Where has Carrie Bradshaw gone?

Most people like to think of this as a generation of sexual liberation. We have greater freedom to express ourselves, better laws to protect ourselves, and with the Internet-a wider forum than ever to indulge in whichever proclivities take our fancy.

But there is something strange about the way us 21st century women, us beacons of a sexually emancipated generation, read and view the act itself.

We are in a time of gay marriage, of open relationships, of fetish wear for sale right next to the frilly nighties. No one can deny how far we have come. So WHY am I surrounded by so many sexual myths in popular culture and opinion?

Like so many other issues, I believe the media has a lot to answer for, and that we haven’t really taken any steps forward in well over a decade when it comes to imitating life through the art of television, film or books.

I remember being 15 years old, given free rein for the first time on the wide world of the web, streaming episodes of Sex and the City, with one finger poised over the minimise button and one eye on the door in case my mum walked in. While the show has become less of a ‘guilty’ pleasure, it still holds a massive fan base, myself included. And I would argue that entertainment today cannot hold a candle to its honesty and realism when it comes to relationships and sex.

You’re crazy! (I hear you shout.) What about Girls? What about the 50 Shades phenomenon?

Yawn.

Is this really the next level for us in sexual expression? Shock? While SATC might not have got as far with BDSM as a descriptive spanking scene or images of nipple clamps, and while Girls may arguably present a more realistic version of financial life in our twenties, there is absolutely nothing remotely modern or real in their presentation of relationships.

There is no doubt that we’ve made leaps and bounds in the “how far can they go” factor. If you want someone to congratulate, find whoever is responsible for ratings and censorship, because they have had a hell of a time since the new millennium. It would seem nothing is too shocking, nothing is too sacred to plaster across screens and pages with abandon when the last ‘hardcore’ topic of conversation becomes old news, as everything eventually will.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, if it’s your cup of tea. Sex, as in the act itself has never been more revealed. But don’t mistake that for something entirely different. Because sex, as in the relationship gender battle? I believe it’s as hidden in entertainment as it was before the likes of Carrie Bradshaw ever hit our screens, erasing all the hard work those writers ever did.

I’m not talking about the extremes of Samantha and Charlotte, looking for complete opposites in the dating pool and there to surprise and reassure us respectively, giving us their own version of that “shock factor”. I mean the typical Carrie that is inside all of us while we are dating, or in any long term relationship for that matter. Not sure whether we’re searching for Mr Right or Mr Right Now, The One or the One that suits my current situation. Wondering how or if to fix challenges between partners, and how much to share of ourselves. Carrie’s relationships pushed the boundaries and honesty of sexuality and notably gender further than anything else has since.

It could be dispelling the myth that sex doesn’t get better, with Carrie and Burger’s self professed “quiet” first time leading to a meaningful relationship (pre post it of course), or the propaganda slaying of the opposing dragon, that your partner needs to be ‘the one’ to enjoy a physical relationship, her brief fling with the jazz man giving her the ‘most intense orgasm’ of her life. Either way, where modern culture may have screamed ‘sexually incompatible’ at Carrie and Burger, or placed a ‘happily ever after’ neon sign directly above the happily uncommitted latter duet, Carrie did nothing of the sort. She persevered with Burger, accepting that mood, nerves, lighting, and just simply getting to know one another better, all factor more than the world would let you believe, and after happily finding herself ‘life incompatible’ with physically compatible guy, bravely discarded him to the bonfire of relationships past.

She lived her life. And the men did too. Was Big always there in the background? Yes he was. And that’s okay too. Because her life wasn’t portrayed as a mess without him, or more importantly still- not a mess with him. Her choice (and his too) at the end of the day was to be together, whereas for Samantha her equally legitimate choice was staying single. For Charlotte and Miranda it was marriage and kids, all portrayed as decisions with pros and cons and strings attached, and not a happily ever after in sight. Just life, with all it’s ups and downs, regardless of gender or choice.

Entertainment is there for just that, to entertain you. It’s okay to get swept away in the story, romance or drama included, the same way as you might enjoy fantasy without looking for a vampire at every turn. But can you separate the fantasy of the supernatural in Twilight from the equally farcical nature of Bella leaning on a man at every turn to save her? Find Christian Grey sexy without craving Ana’s virginal experience?

I hope so. Because it doesn’t look like anyone’s creating any alternatives for us any time soon.

Why Kanye is a moron, and other stories.

“I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book’s autograph. I am a proud non reader.”

At first look, these seem like the words of a idiot. But after closer inspection, Kanye West is so much more than just your average moronic individual.

