Just another site

Category: Sexuality

What Is Love? Love Is A Drug.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines love as ‘a pile of old shit’.

That’s a lie, I define it as that, but no-one ever started a wedding speech with “Kat Arnsby defines …”, so I figured bringing in the OED would have a more immediate impact.

My definition is actually clearer than the OED’s, which turned out to be a whimsical, link-clicking frenzy of lexical tautologies and confusion. As an atheist who is excited by words, the OED is the closest thing I have to a bible, and its failure to even start to define a word that everybody uses all the time has disturbed me. I’m going to get to the bottom of this romantic ideal, and the OED have already agreed to use my clear-cut definition going forward. Okay, that’s also a lie, but maybe you’ll agree with me, and start to use my definition, and possibly my name, the next time you’re called on to make a speech at a wedding.

Since last year’s cynical and miserable Valentine’s blog, I have fallen in love. Yes, with another person, not my own reflection, although I do wink at myself every morning, and why not? Flirting is fun.

Herein lies my first issue with the definition of romantic love… why do we put the verb ‘fall’ in front of it?

Falling usually isn’t a good thing, we fall down holes, we fall off cliffs and we fall into disrepair, and yet we use the same verb to describe our engagement with what is supposed to be the most wonderful of positive emotions. Even French, officially the most romantic language ever spoken with a smug intonation, uses the same verb (tomber amoureux). Why don’t we say ‘I chose love’, ‘I met love’ or ‘I rise in love’? I think we say ‘fall in love’ because we all instinctively know it’s dangerous. When you fall, the potential for pain is high, which is why we tag it onto love; one might want love, but one is going to have to take a fall to get it.

Love is already proven to exist, by the real-life folk of Science. Who in the humanities department do I think I am to argue with them? Science has taught us that when we begin to engage with another human at that level, our bodies produce a giddy-making dose of neurochemicals which have the potential to send us all a bit batty. Love is, literally, a drug; it’s called Oxytocin, and it’s widely and cheaply available from the street-corner pushers of your mind.

So why has nature given us this drug? If this neurochemical has survived millions of years of evolution, then ‘love’ must be important to our species, right? A quick look at the etymology of the word Oxytocin might shed a less than romantic light on this. It comes from the Greek oksys (swift) and tokos (birth), which put together says ‘swift birth’. I can only conclude that the neurochemical we call love and write poems about is nothing more than a species propagation expedient. Put more simply, it’s a way of making us so horny we increase our odds of having more babies, and quickly, before the last one we pumped out gets eaten by a velociraptor. The earliest humans will have felt love akin to what we feel today, but if they had made it the high cerebral issue that we try to then I wouldn’t be typing this, you wouldn’t be reading it, and lizards would probably be the dominant species.

This doesn’t seem entirely fair to love, after all, plenty of people have long-term romantic relationships that eventually end up as sexless, but the parties concerned would still define their relationship as one of love. When I look at old couples, I can see a love I feel jealous of. Recently, I watched an old man spend seventeen minutes helping his frail wife into their car. I could see the love on his face, he nearly shat himself with the effort it took, but I am sure he’d have died doing it, because he clearly loved his wife.

Suck on that, love cynics! They were both in their eighties and there’s no way they were going home for a sweaty romp, followed by the happy arrival of a shiny new human in nine months. Love is not just about having babies, it’s a feeling in its own right!

If love is a drug then we have to recognise that it will be habit forming, as all the best drugs are. Mammalian offspring require attention for a long time after birth, and it’s beneficial to our survival to have our parents stay together with us; if one of them is killed hunting, then the other is still around. When it comes to raising infants, multiple heads are better than one. During the course of our evolution the offspring of those who responded better to the habit forming properties of Oxytocin had a greater chance of survival. Psychologists refer to this stage of Oxytocin abuse as ‘attachment’. When I watched that old man help his wife, I wasn’t looking at romantic love, I was looking at a lifelong drug habit that it was far too late to break.

Oxytocin doesn’t just bring babies into the world, it’s also responsible for many cringey poems, soppy songs and the systematic murder of roses for centuries. What is the need for the cultural apparition of love, if it’s now understood that it’s just a nice word for making the realities of procreation a bit less awful?

This is a big question, and brighter minds than mine haven’t been able to answer it, so I’m not going to try here. If you have any ideas, please share, I’m genuinely interested. The problem I have with the cultural tenets of love is that sometimes our cultural habits are so spectacularly fucking stupid that it’s hard to see love as something untainted by human idiocy. Remember when it was a cultural standard to not let women or black people vote? Or when we imprisoned homosexuals?

