‘I have been approached to do porn but I just say no’

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Samantha ‘Sammy’ Braddy, glamour model turned make-up artist talks to school friend Polly Trenow about plastic surgery, porn and the impact of glamour modelling on young women.

How did you get into glamour modelling?

I was a student studying fashion and I was spotted in a nightclub in London. I wouldn’t go topless with the first agency…I didn’t really want to. But my second agent said I could become a page three model.

I told my parents that I wouldn’t. I’m quite shy and I was just scared. I didn’t want to shame my family… but Mum said, “you can if you want to”, so I’ve been doing it since. My Nan’s got all my pictures! I went to her kitchen the other day and she’s got my calendar up, I thought, “right…this is weird!”

I was quite flattered at first and thought I might not have the chance again. But it is nice to see yourself in a magazine! The best bit is going to interesting places for shoots and working with the other girls. You have trips abroad and share a villa with five girls of a similar age, it’s like a holiday!

How long have you been doing it?

I did modelling for three years then on took other work – you have a lot of spare time and I was getting bored. I have never known what I wanted to do but I studied to do hair and makeup and do that now.

What reaction have you had to your career choice?

My parents are really proud. My close friends don’t pay any attention to it. I have some gay friends who think it’s hilarious to introduce me as a model, but I think they do it for attention – it’s a nightmare! I have never had anyone say anything bad to me…they probably say it behind my back!

You say you were shy, have you found aspects of this career liberating?

Definitely. It’s like the Gok Wan thing [the TV show] – How to Look Good Naked – it does give you confidence.

Parts of modelling can make you feel worse. The first agency told me to change my hair and to get my teeth whitened – I never did! I was also told to lose weight which definitely feeds on your insecurities. But then there are other times when you think ‘I look really good there!’

Being told to change is really horrible. I cried when they said it and then I went on Weight Watchers and the gym…they were probably right! With glamour [modelling] they don’t want you to be stick thin – it’s all about the boobs so if you lose weight your boobs go! You need to stay in the middle.

You got told this when you did Page Three?

Yes, but I worked for The Star not The Sun! There is a rivalry between the Sun and the Star, you’re not allowed to do them both. Though it’s more to do with the papers than us [models]. We don’t care!

How do you manage that?

It’s not a problem for me. At one stage I was probably partying and eating too much pizza. But with fashion models it’s completely different. When you’re [doing a shoot] with Nuts there is loads of food, but if you do a fashion event they eat half a cracker!

Do you ever get recognised?

Sometimes. I’ve been on the train and someone has opened up the paper I’m in which is a bit embarrassing but I change my hair every five minutes. Sometimes in Sainsburys blokes shout stuff at me, like “wayyyy get your tits out!” but that’s probably something you need to accept.

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“You can’t be as good as the guys; you have to be better.” – Mandy Rowden*

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Girl Guitar Austin is a women-only music school in Austin, Texas.

It is the brainchild of singer/songwriter/teacher Mandy Rowden who, after teaching privately for ten years, combined her love of teaching, playing, wine and good old-fashioned fun to form Girl Guitar in 2007.

I interviewed Mandy for Women’s Views on News and have reproduced the article here.

WVoN:  Tell me about the birth of Girl Guitar.

Rowden: I used to teach at the Austin School of Music and I’d always thought it would be fun to have a girl guitar class but I’d never had any luck starting it.

I came back from New York and didn’t want to teach private lessons anymore but I was super broke and so the Austin School of Music let me try to put a class together. At that time I guess I was just broke enough that I was really motivated to try to make it happen!

I managed to get enough people for a full class so I thought I would just do one six-week class, get my cell phone turned back on and that would be that. But we had such a good time that they all wanted to sign up again. Then random strangers started calling me wanting to do a class and it started getting too big for the space available at the school of music so I moved it.

I never planned on it being a full-time job but we just kept having fun and getting all this attention so I thought “ok, let’s keep doing this.” After about two and half years I was able to quit waiting tables and just do Girl Guitar full time.

WVoN:  What was the motivation behind the girls-only aspect of Girl Guitar?

Rowden: I’ve never been a big feminist, it just sort of happened.

