A lonely girls guide to being alone

“I like drinking coffee alone and reading alone. I like riding the bus alone and walking home alone. It gives me time to think and set my mind free. I like eating alone and listening to music alone. But when I see a mother with her child, a girl with her lover, or a friend laughing with their best friend, I realize that even though I like being alone, I don’t fancy being lonely.

You see, there’s a BIG difference between being alone and being lonely.

Being alone is power. A power that not everyone is capable of. It’s a state of being. Being alone is something you can enjoy, it’s something you own, it’s something you choose. You can be by yourself and find ways to make yourself smile. You connect with yourself hard. Being alone can bring you so much happiness.

Being lonely is the opposite. It’s an emotion. It’s not positive, it’s silence that hurts and the thought of all the things that you’re missing out from hovers like a black cloud. It’s not enjoyable at all. You can be in a room full of people but feel completely alone. You feel disconnected, and it’s not something you always choose. Being lonely brings you anything but happiness.

I know people that are terrified of being alone, they jump from relationship to relationship and would never imagine going to the movies, or travelling, or eating dinner alone. And I know people that have spent most of their lives in different states of loneliness, being with the wrong partner, spending years of their life alone or even people who travel, moving from city to city with no real roots.

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Sometimes, I am both. I’ve travelled the world, I’ve lived away from home, I’ve been single for a long time and I’m fiercely independent. Most days, I look back at the life I’ve had so far and I’m so proud of everything that I’ve achieved, mostly by myself. I’ll come home from work, back to my little flat in China and close the door behind me. I’ll come home to silence and I look around my room, everything I own is mine and everything I do is for me. Most days I cherish this and am SO grateful for it all. But some days it feels empty and I wonder when I’ll close the door behind me and someone will be so happy to have me home, someone who’ll stick around to share it all with me (read about why travel is ruining my dating life here).

But my point is, I’m not alone, am I? Surveys are finding that more and more people are feeling lonely. And in a time where we’re more ‘connected’ than ever, loneliness is not something we talk about enough, especially if you’re male, a mother, a boss, or anything that might ‘weaken’ your image. But it’s okay to feel like this, I think most of us will at some point of our lives, and I hope you’ll find someone to talk to or a way to get out of it before it drags you down deeper. It’s a dangerous road but there are paths to overcome it all.

“I enjoy controlled loneliness. I like wandering around the city alone. I’m not afraid of coming back to an empty flat and lying down in an empty bed. I’m afraid of having no one to miss, of having no one to love.”

6 ways to conquer being alone and the feelings of loneliness:

  1. Firstly, it’s a basic tool but I’ve recently fell in love with this chatroom. Of course, I meet people from all around the world and I have a great support system back at home, but this thing is fab! It’s a safe space with controlled and positive communications. Use it regardless of how you’re feeling, send it to your loved ones and share the hell out of it… https://chat.itskoko.com/
  2. Make plans and find new connections/relationships. Be brave and embrace the good people around you. Human connection is meant to be the key to a happy and long life! Be kinder, love harder and smile bigger. Make plans so you stick to something and so you have something to look forward to. It really is the little things that can make a big difference.
  3. Find positives out of your situation. Like, yeah, I might be single AF (and therefore sometimes lonely) but I get to travel the world, do what I want every day AND starfish every night with no one judging my Netflix choices… just an example. And also, remove anything that triggers your feelings of loneliness like songs from your ex, old photos, you get me, just until you’re stronger.
  4. Find things you enjoy doing, whether it be alone or to meet new people. You have all this freedom, so use it! Discover new hobbies, do things you love and make your life about you. Join classes, the gym, venture out of the house and go for walks alone! It’ll all make you feel better, especially a bit of exercise (this is me convincing myself too)….
  5. Self-love. I’m not sure how many times I’ve used that word in my blogs, but I don’t give myself enough of it and I’m sure if you’re still reading this then you need a reminder too! You are not unwanted, unloved or unworthy. You deserve everything good in this life and this feeling won’t last forever. Remember this. You are your longest relationship, and you have to spend the rest of your life with you! Forgive yourself, love yourself and promise to do better for yourself.
  6. I also recommend reading Dr. Seuss’ ‘Oh, the places you’ll go!’. It’s my favourite book in the world. If you’re still reading, you’ll need it. Read it, share it and remember it. He’s a genius.

