Mar 232013
 

So many things are going on in my head right now. I’ve been reading teh interwebs for two days straight and I’m feeling like my dislike for people in general is justified. Of course, ‘teh interwebs’ (sic) is where the trolls live so I’m probably being unjust if I base the whole of humanity on a few, but still.

What made me write this post is a thread I read on an IMDb forum regarding the film ‘Monsters’ [2010] written and directed by Gareth Edwards and shot for around $15,000. It’s an awesome movie considering the low budget.

Filmed on a Sony EX3 with a Nikon 50 MM Lens the director used natural light almost exclusively except for a couple of tiny LED lights for when it was pitch black. The effects were done in Adobe CS4 and the editing in Premiere. The majority of filming was shot with just a sound guy, the director and the 2 main leads. Most of the extras were locals and a lot of the scenes and locations were shot opportunistically.

Awesome! But by fuck were the trolls out to get this one on the forums.

I replied recently to another thread on another site I use to people who were criticising a short animation. Most of them were not criticising the story or the characters, they were criticising the actual cinematography and the techniques used. This was on a gaming site.

My comment was simply; “if you can do better go out and do it. If not, have respect for the man that did. If you actually have the skill to do a better job and think that the film maker could have done things better or improve on his technique, send the director an email and offer to help him.”

Constructive criticism is welcomed by all. I know I welcomed it as a photographer. If someone obviously had more talent than me I learnt from them if I could and listened to what they had to say. I ignored the ‘I could do that’ trolls. If they could, they would’ve and I would be copying them

The two things that got to me on the ‘Monsters’ forum were 1) the thread criticising the lead male for portraying a professional photographer badly and 2) criticising him (the photojournalist) for going with the girl (that he didn’t know) in the first place (into territory infected by the ‘Monsters’ of the title).

Amongst the many reasons Scoot McNairy was criticised for playing a photojournalist badly was that in one of the last scenes he just stands and watches the monsters rather than shooting them (with his camera). That led me to thinking about the incident I was involved with only two days past. And. Bear in mind I ‘am’ (or was) a professional photographer.

20 March 2013. I was on the King Harry Ferry (a chain ferry) crossing the river Fal when I watched a car roll off of the concrete slipway, onto the riverbank and stop with it’s front wheels in the water. I was on the opposite side of the Fal. The driver, an elderly male had apparently (I was later to learn) stepped out of his car to take a photo and either didn’t apply the handbrake properly or the handbrake failed. As of writing there hasn’t been any more information.

The driver and one other male seemed to dither about by the car, one of them wandered back across the slipway to a moored and beached dinghy with an outboard before sauntering back. Neither male looked overtly worried in so much as they weren’t about to get their feet wet. As we (the people on the ferry) watched, the car began to slide into the water. The driver looked panicked and the skipper of the ferry was already on the radio and the phone to the emergency services. A manager from the ferry company had got into a small boat and was making his way across the river towards the scene of the accident.

A disabled woman was trapped in the car! With two dogs. As it slipped under the water.

When the ferry was about thirty feet from where the car had probably settled underwater I was begging the guy in the boat above the car to throw me a rope so that I could dive down and see what I could do for the woman in the car. He refused and refused. I begged. His reasoning was that the water was too deep, 25/30 feet at that point, and that the visibility was nil and that the river was tidal. I knew it would be too dangerous without some kind of safety line myself and was feeling awful and frantic that I wanted to help but wasn’t being allowed to.

When it was obvious that the ferry could dock and cause no more difficulties to the car it pulled onto the slipway and having the only four wheel drive with a tow bar (I drive a Land Rover) I figured that if a rope could be hooked onto the car I might be able to tow it out of the river. The guy on the small boat was desperately trying to hook the car, which he couldn’t see, and was only approximately sure of it’s location, with his anchor. If he could manage it, I could try to tow it.

Two inshore lifeboats arrived. Neither having a diver they agreed that trying to hook the car with an anchor and me towing it was probably the best idea available at that time.

Two offshore lifeboats and a helicopter arrived but still no diver. The best shot was a local mussel ‘free’ diver named Matt Vernon, (a fucking hero!) he spent ages in just a wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins diving down in the nil visibility, and near freezing water trying his best to get some kind of line on the car. At one point he did and the line was tied to my car by the coastguard on the shore and I was instructed where to drive and how slow. I moved perhaps 15/20 feet before the car got stuck (I was later told) on the ferry chain and my clutch began to burn out.

The rope was then tied to the winch of a fire engine and at that point it couldn’t tow the car out of the water either.

This was perhaps three quarters of an hour after the car had gone into the water with the woman.

This is a précis of the whole story. There had also been an off duty policeman directing traffic, a community police officer trying to co-ordinate things on shore. The ferry standing offshore with two ambulances and a fire engine. A fire engine on the submerged cars side of the water with two coastguard trucks, four police cars and an ambulance.

Including the emergency services on the opposite side of the river, on the river and in the air there were eighteen vehicles. Not one of them had a trained and equipped diver.

Cornwall has the most coastline of any UK county and this local region, Carrick, is one of it’s most coastal with tourism and fishing both playing a major role. The nearest major town; Falmouth (along with the Carrick Roads area where the river Fal and river Percuil meet) has the third deepest natural harbour in the world.

EIGHTEEN emergency vehicles, at a coastal emergency, and not one diver.