It’s kind of boys-club playing guitar and there are so many women that want to learn but for some it’s like going to a gym – some women just feel more comfortable without dudes there.

I had wondered whether a girl-only class would make a difference and when we tried it, it was so much fun. Someone brought a bottle of wine and it turned into our own girl’s club. That sounds cheesy when I say it, but the women did seem to respond well. A lot of people told me that they wouldn’t have felt as comfortable if there were guys there.

WVoN:  What was the atmosphere like in your first class?

Rowden: It was so fun, we laughed so much! You know there is a lot about guitar that when when you talk about it it sounds kind of sexual so we just ran with that and laughed our asses off. Everyone has improved and it’s been great watching the girls become friends.

At the end of the course there is a showcase and we have huge crowds at our showcases and everyone is so supportive. I don’t know if they’re more supportive because we’re chicks or just because these women are trying to learn something new, but they’re supportive anyway.

WVoN:  What do your students say?

Rowden: They seem to love it! A lot of them tell me they wouldn’t feel as comfortable if there was guys there. I don’t know why. Maybe we think that guys would make fun of us or make us feel bad or maybe we assume that guys know more than us.

Read More »“You can’t be as good as the guys; you have to be better.” – Mandy Rowden*

“Porn is an obsession with female pleasure” says woman porn director

Anna Span (real name Anna Arrowsmith) is an English pornographic film director who speaks widely about sex, pornography and feminism.

I interviewed her on behalf of Women’s Views on News and reproduced the interview here.

You said your moment of inspiration came when you realised you weren’t angry about the existence of the porn industry but were  jealous that men’s sexuality was catered for. What did you feel was lacking for women?

That was 1988 so everything was lacking for women in this country!

You didn’t even have the Chippendales – although I actually wrote my dissertation at St Martin’s about how the Chippendales aren’t what women want – and [women] didn’t have porn magazines.

I remember [British actress] Margi Clarke bringing out a programme about sexuality on television and it was very soft.

But regardless of whether people agree with the sex industry I believe the female libido is worth catering for.

Currently companies are spending money in order to make [porn] for women because there is a market out there.

Without that appreciation of the market there is a disavowing of the female libido and this perpetuates the idea that we’re in [sex solely] for the love, which I find quite insulting really.

What was your first experience of porn?

The first thing I ever saw was, ironically, some images in a gutter when I was 11, walking home from school. There was a woman in leopard skin clothing and of course as school girls we went crazy!

Later I think I stumbled across some copies of the [UK tabloid the Daily] Sport that my brother had in his room. But the first time I used porn was when I was with my boyfriend at the time.

And that was when you started to form the idea that you didn’t think women’s sexuality was being catered for in pornography?

Yes, I didn’t know anything about pornography. It was exciting, I enjoyed it and I certainly didn’t do it because I wanted to please the boyfriend.

When I was 22 I bought “Women on Top” by Nancy Friday and I think that was very key. It’s a book about women’s fantasies and there was absolutely everything in there, it helped me accept my sexual being, it was very useful to me.

I think it also helped me realise that I was bisexual. I don’t know when I owned up to myself about that. There wasn’t a “coming out” – it sort of gradually dawned on me that i fancied women as well.

Did these experiences feed into your desire to make porn for women?

For me, like a lot of people, making porn was a kind of naughty dream job that I would have liked to do in a parallel life.

I got into [London art college] St Martin’s when I was 24 and I started to think about making porn. In my final year at college I wrote my dissertation – “Towards a New Pornography” – on porn and I made a sex film.

My first film was quite experimental, although the blokes couldn’t get it up, but there were also people peeing etc so it wasn’t soft!

Do you think you been driven by having a greater interest in sex than the average person?

I don’t know. How do you compare? They say that men think about sex every seven seconds. Well, I think about sex a lot and I enjoy it, I still do.

There is no history of abuse in my life and if you met my family you’d wonder how they spawned me because they’re very middle class and very average. We’re certainly not a sexually overt family.

When I read Women on Top there were women admitting to having sexual imaginations from when they were very young and I did too. But I developed a guilt about this imagination in my teenage years.

Do you judge your films to be successful if you find them arousing? 

Yes, to a certain extent. With porn it’s like catching a live dance, a performance, and you have to film it as well as you can, so it’s always a matter of compromise.

