Hellosie, it’s Maisie. A friendly pat on the bum. Harmless fun or sexual assault? This is what you need to know.

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Numerous high-profile cases of sexual violence and abuse have been exposed in recent years, with the same words cropping up again and again: “groping”, “fondling”, “inappropriate touching”. What each of these terms usually means is sexual assault. But both in casual conversation and in the press, we will go to almost any lengths to avoid saying it.

According to the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the elements of the offence of sexual assault are:

• A person (A) intentionally touches another person (B)

• the touching is sexual

• (B) does not consent to the touching, and (A) does not reasonably believe that (B) consents.

The Crown Prosecution Service guidelines further clarify that “touching is widely defined and includes with any part of the body, or with anything else, and can be through clothing”. The definition is clear.

Sometimes, the reason behind a reluctance to use accurate language is more compassionate than malicious – an attempt to avoid the reality of what happens to girls and women on a regular basis. It is easier to rely on euphemistic language, such as “groping” or “fondling”, than to talk about sexual assault. But that doesn’t help, because we inadvertently end up downgrading the severity of the offence, which, in turn, helps normalise it.

Undermining sexual violence through diminishing language is prevalent but not new. Consider, for example, the popular online meme that states: “It’s not rape, it’s a struggle snuggle.”

It’s a trivialisation that leads to a culture where victims are doubted and/or blamed. Was it really sexual assault, or just a quick caress? Are you honestly going to make a fuss about a pat on the bottom? Sure, he’s the president-elect, but lighten up, he was just joking about grabbing women by the pussy! It’s the sort of language that allows a mainstream television programme to “debate” the acceptability of sexual assault using a question such as: “Is a bum pat harmless fun?”

By not pointing out how unacceptable this culture is, we become complicit in the message that victims are already receiving loud and clear: this isn’t really a big deal, you won’t be taken seriously, it’s not worth going to the police. According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, one of the most frequently cited reasons for not reporting sexual offences is that they seemed “too trivial” to report.

It is a message so entrenched in society that the vast majority of women and girls are completely unaware that being touched on the breasts, grabbed between the legs or squeezed on the bottom, among other common experiences, could constitute sexual assault. Many girls come to see this behaviour as normal – expected even – and simply the price you pay for being a woman. This means not only that victims are much less likely to report what has happened (or feel able to complain in a workplace, nightclub or school setting), but also that perpetrators are unaware of the severity of committing such offences.

Unfortunately, the term sexual assault has become so little understood that it is sometimes necessary to talk about “touching” or “grabbing” in order to elicit accurate responses. Far fewer people might report “sexual assault” in a survey, for example, than would describe having been touched without their consent.

Words such as “groping” and “fondling” are incapable of carrying the weight of the experiences they are stretched to encompass: an 11-year old girl too afraid to report the male classmate stroking the inside of her thigh under the desk during a geography lesson; a university student out running when a passer-by grabbed her suddenly and firmly by the breasts; a video store cashier whose boss would smack her bottom each time she went up the ladder to the storeroom. A litany of sexual assaults, reduced to something flimsy and dismissible. Moments that profoundly affect women’s lives, diminished and whitewashed.

Language has such power. When we deny victims the words to describe and define their own experiences we actively disempower them and distance them from justice. We owe it to all survivors to start describing “groping” and “fondling” by their real name: sexual assault.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Straight girls. They take ages to seduce, they’re hit and miss in bed – and then they go back to their boyfriends.

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There may be a thousand reasons why lesbians love the thrill of a straight girl. Maybe women who chase women possess the same rabid ego we despise in straight men, the same ego that makes a person go giddy at the thought of being “the first” for the straight girl in question. The heterosexual terrain of her flesh, untouched by other girl’s hands, smacks of the virgin narrative. Who wouldn’t want to be “the first”? Who doesn’t like what feels like a conquest? A win?

Maybe it is the thrill of conversion – and that is only if any such crossover can be deemed a conversion. Who is to say such conquests were not sleeper-lesbians, just waiting for the right moment to awaken? I suppose, though, through the right lens, the process could be described as evangelical, this business of meeting, and courting and having a woman decide to jump the heterosexual ship to be with you (even if it is temporary). More often than not, the crossover is accompanied by confessions of, “I’ve never done this with anyone before.” Or, “I’m not into women, there’s just something about you that makes me want to try this.” Either way, you are the chosen one, the messiah, the mandate that pulls her, magnetic, toward her most hidden desires.

