Why sex is better with The One

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There are two types of people in this world. Those that have had bad, awkward or seriously cringe inducing sex, and liars. Those of us that aren't liars will know that these sexperiences normally fall into one of the following categories:

The drunk one you'd rather forget
Your boyfriend's recently given you the “It's not you, it's me” spiel, you've had one too many red wines down the pub opposite work with Dave from accounts, and all of a sudden you're wondering why you've never noticed Dave's rugged good looks before. Before you know it you're getting down and dirty back at his flat, berating yourself for that lie in this morning (no time to shave your legs in the shower) and searching your pockets for some chewing gum to hide that lingering kebab smell from your breath. Normally ends in a disappointing underperformance and a lot of office gossip the next day.
The Adonis
You've wanted him for ages. Every day for months and months you've gone to the gym and given him your best 'I totally know what I'm doing' smile while hoping the look you're sporting can be passed off as a healthy glisten. Combined with your vulnerable 'help, my treadmill's not working' technique and finally the moment has come – you're doing your thing, he's doing his- but your mind is full of annoying questions. Are my wobbly bits wobbling? Do I smell/look/taste funny? Oh God what if I didn't manage to get every little hair when I waxed my FiFi? (Affectionate term for your vagina optional). You put yourself off and it's just not as good as you thought it would be. Bummer.
The fetish guy
It starts off well enough and even seems promising- you've gone on a few dates, there's chemistry, he's a good listener – but before you know it he's whipping out pictures of ladies' feet in the bedroom and trying to get you to wear crocs while doing the deed. The less said about this one the better.
The one night stand
Circumstances include “I've started Uni! I am independent! I'm drunk on life and £1.50 VK's! I can do anything I want!” or “I am totally a grown up professional with my own house now and I can bring anyone back and be as loud as I want”. Can sometimes even stretch to the“I've broken up with my long term partner, what am I doing with my life” crises and invariably ends with someone doing the walk of shame like they're riding a horse. You'd call a taxi but a) you've lost your voice from all that fake orgasming and b) you don't know the address.
While these experiences might not win any awards for the best sex of your life, they go a long way in setting you up in good stead for Sex with 'The One'. And let's face it, at least you've got some funny stories to tell your friends. In comparative terms, sex with a random is like a stale muffin you bought at a petrol station on the A6 ; it's not your favourite flavour and it's nothing to write home about, but it filled a hole, excuse the pun. Sex with the one is like guilt free, rich chocolate cake baked by Nigella herself, topped with whipped cream and sprinkles. All over your face.
https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gifWhen you have sex with The One you don't care if your wobbly bits are wobbling or if you haven't shaved your legs or your breath smells like the garlic bread you just ate for dinner. You can try new things without the fear of weirding each other out and nothing is embarrassing, because you know you love each other and won't think any different of each other. You know what turns each other on and you can make your other half come in two seconds flat if you fancy a quickie. Equally if you're not feeling it, you can tell your partner you can't concentrate and not have to worry about giving them a serious inferiority complex. But you want to know the best thing about having sex with The One? Even when you're having first time sloppy drunk sex and one of you falls off the bed stark bollock naked and gets wedged between the bed frame and the radiator and can't get up, the other one will just pick you up and keep going. Or so I've been told.

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Caitlin Moran - How to build a girl

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Cailtin Moran How to build a girl
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*Disclaimer: All quotes are appropriately labelled and remain the copy-written work of Caitlin Moran. I do not own them and I have not changed them in any way.*

I picked up 'how to build a girl' on impulse as I was browsing Tesco's book section for something to read in their in-store Costa while I waited for my friends to finish work. It was actually a toss up between this and another book. I had heard of Caitlin Moran as she is obviously very big in today's social media and feminism scene, but I had never read any of her work or seen any of her interviews. The only thing I knew about her is that she has a big blonde fringe and she had a programme based on her childhood called Raised by Wolves that I didn't like the look of. I wanted to see what she was all about, so off I toddled to Costa with my new book tucked away inside a carrier bag.

