it (I’m undecided on that front), and I’m not saying she’s a bad person, or that other people’s promiscuity is a bad thing (unlike you, who reserves the right to distinguish between “good” and “bad” promiscuity in women). I’m also not saying that a responsibility to make the points I’ve made necessarily fall reasonably within the scope of what she’s doing, but then she a) shouldn’t be calling herself a feminist, or allowing other people do so unchallenged, and b) shouldn’t be surprised when people make the kinds of points about her that I’ve been doing.

    I also think there’s a implicit subtext behind the blog and its popularity which Abby exploits and her readers enjoy, but which no-one is honest enough to acknowledge, and which I have been harshly criticised here for even alluding to, presumably because people didn’t want their “fun” spoiled.

    Rewarding women (with positive attention or with money) who actively and knowingly titillate in a public way, is tantamount to endorsing such behaviour, no? I would say it is similar to paying a prostitute. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with being a prostitute, but there is something ethically wrong with engaging the services of one. I expect to be treated rather harshly for saying such a thing – I appreciate it is not a comfortable thought for many (especially men) to entertain.

  51. Cherry picking for a moment (sorry!) from Clarice’s last comment on rewarding titillation – I won’t be harsh, I promise.

    I think there is a clear difference between titillating for reward, and rewarding something that titillates. Yes, the blog (and presumably the book, which I have not read) is titillating. I have no doubt that many people read it *specifically* for this. There is also no doubt in my mind that the blog/book was also written to be more than simply ‘online consumer porn’ however. Comparing the blog to prostitution is to deny that there is any intended value over and above the titillation, which I reject.

    I appreciate that is simply one point out of many that you have made in your argument, and am not claiming this overturns all your points – this one simply jumped out at me. I’ll have a think about the rest.

  52. Clarice,

    To have female promiscuity (or puritanism) held up as “the norm” (or “the ideal”) is a problem for women who do not share that particular lifestyle.

    But to have chastity or sexual restraint held up as “the norm” or the “right” way for women to behave, which still happens, is just as much of a problem for women who do not share that particular lifestyle.

    Abby’s blog (prior to the book) runs a very real risk of her sex habits/desires being seen as “the norm” – see the all the women’s comments saying things to the effect of “me too!” (which support the view that hers is the norm)

    It might reassure women who are very sexual that they are not the only ones who feel that way, but that’s hardly the same as saying that it is normal to feel that way and wrong not to.

    See also the popularity of the blog for its titillation capacity, which might understandably suggest to those who witness the phenomenon that her way is seen as an “ideal”.

    It’s a blog written by someone who enjoys having sex and talking about sex, which appeals to other people who like having sex and talking about sex.

    Therefore Abby’s blog is a pr problem for all women who don’t share her way of life

    How? I just don’t understand how this can be right. There are thousands of blogs out there written by women who say and do things that I don’t agree with and/or wouldn’t do. I don’t lie awake at night worrying about whether people will think I agree with what they say or do the things they do. I just accept that they are not the same as me and move on. And no man has ever turned up to a date with me brandishing a butt plug* and whining, “But the Girl does this sort of thing all the time…”

    Rewarding women (with positive attention or with money) who actively and knowingly titillate in a public way, is tantamount to endorsing such behaviour, no? I would say it is similar to paying a prostitute.

    That is exactly the sort of sentiment that gave birth to the feminist movement. One of the things that women were fighting for was the right to be sexual if they wanted to without being judged for it. If being a feminist is about supporting other women’s right to be who they are and express what they feel without fear of judgment or censure, I am not sure that you’re really a feminist yourself.

    *Actually, no man has ever turned up to a date with me brandishing a butt plug, full stop.

  53. Hi Jherad
    If you read what I said, I wasn’t comparing the blog to prostitution. If I was, you’d have a fair point, but I was not. What I was doing, was comparing rewarding titllating behaviour to paying a prostitute. It’s a metaphor. I wasn’t comparing the blog to prostitution, and I have explicitly stated many times above my awareness that there is more to the blog than titillation both in intent and in content.
    Cheers

  54. Hi Katy N
    To your first point, I agree wholeheartedly.
    To your last, I disagree. What women were fighting for was the right not to be judged on their sexual behaviour. Unfortunately, that got translated as fighting for the right to be sexual, which is not quite the same thing. The former entails the latter, but the converse is not true. Which is why I think it’s not enough to fight for the right to be sexual, without also fighting for the more general case, the right to self-determination without judgement. And if you’re fighting for the more general case, then since that includes the right to be sexual, there really is no need to fight for that in particular – in fact, it’s more economical and beneficial just to fight for the general right to not be judged for one’s sexual behaviour whatever that might be (as long as it is not illegal or mean).

