TEAM ZOELLA JUNE 30, 2021

What is Ethical Porn and How to Change Your Watching Habits

Alone time with your favourite toy or a joint sexy sesh can in fact be spiced up to the max with some consensual content that benefits you and those involved. Let us introduce: ethical porn.

One third of all internet traffic is porn. We’ll pause for a moment whilst that sinks in. Porn is everywhere online- it’s unavoidable and the ease with which anyone can access explicit content makes for a worrying reality in how normalised these unrealistic representations of sex are for many.

For the most part, pornography is designed to appeal to men, meaning the pleasure, consent and respect of the women featured in this content is secondary to the enjoyment of the men creating, partaking and viewing it. Pornography can be dehumanising to those involved when the name of the game is mass-producing content for free on sites such as PornHub, and regularly means those involved are not fairly paid or compensated for their work. Mainstream porn typically shows an inaccurate version of consensual, joyful sex, so it’s really no surprise if you’ve been dissatisfied with mainstream porn up until this point- it is rarely designed with women in mind.

But all is not lost ladies and gents, alone time with your favourite toy or a joint sexy sesh with your S/O can in fact be spiced up to the max with some consensual content that benefits you and those involved. Let us introduce: ethical porn.

What is ethical porn?

Ethical porn is adult content produced with the performer’s welfare as the top priority, ensuring they are paid, consenting and comfortable at each step of the filming and production process. Ethical porn seeks to provide a more realistic and accurate representation of sex, involving those of varying body types, sexualities, disabilities and most importantly prioritises pleasure for all of those involved.

Ethical porn is sometimes also known as ‘feminist porn’, which is another defining characteristic setting it apart from mainstream pornography which is oftentimes rooted in misogyny, violence and disrespecting women and their bodies. Mainstream porn is created with the male gaze at the fore and usually has one main aim, whereas feminist porn looks to create art that also satisfies women’s desires too – what’s not to like?!

Ethical porn can normally be distinguished from mainstream porn because it is typically not available for free – one of the ways it ensures that filmmakers and actors are paid fairly for their time and skills. It is typically hosted on independent websites that can be accessed by paying a subscription or one-off video fee and ensures a safe environment for performers in this industry. Creating high quality, responsibly made, cinematic pornography comes at a cost, and the never ending availability of free porn has wrongly made not paying for this content the norm.

As engaging with ethically made porn becomes more of a priority for viewers, “smaller indie studios have implemented stricter regulations around standardized, fair pay for actors, STI testing, and collaborations over scripts and scenes that take the actors’ boundaries into account” (Men’s Health), meaning you can sit back, relax and enjoy guilt free viewing, knowing everyone involved is having as much fun as you.

Where to watch ethical porn?

Piqued your interest? Heart rate increased? Look no further for a reliable watch list of destinations you can rely on for your feminist porn fix …

PinkLabelTV

Inspired by the pornography she watched at adult film festivals, Shine Louise Houston started PinkLabelTV in 2013 as a one-stop-shop for content that showcases, “the types of bodies and desires that aren’t often depicted on conventional adult websites.” Genres include classic and vintage adult films, sex education, documentary, and collections of award-winning films selected at adult film festivals around the globe.
Sales directly support the filmmakers on the platform, encouraging a sustainable #payforyourporn model where artists can continue expanding their craft and you know those involved are safe and consensual. Users can rent films on an individual basis or subscribe as a member to enjoy unlimited access to all the films and special livestream events.

Watch at: www.pinklabel.tv

Bellesa

“We unwaveringly believe that if we can change the kind of sex that people are watching, we can change a whole lot more.”
Bellesa’s tagline reads “empowering women to explore, embrace and celebrate their sexuality- unapologetically” and we are truly obsessed from the outset! All Bellesa films are fantasies by women, written by women, directed by women, produced by women and on set there is one golden rule: No. Fake. Orgasms. The goal of the scene is always to capture authentic, raw pleasure, and this is what really sets the platform apart from mainstream pornography typically designed for men. The site features some free content but Bellesa+, dubbed the ‘Netflix of porn’ is the most impressive part of the platform, with 4K streaming of the best premium content in porn available at a range of subscription levels to suit your budget. With interactive sex ed, private Facebook groups and chats to encourage members to explore their sexuality, the site is empowering at its very core.

Watch at: www.bellesa.co

Dipsea

The home of sexy audio stories, wellness sessions, and sleep scenes, Dipsea is a female-founded startup and story studio that produces relatable, feminist content that celebrates, “healthy boundary setting and enthusiastic consent”. Founded by friends Gina and Faye, they set out on a mission to create an accessible platform that allowed women, “to tap into their sexuality more easily, and on their terms.”
Subscribers can access 400+ stories with regular new releases, hot and heavy content with diverse themes, soothing bedtime stories & wellness sessions and the option to cancel at any time. We’re obsessed!

Learn more at: www.dipseastories.com

Afterglow

Afterglow’s “pleasure universe” is a new women-led erotica site that produces cinematic adult films that highlight consent, celebrate genuine pleasure, validate personal boundaries and embrace diversity of body size, race, sexuality, age and ability. Their blog is also a hub of sex education content, covering everything from orgasm anxiety, succeeding in non-monogamous relationships and everything you need to know about threesomes. Subscribe and pay monthly or annually, or try a 7-day free trial to see what it’s all about…

Learn more at: www.xoafterglow.com

Lust Cinema

And finally, the creme de la creme of ethical porn and beautifully created adult erotica, “Lust Cinema aims to challenge the porn industry standards by promoting the cinematic possibilities of the medium, high-quality storytelling and a realistic representation of human sexuality and sex.” Available for 1, 3 or 18 month subscription plans, you need look no further for binge-worthy adult series and feature films that prioritise pleasure.
Created by award-winning adult film-maker Erika Lust who broke onto the adult cinema scene in 2004, Lust has since founded four online cinemas: XConfessions, Lust Cinema, Else Cinema and The Store by Erika Lust that celebrate the highest quality adult content. Her TEDX talk ‘It’s Time for Porn to Change’ in 2017 has been viewed over 1 million times, and in 2019 she was named as one of the BBC’s 100 Most Influential Women of the Year.

Watch more at: www.lustcinema.com

We caught up with Erika to learn more about creating ethical porn and working in this trailblazing new subsection of a typically male dominated industry…

When was Erika Lust Films founded and what was the driving force for doing so? 

Right after moving to Barcelona from Sweden back in 2000, I started working in a well-known advertisement company making quick steps forward – from runner to producer – and soon I realised that I loved the atmosphere of a film set. At some point, I felt the need to do my own thing, and what I wanted to do was shoot an explicit film!

It was downloaded so many times that I realised there were other people out there who were also craving an alternative adult filmErika Lust

I wanted to create something totally different within the genre, a porn film according to my own taste, expressing my values and showing the importance of female pleasure. So I made this short film called ‘The Good Girl’, which was a humorous take on the classic pizza delivery boy porn trope and posted it online for free. I wasn’t really expecting anything but it was downloaded so many times that I realised there were other people out there who were also craving an alternative adult film. I was receiving mail from people all over the world telling me that they loved the film and asking when the next one would be out, and so Erika Lust was born!

What is the most challenging part about creating ethical porn? What is the best/most rewarding part about creating ethical porn? 

When you present yourself as an adult production company that puts ethics in the film production process and everything they do, you’re taking a huge responsibility towards the public. This may lead to people holding your work to a standard of “perfection” that doesn’t tolerate even the smallest mistake you may make. On the other hand, the most rewarding part is seeing a growing community of people out there who appreciates our work and supports me and my team to keep on doing it as best as we can. We recently ran a survey through our users and I’m so happy to see that more than 50% of them chose to buy a subscription to XConfessions, Lust Cinema, or Else Cinema, or buy single movies or film compilations at The Store by Erika Lust exactly because of the ethics under which our films are made.

How do viewers know if the porn they are watching is ethical?

You should be checking who are the people behind the porn you watch.Erika Lust

When you go to a porn website, do you know who’s behind that website? Is there an ‘about page’ where you can check who makes the films, how, and what are their values? Are there credits for the team behind the camera? This should be the starting point when it comes to knowing if the porn you watch is made ethically. Just as much as you check the label of the products you consume or the credits of a Netflix series, you should be checking who are the people behind the porn you watch.

Last but not least, is the porn you watch available behind a paywall? It costs money to make a film and to ensure good working conditions for everyone who is involved in making it happen. It costs money to fairly pay performers, crew, post-production and the director; legal contracts that protect all of their rights as workers, lunch for the day, comfortable accommodations if required. 

What do you think is the most pressing issue in the world of pornography production that viewers should be more aware of? e.g. payment, age of actors. consent, representation etc 

I think that consumers should be more aware of the importance of paying for porn. By paying for your porn, you’re helping adult production companies to make films where sex work is done in a safe environment; meaning that performers and their needs and boundaries are taken care of, that the sex they have is consensual. When you pay for your porn, you’re paying a scriptwriter that creates an original, realistic plot where communication and diversity are put at the forefront. You’re paying a production team that ensures that performers are 18+, are enthusiastic about being part of an adult movie, and do not feel obliged to do anything they don’t want to do. You’re paying a Talent Manager or an Intimacy Coordinator that supports them throughout the shoot. Most of all, you’re paying the performers and the whole crew that works to create a film with good cinematography and art direction, lighting, styling, makeup, new locations, and the whole post-production process. All of this is essential to create good quality adult content, both aesthetically and in terms of content.

In recent years we have all become more conscious of what we consume, and ethical and sustainable businesses have really boomed. I hope that this trend also translates to peoples’ attitudes towards pornography and that people begin to think more about the consequences of not paying for pornography and relying on tube sites. At the moment films are often made on a very low budget by companies who need to churn out as many films as possible in order to compete and be profitable; this leads to a very poor representation of sex and sexuality on screen. It is only once people start paying for pornography this will begin to change as more money, more evenly distributed within the industry will provide space for innovative new directors and allow production companies to focus on quality rather than simply having an economy of scale. 

Do you think that the endless amounts of free pornography online make for an inherently problematic industry?