So, embrace being alone and seek for something different if you’re feeling lonely. And one more thing, be kind, to each other and to yourself. You never know what battle people are fighting, what they must go home to every day or how hard their life has been. Call your mum more often, take your Nanna out for lunch and tell your best friend you love them. You’ll never regret being kinder.

Sending lots of love,

V

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For more reads check out my My 8 steps for healing.Mental health and me: bringing back my power.Mental health and me., and Thoughts of a single gal

Water is a women’s issue.

Believe it or not, water IS a women’s issue. The physical act of fetching water is part of gender inequality. Sanitation, which is a blessing thanks to water, is also a major challenge for those who have no idea what safe sanitation is. That is why I am walking 70,000 steps over the next 7 days for the organisation Care International UK. It’s my first proper fundraiser and my first week of teaching again in China (eeeek!) so it’s a super busy week for me! Plus, I’m new to the city of Shenzhen so all these steps will involve exciting new places and probably me getting lost a lot. But why am I going on about girls and gender inequality again? Who does it actually affect? And what’s the point?

But what about boys that make that same journey?

Someone asked me the other day, “but what about boys that make that same journey? Why is the focus on girls and women?” and I thought this was a brilliant starting point to explain why. Honestly, not many people have donated to the fundraiser yet, hence why I’m writing this blog. And aside from the fact that Care International are a women and children’s focused charity (due to the *crazy* idea that girls can eradicate poverty), perhaps not everyone understands the connection or importance of women and water. So please, you don’t have to donate or even speak to me again, but for your knowledge and for the future of our daughters, please just read this blog.

On a global scale, having better and safer water options helps women and girls in phenomenal ways, which in turn could see the eradication of global poverty.

Here are 10 facts on why water is a women’s issue…

  1. Safe water options reduce violence against girls and women. Walking at the age of 10 years old, along empty paths and across isolated lands means that girls like Ambie are at risk every day from sexual violence and harm. Issues that boys rarely face, and issues that girls face way too often. And in Ambie’s case, she’s just getting water so that her and her family can see another day…
  2. In addition to this, inadequate sanitation facilities like having actual toilets means that girls (especially those in cultures where shame and insecurity play major factors) will wait until it’s dark to defecate and urinate, which in itself causes three big problems – girls can’t go to school, health issues occur where they’re holding in too much for too long, and nightfall increases their risk (again) to sexual violence and harm.
  3. The lack of sanitation in schools for girls also means that when they reach puberty, they’re physically unable to attend school thanks to the facilities being catered for guys.
  4. School performance and school enrolment increases for girls in areas that have safer and better water access.
  5. Reduction in violence, education and work opportunities for girls mean that they grow to be women who will lift not only their families out of poverty, but their communities too. There is a huge correlation between focusing aid and opportunities on women rather than men to reduce poverty levels.
  6. In countries where water remains a problem, women also bear the majority of the housework. This means that it’s a woman’s duty to still walk 3 hours a day in some of the hottest places of the earth, carrying litres of water, and holding her youngest child whilst being 8 months pregnant. That’s not even an exaggeration. It really does happen. And that’s a woman’s problem.
  7. Contamination and exposure to hygiene related diseases such as sepsis and hepatitis means that periods and pregnancy in general can be extremely dangerous for these millions of women and their babies.
  8. This water that’s collected is not even always safe or clean. These women just have no other option but to give contaminated water to their families. As a result, 500,000 children die every year from dirty water, diarrhoea and many more to cholera.
  9. In Africa, 90% of this burden will be carried by women. Girls under 12 years old will be twice as likely to carry this responsibility than boys under the age of 15 years old.
  10. Unless gender is integrated and implemented in targets like safe water for all, then global goals like poverty eradication by 2030 will never be achieved.

