Why Ann Summers' Halloween and Christmas kink is just another way of policing your sex life

If you walk past Ann Summers' shop window at the moment, you’ll get the distinct impression that, even if it’s cold as a witch’s tit outside, you can have a hot Halloween in the boudoir. So why does none of it actually feel that much fun?

In the countryside, it’s easy to tell what time of year it is because of how the sheep are crying. Late winter: crying because they’re giving birth. Late summer: crying because their lambs have been removed for slaughter. Rest of the time: just crying because they’re sheep and they don’t know what else to do. In the city, though, you have to look for different signs to mark the rhythm of life, and you’ll find those signs in the window of Ann Summers.

Whatever the festival, Ann Summers has a sexy get up to get you up for it. Right now that means that if you walk past the shop window, you’ll get the distinct impression that, even if it’s cold as a witch’s tit outside, you can have a hot Halloween in the boudoir. All you need to do is invest in the correct confection of underwiring and lace scraps, and you could be trick or treating your way to ecstasy.

And it’s not just All Hallows’ Eve that you can mark with some themed penetration. For Christmas, you can dress up as a Sexy Santa or Santa’s Little Helper. Either one, I imagine, feels just as exciting after a day’s slog in the kitchen followed by a turkey feast topped off with a heavy evening at the cheese board: what could be sexier, after all the planning and sweating, than yet more heavily planned sweating with your Celebrations-distended midriff framed between a red suspender skirt and Mrs Claus’ fur-trimmed balconette?

The Easter display generally consists of bunny girl-alike costumes and shopfront-appropriate allusions to the erogenous zone-busting vibrator known as the Rampant Rabbit. None of this calendar-appropriate kink feels like all that much fun, to be honest. For all the sexiness on show, you might as well tape two small fluffy wireframe chicks to your nipples as pasties and coat your mons in a melted Easter egg.

The Ann Summers window displays are, I’m sure, supposed to be cheekily charming. What they feel like instead is one more harrying item on the bloody to-do list: carve the pumpkin, make the costumes for the kids if you have any (no, they won’t be happy as a ghost), run to the corner shop for extra Haribo in case the trick-or-treaters come and then – then, when you’ve done all that! – slip into something mildly demonic for a bit of Satan-stirring action.

Sex is a delightful thing. Dressing up too. But the leery gaze of the mass retail sex shop window is only asking you to see the insufficiencies in yourself and your relationships: are you getting enough, and is what you’re getting sufficiently kinky? Maybe you should have more, or kinkier? And whether it’s Christmas, Easter or Halloween, wouldn’t right now be the perfect time to spring your newly accessorised libido on your partner? Like the drone of an overloud vibrator, the hum of contrived dissatisfaction drives into your bed and makes you think: maybe if I bought that erotic goop, that gadget, that scrap of eyelets and satin, maybe then I could be having all the sex I’m supposed to be having?

The amount you’re supposed to be having is, of course, the amount that makes you happy – give or take some adjustment for the happiness of whoever you’re in a relationship with. There is no “enough times a year/week/night” figure that would allow you to declare yourself empirically satisfied – and even if there were, the adult toy vendors and the push-up pushers and the massage-oil slickers wouldn’t want you to know what it is. They just want you to want more, so you’ll buy more. There are companies whose business is in telling you you’re not getting all the pleasure you need. Don’t listen to them: your pleasure lies in knowing when you’ve got just the amount of business you want.

Ann Summers even has a display for National Nurses' Day. Image: Getty

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.

Photo: Getty Images/AFP
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Is Yvette Cooper surging?

The bookmakers and Westminster are in a flurry. Is Yvette Cooper going to win after all? I'm not convinced. 

Is Yvette Cooper surging? The bookmakers have cut her odds, making her the second favourite after Jeremy Corbyn, and Westminster – and Labour more generally – is abuzz with chatter that it will be her, not Corbyn, who becomes leader on September 12. Are they right? A couple of thoughts:

I wouldn’t trust the bookmakers’ odds as far as I could throw them

When Jeremy Corbyn first entered the race his odds were at 100 to 1. When he secured the endorsement of Unite, Britain’s trade union, his odds were tied with Liz Kendall, who nobody – not even her closest allies – now believes will win the Labour leadership. When I first tipped the Islington North MP for the top job, his odds were still at 3 to 1.

