Dogging Tales: A Review

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Peaking at 2.1 million viewers and clocking in ten hours of trending on twitter, the controversial Channel Four documentary Dogging Tales aired last night. Following a tradition of taboo sex shows (My Phone Sex Secrets, Virgin School) the show fused first-person accounts from apparent dogging ‘enthusiasts’ who each donned a different animal mask, like a creepy creature comforts and creepily well filmed ‘hidden camera’ footage of the dogging, edited with Eurotrash pink lighting, like an Amsterdam brothel. Well, I use the word enthusiasts cautiously, because I’m not entirely convinced all the doggers were that… enthused.

The first couple is long-time dogger Les and his partner Sue, who smiles uncomfortably as he recalls how he found dogging (or rather how dogging found him) when he was having sex with a girl (or maybe two? Well, there was two girls in the car at least) when a trope of men gathered at the car. Rather than drive off in terror/anger, he curiously asked what they were doing, decided he liked the sound of dogging, and returned to the girl(s). “The ex wife doesn’t like it. I wonder why.” Hmm, me too. A mystery.

When asked how she feels about voyeur (literal) wankers at dogging, Sue replies “I don’t pay that much attention to them, I just sort of, if I’m playing on me own I just close my eyes and ignore them or if me and Les are doing anything I just look in the opposite direction” which do not sound like the words of a woman who enjoys being watched having sex. Les and Sue both claim she dogging had done wonders for her confidence, after what seemed to be a less than savoury previous relationship; though its not stating exactly what happened, she says she didn’t enjoy sex with her ex, and wears make up to feel like a different person, to cover her past. Sue seems less that happy and confident, she spent the show smoking on the sofa, arms crossed, until she piles on make up to go dogging with a parrot owning, Lynx loving Les, 20 years older than her, with 18 kids and hopes to impregnate her. Apparently the kids know about the dogging, which seems worrying because I can’t imagine that they could be that old. Also, I’m pretty sure I’d be thankful if my parents kept that secret from me.

“You can never predict what’s going to happen when you go dogging. You never know what gonna happen when you go into the woods.” Which sounds to me as the opposite of an advertisement. With its over serious tone (owing, I imagine to director Leo Maguire, who also shot Gypsy Blood), the show seems like an odd episode of Silent Witness, in the opening shots, I was waiting for a murderer, perhaps an religious nut ‘doing God’s work.’ Les takes photos of masked Sue, who sits legs akimbo, Sharon Stone style on a log, while men watch and masturbate. ExDJ Les describes it as ‘a little show’, ‘entertaining people’ and that it makes him feel ‘a little more important.’ Later, Les claims that condoms don’t fit him – even extra large ones. Which is obviously bullshit. It seems insane that he seems to rather get castrated than wear a condom. Although, after 18/9 kids, it seems about time he boys out the procreation game. Ironically enough, he talks at length about how his parrots chose one person, like a mate they stay together forever, with pride he is that person. He decides he’ll dog until the day he dies – then he wonders what Sue will do. He pities Sue missed the golden years of dogging, and claimed the internet ruined it – as people are spending too much time arranging and not enough time dogging. Which seems mad- DO THEY KNOW, IS THIS HAPPENING EVERYWHERE? ARE PEOPLE JUST WANDERING INTO WOODS FOR A WANK IF I WENT FOR A WALK TONIGHT WOULD I FIND A SHIT LOAD OF DOGGERS? When I was about 16 (and classy) we, as high schoolers, used to go for camp outs in woods, to get drrrUnk – but imagine if we’d unknowingly camped out at a dogging hot spot, what trauma that would cause.

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Fox wearing lorry driver, (who I will call Foxy – note: he is in no way Foxy) who lives in his lorry argued that dogging is addictive as no matter how well or badly you do, you don’t have to see the person again. Which I understand the appeal of on the most basic level, as a member of the ‘Hook Up’ generation – but over a sustained period of time? For a lifetime?

Foxy claims that he’d estimate 70% of lorry drivers are doggers, describing dogging as ‘a perk of being a lorry driver’ – not exact the Perks of Being a Wallflower, is it? On a quest for ‘the furry triangle’, Foxy describes women as a female, in an almost animalistic way, suggesting some covert misogyny. This is backed up as he seems not to believe in love, and has no desire for a family, mostly because he claims that men who are in relationships, as well as those who use prostitutes, pay for sex. He claims he hasn’t been hurt, but he paid a lot in relationships, seeming to have some idea that all women are ‘Golddiggers’.

