Friday, 30 July 2010


What was John Ruskin thinking on his unhappy wedding night?
Legend says the greatest Victorian was put off sex by the sight of his wife's naked body. A new film will try to establish the truth.

The Observer, Sunday 14 March 2010 Vanessa Thorpe

The secret at the heart of the short-lived, notoriously unconsummated marriage of John Ruskin, the great artist, architect, poet and political thinker of the Victorian age, has baffled fans of his work for a century. United on his wedding night in April 1848 with Effie Gray, the girl who had been the object of some of his most beautiful writing during their courtship, something went badly wrong.

A feature film is due go into production written by Emma Thompson and starring the Oscar-nominated Carey Mulligan in the role of Gray. Together with a new book by Ruskin expert Robert Hewison, it will attempt to clear up the speculation surrounding the sex life of the man sometimes referred to as "the greatest Victorian".

"The wedding night was clearly a failure," said Hewison, author of Ruskin on Venice. "What subsequently happened was that they realised they had made a mistake so made an agreement to postpone consummation."

The popular idea that the groom was shocked by the sight of his bride's pubic hair, first suggested by an earlier Ruskin biographer, Mary Lutyens, is a fallacy, believes Hewison.

"The whole pubic hair nonsense is like a great big wall preventing people understanding Ruskin," he said. "The idea that he did not know what women looked like is a nonsense. It is frankly irritating."

The film reflects a growing interest in the Romantic era. Last year the television series Desperate Romantics took a light-hearted look at Ruskin and the circle of artists he championed, including John Everett Millais, Leigh Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The BBC2 drama was a parody of an incestuous "brotherhood" that saw Millais eventually marry Gray, the ex-wife of his former mentor.

Ruskin, who was born in 1819, knew JMW Turner, Thomas Carlyle and Lewis Carroll and was responsible for much of the most innovative thinking of his day. He began writing at 15 and won the prestigious Newdigate Prize for poetry as a student. In 1836-37 his work The Poetry of Architecture was serialised in London's Architectural Magazine and, six years later, he anonymously published the first volume of his major work, Modern Painters. Yet all this early achievement has been boiled down to one night of sorrow in the bedroom.

Hewison points out that, since divorce was not legal, Ruskin's claim of "incurable impotency" was the one secure way of separating from Gray.

Thompson's husband, Greg Wise, who will produce the film and play the part of Ruskin, has been fascinated by the life of the eminent polymath since his time as an architecture student in Edinburgh: "He is a pin-up for many artists and was Gandhi's hero too. Whether on the wedding night Effie dropped her night-dress and revealed herself to be far from the physical ideal Ruskin had imagined, we will probably never know for sure, but I think it is too easy to say that he was terrified of intimacy."

In the screenplay for Effie, which Wise and Thompson hope to start shooting next month in Venice and Scotland, the wedding night is a key plot point. "We will show that night at the start, but it doesn't play itself out until the very end. I have talked to many different Ruskinians and they all have a slightly different take on it."

In a famed letter to her parents, Effie claimed her husband found her "person" repugnant. "He alleged various reasons, hatred to children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and finally this last year he told me his true reason... that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April."

During the annulment proceedings, Ruskin made the statement that: "It may be thought strange that I could abstain from a woman who to most people was so attractive. But though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it."

Wise has found that Ruskin scholars tend to dislike Effie and see the marriage "as a six-year hiccup in the great man's progress".

"We have tried to stick to what Effie wrote about the incident," he said, "but you never really know if Ruskin had set her up for it in some way. She had to go to the ecclesiastical court to get a divorce, so if nothing else you have to admire the strength of character of this girl."

After a trip to Scotland with Millais, Gray and the artist became close, later marrying and raising a large family.

For Wise, the Ruskins' wedding night is a symptom of the universal problem of the difference between an idealised image and reality.

"In the same way now that men are bombarded with images of what is supposed to be the ideal woman, after the Pre-Raphaelite ideal, anything is going to be a let down. Real life is wrinkles and smells."