Whether you’re a performer or a production company, if the content you create is uploaded onto tube sites, it doesn’t matter how many times it is watched, you will not get a penny from those views. Erika Lust

The pirating business model which has taken over in recent years with the rise of Tube sites such as PornHub, YouPorn and RedTube (all of which are part of the big controversial company Mindgeek) has completely decimated the industry and put many production studios and performers out of business. Whether you’re a performer or a production company, if the content you create is uploaded onto tube sites, it doesn’t matter how many times it is watched, you will not get a penny from those views. This, coupled with the fact that many content creators, especially smaller independent producers, simply don’t have the time or resources to trawl through these sites to look for their pirated content, has meant that the business is far less profitable than it used to be. 

Do you think we will ever live in a world in which ethical and consensual pornography is the norm when free content can be consumed so mindlessly?  

As said above, the future of pornography depends on whether or not there is a shift away from simply using these tube sites and start backing more varied companies by paying for their content. Users need to be made aware of the ethical implications of watching pirated material. Watching free porn is like going to the supermarket and going out without paying for the groceries.

When you pay for your porn, you are giving it value. You are supporting the people who do it and you are sending the message that you want to watch porn that is made safely, with quality and diversity. As in many other fields, consumers are ultimately a part of the industry; the future of porn depends on the people who watch it.

People are not educated to pay for porn also because our society still sees sex workers as less than human. Sex workers are people like anyone else who do a job that should have the same legal rights as any other job. We need to change for the better our perception of sex workers and their lives. We need to normalise sex work as real work and put an end to stigma, criminalisation, and dehumanisation.

Do you think we’re seeing a cultural shift in attitudes towards porn becoming less taboo as sites such as Only Fans become more popular and mainstream?

Despite the sex-negative culture we still live in, I see that porn is gradually becoming less of a taboo in society. And yes, I think that sites like OnlyFans, Manyvids, etc. are helping to normalise the consumption of paid ethical porn. They do it by putting the power and the money directly in the hands of adult creators and performers, who can create their own content in the safety of their homes and with people they want to work with. 

Pornography is historically rooted in exploitation and misogyny- can ethical porn seek to change that or do the origins of porn make it difficult to escape those issues even now? 

Ethically made porn exists exactly to change that. Porn as a medium can be used in a positive or negative way as everything else. It is absolutely possible to create porn that is not rooted in exploitation and misogyny by simply changing the narratives and making a positive shift in the production process.

We can clearly show consent instead of encouraging simulations of coercion, paedophilia, or abuse. Erika Lust

We can stop showing harmful gender stereotypes and start depicting men and women as equally important sexual collaborators. We can clearly show consent instead of encouraging simulations of coercion, paedophilia, or abuse. We can create porn where people can see themselves in those films, to see the sex they have, to be inspired, become educated, and receptive to the huge range of different sexualities out there. Porn can open your mind about sexuality and help you to discover new desires and fantasies. For many viewers, alternative adult cinema helps them celebrate their sexuality and encourages them to be empowered by sex in a variety of ways.

What is one misconception about creating porn you would like to debunk?

Many people conflate sex work with sex trafficking and perpetuate the stereotype that sex workers are victims or are driven to a demeaning lifestyle by a damaged history. Sex trafficking is easily confused with all types of sex work. There is the assumption that porn and sex work are always particularly exploitative for women, which just isn’t true. So many female performers are empowered and elevated by what they do! 

TEAM ZOELLA JUNE 29, 2021

13 Questions with A Spoonful of Alice

Alice Dunbar is an ex diet blogger on a body confidence journey, helping her followers to accept themselves and be more confident with their in their bodies.

First off, how are you and how is your 2021 going?

Hello! I’m feeling pretty good today – the sun is shining after a dreary few days and I think I’m going for a sea swim at lunchtime, which always makes me very happy. 2021 is a right rollercoaster, isn’t it? I’m struggling a *bit* to keep up with all the social events post-lockdown, but I’m thankful to be feeling somewhat normal again!

Can you tell us about your journey online and how @ASpoonfulOfAlice came to be?

Of course! I started blogging back in 2015 – but, believe it or not, I actually blogged about weight loss and my ‘Slimming World journey’. Unfortunately I ended up becoming obsessed with dieting and developed some pretty disordered eating patterns – and no matter how much weight I lost, I didn’t feel any better about myself.

In 2017, I discovered the world of body confidence and the anti-diet movement – and my whole life completely changed. I realised that slim doesn’t necessarily equal healthy and that that beauty exists in all shapes and sizes, and my body acceptance journey began. These days, I use my platform to empower others to ditch diet culture, learn to trust their bodies again and feel wonderful just as they are.

What can people expect from your presence online?

I’m all about spreading my message in a fun and accessible way – so expect to see me dancing around in my underwear to early 00s bangers, writing thoughtful captions about my journey and sharing photos of my imperfectly perfect body for the world to see!

Alongside diet culture, body confidence and self love, I also speak openly about mental health, menstrual wellness (specifically my experiences living with PCOS and PMDD), sex education and a whole host of other topics. I share snapshots of Brighton life with my girlfriend and cats, and I’m always up for a chat on my stories!

We absolutely love your message, what is one thing you wish everyone knew about diet culture?

Thank you so much! Blimey, where do I even start? Most of all, I wish society understood that the link between weight and health is wayyyyyy less clear than we have been led to think. It is possible to be both fat and healthy – just as it is possible to be slim and unhealthy. In this country, we still use the BMI scale as a key measure of health – when the person who created it (who was a mathematician, not a doctor!) said himself that it isn’t fit for that purpose. The scale was created in the 1800s and was based on the bodies of cisgendered white men – so if that’s not you, it’s even less helpful!

What opinions would you love to see change in the mainstream media over the next few years?

Again, I could literally spend hours talking about all the things I’d love to change – but I think I’d have to say the notion that there is one ‘beauty ideal’, and everyone else is somehow wrong. Sure, there might be a few plus-sized people in the odd magazine these days, but when you consider that the average UK woman is a size 16, it’s crackers that this is still very much a rarity. I want to see clothes modelled on bodies of all shapes and sizes and fat people being represented without an accompanying weight loss story. Believe it or not, plenty of people are happy being plus-sized, but that narrative is hardly ever portrayed – I’d love to see a change there!

Can you tell us 3 tips to feel more body confident?

  1. Aim for body acceptance first – body confidence can feel very out-of-reach if you’re struggling with low self worth, so I always recommend striving to accept your body first. Learn to treat it with respect and remind yourself that what you look like is the least important thing about you.
  2. Fake it ‘til you make it – always wanted to wear a crop top, but just don’t have the confidence? WEAR THE CROP TOP ANYWAY. Yes, it will be scary at first. Yes, you might second guess yourself a million times before stepping out the door. But before long, you’ll realise that nobody is giving you a second thought – apart from thinking how confident you look, and wishing they could wear a crop top too!
  3. Diversify your feed – if you’re only seeing ‘perfect’ Instagram models with one (unattainable) body type, it’s bound to have an effect on the way you see yourself. Instead, fill your feed with bodies of all shapes and sizes – bodies of queer people, plus-sized people, disabled people, black people, asian people… as many people as possible, basically! The more diverse your feed, the more diverse your idea of beauty will become – and one day, you might just see that *you* are beautiful too.

As a fellow Brighton dweller, can you share your top places to go in the city?

I actually get asked this question so many times that I keep a note in my phone where I list my favourite places. It’s organised into categories and everything! Here are a few of my faves:

  • Pompoko – cheap, cheerful and delicious Japanese food
  • Baby Bao @ The Pond – THE most amazing Taiwanese bao buns
  • Bison Beach Bar – cocktails, fresh pizza and bbq dishes on the beach
  • The Open Market – stalls selling local produce and crafts, friendly cafes and relaxed restaurants
  • Tropical Sushi – the best sushi I’ve had in a VERY long time (and I’ve had a lot!)
  • Brighton Rocks – a tucked-away cocktail bar with lots of board games and a great happy hour
  • Trading Post Coffee Roasters – my spot-of-the-moment for brunch!
  • La Mucca Nera – authentic italian ice cream, wine and coffee
  • Marmalade Store – pick up a posh picnic before heading to the beach
  • Brighton Flea Market – my favourite place for a Sunday morning mooch

What are you currently working on?

In terms of my Instagram, I’m working on a new reels series called ‘Facing my fat girl fears’ where I film myself doing things I’ve always been scared to do due to my size.

Otherwise, I’m working on myself! I went to therapy this year which was very eye-opening – it turns out I’m codependent and a biiiig people pleaser, so I’m learning to set healthy boundaries instead!

Who are some of your current favourite follows?

I follow so many wonderful humans who have taught me so many things, but at the moment I’m loving:

  • @ScarredNotScared – because she is the queen of boundaries and I want to be more like her
  • @make_love_not_diets – because she is HILARIOUS and always finds fun ways to help me dismantle diet culture
  • @meganjaynecrabbe – because she is the reason I started this journey in the first place
  • @simplepolitics – because the media has been so confusing this year, and they provide a lot of clarity
  • @pollyvdsz – because she shares her hilarious internal monologue and it brings me a lot of joy
  • @hunsnet – because everything they post just cracks me up

What does your perfect weekend look like?

I’d head out for brunch with my friends on Saturday morning, followed by a wander round the Lanes or a trip to the beach for a sea swim (the weather would be glorious, obviously!). In the evening, I’d cook a new recipe and it would work out PERFECTLY – then we’d watch Titanic, cry cathartically and go to bed by 9.30. I’d wake up on Sunday perfectly refreshed, and I’d spend the morning drinking coffee and reading in bed with my girlfriend (and the cats, if we’re being honest…). We’d make brunch together, then I’d spend the day filming AMAZING content for Instagram and doing little ‘self-care Sunday’ things like painting my nails and tidying up the mess I seem to inexplicably create throughout the week. We’d order takeaway in the evening and get so lost in conversation that we forget to watch telly! Bliss.

What do you always carry with you?

Tinted lip balm, headphones and an array of emergency snacks.

What would your last ever meal be?