    Your middle points I will have to give some thought to, I’m afraid I’m too busy just now, but I will come back to it if that’s ok.
    x

  55. Right then.

    Yes, the blog might reassure and validate some women, I agree with you there. However, I did not say that that is the same as saying that it’s normal to feel that way and wrong not to. What I said was that a highly publicised case of a woman being sexual, together with a lot of women saying “me too!” could make it look like that behaviour is normal and it is wrong or less valued to deviate from this particular lifestyle.

    Therefore Abby’s blog is a pr problem for all women who don’t share her way of life

    Not all of the thousands of blogs out there enjoy the readership hers does, and are published into books and get anything like the media attention. Laying aside for a moment the reasons why this might be (which might suggest there is something different about this particular blog), Abby’s blog is a particular case because it relates to a very specific area where women have historically been controlled, exploited and abused, and which, coincidentally, relates in my view to the very most intimate core of one’s psyche. Furthermore, it is very much an area which is culturally vulnerable to being overwhelmed by male sexuality. And, from what I’ve read of it, her particular tastes are vanilla enough to be seen as somewhere close to the norm, and titillating enough to be seen as somewhere close to an ideal of female sexuality. A bdsm blog, say, or a dogging or swinging blog does not threaten perceptions in the same way, as these are very much seen as atypical and as such would not command such wide appeal. So no, I wouldn’t worry about those either.

    I do see your argument, but you’ve taken a very unsubtle illustration of how the blog might influence people, which is bound to be easy to refute and sound silly to boot – in reality media influences occur in a more subtle, often unconscious way.

  56. in reality media influences occur in a more subtle, often unconscious way.

    Yes, in a very imprecise and often ineffective way too. If you’re susceptible to one form of mind control, you’re also going to be susceptible to the counter-message, which is disseminated just as effectively. Which is why I reject the idea that we can make a firm, causal link between the GWAOTM blog and any negative sexual experiences people may or may not be having. there’s just one extrapolation too many in the chain for me.

  57. I can quite understand your logic, Bert, but I disagree with the premise that “you’re also going to be susceptible to the counter-message, which is disseminated just as effectively“.

    The media influences to which I refer are not in the form of precise and explicit messages, but in the implicit beliefs and attitudes underpinning them. Because these are implicit, they are harder to be aware of, and hence to question. Usually you just come away from such a communication feeling either inexplicably shit, or inexplicably angry.

    The “counter-message” is not disseminated just as effectively, since typically, owing to its less titillating flavour, it simply doesn’t get anything like the same coverage or attention.

  58. My apologies Clarice, I extrapolated ‘rewarding women who (…) knowingly titillate in a public way’ being similar to paying for prostitution, as your comparing the blog to prostitution, which was wrong.

    I think my argument is still applicable though – there is nothing wrong with rewarding women who publish work which happens to titillate, if that is not obviously the main purpose of the work (which to me at least, it is not).

    It irks me in the same way that politicians do when they dismiss satire as comedy.

  59. “I think my argument is still applicable though – there is nothing wrong with rewarding women who publish work which happens to titillate, if that is not obviously the main purpose of the work (which to me at least, it is not).”

    Well, this is something I am really not sure about, unless I modify your assertion to something like the following: There’s nothing wrong with it, as long as the reason for rewarding it is not premissed upon its titillation factor. In Abby’s case though, I’m fairly sure that’s a large part of why it has been rewarded.

    I don’t think the main intended purpose of the work is necessarily that relevant in my objection, compared to the main reason for rewarding it. In philosophy and psychology, it is well-known that actual function is weighted far more heavily than intended function in the semantic interpretion and categorisation of artifacts.

    But even if you disagree with me on that point, it beggars belief that someone could seriously argue that a blog entitled “Girl With A One-Track Mind” does not appear to have the main purpose of titillating. Once you read it of course, one might see it differently, but it is clearly seeking to attract people to it on the promise of titillation, and judging by the comments, it does not disappoint in that regard.

  60. The reason I phrased my objection in the way that I did was precisely to avoid putting the question of overall merit entirely with the motives of the individual reader.

    I first found GWAOTM after reading an article somewhere about the site’s intended premise – in that context, the lurid title and explicit content has more intellectual value than pornographic. What you get out of the site is very much reliant on what you are looking for – which brings us to the problem.