Next up is the married for 15 years couple, John who cares a raccoon mask, and the Susie who wears a mask that I want to say is… a donkey? Anyway, she makes up for the shitty mask with her thigh high boots and lingerie. She has the body of a pornstar and the voice of a rough thug from a council estate.cIt seems to be not quality but quantity for Susie: ”I like one after another. I just come down here, I suppose to get through as many blokes as I can. I don’t want to them to care about me. I just want them to like what they’re looking at, fuck me, then go. And the quicker they come the better, because I haven’t come down here to make love to someone for hours, they just wanna come and they just wanna go“ she says over footage of her shagging in the boot of her care, moaning loudly. She speaks to them first, but her husband claims have met all sorts of people while dogging: undertakes, vicars, solicitors and weirdos, which seems a bit rich coming from a guy who watches people fuck his wife in his car wearing a raccoon mask. Although, he is respectful of women’s consent, though his proclamation that he makes the rules is truly chilling, his raccoon eyes empty – as if he’s robbing you/initiating you into a cult. “How many women and men are gonna sit and watch this programme and think oh I wish I could do that.” Not me, my dear. “I bet there’s loads of people.” Not if Twitter’s anything to go by. “I bet there’s loads of women that dream of having two men, or three men, or however many, but wouldn’t dare mention it to their husbands.” Maybe she right. But there seems to be more men than women in the dogging community. Many middle aged, and I’m sure plenty of them are married. I can just see it now. A middle aged woman, whose jam’s a hit at the Church fete, married to a hardcore dogging fanatic. She rationalises that it’s just like how all the other women’s wives masturbate to internet porn, her husband just prefers to do it in some woods. If anything she’s convinced herself its more civil than all that. So, though she won’t join in herself, she pops along to show her support. On refreshments. Making tea at a makeshift table, like a fete stall, offering vol-au-vents and condoms on separate plates. Doing a clean up so the locals don’t move us on, like some sort of sex-gypsies. John likes his missus been done by a group of eddit stobart dirvers (who wouldn’t), and Suze admits if a guy can’t get it up, she takes it to heart – “I’ve never felt secure in myself ever, ever, have I?” John agrees “which is astounding” – and I agree. She’s got a perfectly toned body, tits that are so big and perky they must be fake and long hair extentions that sway behind her as she’s getting fucked by a stranger on national television. Susie this, and a fear of aging and losing her looks, stems reveals years of anorexia. There seems to be a worrying pattern of negative pasts with these women, a burning need to be accepted and desirable – which makes them feel good “for a little while.” Dear masked mother of two disabled children struggles with her life, but she “leaves all that behind” and “becomes me” when she goes dogging. Insecure because of her weight, the obese anon she feels like an outsider until she becomes the sexy, confident dogger. Being desirable makes her feel good. Her husband knows what she does, and she tells him she loves him before she leaves, and then she can’t wait to get back home. For her, dogging, she says, is like foreplay before having sex with her husband, she says.

Now there’s the stars – meerkat masked skinny Terry and vole(?) masked Sara, a larger lady. They eat toffee under the duvet in front of the duvet “It’s quite good actually.” They complain that people were watching them having sex whilst dogging, which put her off, despite the basic definition of dogging. When asked why they were dogging, “It was just, I think I got bored, of just being with him, so I thought I’d try cheating and it just happened to get out of control, really. “ The camera hovers over a close ups on Terry’s meerkat face, and this would be a golden moment of a comedy mockumentary. But its not. At least, I don’t think it is. It’s real life. I think. “I started cheating with any random person that would give me the attention.”Dogging seems to be a last resort (well, it definitely was, Terry himself said so) “I think its very exciting” he says unenthusiastically as she yawns.