And aside from all of that, shouldn’t water be a basic human right for anyone? How lucky are we to turn on a tap and sit on a toilet, thanks to luck and location. Why do millions not have that same basic human right and we have no limits?

 

And on a personal scale…

  1. I’ve attended two women’s marches in the last year, both organized by Care International. Both were filled with inspirational women from all around the world, with inspiring, life-changing and heart-breaking stories. As an organization, I’ve really grown to love their work and believe in the good that they do for the world.
  2. Nearly 1/2 of the world live in poverty, in situations that we can’t even begin to imagine. I’ve travelled and seen extreme poverty, worked with children who come from difficult backgrounds and met incredible people who might never receive the same opportunities as you and I, just because of the location, circumstance and luck they were born in to. If there’s anything I can do to change this, then I’m gonna try my absolute best, no matter how small. And you can help too!

How can you help?

There are so many things that you can do to help me and them! You can join me! Or straight up donate to my fundraiser! This is the lovely link….

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/vanisha-sparks

Or if you really can’t spare even £5 (which will turn into £10 when you donate before the 22nd!!) then you can share this story and link around to your friends and family in hope that it’ll reach more people and I can actually hit my very small target for women and girls all over this world who need it so bad, and who could literally change this planets future given the right opportunities and chances.

So, from Monday 16th April – Sunday 22nd April join me in my 70,000 steps in China. The UK government are also DOUBLING all donations made during this time which is incredible so be sure to click gift aid on all of your donations!

Thanks for reading if you got this far! It’s so important for me and for girls like Precious up there! Keep up with my stuff on Instagram and snapchat this week! You da best.

V

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Research and useful links

https://www.careinternational.org.uk/stories/when-women-no-longer-have-walk-water

https://www.careinternational.org.uk/stories/world-water-day-how-women-farmers-can-overcome-drought

https://www.careinternational.org.uk/search/content/water

https://www.careinternational.org.uk/stories/walk-her-shoes-journey-no-other

http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/gender.shtml

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bEtqZoD4V4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_o_oqEHluw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=–uWCAOehOo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfjEcOp-SeQ

Katherine’s story for International Women’s Day 2018

 

For International Women’s Day, we celebrate the women who have helped shape our past, those who fight for our future, and those who press for present day progress. At Misión México, we recognise and celebrate the women behind the scenes, the women who fill our home with love, life and hope, the woman who started it all and the young women that are still rising. This real-life story is dedicated to all of the work that is achieved thanks to these women and the work of Misión México, and to one woman in particular, Katherine. This is her story.

 

Who is Katherine?

A story that is important, unique and inspiring for all individuals, especially those from difficult backgrounds and especially for women like Katherine. Katherine is from Tapachula in Chiapas, one of the poorest regions of Mexico. Like many others, Katherine and her family had little options. As a teenager, Katherine’s education came under threat when it was felt that her joining the workforce would be more beneficial for her family, financially and because the importance of education for females was misunderstood.

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Second chances

Luckily, a teacher at school recognised her talents and helped support Katherine by seeking out ways for her to not only continue her studies, but to make plans for higher education. This is where Misión México comes in! Misión México is a refuge for children that provides education, safety and opportunity whilst bringing love, life and hope back into their lives. Katherine joined our Misión Mexico family as a teenager where she was supported financially, emotionally and practically so she was able to continue her studies and move forward to Prepa. Every year she would finish amongst the top n her class, and along with her grades, Katherine’s confidence and self-belief flourished too.

 

Katherine’s dream

As her confidence and knowledge grew, so did her dreams. Katherine wanted to go to university, study medicine and become a doctor so that she could give back to the people of Mexico and help the poorer communities. How incredible is that?

