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Archive for the ‘Men’ Category

Once upon a time, during the mid-1980s, I was a fresh-faced and enthusiastic young undergraduate and subsequently post-graduate student at UCD. In 1987 I, along with 300 of my peers, two-thirds of them men, graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree. Back then, as now, many graduates from my class entered the big accountancy firms around Dublin and were delighted to have the opportunity to gain experience and carve out a lucrative career as an accountant. I, along with about a hundred others, decided to stay on at UCD and study for a master’s degree, an MBS in marketing in my case.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

We were intelligent and eager and we operated in a perfect meritocracy. Those that worked hardest and proved to be the brightest would graduate with the best degrees and, perhaps more significantly in the midst of a deep recession, would have the best chance of securing employment here in Ireland.

I thrived in this environment. I enjoyed the subjects I was studying and found that the combination of written exam and thesis based research suited me well. I graduated first in my class and was awarded a research fellowship for my thesis on the policies and strategies adopted by financial institutions in attracting lump sum investments. I was for that brief time first among equals and it felt good. I was hired as a business consultant by a small Dublin firm and all was well with the world. Then reality bit hard.

My male bosses were very fair & decent blokes. They treated me very well and if there was a tendency at the end of a working day for “the lads” to head down Leeson Street then I didn’t really mind it. I was happy to go home or meet with my own friends to be honest. However, some of the clients were an entirely different matter. I frequently attended meetings where I was simply ignored. I was criticised for “my” choice of biscuits. I was even complimented on the “typing and presentation” alone of one business plan that I had compiled in its entirety. I was rarely spoken to directly; clients always addressed themselves to my boss or any random male colleague that happened to be in the room. Once when I went on a business trip with my boss, who was at least a decade my senior, our bags were put into the same bedroom. He at least had the grace to look as mortified as I felt.

It came to a head one evening when I arrived at a client meeting and the male client handed accounts spreadsheets out to everybody in the room – except me; I was the lead consultant on the account and it was not an accidental oversight. I walked out. I didn’t care about the consequences and I fully expected to be fired the next day. I was called to the boardroom – and given a pay rise. The guys I worked for were genuinely decent and valued my input. However, I needed more varied experience and left to work for a major multinational. There, I was on the receiving end of a disguising, filthy phone call from a male colleague in relation to something I was wearing one day, I had to campaign to have a “girly” calendar taken down from the wall of the warehouse – a place I had to visit every day, and on one memorable occasion I found myself alone with a male business associate in what I believed to be a very compromising, dangerous situation, one  in which I felt the need to beg to be taken back to my place of work.

After a couple of years I applied for a job in the female dominated market research industry and there I thrived. I rose to the position of Client Service Director in the London office and my success there took the sting out of the occasional casual incident of sexism perpetrated by older male clients. I can honestly say that Irish men were far more prone to this behaviour than their very professional UK counterparts in my experience. One particular star in the Irish business community used to refer to myself and my female colleagues as “the spice girls” and reply to his emails during our presentations. As I progressed I was responsible for many younger male members of staff and I was always conscious of treating them with respect. I strived to never make a casually sexist remark or pass them over in favour of my female co-workers.

Therefore, and bearing these experiences and many more like them in mind, you will perhaps forgive me if I just can’t see the “funny side” or “bit of craic” in the treatment of these 13 unfortunate women working for PWC in Dublin. It’s tough out there in the testosterone fuelled business world. In my experience by merely being young and female (yes ageism is alive and well too) these women will start out at a disadvantage and will need to strive to be taken as seriously as their male counterparts. This horrible, undermining, casually sexist behaviour must be taken seriously and cannot be condoned. I am perfectly prepared to be accused of being a humourless old harridan if that’s what it takes to raise awareness of this issue and eradicate such inappropriate behaviour from the workplace. I really hope we succeed but we’ve not come very far in the past twenty-five years sadly.

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Dear Anti Roomers and Readers,

I propose that we begin our own broadcasting awards for outstanding services rendered to the industry by many of our beloved household names.

