Supersize fibs

Of all the bullshit that is bullshitted, some of the sloppiest, stickiest nonsense is the stuff about diets and exercise, and there’s more of it around in January than at any other time of year. Well, apart from the bikini diets in June, the Christmas party body blitzes, the Easter eggs-ercise routines and, for all I bloody know, the Ascension Day ass-sculpting. The point is, this stuff just goes on and on, accompanied by the low whine of concern about the obesity crisis as journalists wibble on about how the nation got so fat (and meanwhile, picture editors wibble on about how they didn’t get into this business to source endless footage of broad, trembling backsides shuffling down highstreets). Continue reading

[Guest post] A physical education for Liz Jones

Joel Snape is features editor of Men’s Fitness, and he think Liz Jones is wrong about sport

Firstly, let me say that I think Fatima Whitbread is awesome. Secondly: Liz Jones has written one of those Mail columns where she vacillates between self-pity, uninformed opinions, countrywide psychoanalysis and contradictory statements so fast that you finish reading it confused and vaguely angry. Normally the best thing to do in response to this sort of thing is snort and post something cynical on Twitter, but there were enough echoes of things that I’ve heard normal people say about exercise in it that I thought it was worth responding to properly. Continue reading

Normal bodies

After three decades, I have decided that I might have a normal relationship with my body, although it all depends on how you define “normal”. If you mean “non-neurotic”, then no, I do not have a normal relationship with my body – even if I’d say that I’m happier in my own skin now than I’ve been at any time since the great fall of adolescence. I exercise, I eat well, and I’m proud of what my body can accomplish now rather than appalled by its failure to match up to arbitrary aesthetic standards. Continue reading

Run to your grave

I love running. All the same, a lot of my reasons for exercising could fairly be called “a bit negative”. I live in terror of mortality. Not of death: dying, based on the couple of times I’ve been ill enough to slip out of consciousness, is going to be a piece of piss. Maybe I’m just exceptionally bad with pain, but mid-agony, the promise that it will all fade into hushed darkness when you shut your eyes is actually not that terrible. Continue reading

Contraception: worth talking about, but very quietly please

Obviously, sex sells. Ad breaks are full of it, explicit and implied – writhing perfume models, the jeans left grass stained by a hot date that only the right detergent can save, flirtatious chocolate-shilling sensualists – and basically that’s fine with me. If advertisers’ didn’t have sex, Christ knows what kind of terrifying methods they’d turn to instead for convincing us to buy stuff.

But in between the nudging, winking and occasional panting, wouldn’t it be nice if sometimes the message seeped through that sex is normal? Something you could talk about calmly, and even plan for – rather than just spritzing some body spray and hoping for the right result. That was the implication of the Department Of Health’s “Contraception: Worth Talking About” ad series. So how come this radio ad (below) has just been criticised by the ASA as too strong for the ears of under-16s?

It’s not explicit. It doesn’t even mention sex, and there’s no heavy breathing – not even a smutty pun. Just a mother and daughter talking about “the coil”, followed by a couple talking about “an implant”, and the message that you can get more information from a doctor or nurse.

At the very worst, a parent whose child heard this at 3:58 might be forced to explain that contraception is something grown-ups use when they don’t want to have babies. And the under-16s the ASA wants to protect from this blandly informative ad certainly include teens who are thinking about having sex, and who could use the encouragement to seek advice.

There is a weird belief that we can guide children to their 16th birthday without ever having to explain where babies come from, never mind how they can be avoided. It’s a dim-witted fetshisation of innocence, as any parent should know: children are curious, and they inevitably spend time with adults of (duh) child-bearing age. It takes a lot of misdirection and obfuscation to explain a pregnancy without answering questions about sex.

But plenty of adults are willing to squirm their way out dishonestly. It’s typical of this cultural squeamishness that an advert for information gets restricted. Eroticism and salaciousness are everywhere, but apparently nothing’s as harmful to children as the promise of a straight answer.

Text © Sarah Ditum, 2010