One paragraph in and I was hooked. 

"I am lying in bed next to my brother, Lupin. 
He is six years old. He is asleep.
I am fourteen. I am not asleep. I am masturbating."

I quickly learned that Caitlin Moran is my kind of woman. Gritty, funny and clever, 'how to build a girl' tackles the issues of Johanna Morrigan, a misfit teenager growing up on a council estate in Wolverhampton who becomes a music journalist at the tender age of 16. The book's blurb states that although Caitlin herself grew up on a council estate in Wolverhampton and became a music journalist very young, the story is not biographical in any way. Although part of me cannot believe that someone can create a character so brilliantly real and in circumstances so similar to their own who is not based on personal experience.

Either way, Johanna Morrigan is my new hero. I challenge anyone who has ever been a hormone ridden teenager trying to find out who they are to read this book and not identify with Johanna in some way.  Johanna's motto is "fake it till you make it" and the story revolves around the character that she creates for herself when she doesn't know who she really is. It tells of the lessons she learns and the epiphany that she comes to as she grows and matures. It is a tale of self discovery, and truth, and valuable life lessons that can only be gained through experience.

As I sat in Costa for a hour and a bit, I read over 100 pages, laughing out loud in public like a lunatic. I could not put this book down. I drank up Caitlin Moran's words like I was in a desert and hadn't seen water for a year. (I'd probably be dead if that was the case but you get the gist). It was like reading one long, heart wrenching, relatable poem. The style in which this is written is beautiful whilst still retaining a cringeworthy humour that makes you almost cover your eyes in embarrassment for Johanna. Everything she does is so typically... teenage, yet so wise for her years. She is a paradox who does not know how talented or valuable she is, and that's what draws you in to her like a magnet.

Perhaps I read this book in one day because I saw so much of myself in her; because I know what it's like to feel like a misfit, and to try and reinvent yourself into someone much cooler and ultimately failing. Like Johanna, I wanted to be someone better than I was growing up. I humiliated myself more than you could ever believe was possible. I lay at the bottom of the stairs covered in ketchup and pretended I had been stabbed by a mystery intruder just to see the shock on my Mum's face. I thought my problems would end if I would a cool character who got pissed in the day and had an alluring sense of mystery shrouding me. I lived to write and I wanted to make it big - I left home at 17 in search of something better. I went through a period of self deprecation where I would lie under my bed and wish to cease existing. Oh and I was also obsessed with wanking myself silly over everything I could get my hands on (literally). I felt like Caitlin Moran had been spying on me my whole life, taking notes until she had enough embarrassing ammo to fill 340 pages and then reaping all the rewards of my misfortune. I am basically Johanna Morrigan. Or Dolly Wilde as she calls herself (my alter ego was a bit more posh and for some reason about 86 years older than I was - Evelyn D'Arcy).

Whatever it was, this book just resonated with me on a level that I can't describe. At some point, everyone tries to be someone that they are not because they think it will make them more popular, more likeable, more fortunate, more powerful - when really, the person that they are is enough. We are all likeable, and fortunate, and powerful - we just need to learn how to harness and direct that power. 

Although the general tone of the book is quite humorous, it touches on the darker parts of growing up like feeling alone, self harm, rejection and sexual identity. These subjects are tackled extremely well with beautiful narrative that takes you from laughing your socks off to open-mouthed shock in 0.2 seconds.

The build up of the story for me explodes in the amazing crescendo that Caitlin has called 'chapter 24'. Every part of the book points to this chapter, every end is tied and every niggling piece of self doubt displayed by Johanna is wrapped up in what I can only describe as the most touching thing I have ever read. And I have read a lot. I would copy out the whole chapter but to be honest I'm not sure if I'm allowed to do that. My favourite part of my favourite part reads,

"And later, over a glass of wine - because you drink wine, now, because you are grown - you will marvel over what you did. Marvel that, at the time, you kept so many secrets. Tried to keep the secret of yourself. Tried to metamorphose in the dark. The loud, drunken, fucking, eyeliner-smeared, laughing, cutting, panicking, unbearably present secret of yourself. When really, you were about as secret as the moon. And as luminous, under all those clothes."

