A bit of Harry Potter magic infuses Platform 9 3/4

English: Alternate coat of arms of Hogwarts sc...

The everyday life of a Hogwarts student is full of excitement, adventure and really wild things which unfortunately leads to a lot of wear and tear. Maybe your broomstick had been smashed by the Whomping Willow, your wand was broken fleeing your dead parent’s old home, your robes had slugs vomited down them or you have desperate need of a time turner to help your innocent godfather escape prison. None of these would be an excuse for turning up to school unprepared and now a last minute panic over the correct uniform will be a thing of the past. Next to the barrier guarding the entrance to Platform 9 3/4 a new shop can provide all the last minute essentials for the travelling witch or wizard.

For those of us not lucky enough to be boarding the Hogwarts Express in September but who grew up with and deeply loved the stories written by JK Rowling, the Harry Potter Shop is a lovely extension of the Harry Potter world. It’s also a fairly transparent plot to take our money but I am too enchanted to care. Sadly I wasn’t there to see Warwick Davis open the shop on Saturday but I will make at Kings Cross after work this week to check it out for myself. The pictures of the shop look beautiful and full of all the Harry Potter merchandise you could want – it has boxes of wands stacked high behind the counter and school scarves hanging from the walls. It has seemingly everything for a Potter fan (no matter how old) to geek out over on your way through London this Christmas.

This is a break from my usual type of writing I know. This weekend I contemplated writing about the importance of gun control after the Connecticut shooting or the issue of rape in prisons following an article on the deplorable state of American prisons. Today however I decided to put them aside for the time being and bring you a fluff piece because it makes the world feel like a slightly less depressing place. Maybe I will write about gun control and rape in the week but sometimes we all need to take a break and enjoy a bit of magic.


Porn actresses are more psychologically healthy than you

IMG_0159 - Stoya

IMG_0159 – Stoya (Photo credit: Anime Nut)

According to a study in the Journal of Sex Research anyway. In the largest study of it’s type porn actresses had “higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction, and spirituality compared to [other women]”. Their psychological health was measured against established external scales (Rosenberg self esteem scale and quality of life by WHO). Their responses were also measured against a matched set of women surveyed in airports and universities and found to have significantly more self esteem than those women. Researchers suggested a reason for this: these women are comfortable with their own naked bodies. They cited a previous study that found correlation between a woman’s willingness to go topless on the beach and her levels of self esteem.

This makes perfect sense to me. Women should be more comfortable with their bodies in general – it’s the only one you have so you might as well get comfortable with it. I know we’re all constantly comparing ourselves to the conventionally attractive movie stars and becoming comfortable with yourself is easier said than done but its something women should aim for. We need to get over the shame we feel about nudity in general and our bodies in specific. Your body is weird, there’s no getting around it, but here’s a secret: everyone’s body is weird. You know what? everyone’s body is beautiful too.

But back to the porn actresses. A Jezebel article was quick to celebrate this study as a blow to the 2nd wave feminist ‘damaged goods’ view of porn stars. As a sex positive feminist I applaud this – we slut shame too much as it is and hopefully this is a step in a direction that proves a woman doesn’t have to be damaged to enjoy sex and nudity even on film. The article particularly attacks Andrea Dworkin and Catherine McKinnon’s view that all pornography is rape and institutionalised gender inequality. This is where, for me, Jezebel goes too far.

While it is patently insulting to both rape survivors and porn starts to say that performing in a porn film is the same as rape the gender inequality aspect should not be dismissed so quickly. Pornography is still primarily made for men and the male gaze. As such it propagates the idea that women are there to be looked at, touched, fucked and generally objectified by men. Even when a woman is shown to be enjoying herself it is primarily for the gratification of men. Porn does not cause gender inequality but it does reinforce a lot of the gendered stereotypes that continue to lead to slut shaming and sexism.

All this is not to say that women don’t enjoy porn or that there isn’t female friendly porn out there or even that porn must be bad. All I want to say is that while on the one hand there are feminist porn actresses like the inimitable, intelligent and enchanting Stoya (pictured above) who should be celebrated that doesn’t give you or anyone a pass to ignore the sexism and misogyny that remains a huge part of the porn industry.