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They’re look for another woman for Terry, so that “he can get his enjoyment out of all the dogging.” Monotonously, Terry says “its always been a dream of mine to have two women.” Then it returns to this odd comedy mockumentary feel. ‘Two weeks later’ Terry is sat, comparatively tiny in between Sara and an even larger black girl, Anne, who they’ve known a week.  The girls watch TV and nap together  while Terry’s at work at the factory. “She’s had a stroke of my tit but that’s about it” says Anne, she admits she likes to play –especially oral.  She’s sucked Sara’s breast, and Terry’s penis. Terry is ‘fine with it’ but he mumbles he’s ‘still trying.’ Anne admits in Terry’s car they can’t do much because its too small. “I’m the driver” says Terry, defining his role as utterly nonsexual. When they go dogging, again that phrase pops up, this time from Anne, “in the woods, anything can happen.”The trio stand in the woods, alongside the camera crew, as the girls complain: “shit I can’t see fuck all”… “is this not marshland?”… “what now?” Terry gulps nervously “well you two can have a play” he suggests. The girls complain about Terry’s lack of participation, and with a “fuck this”, Sara pulls down his pants and starts, politely put, wanking him off. They seem to patronise him, “this is lovely this isn’t it, Terry” he responds “its great.” “Shame there isn’t another guy, you know what I mean? …Terry do you want your dick sucked?” Anne asks “No.” He replie,s “you two can play with each other.” So they do, boob wise anyway. Apparently in the home, sex is vanilla. Even an interracial threesome, apparently. “There’s somebody coming” one of the girls says, and it all takes a turn to Blair Witch Project. The camera pans to a fox “oh god, they’re not going to rape a fox are they”, I thought – but no, a wild dogger appears, as they girls lick each others nipples. The man feels Sara’s breasts and Terry snaps “Sarah I’m not comfortable with this” he says this a couple of times, and then they all “I’m too cold” he says, and the girls reluctantly, very Britishly apologising to the man. “I didn’t like that at all”, Anne responds: “But that’s what dogging is!” And Terry agrees: “Yeah.” The attempt to reconnect with Sara has not seemed to have paid off.

They revisit Terry at Christmas, and in silence, he and Sara eat KFC by the tree in silence, candles lit at the table. Anne is not there. “This burgers really nice.” He says awkwardly. When interviewed, Anne is crying behind the mask, saying she wants to give up dogging. It’s obvious some major shit has gone down. “Its been up and down recently, to be honest.” Says Terry – no fucking shit. Sara says dogging has shown her how much Terry loves her (noticeably she doesn’t say she loves him) and how much he cared. Her chins judder under her mask as Terry says he’ll always protect her.

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At one point a dog walking local takes the camera crew down the ‘dreaded doggers lane’, land that ‘belongs to the free squirrels’ – the local shows how the doggers cut the trees back in the woods to park their cars and get on with general dogging activities. “It’s like a city in here, you can see they’re created all these little roads, a maze, a path that they’ve created.”Almost seems like he’s blurring the fairytales he told his children with the reality of the doggers’ paradise.  Magical used condoms screwn across the woodland floor.  “The police said they’d cut branches into penis shapes and were sitting on them, sticking the treebranch up their backsides” seems like another written comedy moment. A newspaper shows a naked man handcuffed to a tree, being spoken to by policemen, who had a bag over his head and a sign inviting people to abuse him and do anything but take the bag off his head. The camera pans over the local’s dog literally take a shit while he explained people’s idea of ‘that age of Aquarius loving’ and you wonder, for the forty thousandth time of the 26 minutes you’ve just spent watching this – what the fuck you’re watching.

The show is unexpectedly serious and sad and just as seedy as you’d imagine. I was expecting more – I don’t know – normalish people? People who are happy and have loving families and just like a bit of dogging. I imagine, opposite to Susie’s thoughts, that the show has discouraged the curious.

The show left me with one final thought: God, is dogging depressing.

A Quick Meditation on Aloneness

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Whoever first said that loneliness is crippling was right on the money. It stops you in your tracks, takes everything out your hands and leaves you to burn, curling in at the edges with a hot sadness.

Contrary to popular belief, loneliness can strike anyone. A person who seems confident, a person in a loving relationship, a ‘popular’ person… it can chip away at their confidence, their self esteem, until they are unsure, sad, insecure, shrunken shrines to the people they remember once being. Those who are the best at hiding their loneliness often are the most scared of it. There’s not always a particular cause – though for some there is. For example: It can be exhausting to love somebody who you feel doesn’t love you nearly half as much as you love them. Whether this feeling has any truth to it or not, the mere nagging thought can rot you.

