Taking the Bull-y by the Horns: Tackling Abuse in School

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We have all been bullied in our lives, whether it has been through being teasing, abusive language or actual physical attacks. As much as we wish that the world has changed, it hasn’t much altered in relation to the school playground. Children are still being bullied today. But bullying doesn’t stop there. The name calling stops but the scars left by it can remain for years after; bullying from our past may even affect us today.

In secondary school I was bullied by a group who found it funny to spit on me which led me to gain an anxiety towards saliva; I found it difficult to use the same straw as anyone else when sharing a drink. It took approximately 5 years to overcome this. Another bully I suffered from was more the traditional verbally abusive one who, after school, began dating a close friend of mine. He has no recollection or is simply unapologetic as to what he did to me for 3 years of my life. My friend and him are now engaged with one another which unfortunately has made our friendship slowly dissipate as I don’t feel comfortable being around him. Despite the bullying I suffered from, I was lucky that I was never picked on for my sexuality which so many have been and still are; approximately 25% of lesbian, gay and bisexual students and university employees have been harassed due to their sexual orientation. It is no surprise then that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth have a higher rate of suicide attempts than to heterosexual youth with such famous cases being of Jamey Rodemeyer and Jadin Bell and the creation of the It Gets Better Foundation. However, it is not just gay teens that have been bullied to the extent that they feel their only way out is to commit suicide for example Megan Meier and Amanda Toddboth took their own lives due to the amount of bullying they were subjected to online.

With almost 45,000 children talking to ChildLine about bullying last year and the fact that many children tend to suffer in silence, bullying in schools is a serious issue. It has only gotten worse since the introduction of anonymous messaging on internet sites such as ask.fm. Bullying is not just seen in the playground but on our phones and computers; there is little escape from the harassment. Figures claim that online bullying has risen by a startling 87 per cent in 2012 so it is essential that children know that they are never alone. Bullying may never cease to exist as it is only natural for humanity to set up a social hierarchy whereby those who bully others are top of the pyramid similar to the ideology behind Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Our culture is obsessed with power over others and violence is a primitive response to achieve it. Our only chance to stay strong, find ways to reduce the impact it has on us, remember that all of us have dealt with our own bullies and rejoice in the fact that we have overcome the ordeals they put through. And if we haven’t yet?  Promise ourselves we will be more successful in life than they will be and forgive them. The world already has too much hate in it to hold a grudge.

(Be aware that there are scenes of self-harm some people may find disturbing near the end)

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Insert Part A into Slot B – A Queer Misconception

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A recent interview I read with Russell T. Davies discussing his new drama Cucumber made me realise the assumption that society holds over homosexual relationships; that of anal sex. Anal sex is difficult to discuss without people concerning themselves over it being too graphic or unprofessional. This is mainly to the fact that it is a taboo when in fact discussing it should be just as acceptable as ‘normal’ sex is; if not more important due to this stigma.

Anal sex is usually linked to male homosexuality and gay men are thought to come in two categories; those who are the ‘bottom’ and those who are the ‘top’. This is a lie. Not all gay men actually engage in anal at all, in fact approximately only 36% of men report receiving anal sex and 34% report giving it. It is a choice and studies have suggested that the gay men that do, do not engage in it on a regular basis. Unfortunately this fact is mostly obscured from the general public as to be able to differentiate between the heterosexual ‘Us’ and homosexual ‘Them’ leading many gay men to feel pressured into engaging with anal sex when they may not have done so without societal influence. In this sense gay men may feel coerced into pushing the boundaries as to what they themselves feel comfortable with.

Additionally, the dreaded question all gay men have come to accept; ‘Are you a top or bottom?’ not only suggests that all gay couples participate in anal sex but also furthers that assumption. Especially when many gay sexual relationships do not keep to designated ‘roles’. It is simply tactless to ask such a question; the equal question to a straight couple would be asking what positions they adopt in bed. Not only is it crude but is also tactless to ask such a personal question when first meeting someone. It is as if homosexual men should be comfortable to discuss their sex life with a complete stranger because, once again, the cultural stereotype of a gay man show them to be promiscuous animals who can only talk about sex. This is complete nonsense of course because if all they did talk about was sex then the stigma of gay sex would be non-existent. The question is the catch-22 of the Gay man’s world; straight people want to know about their position in bed but are disgusted to be given more detail than that.