I’d have to travel up to Newcastle (where I’m originally from) and head to Nudo Noodle House. They do this amaaaazing king prawn tom yum ramen, so I’d have that along with ALLLLL the sides (think gyoza, fresh sushi, salt and pepper squid etc). For dessert, I’d go to Olive Grove in Brighton – I once had the most incredible whipped greek yoghurt mousse with chopped nuts and honey there, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since!

What is one positive piece of advice you could give to our audience?

That being selfish is actually a selfless act. Hear me out – if you’re constantly giving all your time and energy to other people, then you won’t have enough left for yourself. At some point, someone else is going to have to ‘save’ you, and that will be a drain on THEIR energy. If we were all just a little bit more selfish and put ourselves first before helping others, it would genuinely benefit everyone!

I learnt that from Michelle Elman (@ScarredNotScared) and it absolutely blew me away.

TEAM ZOELLA JUNE 28, 2021

We Spoke to 6 Women About Having An Abortion

Every one of these stories is as unique as the people who tell them, and all of them serve as a reminder for why access to safe abortion care and autonomy over our own bodies is so important.

Today, we’re holding space for the women who have had an abortion, because normalising conversations around our reproductive rights is at the heart of smashing the abortion stigma and challenging social norms.

In a world where all manner of women’s health topics from self-pleasure to vaginismus and menstruation are slowly but surely getting their due air time, strides have been made, but abortion remains largely stigmatised and marginalised from everyday conversation. Many people deal with the reality of the procedure and the complex emotions that can often accompany it in silence due to the pervasive stigma and shame attached to the common medical procedure. Oftentimes, particularly in countries where it is still illegal to have an abortion, women, trans and non-binary people are denied access to safe abortion care.

Behind the public complacency, destructive misinformation and political debates are people with deeply personal experiences: an unintended pregnancy, rape, contraception failures, mental health struggles or abusive relationships. Regardless of the legal status of abortions, the stigma is global and many people are shamed for seeking or having one in their lifetime. Silence perpetuates stigma.

Here, we invited readers to talk about their experience in their own words. Every one of these stories is as unique as the people who tell them, and all of them serve as a reminder for why access to safe abortion care and autonomy over our own bodies is so important.

Every person deserves the right to decide the course of their own life and here’s how these women did, and continue to do, just that.

Jennie

How did you feel when you first found out you were pregnant? 

When I first found out I was so shocked as this had never happened before and I’d never particularly been careful with my partner. The shock pretty much overpowered any other emotion I was feeling at the time and also dread as I knew I had to have an abortion.

Can you share your personal experience and the moments leading up to your decision to have an abortion?

As I was only 18 at the time and me and my boyfriend still lived at home, the decision wasn’t a long process for me because there was no way we’d be able to tell our families or have the money to bring a baby into the world. The only problem I had was that I was going on holiday 2 days after I found out so had to try and urgently sort this for when I was back which gave me more time to almost go through all the motions of should I keep it or should I go through with it. As weird as it sounds regardless of how far along I was in pregnancy I still had this unexplainable connection with my child and did things I would during pregnancy to keep my baby healthy (ie whilst I was on holiday I didn’t have one drink even though I knew I was having an abortion). 

How did you reach the decision that this was the right choice for you, your body and your life?

I was 18 years old, I knew that I was nowhere near ready to have a child physically, mentally or financially and I think these 3 things all need to be considered before having a child. I had so much I wanted to achieve and so many milestones I wanted to tick off the list before starting my own family.

For those who are thinking about terminating a pregnancy but don’t know what to expect, can you share any fact-based information around what the medical procedure involves and how easy or difficult it was to access abortion care?

I was in the exact same position but I easily found the resources I needed for helplines and associations to get in touch with through the internet. The people you contact through the associations are very helpful and understanding, they talk you through every step of the way and go through everything you need to know or be aware of. Again the staff who work at the clinics are amazing and always ask through every stage of your appointment if your decision is final but not in a judgemental or pressurising way.

The procedure itself if you’re very early on in pregnancy is done by taking an abortion pill and you have a series of health checks before and usually after you have taken the pill they offer to fit contraception or prescribe this before you leave. The only painful part is the day after or the next couple of days after when you have a ‘miscarriage’ which feels like a very bad period. I would suggest to anyone if possible have someone go with you as although the staff are all so friendly and supportive I do think you need that extra bit of support from a familiar face. Also, be prepared the next day to just rest.

How did you feel after the abortion?

After the abortion, I felt very emotional understandably but luckily I had the support of my boyfriend who was amazing throughout the whole thing. It’s kind of a relief once it’s over but then there’s also a lot of what-ifs when you have a moment to think wondering what the baby would’ve looked like and through the weeks remembering how far gone you’d have been if you would’ve kept the baby. Even to this day I still imagine things and think about what he/she would’ve been like but it’s not as upsetting anymore as I know it was the right decision for me.

What level of aftercare and support did you have?

Everything was explained at the clinic regarding aftercare and they gave me numbers to contact if I felt that something was wrong. Support wise I had my boyfriend and a couple of people knew but I couldn’t tell my parents and still haven’t to this day.

Did you ever experience feelings of shame, secrecy or judgement around your decision to have an abortion, at all?

I think the judgement and shame only came from myself as it is such an awful decision to make but my partner agreed with me through every step and the people who did know were all so understanding and supportive. As for secrecy there is a lot of secrecy regarding my abortion, I didn’t feel I could tell my parents or my family as I still live at home. I’m not sure why I felt the need for secrecy but I think it’s the fear of the unknown for how people may react and it’s not really a conversation you want to be having with a parent when you still live with them and are also so young! 

Having gone through the experience yourself, and despite how common it is (1 in 3 women have an abortion by 45), why do you think it’s still such an off-limits taboo subject?

I think as every country and every generation of people have different opinions and views on abortions this creates a whole stigma everywhere else. Like in older generations abortions weren’t really a thing and was seen as morally wrong and in some countries people don’t even have the choice to have an abortion which blows my mind. It’s sad to think how common this is and it’s still a subject that women feel ashamed of or find it awkward to talk about. 

How can we all do more to end abortion stigma and encourage others to talk about it like any other medical procedure? What do you think is going to be the real catalyst for change?

Although I respect some people wish to keep this matter private I do think the way forward is to open up about these experiences more. The way we talk about contraception and sex should be the way we talk about abortions as it is more than likely to happen to most women in their lifetime. I think the way we view what an abortion actually needs to be altered too, abortion is seen as such a negative decision that means destroying another humans life when really once dealt with properly is a positive decision that is the right one for you at that point in your life.

For anyone going through an abortion now, or considering having one, what advice would you offer them?

My advice would be; This decision is down to you and you only, it is your body and your mind if you feel that you aren’t ready for a child then don’t feel guilty about the decision you make. I believe that you need to be in the best place possible when it comes to having a baby as you want to give your baby your all and bring them up in a stable, happy, healthy environment. You’ll know when the time is right and when you and your partner are ready to become parents. Another thing is to talk to someone! Whether that be someone you’ve confided in, an anonymous helpline or a community of women who have been through the same thing, this helps so so much, in most situations I think the feeling of not being alone in how you feel or what you’re going through is so reassuring. Until the time comes for you to start your own family (if that’s something you want to do) just live your life to the fullest and strive to achieve everything you want to, that’s what I’m going to do until I decide otherwise :).

Olivia

How did you feel when you first found out you were pregnant?

I had only been with my boyfriend (now husband) for about a month or two when I found out. I was very, very overwhelmed and scared. I knew we weren’t ready for a kid because it was so early in our relationship. I felt somewhat ashamed as well. 

Can you share your personal experience and the moments leading up to your decision to have an abortion?

It was just a lot of stress and anxiety about what would happen, how my boyfriend would respond, how my family/friends would feel if I was pregnant, how I’d handle it, how abortions work, maybe adoption, a lot of feelings.

How did you reach the decision that this was the right choice for you, your body and your life?

I think I knew almost immediately that I would want one. When I told my boyfriend that I was pregnant, he said that he would be okay with whatever I decided because it was my body. I knew I wasn’t ready for a kid. I was in grad school, in my first couple years of teaching kindergarten, living in a rental home with roommates, and my boyfriend lived in another state.

For those who are thinking about terminating a pregnancy but don’t know what to expect, can you share any fact-based information around what the medical procedure involves and how easy or difficult it was to access abortion care?

I was told that I needed to do the medical abortion (versus a physical one) because of my weight and how far along I was. I will be honest and say that it was the most painful experience I have ever been through. I was told it would be hard, but the pain was unbearable. I lived in Oklahoma at the time, which is very very conservative. The clinic I went to was the only one in the state that offered abortions. Luckily, I lived in that city, so I had easy access to it. 

How did you feel after the abortion?

I felt relieved. I felt like I could continue with my life and finish school with ease. I felt like I didn’t have a huge secret anymore.

What level of aftercare and support did you have?

I had access to the nurse at the clinic through text whenever I needed it. I texted her many questions. I also had to go back to the clinic a couple weeks later to do a pregnancy test to confirm that it was terminated and make sure I was doing okay. My boyfriend was in a different state, so I didn’t really have any personal support. No one knew except for him.

Did you ever experience feelings of shame, secrecy or judgement around your decision to have an abortion, at all?

I did at first because I’ve been told my whole life that it was wrong and I’d go to hell. I realized shortly after it happened that it’s my life and my body and I have the choice to do whatever I think is best for me and my situation. This was almost 6 years ago. Now, I feel no shame or embarrassment about it.

Having gone through the experience yourself, and despite how common it is (1 in 3 women have an abortion by 45), why do you think it’s still such an off-limits taboo subject?

It’s been ingrained in people since they were kids that it is wrong and a sin. People were raised to believe that, so it is a thought in people’s heads. I also feel like it stems from the fact that a lot of parents or grandparents can be more conservative and pro-life. That family pressure can be very tough.

How can we all do more to end abortion stigma and encourage others to talk about it like any other medical procedure? What do you think is going to be the real catalyst for change?

Women have the right to do what they want with and to their body. Women shouldn’t have to look to anyone for permission to get an abortion, get a tattoo, get a piercing, cut their hair, etc. People need to realize that and give women that right. It is a part of basic human rights. That idea needs to be accepted by everyone, which I feel like we’re making good strides with. 