The loneliness within may crave more attention, more love but it also pushes it away -One word can tip you over the edge. But so can one silence; one missing response, one astray reassurance. It can be difficult to articulate. If only you could be more chill, less uptight- stop taking things to heart, so personally. But this is what the solitude has inspired. Someone looks at you the wrong way and you feel tears well, your throat ache with the anticipation of the out-pour from your eyes.  Crying seems like a plausible solution, but sometimes you feel like crying and you can’t – which in ways is worse. You could be surrounded by people and still feel totally alone; In fact, sometimes being surrounded by people can reassert how deep, how close to the core your loneliness is. If anything it seems to prove your isolation, your alienation – you’re no longer part of the club – there’s no space for you, you don’t belong. Burrowing, gnawing, festering aloneness –– which I think is a much more accurate term for the feeling than loneliness, it seems to better summarise this lost singularity.

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Guilt, isolation, jealousy, transparency, questioning your very existence, uncertainty, panic, alienation, incapability – a cocktail of undesirable emotions, a perfect recipe for all consuming self-loathing; A growing disillusionment with the world in general is alarming alone, but becoming disconnected to your self seems cause for a breakdown. A distinct feeling of otherness like a guest in your own body, your own mind. As if you’d been reassembled and nothing is quite where it should be, nothing quite fits. Plummeting self worth accompanies this punishing solitude – as if the tide is coming in when you’re stuck in a hole, making it harder and harder for you to pull yourself out, the sand walls changing under your grasp. I guess aloneness is like drifting out to sea. The current too strong, so you’re left floating aimlessly, being pulled to nothing and no one, helplessly drifting into immeasurable emptiness.

You read Murakami, Sputnik Sweethearts, and you relate so much it hurts your soul, but you don’t know what the answer is. Neither do I. I hope I find out soon. But maybe, just for now, its enough to know someone else feels this way too. In fact – you’re not alone.

(500) Days of Summer and Debunking the Friendzone Myth

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Released in 2009, (500) Days of Summer was an offbeat indie ‘anti-romcom’ box office hit, catapulting Zooey Deschannel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to international stardom. The film is peppered with great dialogue and scenes, such as the choreographed musical routine to ultimate feel good tune-  Hall and Oates’ ‘You Make My Dreams Come True’, which marching band and animated birds and a winking Han Solo ‘ This is followed which is followed in a stunning juxtaposition with scenes of moping, self pitying Tom. The nonlinear structure of the film gives it the spice of difference while remaining in the popular market. However, the way in which it is interpreted as showing the ‘friendzone.’

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Tom meets Summer working in an office, writing cards – ironic, as the industry perpetuates ideologies to the masses. Tom says, after his Summer fling (ha ha) “These cards, and the movies and the pop songs, they’re to blame for all the lies and the heartache, everything. We’re responsible. I’M responsible. I think we do a bad thing here. People should be able to say how they feel, how they really feel, not ya know, some words that some stranger put in their mouth. Words like love, that don’t mean anything.” But its Tom’s buying into the idea of the ‘nice guy’ and the idea that somehow he deserves a relationship with Summer, though despite her outright telling him she wasn’t interested in a long term monogamous relationship with him.

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They argue:

Summer: We’re just fr… 

Tom: [Interrupting]
No! Don’t pull that with me! This is not how you treat your friend! Kissing in the copy room? Holding hands in IKEA? Shower sex? Come on! Friends my balls!

Despite Tom’s feelings, its hard to subjectively blame Summer. She was clear with Tom on the point- she even tells him she doesn’t believe in love– and he agrees to her terms. Let me repeat: HE AGREES TO HER TERMS. Any substance to his argument that Summer is in the wrong has fallen flat. Summer is constructed of contradictions – as most people are. People change, people do things that aren’t ‘them’ (i.e “That’s so not me, I can’t believe I did that”) – as Iain S. Thomas said “I keep wondering, how many people do you need to be, before you can become yourself.