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Breaking the cycle of poverty

The incredible twist to this story is the ripple that her education caused. Founders of Misión México. Pam and Alan Skuse helped Katherine maintain a healthy relationship with her biological family whilst naturally becoming her second Mum and Dad. At Katherine’s prepa graduation, Katherine’s biological and new-found Mum sat side by side and watched her stand on stage, receive her higher education certificate (one of the top on the class) and prepared for her next step – medical school. Katherine’s mum turned to Pam and said “I am so thankful you, Alan and Mision Mexico came into my family’s life. You have shown me that girls in Tapachula can get an education and how important that is. You have helped my daughter achieve her dream and shown me that all my daughters should dream”.

You can read Pam and Alan’s graduation letter to Katherine here…

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Where is Katherine today?

A few years ago Katherine returned to live with her biological family so that she could support and encourage her sisters to remain in school and focus on their education, but would often return to Misión Mexico to visit her second family and to help, inspire and tutor other children in our home.

Thanks to support from donations and education sponsors, Misión México is able to continue to financially support Katherine’s dreams and was also able to support her family’s education. Katherine´s Education Sponsor, Susan has been sponsoring Katherine throughout her medical degree, and it’s thanks to people like Susan that we can continue our mission. You can read Katherine´s heartfelt letter to Susan here; 

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Katherine graduated university in December 2017, remaining one of the top students in her class. She is currently completing an internship in a San Cristobel hospital, and continues to be supported by Misión Mexico and her sponsor, Susan through our Adult Independent Program scholarship.

Katherine’s mum, who never believed that a female in Tapachula needed an education, returned to school part time and is studying her own secondary qualifications.

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How can you help?

Katherine and her family have made incredible steps that are changing their lives. But so many women and children will never receive these opportunities. Mexico itself is a dangerous place to be a woman, where every day roughly six women are murdered in gender-related cases. 781 million adults are illiterate worldwide, two-thirds of these are women. And although girls are achieving higher academic rates at school in many countries, many will not complete their education fully, many will end up working in unpaid labour at home and with their family, and many will not receive the same wages as their male colleagues.

  • You can get involved by becoming an Education Sponsor for one of our girls, or by sending donations today! Contact events@lovelifehope.com for more information.
  • Volunteer! Run projects! And visit us in Tapachula! We’re currently recruiting for April 2018 and onwards. So, if you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to contact us via social media or apply at volunteer@lovelifehope.com
  • Follow, share and support us on social media

https://www.instagram.com/misionmexico/

https://twitter.com/mision_mexico

https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren

 

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International Women’s Day 2018

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day 2018 and this year we also celebrate The Year of the Woman. And we carry the movements of #TimesUp, #MeToo, #HeForShe and many others around our world as we see women capturing headlines and rising up, demanding for change. But why is this so important still? Why are we still fighting for change? And how are half the humans born on this planet still facing lives of inequality and injustice? These are questions we hear on a daily basis, so I hope, whoever and wherever you are, that this piece will bring you the knowledge, inspiration and the power to act now. Because the #TimeIsNow. Let’s #pressforprogress.

International Women’s Day is a day for everybody. Yes, everybody. It’s a day to look at our progress, our future and our current successes. And I don’t want to write a long-winded serious essay today so I’m just gonna give you guys a few facts, a list of women that are inspiring me today, and a lil empowerment for you all to take in.

I hear more often than ever the confused question of “but women are equal now?”. And, we have come a long way, it’s true. Thanks to the Pankhursts and tonnes of brave women who have been fighting for the last 100 years and since, well, forever, us women in the West are reasonably lucky. From the hills of Hollywood to the women in the workplace, women are finding their power and using their voice. But we are still not equal. And the women in the developing countries that exist around us are living in situations that we can’t even begin to imagine. Situations far from safety, far from luck, and even further from equality.