All I can say is that I'm so glad that Caitlin Moran built herself into the girl that she did, without whom I would not have had the pleasure of reading the tale of my own life through someone else's eyes. I would not have been able to say that I have finally, wholeheartedly fallen in love with a protagonist the way that only serious reader types do. So thanks, Caitlin. I thought you were a bit of a dick but you're brilliant, really.
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Electricity

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I'd heard the alarm bells sounding before, but tried to convince myself they were just the chiming of time; we were reading from different chapters but not everybody reads at the same pace. Even when we'd finished reading I would lie awake in the dark dissecting plots and characters. My mind would race as I wondered how the story would end, while you'd drift into a soundless sleep as easy as anything. I never understood how you could do that. To me, time was valuable and I'd do whatever I could to savour the moments I could spend awake questioning; curious. But you always detested that in me. You said the night time was for dreamless sleep, but I just wanted to watch the world turn under the halo of the moon.

I suppose that's why I was never content. I was a switchboard of wires, always active, longing to make a connection with a similar current. You just took one look at the electricity in me and put up a sign reading, 'Danger: Enter at your own risk'.
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Social Media and the evolution of Customer Service

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If you own or work for a business, there's a strong chance that customer service skills are an integral part of your role. Work in a call centre? You need to have a great telephone manner. Own a hairdressing business? You need to ensure you make customers feel welcome so that they'll come back to your salon instead of choosing the many other alternatives. Work in retail? You need to deliver service with a smile and look approachable. How you deliver customer service can be make or break when it comes to customer loyalty. Our High Streets are saturated with companies who deliver the same services and sell the same products, so the way in which we are handled as customers can determine where we want to spend our hard earned money.

Gone are the days where your loyalty lay with the local greengrocer, your neighbour the home auto repair technician, or your friend's cousin who worked in the corner shop. In today's world of Twitter, Facebook and E-mail where instant customer reviews are so accessible, plus the 'internet start up generation' creating more competition than you can shake a stick at, excellent customer service is more imperative than ever. People will complain at the drop of a hat, because it only takes them two seconds to do so. I'm guilty of it myself. And because my tweet gets sent out into the ether instantly, I expect an instant reply or resolution. Where I would not previously have complained about a poorly made item of clothing, I find myself tweeting companies about a shirt I bought that ripped after 10 minutes wear, or an expensive jacket that developed a hole. I've tweeted about buses that ran early, meals out that weren't worth the money, and companies whose automated phone lines left me clutching my mobile in a state of rage for what felt like 2 and a half hours. But as the old adage goes, it's about how the companies deal with the complaints that matter.

So when a Hen Party descended upon 47 King Street West Restaurant in Manchester and complained about the service they received, the owners responded in a helpful, professional and courteous manner as you would expect:

47 King Street West Manchester Bad Customer Service

47 King Street West Manchester Bad Customer Service

...Or not. What on Earth were they thinking? How, in any way, was this response appropriate for a business that needs customers to come in and hand over their money in order to succeed? Branding their customers "trash", "bottom of the barrel", "chavs" and "vile" in a personal attack on a party of people who spent £600 in their restaurant.... good move. I honestly cannot believe my eyes. Interestingly the restaurant have now deleted all of their social media pages because they are too cowardly to put up with the inevitable backlash that will be caused by these screenshots going viral. I will be very surprised if this restaurant manage to stay in business; if I lived locally I would certainly not be handing over any of my wages to a family that clearly do not value the customers whose money lines their own pockets! The constant stream of comments in reply to the Hen Party's constructive criticism is childish and in extremely bad taste. Looks like this restaurant's owners are out of touch with social media and the benefits/detrimental effects it can have on your business. Either that or they're just unbelievably rude arseholes. Probably a bit of both.