Again, this is a précis. I struggle to think about that afternoon and have prayed for the man that lost his wife and dogs. For the woman that died and for the dogs and for all that were involved and that might be feeling a little raw for their involvement.

As a man, I hope I did everything I could to help. I beat myself up for not getting into the water and forcing the issue of the ferry guy giving me a rope but I know he did the right thing by refusing; while I was giving a statement to the police the officer said that the only thing more galling than losing someone to an incident like this (and he’d never, in ten years been to an incident like this) was losing two people when the person that tried to help ended up dying too. It’s a sobering thought.

As a photographer. As the only photographer on the incident side of the river. I actually considered being able to get photos that no other journalist would be able to get and wondered the financial value of said photos…

Ultimately, I decided against it. As a photographer I decided against it. This wasn’t a tsunami or 9/11 where the disaster was worldwide news. This was a local, personal tragedy and as such my role was to help and not to document a media event that would not have world wide ramifications and photography would not be part of it’s history.

Thinking about the forum comment that sparked this blog post, unless you’re there, unless you’re a photographer you have no idea how you’re going to react to a situation or whether you feel the need to document it. By saying that ‘not taking photos’ is a bad representation of a photojournalist the troll has no idea. I was there and I didn’t take photos. To not take photos shows humanity in some situations and an actors job is to be as naturally human as possible.

Troll… You have been pwned!

As for item #2. Why did the photojournalist decide to go cross country (across a monster infected area) with a girl that he’d just met?

I’d like to think that all things being equal. In that situation, I might make that decision too. Like Luke Rhinehart. The ‘Diceman’, sometimes you have to throw the dice and take a risk. Even if the dice are metaphorical, sometimes you have to roll them and do something unexpected. As the events of the 20th have shown, life is too often, too short. We have no idea when ours will run out and one has to make the most of each moment. One minute you can be admiring the scenery and within ten minutes either yourself or your family and pets can be dead.

Dead is forever. This moment, this life is fleeting. Even your allotted eighty or so years, seen in perspective, in time, is but an eye-blink. What percentage is your allotted life, of time that has gone before, since the beginning of time until the end of time with the implosion of the universe? It is an infinitesimally small amount of time. That’s all you have, all you will ever have and you don’t even know how long that time is.

Live! Live in the moment. Live for today. Take risks, take calculated gambles and live. Experience life. Enjoy life and if you don’t, find a way to. Find someone to share it with. Take a risk and talk to the girl you feel you’ll have no chance with because the chances are she feels just as insecure as you do. Take that walk in the countryside. Stop and smell the flowers. Play with your kids and pets. Take a holiday. Spend some money recklessly, swim in the ocean, hike cross country. Talk to a stranger. Look out to sea and smell the salt. Tell your folks you love them, eat ice-cream in the winter, try sushi for the first time. Just fucking enjoy and experience life because it is too fucking short not to.

Why did the journalist go cross-country with a girl he’d just met (but probably fancied)? Because he could!


Feb 042013
 

So the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, opposes gay marriage?

That’s fine…The Bible is the word of God and Leviticus 18:22 states that homosexuality is an abomination and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. No more argument needed… I’m sorry that I argued ‘for’ gay marriage and tolerance for homosexuality when I was at Alpha meetings and suffering a crisis of faith.

However, I’m going to write a letter to Justin and ask him for answers to the following questions I’ve also worried over recently:

1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my new neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

2. I would like to sell my daughter Faye into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what does he think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15:19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking a few, but most women take offense.

4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to the French, but not to Germans. Can Justin clarify? Why can’t I own a German?

5. I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath.. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can Justin settle this?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that as I grow older and perhaps due to my diabetes I now wear reading glasses. Does my vision really have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, (I’m actually a skinhead!), even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die? Should I kill myself too?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves? I also enjoy pork scratchings with a pint. I’m guessing this is a double sin?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? – Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I’m sure he’s researched these things extensively, so I am confident he can help. I’m going to also thank him again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging…


Dec 152012
 

Colour me wrong but I’m a bit tired now of hearing about how Jacintha Saldanha committed suicide. Today it was second billing on the news after the Connecticut shooting tragedy.

Connecticut ‘IS’ a tragedy. It deserves to be news. My heart goes out to the parents that lost children; however old and also goes out to the survivors.

Jacintha Saldanha isn’t really news. Maybe it was, the first day, due to the connection with the Royal Family. But. Get over it already. Between 4000 and 6000 people commit suicide every year in the UK and the news doesn’t give a toss about them. Jacintha was obviously suffering some form of mental illness. Millions of people are.

The death of Jacintha is merely sad… For the news to be fair it should also list the names of the 11 to 17 other people that will also kill themselves today.


Jan 142011
 

To paraphrase The Fantastic Four’s The Thing: “It’s clobbering ranting time” again; This is a majorly lengthy but hopefully worthwhile read that conveys an important message; I’d love to hear your opinions at the end please.

Sunday morning I was up early so decided to watch BBC’s The Big Questions. I completely enjoy an early morning religion and ethics debate as much as anyone and like Nicky Campbell’s no nonsense presenting style. What I didn’t expect was that along with a BBC Three programme presented by Nelufar Hedayat; ‘Music, Money and Hip-Hop Honeys’ and a BBC Panorama exposé on the sexualisation of children I’d end up ranting on my blog because all three programmes shared a similar but different theme and all three contained people that pissed me off beyond all belief.

