I’ve known my mum for 24 years:

12 years alive. 2 years ill. 10 years dead. 10 years today, infact.

July 6th 2007 at somewhere around 2pm - I was sat on a bench eating pick and mix with my cousin, and my mother-daughter relationship changed again, forever. 

There’s a lot of things I don’t know about my mum. There’s a lot of things I can’t know. 10 years is a long time to stay exactly the same, maybe she’d have changed? We’d definitely have changed, I’m not a raging force of hormones anymore. I’d hazard a guess that our relationship would be easier now. 

Here’s what I do know about my mum - I always wanted to be her, I still want to be her, but I could never work out how. My mum was calm, kind, content and introverted. I’m loud, opinionated and an introvert living a pretty extroverted existence that’s been masking a lot of pain. That’s all changed - I’ve worked out how. 

I never saw a place in the world for feminism, because of my mum. She commanded her space and no one could argue with that, especially not men. I now realise there’s a world outside of my mum, I’ve been living it for 10 years. But still for a long time I couldn’t really align my thoughts to a feminist movement. In my childhood I’d never experienced male dominance, so I grew up not considering it to be an issue in my environment - that actually lead me into some pretty dangerous situations, but that’s another blog.

My mum only wore makeup if she wanted to, only shaved if she wanted to, only dressed up if she wanted to, only smiled if she wanted to. Most of the time she didn’t want to - except the smiling, she had a lot to smile about - and that was okay.

It didn’t matter. Not to her, not to me, not to my dad, not to anyone else. Imagine just being yourself and that’s okay? Turns out, it’s a thing! She had her insecurities, but I only discovered this from a diary entry in 1985 that said ‘I feel fat today’. The next day - she’d smashed a job interview. The day after - she was excited because she’d painted the lounge. And she didn’t feel fat enough again in 1985 to diarise it. 

Aside from all of this, she took my ridiculous teenage, life defining insecurities in her stride. She let me wear makeup, shave, dress up and all the rest of it. She didn’t make a big fuss of it, it was okay to be me. She knew that wouldn’t be forever, and I know she wished that she’d get to see that weight lift from me as I got older. She didn’t get to see that. But she’s the sole reason that I can sit here now, 10 years on, and say that I’ve achieved what I always wanted. I feel more my mum now than I’ve ever felt.

My mum left a mark on me that I never even realised until a year ago, she was an ugly girl. Being an ugly girl is one of the most important and definitive things about me. 

When Hillary came to me a year ago with our manifesto, everything clicked. This is how the feminist movement represents me. This is where I see inequality in our society, this is the solution that I want to bring to the table. When we talk about my mum we very rarely comment on her appearance. Beauty is a given, but she brought so much more than that to the world. Yes, we may only cover a very small part of what it is to be a female. But it’s allowed me to reconnect with a woman I was scared to lose, and allowed me to connect with women I’d never have met. I feel empowered. This is exactly why feminism is important, I haven’t felt alone since we started. 

Equality for EVERYONE starts from within and radiates outwards. Alyson Barbara Leverton left the greatest of legacies. Command Your Space. 


Alice Leverton


I don’t really want to write this. It feels a bit personal, a bit close to home, a bit attacking. It feels too grey – half consensual, half not. Half good, half not. But maybe it is the uncomfortable in-betweens we need to talk more about. The moments of pleasure laced with pain, the points where things that were okay all of sudden weren’t. The moments where your hands wrapped around my throat and I could no longer tell whether or not you wanted to fuck me or just hurt me. Maybe it is these conversations that are worth having.

You see, as soon as you start bringing criticism into the most gratifying, and sacred, and wonderful acts, you run the risk of swallowing the hardest truth of all. The awful, unflinching truth of how men as a whole have hurt women as a whole. And how even between the most gentle and considerate and passionate of lovers, one single movement can trigger centuries of trauma, embodied so deeply, the individual relationship barely registers enough to make it tolerable.

And this is how I felt. I felt scared. And I felt powerless. Because if you really wanted to hurt me, you could have. And I wouldn’t have been able to do fucking anything about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I like rough sex, as a general rule. But that’s the problem right, the general? Because sometimes I don’t. Sometimes when I don’t know you or trust you or love you, I don’t. I don’t like your hands around my neck. I don’t like you slapping me or pulling my hair. I don’t like you getting me only wet enough to shove yourself inside me. And I especially don’t like thinking that this is most likely how you’ve been taught to fuck women, and how they’ve probably never felt strong or desired or culturally valuable enough to disagree.

Because nobody wants to tell the man they are shagging that he is too rough, and that his version of sex is fucking degrading, and that you are literally praying for him to cum so this awful attempt at pleasure can cease to involve you. Especially, especially when you actually care about him. When outside the four walls of your bedroom, he is legitimately a nice guy, and what’s more, a nice guy who genuinely cares for you. No, you don’t want to tell him that his 3-1 ratio of orgasms is just plain old bad fucking manners, and yes, consent is sexy. Especially if he feels inclined to bring his cache of pornographic tricks into your sheets and quite literally up and inside your body. Then yeah, he should probably want to ask if it feels good.

