What is sexual assault?

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past week or two, you’ll have seen the extensive media coverage around famous film producer Harvey Weinstein, and the increasing number of allegations against him of sexual harassment, sexual assault and even rape.

You may also have seen, on social media, the trending hashtag #MeToo, which women around the world; normal women with normal lives and normal jobs as well as celebrities, and everyone in between, are using to highlight the fact that they too have received unwanted sexual attention of some sort. Started by a tweet from actress Alyssa Milano, the idea is to highlight what an alarming and extensive problem unwanted sexual attention is in all walks of life.

“Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”


In the wake of all this, it was with interest that I read this article, which begins with the statement “Around six or seven years ago, I was sexually assaulted on the way home from a night out. Except I didn’t realise I had been.”

If you don’t want / don’t have time to read the article, then the crux is that a woman was approached by a man who made suggestive remarks, put his hand under her dress, tried to grab her and restrain her. She managed to get away and didn’t consider it sexual assault, because she hadn’t been raped. However, on phoning the police to let them know “just in case” the police officer had a very different view, asking how she’d feel if this same man had gone on to rape another woman because his behaviour hadn’t been reported? The police took the account very seriously, and the guy ended up being prosecuted and jailed because he’d done it to many women.

How many women are out there who, like the author of the article, think that such behaviour isn’t serious enough to be reported? That it’s just “blokes being blokes”. That, as women, this kind of behaviour is just something we have to put up with?

Women are expected to be a lot of things in life; mother, professional, wife, girlfriend, home maker. I’m not saying the same isn’t true of men, in some cases it is. But generally it’s women who are subjected to the most expectations, while similarly being expected to look great too. And, to some men (not all, of course), a woman is there as a toy for them to manipulate, because they can. Powerful men, such as Harvey Weinstein, pray on the fact that they have the power to behave how ever they want to women; whether it be making suggestive lewd comments, touching them inappropriately, or forcing them into unwanted physical behaviour. He knew he had the power to make or break an actress, and that’s why this has been allowed to fester and spread through Hollywood; because no-one wants to lose their job, their career and their future by being the first one to stand up and be counted against someone who can deny the allegations, take on an expensive lawyer, and crush any accusations into the ground.

Except this time it’s different. This time it’s happened to so many people, so many women in the public eye, that it’s created an uprising. An awareness. Women realising that just because it “wasn’t rape” it doesn’t make it any more acceptable or any less serious. Women realising that enough is enough. Our bodies are ours – to be touched and enjoyed how and when we want, by who we want. We’re not public property for men who can’t control their urges. We don’t have to suffer physical and mental exploitation in order to be successful in our careers. When we say no, we mean no.

For too long, lascivious men have gotten away with their behaviour purely be being men. That it’s just what men do. They’re sexual beings and women should be complimented by the attention. It’s just a bit of fun. The women wanted it, they were just playing hard to get.

And women too have played their part (and this isn’t victim blaming in anyway). We’ve thought that, as women, we have to put up with such attention. It’s just the way of the world. And so we’ve kept our mouths shut in a just grin and bear it fashion.

We don’t have to put up with it. We need to stand up and be counted. Men need to realise that a bit of “harmless banter” and a cheeky grope is a serious matter.

I’m one of the lucky ones, if lucky is the right word. I can’t think of an occasion where I’ve felt threatened or uncomfortable by the presence, actions or behaviour of a man. And for that I’m so so thankful. While I’m not using the #MeToo hashtag to reflect anything that has ever happened to me, I fully support and stand behind every woman who is brave enough and strong enough to use it themselves, and also those who have cause to use it but, for whatever reason, choose not to. It’s still taboo, and for some women the memories or repercussions are still too much to deal with.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

The Travel Tag

I was thinking just the other day how I haven’t done a Q&A tag post in ages, and then the lovely Tina from Tea is for Tina tagged me in this one. You can read Tina’s answers here.

If it’s that easy to influence the future then please could someone give me a million pounds? Ta!

Anyway, onto the questions, and my responses!

You are leaving tomorrow to start a life in a new country, where would you go?