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Ash Wednesday Thoughts

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Woman with an ash wednesday cross
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I am not overly religious but I do like to attend special masses on Holy days, so last night I took my very atheist girlfriend to church for the first time to attend the Ash Wednesday Mass. I was a little nervous about how she would get on. A Catholic church is not the easiest introduction into religious services for the inexperienced/unbeliever!

When we got home, I asked her what she thought of the service and her response was that she'd give it a 6 or 7 out of 10, and that "there was something quite humbling about watching people pray".

I was in fact humbled by her response; I am used to it by now, but I suppose that seeing people on their knees, eyes closed and begging for repentence reminds us that we are all human with-dare I make this pun- our own cross to bear. Being a very opinionated woman, especially when it comes to religion, I thought that she would hate having to listen to the service and would leave the church adamant that she would never go again!

It encouraged me to take a step back and remember that it is so easy to envy other people from a distance, but deep down we all have regrets, troubles and things that we need help with.

Like I said, I'm not overly religious but I love the way I feel re-energised and a lot more kind and thoughtful when I attend mass. I feel like, in the immediate hours and days that follow, I am consciously more mindful of others and the world around me. If only it didn't take such an experience for me to act like that all the time!

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Passion, or lack thereof

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When I was younger, I believed that without hobbies or something you were passionate about, you were hollow; an empty shell. I wondered how people could exist without something that defined them, and wondered how they were happy just 'plodding along'.

I spent all of my time busying myself with things, needing passion in my life to feel content. Even to this day I can't sit still and I get restless if I don't have something constructive to fill my time with.

As I grew older, although I became distracted with friendships and all that comes hand in hand with 'coming of age' I never lost this craving to be defined by my passion for life and the things I enjoyed. I suppose in a way, if I'm being honest, I felt superior to others who had missed out on or lost this spark. I used to pride myself on being a mystery, full of love and a lust for the unknown, desperate to excel at everything and anything.

I spent my misunderstood youth writing songs and poems late into the night, playing my guitar until my fingers bled, dragging my gig bag all over the country singing in pubs, clubs and student unions to handfuls or hundreds of people. Music and words were my thing, the place where I felt at home, and when I sang I knew I belonged somewhere. I had stories and poems published when I was just a child. Being bookish was what I was known for and I felt so content with these parts of my personality. They weren't hobbies, they ran deeper than that. They were who I was, and to an extent who I still am, although these parts of me are somewhat quashed or tainted by growing up, gaining responsibilities and losing time.

Over time I have learned to enjoy my hobbies and passions on a lesser scale. We all know the trap of being dragged into the 'real world' and losing the time and/or energy for the things you love. When I got home from work I would chose to spend my time with my partner rather than upstairs alone, playing my guitar or reading. I could not write late into the night because it would keep her up. I could not go to see the bands I loved because she would never come with me and I lost contact with my friends. When I entered competitions or auditioned for things that would further my singing in the hope of doing it professionally, my partner would deliberately ruin it for me in case I 'became famous and left her'. Any attempt at gaining a new hobby became twisted into an excuse for me to be dishonest or disloyal so eventually I gave up on these attempts. Looking back, I realise that her behaviour was pretty emotionally abusive and slowly chipped away at my self confidence until I felt I was no longer able to enjoy or excel in the things I loved. The things that were a part of me and used to define me became ghosts that haunted me.

Luckily I am in a much better place in my life now, but the self doubt and lack of confidence that this instilled in me still prevails. I still feel the desire to be someone better than I am and get back to the time where I felt like I knew who I was. I still feel burning passion inside of me for the things I love but I am not comfortable expressing it the way that I used to. I feel that I only have myself to blame for the choices I made, choices that let my dreams and desires slip away.

I fear that those who did not know me back then will think of me as the type of person I used to hate. They do not know the way I used to read "just one more chapter" under my duvet with a torch when I was a kid. They do not know the way I could hold captive the attention of an audience when I sang a song I had written myself. They do not know the way I felt when I won a first place trophy at an Irish Dancing competition, or the way my team mates celebrated with me when I scored a winning goal in the Lacrosse match that earned my team a promotion to the Rosebowl Division.