I’ll start with Music, Money and Hip-Hop Honeys if I may as I watched it first.

As already stated it was presented by Nel Hedayat, a 20 something Afghan Muslim female with dual British identity living in North London. Possibly a feminist Nel was looking into the world of Hip-Hop Honeys; those big boobed, booty shaking young women that virtually every music video staring or produced by someone of an ethnic minority has to feature. You know the ones; those girls wrapped around a toned and baby-oiled Drum ‘n’ Bass DJ, Hip-Hop rapper or R&B artist.

Thoughtful, entertaining and mildly vacuous as most ‘serious’ documentaries tend to be on BBC Three, it sought to lift the lid on the scams, possible dangers and mostly impossible dreams that Hip-Hop Honeys face to star in big name (American) music video productions: Not being paid to star in your first ‘x’ amount of videos (to get experience of the scene and build a reputation), the directors, producers (and stars) that use video production as a way to pick up and sexually abuse women, the too far lengths some girls will go to to make it in an industry filled with other want-to-be ‘Honeys’; the mountains of fashionable clothes and shoes to buy, expensive trips to the US hoping to make it big there and the breast (and bum) implants the girls feel they need to achieve the ‘right’ look.

The rewards for ‘making it big’ are worth it. American honey Amber-Rose makes £12000 for a two day video shoot and £5750 just for turning up to an event!

Does this sound too familiar to any photographic models out there?

I liked Nel Hedayat! I really did, I’d like to spend a couple of hours with her in Starbucks shooting the shit over a latte or three. Although she didn’t completely sensationalise she did present a show that showed more negatives in the industry than positives. I’d like to know what she’d make of the modelling industry.

Nel showed a sleazebag producer/director that looked like one of the cell shaded skaters from Jet Set Radio. A scumbag who regularly offered girls paid gigs only to not pay them on the day (or ever).

Had I been there, on the day, with Nel, I think I’d have likely smacked him in the face (twice); not for being one of those trendy (possibly Japanese but probably Chinese wanting to be Japanese because it’s cooler) Orientals that wear cyberpunk Oakley’s (I think they were the MP3 ones) day and night, have Dragonball Z hair, wear cool T-shirts with Kanji logos and look like they’ve stepped right out of the latest issue of one of those directory sized manga comics but for being a scamming douchebag that thought that cheating girls out of money was both hilarious and righteous.

Nel showed an artist (using the term lightly) from the UK group K.I.G who openly admitted to sleeping with the ‘ho’s’ (his term for Hip-Hop Honeys; Urban Dictionary definition of Ho: Prostitute, Whore, Hooker, Tramp, Slut).

Nel interviewed two feminists: One that thought the video girls degraded all women, thought that the music videos featuring Honeys were similar to pornography in so much as a nurses uniform became the same kind of nurses uniform you’d see in a porn movie and that ultimately these videos made the divide between boys and girls one of the dominant male that had a skewed image of a female that was only needed for sex.

Feminist number two ran out the old cliché that often, the female image in the media made all females feel inferior with their bodies as they tried to emulate what they see. These would be the same women that think because they see in the media it must prove it’s the perfect body image.

Feminist number two also commented on the double standards promoted by the Hip-Hop/R&B video industry that a man could be clothed, rich, butt-ugly and fat but sexy while a woman had to be toned, free of cellulite, tan skinned, mostly undressed and beautiful to be sexy.

Nel interviewed the girl that had gone to a shoot only to be oiled (baby-oiled) up pre-shoot by the cameraman and then sexually assaulted.

As tragic, (at least for me), Nel interviewed members of the public outside a London club on Leicester Square and found a young black guy that stated; “You see these girls on TV and think all girls are the same, mmm, y’know what, I think I’ll have a go at that one then. Ah, so when you go out you think every girl’s a slag innit, ESPECIALLY when girls do dress like slags.”

Remember the above paragraph, we’re coming back to it!

In true documentary style Nel made no comment and the programme moved onto the guys that make the videos. Ultimately, I think Nel saw the allure that fame and money can bring and though she might not have before the documentary was made ended up on a video shoot herself.

Sunday mornings The Big Questions started with the question ‘Has political correctness left girls at risk?’ What that actually meant was that a Times report claimed that some UK police forces were so scared of being accused of racism they weren’t arresting Asian (Indian-Asian) gang members suspected of grooming very young girls for sex.

This was after 28-year-old Mohammed Liaqat and Abid Saddique, 27, were jailed at Nottingham crown court for raping and sexually abusing several girls, often after giving them alcohol or drugs.

In response to the Times report, former home secretary Jack Straw said “We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way. The young men were “fizzing and popping with testosterone” but girls from the Pakistani community were “off limits”, leading them to seek other outlets for their desires. They see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care … who they think are easy meat.

As is usual for The Big Questions Nicky Campbell had a balanced panel comprising members of the Asian community, religious leaders and representatives of organisations set up to stop sexual abuse in all it’s flavours. Interestingly there was also, heavily disguised, a young woman that had previously fallen foul of one of these gangs.