Wise believes Ruskin became fixated with Effie and the idea of being in love before the marriage. He and Thompson asked Mulligan to take the part before her success in An Education.

"Carey has a rare quality of being open and unfettered," he said. "At the time Effie said she would have borne anything, had Ruskin just been kind. But I can't play him as an ogre because the audience need to understand why she married this man."

While Ruskin's personal reputation remains confused, his impact as a thinker is clear. Admired by the novelist Marcel Proust, who helped to translate his work for the French, a number of Utopian colonies were set up in Canada and America in honour of his ideas and some still bear his name. He coined several literary and architectural terms and inspired a school of neo-Gothic architecture.

By the end of the 1850s Ruskin had developed theories about social justice which fed into the Labour party and had written a series of pamphlets, 'Fors Clavigera', for the "working men of England". He was the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford and Ruskin College is named after him. When his father died he gave away most of his inheritance, saying it was not possible to be a rich socialist.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Logical-Lust Publications Releases "Best S & M Erotica Vol. 3" edited by M. Christian

Logical-Lust Publications, UK publisher of erotica and erotic romance fiction, announces the release of its latest anthology "Best S & M Erotica Vol. 3: Still More Extreme Stories of Still More Extreme Sex" edited by M. Christian. In these pages you'll find light stories, dark stories, powerful stories, subtle stories, fierce stories, and even romantic stories—but all of them dealing with the basic idea of consensually giving up, or taking, sexual power and control. Featured contributors are PM White, Sharon Wachsler, Kane, Jean Roberta, Jason Rubis, Shanna Germain, Cecilia Tan, Xan West, Craig J. Sorensen, Ralph Greco, Jr., Theda Hudson, Jerry Rosen, Jan Vander Laenen, Mykola Dementiuk, Jude Mason, Billierosie, and Oatmeal Girl

Logical-Lust publisher Jim Brown said, “After the great success of volumes 1 & 2 of the Best S & M series, we were proud, and excited, to be the publisher of the latest volume. Best S & M Erotica Vol. 3 continues our tradition in publishing erotic anthologies that bring together some of the most talented authors and editors of erotic fiction. M. Christian has compiled a sharp collection blending many aspects of the lifestyle sure to impress both the curious and the connoisseur.”

"Best S & M Erotica Vol. 3: Still More Extreme Stories of Still More Extreme Sex" is available in both print and ebook formats at,, Barnes and Noble and other fine online retailers.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Dear billierosie,

My Dilemma is thus. I am a gay man (I want to add now in a Northern Irish accent as per the Catherine Tate show sketch, but won't as people will think me quite mad) and have always been so, I am comfortable in my own skin and have had no issues or concerns other than the usual that us queer folks have to endure chucked my way as a result of being queer. I am mindfully aware however that I am not overtly camp or feminine unless I have had ten pints of beer. It pains me that my comrades in arms who are naturally prone to effeminacy tend to get far more stick from straight (men usually) people. This is wrong and despicable and shouldn't happen. Anyway I ramble so back to the point.

A long standing, straight, male mate of mine who is a new age type and allegedly enlightened is beginning to annoy me a bit. There have been lots of little issues but the most recent was almost a straw that broke the camels back situation and the problem is he has no idea how pissed off I am! To some, this will seem like a stupid insignificant little episode I'm sure but its bothering me.

Let me stress that I haven't hit on him and I am not attracted to him or ever given him reason to think that.

At the cinema on Friday (a regular habit) we went to see Inception, it was almost fully booked with just two seats together or two separate ones dotted about. The cashier lady simply said; you better have those two seats (referring to the ones side by side) as I expect you will want to sit together, all very innocent and no implied innuendo or suggestion intended on her part.