So, we fight on. And it’s not just women. For all you guys who are still reading but questioning your place in this global movement, this is for you too. For all the gender stereotypes, for equality for ALL genders, this is to smash that glass ceiling and bin the ideas around blue is for boys and crying is for girls. For everyone who identifies between the binary, this day is for you too. Because we all deserve a fair and equal chance in life filled with love, safety and opportunity.

A big problem surrounding gender inequality is poverty. Did you know that we can eradicate global poverty if we achieved these two words? Gender equality. Because poverty is sexist. 70% of the world poorest people are women. If we educated more girls, less girls would die at childbirth, less women would experience domestic abuse and violence, and more women would be able to push their family out of poverty, therefore breaking both cycles that threaten millions of people worldwide. The goal is 2030. Are you with me?

So, what are the facts? Why are we still fighting?

  • Because out of the millions of human trafficking victims, you’ll find 8 out of 10 of them are females.
  • Because women are more likely to be victims of rape and domestic violence than from cancer, war, car accidents and malaria. This blows my mind.
  • Because 250 million girls alive today were married before their 15th This is worse for girls as they are more likely to die from childbirth, more likely to be victims of abuse and violence and less likely to receive education than they’re male counterparts or if they were married 5 years later as adults.
  • Because in the US, women earn on average 78 cents for every man’s dollar.
  • Because we all know Ed Westwick, Donald Trump, Ben Affleck, Harvey Weinstein, Dustin Hoffman. These men of power, status and money have all had allegations of harassment, sexual assault and sexual’ misconduct made against them. And they’re just a few names! Imagine how many more there are, how many names we’ll never hear still.
  • Because half the world is female. Because it affects the most privileged white woman from the US, to the poorest Asian woman from the Philippines. That should be reason enough.

And here are my people of the year…

  • Gloria Allred. I actually had no idea who this woman was until a few weeks ago when I watched her documentary on Netflix (called Seeing Allred) and became in awe. She’s a modern-day heroine whose name is behind some of the biggest headlines of our year, yet her name is not celebrated or even well-known. Allred is a woman’s attorney in America, fighting especially on high profile cases that victimise and twist the rights of women. Cases against Weinstein, O.J Simpson and Donald Trump. She takes a lot of stick, but due to her own experiences and passion for justice, Allred fights on and is truly a force to be reckoned with.
  • Angelina Jolie. We all know her, we’ve all seen her movies but not everyone knows what she’s up to today. She’s my inspo in so many ways. Of course, she’s great in films, and we’ve all seen her grow and mature through them all, but her best work is the work she does for humanity. Jolie has used her fame and platform to do good, speak up and invest in those that need it the most. What a woman. She works for the UN, LSE, helps refugees, women and children, and has also directed the incredible movie First They Killed My Father, which you can also find on Netflix!
  • Nazra Akter is an advocate for women and worker’s rights in Bangladesh. She’s worked in sweatshops from the age of 13 and has experienced hardship, abuse and inequality in the workplace. So, she started a women’s union party and continues to fight every day for the safety and lives of women. Women like her make our t-shirts, socks and trousers. It’s time women and their work were given more recognition, respect and money than our clothes. Our fashion industry is full of sexism, inequality and absolute horrors. I’m currently researching and writing about it but you can start by signing this petition; https://act.careinternational.org.uk/letter_garment_factories
  • Me and you. We have the power and platform to be just as incredible as these three women (we could give it a good go anyway!). The world needs more activists and feminists. These shouldn’t be scary, demonised words. They are brave, bold and life-changing. Encourage it, encourage yourself and encourage everyone around you. Can we achieve gender equality by 2030? Not without me and you. Are you with me?

IWD 2018 is all about being brave, standing up for what’s right, becoming everyday activists and taking action into our own hands!

Whether you’re young, old, male, female, black, white and everything in between know that

you are valued

you are loved

you are worthy

you deserve respect

you deserve to be heard

you can change the future,

you can change lives and

you can start today.

Are YOU with me?

Have a great day. Go kick some ass. Let’s change the world.