For anyone going through an abortion now, or considering having one, what advice would you offer them?

Self-care. Make sure you have a support system or someone you can trust to talk to. Take off of work afterwards (I didn’t at first and ended up doing it later). Get fluffy pillows and blankets so that you can be comfortable in bed. Eat ice cream or whatever makes you feel good! You’ll need physical and mental support and relaxation afterwards.

India

How did you feel when you first found out you were pregnant?

When I first found out I was pregnant I instantly felt joy and happiness, however, this was quickly clouded with fear and doubt. Although I was happy and with my partner, I had never felt more alone, knowing that there was life growing inside of me and I felt such a huge responsibility as I was not planning to become a mother so soon.

Can you share your personal experience and the moments leading up to your decision to have an abortion?

I decided to keep this between me and my partner for many weeks as I wanted to make the right decision and be sure of what I wanted. As the weeks went on, my mind changed most days but I never felt sure of my choice. After keeping this to myself for a while, I knew it was time to tell my parents as I was being sick most days and really started to feel the symptoms of pregnancy.

How did you reach the decision that this was the right choice for you, your body and your life?

When discussing this with my mother, I was hoping for reassurance and I really wanted somebody to tell me everything was going to be okay and that most importantly it was my choice. However, this was not the reaction I received, in all honesty, she was not ready to be a grandmother and did not want me to ruin her own life. At this point, I believed I would have become homeless if I had gone through with the pregnancy.
As I was around 13 weeks pregnant at this stage, I knew my time was limited and I needed to make a decision quickly. As I was young and vulnerable I allowed my family to influence me to go ahead with an abortion. Don’t get me wrong, there was a part of me that also wanted to not go through with the pregnancy, but if I had not listened to them, I don’t think I would have proceeded with the abortion.

For those who are thinking about terminating a pregnancy but don’t know what to expect, can you share any fact-based information around what the medical procedure involves and how easy or difficult it was to access abortion care?

I was able to get an abortion within a few weeks of speaking to my GP (but the limited availability means I had to travel over an hour from my home), however, in this situation, each week is highly important in terms of the type of abortion you will be able to receive. As I was over 14 weeks pregnant I had to undergo dilation and evacuation meaning I was under general anaesthetic and the pregnancy was removed using special instruments from my womb. I found the process very scary and overall traumatising. The NHS staff were amazing but I did feel the process was slightly rushed and chaotic.

After the abortion, I stayed in the clinic for a few hours to recover and was given a leaflet and discharged. I was not provided with any other care whatsoever. Looking back now, I feel like I would have benefited from having some sort of counselling or mental help after undergoing a life-changing operation.

How did you feel after the abortion?

Most of the feelings I have felt since my abortion are mainly directed at myself and my family, I really wish I was supported more throughout. I do feel judgement when speaking about it despite it being much more common than people realise. I do believe it is such a taboo subject as many people hold such strong opinions despite them never have been in that situation themselves. I guess it is easy to judge another if you have not walked in their shoes.

What do you think is going to be the real catalyst for change?

I believe abortion should be spoken about more in secondary schools and colleges, there is such a lack of information surrounding the different types of abortions and how these are carried out, as well as any long term side effects of this. I also believe a law should be passed about the protesters that often stand outside clinics across the UK (as this was something I had not anticipated before arriving and it was a horrible experience).

For anyone going through an abortion now, or considering having one, what advice would you offer them?

For people considering having an abortion, my biggest piece of advice would be to make sure it is what YOU want and don’t allow the opinion of others to affect you, because at the end of the day, it is your body and your life, so make sure you do what is right for you. And when you make your decision, remember that the only person who will have to live with that every day is you. Nobody else. This is also not me saying women will feel shame and regret after having an abortion because that simply is not true. As long as this is what you want, that is enough.

If you are currently going through an abortion, remember to ask for help if you need it and surround yourself with your closest people.

Kate

How did you feel when you first found out you were pregnant?

I felt nervous when I found out I pregnant. At 18 and without a long term partner I was apprehensive and unsure about what I was going to do. In one way I was glad I had an answer as to why I had been feeling unwell physically but it gave me a lot to think about and new emotions to deal with.

Can you share your personal experience and the moments leading up to your decision to have an abortion?

I had an on/off relationship with someone who lived 5 hours away and got pregnant during a trip to see them. I was 18 years old and it was the summer before I was due to move away for university. The pregnant was unplanned and although children were in my plan, this wasn’t the right time or situation. The logistics of seeing the father and co-parenting were feasible and we both decided the right decision would be to terminate the pregnancy.

How did you reach the decision that this was the right choice for you, your body and your life?

I could not have financially supported a child at that time and moving across the country for a relationship that hadn’t really been solid, didn’t seem like a stable choice to make. During this time I didn’t tell my mum who I lived with and didn’t really want to for fear of judgement or anger.

I was really thankful for the choice to end the pregnancy as I knew it wasn’t the right time for me or the father to welcome a child into the world.

For those who are thinking about terminating a pregnancy but don’t know what to expect, can you share any fact-based information around what the medical procedure involves and how easy or difficult it was to access abortion care?

I was aware of and had accessed local sexual health clinics for contraception in the past so this was the first place I contacted after deciding on an abortion. They booked me in relatively quickly to get a scan and confirm I was in fact pregnant. 

They asked me my reasons for deciding to terminate and I felt they were really understanding and there was no judgment in their tone or words those chose when speaking to me. They asked if I had considered other options such as adoption but I explained I wanted to go away to university and didn’t want to continue with the pregnancy at all.

The only negative from this initial appointment was that when the health worker carried out the ultrasound, she showed me the screen. Normally this would be really happy for expectant parents but it made me feel guilty, seeing a fetus knowing I wasn’t going to carry it to term. It was only for a few seconds but the feeling of guilt lasted for months.

The health care worker explained there were different procedures depending on how far along in the pregnancy you were. I was able to be booked in for a noninvasive termination where I took a tablet to stop the heartbeat then a few days later I came into hospital for a day to take another. The second tablet would actually pass the fetus and you do this in hospital so they can monitor how you’re passing the pregnancy and how much you’re bleeding. 

It’s worth mentioning the nurse who cared for me during my 6 or so hours in hospital, was pregnant. I never once felt like she judged me or was making me feel worse about my decision because she had decided to carry on her with pregnancy. 

Accessing the service and getting appointments was easy. I felt anxious and embarrassed going to each one but was always able to bring someone with me (can be a partner, friend, family member etc). I felt like I had a big sign over my head saying ‘she’s going for an abortion’ but everything is very discreet and confidential. The procedure goes on your medical record but there was no need for my family doctor or anyone else to be involved.

What level of aftercare and support did you have?

There was no counselling or talking therapies offered afterwards which looking back on, I think I could have benefited from. I felt a lot of guilt and regret for a year or so afterwards and it would have been good to help understand these feelings more. 

How did you feel after the abortion?

I am 100% okay and happy with the choice I made nearly 10 years ago and would do it again if I needed to. I have no regrets and know the life of the fetus and mine, are better because of the decision I made.

Having gone through the experience yourself, and despite how common it is (1 in 3 women have an abortion by 45), why do you think it’s still such an off-limits taboo subject?

I think it’s a taboo subject for some and women still experience shame because of the way people perceive abortions and the lack of conversation around it. You’re led to believe they ‘cut’ babies out of you or the procedures really violent but it’s not the case. Its medical and performed with care and attention from professionals like any other. 

How can we all do more to end abortion stigma and encourage others to talk about it like any other medical procedure? What do you think is going to be the real catalyst for change?

We don’t know everyone’s story or reason behind seeking an abortion but no one does it for fun. It’s not a walk in the park physically or mentally. We should be more open from a younger age. We should talk about it in schools when we learn about sex education. If I can learn about contraception in primary school then I should be able to learn about termination too. 

I’ve waited longer to access mental health services than abortion services but we talk about mental health so much now. Why not abortions? If we can promote talking and being open about what’s going on in our minds, why not about what’s going on in our bodies? 

For anyone going through an abortion now, or considering having one, what advice would you offer them?

My advice for someone about to go through or going through with an abortion is to confide in someone, whether it be your partner, friend or a family member. Don’t do it alone, you’ll be thankful for the support. Even if they just drive you to appointments, it’s better than making those journeys on your own. 

Secondly, ask as many questions as you can. Don’t be blindsided by medical terms, if you don’t understand something then ask for it to be explained again or in a different way so you understand. Ultimately you’re making the choice and that’s the most important thing, don’t let anyone sway your opinion or choice. It’s your body, your choice! 

Carla

How did you feel when you first found out you were pregnant?

I felt overwhelmed by the thought of having another pregnancy, I had already been pregnant six times prior to this time, four live births and two previous terminations.  

Can you share your personal experience and the moments leading up to your decision to have an abortion?

As this, unfortunately, was not my first rodeo, and the third time I would go through this process I was devastated to have to go through this again. I felt ashamed for this to happen again. I had to visit my doctor again, a well put together capable person most of the time again requesting to terminate a humans life. It did not sit well with me on any level and all I could think about was what other people thought of me. As I had to disclose to my employer why I was unwell or need appointment time, it was embarrassing and I thought everyone knew (which they didn’t) however you still get the feeling of being judged, a paranoid feeling. 

How did you reach the decision that this was the right choice for you, your body and your life?

I already had four children, worked full time and did not live with my partner. I also had to tell my parents who always looked so disappointed even at 37, as none of my previous pregnancies had been planned and I was not married or in a good enough financial position to take care of another child.

For those who are thinking about terminating a pregnancy but don’t know what to expect, can you share any fact-based information around what the medical procedure involves and how easy or difficult it was to access abortion care?

I visited my local GP, having a female doctor helps as I did approach a male doctor in my surgery and he flatly refused to discuss it or refer me.
The GP refer you to the BPAS British Pregnancy Advisory Service. Call to make an appointment at one of the BPAS clinics to speak to a counsellor. You then see a doctor at your appointment if you feel this is the right course of action to terminate your pregnancy. The doctor scans you to determine how far along in the pregnancy you are and what type of termination you need. 