My mate then felt the need in the most pronounced and almost embarrassing fashion to declare the fact to this cashier, a stranger, that he had a girlfriend, slightly more to it but you get the gist. She looked taken aback and I was so horrified at the intent behind his comment I spent the next two hours seething as it has happened before but not quite in the same way.

Does he have a problem with being thought gay even when he is out with someone who doesn't 'appear' gay In a mincing sense and even if I did mince what's his fucking problem?

Or is it as another girl friend of mine suggested the case that he is bothered by his own repressed feelings? This also explains why I am kind of pigeon holed amongst his mates. He is happy to go to the cinema, or to the auctions or to a car boot sale with me and glean the benefit of my insight and knowledge, but will never invite me out for a pint in town if he is out with his other friends -- clearly he is terrified that his other mates might take offence or think him gay because he knows someone that is.

Christ small town mentality eh? What the hell should it matter! I plan to confront him but I know he will be quite horrified if I do! Overall he is a nice chap but I am feeling like a second class citizen around him and having put up with social prejudice for a long time I shouldn't be made to feel like this by someone who is supposed to me a mate!

Do you think I am making a mountain out of a mole hill and how would you respond in such a situation??

Viscount Andrew

So c'mon folks -- what's the answer to the Viscount's dilemma?

Sunday, 18 July 2010


CUNT! What is it about that short, four letter word that shakes us so? “You cunt!” It’s an insult; it’s offensive.

Germaine Greer says; "it is one of the few remaining words in the English language with a genuine power to shock.”

Such a tiny word; yet as a woman with the ability to curse along with the best of ‘em, it still shocks me -- even when I say it myself.

It’s just a word. It refers to a part of the female genitalia, essential for reproduction; the vagina. Somehow, shouting out “vagina”, or “vulva”, doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Even that other four letter word; “fuck”, pales into insignificance, compared with “cunt”.

I found this in Wiki. I’m not surprised that “Gropecunt Lane” fell out of popularity. Would you want it as your address?

Gropecunt Lane was a street name found in English towns and cities during the Middle Ages, believed to be a reference to the prostitution centred on those areas; it was normal practice for a medieval street name to reflect the street's function or the economic activity taking place within it. Gropecunt, the earliest known use of which is in about 1230, appears to have been derived as a compound of the words grope and cunt. Streets with that name were often in the busiest parts of medieval towns and cities, and at least one appears to have been an important thoroughfare.

Although the name was once common throughout England, changes in attitude resulted in its being replaced by more innocuous versions such as Grape Lane. Gropecunt was last recorded as a street name in 1561.

Some radical feminists of the 1970s sought to eliminate disparaging terms for women, including "bitch" and "cunt". In the context of pornography, Catharine MacKinnon argued that use of the word acts to reinforce a dehumanisation of women by reducing them to mere body parts; and in 1979 Andrea Dworkin described the word as reducing women to "the one essential - 'cunt: our essence ... our offence'".

Despite criticisms, there is a movement within feminists that seeks to reclaim cunt not only as acceptable, but as an honorific, in much the same way that queer has been reappropriated by LGBT people.

I'll be crossposting this to Frequently Felt in a day or so.

Monday, 12 July 2010


Immortalised: John Everett Millais’ 1852 Ophelia made Lizzie Siddal the most famous face of her generation.

For modern muses such as Kate Moss, inspiring creative talents does not mean losing their own independence. But for Lizzie Siddal, whose ethereal looks and flaming hair shaped the pre-Raphaelites' feminine ideal, being the most famous face of her generation came at a price.

We're all familiar with those stories of the tragic muse. Beautiful, charismatic. She enchants; lures us with a glamour. Alive, she is unapproachable. Death gives her the status of a goddess.

Marilyn; Princess Diana. Remembered at the height of their beauty. But this is not a modern phenomonen. Take the case of the beautiful Lizzie Siddal.