I can’t answer the question of why love is such a dominant cultural ideal if it’s not a real thing, but my understanding of previously normalised cultural atrocities heavily undermines my blind acceptance of love just because society says it’s good, real and necessary. In 200 years, will future humans look back on our cultural presentation of love as separate to a drive for sex and laugh/be embarrassed? Very possibly.

Love is a word we have for an idea that acts as a smokescreen to the depressing truth that the only real purpose we have is procreation. As a species, we have a long history of searching for something higher, something more important than eating, sleeping, shitting and fucking. We’re all suckers for the concept that we are worth more than an animal, that we are beings greater than a pointless biological fact.

At the start of this rant, I told you I’d fallen in love this year, and you’re probably wondering how someone in love can be so harshly cynical about this popular concept. Truth is, like all drug highs, it didn’t last and I came out of it with a bit of a headache and a funny taste in my mouth. I just feel lucky that I didn’t get too addicted. I didn’t so much fall in love as step in it, and now I have to wipe it off my shoe.

So, after all this, here is my final, OED ready, definition of love:

Love [lʌv] noun A pile of old shit.

Yep, I’m sticking with it. You can use it in your next wedding speech, free of charge; you’re welcome.

Tram Random 4

I unashamedly used sexuality for gain today and I’m not proud of it.

Alright, I’m a bit proud of it. It’s not something I use often, I’m very aware of a woman’s ability to use her sexuality to manipulate heterosexual men, but I deeply respect the weaker gender, and so do not abuse the power.

Also, let’s be frank here, I’m not a fucking supermodel; I am not a statuesque, gaspworthy silhouette of a woman that lights up a room on entry. I will inevitably trip over something when I enter, leave, or stand still in the middle of a room, and then swear as loudly and explicitly as an angry sailor. If I want to use my sexuality for gain, I have to work a bit harder for it, so a little ripple of pride is allowable, if not admirable.

I was on a tram, I’m often on trams, and this is the first time I have ever whipped out the sex card on the tram. (If you’ve ever read a sentence with more instances of the word ‘tram’, let me know, I wanna shake the author’s hand.) One of the principle tram rules is that all passengers should have a ticket in some form. It could be paper, electronic, a weird card that they’re trialling that confuses everybody (did we learn NOTHING from London?), either way, you need a ticket.

Today, I did not have a ticket. Society crumbles before our very eyes.

I have one excuse, and one piece of mitigation.

Excuse– the tram was at the platform when I got there and I’d have missed it if I’d bought a ticket. I’d have had another 15 min wait and I’d been travelling since quarter past July. Fuck off, it’s a good excuse. If you think it isn’t, you don’t suffer enough public transport.

Mitigation– I have lived in Manchester 12 years and this would be the 6th time I haven’t paid for a ticket, on average using the tram 3 times a week. I am a model citizen, so kindly bite me.

You can probably tell from my tone that I know I was in the wrong, but I didn’t have a ticket, there was nothing I could do and now the inspector was headed towards me.

He was about 50 and 5’8”. He had a wedding ring, was bald, slim with an impressive tummy, had soft jowls, and big, smiley eyes; he seemed like a decent chap from the off.

“Tickets or passes, please.” He said to me over my copy of the Metro.

“Ah.” I folded the Metro. It left ink on my hands. “I don’t have one.” Inspector Tummy blinked at me.

“You don’t have one?”

“I don’t have one.” I pushed my long blonde hair coyly behind my ear and blinked back at him.

“Erm. I’m going to have to ask you to get off at the next stop.”

“Not a problem, officer, it’s my stop anyway.” I giggled sweetly and ran my tongue across my teeth, more of a periodontal necessity than a seductive gesture at the moment, as I have a gum abscess, but he wasn’t to know that. I’d called him ‘officer’, for crying out loud, that’s hot.

Awkwardly, the next stop was about three minutes away, and between him and his colleague they’d checked all the tickets and he had nothing to do but stand next to me and wait. He surveyed me smiling at him, taking in my large suitcase and two other bags.

“Why haven’t you got a ticket?”

“The tram was there, it was right there when I got to the stop. I didn’t want to be left on the platform alone, late at night.” I did the Bambi eyes so hard that I almost certainly looked like Schwarzenegger at the end of Total Recall. He looked a bit scared; he simply wasn’t ready for this jelly.

“Where have you come from?”