Or maybe we are just like everyone else, desperately looking everywhere for love. Whatever it is, the phenomenon excites us; this lascivious dance between the narrow spaces occupied by the women the world wishes we were and the women who sometimes wish they were us keeps the tradition of lesbians chasing straight alive and flourishing. Yes, we crack mean jokes about it – who wants to invest in a relationship with a LUG? (Lesbian until graduation.) And, yes, we complain about the true cost of cavorting with the bi-curious – the eventual sexual frustration (often, our sexual favours are not returned during lovemaking). But we all do it, over and over and over again, until something happens that makes us say, no more. And this resolution can last for quite a while – months even (LOL) – until the next dangerously intriguing straight woman struts by, flirting at us, daring us to make her cross the line.

My story is no different. And while I am the first to ask for the gory details from other women, I am the last to fess up to the rapturous, but futile years I spent chasing women who identified as straight. Frustrated with the cloak and dagger reality of LGBT life even in London, in a moment of madness, or a rare stroke of genius, I walked into the middle of a courtyard and made a public announcement, “Yes. I would just like to say, out loud, the thing I know everybody has been talking about. Yes. I am a lesbian. Yes. I like girls. Now it’s out there. So now, nobody has to be all strange about it.”

After that grandstanding, no one about whom there was an ounce of homosexual suspicion wanted to be seen with me, much less date me. I like to tell people I had no choice, that to forge new ground I had to go into the thick and frightening forest of the straight girls. I spent about two months studying the lay of the land. I noticed the girls who glanced at me when they thought I wasn’t looking. I also took note of how many of them blushed when they caught me looking. I was particularly interested in the ones who seemed to thrive on making me look, but would turn away if it seemed as if I might approach them. Something about the push and pull created a sexual tension I enjoyed.

There was one girl I liked more than the others. I watched her all the time, looking for a way to approach her. I had no idea how this sort of thing was done. I had almost given up when I found her crying in the Philosophy section of the library. I sat on the floor next to her and just waited. It broke my heart to see her sobbing. I wanted to make her stop. I didn’t think about it, I just placed my hand between her shoulder blades and kept it there. She wept for another hour before she turned to face me. My hand was still on her back, so it felt natural to pull her closer. I only intended to hug her, but she leaned in and kissed me.

Then one morning while we were in bed spooning, her ex-boyfriend called and made a convincing argument for reconciliation. She told me she was still in love with him. Plus, she was beginning to tire of the clandestine nature of our relationship. She wasn’t meant for this kind of life.

I still flirt with these straight-but-not-so-straight women. Only now I know the limitations of such insanities. The trick to surviving the chase is not to take yourself, or the interaction, too seriously. I always choose an opening line that borders on the absurd. “I like the way you make that pink push-up bra look intellectual” – and if she is the kind of sexually ambiguous woman that likes this kind of attention, she will laugh. And if you listen well, you can tell if she is likely to play or nay. It is not because she laughs that indicates her willingness, but how she laughs. It has to be a sort of curious amusement that comes from her eyes and travels to her mouth. Never mention that her skin is beautiful or that her legs go on for ever. Remember, she navigates that sort of cheese from straight men all day long.

Never, ever overtly refer to the electricity crackling between the two of you. Courting the bi-curious requires the skill of restraint. There is a sort of informal manual for lesbian chasing not-so-straight. And the first rule is, you have to be platonic first. Girls who are not-so-straight but identify as straight – even when they admit to being attracted to women – don’t want that interest to seem conscious. It’s always better if it seems like an impulsive adventure, a thing that just happened. Which means you always begin as nothing more than a friend. No compliments, no kissing, no holding hands, no longing looks. No, I miss you phone calls. No yearning. Just casual chitchat girly-girl conversations. You should laugh when she confides in having a crush on some boy. Offer advice on what she should wear when she goes to see him. Be supportive of her relationship. Become her friend, first. Work very hard at being her very best friend. Always remember, you’re only her friend. You are not allowed to bend that rule for at least three months.

If you really want a shot at getting close to this woman, you have to wait until there is a crack in the lack of respect her boyfriend has for her. Watch for when he is late, or disrespectful, or inconsiderate. Casually mention that you would never treat a woman like that. Reinforce how she deserves so much better. Store the details. Then wait for him to mess up big. Then, you can tell her that you would never put up with that from a man. Quickly apologise for saying that you think she shouldn’t either. Resist the urge to stroke her brows as her doubts about him begin to fester.