I think it would have to be the US. There’s no language barrier and the country is so big and varied that you could holiday and travel there and see so much. Internal flights are pretty cheap and as convenient as catching a bus. I’d base myself in the Los Angeles area for the great climate, and plan visits to New York, Dallas, Nashville, Niagra Falls and Miami, and a return to San Francisco, as a matter of priority.

You can take someone for a weekend away to the place you had the best holidays ever, where would that be and who would you take to go with you?

It would probably be the West Hollywood neighbourhood of Los Angeles, with the husband. We’ve been there 4 times and had some amazing experiences. Even though we’ve done it all before, every single time has been fabulous, and would be a pleasure to recreate.

This would be my schedule:

Saturday – We’d stay at the Mondrian on Sunset, as usual, and have breakfast at Mel’s Drive-In (which is the coolest 50s American diner ever, check out the photos!), go to Griffiths Observatory for the planetarium show and the views, spend the afternoon by the hotel pool, have early evening sushi at Katana (the first place I ever tried sushi, and it was amazing!) and Happy Hour frozen margaritas at Cabo Cantina then shower and change before heading down to Sunset Strip for drinks at the Whisky a Go Go, maybe catch a band, then grab a booth at The Rainbow and eat one of their amazing pizzas.

Sunday – bottomless mimosas and a breakfast burrito at The Saddle Ranch, then bus down to Santa Monica, wander round the pier and go on the big wheel, hire bikes and cycle to Venice Beach, look around all the stalls and talk to the crazy people, back to Santa Monica for a bit of shopping and some late lunch, then back to We-Ho to play rock music on the jukebox at the Rainbow, maybe get another photo with Ron Jeremy and then finish the night with burgers and milkshakes in Mel’s.

(all photos by me or the husband between 2010 and 2012)

God that’s made me miss LA!

You can get married wherever you want to, your budget is limitless, what is your choice?

We got married on a beach in Mauritius which was pretty damn special, and I wouldn’t change that in any way.


I’d quite like to do a renewal of vows in Las Vegas though, officiated by Elvis!


During your travels you can bring back home one animal as a pet, which one would you pick?

A panda. No doubt. They’re so cute and playful and cuddly. And naughty – watch this video to see my point!

I don’t know why I don’t have one as a pet already.

You can get back in time and relive one family trip, which one?

A week in Greece with my Dad. I blogged about it here. Things were pretty fraught between us after my parents’ divorce and the holiday not only fixed our Dad and daughter relationship but strengthened it no end. Plus the location and food and climate was just so idyllic and beautiful – I’ve actually been back 3 times since.

What is the first thing you would pack for a one year travel around the world?

My passport! Duh!

What would your fantasy 100th birthday destination be, and why?

I don’t want to live to 100. Sorry to be miserable, but it would be too sad going somewhere and not being able to do everything it had to offer.

During your travel you can learn one sport to become a pro, what would that be?

I’m not a sporty person at all and don’t really crave to be, but it would be nice to be able to surf. Or maybe snowboard.

I lack the coordination to ever be able to do either!

Plus surfing is so wet, and snowboarding is so cold.

Does drinking sangria until I fall over count as a sport?


Now it’s your turn! I tag anyone who wants to get involved! Specifically Danni Jane at A Beautiful Thing, Hailey at The Undateable Girl’s Diary, Ellen at What Ellen Wrote and Emmalene from A Brummie Home and Abroad because they all love travel.

But if you’re reading this and want to complete the questions yourself then please do so! Make sure you leave the link to your answers in the comments, so I can be nosy!

Here are the questions:

  • You are leaving tomorrow to start a life in a new country, where would you go?
  • You can take someone for a weekend away to the place you had the best holidays ever, where would that be and who would you take to go with you?
  • You can get married wherever you want to, your budget is limitless, what is your choice?
  • During your travels you can bring back home one animal as a pet, which one would you pick?
  • You can get back in time and relive one family trip, which one?
  • What is the first thing you would pack for a one year travel around the world?
  • What would your fantasy 100th birthday destination be, and why?
  • During your travel you can learn one sport to become a pro, what would that be?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Are you HIV positive?

I bet your immediate response is “absolutely not”. But do you know for sure?

News of Charlie Sheen being HIV positive doesn’t come as a surprise to many people. By his own admission he’s been promiscuous and indulged in drug use.