“A good question,” I did not see the light of philosophy in his eyes, so I answered, “Bath Spa.”

“Let me see your train ticket.” I seductively withdrew my rail ticket from my breast pocket and blinked adorably, mainly because my eyeballs were getting dry. As he studied my train ticket we pulled into Deansgate and got off the tram.

I steeled myself for giving a fake name and address, the excuse for that more serious, and blatantly fraudulent, crime being that the no-ticket fine is £100, which is excessive and I will go to prison before I pay that, on principle alone.

“Now, let me explain the procedure to you,” Inspector Tummy stood firmly between me and the platform exit ramp. I reckon I could have outrun him if I’d made a break for it, but I’d have had to leave my luggage, and as any self-respecting drag queen knows, you never leave a shoe behind. I was going to have to flirt my way out of this, on one of the 10 days a year that I wasn’t wearing a low cut top.

“I’m really sorry.” Little pout.

“It’s alright. If you tell an Inspector that you don’t have a ticket, they’re going to charge you a £100 fine.” I thought about legging it, bags and all, but his colleague had also got off the tram and he looked nimble, so I said:

“Oh no. Wow.” And pouted until I tasted blood.

“However… your train ticket covers you to Manchester Central Stations, which includes Deansgate. You’re a lucky girl.”

“I am a very luck… wait, you mean I actually had a valid ticket?”

“Yep. Have a good evening.” Inspector Tummy wandered away across the platform to his colleague, checking his watch as he did so.

As I left the tram stop, all notions of sexuality forgotten through sweating my luggage down four flights of stairs to the tune of some pretty ripe language, I realised that Inspector Tummy had not noticed or responded to my ‘sexuality’ at all. He’d done his job in a polite, efficient and helpful manner and then checked his watch to see how long it was before he could go home to his wife.

I felt like a fool. I’d instantly gone to a place that I criticise other women for. I hadn’t even considered any other possibility. Why hadn’t I been a belligerent git and gone with the fake name plan from the start? Why did I think I could use my tits as a tool to get something for nothing?

Inspector Tummy is a good tram inspector. I firmly believe that he would have done the same for a spotty teenage lad who had sworn at him; Inspector Tummy is a good man.

I’d love to say I’ll never attempt to flirt my way out of trouble again, but it would be a lie. I am clearly pre-disposed to it, and unfortunately I have collected too much previous evidence that it often works. Look out for it, gents, be like Inspector Tummy and check your watch. And girls, careful where you use it, or risk being like me, an unwitting and eventually embarrassed, fool.

The other thing that occurred to me shortly after was that I have been getting train tickets to Manchester Central Stations and then buying a separate tram ticket for 12 years at an approximate total cost of £250 not including VAT and interest. Cough up, Manchester Metrolink, you can’t flirt your way out of this one.

The Mechanical Valentine

It’s a mistake to pop into Tesco Metro Piccadilly at 7pm the night before Valentine’s Day. It’s a place where normal supermarket logic is entirely subverted at the best of times. Jars of sauce and fresh veg face the frozen foods, just over a metre apart, in a random food standoff that would have Jamie Oliver’s head imploding in a frenzy of culinary confusion. The end result is the unintentional touching of bums with a stranger who’s attempting to liberate oven chips while you consider carrots.

When it comes to celebrated days, Tesco Metro Piccadilly suffers further assaults on its limited space as the beleaguered shop floor staff squeeze in extra seasonal products, creating a health and safety nightmare of an edible jumble sale.

Around Valentine’s Day, every tiny morsel of space is packed out with red teddy bears, overpriced chocolates and drab looking flowers in sparkly paper. If you stand in there and squint, it looks as though every fairy tale character ever conceived has moved into a giant gingerbread house five seconds before it got blown up, resulting in a fluffy, glittery scene of whimsical massacre.

As I queued for the till and considered just how much of a loser I would be for buying myself a cupcake with “I [heart] U” on it, I noticed an exasperated young man poking at bunches of roses. He picked one up and as he did, two of the stems drooped in a very unromantic fashion. He grunted audibly and dropped it back down.

Then the young hero noticed some expansive bunches of mixed red and pink flowers wrapped in faux lace and gaudy love-heart paper. They cost £15. When he spotted the price tag, I saw him look wistfully back to the impotent roses. They flopped their inferiority, his shoulders visibly sagged, and he picked up the £15 lacy love bunch.
Romeo looked around, his expression that of a toddler looking for adult approval, and he tapped the arm of a young woman in the queue.