The Ron Burgundy Broadcasting Awards would look to recognise and commend radio, print, TV and new media broadcasters and journalists who have given an outstanding performance in the following categories:

The Veronica Corningstone Award: for intrepid female reporting despite the odds.

Most Ron-Like Quote: for the broadcaster who says something that most sounds like something Ron Burgundy would say (probably to do with the size of womens brains or their ability to enjoy sex (bizarrely, Mr Fry would currently be in the running).

Broadcaster most like Ron Burgundy Overall (we may have to slightly alter this after a couple of years if Tom McGurk keeps waltzing off with 1st place).

Most Failed Attempt to be unlike Ron Burgundy: for the broadcaster who tries unsuccessfully to talk to/ about women (Shortlisted would have to be Ryan-“girls-women-I-don’t-know what you call em” Tubridy’s infamous item a few years back on how women shouldn’t be hiring home help and, of course, Ray Darcy for his pitiful attempt to talk about the positive side of breastfeeding).

Biggest Attempt to Set Equality Back: I don’t wish to pre-empt the voting or the many worthy nominations which are bound to flood in but I can say the team at Joe.ie should watch this space.

All writers and readers nominations are welcome.

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Do straight women enjoy sex? Or is it simply the price they pay for being in a relationship with a man?

According to writer and broadcaster Stephen Fry, it is the latter. He claims, in an interview in November’s Attitude magazine, that women only have sex with men “because sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship”.

As reprinted in today’s Guardian, he went on to say:

…he believed most straight men felt that “they disgust women” as they “find it difficult to believe that women are as interested in sex as they are”.

“If women liked sex as much as men, there would be straight cruising areas in the way there are gay cruising areas. Women would go and hang around in churchyards thinking: ‘God, I’ve got to get my fucking rocks off’, or they’d go to Hampstead Heath and meet strangers to shag behind a bush. It doesn’t happen. Why? Because the only women you can have sex with like that wish to be paid for it.”

Fry, 53, continues: “I feel sorry for straight men. The only reason women will have sex with them is that sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship with a man, which is what they want,” he said. “Of course, a lot of women will deny this and say, ‘Oh no, but I love sex, I love it!’ But do they go around having it the way that gay men do?”

His remarks  – which were ironically in the ‘Role Models’ issue of Attitude – have garnered a huge amount of criticism, not least from outspoken feminists such as Rosie Boycott.

The reaction on Twitter has been huge, with the majority of people shocked by his comments.

A man much-loved for his openness about his own life, particularly his sexuality and his mental health, Fry has demonstrated that even noted intellectuals can be prone to generalising about female sexuality. His comments show a startling lack of knowledge about what heterosexual women enjoy about sex with men, that not all women have the same sex lives, and ignores the fact that there are many women who enjoy having sex with women.

His belief that if women enjoyed sex they would be out cruising and cottaging is curious as it also ignores the social and cultural reasons why these practices evolved – one of which was the criminalisation of homosexuality. Then there are the many other reasons why straight women don’t generally cruise alone for sex (though there is dogging, which generally involves couples and single straight men), such as safety.

As one of Antiroom’s founders Anna Carey said on Twitter:

“Cottaging etc developed cos of centuries of taboos re gay & extramarital sex. He ignores socio-cultural history. And men traditionally had much more freedom than women, esp middle/upperclass women, to go out looking for sex.”

Also bizarre is his comment that the only women who would have sex “like that” must be prostitutes, who like sex as much as men only because they are being paid for it.

Though there are some who argue that Fry’s comments are referring to the ‘differences between the sexes’, women’s sexuality has evolved in the past century.  Here in Ireland, as the grip of the Roman Catholic Church loosened on society women were more free to explore their own sexuality. The legalisation of the Pill, availability of condoms, the growth of the LGBT movement and feminist movement all had roles in creating freedom of sexual expression for Irish women.

This is not to say that sexual freedom has been ‘won’, but that women in Ireland today can enjoy sexual freedoms hard fought for.