You may be offered a medical abortion to terminate the pregnancy, you go to the clinic for the first dose and if you live close by you are able to go home once it has been administered, take the next dose and nature takes its course at home. 

Alternatively you maybe further along in the pregnancy and you would be invited to the clinic again provided with medication, nurses are on hand and this can mean an over night stay. If you are further along in the pregnancy it feels more like giving birth as the foetus is larger and blood loss may be greater.

If you are younger or you are terminating the pregnancy on medical grounds you maybe offered a surgical abortion. The NHS website has a brilliant description of all options I would have benefitted of reading. 

How did you feel after the abortion?

Empty, it’s like a bereavement and unfortunately never has left me. I can still see the foetus in the toilet and find it hard to deal with after experiencing the last abortion I have suffered from PTSD. I found it very difficult to have a normal sexual relationship because I would get paranoid I would fall pregnant again and feel relief every month when I wasn’t. My partner refused to take responsibility for contraception and would not have a vasectomy and of  course being super fertile and no contraception working for me was hard. I did ask for alternative solutions from a GP referral and was advised its not in my best interests to pursue until I am older.

What level of aftercare and support did you have?

I received no aftercare support at all.

Did you ever experience feelings of shame, secrecy or judgement around your decision to have an abortion, at all?

I still feel shame about having a termination, my partner was quite cruel to me and said I had murdered his child once in an argument and I will never forget that, and we had talked at length before our decision and was not aware of how much it affected him. I felt so guilty for people with fertility problems, especially friends who would confide in me and it would make me terribly upset.

Having gone through the experience yourself, and despite how common it is (1 in 3 women have an abortion by 45), why do you think it’s still such an off-limits taboo subject?

Abortion is still a taboo subject from my first experience in the early 1990s to my more recent experience I can say this has not much changed however the support has increased as more clinics have opened it’s easier to access, I do think after support should be more available for women to deal with the trauma. 

How can we all do more to end abortion stigma and encourage others to talk about it like any other medical procedure? What do you think is going to be the real catalyst for change?

Stigma around abortion is always going to exist. I believe the stigma is around the reason we choose to terminate a pregnancy, not the actual act. For many reasons especially medical reasons. If the foetus isn’t viable. To save another foetus in the womb of a multiple pregnancy. From falling pregnant after abuse or rape, this should not be taboo. The choice for your mental health is a massive reason to terminate a pregnancy these days as it’s more prevalent and accepted. It is not a decision to be taken lightly and more options for the mother should be discussed like adoption prior to termination. It should also be covered in schools as in sex education classes.

For anyone going through an abortion now, or considering having one, what advice would you offer them?

It’s a personal choice, it’s not always the right choice, do not feel ashamed to ask for help. Talk to someone close to you however, do not overshare. If your partner is supportive keep them involved they may be devastated too and need support.

Shannon

How did you feel when you first found out you were pregnant?

When I found out I was pregnant I was in disbelief it did not feel real. I then took a second test which indicated how many weeks I was, then it started to sink in. I felt extremely scared and confused because I knew I did not want to have a baby. It felt like I had a big sign on me telling everyone around me I was pregnant, I did not want to look at someone wrong or look to my stomach without the fear that everyone knew. It felt very consuming it was all I could think about.

I started imagining my future with a baby and without a baby. It felt like time was moving slower and every second I didn’t think about it made me feel guilty that I wasn’t spending every moment thinking of it. I also felt embarrassed and stupid, it felt like I had been really stupid not to have taken more precautions. There was also a feeling that lasted for quite a while of being betrayed by my own body, it felt wrong that my brain knew I did not want a baby, yet my body was changing for the process to happen.

Can you share your personal experience and the moments leading up to your decision to have an abortion? (Please only disclose what you are comfortable with)

It was 2018 and I was 21 years old and in my final year of university, it was a few weeks before the end of my second term just around the time of writing my dissertation and prep for my final exams. My boyfriend was also at university around a 3-hour train journey away, we had been together for a nearly year. I had previously been on a few contraceptive pills up until 6 months before, I found some side effects of headaches, weight gain and mood swings.

As my boyfriend and I could only see each other every other month for a few days at a time I decided we would use condoms as a method of contraception. Around my Birthday we were able to see each other for a week and used condoms when we had sex- however this down later into intercourse or once not at all. A few weeks passed and I had not got my period however often with university stress they were not regular, so I wasn’t worried. Then a few more weeks passed, and I found myself getting very teary in most situations. This was not uncommon for usually a day before my period however it never usually lasted a few days.

I was in the gym on the treadmill and whilst I was running it felt like a had a small tight knot and slight cramps in my stomach which then ended up lasting the entire evening. For the rest of the week, I had extremely vivid dreams and then started to get a strange taste in my mouth. I started to google the symptoms and every article was about pregnancy. I spent an hour or so scrolling through forums of women excitedly checking their early symptoms with one another.

At this point I felt quite numb because I couldn’t fathom the idea that I was actually pregnant. I told my best friend (also my housemate) that I thought I was pregnant. She told me I was must be joking that I can’t be, I told her I didn’t feel right and I really thought I was. She had a pregnancy test in her room, I went to the bathroom and did the test. I then came downstairs are put the test down and carried on doing my washing up. Then I walked over and saw there was two lines on the test. I showed her and she started saying no you can’t be pregnant. I was speechless it didn’t feel real at all. I just couldn’t believe it. I then went with her to the supermarket to get another test which would tell me the weeks. I remember feeling so conscious that everyone knew. That week I had three essays due at university so took the test to the library toilets. The test said I was 3+ weeks.

At this point I stood in the toilet cubile and wanted it all to go away. I could feel my heart racing and I felt like I needed to be sick. I took some deep breathes and thought about it being too late to call a doctor and also conscious I had my essays due. So I went back to writing my essay in the library but couldn’t think about anything else. I could hear my pulse and I just felt helpless. I started googling abortion online and not a lot was coming up that made clear sense on what to do.  I saw on a website about contacting your GP as soon as you are aware. The doctors was shut so my plan was to phone the doctors the next day. That night feels like a blur now I remember having a film on to fall asleep to and I just stared at the screen but couldn’t take anything in.I woke up and went to the library and waited for the doctors to open. It felt like the more I could do everything in logical steps the easier I found it. I woke up and just mentally prepared for phoning the doctor I couldn’t let me brain wander to the next part. I then went into a corridor in my university library and phoned the doctors. The receptionist asked what I needed an appointment for, it was at this point I had to say it out loud. I had said it in my head since I found out but not verbalised it. My voice broke when I said I wanted an abortion and I started to cry. She spoke really calmly and advised me I didn’t need to see a doctor I could self refer to a clinic. She took my name and told me to go to the doctors and she would have a leaflet for me to take away that would explain what I needed to do.

It felt like she had given me the next steps to focus on so I stopped crying and my best friend went with me and she went in and picked it up. The leaflet was for Marie Stopes clinic. Again I couldn’t allow myself time to think to much I just followed the instructions on the leaflet and phoned. They asked me personal details about my address and age and advised I would receive an email which would have a call time for the next day which they would then be able to book me in. They also advised this was a confidential service so would not go my medical record, this made me feel secure in that it was a personal and private decision for myself and that it would never come back up. At this point I felt calmer that there was a plan. They set up a password to use when I called and then I received an email with 2 pdf attachments. One was FAQ the other was about the different procedures. I read those PDF’s so many times I wanted to understand everything as I felt so scared about what an abortion actually was. I waited for my call the next day and they advised as I was just 6 weeks this is the earliest I could get an abortion.

They advised due to being in the early stages I could have a early medical abortion pill. She talked me through what would happen next and advised instructions would also be sent to me. She advised me I could call the helpline at any time if I had anymore questions.  She found the clinic in my university town had a cancellation which meant I could have an appointment that Friday in two days’ time, my next option was to wait for the next appointment which was two weeks away. I knew it did not want to wait – I had essays due and my dissertation to think about and it felt impossible to think of anything other than being pregnant. Now that I knew I had an appointment I decided to tell my boyfriend. I felt so nervous to bring up the subject because somehow it felt like it was all my fault and I had done something wrong I told him in one giant sentence what had happened and what I was doing. He was silent for a while then told me her supported me and just wanted me to speak to him if I needed him. This was the best thing he could have done, he didn’t bring up the subject unless I did. He never told me anything other than whatever I needed he would help. When reading the pdf’s from Marie Stopes it advised to avoid public transport on the day and after. I asked my boyfriend to drive back from his uni the evening of my appointment to drive me home the next day as I was supposed to be leaving by train for my easter break.

On the Thursday I was so upset but I felt so lucky that I would only have to get through the next day and it would all be over with. That day my best friend had been planning a birthday celebration as her birthday fell a few days later when we were on Easter break. I tried to get myself involved in the party and spent hours blowing up balloons however I just couldn’t stop thinking about the next day. I knew I did not want to have a baby but what was scaring me is I did not know what to expect. I had all these strange thoughts running through my head of what did the clinic look like? Would I see someone I know? Would they judge me for my choice? Would there be protestors outside? Would the procedure hurt? Would someone tell me off? I found it hard to get away from the feeling that I had messed up.

How did you reach the decision that this was the right choice for you, your body and your life?

As soon as I thought I might be pregnant I knew I didn’t want to have a baby, it wasn’t that I didn’t ever in the future want a baby, but I didn’t want one now. I was a university student, there were things that I knew I wanted to do and achieve that I knew would either be really difficult with a child or impossible. I also knew I could not give a child the life I would have wanted to them to have. I wanted to travel the world, have years that were just about me. I felt like I wanted to discover life for me and live as carefree and be as self-centred as possible.

I knew that I wanted an abortion, but I also did spend time thinking about the other option. I thought about having a baby, the reality that I had only been with my boyfriend a year and we were both so young. I thought about the practicalities of us navigating being parents or co-parents. I knew one day I would like to have children, but this was not what I wanted at this time. I felt empowered in that this was my choice, no one could have said anything to change my mind, but I also felt safe in that no one else had a say in what happened it was all up to me to do what I wanted.

For those who are thinking about terminating a pregnancy but don’t know what to expect, can you share any fact-based information around what the medical procedure involves and how easy or difficult it was to access abortion care?