“Do you like these?” he asked politely. She looked a bit taken aback. “They’re for my missus.” He clarified quickly. “It’s our first Valentine’s Day together.”

The young woman shrugged. “Yeah, they’re alright.” There was a pause and the young man looked at the flowers with resignation. “Why don’t you get some chocolates too?” The girl suggested, trying to be helpful, but clearly opening up an emotional and financial wound that was too much for the befuddled beau to bear. He stared woefully up the crowded aisle, towards piles of red boxes and cuddly toys, and I watched the light of new love drain from his face.

“Thanks.” He said to the girl, and shuffled towards the back of the queue, his energy and enthusiasm spent, with his cash about to go the same way.

I wanted to tell him not to bother, to tell him to put the half dead plant-life back on the shelf and run away from the Tesco Metro Piccadilly Valentine’s Day Massacre. I wanted to let him know that UK citizens spend more than 1% of the entire annual healthcare budget in one pointless, faux lace gesture on 14th February every year, and he would be a hero to stand strong and tell his girlfriend they could be in love without the predictable presentation of floppy flowers.

A day with liturgical origins that celebrates romantic love is bound to be problematic for an atheist spinster, but on reflection, I think it’s less of a problem for me than for people in relationships; unlike other festive events, I am free of any obligation to express my love for someone on an exact and arbitrary day of the year.

In the end, I decided to buy the cupcake. I ate it while I wrote this, and I have to admit, it was rather nice; a delicious, sticky symbol of my love for complex carbs and icing, a true love that I celebrate inexpensively every day of the year.

Gay Rights v Miserable Wrongs

Gay Rights. What a pile of raw bullshit.

It is the 21st century, and ‘Gay Rights’ should be a phrase that is consigned to the history books. Those words should be nothing but an embarrassing reminder that there was once a time when we made rules about what people could do with their lives based solely on who they rubbed against in their bedrooms. It should not be a contemporary issue; and yet it is.

In March 2012 the European Court of Human Rights declared that same sex marriage is not a universal human right. Homos apparently don’t deserve the right to display their love like heteros.

This bowl of stupid soup should be offensively unpalatable to everybody, wherever you fall on the sexual spectrum, because what it suggests is that your sexuality entirely defines you. It carries the implication that something as personal and trivial as how you get jiggy bears some relation to the rest of your social abilities.

Unless you’re a teenager, (or other kind of sex addict) you probably aren’t constantly aware of your sexuality. Do you think about it when you do a presentation at work? While you’re reading an interesting article about the economy? When you’re disciplining your child?

Most of adult life doesn’t revolve around sexuality; it’s part of you, but so are your tastes in food, clothes, houses, music and art.  “The world is sorry Miss Jones, but you aren’t allowed that set of choices because your innate preference is for Dali and we’re a Picasso kind of establishment.” That is obviously inane, but for those who identify as homosexual it’s a silhouette of reality.

If the marriage argument was turned around and anyone who identified as straight was actively forced to marry and procreate then that discussion would be laughed out of any Court of Human Rights; and rightly so, because any unfairly biased restriction of choice is an clear infringement of human rights. One individual having less human rights than another is only acceptable in a scenario where one individual is less human than the other.

It becomes clear that this is a distillation of the statement made by the European Court of Human Rights to a whole new generation of children – people who identify as homosexual are slightly less human than people who identify as heterosexuals.  You could put any amount of elbow grease into polishing that little turd, but it is exactly what’s been said; by an institution wielding massive power and respect.

A statement made just three months ago. In 2012. In Europe.

The Family Education Trust are now seriously gay for the European Court of Rights, bleating worn out, celebratory waffle that includes trite phrases on the themes of ‘child welfare’ and ‘moral force’. Specifically from Norman Wells, a spectacularly bigoted and self righteous mouthpiece who pops up far too regularly in discussions of teenage girls’ sexuality to be credible. Ten minutes spent reading some of their leaflets will leave any reasonable individual convinced that the best way to deal with human sexuality is to sterilise everybody, just in case any more of their type are spawned.

What depresses me is that I’ll be subjected to this guff for years, even my offspring will be stuck with the pointlessness of making sexuality an important public issue, when it’s not; it’s an incidental, private issue.

The whole notion that sexuality is a reason for anything other than intimate pleasure needs to be dumped on the human historical pile of shame along with holocausts, slavery and the repression of females.

I don’t care who you want to fuck, unless I want to fuck you, and even then I only care that you want to fuck me; I honestly can’t find any other relevant interest in another person’s sexuality.