Named as Emma, the disguised young woman said that she was twelve when she was first targeted. She said that she wasn’t targeted on a street corner, she wasn’t vulnerable. She said that the men responsible for grooming target girls at shopping centres, ice rinks, cinemas and arcades. Places where children go on Saturdays and why shouldn’t parents be allowed to let their children of twelve and thirteen go to the cinema with their friends?

She was first approached by boys that were aged about fourteen or fifteen, so not much older than her. They befriended her and she used to hang out with them in arcades at the shopping malls most Saturdays. They seemed okay, nice boys, nothing wrong with them. They then introduced her to older men, aged around eighteen or nineteen. Men who had cars. She didn’t see anything wrong with this as they were friends of friends. They didn’t just come up and approach her so they weren’t strangers.

They, the older boys seemed nice as well. As time went on and they started to groom her, the older ones, she started to see them in the town centre most days. She then got introduced to older men in their late twenties, “it’s a process” she said, “you just get passed up.”

She was further groomed for a while, it’s brainwashing, they basically controlled her through her mobile phone; “they threatened to firebomb my home with my parents inside if I told anyone what they’d done, shoot me with a pistol, rape my mother and kill my older brother if I told anyone.” They started to sexually assault her and sell her even though she didn’t know she was being sold, that’s what they were doing. “You can’t get away from these men” she said, “You can’t say I don’t think I want to come out to play today.” As time goes on the men responsible for the grooming pretend to form relationships with the girls to further entrap them. “They would give presents, vodka and cigarettes. But you soon end up paying them back by having to do what you have to do with man after man, in empty flats, in parks and down alleyways.”

“In my child’s mind I believed my abuser had feelings for me.” She said “It’s mental abuse, it’s physical abuse, it’s sexual abuse and it’s emotional abuse.”

When the police became involved it seemed that they saw Emma and other children involved as young promiscuous girls who had fallen out of relationships with these older men and then cried rape. “In this case there would be a lot of twelve and thirteen year old girls accusing thirty odd year old men of rape. That is not normal, thirteen year old girls don’t have relationships with men in their thirties and forties.”

It was stated that from thirteen towns and cities in the North and the Midlands, of fifty-six men jailed for this particular brand of sex offence in the past fourteen years, three were of Caucasian descent and the remaining fifty-three were Asian.

An argument was given for these sex crimes as a clash of cultures. Asian women in these mainly Muslim communities are seen as off limits and more modest. Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim youth organisation has gone on record and stated that; “There are some Muslims who think that as long as these sex gangs aren’t targeting their own sisters and daughters the issue doesn’t affect them… These people think that white girls have fewer morals, are seen as trash and are less valuable, than our girls.”

Lee Jasper from the National Assembly Against Racism accused Jack Straw of dog-whistle politics and this was only an issue at this moment in time due to an upcoming by-election in Blackburn where he (Jack Straw) was standing for election.

During the programme, Mehdi Hasan from the New Statesman said that “not only were white girls targeted but also young Bangladeshi girls.” Culturally Bangladeshi’s are seen as a lower class than the Pakistani’s involved. Hasan went on to state, “this whole debate is skewed towards race, the gangs, religion. Surely this should be about vulnerable children, why are there thirteen year old girls on street corners? Where are their parents? Where are social services? Where are the local authorities?”

Remember the above paragraph, we’re coming back to it!

Fighting for the final word at the end of the debate, Lee Jasper (he from the National Assembly Against Racism), urged the audience to remember back to the fifties when the West Indian community first came to Britain en masse, the black men were all labelled as pimps and sexual predators. “That was proved to be false” said Lee “and the issue is wrong on this occasion. The kind of racism we’ve seen stoked on the back of this is totally unacceptable.”

Way to go Lee, gloss over the real tragedy and make this about white man racism!

Finally, I’d like to quickly mull over Panorama’s programme on the sexualisation of children:

After watching a pop music DVD with her daughter and finding some of the content overtly sexual newsreader and journalist Sophie Raworth decided to look into the sexualisation of children and produced the ‘Too Much Too Young’ documentary for BBC One’s Panorama.

The BBC website said: Provocative clothing, raunchy dancing on prime-time TV, access to pornography – Panorama examines the growing concern about the sexualisation of children in the UK. Sophie Raworth, a mother of three, goes behind the headlines to discover what images young people are being exposed to, and asks what impact the sexualised world is having on our children. Is too much, too young, putting them at risk?

Already concerned, our coalition government has begun a review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of children which will explore, among other things, whether rules should prevent companies marketing the likes of ‘Porn Star’ T-shirts and padded bras for little girls.

The Prime Minister David Cameron has gone on record stating, “You can’t cut children off from the commercial world but we should be able to help parents more in terms of trying to make sure that our children get a childhood and that they are not subject to unnecessary and inappropriate commercialisation and sexualisation too young.

Some businesses are dumping a waste that is toxic on our children. Products and marketing that can warp their minds and their bodies and harm their future. That can take away their innocence, which I know most parents would agree is so precious and worth defending. Children are being pushed into grown-up territory well before their time.

Girls are encouraged to dress like women, wear lingerie and worry about what they look like.”

On Mumsnet, the online parenting forum that has become a political force in its own right in Britain, the sexualisation of children is a hot topic – especially when it comes to some of the clothing.

Justine Roberts, the website’s co-founder, said that “many mothers were worried because they felt their daughters were being encouraged to be sexual in a way they were not mentally able to understand.”