As mentioned above you can self-refer to a clinic which means it doesn’t need to go on your medical record or through your GP.  This is all arranged in a phone call and then helpful information sent over email. As well as a text explaining where to go at the clinic. They advise me to wear comfortable and loose clothing. Also, to arrive with a sanitary towel already fitted in your underwear.

Further to this to bring a bottle of water and have paracetamol and Ibuprofen at home ready to take. At the appointment I had my blood pressure taken to start off with because I was nervous, she had to take it twice till I had a few deep breathes. Then I had to answer questions on your medical history. I then had a skin prick test in which the blood is used to test for HIV which didn’t hurt. The nurse then took me to a bed and gave me an ultrasound to check the stage of pregnancy the cold jelly was a bit of a shock. She also asked me if I wanted to see the screen I said no. It then automatically printed a picture that I never saw.

After this she confirmed with me, I wanted to make this choice and then phoned another doctor to advise she had checked everything and I wanted to continue. You need 2 doctors to sign off but I never had to speak to the doctor on the phone. She was then able to give me the first tablet. The first tablet I took in front of her orally and was the same size as a normal tablet of paracetamol. She then gave me another tablet of similar size and advised me to go behind the curtain and with a glove and two fingers to insert it into my vagina as far up as I could. This was an easy process and felt similar to inserting a tampon.  I was then given a test for Chlamydia to do at home and send back in the post. She then asked me if I had any questions I advised no and she gave me a leaflet on contraception.

Then I left the clinic and got a taxi to my home. After this around 2 hours later I started to have diarrhoea which is normal. I was advised to take 2 paracetamol and 2 ibuprofens, I did this every 6 hours. After 2 more hours, I started to bleed very lightly and felt slightly shivery. The next day the diarrhoea had eased, and I had a heavy feeling of pulling in my stomach feeling very similar to period pains. The next day the bleeding was heavier I used nighttime sanitary towels. When I went to the toilet it looked the same as a period with a bit more clotting. I bled for around 5-7 days and stopped taking pain relief medication after 3 days as I felt no pain.

How did you feel after the abortion?

At first, when I finished in the clinic I felt so relieved and tired. I had built up in my head I just had to get to this point and it all felt very overwhelming that night. That night I cried a lot because I felt like I had been stupid, and I had done something wrong. The next few days I felt relieved and with that came a sense of guilt. I was so happy that I was no longer pregnant, but I felt guilty that I should feel so relieved and happy as anything I had seen in the media or with friends and family pregnancy and babies were a joyous thing to be celebrated.

I also felt guilty that other people really want to have children and I didn’t want to. It felt hard to feel so relieved about abortion when often in mainstream media it was this thing that had to carry shame and unhappiness. I was also nervous about bleeding and had this nightmare of seeing a fully formed baby in a miniature version in my sanitary towel. It felt hard every day of bleeding to be reminded of what was happening. I kept having waves of sadness that would come and go relating to ruining the excitement of ever having children. It also felt like every time I was sad, I needed to be sad as a punishment for having an abortion. It took me a few weeks to not feel like this and feel like life was normal again.

What level of aftercare and support did you have?

I was aware the charity ran a support line that I could phone at any time and give my name and password and they would know who I was. I used this support line once a few days after to ask about feeling guilty about my relief, they were extremely helpful and told me this was completely normal. I also never felt unsafe it felt like with all the information they had given me I was able to know what my body was doing, and I was fully in control.

As I had told my two best friends and boyfriend, I spoke to them at different points to talk about how I felt. Even if I didn’t speak about how I felt, it felt comforting to be around any of them as it felt like I could just be myself as they knew what was going on. I’m still extremely grateful I felt able to tell my best friends and they were so calm and caring.

Did you ever experience feelings of shame, secrecy or judgement around your decision to have an abortion, at all?

I felt a sense of shame in that it felt like I had been uncareful or stupid. This was something I felt initially when I found out I was pregnant and returned after I had the abortion. I was also aware that everyone I would meet in my life probably had an opinion on abortion it scared me that the topic might ever come up in conversation. I felt scared about hearing someone’s opinion and feeling judged. I avoided programmes that mentioned abortions and would turn off films if they touched on the subject for around 6 months after.

It felt like I needed to keep a secret from my family because I didn’t want to think they would be disappointed in me. I also didn’t tell any other friends other than my two best friends because I didn’t know anyone who had an abortion so I wasn’t sure whether other friends would define me as their friend who had an abortion.

Having gone through the experience yourself, and despite how common it is (1 in 3 women have an abortion by 45), why do you think it’s still such an off-limits taboo subject?

I think it feels like such a off-limits subject because there a narrative for women that we are maternal beings and that should mean we would want to be procreate and to go against that feels hard to say without fear of judgement. I found it taboo because I did not want to upset anyone or hear an opinion which might upset me. The biggest thing to me felt like an abortion felt defining. The same way as someone defines and calls themself a mother it feels like the wrong person might define me in negative way as someone who has had an abortion. I also think the conversation in the media and online often makes the conversation a moral conversation. Whereas it is simply and choice and that choice is not something that can be right or wrong it is individual.

How can we all do more to end abortion stigma and encourage others to talk about it like any other medical procedure? What do you think is going to be the real catalyst for change?

I think the more women like myself speak out. The more we share our stories will encourage others to share their story. We need to change the conversation to not be one of agreeing/disagreeing but about listening to how someone feels and what they want for their body and their future. Making women feel like the choice is theirs without judgement, having conversations about abortion should be about someone sharing their story without hearing someone else opinion on their story. I think this will also help other people understand exactly how and why women have made their decisions which can only bring more understanding. We have to continue empowering women to understand it is their body and their choice.

I believe the real catalyst of change will be when abortion is legal in every country and as simple and easy as possible for women to access with enough understanding that they can make a clear and informed decision. The media also need to stop sticking to stereotypical depictions of people who have abortions being young, careless and often promiscuous women. Instead, they need to be showing the reality that it is not a horrific procedure and as I witnessed in the waiting room before my appointment the women are mostly above 30 and have other children and partners. 

For anyone going through an abortion now, or considering having one, what advice would you offer them?

I would advise you to think about your future and the things you want. I would advise you to take some time for yourself and spend a few hours or a day thinking about all your options and how you feel about each option. Try not to feel shame and judgement and simply the things you want right now in life. I would also advise using free therapy that is offered by lots of clinics if you feel like you’d rather talk to a stranger. I found it helpful to speak to the people I trusted most in the world not for their opinion but just to talk it out. It can feel lonely thinking about abortion it can really help to know you’ve told someone you trust how you felt. Mostly whatever you want is okay, and whatever you don’t want is okay and you have the choice to decide your future no one else.

TEAM ZOELLA JUNE 27, 2021

Weekly Wants: Our Fave Crochet Looks

If you're planning to channel Woodstock vibes this summer then crochet should absolutely be on your shopping list...

Shaggy hairdos, roller skating in flared jeans, Fleetwood Mac and knitted hot pants- yep, you’ve landed in the ’70s, and the obsession with all things retro is here to stay this summer…

TikTok and Instagram are abuzz with all things 1970s and honestly, we’re not mad about it. Crochet is one such trend, and if you’re planning to channel Woodstock vibes then it should absolutely be on your shopping list this season. One of the best parts about rocking crochet is the versatility of the trend and how many items it spans, whether it be full-on holey dreaminess in the shape of a co-ord, maxi dress or skirt, to smaller nods to the trend as bucket hats or beach bags, there are big and small ways you can get in on the hype whilst still making it wearable for you.

House of Sunny’s iconic Hockney Dress sparked a love for all things knitted everything during 2020 and crochet is the next fun and fabulous extension of that, guaranteeing you a cute AF Insta pic and some “she looks great!” glances in the street.

Shop the post

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TEAM ZOELLA JUNE 26, 2021

The Sport of the Summer: Paddleboarding for Newbies

This is multi-tasking at its best, only instead of compromising your mental health, it complements it.

Stand up paddleboarding or SUP is the lockdown water sport everyone wants to have a go at and who can blame us? It’s a full core workout with the added benefit of not feeling like a workout (we’re sold), you’re free to explore the great outdoors, you can do it on just about any body of water – pa’s pond might be pushing it – and it’s perfect for all ages and skill levels.

With sunshine making a comeback, pootling along all the best coastlines, turquoise bays, rivers and lakes the UK has to offer is a glorious way to dive into the weekend, top up your tan and explore new places at the same time. This is multi-tasking at its best, only instead of compromising your mental health, it complements it.

If you’re a paddling newbie looking to test the waters, keep scrolling for your SUP 101.

The benefits of paddleboarding

From the shore, it’s very easy to assume that the SUP life is an easy life but don’t be fooled, those pros make it look effortless and once you’re on the water it is a top-notch form of cardio, especially if you’re racing friends or going at some speed to get your heart rate up. Hello abs of steel. The low impact sport is kind and gentle to your body, making it the perfect activity for anyone looking for something less strenuous than a couch to 5K.

The water has a relaxing effect on the mind and body

Beyond the endless physical benefits of moving your body, getting your exercise in the open air provides unrivalled mental clarity, too. The water has a relaxing effect on the mind and body, coupled with breathing in fresh air, getting a boost of vitamin D and socialising or making the most of the time to yourself, stand up paddling with nature as your backdrop is a great way to destress, switch off, boost your mood and work your entire body whilst you’re at it.

SUP requires mindfulness – it invites you to anchor yourself in the present moment, acknowledge the rhythm of the ocean and tune into your awareness. If your mind wanders at any point, it’s never too long before the water brings you right back to the board and the beauty that surrounds you. At a time when anxiety and emotional overwhelm is at an all-time high, it’s important to manage the pressures of daily life and find time to disconnect from social media and work. Taking the plunge is an excellent way to take charge of your mental health and grant your mind the sense of peace and space it needs to not only function but thrive.

Types of board

A stand up paddle board is much thicker and longer than your average surfboard. For newbies, the wider, thicker and longer the board, the more stability it has on the water and the easier it is to master the paddleboard basics.