In popular folklore, the supermodel - that heady mix of angelic beauty and diva attitude, of sex and excess - was born in the studios of 1960s Chelsea, when certain fashion photographers (David Bailey, Terence Donovan, et al) turned their backs on the arch-eye browed hauteur of the 1950s mannequin and introduced sex into the equation (and, sometimes, the studio).

In fact, she has a forerunner more than a century earlier; a few miles east, in Cranbourne Street near Leicester Square, in 1849, Lizzie Siddal, 20 years old and beautiful, was spotted in the milliner's shop where she worked by a promising young painter, Walter Howell Deverell. Lizzie went on to become, as the model for John Everett Millais’ Ophelia, the most famous face of her generation. But the limitations and frustrations of this role contributed to a deepening drug dependency which, in the tradition of iconic beauties, ended in her dramatic and early death.

In other words, Siddal was a supermodel long before the phrase was invented.

Artists had always used models, of course, but Siddal was different. As model, muse and lover, with her copper hair and flowing, uncorseted style of dress, she shaped the feminine ideal that was central to the aesthetic of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a band of painters that included Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (with whom she had a passionate relationship for many years and eventually married) and to whom Deverell was connected.

Models - "stunners", as the artists called them - were of supreme importance. "Women were the central objects of pre-Raphaelite art," says Lucinda Hawksley, whose book, Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy Of A Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel, examines the extraordinary role she played. "This was especially true for Rossetti. But that was the problem - they were mainly objects."

Hawksley raises perturbing questions about how a woman's status as a beauty can fail to translate into real power or control over her own life - questions that do not relate to the mid-19th century alone. Siddal had, Hawksley says, "traces of Marilyn Monroe about her".

Francine Prose, in her book The Lives Of The Muses, puts it another way: "Feminism has made us rethink musedom as a career choice." There has come to seem something subservient about it - but not in fashion where the concept survives as a relationship between equals. In recent years Sofia Coppola has been cited as a muse to Marc Jacobs, Erin O'Connor to Jean Paul Gaultier, Jade Jagger to Matthew Williamson - and Kate Moss to just about every top designer.

This idolisation of Moss is significant. She is almost unique in the world of modern celebrity in that, apart from one interview (in which she famously admitted to having been drunk for a decade), she never gives even the briefest of quotes to the press, preferring to maintain the old-fashioned silence of the traditional beauty. There are clearly stark contrasts between the life of a modern supermodel and that of Siddal - Moss and her contemporaries are able to enjoy their wealth and status as they please - yet there are parallels, too, in the way of life and, sometimes, the yen for glorified self-destruction.

In her own way, Siddal strove for independence. She did not choose to be an artists' model because she enjoyed mute posing; rather, for a working-class woman, it offered an escape from drudgery. Indeed, she soon aspired to be an artist herself - something that would have been unthinkable without the contacts she had gained through modelling - and enjoyed some success at it, winning the admiration and financial patronage of John Ruskin.

Although her time as an artist was Siddal's most lucrative period, it is as a model that she is remembered. And she was very much a supermodel in that she set, rather than followed, an ideal of beauty. According to Hawksley, "She changed the face of fashion. Her tall, boyish figure, with no breasts and no hips, was not at all the Victorian standard of beauty." And, crucially, her "coppery golden" hair (as her brother-in-law William Rossetti described it) was hugely influential. At a time when red hair was the victim of superstition and prejudice, Siddal flaunted hers, wearing it loose - an unusual style for a grown woman. She made the colour fashionable in artistic circles and a passion for it continues to this day.

Last year, the avant-garde Dutch design duo Viktor & Rolf made up each model in their catwalk show to look like their muse, the actor Tilda Swinton, spraying hair red and lightening brows and lashes; the sensation of this year's catwalks has been the long red hair of young British model Lily Cole.

Siddal was striking rather than pretty. Her friend Georgie, wife of the artist Edward Burne-Jones, recalled "the mass of her beautiful deep-red hair as she took off her bonnet ... Her complexion looked as if a rose tint lay beneath the white skin ... Her eyes were of a kind of golden brown - agate-colour is the only word I can think to describe them - and wonderfully luminous: in all Gabriel's drawings of her this is to be seen. The eyelids were deep, but without any languor or drowsiness, and had the peculiarity of seeming scarcely to veil the light in her eyes when she was looking down."

