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)

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.

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.

Confessions of a Graduate – Replacing your Dissertation with the Dishes

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Growing up is hard. Age and experience seemingly go hand in hand yet no one discusses how they can also rub against one another like a new shoe one size too small on the back of a heel. The end of our university lives is one such moment which can twist and corrupt the link between what we have experienced as independent adults living in a scummy university residency and returning back ‘home’ with the parents.

You begin the first year of university life as a scared child who spends half that year feeling uncontrollably homesick scared of the change of surroundings (something I assume devout Conservatives feel concerning British Politics and society).   You find yourself constantly reminded that you are just one phone call away from returning back home to the safety of the room you once called yours for almost two decades. However, as you get used to the surroundings and grow more confident in yourself, university life doesn’t seem so…BIG! Before you know it you have made friends that aren’t just the ‘acquaintances’ you were thrown into student halls with; they are your uni family.

Soon enough though your degree comes to an end, your friends all go their separate ways and you find yourself returning back home to that room you spent so much of your life in. Granted you have returned to it several times before during university holidays yet something is different this time. The walls seem closer, the atmosphere seems less welcoming, the things you held so dear in there feel like they belong to a different person now. You have outgrown this room. To step one foot back inside feels like relinquishing all freedom and responsibility you held for three years. The sense of regressing to a time before university lays alert in the back of your mind, reminding you that this house is not home, it is a cell. You must get out! You must escape! You need your freedom and your only chance for this is getting a job.

Now sitting in my old room on my bed surrounded by the memorabilia of my childhood and pictures of my uni family and I on Facebook, it dawns on me that I am wrong about the whole situation. This room is not my prison. Sure, I may not be employed right now perhaps in part due to being over qualified for any jobs in my home town. There is the risk that I will leave as soon as a graduate position opens up somewhere else (which in all honesty is probably true) but with employment comes a lack of freedom as well. Granted, I must live under my parent’s rule and do things as they wish them to be done but they are my family. The key is to remain positive. After all, I must remember that, although it feels like I have reverted back to childhood, I have already grown from that small, insecure boy taking his first steps into Portsmouth’s James Watson Halls into the man you see before you and he refuses to give up.

Gay Rights: The Forgotten Movement

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Let’s face it, the British education system could be worse, granted we have had some ‘interesting’ characters attempting to ‘improve’ it but in all honesty the average person on the street would make more an improvement than Gove ever did. In fact, here’s something I think would be worth adding to a specification in education – I call it the forgotten movement.

We are taught two major equal rights movements in school; Black Civil Rights and Women’s suffrage in the early 20th century. We are encouraged to remember those who struggled to achieve them such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Emily Pankhurst but one such movement that is denied much exposure is the Gay rights movement.  Are we to assume that people who fought for gay equality such as Harvey Milk and the Wolfenden Committee (a group I am certain a number of us have never even heard about) are not as important as the names we can all recall from our history classes? 

I must make clear that I do not believe that teachers are to blame for this overlook as I am perfectly aware that they already have a tough enough job being expected to teach troublemaking students and dealing with irate parents who do not understand that teachers cannot be blamed for their children skipping school and getting bad grades. I blame the education sector itself! Perhaps it is due to Thatcher’s introduction of Section 28 in Britain which banned the teaching of homosexuality in fear of promoting it in 1986 until its long needed abolishment in 2003 which has left a gap in the education sector. However, can we truly accept that such a major movement is still being ignored in all history specifications for over a decade now? With the upcoming release of Warchus’ Pride this year, could there soon be a change to this in the classroom?

Organizations such as Stonewall seem to have been just that; ‘Stonewalled’ out of children’s education and instead they have, under Gove’s ruling, been indoctrinated into the Church of England through the introduction of King James Bibles throughout British schools. It seems to me that rather than children becoming ‘corrupted’ for learning about homosexual liberal rights they have been forced to accept religious doctrine in school. The smell of hypocrisy is stagnant.

Shouldn’t we be enforcing equal rights in school? It is no wonder so many people remain in the closet for so long. Just because homosexuality is not as obvious to see as skin colour or gender does not mean it is not just as important. In fact, it is quite significant because of the fact that it can’t be seen. We can’t allow our children to grow up the repressed and naïve way we did. We all know someone in school that was bullied for being different, some of us even were that kid so surely the possibility to educate kids about what it means to be gay and what homosexuals have fought for in order to prevent just one kid from being verbally abused with homophobic slurs is worth the change.