“When you present a child with a pair of high-heeled shoes, it immediately puts her into a posture which makes her look more sexy. I mean her bum will stick out, her non-existent chest will stick out and she will start to sort of teeter around.”

So looking deeper into the possible idea that the media is responsible for making our children grow up too soon what did Sophie find?

Sophie found the consumerist campaigner Ed Mayo, he that campaigned about the stationary in a leading High St retailer emblazoned with the Playboy logo and successfully got it removed from their shelves. Sophie sent him off shopping and he returned with a T-shirt for kids with the slogan ‘Future Footballers Wife’ printed on the front and a padded bra for girls aged around 9.

Ed’s argument for the T-shirt was that it gave the wrong message and that being a WAG was no great ambition. About the bra, Ed questioned do we need them? “Starting an arms race among young girls for how big your boobs are is no way to start off life.”

Sophie went shopping on her own and found it incredibly difficult to find anything that sexualised children that wasn’t ambiguously either ‘in fashion’ or a ‘matter of taste’; Hotpants for nine year olds? Strappy leopard print dresses? Leopard print leggings? Spangly tu-tu party skirts?

Sophie interviewed Rachel Russell from the Glasgow Caledonian University who was involved in producing a report for the Scottish Government last year on the sexualisation of children. Rachel was especially looking for garments that drew attention to specific parts of the body associated with adult sexuality; breasts and buttocks. Searching thirty high street retailers and online the producers of the report actually found only a ‘limited number’ of products that concerned them. Rachel stated that you “really had to have your detective hat on to find them.”

With regards to items like padded bras Rachel said that children don’t see them as sexualised they see them as an item of comfort and that the padding also added an extra layer of ‘covering up’ or ‘hiding’ as you can’t see what’s underneath. “It’s the adults that see the bra as sexualised with the intention of adding size to the breasts and accentuating them.”

Rachel concluded with “It’s a perfect example of a moral panic.”

Ultimately the Scottish report concluded that it found that it is predominantly parents, not children, who worry about sexualisation and it is the sexualisation not of their own, but other people’s children that concerns them.

As a measure of how the sexual imagery in pop videos and published media along with teens and tweens dressing in a more adult and sexual manner affected them, Sophie contacted the Brook Advisory Centre, the leading UK advice service for children. What she was told was that although Britain has one of the worst records for teenage pregnancy in Europe the actual figures are “now the lowest they have ever been for twenty years.”

The way children now interact with one another was also examined; the internet, social networking sites, social gaming and mobile phones. Finding friends through social networking was seen as competitive (isn’t that the same for some adults?) and examples were given of teen boys posing topless for their display pictures and of one thirteen year old girl posing in her bikini.

A point was made that although the joining age for Facebook was thirteen a lot of children aged nine and above (with a marked increase for eleven year olds at secondary school) were joining by entering the wrong birth date. This is probably due to peer pressure.

Obviously, the internet and social networking opens up the grim possibility of grooming with many children throwing out the normal rules of safety by swapping messages and photos with complete strangers. Quite rightly, a child wouldn’t do this in the street but what makes it different over the internet?

With over half of British teens having their own computer and broadband access, pornography was discussed. A statistic was given that over a quarter of nine to sixteen year olds had surfed porn sites over the past year. A concerned parent said that it wasn’t something he’d have expected his son to be doing aged fourteen and was surprised that younger children had done so. The son, to his credit, when asked what his peers got from visiting porn sites said “when people see porn on the internet they think “I want to do this with a girl” and they get the view that “that’s what I’m going to be like, that’s what the girl’s going to be like” and that’s what they’re going to be doing”

Remember that last paragraph…

Back at the Brook Advisory Centre, regarding pornography, the spokesman said that they’d received calls asking ‘should I be shaving all my body hair off?’ and ‘should I be making the other person scream with pleasure? How do I make the other person scream?’ Brook went onto say that you have to give young people credit though; ‘they do know that pornography isn’t real’ and that it is the responsibility of parents to be able to talk candidly about sex and pornography if they’re willing to give their children unmonitored web access.

Here, our government wants to step in and make ISP’s change their policies towards pornography and instead of offering uncensored access to the web, provide a censored but opt-in service if you do want to view porn.

Sophie looked into the growing trend of sexting; using text messages to send explicit messages and pictures to one another. In British law it is illegal for anyone to own, produce or distribute explicit images of anyone under the age of eighteen(1).

Sophie concluded that although she started off worried by the sexy images she saw on her daughters DVD she realised that although she could stop the DVD at home she couldn’t stop the outside world. She said that most children were more ‘adult’ about the choices they made when choosing clothing, friends online and what sites to visit than perhaps she’d give them credit for and left the final words to Chloe, a thirteen year old dancer. When asked should she (Sophie) be worried about the images her children were seeing and the clothing they wanted to wear? Should she be worried that her daughter was growing up too fast?

Chloe – “Well if she’s making the right choices, like y’know her skirt’s not see through, her top’s not see through, her skirt’s not about half way up her backside. You shouldn’t lock her up inside. If she makes the right choices in life, you shouldn’t be worried, because you teach them how to behave don’t you, yer mums and dads.”

Wise words indeed!

So what is the common denominator? What links these three programmes and why should you or I care?