Vanisha

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So, how can you join me? –

Sign a petition:

https://www.one.org/us/take-action/poverty-is-sexist/

https://act.careinternational.org.uk/letter_garment_factories

Listen:

Listen to women. Trust us. Believe us.

Speak out:

Whenever you see an injustice, a threat or any form of inequality, call it out and use your voice. And use your voice anyway! Show ya support. I wanna hear you not just today, but every day.

Support:

There are so many people and organisations that you can follow and support today. I’ll give ya these to start with…

– Mision Mexico

– Care International

– UN women

– Humanity Unified

Live out your activism:

Let the fight for equality go beyond just statuses and today. Make an effort to make it a real part of you. You’re a life-changer.

And support me!

I’ll be doing a fundraising event in April for March4women, follow me on social media to see how you can support that and keep up to date with me and my ramblings @vanishamay

** art by @thisisaliceskinner, check her out too!

Mental health and me: bringing back my power.

Part Two

“It’s interesting to note that the most kind and courageous souls you meet in life tend to be those who’ve faced the most cruelty and conflict. This vicious world might sharpen us like a blade, but whether we use that power to protect people or cause them pain is always our choice.”  

Beau Taplin

I’ve always been quite aware of my thoughts, feelings and actions. I think about everything, I analyse all situations and I pick apart everything I come across. Sometimes this is a curse, but mostly I’m thankful AF for this mind. I read, I research, I feel and I’m present. But a month ago, I tripped and my mind took a turn and fell into a black hole. I was not present. I read only bad things, tortured myself with negative thoughts and filled my days with unhealthy behaviour. Not good times.

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I read this blog that expressed how anxiety, depression and self-esteem was all an effect of the sick people in our infected society. It said how depression is not a fault of the individual. That probably, and more possibly, it was “all the crap and ideas I’d internalised from other people” which has most definitely been built up over a long period of time. That this didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t just over the last guy who left me in disappointment. But instead this was a build-up of years and heaps of moments of multiple disappointments and sadness and hurt and negativity from my experiences and those around me. I found myself thinking over situations that happened three months ago, and thirteen years ago. Which kinda made sense.

It’s quite possible that although we’re talking about mental health more than ever, it’s also a huge sign that something is going wrong with our lifestyles, the way we live and the kind of people we are becoming.  

“We do not come alone to the idea of being worthless, useless, and that we deserve to suffer…It’s a thing about mental health that needs saying and saying again. Most of us do not fall apart on our own. We fall apart for reasons that are outside our heads. Trying to find a personal solution to this is often futile. If environments are sick, the people in them will become and remain sick. Where people exploit each other, treat each other as worthless, expendable, or mock visible suffering, things only get worse.” – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2017/07/21/anxiety-depression-and-self-esteem/ 

 

However, there is another side to this. And although we do not fall apart on our own, we do decide how long we stay in pieces, we decide what kind of people we want to be and we decide whether we want make our lives and this world a worse or better place. Yes, maybe if people were kinder to each other than we wouldn’t ever feel so worthless. If people acted with more love and understanding rather than their selfishness and ego then perhaps the world would work differently.

But, unfortunately, that’s the world we live in. People are selfish and unforgivable at times. People are not afraid to cause pain if it’s for their own benefit. The world is filled with good people, and absolute horrors. What should be done? We can blame, we can attack or we can understand that although their behaviour is like a poison, they’re minds are probably full of anger, hurt and lack of love, life and empathy. And that’s actually more of a representation on society. And that’s actually quite sad.

Will people disappoint? Yes, it’s bound to happen over and over again. Is this fair? No, of course not, but does the behaviour say more about them than you? Yes, of course.  So, how will my situation change? By myself.

Nikita Gill

I cannot change the way people behave. I cannot change what’s happened in the past. And I cannot change how sick the people in these unfortunate environments may be. But I can change my impact. I can change how I react to these behaviours. I can learn from my past. I can remove myself from these people and I can change my environment.