Even as she responds, avoid talk of sex. There will be time enough to expound on how lesbian sex has a way of being outrageous – what with the use of bedposts, and cling film and handcuffs with fur in the middle. It’s a no-no to mention dildos. Do not raise the issue of multi-speed vibrators. Wait until she tells you her relationship with the boy is over. Hug her gently. Empty your head of thoughts of pressing her back to the ground. Straight girls are not interested in swallowing the whole lesbian syllabus in the first class. If she pulls away, let her. This dalliance is for those who possess inhuman amounts of patience. So, resist the urge to go after her. Silence the arguments developing in your head. Do not say another word to her. Between you and me, more often than not, if you give her the space, she will come back. I’m not sure how long she will stay. But if you are a lesbian chasing not-so-straight girls, I’m assuming you are willing to risk falling for a woman who may not be your life partner.

Otherwise, you should go in with only the intention to have fun, maybe learn a thing or two. Maybe you will teach her something new about gender-bending and multiple orgasms. Maybe the experience will teach you something about loss. But you must remember that most straight-not-so-straight girls are often unwilling to make the dive into lesbian sexuality permanent. Sure, some are moved enough to dip a hand all the way in, but most of them are only experimenting with the tide. And though most of us dykes enjoy the time of day they choose to give us, in our heart of hearts, we know that such girls require too much effort, and that the costs are often too high. And in the already complicated lives of most adult lesbians, the heady excitement of a short thrill isn’t worth the long-term emotional expense.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. For me, dressing is a question of comfort and a lack of fear of being judged for “looking like a lesbian”.

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How many women – straight or not – would benefit from never having to consider what a man – real or imagined – thought of their clothes.

Though I realised I was into girls at around six, it took until 13 to come out, and then 17 to tell my mum.

After coming out, I’ve always stuck to feminine outfits and a feminine look.

So, I’ve never gone for gender-neutral. And what was once a queer-owned style has shifted to the mainstream, being appropriated by straight women to the point that it’s now impossible to infer a sexual orientation from the way a woman dresses.

Obviously, it’s fine. I’m not one to tell straight women to dress straight and vice versa, but it’s certainly having an impact on gay women. What was once lesbian code is now merely on-trend, thanks to the high-street ubiquity of unisex outfitters such as American Apparel and Uniqlo and the androgynous cuts of Scandinavian shops like Cos. Add to that the rise of gender-free accessories (Grenson shoes, beautiful and virtually indistinguishable between genders). Some women are shirking the “boyfriend” cut for actual men’s clothes, something gay women have been doing for years.

Celebrity influence has also helped, from the ever-quirky Tilda Swinton to the more tabloid-friendly, youth-appealing sorts such as Cara Delevingne. Even Emma Stone, who happens to be straight, prefers to put a little subtle butchness into her off-duty looks, dressing like a cross between Kristen Stewart and preppy Taylor Swift. As for singers Jessie Ware and Lorde, both are styled by Avigail Claire – who just knows how a monochrome masculine cut works on a feminine physique.

Stepping outside of sexuality, it’s an interesting shift for fashion. If lesbians and bisexual women dress butch, it’s not necessarily because they want to be boys, or deliberately to peacock for other women. They’re doing it because they don’t necessarily aspire to a supposed male ideal of what looks cute; they’re more interested in wearing what’s most comfortable to them, that or emulate ‘out’ model Freja Beha Erichsen in black tees, black jeans and biker jackets.

It’s not only going to be harder for lesbians to pull off, now that every woman is wearing these signposts of queer, but I’m a bit proud of not looking like a ‘dyke in those dungarees’. And that pride is in setting yourself apart, in wilfully doing something that will never ever be done for the pleasure of a bloke, is kind of liberating.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. From her empty bed. Here’s the latest about a single girl from London and her thoughts on her sex life.

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Single girls have never had it so good. The worst thing about being free, is that it generally doesn’t last.

No sooner have you dusted yourself down, picked up the pieces and returned to that blissful state of emotional tranquillity and delicious self-indulgence, then along comes somebody to mess it all up again. Within weeks, your social life has been pruned down to the occasional dinner party with other couples, while weekends are spent fighting over the remote control and trying to lure the lumpish body next to you out for a walk. A life that you managed perfectly yourself becomes a minefield of tricky situations brought about by attempting to share responsibilities.