To have someone of such a high profile as Stephen Fry treat female sexuality like it is a ‘price to be paid’ for being in a relationship is quite baffling, and not a little infuriating.

Perhaps he needs to educate himself in how enjoyable (and different) women’s sex lives can be – this recent Anti Room group post might be a good place to start.

What do you think of his comments? Let us know below.

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Hi. I’m new here. Now, my Aunty Cynthia always said you should start off as you mean to carry on, so I guess I should launch straight into a topic that is weighing on my mind and close to my heart, or at least close to my knickers. Deep breath, and we’re off…

The feminist writer Naomi Wolf recently wrote about visiting a specialist masseuse who had dedicated his yogi-life to helping women get in touch with their inner goddess. He provided this service over a few hours, largely by massaging their inner goddess through the portal of their, erm, yoni.  Yup, yoni. Or something. I was too busy squinting and squealing about actually paying a passing hippie 95 pounds sterling to prod me in the bits, albeit a passing hippie who said he wanted to help, to make me happy. Hah! Like I haven’t heard that one in the pub already. But I digress…

A yoni is better known by it’s biological name, a vagina, or it’s yank-confusing name, a fanny, and then 734 other names bandied about in locker rooms by boys. Ya know the ones – twat, beaver, muff, poon, and so on and so forth including the big filthy C-word, the one I told the teenager off for using on Facebook.
“Is it a four-letter word?” wonders my Little Fella with big eyes, on overhearing the kerfuffle.
“Yup,” I say.
“Beginning with C?”
“Uhuh.”
“What is it?”
“I’m not saying.”
“I think I know.”
“No you don’t.”
“Can I spell it?” he asks.
“Erm…”
But he’s off regardless: “C-R-A-P”.
Phew. No, not that one. And no, I can’t tell you what it is, son, but I’m sure you’ll hear it in the rugby maul someday all too soon.

In our house – boy heavy – we call lady bits “fanny”, or at least I do on those rare occasions the vagina comes up, and always to wails of “awwww, mum, stop”. However, boy bits are bandied about willy-nilly, if you’ll excuse the choice of expression.
I like the word “yoni” though, and have henceforth adopted it, although I haven’t yet test-driven it on the kids. It’s completely new to me, yet it’s charming, un-rude and just saying it – “yoni”  – makes me feel a little wave of rare affection for my nether regions. But, while I like the word yoni, I remain disturbed by the general colloquial naming of the female, er, “lady bottom”.

For the vagina, there are precious few of the fondly intimate names that boys have for their knobs/dicks/peckers/todgers/schlongs. Even the rudest penis name of all (sensitive readers should look away now), “cock”, is only really a little bit rude. Boy bits are given names that are all quite pert, and at worst, a little giggle-inducing. There’s the throbbing shaft of romance novels, there’s the one-eyed trouser snake, there’s willie and winkie in the playground, and there are endless pet names like Fred, Dirty Harry, John Thomas, Thumper,  and the notorious you’ll-never-get-laid-calling-it-that-buddy Meat Injection.

There are penis names that big up the business and imply the prowess of the machinery in question, like truncheon and third leg and trouser snake, and penis names that are really filthy in a way that demeans women, vaginas and the very notion of making lurve. Girls don’t have the same easy familiarity with their vaginas though. Why not? Every single phrase I can think of that refers to the vagina – even with the help of the all-knowing Googlemeister – seems, well, unnecessarily rude, and too often downright crude. Or clinical. Or cringe-worthy. Why?

Is it because nice girls don’t mention their vaginas? Because nice girls are supposed to ignore their existence? Because nice mothers say “did you remember to wash down THERE?” like it’s an unmentionable secret? Even modern, forward-thinking parents discuss their daughter’s nether regions with clinical politeness, primly annunciating “vagina” as if it’s something separate, functional and purely biological.