Like Moss, she had a way of dressing that was widely copied. Skilled in millinery, she made her own clothes, her particular eccentricity being a rejection of the corsets that were a staple of the Victorian woman's wardrobe, in favour of floating, unstructured dresses. This, at the time, was scandalous. However, according to Hawksley, "Her sartorial sense was as much of an influence on Rossetti as his eye for colour and fabric was on her."

Her beauty seemed to ignite the genius in Rossetti. Ruskin wrote to him in 1860 that "I think Ida [his pet name for Lizzie] should be very happy to see how much more beautifully, perfectly, and tenderly you draw when you are drawing her than when you draw anybody else. She cures you of all your worst faults when you only look at her."

Despite Rossetti's encouragement of Siddal's artistic talent, the vast majority of the energy of both parties was directed towards his art, and she was left deprived and needy. As Prose asks, "Doesn't the idea of the muse reinforce the destructive stereotype of the creative, proactive male and of the passive female, at once worshipped and degraded, agreeably disrobing to model or for inspirational sex?"

Rossetti's sister Christina, who never cared for Lizzie, none the less showed sympathy for her plight in her poem In An Artist's Studio about her brother's obsession with his model. "He feeds upon her face by day and night," she wrote.

William Rossetti said Millais’ Ophelia was the best likeness of all the paintings of Siddal. It is telling, perhaps, that Millais portrayed her more truthfully than Rossetti: their relationship had, always, an ethereal quality. And it is odd, and rather chilling, that the two most famous stories about her involve her portrayal as a dead woman.

First, there is the tale of the bath in which she lay to model for Ophelia. Midway through the painting, the lamps beneath, which had been keeping the water warm, went out. Millais, lost in his art, failed to notice; Siddal, ever the ideal model, did not move or complain, and so, despite being of weak health, lay in the freezing water until she caught a chill.

Then there is the macabre tale of her exhumation. After Siddal's death, Rossetti, who had buried the only copy of his poems with her body, in the depths of heartbreak and despair, recovered sufficiently to wish to resume his writing career and had her coffin secretly opened.

Legend had it that she was perfectly preserved, with her hair even longer and more lustrous, having continued to grow after her death. That is, she was even more perfect as a dead woman, the story implies, than as a live one.

Long before her death - which has been attributed to accident or even murder, but which Hawksley believes to be suicide - there was a wan, otherworldly quality to Siddal's appeal. She was very thin, very pale, with the huge eyes of an undernourished child. This suited the pre-Raphaelites, who did not like their beauties too earthy: as another of their favourite models once put it, "I was a holy thing to them."

The quality of stillness that is so prized in a model, and to which Siddal, in the Ophelia incident, proved herself such a heroic martyr, was echoed in her private life where, as the long-term mistress of Rossetti, she was trapped - very few options were open to her, especially in respectable society. And despite the bohemian lifestyle on which the pre-Raphaelites prided themselves, Rossetti seems to have been sufficiently hung up on class issues to feel unable to marry Siddal until he believed her to be on her deathbed. (He also persuaded her to change the spelling of her name from Siddall to Siddal because he thought it more elegant.)

Painters were expected to sleep with their models, Hawksley says, but not to marry them, and Siddal felt her compromised position bitterly. One of her earliest poems describes "her love" thus: "I felt the spell that held my breath/Bending me down to a living death." Later, more openly bitter, she writes, "I care not for my lady's soul/Though I worship before her smile."

Cornered, Siddal became adept at emotional manipulation. Anorexia has been suggested, and though Hawksley believes her thinness and lack of appetite were a by-product of her drug use, she agrees that Siddal "used not eating to get revenge on Rossetti when she needed to". Her desperation deepened because, in the modelling world, then as now, a woman was often past her peak by her mid-20s.