It’s not like mainstream cinema where you can map out everything in advance and you can get actors with acting skills. How it goes on the day is how good the film will be so there is a lot of chance involved.

You just have to get very good at managing the last minute things when people don’t turn and up and you have to recast etc.

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Will Russia’s restrictions on abortion boost their population?

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Earlier this month the Russian government passed controversial legislation to limit women’s access to abortion.

With a rapidly declining population and the highest abortion rate in the world, the Russian authorities have placed a cap on abortions at 12 weeks and imposed waiting periods, ultrasounds and counselling on those seeking abortion.

But is this the right way to do it?

Whatever your stance on abortion, few believe a high level of abortion is a good thing. Some argue that the easier it is for a woman to get an abortion, the more likely they are to do so, but is this true?

Russia has an alarmingly high abortion rate (73/1000 births) yet it has virtually the same access to abortion as the Netherlands, which has one of the lowest rates in the world (10.4/1000).

If ease of access to abortion will increase the rate of abortion, then why the disparity?

The difference in the abortion rates of Russia and the Netherlands can be explained partly by national attitudes to contraception.

For decades abortion in Russia was almost easier to come by than contraception, with choices being limited to thick standard issue condoms or unreliable IUDs.

Yet as soon as contraception became more widely available abortion rates dropped quickly, falling by 61% between 1988 and 2001 as contraceptive use rose by 74%.

Conversely, the Netherlands have had an open attitude to contraception for decades. Publicly funded family planning, widely available contraception and concerted efforts to tackle to unwanted teenage pregnancies preceded abortion and contributed to their low termination rate.

To some it seems logical that restricting access to abortion would reduce its prevalence, but evidence from other countries suggests otherwise.

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Feminism and porn, what’s missing from the debate?

Journalist Tanya Gold addressed the thorny issue of porn and feminism in Stylist magazine last month, observing that “consensual sex, consensually on camera, for the pleasure of consensual viewers, should be in the same box as all other consensual sex acts”.

In mainstream porn, however, Gold ventures “violent misogyny is everywhere”. Her answer? Feminist porn.

I’ll get back to feminist porn later because what interested me most was not what she wrote as much as the readers’ comments.

Far from the troll-style hate comments you’d expect following an article by a woman (a feminist at that), her respondents identified some of the grey areas in porn that feminist debate may have overlooked.

Take amateur porn, for instance. Damien asked: “Are you completely over-looking that the most popular and fastest-growing style of porn is homemade? It’s two people expressing their own sexual desire however they see fit.”

Damien’s point is a good one – amateur porn is largely absent from discussions about porn and feminism. This homemade genre appears to offer what mainstream porn lacks: diversity, affection, respect and the odd female orgasm.

Real couples enjoying themselves is a rare thing in mainstream porn but amateur is choc full of it. Equally, though, many of these novice “productions” are inspired by Hollywood and are predominantly from the male point of view.

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Young women not simply victims of raunch culture

I’m delighted to announce my blog has been published as part of for AWID’s Young Feminist Wire Blogathon. Below is the full article, you can read other submissions here.

Whether we agree with it or not attitudes to sex are changing across the globe. This is particularly true in the UK where we are seeing more sex in the media and the internet has brought all sorts of pornography to the bedrooms of millions of people.

I am part of the online generation whose adolescence was influenced by these societal changes. At the same time, I grew up with a mother who was vocal about gender equality issues and planted seeds of feminism in me from a young age.

There are lots of young women in the UK who are concerned about our changing society and the impact that it has on women. This has been shown by the Slut Walks movement which spread though the UK like wildfire showing that young women were not happy to accept blame for harassment or violence they experience.

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Women’s voting rights threatened

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My article for Women’s Views on News about the how changes to the voting laws in the USA are threatening to women’s right to vote.

“The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman […]

He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.

He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.”

Declaration of Sentiments, Seneca Falls 1848

On a corner of the high street in Seneca Falls, New York, stands a sign commemorating the ‘First Convention of Women’. This landmark event in 1848 saw 300 women and men gather to discuss the unequal status of women in the US.

The outcome was a Declaration of Sentiments and the beginning of a 70 year battle to gain suffrage for women.

