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The Brexit paper on science reads like a bad Taylor Swift break-up song

I don't like your little games... The role you made me play.

This week the Department for Exiting the European Union published a paper outlining its vision for future collaboration between the EU and the UK on "major science, research, and technology initiatives".

The paper has been criticised by scientists as vague and unrealistic. It also fails to reassure the science community over financial commitments to Horizon 2020 (the EU's biggest research and innovation fund of which the UK is a major recipient), or the status of EU researchers already working in this country. 

Simultaneously conceited and forlorn, the paper appears to have taken inspiration from the work of Taylor Swift – as just like the pop star's songs, there's lots to read between the lines:

The document starts with a series of boasts

Just so you know... we have "four of the world’s top ten universities" and "with only... 4.1 percent of researchers, the UK accounted for 15.9 percent of the world’s most highly cited articles in 2013".

This is a confident start. Though it does fail to mention how much of that success has been built on the work of EU or cooperation with EU institutions. 

Look, we don't need your money – we have our own

"Furthermore, this Government’s manifesto made a commitment to raise research and development (R&D) spending as a proportion of GDP to 2.4 percent by 2027, and to 3 percent over the longer term".

While welcomed by scientists, some, such as the deputy director for the Campaign for Science and Engineering Naomi Weir, doubt whether this increased investment will make up for the uncertainties thrown up by Brexit.

You need us more than we need you

"The share of EU co-authored publications in the top 10 per cent of highly cited publications is higher when collaborating with the UK.

"The UK is a top five collaboration partner for each of the other 27 Member States".

This message seems at odds with the Government's leaked Brexit immigration papers which, say "wherever possible, UK employers should look to meet their labour needs from resident labour". Who are all these UK researchers working with non-resident labour?!

Remember everything we’ve been through

"The UK and the EU start from a position of close regulatory alignment, trust in one another’s institutions, and a spirit of co-operation stretching back decades."

Which is all be in jeopardy as a result of one relationship-ending vote. The paper cites the success of partnerships between the UK and EU countries on medical research, the space program and civil nuclear research. It does not outline how the government hopes to retain these partnerships outside the EU, only that they hope to do so. 

We're special – you know we're special!

"Given the UK’s unique relationship with European science and innovation, the UK would also like to explore forging a more ambitious and close partnership with the EU than any yet agreed between the EU and a non-EU country."

The paper makes several references to precedents set by partnerships between the EU and other non-EU states, but here seems to suggest that not only is it a given that the UK will receive similar treatment post-Brexit, but can somehow expect a more a favourable one. 

You're not like the rest of them

"The government has made clear that, although freedom of movement will cease to apply in the UK, the UK will continue to welcome the brightest and best, and as such, migration between the UK and the EU will continue after the UK leaves the EU."

Ignore our leaked immigration documents that say we don't want you to be joined by your family here. They're not the "brightest and the best" – you are! Michael Arthur, the Provost of UCL (one of the four top universities mentioned by the government earlier in the report) recently said that 95 per cent of his senior researchers had been approached by other European institutions. 

We won't be messed about with

"Looking ahead to a strong future relationship, both the UK and the European Commission have been clear that they expect the fair treatment of UK researchers and firms."

No indication of how the Government expect to ensure this "fair treatment". Maybe they should read Trump's "The Art of the Deal". Talking about America... 

We don't even really need you

"Some of the UK’s most important collaborators lie outside the EU, notably the US (as the UK’s top research partner), Australia, China, Canada and Japan."

The paper points out that the Government is investing £100 million into the Rutherford Fund to attract researchers from countries such as India, China and Brazil. The potential loss of £1bn from the EU's Horizon 2020 project was not discussed...

Much like Taylor Swift herself, the UK government seems convinced that whatever the impact of ending this intense relationship, our scientists will simply be able to Shake It Off.

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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?