The actual truth is that anal sex is not a gay thing at all; it is true that more gay men do have more of it than straight couples on average but, according to a report in America, 44% of straight men and 36% of straight women admitted to having tried it at least once in their lives. Anal sex is merely a sexual act which came to be associated with the homosexual lifestyle and just like some heterosexual couples do not enjoy the idea of it, the same can be said for gay men.

It is a fact that some people find the thought of two men engaging in anal sex disgusting and so it is possible to see why today the act is still rarely discussed despite the increase in straight couples trying it. Yet, it is essential that the taboo on ‘gay sex’ be lifted. The most dangerous thing about sexual activity is being unprepared and unaware of the risks, thus with no one discussing anal sex puts not only gay men but straight women at risk too.

Fall of the House of Blusher – The Truth Behind Wearing Make-Up

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Foundation, lipstick, eye liner, mascara; the products found in any make-up bag. The question is why? Why are they essentials? We all know of one Oompa-Loompa lookalike who went a little over the top with the bronzer in high school so we already know that too much is just as bad as too little but in reality is there such a thing as too little?

Women are constantly bombarded by adverts, models, newspapers and all other media platforms that they must always wear make-up when leaving the house. Even business women are portrayed as wearing lipstick and mascara implying that make-up leads to success. I can officially say that if an employer is more interested in the products meticulously applied to one’s face then I would not want to work for them. The conformity to what is seen as beautiful should not be what people are hired for because no matter what way you look at it, women would still be objectified by it.

Of course it isn’t a matter of equality exactly. There are products for men such as manscara and guyliner on the market but obviously men who do use them are a minority and therefore are not goaded to do so by society. In fact, we are seeing the need for make-up backwards and inside out. Why should women (and men) wear make-up at all? It is fitting to call one such make-up product ‘concealer’ because it does just that; conceals real beauty. Beauty is down to the imperfections that we all have. Just like the flaws within a snowflake makes it beautiful, the uniqueness of our bodies is what truly makes us attractive.

My good friend Bry once told me that the key to make-up is to wear it without anyone knowing so obviously some feel that make-up gives them confidence or makes them feel good which is a valid point however we must remember that true beauty lies underneath. We shouldn’t rely entirely on cosmetics to define who we are. If we create a society that puts more importance on façades created by the application of foundation and lip gloss where would that leave us? Who would be running our country? (Null and void question – all politicians rely on façades). The truth is we must be sure not to objectify ourselves just to feel normal because as much as we all deny it to each other none of us are in fact normal.

It is time we stop forcing our ideals of beauty on each other, cliché as it may sound, we should be accepting everyone as they are; be it in what they wear, their sexuality or, indeed, what they look like without make-up. It should be up to all of us to decide what empowers us, not those around us. After all pretty is as pretty does.

The Unbearable Bearable

The Bee's Knees

“I have not broken your heart—you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine.” – Wuthering Heights

My head was full of Buffy quotes as I typed.

“No more listening,” I wanted to recite, in the voice of Andrew. “I know who you are now. I know what you made me do. Your promises of happy fields and dancing schnauzers and being demigods won’t work on me anymore.”

It’s a fascinating thing, progressing into your adult years; all the clichés they sing about – heartbreak and confusion – are mostly true. Through an amount of tears I couldn’t have imagined I had stored behind my eyes, I spared a moment for the irony that breaking up does actually feel like your heart is breaking. A few weeks ago, I’d have said I don’t give a sugar for what one ‘should’ do; when you’re in the throes of something…

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5 Most Underrated Marvel Characters of all Time

Squid-Boy (Sammy Paré) 

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A mutant who had the ability to speak and breathe underwater and the unfortunate appearance of a fish, Squid-Boy may not have had the most exciting mutant powers. However, what he lacked in powers he made up with his unquestioning belief that people can change as evidenced by his trust towards Juggernaut (Cain Marko). Squid-Boy arguably was the driving force behind Juggernaut’s sense of conscience and reformation after saving him from drowning and becoming friends. It was this friendship which led Marko to remain with the X-Men.

Squid-Boy only appeared in the X-Men from 2002 to 2004 due to his untimely death by the hands of Black Tom (Tom Cassidy), and the guilt Juggernaut feels for unwittingly leading him to his death is arguably one of the factors as to his decision to join the Thunderbolts.

However, what truly makes his death so saddening was that Sammy Paré died unaware that Juggernaut had neither betrayed him nor the X-men but was in fact tricking Black Tom. Squid-Boy dies hating Juggernaut for something he had not done.