And now Hollywood calls them va-jay-jays – a term gaining in popularity and reducing our most womanly parts to something that smacks of baby-talk, uncomfortably close to Lolita, to paedophilia. And while being rather fond of the term “fanny”, I wouldn’t be saying it to my grandmother. Other than that, just about every vagina name I can think of clearly came straight from boy porn – I mean, what girl would refer to her minge or muff or pussy with any comfort? – and too often these names have girls labelled like pieces of meat, or receptacles for sperm, names like fur burger and meat curtains and feedbag… Oh lord, I can’t continue. What if my mother reads this?
We need to reclaim our vaginas and all their cunning linguist nicknames as our own – and with it all the pleasures and uses and functions they encapsulate – because they are ours and ours alone, these yonis, these fannies, these little bits of heaven that we may occasionally share. And yoni is a whole new name. Well, to me. It’s slips off the tongue with friendly ease, remaining slightly mysterious but also delightfully cheerful. A yoni doesn’t have issues, emotional, hygienic or otherwise. A yoni is upbeat and enthusiastic, but knows when to be serious. A yoni doesn’t care for extreme looks or Brazilians or dye jobs or anything that might make it nervous or paranoid. A yoni is interested and interesting. A yoni wouldn’t be caught dead in anything that made it itch or crept up at the back.

A yoni is pithy and no-nonsense, the Yardley Oatmeal type, holding personality and content of character in high esteem, while eschewing all that would undermine its sense of worth.

A girl could value a yoni’s opinion. And a girl should, because a yoni has got, well, balls…

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Forlorn Celtic Tiger

Where are they? Who are they? You know; the women bankers, auditors, property developers, stockbrokers, industry regulators, etc., responsible for pricking the Oirish bubble with a sharpened golf club. The ruthless go-getting millionairesses who cleared the way for spiralling unemployment, a kaput banking system, demolished property sector, an albatross of debt and all the rest of the yack you’ve been hearing all over the telly for the last year. It’s not a facetious question, I’m genuinely curious. I asked a male journo friend a while ago, who makes a living writing ‘business’ articles: “How come we haven’t witnessed the usual media ‘witch-hunt’ of women (semi)responsible for the bust?” *pause* “Eh, they were probably caught up writing memos or getting their nails done at the time,” he quipped. [He considers himself awfully gas altogether].

From the off it was big-boy names being flung on the turbo charged execution cart: Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen, Brian Lenihan, Pat Neary, Lehman Brothers, Liam Carroll, Seanie Fitzpatrick, Brian Goggin, Padraig Walshe, Sean Quinn, John Hurley, Sean Dunne, Dermot Gleeson and so on. Newspapers were keen to pinpoint the perpetrators in articles throughout this OMG awakening. With the exception of hearing Mary Harney dubbed a deregulation fetishist or the likes of Anne Heraty, former bank director and stock broker, I cannot locate the ‘wimmin’ in this sordid tale. Even when it came to the Yellow Brick Road venture of NAMA, the cock-stock was made up of high-ranking banking officials, men in the pinstriped wink, nod and know: Frank Daly, public interest director at Anglo Irish Bank, the bank that likes to say a multi-orgasmic “yes yes yes yes yes yes!”, until there’s nothing left; along with colleagues Michael Connolly, Peter Stewart, Brian McEnery, Willie Soffe and some other guys…Aside from Eilish Finan − an independent Consultant and Director in various Financial Services Industry sectors − appointees to the board of NAMA are men.

I’m not an economist (if I was I’d have nice clothes, a car, a holiday home and an Irish wolfhound) or even a business journalist (if I was I’d have nice clothes, a car, a holiday home and a Yorkshire Terrier), but to my mind the entire environment in which the Celtic Tiger blackguards operated was exceptionally macho. There was a testosterone-fuelled air to the whole enfant terrible. Even the media language deployed: ‘Celtic Tiger Man’ or ‘Breakfast Roll Man’ etc. was ever so vigorous and potent. There was a real sense of aggression in the urban professional Irish male, particularly in Dublin. Places like Baggot Street were full of young geezers guffawing over caramelised scallops in the Unicorn during ‘very important’ business lunches. Down at the financial services district there was a real swagger in the way the men used to walk, talk, and conduct themselves. I remember Googling: ‘why do men wear ties?’ because there seemed to be a pandemic of scorching power-colour ties, more than usual. Red: excitement, desire, speed, strength, power, aggression, danger, war, a sprawling economy. Purple: flamboyant, wise, arrogant. The ritual wearing of ties, by the way, dates back to 17th Century wars. It’s not just a cloth arrow pointing to his wotsit. I found it all very unpleasant at the time.