The monument to this landmark meeting is humble. In fact you’d miss it if you didn’t know it was there. It is almost as if these hard-won rights are taken for granted…

But now they are now under attack.

A spate of recent bills in over 50 per cent of states in the US could dramatically reduce citizens’, especially women’s, ability to vote.

The Voter Identification Bill has seen 34 states introduce legislation that requires in-date photo identification for voting.

Those without current photo identification will be prevented from voting. The Brennan Centre for Justice estimates these laws could impact up to 5 million voters. The groups that stand to be affected the most are women, those from ethnic minorities, young voters, low-income voters, and seniors.

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Review: Women of the Revolution: Forty Years of Feminism

Women of the Revolution: Forty Years of Feminism
Kira Cochrane (Guardian Books)

Women of the Revolution, Forty Years of Feminism is a good read for anyone with an interest in social justice and gender equality. The book, edited by the Guardian’s former women’s editor Kira Cochrane, is an anthology of articles from the UK newspaper, The Guardian, examining four decades of the women’s movement both in the UK and internationally.

It contains a pick-and-mix bag of opinion pieces, interviews and humorous journalism from a star-studded list of contributors: Germaine Greer, Beth Ditto, Ariel Levy, Susie Orbach and Jessica Valenti to name but a few.

I enjoyed choosing an article at random and being transported to a new era and a different perspective. But a more conventional reading of the book will take you on a fascinating
journey through the struggle for equality over the last four decades.

It’s the 1970s and you’re reading about female migrant factory workers from India struggling for representation by the British trade unions; move onto the1980s and you’re learning about Maggie Thatcher; the 1990s offer the spice-world approach to feminism; and the 2000s ask just how far, exactly, have we come?

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UN Women: still in pursuit of justice

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Earlier this month UN Women, the new United Nations gender entity, launched its flagship report, ‘Progress of the world’s women: in pursuit of justice’ in both London and New York (see WVoN coverage).

I met John Hendra, the newly appointed Assistant Secretary General for UN Women, at the London launch event and talked to him about the report.

Justice for women, says Hendra, makes strong financial sense for the simple reason that improving women’s access to justice will help countries tackle the ‘productivity gap’, when women have limited access to resources such as land and credit.

This means women are not as economically productive as they could be and the whole country loses out.

A recent report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that closing the gender productivity gap would reduce the number of undernourished people in the world by 12 to 17 per cent. That translates into 100 to 150 million fewer people living in hunger.

But the message isn’t getting through to politicians who, Hendra says, need to add money to the rhetoric on women’s rights. And if there isn’t enough money, then priorities need to change.

Take the example of the World Bank. Between 2000 and 2010, he points out, it allocated $126 billion to public administration, law and justice projects.

Over the same period, 21 projects included components on gender equality and the rule of law but the total allocated to the gender equality components came to just $7.3 million.

Hendra insists that 50% of funding for judicial reform must go to projects designed to support women and girls. The quicker we get there, he says, the better.

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Turning back the clock on women: Northern Ireland and the recession

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‘The model of society being held up for women is, “go back to the home, pick up the unpaid caring role that we, the governments, cannot cover and we will focus on incentivising your husband to support you”.’

(The Northern Ireland Economy: Women on the Edge, Women’s Resource and Development Agency 2011)

This is the message being sent by the government to the women of Northern Ireland according to a new 160 page report on women and the recession – The Northern Ireland Economy: Women on the edge? – a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the financial crisis on women.

It examines a range of issues including childcare, lone parents, older and younger women, migrant women, pensions, welfare reform, debt and housing.

The report, published at the beginning of July by the Women’s Resource and Development Agency and funded by the Office of the First Minster and Deputy First Minister,  provides evidence that women are being disproportionately impacted by the financial crisis and ensuing budget cuts.

The dry statistics of job losses and low wages are brought to life by quotations from interviews and focus groups held with a range of women across the region. One said, “my wages are not going anywhere. Diesel has gone up. I’ve had to use the tumble dryer in bad weather. The cost of nappies has gone up. And I’m expecting another child.”

Another said, “I go and stay with my mum 2/3 nights a week because I cannot afford to keep the heating on. The price of oil is terrible and I have to cut back until I get paid again.”

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