The politics of trauma are blurry and complex and fucking messy. It is less about the individual, and more about the structural. The structural violence committed against women – the very real, and very terrifying fact, that most women experience sexual or domestic abuse at some point in their lives. The very real, and very terrifying fact, that most porn is less concerned with what feels good and safe for women than what looks arousing and pleasurable for men. The very real, and very terrifying fact, that most women have been virgin-fetishished, slut-shamed, or sexually objectified by every form of authority that pretends to care for them. The politics of trauma functions in a way that every act committed against women outside of the bedroom inevitably becomes a trigger for their emotional well-being within the bedroom. And yes, if they do not orgasm but you do, you have indirectly told them that their pleasure is worth less than yours. That what constitutes sex is your ejaculation, full stop.

And when you are rough with them in bed without their consent, you are assuming that they have never been violently touched before, that their best friend hasn’t been raped before, that their bodies have never been viciously thrown about before. You are assuming that in a culture where sexual and domestic abuse are devastatingly common rather than rare, that they do not have a multitude of triggers that inform how safe and sexually empowered they are. And I am not blaming you, I am truly not. Like I said, structural sexism does not inform every individual. The truth is most probably you love women, you care about their needs and their desires, you want them to feel protected and worthwhile and sexually satisfied. But if, perhaps, the first thing you want to do when you sleep with a woman is choke her out, then maybe you need to reconsider your relationship to that structure. And, if not, that doesn’t mean that the suffocating hand of patriarchal rule that has quite literally shamed and silenced her for thousands of years disappears because you do not personally adhere to it.

What it does mean is that you should tread carefully, always. You should defy, dismantle and smash the very systems and behaviours that oppress women. And you should always, always ask for consent before engaging in any act that might trigger a multitude of misogynistic wounds that haven’t quite had time to heal and perhaps in your lifetime won’t be able to. It means being more gentle than you think necessary, and more giving than you think equitable. And it means asking for feedback and taking it, without anger and defensiveness, without guilt-tripping and reverse-critiquing, but with complete willingness despite the fact that it is fucking uncomfortable and you would rather be personally absolved from it than accept yourself as systematic collateral in it. And it means having awkward conversations about those in-between moments, those grey areas, those half-good, half-not encounters because without them change will struggle to become meaningful, and sex will remain to be a space where raw, long-embodied and dormant traumas continue to rise to the surface.


- Frances 




Oh sweet Lord the pressures of virginity when you’re in your teens is not something I miss whatsoever. There’s always been quite a strange duality surrounding virginity, especially in young women, where your first time must be some sort of mythical, magical experience doused in rose petals and ‘So…Kiss Me’ body spray while a white muslin curtain gently blows over your bodies as you fall into an eternal bliss of self-love and orgasm… But also you better lose it as soon as humanly possible so that you’re not some sort of frigid loser.

I remember even as early as my year 7 Design Technology class, an air of competition began when it came to the concept of sex and virginity. I remember in this very class being asked if I knew what a blowjob was by one of the most intimidating boys in my year, and as my flushing red face told everyone the real truth, I adamantly insisted “yes, of course I know what a blow job is”. What I was really thinking was that I had absolutely no idea what the fuck it was and oh my god it sounds awful. 

This theme of competition and peacocking continues well through school and even into college when you’re all supposed to be responsible grownups that have finally made the adult decision of which brand of tobacco you’re going to be loyal to. I was a bit of a late bloomer I suppose, and I remember my friends being absolutely desperate for me to lose my virginity, and in a lot of ways so was I.  So I did. And it was fine, but more importantly it was over and my friends left me alone about it.

The issues with virginity transcend gender; everyone has had that moment where you’re asked directly if you’re still a virgin, and nothing was mentioned in your sex education class about what to say. It also seemed to be very important to know every position, every element of foreplay and every sex toy available at Anne Summers. Yet at the same time, the hierarchy of school life dictated that actually being active within any of these things made you gross or a slut. It seems to me that these pressures stem around the taboo in sex education that sex is actually a pleasurable thing and that we all may end up doing it because... dun dun duuun we enjoy it.  

If everyone was actually just honest about the fact that we were all terrified at the notion of sexual activity, we would all have had an easier time. But that didn’t seem to be how it worked and as time wore on, the pressures developed and changed. If you entered college a virgin, you started getting left behind by your peers and it felt like you had a big neon ‘V’ floating above your head like a distressed Sim.

The truth was, which seems to be something only hindsight can give you, is that everyone takes different amounts of time to do certain things; I for example, am always the last person to finish my dinner, and that’s totally fine. There should be no shame surrounding your sexual experience or lack thereof, because, unsurprisingly, we’re all individuals with different sets of boundaries, likes and dislikes. Looking back now, it’s a really stressful aspect of being young, and it feels like it’s one of the most important things you should do in the world, second to not being the only one that forgets its non-uniform day. Whether you regret the timing of your virginity or not, luckily it was only the beginning; all it does is get better.


Annie North