And still they do not understand the way I can fall in love with a character from a story or the chemistry between my favourite singers. No one will understand the bitter aching I feel in my heart when I listen to lyrics I can relate to or a piece of music that moves me or a poem about unrequited love that takes my breath away. No one will ever understand the yearning I feel to be the one who evokes these feelings in others and the quiet desperation for the lost person I could have been that gnaws at me while I'm lying awake at night.

Call me a lot of things, but don't ever say I don't know how it feels to have something I am passionate about.
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Trees

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Trees in the sun
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The trees are quaking and quivering
under the weight of you on their boughs,
Their branches point upwards, shaking and shivering;
to drink in the light you allow.

Their roots create networks deep underground,
Where the souls of the tired go to sleep.
While leaves' hushed voices follow the sound
of those who lie solemn, and weep.


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Is feminism the new F word?

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feminism

Line breaks: fem¦in|ism
Pronunciation: /ˈfɛmɪnɪz(ə)m 
  
/



Definition of feminism in English:

NOUN

[MASS NOUN]
The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.



Feminism has had a serious revamp recently. With high profile advocators like Lena Dunham, Caitlin Moran and Emma Watson rooting for the cause, I would say it has become a far more popular and almost 'trendy' movement. If you'd asked me a few years ago what a feminist was, I would almost certainly have described a hairy legged, bra burning, socks and sandals wearing, short haired lesbian. Sorry to all the feminists out there, but it's true. In my opinion, the word has had quite negative connotations until recently and has often been associated with man-hating women who invent reasons why men think they're better than them.

I've never identified as a feminist, however like most topics I write about, this blog post was sparked by a debate with someone where I realised I disagreed entirely with their point of view and in fact had quite a few opinions about the subject. I still wouldn't say I am a feminist and I certainly don't feel strongly enough to take part in any activism but I do feel that sexism is still very prevalent in today's society.

Her view was that women are still seen as beings who's main priority is to pop out children. She said that if she were an employer and was deciding between offering a promotion to a man or a woman, she would offer it to the man on the grounds that the woman might decide she wants children and have to take a lot of time off. And if the woman already had children, she would prioritise them over her career. This will be quite a wide spread train of thought- she can't be the only person with this opinion.

My counter argument was that it takes two to tango, and where there's a child with a mother it has to have a father. Why shouldn't the man be equal with his wife when it comes to taking responsibility for the care of his children? He may have to drop everything and go and pick his sick child up from school. He may have to take time off for appointments or school plays. He may not perform his best at work when he's had a sleepless night because his newborn wouldn't stop crying. Then there may be women who can't have children, or women like me who chose not to have children because, shock horror, there are other things in their lives more important than the burning desire to push a watermelon sized screaming bundle of white muck out of their vagina and spend the next 18 years looking after it.

Are women really being thought of like this still in today's society? Are these outdated and frankly insulting views still relevant in the world we live in today, where women are no longer tied to the kitchen sink while their husband goes out to work? With the reams of information and opportunities available at our fingertips, women are now showing more than ever that you can successfully manage a career and a personal life - Anna Wintour, Michelle Mone, Karren Brady (who throws a football team in the mix), Oprah Winfrey, and Jacqueline Gold to name but a few. So is this recent incline in feminism the product of the modern woman being given the ways and means to let her voice be heard? Or is feminism the new F word?

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Russia bans people with 'mental disorders' from driving

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Russia Traffic
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Have you seen the rather bizarre new move by the Russian government, banning all of those with 'mental disorders' from holding driving licenses? Apparently the move is taking place to tighten medical controls and try to lower the amount of accidents on the roads. You'd think that the Russian Government wouldn't be able to outdo themselves in terms of draconian policies after Vladimir Putin's implementation of anti LGBT laws in 2013, however they've shocked us all and really pushed the dictatorial boat out this time. Disorders on the list that make you incapable of driving include:

- Pathological Gambling
- Compulsive Stealing
- Fetishism
- Voyeurism
- Exhibitionism
- Transgenderism
- Transsexualism

Forgive me if I'm being ignorant, but since when did being born into the wrong body or enjoying a bit of latex in the bedroom affect how well you can drive? Has anyone ever had a car accident and cited the blame on the fact that they lost their punt on the 14:20 at Central Moscow Hippodrome?