Remember bookmakers aren’t trying to predict the future, they’re trying to turn a profit. (As are experienced betters – when Cooper’s odds were long, it was good sense to chuck some money on there, just to secure a win-win scenario. I wouldn’t be surprised if Burnham’s odds improve a bit as some people hedge for a surprise win for the shadow health secretary, too.)

I still don’t think that there is a plausible path to victory for Yvette Cooper

There is a lively debate playing out – much of it in on The Staggers – about which one of Cooper or Burnham is best-placed to stop Corbyn. Team Cooper say that their data shows that their candidate is the one to stop Corbyn. Team Burnham, unsurprisingly, say the reverse. But Team Kendall, the mayoral campaigns, and the Corbyn team also believe that it is Burnham, not Cooper, who can stop Corbyn.

They think that the shadow health secretary is a “bad bank”: full of second preferences for Corbyn. One senior Blairite, who loathes Burnham with a passion, told me that “only Andy can stop Corbyn, it’s as simple as that”.

I haven’t seen a complete breakdown of every CLP nomination – but I have seen around 40, and they support that argument. Luke Akehurst, a cheerleader for Cooper, published figures that support the “bad bank” theory as well.   Both YouGov polls show a larger pool of Corbyn second preferences among Burnham’s votes than Cooper’s.

But it doesn’t matter, because Andy Burnham can’t make the final round anyway

The “bad bank” row, while souring relations between Burnhamettes and Cooperinos even further, is interesting but academic.  Either Jeremy Corbyn will win outright or he will face Cooper in the final round. If Liz Kendall is eliminated, her second preferences will go to Cooper by an overwhelming margin.

Yes, large numbers of Kendall-supporting MPs are throwing their weight behind Burnham. But Kendall’s supporters are overwhelmingly giving their second preferences to Cooper regardless. My estimate, from both looking at CLP nominations and speaking to party members, is that around 80 to 90 per cent of Kendall’s second preferences will go to Cooper. Burnham’s gaffes – his “when it’s time” remark about Labour having a woman leader, that he appears to have a clapometer instead of a moral compass – have discredited him in him the eyes of many. While Burnham has shrunk, Cooper has grown. And for others, who can’t distinguish between Burnham and Cooper, they’d prefer to have “a crap woman rather than another crap man” in the words of one.

This holds even for Kendall backers who believe that Burnham is a bad bank. A repeated refrain from her supporters is that they simply couldn’t bring themselves to give Burnham their 2nd preference over Cooper. One senior insider, who has been telling his friends that they have to opt for Burnham over Cooper, told me that “faced with my own paper, I can’t vote for that man”.

Interventions from past leaders fall on deaf ears

A lot has happened to change the Labour party in recent years, but one often neglected aspect is this: the Labour right has lost two elections on the bounce. Yes, Ed Miliband may have rejected most of New Labour’s legacy and approach, but he was still a protégé of Gordon Brown and included figures like Rachel Reeves, Ed Balls and Jim Murphy in his shadow cabinet.  Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham were senior figures during both defeats. And the same MPs who are now warning that Corbyn will doom the Labour Party to defeat were, just months ago, saying that Miliband was destined for Downing Street and only five years ago were saying that Gordon Brown was going to stay there.

Labour members don’t trust the press

A sizeable number of Labour party activists believe that the media is against them and will always have it in for them. They are not listening to articles about Jeremy Corbyn’s past associations or reading analyses of why Labour lost. Those big, gamechanging moments in the last month? Didn’t change anything.

100,000 people didn’t join the Labour party on deadline day to vote against Jeremy Corbyn

On the last day of registration, so many people tried to register to vote in the Labour leadership election that they broke the website. They weren’t doing so on the off-chance that the day after, Yvette Cooper would deliver the speech of her life. Yes, some of those sign-ups were duplicates, and 3,000 of them have been “purged”.  That still leaves an overwhelmingly large number of sign-ups who are going to go for Corbyn.

It doesn’t look as if anyone is turning off Corbyn

Yes, Sky News’ self-selecting poll is not representative of anything other than enthusiasm. But, equally, if Yvette Cooper is really going to beat Jeremy Corbyn, surely, surely, she wouldn’t be in third place behind Liz Kendall according to Sky’s post-debate poll. Surely she wouldn’t have been the winner according to just 6.1 per cent of viewers against Corbyn’s 80.7 per cent. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.