Primarily, if you look back to the paragraphs I asked you to remember the common denominator is respect, or rather the lack of. I’ve spoken in a previous post on this blog about how a model provides a service and how one should separate the model in the media and the woman that the model is when not working. Just because her picture is public domain doesn’t mean the woman is any more than you’d expect a taxi driver to automatically offer you a lift in his private car.

Men should be able to separate the hip-hop honey on screen from the dancer in her private life. Just because she dresses and dances in a sexual manner doesn’t mean that she has loose morals and should be approached either on set or in real life with anything other than the same respect that you’d show your sister. You would show your sister respect right? No matter how your sister was dressed you want her shown respect by others right?

Whether a girl is a model, a hip-hop honey or a fashionable teen or pre-teen she has the right to dress how she chooses and has a right to respect. Whatever she wears to a club for example or to go out on the town with her mates, be it see through, be it revealing or be it totally minimalistic it is her choice and doesn’t automatically mean that she’s a slag or that she’s sexually promiscuous.

What it does mean, is that she’s chosen to dress in a way that she feels comfortable. Whether she’s driven by what she see’s in fashionable magazines or on the catwalk, whether she’s driven by popular media or peer pressure it is her right to dress in any way she chooses to.

Ask any woman and the majority would state that they feel at their best when dressed in a way they either feel sexy or beautiful. They might be at their most comfortable in sloppy tracksuits and slippers while bumming around the house, they might feel more competitive and professional at work wearing a suit or smartly dressed but to go out ALL women generally make an effort to look as good as possible within their social circle.

Whether a girl is nine, nineteen or ninety. To go out or to be seen one wants to dress like ones peers. Whether the girl goes clubbing to the trendiest dub-step clubs and dresses as she sees the dancers dress in various music videos or whether the woman dresses to go to the local lawn bowls club she will dress as comfortably and accordingly as she is able.

Men, for fucks sake, should respect that and respect that she’s probably dressing for herself and not for you. She’s not ‘asking for it’. She’s not automatically a ‘ho’ wanting you to grind your prick up her backside. She’s probably dressing like her friends do and fitting in.

Respect seems to be a thing of the past and perhaps, along with other social etiquette should be taught at school.

Sex education shouldn’t be only involved with the mechanics of reproduction and how to avoid STD’s it should deal with far wider issues like social interaction between boys and girls and how to show one another respect. It should teach boys that girls are people before they are objects of sexual desire and should teach girls to respect themselves and their bodies rather than giving in to peer pressure and throwing their virginity at the first decent six-pack that buys them a couple of bottles of alcopop. Books like (but not plugging) Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus should be part of the school curriculum just as much as Romeo and Juliet and To Kill a Mockingbird are.

Instead of being a small part of the biology or science curriculum, make sex education and social interaction a mandatory part of education itself. Don’t just tell children that teen pregnancy is wrong, provide social proof and statistics. Go out onto council estates and show children in a classroom the living proof of ruined lives. Show children the babies that are victims of neglect and show children the severely depressed mothers that have thrown away their lives for a shag in the toilets of a local club. Show girls the victims of physical abuse by men and show boys the abusers rotting in prison cells.

It’s a fact that children are growing up faster now than thirty years ago. If not physically then definitely mentally. With the internet and cable television children today have the opportunity to learn far more about the world and growing up than ever before.

When I was a child the only way I could learn was through school or through books I was given. Until I was old enough to buy my own books I could only tell you information from the books I owned and the subjects I was taught. Aged nine, aged eleven, I could tell you nothing about fashion in London or Japan. I couldn’t tell you about gender equality (but I had been taught respect and manners), I couldn’t tell you about the production of alcohol or the ingredients of Absinthe.

I could however tell you all about sharks, I could even tell you their Latin names. However dated it seems now I could tell you all about dinosaurs… At least I could tell you about what we knew about dinosaurs then. Who knew, (or even imagined), when I was a child, that we’d later discover that dinosaurs were actually brightly coloured, covered in feathers, lived in social groups and evolved into birds?

Now, with a click of a button a child can answer most any question posed to it through Google or Wikipedia. Fashion isn’t a trendy thing Londoners do on Carnaby Street it’s a thing that children can do in any village in any county in the country. Fashion is global. Fashion is on the internet. A teen isn’t limited to Mods and Rockers anymore, a teen isn’t limited to the fashion of it’s peers. If it chooses a teen can become a follower of the Gothic Lolita style in Japan because it’s all there on the web. The designers, the look and indeed the clothing through online retailing.

Of course children are going to grow up faster and appear more adult in many cases. We should be letting these children learn and grow up as they and their peers dictate. What we should be doing as parents and peers is respecting these choices but guiding and teaching along the way.

In areas where there are major cultural differences as discussed in the Asian grooming section of this essay respect should be taught there also. The right to respect another culture and to live within that culture with respect. What right does a Muslim man have to assume that just because a Western girl doesn’t read the Qur’an or wear the hijab she is any less chaste or moralistic than his sisters or cousins?

We are a Christian country and a Muslim living here should respect that in the way that we respect Muslims enough to let them worship in their own ways here. Chastity is not only a Muslim dictate it is a universal dictate for some, it transcends religion, it is part of most religions. A Muslim man living in a Christian country has to respect that.

Regardless of area/race or religion involved, a nine or thirteen year old girl should be able to walk the streets safely. In fact she has a right to be safe. Regardless of religion or race she deserves respect.

