Friday 24 May 2019

Ciara O'Connor: 'I never thought I'd say it, but fair play Roz for being real in body positivity'

Roz Purcell is honest on Instagram
Roz Purcell is honest on Instagram
Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala ball. Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Ciara O'Connor

Whenever there is a headline about a person who is good looking for a living talking about 'body confidence' and encouraging us plebs to accept our gross bodies, an angel gets some back rolls.

 It's a modern-day scourge: these conventionally attractive women 'bravely' posing in bikinis, as if getting their perfect tits out is some kind of activism.

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So when I saw the headline, 'Roz Purcell's Instagram advice to anyone struggling to feel comfortable in a bikini', I sharpened my claws and licked the nib of my quill: I was going to go in for the kill. The article talked about Roz learning to love her "lady bumps, lumps" and how "your body doesn't equal your worth". My blood pressure was rising.

But then I had a look at her Instagram: the standard influencer fare of a bowl of fruit salad between some long crossed sun-kissed legs. But - some stretch marks, familiar-looking fake tan settling into hair follicles and blue veins peeking through skin.

I had never seen follicles on Instagram before. Yes, Roz Purcell is beyond gorgeous, with a body anyone would sell their granny for. But it was strangely striking, even on her objectively beautiful behind, to see a few small dimples - the evidence of real human flesh.

Plenty of the influencers talk the faux-empowered talk of body positivity, while simultaneously watching their photo angles like a hawk and smoothing over dimples and marks on editing apps. I never thought I'd say it, but - fair play, Roz. And though I can only dream of having your "lady lumps", thanks for sharing them anyway.

*****

It is fashion's big day out and always, but always, the campest night of the year. This year the Met Gala made it official, with the dress-code, "Camp: Notes on Fashion" encouraging its celebrity attendees to really go hard on sequins, accessories and literary theory.

The theme was taken from a 1964 Susan Sontag essay Notes on 'Camp' and not since my first year college exams has there been such gratuitous cherry-picking of skim-read and barely-understood critical theory. It was wonderful and painful to see the frantic intellectualising of celebrity outfits, with dense Sontag quotes in Instagram captions under pictures of Katy Perry dressed as a chandelier.

Ezra Miller, with five hours' worth of make-up done to give him five extra eyes: "The celebration of camp is almost funereal...It's almost like it dies as it walks in the room. But I think it consumes the other as well. You know? I think it's like fire and oxygen."

Meanwhile, Tatler wrote how Frank Ocean's aggressively plain all-black outfit was "the perfect metaphor" for one of the essay's principle. "Deliberate, self-aware camp only exists thanks to pure, naive camp, which is unintentional. Pure camp is 'dead serious', or at least likes to think that it is. Because it comes from a place of naivete, it 'always intends to be serious, but fails'." Which is the very essence of Ocean's Met Gala look." No, me neither. Not a clue.

Kim Kardashian was criticised for ignoring the dress-code, wearing latex that looked as if it was dripping, but of course she herself is camper than Christmas, so maybe that was the whole point.

Predictably it was the supermodels who let the side down - Karlie Kloss wore a cute mini dress, apparently oblivious to the meaning of 'camp' despite having spent a significant portion of the past five years parading down the Victoria's Secret runway in Swarovski and absolutely huge feathery wings.

After having to keep our heads down in guilty mortification last year for the 'Catholic imagination' theme which saw Rihanna dress as the Pope, Ireland made a strong case for itself at last week's Gala.

Samantha Barry, editor-in-chief of Glamour, nailed the theme in head-to-toe gold with too-much-and-never-enough flares and shoulder pads; disability activist and contributing editor to Vogue Sinead Burke, made history as the first little person to attend the ball - and her powerful accompanying article was shared far and wide; Saoirse Ronan wore the Carlow colours (because what's camper than Carlow?) and Michaela O'Shaughnessy purloined a few flowers from the displays for her living room - shur they'd only be thrown away otherwise.

*****

For a few years now, there have been pearl-clutching accounts of how millennials are killing sex.

It was given the catchy title of "the sex recession" last year, this phenomenon of 30-year-old virgins, and 26-year-olds in sexless long-term relationships.

Baby Boomers (no one asked you, Baby Boomers) took the opportunity to boast about they submit to their husbands once a week, on Wednesdays, and have done since 1972, and darkly muttered about how it was all this 'consent' nonsense that's ruining it for the snowflakes.

Last week, the findings from the most recent National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles in the UK dropped. The results, as usual, were damning: young people are screwed (metaphorically).

Large numbers of us experience problems like pain or anxiety during sex, the inability to climax and finding intercourse difficult, apparently.

However, although it was reported as another nail in the coffin of millennialism, a closer look at the numbers let us off the hook: they were actually talking about Gen Z, the generation born after 1996.

A third of sexually active men aged 16-21 and 44.4pc of sexually active young women of the same age experienced unhappiness and sexual problems, according to the survey. The boys worry about climaxing too quickly, the girls about climaxing not at all. This checks out: I suspect that if the stats were broken down more specifically by age, we'd find that third of 16-21 year olds actually represents more like 100pc of 16 and 17-year-olds.

Because what teenage boy, whether in 2019 or 1979 or 1949, has felt any level of sexual confidence, and lasted more than two minutes? Similarly, the 'huge' proportion of 'women' who don't orgasm during sex, according to the survey, are likely to be victims of said teenage boys; between them, they won't know one end of a vulva from the other.

And that's very anxiety inducing indeed.

And so it seems we are probably not in the midst of a sexual emergency, with entire generations growing up crippled by anxiety because of sex education and the internet.

Back down, Baby Boomers, the kids will be all right. But as for us millennials - I don't know what our excuse is.

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