Inflatable boards are typically less expensive than a standard hard paddleboard and are easily transportable

If you’re a first-time paddler, an All-Round SUP is great for all levels and conditions. Inflatable boards are typically less expensive than a standard / epoxy hard paddleboard and are easily transportable so if you’re planning to travel around a lot, the inflatable would be a great option for you. When it comes to performance, you can’t beat expoxy boards – particularly good for serious paddlers looking for increased speed and glide but more of an investment than your trusty inflatables.

For those who have some experience in SUP or other board sports and are looking for their next adrenalin adventure, you may want to explore the sport / performance board category.

There are also boards designed for particularly activities such as racing, yoga and fishing, so if you want a paddleboard for a specific use, this will narrow down your search.

Getting ready to SUP

First, you’ll need to adjust your paddle. The handle of your paddle should be able to reach the wrist – open the latch, put your arm above your head, bend at the elbow and reach for the handle to test it. Adjust your paddle height accordingly then close the latch.

Start on your knees

Once inside the water with your leash attached to your ankle, begin on your knees to get your balance under control and build confidence with your paddling before standing up.

Come to standing, placing your feet in the middle of the board with your chest forward and your eyes looking straight ahead at the horizon or something stable (not down at the water). Feet just under hip width apart, bend you knees slightly and engage your core. Bend forward slightly from your pelvis rather than your back and plunge your paddle into the water with the blade angled forward away from you to get the most power from your stroke. Pull the paddle back with your lower arm until you reach ankle-height, then reach forward and begin the movement again, switching sides every three to four strokes.

Some of the best SUP spots to get your paddle on:

Derwentwater, Lake District

It’ll come as no surprise that the Lakes are perhaps the best playground for stand up paddleboarding. Explore the secluded bays and river mouths and keep an eye out for the otters, kingfishers, ospreys and other wildlife. The world’s your oyster!

Windermere, Lake District

Another jewel in the crown of stand up paddleboarding in the Lake District. At 11 miles long and with easy access into the River Brathay, it’s the perfect spot to learn how to SUP.

Viking Bay, East Kent

Viking Bay is a beautiful spot to hop on your SUP and explore Broadstairs’ picturesque coastline. If you want to take to the water with confidence, you can even have a 2-hour group lesson with Kent Surf School for £35 or a private / couple’s session for £80.

The Norfolk Broads,

With 120 miles of navigable waterways, the Norfolk Broads are a haven for stand up paddleboarding. As part of the conservation and protection of the Broads, you will need to pay a short visit toll, which can be done online or at a number of outlets on the Broads here.

Cuckmere Haven, East Sussex

For a gentle and relaxing paddle, dip your toes in the River Cuckmere. The mouth of the river flows close to the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, the perfect place to end your paddle, especially at sunset. You can also head towards the historical village of Alfriston and pull your board out at the footbridge behind the church. Book various classes with Buzz Active from taster sessions to cover the basics to SUP yoga, social evenings and breakfast paddles.

For more info and bookings click here:
https://www.buzzactive.org.uk/stand-up-paddleboarding-courses/

Paddington Basin, London

Paddleboarding in the big city, who knew? Paddington Basin is a cute little spot for exploring the canals and stopping at a waterside pub or café for a well-earned refreshment. You also pass Camden Town, ZSL London Zoo and Regent’s Park so it’s a great way to do some sightseeing, too. Pub-to-pub paddling is our cardio now. End of.

First timer SUP? Book an introductory session with Gutsy Girls to test the waters:
https://www.gutsygirls.co.uk/paddington-basin-standup-paddleboarding

Brighton, East Sussex

In the height of summer, Brighton beach is a 10/10 spot to take your SUP. Plus, we get a pretty decent sunset round here. Polish off your water sports with an ice cream on the beach and you’ll have a pretty big smile on your face. A word of warning: don’t be tempted to go and explore the West Pier ruins though, as there are many sharp obstructions under the water which would cause serious injury.

Stackpole Quay to Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire

For a particularly scenic paddle with wildlife aplenty, try Pembrokeshire’s spectacular National Park coastline. Join the Outer Reef Surf School on a guided paddle past the rugged cliffs and caves and with a bit of luck, you’ll spot some dolphins and porpoises along the way. Book ahead, here:
https://bookings.outerreefsurfschool.com/en/product/surf-lessons

Safety first:

• If you’re new to stand up paddleboarding, make sure you take a buddy along with you to keep an eye on you, or better yet, paddle at a busy spot with a lifeguard. It’s also a good idea with any watersports to let someone know exactly where you’re heading in case of emergencies.

• Always wear the ankle leash to connect you to the board so if you come off, the wind won’t blow your board away from you and you’ll be able to get back into shore.

• Look out for shallow rocks and reefs

• Off-shore wind can be dangerous – always paddle up-wind first so coming back will be easy.

TEAM ZOELLA JUNE 25, 2021

Tattoo 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Getting Your First Tattoo

Getting your first tattoo can feel like a leap into the unknown as a total tattoo newbie, but you wouldn’t be alone if the itch to get inked has heighted since being in lockdown. The desperation to do something new and adventurous and tick that first tat off the bucket list means the books of […]

Getting your first tattoo can feel like a leap into the unknown as a total tattoo newbie, but you wouldn’t be alone if the itch to get inked has heighted since being in lockdown.

The desperation to do something new and adventurous and tick that first tat off the bucket list means the books of sought-after artists are likely to be filled with eager first timers and well-versed tattoo lovers alike, hankering for their fix of fresh ink. So, whether it’s a declaration of love to your favourite band, a tribute to your childhood pet or a fun design you like ‘just because’, here’s everything you need to know before getting your first tattoo.

What To Say When Making An Enquiry

Okay, so you’ve found an artist you love and you’re about to slide into their inbox: what do you say? It’s preferable to be as specific as possible in your initial email as most artists’ inboxes will be full of requests and enquiries and streamlining the process makes it easier for both you and them. Describe your design and attach reference photos if you can, although be aware that most respected artists won’t directly copy an exact design from someone else, so be prepared to adapt and work on a bespoke design specific to you. Be sure to include an estimation of the size you want the design to be (inches are usually the go-to measurement here) and specifics of the placement of the tattoo, too. Include your upcoming availability and you’re good to go.

It’s also important to remember tattoo enquiry etiquette and know that individual artists will have different systems and ways they want to be contacted. Although Instagram is a go-to spot for seeking out artists that work in your style, many don’t book in new clients via Instagram DMs, so it’s always worth checking their bio for the best way to reach to out to them. This might be an online booking form, email or indeed direct message, but do your research and approach them in the best way possible to hopefully ensure a speedy and happy response.

Before Your Appointment

It might be tempting to head to the pub for a G&T to calm your nerves or to pop some Ibuprofen if you’re feeling particularly anxious about the pain, but there are a few hard nos to take into account in the lead up to your appointment. Drinking, even the night before your tattoo appointment is never advised, as alcohol thins the blood and can lead to excess bleeding which could compromise visibility for the artist and therefore impact the quality of the design- not something you want to have to contend with, especially as a first-timer. Aspirin and ibuprofen are also off limits up to 24 hours before your appointment for the same reasons, so if you do end up with a mega migraine the day before, you might just have to push through the pain.

The Aftercare

Once your tattoo is complete it’s time to contend with the next stage of the process: aftercare and healing. A tattoo is essentially a wound, so it needs to be cleaned, looked after and treated as one to ensure it heals properly and to prevent any problems with infection or irritation. Your artist will either use plastic wrap or a clear, medical-grade bandage, like Saniderm or SecondSkin to protect it during healing, and these two options come with different guidance on how quickly you can remove them. Most artists will give you a handy at-home help sheet to take with you detailing all the relevant information for the next couple of weeks, but don’t be afraid to make notes or ask questions if you’re unsure about looking after your tattoo.

Avoid baths and swimming for two weeks following your appointment and wash the tattoo with warm water in the shower only – over washing can cause the skin to dry out and potentially damage the tattoo during this period. Different artists will have different preferences when it comes to moisturisers but keeping the skin hydrated and preventing peeling is the name of the game here. Some industry favourites include Aveeno Daily Moisturising Lotion, Lush’s Dream Cream Body Lotion or Palmer’s Cocoa Butter. Avoid picking, scratching or peeling at the surrounding skin at all costs and stay out of the sun for this initial healing period, too.

Image Credit: @chop_stick_n_poke

Feeling tempted? We spoke to the brilliant Charlotte Mallory of Rose of Mercy – an East London based tattoo studio run by artist and musician Frank Carter – to get the full lowdown on the most frequently asked questions on everything from deciding on tattoo design style, to the cost of getting inked. [The following images are Charlotte Mallory’s work]

Do you have any tips for choosing a tattoo design you won’t regret later down the line?

I think sitting on a few designs for a while is a good idea. Maybe making a mood board of designs you’ve seen and loved. Even drawing a few ideas onto your skin to live with it for a little bit of time. That being said – some of my favourite tattoos I turned up with no idea what I was going to pick. I think choosing the right artist is essential. Pick an artist you know you can collaborate with or who has done something similar to what you’re looking for.

What should you look for when choosing the right artist for you?

Choose an artist who does a similar style and line thickness to the kind of tattoo you’re looking for. A fine line tattoo artist won’t necessarily be great at thick-lined traditional tattoos and vice versa. It’s not always the case but it’s better to pick the artist based upon the work they’re displaying on their Instagram page and then you can be sure they’ll be able to give you the tattoo of your dreams.

What are the main tattoo styles to choose from?

  • Fine line tattoos
  • Traditional tattoos
  • Blackwork tattoos
  • Neo-traditional tattoos
  • Linework tattoos
  • Geometric or ornamental tattoos
  • Realistic tattoos
  • Black and grey tattoos
  • Micro realism

I could go on! There are a fair few more subcategories but I think those are the main ones!

There are also differences in the way a tattoo is made. For instance, machine tattoos (most people outside of the industry know these tattoos as ‘tattoo gun tattoos’, but within the industry, the ‘tattoo gun’ is known as a ‘tattoo machine’

And then there are hand poke tattoos – this is hand poked into the skin using the same needles that are used in tattoo machines, but they are made by hand and without the machine. This is a more homemade looking approach which some people prefer.