Bova Ayrshire

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Known as the Old Woman on the Hill, Bova is actually a genetically evolved Guernsey cow who is simply a nanny to the High Evolutionary (Herbert Edgar Wyndham) and his ‘New Men’ – other genetically evolved animals Wyndham has created. Originally situated on Wundagore Mountain, Bova helped a sanctuary seeker named Magda give birth to twins before the mother continued up the mountain and perished from the extreme weather. The twins were the mutants Quiksilver (Pietro Maximoff) and Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff). Trying to give the twins a normal life, she unsuccessfully attempted to give the children to Whizzer (Robert Frank) after his wife (Miss America) passes away giving birth (another woman that Bova was midwife for). Therefore Bova fosters the twins as her own until she is able to find a suitable foster family such as the Gypsy couple named Django and Marya Maximoff. Bova once again became a foster mother when Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) woke up on Wundagore with no memory of her past, looking after her until Hydra rescued her from a fleeing mob and brainwashed her into the Hydra agent Arachne.

Bova can be seen as a character that is neither good nor bad; she is simply a midwife and foster mother that looked after a number of future superheroes. She can be seen as a vital character to a number of Marvel heroes but is barely known because she doesn’t regularly appear in the Marvel world. Nonetheless, she is the key to a number of Marvel’s family connections, most significantly Quiksilver and Scarlet Witch’s father.

The Ghost

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A man who uses his ‘ghost-tech’ to turn himself and others he touches invisible or intangible, very little else is known about Ghost including his actual name as well as his true origin. Ghost claims that his boss’ capitalist greed led him to wearing the ‘ghost-tech’ when they killed his girlfriend (who he later found out was hired by the company to keep him working on new technology they could sell for their own profit). However, what makes the Ghost so dangerous is that his anti-Capitalist views added to his knack for computer science and his ghost-tech makes him the ultimate saboteur. He can easily enter high security areas and hack their computers to either gain its information or destroy it. Places such as the Pentagon would be vulnerable to attack as well as the S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier (if not for its ability to fly). Additionally, he makes a threatening hit-man for the same reasons which is why so many shady businesses have hired him for corporate jobs (only to discover that their own corporation would be next).                 

In a country that is the epitome of capitalism, the Ghost is an intimidating enemy who is able to escape arrest time and time again. With very little way to defend against him, it is fortunate that the Ghost seems obsessed with Tony Stark (Iron Man), the one man who can protect against his attacks.

Doop

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The product of a Cold War era U.S. military experiment, Doop is the camera man for the celebrity mutant super team X-Statix. Despite this, he should not be underrated. Doop has the ability to access a nightmare dimension named ‘Doop-Land’ that exists insides himself as well as an untested level of energy projection that can prevent psychic attacks. Additionally, Doop has regenerative powers as well as several other abilities connected to time and space distortion. Although an ally to the X-Men (protecting students at the Jean Grey institute for higher learning) Doop is rather violent character showing no remorse or mercy in killing others as shown in the torture he puts Corkscrew (a mutant driven insane by his power) through before killing him with an axe while smiling. What also makes Doop underrated is the fact that he can hold his own against one of the Avengers’ powerhouses; Thor (Thor Odinson).

It is too easy to see the ‘Slimer-like’ appearance of Doop and assume from his appearance he is simply there to add comical effect but in truth he is more dangerous than most of his associates. An anti-hero in short, he has also been responsible in exposing scandals such as El Guapo’s (Robert Rodriguez) threesome with two models that led to his girlfriend leaving him and his sentient skateboard violently attacking him. It is evident that Doop should not be underrated as to how much damage or good he can ultimately do especially in connection with the amount of power he possesses.

Korvac (Michael Korvac)

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Originally a computer technician that welcomed the hostile invasion of the Badoon on Earth on a parallel universe (Earth-691), Korvac was ‘improved’ by the aliens and made into a cyborg to be a more efficient worker which led him to revolt. After a number of battles with various superheroes, Korvac found himself able to use his cyborg abilities to download Galactus’ central computer information evolving him into a God-like being. Using the Power Cosmic for himself, he gained the potential to wield almost infinite power. He could resuscitate life, time travel, disintegrate foes absorb power from any force and use a variety of mental powers. These skills ultimately made Korvac invincible and invisible to any scans. He was so powerful that the Avengers could not defeat him and most of them perished in the battle until he realised that his wife (Carina) began to doubt him. Korvac decided to commit suicide as he had done everything for Carina and resurrected all the Avengers that had died in the battle. Cheesy as it is, it proves love conquers all.