I would go as far to say that if cultural differences present too much of a problem then cultural differences shouldn’t exist. One strike and out… If your religion allows you to disrespect the morals and the law of your host country then you should lose your right to stay there. Regardless of status, regardless of family in the UK, regardless of the dangers in your country of origin. If you are found guilty of a major crime even though it might be because of your home countries moral, religious or cultural differences then you forfeit the right to live here.

Of course, the government will never implement so severe a punishment. As shown in this essay the government panders to moral outrage and political correctness. Heaven forbid that the government take a strong stance and address problems at their roots. The school curriculums will not change, the policies on political asylum, immigration and deportation will not change and the laws will not change to remove the ambiguity between consent, implied consent and the word no.

What the government will do is request report after report seemingly to do something to stem the moral outrage cried by people too weak to control and teach their own children what is right and wrong. The ‘nanny’ state will remove the stimulus because it is easier to outlaw sexuality than it is to change the way society is crumbling with respect to um, respect, education and social awareness.

It is easier to ban pornography than it is to realise that it has it’s place in society and to teach that society a way that it can use it responsibly and intelligently.

It is easier to ban sexuality in the media than it is to teach parents the responsibility of moderation and self censorship.

It is easier to police and govern retail and manufacturing than it is to teach the culture about respecting peoples right to wear what they choose without recrimination or judgement.

It is sadly easier for the government to stop the sexualisation of children than it is to remove the problem of cultural and religious difference that the government itself created.

It is a sad sad world we live in!

I’d like to address one final point. I for one admit to seeing beauty in children. I see beauty everywhere and refuse to blinker my views to only that which is socially acceptable. I find babies interesting. I find the gangly, long limbed pre-teens running in the park with innocence on their faces beautiful. I find adolescents on the verge of adulthood beautiful. I find teenagers beautiful. I am a photographer. I see with my eyes rather than with scared, politically correct, and often wrong judgements. I don’t see with my penis or with a sexual appetite. I don’t in any sense find children sexually attractive. I just see beauty. I see a photograph.

Researching and writing this essay has taken much time over three days. I have read many forums dealing with sexuality, religion, culture and parenting. I have read articles written in America and the UK. I have read countless threads by concerned parents and have not seen this mentioned anywhere which kind of confuses me immensely.

Teen and Pre-Teen Pageants/Dancing competitions?

This is just about the worst case scenario I can image for the argument to govern child sexuality and the case for worrying about children growing up too fast. On all the forums, in all the articles, in all the governmental and legal blathering I’ve read why has no-one mentioned this? Why?

Teens but more often pre-teens caked in make-up; foundation, blusher, lipstick, false eye-lashes, false nails and dyed hair? Pre-teens dressed in high heels, bikinis, little black dresses and ball gowns. Pre-teens paraded on a stage like real life dolls where anyone with the entrance fee, paedophiles and sexual predators alike, can sit and watch. Pre-teens often coerced by their parents into living a life their parents didn’t have or having parents living their lives through their children.

What the fuck? Ban these pageants… Or, if the world must have beauty competitions for children and I’ve already said that yes, children can be beautiful, legislate the competitions. Govern the audience, make the organisers accountable, ban the fakery and let these competitions be about the child’s natural beauty and skills.

You know what… I might just start looking into this legislation myself!

(1) The law is a little muddy here with the words ‘indecent’ and ‘explicit’ being open to interpretation by the judge and jury using a set of guidelines as defined by law. Therefore, nude photography of a minor (anyone aged under eighteen) can be legal as long as the image is not considered indecent or sexually explicit. To confuse matters further; be careful, sexually explicit images of a fully clothed model under the age of eighteen can also be considered indecent and/or sexually explicit and may therefore be illegal too.

In the case of ‘sexting’, it is perfectly legal between a married couple aged sixteen or seventeen as long as the pictures are for private use only. Images of anyone over the age of eighteen could fall foul of the obscene publications act depending on their explicitness and content.

For example; a consenting couple using their mobile phones to photograph a private session of BDSM involving actual damage to the buttocks and breasts could be prosecuted for possession of images deemed illegal under the current obscene publications act and both parties could be added to the sex offenders list.

To clarify; the law regarding photography of anyone under the age of eighteen in any way remotely considered glamorous is a minefield and best avoided completely.

Oct 182010
 

One of my most admired business models is that of Coffee Cake and Kink in London;

Coffee Cake and Kink online

Partly for the great coffee, partly for the great cake but mostly for their warm greetings, tolerant non-judgemental advice, great customer service, superior product lines, adult art and for creating in London a space where all of the above can be enjoyed by anyone of any gender, mix of gender or sexual persuasion.

Whilst I was still living in London there was nothing better than spending a sunny afternoon, drinking coffee, sat at one of their outside tables, watching the world go by or chatting to other customers about everything from Eastenders on TV the previous night to the best way to bind the breasts of a willing female slave and what rope to use.

If money were no object and I could open a business in Cornwall tomorrow I’d be phoning Alana and asking if I could either franchise or borrow their name and business model to open a similar shop to CCK down here in Cornwall. In fact, had my studio not closed it would have hopefully evolved into something very similar to CCK.

That would have, could have been the social enterprise aspect of my business; to promote safe and healthy sex and tolerance of all sexuality in Cornwall. (You have to remember that Cornwall often seems to lag a little behind the rest of the country and that Truro only held it’s second Gay Pride this year).