    There have been numerous controversial pieces of ‘modern art’ placed in various art galleries over the years – they invariably raise some media attention, but remain unvisited by those who they would be least likely to ‘inspire’ in the way the artists imagined. The internet has given many people an easy way to express themselves, artistically or otherwise – but rather than be segregated off into a gallery only visited by those interested in ‘modern art’ or whatever – the content instead is in little tents on the street. Anyone can visit any tent, and you don’t really know what is inside until you take a peek. Once inside, you are wholly submerged in the world of the author/artist, and it is up to you to figure it out.

    I would argue that the possible ‘damage’ done to those who have come to view the site as pornography is minimal – if people want to see examples of women objectifying themselves, they can (and will) get strong examples elsewhere – in full sweaty technicolour detail – and without the possibility of ever picking up the intended message of GWAOTM. For those who have read GWAOTM as something thought-provoking, they would be poorer for having not been able to read it, or having had to read a neutered version of it, cut down so as not to subvert those who lack the intellectual tools necessary to interpret the content correctly.

    I’ve sidestepped around your point on the ‘main reason for rewarding it’ somewhat, as I think it is less relevant. The work stands on its own merits – but if people want to buy it as porn, fine. People looking only to get their kicks will get them somewhere. I do not doubt that the book would be less financially successful without this element – but to reason that this necessarily means that the book was written to capitalise on this income, or is devalued as a work, is (in my opinion) to go a step too far.

    Argh, and this post took far too long to write. Time to sleep!

  61. Hi J

    I was more concerned with the ‘damage’ done by those who use the blog as some form of titillation (which is not quite as extreme as pornography, and apparently, more socially acceptable too). But never mind.

    It’s a shame you view my point on ‘the main reason for rewarding it’ as less relevant – I don’t see your reasoning for this. I have no-where reasonsed that people using the blog or buying the book as titillation necessarily tells us anything about why it was written – you misread me if you think that I have. The logic of my point goes like this:

    If I intended to kiss you, but accidentally killed you instead, how would my fine motive affect your deadness? I believe it would not. It might reduce my culpability, but I believe you would still be dead, and your deadness would be a direct result of my actions. Going on about the intended function of my actions would not change their actual function one jot. Anyone who thinks intended function is all clearly needs to think that one through a little bit. Please note that by saying this, I am not saying that intended function is entirely irrelevant in judging the merits of an action (it clearly is not), but simply that it does not trump the actual function by any means.

    Imagine that a person produces a work which has, say three intended purposes, and let us say these purposes are a) self-expression b) to counter a cultural belief that sexual women are “bad” and c) to stimulate frank and open discussion. Now, let us imagine that in the course of meeting these purposes, the content happens also to titillate. If the main reason the work gets attention, and the main reason that it makes money is because of the titillation factor, then the person is clearly not being rewarded for any of the fine purposes that motivated the blog, but rather for the fact that it titillates. This I think is wrong, regardless of whether there is titillating material available elsewhere.

    Where it happens, it implies that a work which seeks to fulfil those same three intended purposes but does not have titillating content will receive less attention and make less money. The intended purpose of the work which happens to titillate is subverted by those who use it for titillation. In this case, its overall merit, and its fine motives are at best diluted and at worst redundant. It is wrong if the blog is being rewarded primarily for being titillating, rather than for its other motives, since it implies that that titillation is its primary value. It implies that titillation is more valuable than whatever its other motives might have been. But that seems to be exactly what has happened, and that seems to be exactly the state of affairs that prevails.

    What I do think is that people who seek to be titillated should not only be doing this thoughtlessly, or without taking responsibility for so doing. Attracting titillation-seekers and then facilitating them to explore and consider the motives and implications behind their titillation-seeking is a good thing. But Abby does not in my view do this.

  62. I guess what I’m coming down to is that I believe it is perfectly possible that some forms of expression/art/information can be subversive in the wrong hands – but ask if we then have a moral responsibility to restrict access to that content to prevent subversion in the wrong hands – or whether we take a free approach and make it available to all, and to heck with the consequences.

    If instead of being an ‘anonymous’ diary of the thoughts, emotions, and day by day sex-life of ‘The Girl’, GWAOTM was instead a series of essays discussing sexuality, the overall message may be the same – it would be a completely different work however, and would hold different levels of appeal as a novel, art, and science. No doubt, less people would get the ‘wrong’ message, but it may hold less appeal as a work to those who were able to receive the ‘correct’ message from either piece.

    I can see your point on the diary not doing enough to encourage ‘titillation seekers’ to develop their thoughts further, though I think this is a question of the work being too narrow in its objectives.

  63. Doesn’t it depend rather on what the consequences are? Freedom is nice, but I’d quite like to be protected from your freedom to hurt people, say, and as part of this protection, there should be a moral obligation to take due care not to harm others in the course of exercising your freedoms.