It chimed too with a sense of national smugness…that we were the new masters of the universe and the Brits were down at heel, and that soon we would be so rich that even the stupid unionists would give up the ghost and accept a united Ireland. The gorilla chest-beating was strewn across all jungle paths of Irish life: politics, economics, the retail sector. At the height of boom (2005-2006) Ireland had proportionately the highest number of sports cars (yes, penis extensions) in Europe and the highest number of year-in registrations. I lived in Smithfield then and almost all of the top-quality penthouses were rented by young single business men who snorted cocaine and watched Fashion TV in-between making Ireland great. “Hi my name’s Paedar, I work in the IFSC, I rent the glass penthouse over there…” Penthouses riddled with Bang & Olufsen and every wall-hanging gadget imaginable. I knew quite a few sassy career women too, but for some reason they didn’t have the same chutzpah or cockiness towards themselves or their jobs.

The fiscal cauldron was brimming over with ‘fabulous’ men who couldn’t shut up about our endless wealth and the part they were playing in rainbow-nabbing it. Our GDP per capita rose from 60% of the EU average to 120%. Women with similar Tigerish jobs were just too busy to brag, it seems. But they were definitely out there: we were told over and over of uptakes of women on third level business courses throughout the boom, women studying economics, a sharp rise in female entrepeneurs, organisations like WITS began to appear…equal opportunities at the highest levels of power in the land, even in the civil service for God’s sake! There must’ve been women property developers who squandered millions in rice-paper transactions? Women who took part in dirty deals, secured multi-million euro loans over the phone in the dead of night from beaches in Donegal, sanctioned nonsensical far-off investments, who later took part in hiding it all with the help of politically connected mates, who now owe more than they’ll ever be able to pay back in several lifetimes.

What part did Irish women play in the catastrophic decision making, at business level, that flung us into financial decay for decades? I’m wondering why these women didn’t appear on Late Late slots like Harry Crosbie or Mick Wallace did. I’m wondering why I hear of ‘developer’s wives’ in the abstract, and not women who surely snapped up glass towers in Dubai or beach villas in Cape Verde when it was trendy and apt to do so. Boy journalists are spinning out reams of books on the bust, so perhaps I’ll start my research there. Maybe even a Diarmaid Ferriter of the future will answer my question: where are the women who helped ruin Ireland? I promise to have my nails done and I’ll listen intently…I might even write a memo on it if I can put my cocktail down for long enough.

June Caldwell is a writer, who after 13 years of journalism, is finally writing a novel. She has a MA in Creative Writing and was winner of ‘Best Blog Post’ award at the 2011 Irish Blog Awards. You can read this post on her own blog here:

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Vaseline. Prized for thickening eyebrows, healing cuts and aiding shoehorns, but a rabid pest if lobbed into rookie hands. It was 1988 and I was emigrating to London in three days and thought it might be a good idea to have sex before I left. It was all a bit new to me, the sex thing, and Random Paul seemed like a grudgingly safe bet. “It really turns me on if The Girl pretends she’s blind,” he smirked, twisting open a giant jar of the finest petroleum jelly. An hour or so later I was stuck to the bed, jellied tripe, while Random Paul bungled off into the sunrise, never to see his faux-blind harlot again.

