ParalympicsGB gave in too easily to Royal Mail

No individual commemorative stamps for the paralympic team.

It is not the fact that the Royal Mail have said they will not produce stamps for each Team GB Paralympic gold medal-winner which is annoying (although it is). What has really got my goat is the supine way ParalympicsGB has accepted it.

In a post on their website, they said:

"In Beijing, ParalympicsGB won 42 gold medals over 10 days of competition, including nine in one day, and we are expecting a similarly world-class level of performance from our athletes this time around. As a result, it is logistically and practically impossible for Royal Mail to produce an individual stamp for every one of the gold medallists for ParalympicsGB."

So because our Paralympians are *better* than our Olympians they should get *less* recognition? Where's the logic in that?

You can be damn sure that if by some stroke of skill, luck and genius the Olympic team won 42 gold medals there'd be stamps of all of them. And how hard can it be to produce 42 stamps when they're already producing a minimum of 22 for the Olympics?

Yes, Paralympians get gold postboxes in their hometowns, and there will be a series of six stamps celebrating our winners, but when LOCOG has done very well to place the Olympics and Paralympics on equal terms, giving our able-bodied and disabled athletes the same measure of respect, this difference becomes all the more noticeable.

The truth is, the Royal Mail doesn't think that the public will be interested in Paralympic winners like Olympic winners, despite the Paralympics producing such stars as Tanni Grey-Thompson and (for South Africa) Oscar Pistorius. What's worse is ParalympicsGB seems to accept that, giving feeble gratitude for the little recognition it feels it deserves.

Paralympic achievements are no less than Olympic achievements and Paralympic athletes deserve no less recognition and support - especially from their own team.

Josh Spero is the editor of Spear's

An Olympic stamp. Photograph, Getty Images

Josh Spero is the editor of Spear's magazine.

Photo: Getty
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Ann Summers can’t claim to empower women when it is teaming up with Pornhub

This is not about mutual sexual fulfilment, it is about eroticising women’s pain. 

I can’t understand why erotic retailers like Ann Summers have persisted into the twenty-first century. The store claims to be “sexy, daring, provocative and naughty”, and somewhat predictably positions itself as empowering for women. As a feminist of the unfashionable type, I can’t help but be suspicious of any form of sexual liberation that can be bought or sold.

And yet, I’d never really thought of Ann Summers as being particularly threatening to the rights of women, more just a faintly depressing reflection of heteronormativity. This changed when I saw they’d teamed-up with Pornhub. The website is reputedly the largest purveyor of online pornography in the world. Pornhub guidelines state that content flagged as  “illegal, unlawful, harassing, harmful, offensive” will be removed. Nonetheless, the site still contains simulated incest and rape with some of the more easily published film titles including “Exploited Teen Asia” (236 million views) and “How to sexually harass your secretary properly” (10.5 million views.)  With campaigns such as #metoo and #timesup are sweeping social media, it seems bizarre that a high street brand would not consider Pornhub merchandise as toxic.

Society is still bound by taboos: our hyper-sexual society glossy magazines like Teen Vogue offer girls tips on receiving anal sex, while advice on pleasuring women is notably rare. As an unabashed wanker, I find it baffling that in the year that largely female audiences queued to watch Fifty Shades Darker, a survey revealed that 20 per cent of U.S. women have never masturbated. It is an odd truth that in our apparently open society, any criticism of pornography or sexual practices is shut down as illiberal. 

Guardian-reading men who wring their hands about Fair Trade coffee will passionately defend the right to view women being abused on film. Conservative men who make claims about morals and marriage are aroused by images that in any other setting would be considered abuse. Pornography is not only misogynistic, but the tropes and language are often also racist. In what other context would racist slurs and scenarios be acceptable?

I have no doubt that some reading this will be burning to point out that feminist pornography exists. In name of course it does, but then again, Theresa May calls herself a feminist when it suits. Whether you believe feminist pornography is either possible or desirable, it is worth remembering that what is marketed as such comprises a tiny portion of the market. This won’t make me popular, but it is worth remembering feminism is not about celebrating every choice a woman makes – it is about analysing the social context in which choices are made. Furthermore, that some women also watch porn is evidence of how patriarchy shapes our desire, not that pornography is woman-friendly.  

Ann Summers parts the net curtains of nation’s suburban bedrooms and offers a glimpse into our peccadillos and preferences. That a mainstream high street retailer blithely offers guidance on hair-pulling, whipping and clamps, as well as a full range of Pornhub branded products is disturbing. This is not about women’s empowerment or mutual sexual fulfilment, it is about eroticising women’s pain. 

We are living in a world saturated with images of women and girls suffering; to pretend that there is no connection between pornography and the four-in-ten teenage girls who say they have been coerced into sex acts is naive in the extreme. For too long the state claimed that violence in the home was a domestic matter. Women and girls are now facing an epidemic of sexual violence behind bedroom doors and it is not a private matter. We need to ask ourselves which matters more: the sexual rights of men or the human rights of women?