    Take the titillation out of GWAOTM, and the message actually becomes rather different. With titillation, the intended message is easy to ignore. As far as having appeal as “science”, while it is based on a sample size of one, I’m afraid it has none. Ditto for its basis on a self-confessed self-selected sample of commenters.

    I think she has the right to be as narrow as she likes in her objectives, but I do think once she puts her work into the arena of mass media, she must bear responsibility for the perfectly predictable way in which it is likely to be used and interpreted, and for any harm resulting from that. For unpredictable subversions of its message, of course she cannot be held responsible.

    To twist the words of Roberto, I do think we must demand some degree of intelligence and understanding from our media producers.

  64. I believe that it is wrong to take a strong feminist stance on this. The problem is that one ends up generalising about female and indeed male sexuality. Clarice writes of how ‘many men’ are titillated by almost any women between the ages ’14 and 35′, this is a generalisation and would make a walk in busy street impossible for men. This is like saying all women are ‘asking for it’. I don’t think it right to polarise male and female sexuality in this way.

    My experience is that ‘many men’ today respect women, believe in the rights of women and do not believe women to be ‘asking for it’. Conversely, Clarice, do you believe that all men are ‘asking for it’? Do you really believe that men think about sex all the time? I’m sure that we would never get anything done if that were the case (why do I hear the voice of my wife say ‘exactly’).

    Clarice, I’m sure that you do agree that not all men are sex crazed but I would agree that there are likely to be more men than women that are sex crazed. Yes, and I do believe that men are more likely to be distracted by a pretty/sexy woman walking down a street. I am a married man with what I believe to be a healthy sex life (no blog intended on this subject I’m afraid), I have never cheated on my wife but I have to admit that I too find that a pretty/sexy woman will sometimes catch my eye but it ends there. Furthermore, I do not believe that I am in the minority.

    But, Clarice, you do attack GWAOTM for titillating us men, these men that cannot control themselves! You suggest that men will read GWAOTM and believe that all women are like her – surely you do not really believe this? And what makes you think that many women will not read GWAOTM and be titillated? Do they then go on to act out the escapades described?

    I didn’t read very much of GWAOTM, I quickly lost interest. I must say that I have actually found how she is handling the loss of her anonymity far more interesting. I’m not against what she has written as I do think that individuals should feel free to express themselves and it might well be helpful for men and women to discover how a particular woman of a particular sexuality lives her life. What I believe she is guilty of is betraying the trust of her lovers – if anything it is the men that have been sexualised in her writings.

    So the issues here become broader than a feminist one – it is more about human sexuality and the right for humans to be fulfilled sexually without fear of any intimate details being relayed in verbal or written form. The various lovers that GWAOTM had encounters with are men with feelings, her writings have sexualised them, turned her encounters with them to mere sexual experiences. No matter what GWAOTM says about how her lovers have been happy with her book, she will never know what they really think – they are probably decent guys who realise what has been said has been said and nothing more can be done. In their shoes I would have said the same thing but would have felt betrayed. It would be one of those things that would hang over you, you get married (there’s a book), you have kids (there’s a book) … She can apologise but the damage is done, for her it was self inflicted, naive maybe but still self inflicted. If she really felt that she had betrayed her lovers she could offer them the profits but then they probably wouldn’t accept.

    It irks me the way she complains about the press invasion. When you publicise your sexual escapades what did she really expect? Somebody would have figured out her identity. It’s a mystery – we all love a mystery. All the ‘we feel so sorry for you Abby’ really irritates me. If she had been male I’m not sure people would have been quite so sympathetic.

    Finally, what really bothers me is that this is yet another site that children might find their way onto. Blogs that are that sexually explicit should be tagged as such. This website has received lots of publicity and the author should put some warning that the website is sexually explicit. I get so fed up trying to check parental controls work correctly for every sexually explicit site – in this way the blogosphere needs to grow up a bit.

    In summary – hats off to you Abby for being open and honest about your sexuality, nothing to be ashamed of there; shame on you for betraying the trust of your lovers; stupid of you to believe that you would remain anonymous; and further shame on you for not warning or protecting your blog from minors.

    I sound like a real grump!

    (PS I did laugh at the story of the visit to the Gynaecologist though.)

