Monday, 4 August 2014

How To Build a Girl: Part 4

How To Build a Girl
Caitlin Moran

Readalong hosted by the awesome Emily at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads!)

I think we all know what exciting thing happened in this section. Yes, I'm talking about The Sex. It finally happened. 

But, first, let's rewind back and see how Johanna is getting on with being trouble.

Firstly she has a run in with 'The Kisser', a delightful sounding chap who is a little promiscuous when it comes to kissing and, surprisingly, 'he's just...normal'. 

'That's what he does. He's got off with all my mates. You know those things they have outside shops thats like a giraffe, and you put ten p in and have a ride? He's like one of those. You just...get on him, then get off with him. He's a man slag.'

I'm sure his mother's proud of him.

'It appears to be some kind of factory preset kiss - one, two, three kisses on the lips, and then in with the tongue - but it's happening! I'm in a kiss!'

Go, Johanna! I was practically cheerleading at this point. Ah, the first kiss. Mine was on a swing with a guy who's mouth could have fit over my head. A special moment.

Johanna returns home, high from her kissing experience, and finds out from her Dad that the benefits are staying cut. But fret not, he has a plan:

'Nah - we got to utilise our assets. Which is - me and you. You write about music. I make it.'

I almost 100% sure that's going to work.

Johanna starts setting up her reputation as 'trouble' by smiting various bands in her reviews.  After the smiting, some pretty obvious signs of Krissi's sexuality which Johanna entirely misses, and a few more mentions of SatanWankGate, this section spirals into the sex. Johanna gets to experience Tony Rich's mouth (reminiscent of my first 'boyfriend' again), and then she gets to experience a whole lot else. 

'Here's the amazing thing about sex: you get a whole person to yourself, for the first time since you were a baby. Someone who is looking at you - just you - and think about you, and wanting you, and you haven't even had to lie at the bottom of the stairs and pretend you're dead to get them to do it.'

The next bit of this section spirals in to a serious of casual sexual encounters and a number of disastrous attempts to be experimental in the boudoir.

Then we meet Big Cock Al who, as you can imagine, is pretty impressively endowed. Which is not a good thing (nobody wants cystitis). Even though he is entirely the sum of his parts (albeit his pretty large parts), he does seem to be almost quite sweet. 

'You don't need a vagina,' I think. 'You're simply trying to avoid rental charges on an appropriate storage facility. My friend, you will need council permits to part something like this.'
But then Johanna does this thing which seems wrong on so many levels - she allows him to have sex with her, without having sex with him:

'In later years I find this is called 'physical disconnect', and is all part and parcel of women having their sexuality mediated through men's gaze.'

This just feels so wrong to me. I may be a bit soft when it comes to doing things I don't like, but sex is one area where you will never find me just doing it for the hell of it. Ain't nobody going there unless I've given them express permission. This has led to a few too many 'she's fridgid' (which is a whole other level of feminist hell) comments, but frankly, I don't give a shit. My body is mine to give to whoever I want. 

So she outs up with his giant cock, and ends up with cystitis and has to sit in his bath for a pretty long while. Oh, metaphor for female oppression by male sexuality. 

Then there's this, and I love this:

'Because I still don't know what I think or feel, and I'm throwing grenades and filling the air with smoke while I desperately, desperately try to get off the ground: to get elevation. Because I haven't yet learned the simplest and most important thing of all: the world is difficult, and we are all breakable. So just be kind.'

God, yes. Oh so many yes's. 

I have to say, this section put me to sleep a little. I was very excited that the sex finally happened and all, but it all just felt a little overdone and self-indulgent. But then the ending of the final chapter of this part seemed to take a more thoughtful, almost startling turn. I'm looking forward to the final section, and finding out what Johanna learns from trying to build herself (I'm guessing that's kinda what's coming). 

How did you find this week? A bit too sexy, or not sexy enough?

You can pre-order the book from The Odyssey Bookshop here (US), or buy it from Foyles here (UK).



  1. I think it was just sexy enough. I mean - I think it was necessary to drive the feminist points home and I think you hit the nail on the head when you point out that Johanna has sex with Big Al despite not really wanting to - I think this was the culmination of the big feminist point of this section.

  2. I agree with this being a sliiightly less good section (I can't say bad! It wasn't bad!) I think just because it was pretty short and all baaaasically about the same thing. Plus I got distracted with the Johanna treating HERSELF like a sexual object thing and yeaaaah.

  3. My worry during this section wasn't exactly because she's young and having lots of casual sex but because she was, as Laura putting it, "treating herself like a sexual object thing." She and the men were only concerned about whether they were enjoying it and didn't care if she was or not. But it was subtly done, not in a preachy or shamey way. It makes you look at why the section might make you feel uncomfortable, rather than straight-out saying "Johanna is being foolish here."


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