Last night in Temple Bar, five of us well-watered journos began fly fishing for stories of bad sex and general mortification. As my fellow beer flunkies winced and hemmed and hawed and strained and moaned (and sang Michael Jackson tunes) to avoid coughing up the goods, Generation Game conveyor belt music starting going off in my head. There it was: the toaster, the golf clubs, the cuddly toy, a whole line-up of crap sexual experiences, sliding by as a consumer job lot of lousy shags.

A year after the blind-fantasy-vaseline man I was in the throes of my first serious relationship in London and apparently I was terribly frigid. “You’re not like other Irish girls I met, they were really dirty!” he protested. It was, of course, the start of a long line of gobshite men. To spice things up, and only because he owned a scooter and my flatmate’s boyfriend also owned a scooter, I suggested we try having sex with helmets on our heads. I thought it might be fun. In truth I wasn’t experienced enough to know what ‘spicing up’ meant? There was always helmets in the hall, broken umbrellas in the sitting room and booze in the kitchen. At first it was just sheer hilarious, we had to open up the visors that were steamed-up from laughing. We looked a bit like giant humping flies. But after a while when we really got into it, things got a bit road-crash hectic. Our heads were smashing into each other in full missionary force, my neck auto-whiplashing and the heat inside the helmet made it extremely difficult to breathe. By the time we abandoned our efforts there was nothing left for it but to get pissed and never mention it again. We broke up a few months later.

The London Years (1988-1995) were loud with all kinds of carnal clatterings. The jazz singer with the half-moon penis that he inherited in a bus crash, the Clapham barman who tried to ‘dry ride’ me when I was asleep and got his Winkle caught in his jean’s zip with disastrous ‘bloody’ consequences; an ensuing trip to St. Thomas’s Hospital where I had to pretend to medical staff I was his wife. The manic-depressive whose post coitus musings included a desire to fling himself off a motorway bridge. A Sikh guy who used to put my hand down his trousers and say: “Sikh and you will find.” I was desperately, painfully, saturated in unrequited love for him. There was also an Italian IT expert who could only get turned on after watching National Geographic – stuff like wildebeest stampeding on  the plains and open woodlands of Africa. He’d smolder out his nostrils and demand we head to the bedroom for animatistic sex as the programme credits were rising. It was a miracle I made it back to Ireland intact.

So there I was in my early 30s in a pub in north inner city Dublin totally infatuated with a sooty-haired musician with a cheeky grin and those West of Ireland certifiable green eyes. For months I gave him crab-sideways libidinous stares, come-hither smiles and ‘look at me, aren’t I just the dog’s bollix?’ belly laughs. I also made sure he’d hear snippets of personal details and how great my career was progressing, when I was chatting to some of the local deadbeats. I’d lost four stone so amazingly men were glaring back for the first time in aeons and West of Ireland man became so brilliantly reciprocal I had no choice but to bite the bullet and ask him back to my plywood apartment. This was my first blatant seduction and I was sheer delighted with myself.

The next bit happened so fast and so non-passionately that by the time I could say: “Do you want a can of Miller?” he had his cock out in my purple sitting room, demanding to know what I thought. This is still very hard to describe, even now, but there was a foreskin problem of sorts, well most definitely…the full details proffered by him there on the spot. His Ma admitted that she should’ve got him circumcised when he was small but that she really couldn’t bear to “hurt her baby” and ever since he’d started “doing the business” years later, he had to manually fold it over, his nuclear mushroom cloud, and tuck it in like an overgrown pastry lid, before he could get it inside a lady. The entire thing was so shocking that I wish I’d had the guts or gall to utter that famous Wickerman line: “Oh, God! Oh, Jesus Christ! Oh, my God! Christ! No, no, dear God!”

If bad sex doesn’t lead to a good heart, it will certainly lead to a good sense of humour. Last night as the Anti-Room meetup came to a prudent close, five  diehards posed a question no-one with even a quarter of a reputation would ever want to answer: I kept my gob firmly shut. Some things are just better off left dead in the bed, world without end, Amen.