Despite holding ultimate power and doing the impossible; defeating all the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, Korvac is almost forgotten today. In part this is due to the fact that Korvac was not evil but truly thought his powers could help mankind and was thought to be noble by Moondragon (Heather Douglas). However, if in some way he was resurrected and continued with his plan to conquer Earth, the Avengers would in fact find him a deadly nemesis.

Why Watch… ‘House of Cards’

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A remake of an original British series, the US political drama House of Cards revolves around Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) exacting his revenge against his political peers (including the President) for breaking a promise to make him Secretary of State. He subtly uses, abuses, lies and manipulates those around him in order to gain more power for himself. What makes the series so likeable is that the viewers do not need to be familiar with the American political system in order to understand what is happening unlike many political dramas. Additionally what makes the series unique is that Underwood constantly talks to the viewer directly. It is Spacey’s breaking of the fourth wall that truly makes House of Cards such a series worthy of winning 3 Primetime Emmy Awards for its 1st season.

House of Cards ultimately feels Shakespearean in nature, reminiscent of Macbeth and Hamlet. However, as Shakespearean tragedies always suggest, the more powerful they are, the harder they fall. It is this fact that intrigues the viewer to continue watching Underwood’s subtle machinations in the curiosity as to when or if indeed he will fall. Additionally, the viewer also feels like an accessory to Underwood’s plan to topple the political order as they are the only ones aware of his motives. That is not to say that the viewer knows everything though, being caught up in the web of lies and deceit formed by the Underwoods, blurs the boundaries between the truth and all the lies. The viewer must delve deeper into Frank’s malicious plan in order to find out more.

House of Cards not only focuses on Frank Underwood however. His wife Claire (Robin Wright) also plays a vital role in the series. Owning a charity named ‘The Clean Water Initiative’ she appears to be the opposite of Frank, yet, as the viewer learns quickly with Willimon’s drama, appearances can be deceiving. The series itself proves this; it is ultimately more than a political drama. It focuses on people and the lengths they are willing to go to in order to gain and retain power. Reporters, politicians, families and lovers are all doing anything they can to get what they want.  The series cleverly portrays what the corporate world epitomises; a dog eat dog attitude and those who refuse to play the game are easy targets. Additionally, House of Cards also calls attention to how powerful the media is over politics as well as how fragile the political system can be; so brittle that one man can ultimately manipulate it to his will.

A political thriller for the masses, House of Cards keeps the viewer on the edge of their seats in trepidation. With Season 3 being released on Netflix on 27th February, 2015, there is no better time to watch the two previous seasons portray the dark side of American politics in all its glory.

Confessions of a Graduate – The Pressure to Party Hard

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With so many stereotypes out there, I find myself drawn to having to make clear that university students are not all alike; very few of us are actually drug crazed, alcoholic sex addicts who laze about our halls of residency all day instead of going to our lectures. University is actually extremely hard work and yes, I myself, drink on occasion however my version of hell is something that many my age are arguably pressured by society to partake in; clubbing.

I’d rather an evening in with a bottle of red with some of my close friends discussing local news, individual interests and general joking around (maybe a non-competitive game or two) than in some dimly lit club. I find no satisfaction in yelling over the latest dubstep track to tell my friends that I am going to the bathroom in fear that when I return they will have moved onto the next bar. Only to discover that they have ultimately become like El Dorado; impossible to track down. Thus the night ends with a long, lonely walk home cursing my bladder for failing me.

As you might have guessed, finding little fun in clubbing made the first year of university very difficult thanks to British society’s pressurizing view of what is expected from a university student. Everyone knows (or simply assumes) that is how you make friends there. However, it is not the only way. In fact, usually the people you meet out while partying remain strangers because you barely know anything about them other than the type of drink they like to consume at a bar. The beauty of university is that it encompasses so many different people that you might otherwise never meet. I know for a fact that there are others like me who do not find the art of clubbing something they want to partake in. In that sense I am not alone.

We may be the forgotten; those who are perhaps a minority within our age group. We are ignored because we do not fit the stereotype of the lazy, dubstep crazed uni student. So next time someone makes an assumption that everyone my age likes Sambuca, hangovers and drunken orgies, please think of me and my friends enjoying our quiet nights in enjoying our youth our own way.