Not only is this way of thinking archaic and oppressive, as well as being a shining example of the Russian regime's denial of human rights, this provision could be very detrimental to the welfare of Russia's citizens. As Valery Evtushenko of the Russian Psychiatric Association so rightly says, this new law could potentially deter people with mental health issues from seeking psychiatric help based on the fear of having their driving license revoked. 

Perhaps the Russian Government should look a bit closer to home when trying to identify the causes of their road accidents - for example, the Scherbinsky/Yevdokimov case of 2006. If you're not familiar with this, a member of the public was imprisoned for dangerous driving after Mikhail Yevdokimov, the Governor of Russia's Altai Krai region, crashed into him at more than 90 miles per hour and the force of the impact was so great that Governor Yevdokimov died. Ignoring the fact that Scherbinsky was minding his own business simply turning a corner when the accident happened, a judge decreed that Scherbinsky was at fault for 'not giving way to a special vehicle'. Our good friend Putin also piped up that Scherbinksy was to blame because he was driving a right hand drive car. Nothing to do with the fact that the official who struck his vehicle was travelling in a manner which was in contradiction to driving laws and speed limits, of course.

Research shows that this mindset is very prevalent amongst Russia's governors and officials, who must believe that they are above the law when travelling on the roads, as this does not appear to be an isolated incident. The questions that this raises are as follows:

Will there be reports that prove that these 'medical' restrictions have been beneficial to the country's road accident rates? And how far will Russia go in order to cast out and ostracise members of their society who don't quite fit the norm?


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Ched Evans signs for Oldham Athletic

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Rapist Ched Evans signs for Oldham Athletic
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Scrolling through Facebook the other night I saw a post that suggested that Ched Evans was in talks with my hometown's football club with regards to signing a contract and it got me all riled up. My other half and I got into a bit of a debate because after I commented on the post it came to light that we have totally differing opinions on this subject. As it happens, Evans has now since signed for Oldham Athletic (a deal that has led to three of Oldham's official sponsors cutting all ties with the club) so our debate was pointless, but it's been on my mind a lot.

The subject is very sensitive, to some more than others for obvious reasons, but it is one that I feel very strongly about. I believe that someone who has been convicted of a crime of this nature in particular does not deserve to carry on their life as they were before their conviction. Being a footballer in the spotlight is a privilege that many aspiring young people work towards, and after committing the  disgusting offence that he has, why should Evans still reap the rewards of that privilege? He won't be earning a premiership wage, but it will still be more than he deserves and much more than the average Joe Bloggs earns. Everyone knows the remuneration and perks that come with being a professional footballer.  In this role he'll be looked upon as a role model by young football players and fans alike; meanwhile his victim has had to change her name and address due to being absolutely vilified by members of the public including Evan's fans. What sort of message does this send? That someone can be convicted of abusing their somewhat 'celebrity' status, be unfaithful to their partner and rape a young woman in a hotel room, serve half their sentence and then continue to live the life of riley while the victim suffers? Although in the eyes of the law he is guilty, to this day he is still protesting his innocence and has not  apologised to his victim or her family, and does not seem to understand or show any remorse for the distress he has caused.

Having now been placed on the sex offenders register, one would assume that Evans is not able to take part in any youth training groups that Oldham Athletic offer through their youth academy. Many employment offers are subject to in depth CRB checks and some contracts even state that any criminal offences of this nature will result in instant dismissal for bringing the company into disrepute. Numerous employers would not employ someone on the sex offenders register - why is this not the case within the FA?

I believe that Ched Evan's case highlights a far greater moral issue than the question of whether or not he should be allowed to play professionally, but in fact emphasises the discord between what is acceptable for ordinary people and those within the public eye. As a national and extremely high profile organisation, should the FA not be setting an example in this respect?


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