Two months ago, my mind played on repeat all the times that I felt hurt, along with all the people who caused me even the slightest bit of pain, but now my thoughts have changed to how grateful I am that I am able to see and be different to them. Something went so wrong in their lives (and not always by fault of their own), that they’ve forgotten parts of their humanity and now think it’s somewhat acceptable to treat another human being in an immoral way. I’m grateful that the pain in my life has filled my heart with flowers and not stone, unlike them. Since, my last blog ‘Mental health and me‘, I feel all sorts of power. I see a tunnel which is filled with light, hope and love.

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“Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns gets passed on, generation after generation after generation. Break the chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future.” – I love this.

Although our environments may be filled with sick people, and life won’t always seem fair, we can ultimately choose two sides. To be like them, or to be better. I choose love. I choose kindness and I choose to be nothing like them. Our hearts and minds are different, and I choose to bring more good to this world than bad. How can this world possibly have more bad in it?! It’s easy to hate, and it’s easy to feel full of hate. It’s not so easy to work on peace every single day, but it’s possible. Fight for that everyday. We can decide who we want to be. We can be the good in our environments and impact this world and our lives in ways that some will never be able to. And this has helped my mental health. And this brings me back my purpose and peace. And this brings me back my power.  

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Let’s choose to be the kinder ones, the more understanding and the more loving. A mantra that still applies.

Vanisha

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Follow me on insta >> https://www.instagram.com/vanishamay/?hl=en

Physically turned on, emotionally switched off. A little look at hook-ups…

So my first blog is going to be about the issues and questions in the book that I’ve just finished reading, and as a sociologist and more importantly, as a single gal in the 21st century, I have found that the book has left me with more questions and slightly less hope for our generation when it comes to sex, love and modern day dating… poopy.

 

The End of Sex’ by Donna Freitas talks about the hook-up culture that dominates our experiences, ideas and actions in our modern day relationships and connection to sex and intimacy (or lack of!). Freitas surveyed 2,500 students from various American universities, and extensively interviews 111 of these students. Her main mission was to investigate how and why the hook up culture deprives people of opportunities to fulfill true meanings and desire, while holding sex as the main goal, although it ultimately leaves many feeling isolated and lonely. As a consequence of our quest to tolerate the hook-up norm and indulge ourselves in meaningless, sexual experiences, we are “unable to create valuable and real connections.”

 

It’s 2017. Sex is unavoidable. It’s completely commercialised, and can be found everywhere, from the stories of Mr. Grey and his naughty needs to 50 Cent rapping about taking you to his lovely candy shop… for his erm, famous lollipop… and even brands like Abercrombie and Fitch selling slogan tee’s for girls that say ‘who needs brains when you’ve got these?’ Not forgetting the huge influence and  one of the biggest money making industries of our time, porn. Sex is literally everywhere. Thanks to technology, the sexual revolution and women’s empowerment, hooking-up and conversations about sex are more normal than ever. Sex is easy, fun and fast. We have more choice than ever thanks to apps like tinder, match.com, grindr, hinge, zoosk, happn, the list goes on. We have hundreds of men and women at our finger tips, how lucky are we? Does it get better than this infinite choice we now have? What could be better than sex without strings? Do we have it finally figured out, or have we got it completely wrong?

 

As modern day men and women, we have never been more free. Thanks to feminism and the challenging of gender roles and stereotyping, we are able to make whatever choices we like, with who we like (with consent!), with few limitations and with less judgement. So after a day of watching sex and the city, in a world full of choice and freedom, why am I not feeling more empowered?

 

The end of romance?