Charlie Sheen

That’s not to say he deserves to have contracted the disease, as some media outlets and small minded individuals seem to be suggesting.

When rumours began last week about a Hollywood A-Lister about to be exposed, many people’s first thoughts turned to Charlie Sheen. The reporting was dramatic and OTT, and in many ways irresponsible. Such furore serves only to remind people that HIV is still a very stigmatised disease, and does nothing to reassure those who have already been diagnosed that they are accepted in society. Of course it’s a big deal, and our thirst for celebrity news and gossip means that of course there will be interest in the story. But it would have been far better for the media to take the approach of here’s a guy who’s lived a life of fun and is paying a sacrifice for enjoying himself – let’s support him and use his story to educate and inform the general public that this could happen to them. Headlines suggesting Hollywood women were living in fear of who it might be and whether they themselves would be affected were clearly there to garner attention and sales. It was suggested that he’s been practising unprotected sex in the time since his diagnosis and deliberately putting people at risk. Now that he has come forward to tell his own story, he vehemently insists that he hasn’t.

Back to whether or not he deserves it. Only a nasty and sadistic individual would suggest that anyone deserves a life limiting disease (with a few exceptions, of course). No-one truly deserves to live their life with the shadow of disease and an uncertain future hanging over them; not least one that still has the power to turn a person into a social pariah. HIV isn’t sympathised with in the same way as cancer or heart disease. There is still a blame culture around it. Maybe people are trying to say that he openly led a life that put him at higher risk of contracting HIV than your average Joe. And maybe that’s true. But when you’re a world famous film star with money and a love for women and booze, who can honestly say they wouldn’t go crazy once in a while?

In truth it doesn’t matter whether he had unprotected sex thousands of times or just once. The risk may have been higher, the odds more against him, but remember this – HIV happens to people from one sexual encounter with an infected person, or one infected needle. Just once.

HIV and AIDS aren’t at the forefront of most people’s minds when they have unprotected sex. It seems such an uncommon disease; certainly not many people know someone who has contracted HIV (or at least someone who is living with it openly) and so we have that “it won’t happen to me” mentality. Unwanted pregnancy is still at the forefront of most people’s minds; perhaps followed by chlamydia. HIV isn’t talked about. It isn’t in the media and it isn’t in the mainstream, and so it remains this silent elephant in the room that we only consider when we’re faced with it, and then our response is to judge and condemn.

Shame on the people who have been blackmailing him. Shame on them for making him feel guilt and fear. Shame on them for perpetuating the misplaced rumour that HIV is a dirty disease. Shame on them for manipulating him into parting with cold hard cash to keep them quiet about his business, to the point where he has come forward not through choice, but through no choice.

So, what now for Charlie Sheen? Well, he’s now “the famous actor who’s HIV positive”. Which is a real shame, because it wipes out years of his career. Then again he’s been “the famous actor who’s off the rails” for a while, so perhaps it’s a long time since anyone thought of him in terms of his acting prowess.

Hopefully he’ll use his position positively. Because, like it or not, he’s now a figurehead for HIV. In every news article, whether about his illness or not, he’ll be referred to as Charlie Sheen, the HIV positive actor. It shouldn’t be the case, but it’s true. And so hopefully he can remind people not to put themselves at risk, not to put fun before being sensible, not to live a crazy life and screw the consequences. Hopefully he can show that HIV can happen to anyone; not just gay men, not just drug addicts. It doesn’t avoid you because you’re rich and famous. And hopefully he can help to destigmatise what is still an emotive and divisive disease; showing that it can be controlled with medication, that he can still live a full and enjoyable life, and that HIV most certainly is not the same as AIDS.

So, back to the original question. Have you ever been tested? I have. I found out that a boyfriend had been cheating with numerous other girls. For my own peace of mind I decided to get checked out for everything. And sitting there, waiting for the results, was petrifying. The duty of the doctor to tell you that, if the result is positive, you may never get a mortgage or health insurance (I don’t know if that’s till true, this was many years ago). That you could be discriminated against by your employer, your friends and even your family. That everything in your life will change.

It’s hardly surprising that people aren’t keen to share their news.