Being a ‘fan’, wanting an ‘autograph’, that language means more today than it ever has done. We have more access to celebrities, more ways to stalk them, more insight into their lives and their comings and goings than any generation before us. We aren’t standing in the front row of a concert, waving a “marry me” banner and screaming ourselves hoarse. We’re looking up info on the internet, scouting out our celeb’s home on google maps, climbing the tree outside their window and whispering subliminal messages while they sleep, carefully crouching in that blind spot between the security cameras, to film our own foundation for a heavily iMovie edited fan fiction blog.

For a celebrity himself to talk about being a fan, wanting an autograph, being proud, is dangerous language to use. If Kanye believes one tenth of the things he says about himself, being the next Nelson Mandela, the next Steve Jobs, the next sliced bread, he must be aware that he has influence. Influence over young minds and actions alike. To make the idea of being a ‘fan’ of books into a joke is not only ignorant to the billion dollar industry he is bad mouthing, but also putting an idea into motion, that books are not cool, that reading is not worth pursuing or getting excited over.

Mid twenties, I’m past the age of infatuation with celebrities, and like any generation worth it’s salt, I like to think that even if I were a teen right now, the so called music of today would not be worth my adoration. Sorry, can anyone understand what Tinchy Stryder is saying? Can someone tell Justin Beiber to get a haircut? Don’t One Direction have homework to be getting on with?

But hyperbole aside, I’m not so far gone that I don’t remember what it felt like. I had massive posters of BSB and Boyzone on my wall, and was secretly sad when I found out Steven Gately was gay. (Like that was the main obstacle to us living happily ever after). I cut out pics of unlikely teen heart-throbs Evan and Jaron (anyone?!) and stuck them in clumsily drawn hearts. I religiously read articles and interviews in Shout and Cosmo girl, just in case I ever bumped into Craig David and could wow him with my knowledge that his favourite ice cream flavour is vanilla. (In case he wasn’t already aware.)

But nowadays, I fan girl in a different way. Lionel Shriver spoke at this years London book fair, and I got there an hour and a half early to save myself the best seat. I tweet authors obsessively, and get almost unbearably excited when they reply. If I had to write a list of the books I would love the autograph of? Let’s just say we would be here a while. Books have changed my life, have made me cry far more than any ex-boyfriend, have brought me to tears of uncontrollable laughter, and have taught me more about myself than any one person. I would be proud to cover my notebooks with “Mrs Elisheva Books”, heart-ing the i, and cutting out glossy pictures of libraries across the globe. Just try and stop me from stripping naked and hiding out in a book’s trailer for when the show finishes.

“I am a fan of books, I would most definitely want a books autograph. I am a proud reader.”

I don’t expect my opinion to make the youth of today run off to Foyles, and I’m sure that some of my childhood ‘heroes’ are also non readers, just like Kanye. You don’t have to be a bookworm to write or perform great music. Certainly not to write popular music. But the point is, I don’t know whether Ronan has a volume of short stories on his bedside cabinet. I’m not sure if the A1 boys like a bit of Bronte after a long day. They never lifted themselves off the 2D background of my bedroom walls to tell me. To make me less literate, to encourage me to learn less, to take less notice of better minds than my own.

Well done Kanye! you don’t read. Frankly, no one is surprised to learn that you’re not a Dickens fan, or even a Katie Price fan, with your almost agonisingly poor verbal and written skills. But you are self aware enough to know that people are listening to you, people are emulating you, for the same reason that I know that Aaron Carter’s middle name is Charles and he has a twin sister called Angel. You’re famous. And unlike many other celebrities who say they don’t want the responsibility of being a role model, you actively seek it out. It’s not just fame you’re after. “I got the answers, I understand culture, I am the nucleus.” Every word out of your mouth is another sound bite or bumper sticker for kids looking for guidance. You WANT to be a role model.

It’s an inescapable part of celebrity in this day and age that fame will almost inadvertently turn a person into a role model of sorts, whether positive or otherwise. But this kind of subtle propaganda against literacy and reading is in many ways more dangerous than any dry humping of a wrecking ball. Your average teenager might think Miley Cyrus is cool, but the furthest the adoration is likely to go is a bit of harmless twerking at a school disco. Fashions change, trends come and go, and teenage girls grow up and realise that without the help of an airbrush, they really don’t have the legs for it.

But a fatwa on books? On reading? On one of the fundamentals of any form of education?

Careful Kanye, or the next generation of easily swayed youth will be incapable of reading your mindless drivel to start wi… On second thoughts, as you were.

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