Even after her marriage, Siddal used guilt as leverage, writing to her husband from Brighton, where she was convalescing from one of her interminable illnesses, "I am most sorry to have worried you about coming back when you have so many things to upset you. I shall therefore say no more about it ... although I am in constant pain and cannot sleep at nights ... But do not feel anxious about it as I would not fail to let you know in time."

She also retreated further and further into dependency on laudanum, a potent mixture of alcohol and opiate, which Hawksley describes as "the alcohol of its day. One of those addictions that is not discussed, because everybody does it, and nobody notices until it becomes a problem." Siddal, like many supermodels since, seems to have had a weakness for drugs. The legend of her addiction grew with the story of her posthumous perfection, which was attributed to the preservative effects of laudanum.

Siddal's is not a straightforward story of a woman exploited. "When I started researching the book, I thought Dante treated her very badly," Hawksley says. "I felt quite angry with him. Then it became clear that it was more complicated than that, and I went through a stage of finding Lizzie really irritating."

Siddal's role as an embittered, wheedling consort is all the more sad in the context of occasional letters showing her to have, when not drugged and needy, a wicked sense of humour - unlike her pre-Raphaelite friends, who took themselves rather seriously.

Travelling in France, she wrote a sharp, well-observed and witty account of the trials and tribulations involved in collecting wired money. But more often, her personality was doused: at the centre of the picture, but powerless to move or speak.

"Dante loved Lizzie as a work of art," Hawksley says, "but not as a real woman."

The power to entrance is not necessarily a route to real power.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


That's how Clair promotes the brothel that she ran from her pretty, village home.

Go Claire!!

Claire ran a brothel but won a court case fighting for rights for prostitutes.
In November 2008, forty nine year old mother of two Claire Finch was arrested and charged with running a brothel from her home.

Despite the overwhelming evidence against her, she fought and won her case in April this year at Luton Crown Court to highlight the need for prostitutes to have a safe environment by working in the same premises as other women.

Claire is now campaigning to get the law changed and joins us along with her daughter Holly, 25, who supports her mums campaign.

A statement from the Home Office reads: "This Government is committed to protecting those involved in prostitution and giving them access to routes out. There are clear benefits of multi-agency working towards a clear aim of eradicating prostitution by supporting those involved in prostitution while tackling those that contribute to the demand for prostitution."

A statement from the Crown Prosecution Service reads: "The CPS takes cases involving sexual offences very seriously. The jury heard both the prosecution and defence case and decided to acquit Ms Finch and we respect its decision. This case does not create a precedent as each case is considered on its own merits and facts. The CPS will prosecute these types of cases when we have sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest."

Featured today; 6th July, on ITV1, THIS MORNING

Friday, 2 July 2010


Out soon BEST S/M EROTICA Vol 3! Keep your eyes on this space for release dates -- great erotica from a bunch of great writers! There's even a story by little me!

It's published by Logical Lust

Welcome to Best S/M Erotica Vol 3: Still More Extreme Stories of Still More Extreme Sex!
In these pages you'll find light stories, dark stories, powerful stories, subtle stories, fierce stories, and even romantic stories – but all of them dealing with the basic idea of consensually giving up, or taking, sexual power and control.

If you've only been interested in what S/M is and can be, or if you’re an old hand to the scene, these stories will open doors to unexplored sexual and sensual worlds, expand your erotic horizons to new and maybe even challenging new ways of looking at, and experiencing, sex play.

Featuring Stories By:

PM White

Sharon Wachsler


Jean Roberta

Jason Rubis

Shanna Germain

Cecilia Tan

Xan West

Craig J. Sorensen

Ralph Greco, Jr.

Theda Hudson

Jerry Rosen

Jan Vander Laenen

Mykola Dementiuk

Jude Mason


Oatmeal Girl