Yet the coveted state of singledom continues to be seen as a compromise. When was the last time you heard somebody say pityingly, ‘Poor thing, she’s still dating, you know?’ – yet that’s exactly the sort of presumptuous insult that’s hurled at the single dweller on a regular basis. This despite the fact that many relationships involve more misery and compromise than most people who choose to go it alone will experience in a lifetime. The accepted wisdom, that from the day we’re born we’re duty bound to seek out a like-minded person who’ll make two become one, defies logic. You only need the most basic grasp of mathematics to know that two is always two.

I had my macro Damascene revelation on the joys of being single about six months ago. It was early morning and the pale light of a wintry sun trickled through my bed-room blinds as I stretched myself diagonally over the expanse of my double bed. Wearing my pyjama bottoms and tee, I shuffled into the kitchen and prepared myself a coffee and a bowl of cereal. Then, picking up the newspaper from my doorstep, I slipped back between the still-warm sheets.

As I lolled around on my bed reading the news and trying to remember my plans for the day ahead, I experienced a quiver of smug contentment. No more breakfast television, no more checking my watch when I was enjoying the company of friends, no more declining of invitations from people who bored her or vice versa, as much theatre as I wanted. The list of my blessings was endless. I was free. I was single again. After years of whining self-pity during my regular phases of being single I’d suddenly realised that, far from a being punishment, it was an idyllic state to be savoured.

Of course, you can write me off as being a smug yuppie with a comfortable lifestyle and a selfish nature. But you’d be wrong. My modicum of financial security is hard earned, and as for being single, I’ve tried as hard as anyone to make terrible relationships work. Yet it never occurred to me to rise to the converse challenge of creating a worthwhile lifestyle alone. Some of my ex-girlfriends remain good friends, but as I watch them fall like skittles into new unions, I find surprisingly that I don’t envy them at all. I’ve no doubt that despite my best efforts I won’t remain in this heavenly state uninterrupted, but the chances are I will return to it again, and again, and again. Marriage has an undeserved reputation as the only way of life worth aspiring to, cohabitation comes a close second, and the popular misconception is that no one would choose to be single. A faintly hypocritical scenario when you look at the state of modern relationships. In the clear light of day, and with the right attitude, going it alone offers many advantages.

Nevertheless, being single, particularly as a woman, continues to get a bad press. Pitied (poor thing can’t get a man), vilified (single-mum syndrome) or condescended to (isn’t it time you grew up) but never celebrated as a chosen way of life. A woman finds no respect forthcoming, and can only pray that the day the label ‘single’ turns to ‘spinster’ is further away than her menopause. For centuries, men have been prolonging their ‘merry bachelor’ days. Is it mere coincidence that women only reach a similar jovial state when they become ‘merry widows’? I suppose it stands to reason. If a woman has never had the ‘official’ stamp of approval from a man, then what on earth has she got to be happy about?

Any declaration on the joys of being single is invariably met with a sympathetic smile and a pat on the head for being brave enough to pretend you’re not suicidal. If you don’t answer questions regarding your love life with a resigned shrug and an ‘I’ll try to do better’ attitude, people think there’s something wrong with you or your gay. No matter how good a time you’re having as a single woman, you are expected to be a bit ashamed. It wouldn’t do to turn up to a party and boast about the incredible sex you had all weekend with a woman you met at a fabulous party two weeks previous.

Sex for the single girl is unquestionably a tricky issue. Even in these supposedly emancipated times, it’s still regarded as an activity that men should take pride in doing a lot of and women should try hard to pretend they never indulge in – unless it’s in a monogamous, long-term relationship. Well, we all make mistakes and the longevity of the relationship is something none of us can guarantee when, overcome by passion, we find ourselves cavorting on the sofa.

Women may be less profligate with their sexual favours, but they get just as bored by regular bad sex, or indeed just the same old sex.

Most of my friends question me relentlessly about whom I’m dating. My independently minded friends aren’t less interested, they’re just way too busy living their own lives – something I’m afraid cohabitees stop doing the minute they start sharing a front door. How else do you explain the wistful look in their eyes when you tell them you’re off to France for a month?

Now, finally, women have the opportunity to enjoy the lifestyle they’ve worked hard to create. Only a lunatic would leap off that bandwagon having only just managed to manoeuvre your way on! The second your deposit account has upwards of a three-figure balance is surely not the time to throw in the towel. The fun is only just beginning. Hooking up with someone involves such a plethora of compromises that just thinking about it makes me nervous. I haven’t slogged my guts out for 20 years or so to spend my much-needed holidays with a woman who wants to play Scrabble on a sun lounger while I trail around the cultural hotspots desperately wishing I had a girlfriend there to keep me company in bed in the afternoons.