The hook-up culture is the idea of a ‘no strings attached’, purely physical and sexual encounter with another person. The encounter can vary from a 10 minute make out session, to one night stands and sex with strangers with one of you leaving promptly before breakfast, to that classic booty call on Saturday nights out in the pub where one of you texts ‘sex?’ and you grab a burger, a taxi home together, and the rest you can guess. All fun and games but hook-ups destroy the idea of happily ever after and allow minimal space for intimacy and emotion. The person who allows emotions to enter is betraying the social contract that the hook-up requires. It’s all part of the game. Is it taboo to talk about real feelings in a hook-up situation? Are we foolish to think we can have such interaction without feelings? Is this an emotion free zone? As Freitas highlights “being ‘safe’ within hook-up culture is less about practicing safe sex and more about being able to walk away from sex without any trace of an emotional tug” it seems that to turn on physically, we turn off emotionally.

 

Socially, we have accepted the norms surrounding the hook-up culture. It plays a part in gender and who we are as men and women. One guy in the study of this book referred to hook ups as part of a routine, like eating your bloody cereal every morning, but an important part of what is taught to be a “guy”. This gender hierarchy that exists is fixated around the stereotypes of what it means to be a male, and the pleasure the male gains, while having full support of having as many sexual partners as they like, and the ideas of a submissive female who kinda accepts the situation too. Interestingly, it’s not just women that are oppressed in this supposedly empowering culture, facing the stigma and labels of being ‘too frigid’ or ‘too slutty’, men also face risks regarding masculinity and gender stereotypes, being ‘too emotional or vulnerable’ and along with peer pressure, it’s clear to see the pressures that we all face.

 

Freitas argues that the callousness, robotic-ness, and bleak reality of the hook-up culture is the opposite to being sexual liberated and free. She speaks about how “we prioritise technology over face-to-face interactions, where we are missing how to value the life and body of another human, or what it means to treat others with dignity and respect”. We celebrate “steeliness” and pride ourselves on our ability to harden ourselves against compassion and empathy. Uncaring is so cool, but really, who is it benefiting? So what if we feel? Pre-warning of my criminology side coming out now, and it sounds extreme, but could this have a connection to the reason why rape is a crime crisis showing no signs of decrease, and why 120 million girls worldwide have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives? (UN Women, 2012)

 

Are we living by contradictions? Raising boys and girls to be empowered, and full of emotion, desire and sexuality but at the same time suppressing and repressing all emotion, care and meaning when it comes to the most intimate form of all human interaction. Do we need to assess these ideas of caring less and that bodies are disposable, and that sex is just sex? Is it harmless or is it dangerous? Is it just the misunderstanding of being overly sexual rather than being ‘sex positive’?

 

It’s not all doom and gloom…

Don’t get me wrong, I love my single life. There is so much fun and excitement in being a modern day single guy or gal, and I’m a big believer in the idea that everyone should experience solitude at some point. Dating is fun especially in a city like London, and meeting new people and making new memories make for great life experiences (and good stories!). It’s not all bad, and there’s huge positives to our openness with sex. We’ve come a long way from the Victorian Era, that’s for sure.

 

But is Freitas right when she says that within the hook-up culture, no one really wins? Is silencing your feelings and real desires destroying our chances of finding fulfilling and long lasting romantic relationships? “It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy where nobody goes on real dates, because nobody thinks they want to date, and these cycles go round and round feeding the perpetuation of the hook-up culture” lol how ridiculous does that sound? Should we start being more critical with this phenomenon and start looking at the lack of basic interpersonal skills, and the idea that we’re still missing something so important to human interaction and behaviour from these experiences? Are we missing real opportunities because we’re so fixed on the notion of being ‘care-free’ and anti-relationship?

 

Happily ever after…?

Freitas studies suggest that although the hook-up culture is well and truly a part of our social lives, eventually people reject it. The ‘wake-up experience’ felt after a realisation of physical and emotional exhaustion, is a commonality. Eventually, people feel emptied out. And the emotional awareness is felt again (yay!), along with the realisation of the paradoxical behaviour and the need to feel what we all ultimately want in life… (thanks to Hollywood, the fairy-tale story books, Ed Sheeran and the rest of it) …meaningful love and sex.