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Often the audience demonises Summer, calling her a ‘bitch’, ‘slut’, a ‘cocktease’ or whatever, but the fact is, he agreed to not being in the kind of relationship he wanted – so why should he have the right to insult her? Why should the audience? Perhaps it’s because we see the story from Tom’s vantage point, its easier to side with the person who’s shoes you’re walking in. If we saw from Summer’s angle, perhaps we’d had thought differently. She meets a boy – Tom – he’s great, but somethings missing. She’s straight with him, and rather than continue to lead him on, she finishes it and unintentionally breaks his heart, and he can’t let go. Then she meets someone else someone, as she says who made her certain of what she was never certain with, with Tom. A whole new love story, that ends with a wedding and the attempted rekindling of a friendship with Tom, despite his nasty words born from selfpity. Also, the Author’s Note at the start of the film sets us up to dislike the girl, without even knowing who she is or what she has done. The ‘fuck you’ also suggests that the Tom’s real life counterpart is still hurt, or at least still bitter. Summer is set up as a bitch, so its unsurprising the audience think her a bitch.

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A guy and a girl can be just be friends, but at one point or another, they’ll fall for each other…maybe temporarily, maybe at the wrong time, maybe too late, or maybe forever.” This statement is ridiculous – the idea that no one can have friends of the other gender. There isn’t even a way to articulate how wrong this statement is, because it’s just ridiculous.

Hollywood perpetuates this idea that casual sex doesn’t work, especially between friends, as films like Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached prove. Films which have essentially the same story line – boy and girl meet, are attracted to each other, don’t want serious relationships but want to get laid, they develop feelings for each other, and they can’t continue unless they commit to a traditional monogamous relationship.

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However, Joseph Gordan-Levitt, who plays Tom, gave an interview to Playboy magazine in which he questioned this romanticised view of Tom as the celebrated ‘nice guy’ and Summer as the ‘bitch’, even if others who worked on the film felt that was the right reading – as the aforementioned Author’s Note would suggest.

“The (500) Days of Summer attitude of “He wants you so bad” seems attractive to some women and men, especially younger ones, but I would encourage anyone who has a crush on my character to watch it again and examine how selfish he is. He develops a mildly delusional obsession over a girl onto whom he projects all these fantasies. He thinks she’ll give his life meaning because he doesn’t care about much else going on in his life. A lot of boys and girls think their lives will have meaning if they find a partner who wants nothing else in life but them. That’s not healthy. That’s falling in love with the idea of a person, not the actual person.

No, I really liked that movie. The coming-of-age story is subtly done, and that’s great, because nothing’s worse than an over-the-top, cheesy, hitting-you-over-the-head-with-a-hammer, moral-of-the-story sort of thing. But a part of the movie that’s less talked about is that once Zooey’s character dumps the guy, he builds himself up without the crutch of a fantasy relationship, and he meets a new girl.

Making checklists of things you’re looking for in a person is the numero uno thing you can do to guarantee you’ll be alone forever. You can’t meet someone and think, Do they have everything I want in a person? You just have to pay attention, keep your eyes open, listen to people and be present. I guess what I look for in a girl is someone who’s doing that too. Beyond that there’s not much more I would specify, because you never fucking know, man.”

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Levitt raises multiple intelligent points on this idea of ‘friendzoning’ and the ‘nice guy’, although he extends it outside of gender – which I think it good. Boys can be put into these situations too. However, the nice guy is undeniably a feminist issue. The idea of the ‘nice guy finishing last’ is ridiculous. Doing nice things for a female friend when you’re sober is embarrassing because it apparently shows that you’re friendzoned – and those who are nice to their girlfriends are ‘whipped’ – however, girls who help their male friends and/or are nice to their boyfriends are just doing the expected. There is no female equivalent to this, though girls may adopt the ‘friendzone’/’whipped’ to apply to their own situation. Often girls will complain that a guy’s ‘too nice’, or that she loves a ‘bad boy’ – the ideology has manifested itself in women too, however, the majority of women in happy relationships would most likely agree that men being ‘nice guys’ are paramount to successful relationships. The idea of the ‘friendzone’ demonizes the woman’s right to say no, and the idea that a woman is doing something wrong, rather than a man being fairly rejected massages the male ego, and to a certain extent perpetuates rape culture. Often these guys suffering from ‘Nice Guy Syndrome’ aren’t nice guys at all – women are not machines that you put nice actions into and sex comes out, as one  internet meme proclaims.Yes, we may empathise with Tom’s position, seeing past or present versions of ourselves in his self pity and his rejection. But does that mean this film proves the friendzone/’nice guys finish last’ myths true? Does it fuck.