  65. Hi Keith

    I’d like to make a few points if I may:
    1. Saying “many men” do such and such is not the same as saying “all women” do such and such. Anyway, I’ve addressed this point ad nauseam above. Commenting on well-documented sex differences is not the same as making generalisations – it just takes a modicum of intelligence to grasp this, that’s all, and I have explained it above.
    2. “Many men” say they respect women, and I think a majority genuinely believe this to be the case, but as long as they are presuming to judge what someone may or may not do on the grounds of their gender, stigmatising “women’s” work, and as long as they are rewarding titillating behaviour disproportionately, I would beg to differ. The size of the porn industry, the statistics on sexual violence and so forth are simply not compatible with a world in which most men “respect” most women. Perhaps you and I have a different idea of what respect is.
    3. The formulation of your assertion that “”many men” respect women” is kind of weird. The respect in your view is applied in a generalised way to women in general (though you say it’s wrong to generalise), but the “respecters” get a qualification. Weird thoughtless double-standard kind of thing going on there, if you want to be picky about it.
    4. As for men being titilated, I did not attack GWAOTM for titillating – she’s perfectly entitled to do so. I simply made some comments regarding the fact that her work does (by her readers’ admission) titillate, and the implications of this.

    The rest of your points regarding things I’ve said have been addressed above, which you will see if you have read it. I am growing rather tired of being accused of saying things I never said though.

    “If Abby had been male” is an interesting angle. If she had been male, her actions would have been seen in a quite different way, so in many ways, it is not a fair comparison. You are not comparing like with like, since the social and sexual conditions prevailing for women are so different from those prevailing for men. May I recommend you have a look at Daughters of Egalia by Gert Brandenburg, if you want to see what I mean.

    I also don’t feel terribly sympathetic if a handful of men are sexualised and betrayed. My culture and the whole of human history tells me it’s ok to sexualise and betray women, so I don’t feel a great deal of sympathy when men whine if it’s done to them. It’s a great shame if men have to suffer what women have suffered for generations in order for them to realise that it isn’t very nice.

    I liked your other points, and of course, there’s more going on than “just” a feminist issue with all this, that just happens to be where I came in.

  66. Hello Clarice

    ‘Daughters of Egalia’ sounds very interesting – I shall get hold of a copy. Everything else – fine but …

    “I also don’t feel terribly sympathetic if a handful of men are sexualised and betrayed. My culture and the whole of human history tells me it’s ok to sexualise and betray women, so I don’t feel a great deal of sympathy when men whine if it’s done to them.”

    Ouch. This is just not right. This is an ‘eye for an eye’ mentality and I believe it is outdated and solves little. You are human and happen to be female and I happen to be male, I did not choose to be male. I am also quite capable of empathising with those women who have and continue to suffer, they are fellow human beings. You, as a female, do not have a monopoly of empathy for females just because you are female.

    I really believe that the role of the feminist movement is not to ‘get back’ at males or ‘let them know how it feels’ but instead to ensure equality of rights and opportunity between females and males.

    You do not know any of those men. How male are they? At what point would a male be allowed to join the ‘sisterhood’, when he loses his genitals? Is that all? No, when you show little sympathy you show little sympathy to fellow human beings.

  67. Oh yes! Well said, Keith I quite agree.

    When it gets down to the individual level, of course I don’t have a monopoly on empathy, and of course every case must be considered on its own merits. When speaking about populations, however, it is currently a fact that men on average are less empathetic than women (cf Simon Baron-Cohen). I don’t personally think this is the whole story by any means, but I’ve yet to conduct the research that demonstrates a more detailed picture. When you look at the pattern of how men as a group have behaved towards women as a group throughout all of history, it either just isn’t very consistent with the notion that there is any notable degree of empathy in the culture towards women, or, if there is empathy, then there must be an upsetting amount of sadism.

    My position does sound like ‘an eye for an eye’, but it is not, and I don’t endorse such a mentality. The logic behind my remarks was that a woman could be forgiven for thinking that men would not mind being betrayed or exploited, since that is how, throughout history, they have behaved towards women with impunity. Do as you would be done by, would be closer to my position on this. Of course, this could be interpreted quite differently – if women do not like being betrayed and exploited then you could argue that they are more culpable if they do it to other people. If Israelis feel hurt and upset and damaged by the holocaust, then perhaps they have more responsibility to treat other people kindly and with respect than those who had not been inflicted with such horrendous treatment. On the other hand, they may just as finely take the attitude “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, in the aggression and violence stakes.

    The role of feminism is definitely not to get back at males, but I do believe that if they can appreciate how it feels, then that is a perhaps a good step in the journey towards ensuring equality of life. If it makes one man think “hey, this isn’t very nice”, who wouldn’t otherwise have bothered to even consider it, then that’s a good thing.

    In an ideal world, gender would be irrelevant, but until we get there, I’m afraid a premature gender-blindness in assessing the rights and wrongs of things is not always a fair or helpful thing. A male can never join ‘the sisterhood’, by virtue of his DNA. Any person can join ‘the humanhood’, however, as long as they treat human beings reasonably, regardless of gender.

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