June Caldwell is a writer, who after 13 years of journalism, is finally writing a novel. She has a MA in Creative Writing and was winner of ‘Best Blog Post’ award at the 2011 Irish Blog Awards. You can read this post on her own blog: here:

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You might be forgiven for thinking that we Anti-Room ladies are obsessed with childish crushes. We’ve talked about the shameful crush (nothing, absolutely nothing, will beat my friend J’s childhood love for Paul Daniels). We’ve talked about role-dependent crushes (hello, Don Draper!).

Look at Sydney Carton posing moodily on the far right! What angsty teen could resist?

Look at Sydney Carton posing moodily on the far right! What angsty teen could resist?

And now, my friends, we’re going to talk about one of the most mysterious crushes of all – the literary fictional character crush. This is a crush on a man or woman we have never seen, apart from in our own fevered imagination. There are the obvious ones for those who fancy boys – Darcy and Mr Rochester, although I have to admit that those arrogant, obnoxious blokes never did anything for me. Although it’s not like my literary crushes are anything to boast about, as you can see below. Nor do they resemble, in any way, the men I have actually gone out with (and indeed married) in real life, who have been cute boys in bands who made me laugh. But in fiction, it’s apparently another story. Very mysterious…*

Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
I’m re-reading A Tale of Two Cities at the moment, and remembering one of my greatest teenage fictional crushes, Sydney Carton. For those unfamiliar with the (excellent) novel, it’s set around the time of the French Revolution in both London and Paris (the, um, two cities of the title), and Mr Carton is a debauched, drunken, moody, tortured lawyer who is also incredibly noble when it really counts. He is, in fact the ultimate Tormented Boy (tm Sassy magazine circa 1993). I was 14 the last time I read this book, and fell madly in love with Carton and his habit of standing around moodily, despised by all, who are ignorant of the true nobility of his nature. Needless to say, I wept buckets at the “It is a far, far better thing that I do now…” bit. To my immense surprise (and despite the fact that, unlike when I was 14 and had never even kissed a boy, I now know that tormented surly drunken boys are usually not secretly noble and are actually just arseholes), he is having the same effect on me now that he did nearly 20 years ago. Stay away from that boring Lucie Manette, Sydney! She’s not worth it! Sigh.


Sebastian from Lorna Hill’s Sadler’s Wells books.

I know I was not alone in my 13-year-old love for Sebastian, the eccentric, charismatic and witty musical genius who befriends and later falls in love with future prima ballerina Veronica. Mere words can’t describe how much I adored these books when I was 12 or 13, but although I still find them extremely entertaining now, Sebastian himself is, alas, a bit of a smug, arrogant arse. I can remember why I worshiped him once but now, nstead of loving him, I find him a little bit irritating.Oh, how the mighty have fallen!


Lord Peter Wimsey.

Oh, Lord Peter, hero of Dorothy L. Sayers’s wonderful crime novels, how I still love you. There are so many appealing things about you. Your silly, dandy-ish appearance and manner that conceals your razor-sharp brain. Your recovery from shellshock after your valiant service in the trenches. The way that you triumphantly solve crimes but are traumatised by the fact that you are sending a criminal to the gallows (you don’t get Poirot giving a toss about that, do you?). And of couse, the fact that you marry a sassy feminist novelist and, we are told quite clearly, are very good in bed. Alas, in your two major screen incarnations you were played by the profoundly unsexy and frankly irritating Ian Carmichael and the less irritating but still not exactly foxy Edward Petherbridge (Harriet Walter, on the other hand, made the most perfect Harriet Vane imaginable). Nothing can top the version of you in your fans’ imaginations – it’s not surprising that you were voted one of the top three most attractive fictional heroes by Radio 4 listeners. Oddly enough, however, my favourite Sayers book, Gaudy Night, barely features Lord Peter at all, but it is all about Harriet, who totally rocks.

So ladies and gentlemen, what about you? What fictional fantasies float your collective boat?

*I must admit to having a soft spot for Henry Tilney in the wonderful Northanger Abbey, who is indeed funny and charming and, much as I love her, the only Jane Austen hero I’ve ever found attractive.

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