I want to see the world, meet Machiavellian people, read more books, sleep in, stay out, spend three weeks in a row without switching the television on, eat toast and Marmite four times a day for a month. I can let weeks go by without venturing anywhere near a supermarket. Contrary to popular perception, when I open the fridge door and discover only a bottle of wine. I’m not depressed for a moment. Instead I’m beside myself with relief that it’s not full of snack-sized Babybels and six-packs of hideous fruit yogurts.

The independence of a career introduces the possibility of choosing to live alone, and it’s an improvement to the status quo that my generation seem all too happy to embrace.

Perhaps my own experiences of ‘happy coupledom’ have something to do with my reticence to share door keys at present. They say that living alone is lonely, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt as alone as in the twilight moments of a relationship when a once-busy double bed has become as wide and desolate as Antarctica. The possibility of reaching out for comfort from the other side is as ridiculous as warming your hands on an ice cube.

I have a suspicion that spending more time on enjoying your life and less time on seeking a partner may ultimately be the secret to both. One thing’s for sure, though. Sitting around moping and waiting for your significant other is a waste of time. And that’s one thing you never have enough of.

 

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. The harsh realities of finding a relationship. This may change your view.

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Can men and women ever be “just friends”? The correct answer is: “Yes, obviously, so why in God’s name do paper editors, authors of dating books and headline-seeking psychologists keep asking?”

My evidence is as follows: one, I’m female; two, a good friend of mine is male; three, the prospect of romantic involvement with him strikes me, as absurd, but friends yes.

What’s striking about the “just friends” debate is how useless it is. If you believe such friendships are common, it’s meaningless to be told you’re deluded. Conversely, if you are a woman tortured by unrequited love for a man friend, it’s little use to learn that some other men and women don’t feel that way: you still have an issue that needs addressing.

The real reason some people continue to deny the possibility of such friendships, I believe, is that they subscribe to what you might call the Harsh Realities of Relationships. Not, let’s be clear, because they’re more in touch with reality, but because they derive such enormous satisfaction from believing they are.

Just as the Harsh Realities position on male-female friendships is that sex always gets in the way, the Harsh Realities take on dating is that it’s a battlefield, where playing mind-games is essential; relationships, meanwhile, are mutually manipulative power struggles.

The problem isn’t that this is always wrong – it isn’t – but that its claim to insight is unearned: if you always pick the most cynical explanation, you’ll sound “brutally honest” every time.

So, might approaching strangers and asking them to sleep with you, as per the old Russian joke. Just because a strategy works as a numbers game doesn’t mean it gets at anything true about human nature. Some cross-sex friendships are more platonic, others less so. Some people are more manipulative, others less so. And so, boringly, on. The real harsh reality is that reality isn’t always harsh.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. When it comes to women and recruitment ads you’ll see something that annoys me. That women are pinned up against each other more so than men.

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On a recent British Airway’s flight, recently I was reminded that the dawn of luxury air travel for everyone wasn’t that long ago. Glamorous – but incredibly sexist if you’re a female flight attendant.

It is not hard to find evidence of what life was like for female flight attendant back in the day. One, Trudy Baker, even wrote a memoir charmingly entitled Coffee, Tea or Me? – in which she recalled being sexually molested by a passenger during an emergency landing. After complaining to her supervisor, she was told: “You know, Trudy, we can’t have an unhappy, unsmiling stewardess serving our valued travellers, can we?”

This response might seem as archaic as the uniforms, but scrape the surface and the trolley-dolly caricature is still prevalent, thanks in no small part to the aggressively sexualised marketing and recruitment methods used by a broad range of airlines. Garuda Indonesia candidates had been subjected to a “health examination” by a male doctor that involved having their breasts “fondled”. According to a Garuda official, the “hand examination on breast” was necessary to detect implants, which “can have health issues when air pressure falls during flights”. It is not a practice common to other airlines.

Thai airline Nok Air posted a recruitment advert for “beautiful girls with nice personalities” to fill its cabin crew positions; those over 25 were deemed too old.

Air India did follow a similar recruitment policy. And brand-new airline Thai Smile (operated by Thai Airways) recruited a 100-strong cabin crew of women under 24.