Cornwall, at least as far as the Cornwall I have seen, isn’t too big on sexual tolerance. Hence this post.

On the 11th of October this year, St Austell town councillors met to discuss the councils position should it receive an application for a sex shop, cinema or sexual entertainment venue. The result, pending approval by Cornwall Council was that a ‘zero tolerance’ policy should be implemented.

Apparently 90 streets were ‘blacklisted’ (those that contained any thoroughfare for children and stores that children or their parents may use, other entertainment venues or religious meeting places). Councillor John Stocker thought even more streets should have been included on the list.

The deputy Mayor Sandra Heyward (who was responsible for the groundwork prior to the meeting) insisted that the plan for zero tolerance was not decided on a ‘moral basis’.

During the meeting, examples were given citing why a zero tolerance plan was best, including; an Ann Summers store in Cardiff, six doors away from a Disney store, a sex shop in Truro having been granted a license next door to school uniform shop and the fact that a sex shop that opened in St Austell several years ago was forced to close after only six weeks because “concerned parents protested and it became a ‘bit of an embarrassing’ place to go”.

The above was taken from an article by Dominic Howell in the Cornish Guardian dated the 13th October 2010.

Zero tolerance huh? Well, it looks like my plans are scuppered! I wonder how old the councillors are, what businesses they personally represent and what the demographic of the shopping public of St Austell is?

I can (sort of) see the councillors point of view if they were objecting to the sort of sex shop that existed in the 1970’s that only appealed to the ‘dirty Mac’ brigade. But, since the internet that kind of shop has largely vanished. Firms that synonymised that kind of sex shop like ‘Private’ have moved online and there is no longer a need for blacked out windows and screens between the shop door and shop proper. Sex shops by today’s definition are often stores for women who want to experiment with their sexuality actually run by women.

Jacqueline Gold’s clever re-branding of the Ann Summers chain paved the way for this and brought sex to the high street although when they tried to open a shop in Tunbridge Wells they were accused of ‘degrading’ marriage. Perhaps it is fashionable to move to St Austell for retirement from Tunbridge Wells?

Firms like Sh! Harmony, Coco de Mar and Organic Pleasures took Ann Summer’s ball and ran with it, proving that women actually liked sex and that the problem with sex was (probably) the male’s perception of ‘sex’. This was largely typified by shops with blacked out windows, rows and rows of magazines and films featuring big breasted, vacant eyed never-to-be starlets on the covers and blow-up dolls in boxes with a lurid red, gaping hole where the mouth should be and legs akimbo held apart by hard plastic seams that grazed your skin. (Allegedly).

In an area like St Austell that has problems with it’s youth, with drug use and teenage pregnancy is zero tolerance the best policy?

I know for a fact that when I opened my studio for it’s short lived stint in St Austell that people in the LGBT community, the transgender community and the BDSM community were crying out for somewhere they could shop, drink coffee amongst their own and have somewhere to meet on a day-to-day basis.

I know of a schoolgirl lesbian that was bullied into leaving her school when she ‘came out’ even though it is fashionable to be bi-sexual in the same school.

A middle aged lesbian complained that nowhere in Cornwall was there anywhere she could turn to for advice on lesbian pornography or sex toys without being part of the ‘LGBT’ culture, something she felt she didn’t ever want to belong to. Her sexuality she explained, was her own private business and not a statement. She lived alone she told me.

I know that people in both the Transgender and BDSM communities in St Austell didn’t always want to have to travel to Truro for a monthly structured meeting (munch) or have to go to Truro’s ‘gay bar’ for a drink.

On Facebook, there are Ann Summers ‘groups’ (with plenty of members) based in all the major Cornish towns. Ann Summers parties are therefore big business locally which by association would imply that there was a need for sex toys and sexy lingerie. As my own modelling groups on Facebook and these Ann Summers groups often shared the same ‘friends’ I can safely say that the demographic for both was in the age range of 14 years old to around 22.

Councillors and parents in Cornwall. Wise-up! Your children are having sex! Your constituents and shoppers are having sex. Your children and constituents may be gay or not adverse to wearing a little latex while strapped to a St Andrews cross being flogged enthusiastically about the buttocks with a leather riding crop or bamboo cane.

One could argue that given the propensity of ‘online’ shopping there is no need for physical sex shops?

I would say that since the days of the ‘ivory white’, ribbed, nine inch plastic vibrator (sorry; massager) are (mostly) dead and that since sex toys now cost often into the region of hundreds of pounds that physical shopping and sensible, adult advice are completely warranted.

In my opinion a store running with a business model like Coffee Cake and Kink is almost a necessity in all major towns. Cornwall could benefit with a similar shop in Penzance, Truro and St Austell with Plymouth (pun intended) bring up the rear.

Where better for the coffee drinking, cake eating, youth and the sexually diverse to get sensible, non-judgemental advice? Are they going to get advice on safe experimentation in sex education lessons? The family planning clinic? The doctors or from a teenage mum that to supplement her minimum wage income is running Ann Summers parties for her mates? I think not.

Zero tolerance? I think that the councillors of St Austell need to re-think their policies or at the very least have someone on board to play devils advocate and help bring Cornwall (kicking and screaming probably) into the 21st Century.