The reason for this is simply competition, Airlines want to appear more high-end than their competitors to add value to their service. To do this, they market their product as luxurious and desirable, with youth and beauty effectively transmitting that message. Witness the Air New Zealand TV advertising campaign of 2009 in which cabin crew were photographed wearing nothing but body paint; or the Southwest Airlines planes emblazoned with murals of bikini-clad supermodel Bar Rafaeli. Virgin Atlantic has famously run £6m advertising campaigns featuring its “red hotties” and there is an annual “Girls of Ryanair” pinup calendar.

Aesthetic labour – when employees’ feelings and appearance are turned into commodities – isn’t, of course, a new phenomenon, and is familiar in retail too. For flight attendants, though, who need to provide emotional support – making travellers feel safe and looked after – this “combination of sexuality and emotionality takes place in a contained and often stressful environment.

While a handful of complaints receive wider coverage – such as the allegations that Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexually harassed Air France attendants, or that 25-year-old passenger Katherine Goldberg grabbed a male crew member’s genitalia and demanded sex during a Virgin Atlantic flight to Heathrow – the majority are made anonymously, and often do not name the airline. They are afraid of losing their jobs, which are often payable hourly and on short-term contracts.

The pressure on appearance continues long after the recruitment process, too.

Additionally, most airlines stipulate minimum makeup requirements. Thomson demands female crew wear lipstick, blusher and mascara. Even footwear is proscribed.

Thomson Airways make flat shoes mandatory on the flight but at the end of duty, they put on specially issued shoes with heels to walk out of the airport. In the publicity shots for a lot of airlines all wear similar standard issue heeled court shoes.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. The waif look has arguably never left us. And with that unhealthy aspirations.

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I have discovered that I cannot miraculously shave my hip bones down, just to fit into a sample size piece of clothing, and I refuse to fight against nature.

Awareness of the extreme thinness required of women has been growing for years, as have the objections to the cultural fetishisation of bones and hunger, instead of health and happiness, for women. Now, normally when a backlash starts against an advertising trend – which is in all important respects what women-thinness is, albeit more enduring and hegemonic than most – advertisers retreat. They take stock. Which is to say, they look at where consumers’ money is going – and they respond accordingly.

But the lack of change in this area suggests consumers are not changing their spending habits. And as most of the consumers of the brands and products these advertisers are selling to are women purporting to hate this kind of thing, we have a conundrum: why are we still doing this? Why aren’t we putting our money where our mouths are? And then, obviously, in further solidarity taking our mouths off for a pizza somewhere?

It seems that in the great fight against narrow beauty ideals we’ve gone only as far as lip service. We know what we see is wrong on multiple levels, but you can’t undo years of conditioning overnight. Enculturation starts at birth, and images work at a visceral level. You learn what your society’s beauty is long before you acquire – if you ever do – the tools to criticise and deconstruct it. Within the gap grow unhealthy aspirations.

If you want to see quite how unhealthy, do a quick search of the “thinspo” (short for “thinspiration”) hashtag on Instagram and see the approvals from girls and young women racking up alongside their emaciated peers. “My goal!” “My dream!” they cry to people well along the path to starvation.

Open letters, bans on the ultra-skinny (most of the body mass index cut off limits are still well below what doctors consider healthy), the occasional success of “plus-size” models such as Ashley Graham, Robyn Lawley and Myla Delbesion (the last for Calvin Klein, the brand that in the 1990s brought us, via Kate Moss, the waif look that dominated for the next decade and has arguably never fully left us) are all welcome, necessary and valuable. But they are not enough, and show no sign of approaching the critical mass needed to bring about change.

For that, we need advertisers to break the vicious, and viciously effective, cycle that threatens to trap current and future generations of consumers, and start using “real” women – of healthy weights, and maybe slightly varying shapes – instead of those who have been told to “get down to the bone”.

Asking, or compelling by legislation, advertisers to do this runs counter to almost every prevailing ideology and trend. It asks that moneymaking ventures act for the greater good instead of the bottom line. It asks government to chip away at a cornerstone of the free market. It conceptualises women as hapless victims of intangible forces.

To the first two we can safely respond – yes, it does. Ideologies and trends are not immutable laws of physics; do it. To the last, I say – yes, that’s an uncomfortable thought, unless you accept that all human beings are hapless victims from time to time. It doesn’t mean any of us are stupid, or make us lesser beings. It means that when things go too far we all need a bit of protection, not just from one another but from ourselves. And starvation as the norm is always too far. So, let’s do it.