Do colour tattoos wear differently to black tattoos?

Yes, sometimes pale or light colours can fade out more quickly than black tattoos. However your tattoos can always be refreshed further down the line (in say, 10 or 20 years), and touch-ups are usually free up to a year after you’ve had the tattoo. (This isn’t always the case so check with your tattoo provider).

What’s the difference between machine tattoos versus hand poked and how do you know which is right for you?

Tattoo machines can provide a cleaner look than the more homemade made hand-poked approach. However, I have seen some hand-poked tattoos look almost as clean as a machine tattoo. Hand poked tattoos are placed into the skin one poke at a time with a needle (creating a single dot each poke), where a tattoo machine is making the needle move up and down extremely fast creating a line effect. Hand poked tattoos take longer and require less concentration from the tattoo artist so it can be a more relaxed approach during the session and you can have a longer chat with your tattoo artist. In terms of pain, I don’t find hand-poked too painful but some find it more painful than machine tattoos. It also depends on your artist and where you’re getting tattooed.

Will I need to get a tattoo touched up over time/how can I make sure it stays looking 10/10 for as long as possible?

The most important thing for your tattoos is SPF! Honestly, I never sunbathe because I love my tattoos! If you do like sunbathing, cover your tattoos up or put on a high SPF. Something to be aware of is that tattoo ink can minimally expand in the skin over the course of your life. Tattoos also look as young as your skin looks young. It sounds funny to say, but I’ve tattooed much older people up into their 70’s and the tattoo will look older even freshly done just based on the fact that the skin is already old.

Finger tattoos are very popular but they always seem a bit blurry, does the ink bleed in certain places on your body more than others?

The tattoo probably looks blurry because it has either ‘blown out’ where the tattoo artist has been heavy-handed to make sure the ink stays (because fingers are prone to ink drop out due to all the movement in the fingers and tendons and things like that). Or maybe it looks blurry because the ink has dropped out during the heal. Personally, I like to go with a happy medium and not go too heavy-handed or go too light. However, I would rather go too light if I had to pick between either as the fingers can always be touched up.

What’s the process like from start to finish? Does the artist typically design the piece before you arrive or should you expect the final design to be done on the day when you arrive?

Most artists prefer to have something ready for the client to look at on the day (just because there is a lot of back and forth if there are alterations and the alterations can be made a lot faster on the day with the client there). Make sure you’re happy with the design on the day, it’s your body and a good tattoo artist shouldn’t mind about any alterations you have and will want to work with you to give you a great tattoo and create the tattoo you have in mind.

What are the biggest misconceptions about getting a tattoo?

I think a lot of people think it will hurt a lot more than it does! It’s good to pick a place that hurts less or medium for your first tattoo. In my opinion, fine line or single needle small tattoos hurt less so maybe something like that is a good first tattoo idea.

Another misconception is that it is the tattoo artist pressing their opinion too much on you or being overbearing – a good tattoo artist will give you the space to express yourself and collaborate with you. You should always feel safe and happy when getting a tattoo. Perhaps go to a tattoo artist based upon recommendation, or go to a tattoo shop with great reviews. Do your homework, check out the tattoo artist’s Instagram page, the shop they work at and the reviews that the shop has.

Is getting a tattoo a bad idea for someone with a low pain threshold? What can someone do to help make the process easier?

There are numbing creams that you can use (not all tattoo artists provide this so it’s a good idea to provide your own or liaise with the tattoo artist or studio). Single needle tattoos are not particularly painful in my opinion so that is a good option. The least painful location for a tattoo is the forearm. A lot of pain can be the mindset you are in. Go fully prepared to the tattoo shop having eaten, and have a little chat with the tattoo artist before the tattoo begins to express your concerns and they should take that on board and perhaps do a little ‘dot’ with the tattoo machine on your skin where the tattoo is to start with so that you know how the rest of the tattoo will feel. Never be afraid to let the tattoo artist know that you’d like a break for a moment. The best tattoo shops are safe spaces and designed to put you at ease. Rose of Mercy (where I work at) was designed specifically with this in mind and to give the customer the safest and most relaxing experience.

Which part of the body is typically seen as the most painful to be inked?

I had a really detailed tattoo made on my knee cap with a coil machine. (This is a tattoo machine which hits a little harder than a rotary tattoo machine. They’re often used for creating traditional tattoos) – so that hurts a lot! That took three hours! Ribs can hurt if you are getting thick lines there. Feet can hurt also. Honestly a lot of pain can depend on the artist, their technique, the location, the style of tattoo you’re getting. There are many factors involved! I would say legs or arms is a good first tattoo location. I also do a lot of side boob/rib tattoos as first tattoos and the pain honestly isn’t too bad if you’re going for fine lines and something less detailed.

What happens if a tattoo artist makes a mistake?

Hmm… mistakes can happen if there is a misspelling. Especially so if the word isn’t in the language either the client or the tattoo artist speaks. Really double check spelling, grammar and translation is correct, and then triple check!

How are tattoos priced? Is it by design/size/expertise of the artist?

Yes, all of these things are taken into account. The tattoo artist may have special expertise in a specific style which may account for their pricing. Design, detail and size are also taken into account. Tattoo artists will charge either by piece or by the hour.

More detailed pieces like realism or micro realism may be charged by the hour instead of by piece. Tattoo artists often have a minimum spend per tattoo as well. This is because of the cost of their whole set-up, needles, and also the cut they are giving to the shop they work at.

Tattoo shops can take anywhere between 20-50% of each tattoo you do (depending upon the cut you have worked out with them) so it’s important to take this into consideration when a tattoo artist is giving you their pricing before the tattoo! The tattoo artist isn’t taking all of the money! Also needles, tattoo machine and other tattoo equipment the artist provide themselves. The shop will provide everyday things like razors, Vaseline, cling film, gloves and paper towels.

You can find Charlotte at Rose of Mercy, London, or book in with any of her other talented colleagues via their website: www.roseofmercy.com.

TEAM ZOELLA JUNE 24, 2021

Sashay Into the Season of Love with These Failsafe Wedding Guest Looks

Besides wearing white and anything likely to upstage the bride (big no-no), dressing for a wedding is one of the best excuses out there to bag yourself a new outfit and go all out in contrasting your well loved loungewear- RIP joggers, you won't be missed.

Love isn’t cancelled! After a year of uncertainty and heartbreakingly postponed big days, weddings are slowly but surely filling our calendars again and we couldn’t be happier to celebrate with our nearest and dearest this year. Besides wearing white and anything likely to upstage the bride (big no-no), dressing for a wedding is one of the best excuses out there to bag yourself a new outfit and go all out in contrasting your well loved loungewear- RIP joggers, you won’t be missed. 

Whilst it may feel that there are endless choices in the wedding attire department, dress codes and sticking to the well worn tracks of pastels, florals, silk and tailoring mean you can’t stray far wrong in dressing appropriately for the big day in question. If you have multiple celebrations to attend this summer, consider renting a ‘fit that you otherwise might not be able to justify purchasing outright (FYI you can check out our previous post for the details) or opt for a two piece suit that you can mix and match in the future. Attending a wedding might leave you feeling pressured to buy something shiny and new for the occasion, but if the Klarna emails are piling up then consider opting for a cotton dress that can be worn more easily day to day layered with a t-shirt, or a classic slip dress design that will be in style for decades to come. 

Which outfit are you saying I do to this season?

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TEAM ZOELLA JUNE 23, 2021

Baby Name Trends, Ideas, and Advice with SJ Strum

SJ Strum, the founder of Baby Name Envy, the UK’s number one baby name consultancy, is on hand to answer all our baby-naming dilemmas.

Naming a tiny human for the rest of their life… it’s a walk in the park, right?

Not only do you need a title that suits them when they’re but a cute tiny hiccupping doughball attached to your hip but you also need a name that takes them right through to adult life and complements all their professional pursuits, whatever they may be. Ever met a lawyer named Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock? We rest our case. It is a high stakes decision and quite frankly, it gives the indecisive amongst us (@me) heart palpitations just thinking about it.

Luckily SJ Strum, founder of Baby Name Envy, the UK’s number one baby name consultancy, is on hand to answer all our baby-naming dilemmas. Naming little ones is in her wheelhouse, so whether you’re after something boho, earthy, minimalist or gender-neutral, SJ’s tips and unmatched expertise will help you make up your mind once and for all.

Get your shortlists and your best ‘veto’ voice ready!

What themes can be used to help identify the style of baby names that resonates with you?

My naming style has definitely evolved the more I’ve had children – most people I consult with get braver as they go along! But I’ve always looked for Vintage names with a free-spirited, outdoorsy vibe that aren’t super popular. But I had a lot vetoed by my minimalist Swedish husband!!! We agreed finally on Freddie David, Finn Barnaby Bo & Evelina Blossom

Has the pandemic affected baby names trends, at all? Nature-inspired names seem to be having a moment!

The “new earth” trend is booming names like Forest, Avani & Wilde inspired by our desire to go back to basicsSJ Strum

Yes, the “new earth” trend is booming names like Forest, Avani & Wilde inspired by our desire to go back to basics, embrace nature and enjoy the freedom & calm associated with the great outdoors that was cut off for so many of us during lockdown. Also “nowstalgia” a shift in mindset during the pandemic to make the most of what we have now in the moment sees parents picking more living relatives and friends names; so we’re hearing John, Richard and Jane on name lists – often with the ask of “upcycling” them; maybe Johan, Richie and Layne will be hugging their beloved grandparents soon.

A lot of parents struggle with finding a name to complement a surname or a sibling name, have you got any dos and don’ts in that department?

Finding a complementary name is my favourite bit! I’ll listen to the sounds and match the emphasis like Tabitha might have a brother Bertie using the B and T sounds. Or meanings for siblings, for Travis meaning ‘bridge over water’ I recently recommended Nixie meaning ‘water sprite’ to the parents: the V & X make cool siblings as well as the linked meaning. Also syllables, we have a lot of blended surnames now that don’t always go together! Gingerich-Donna was a memorable one on the podcast! It makes balancing a first name hard so one-syllable names are on the rise (give them a chance of spelling the full name correctly!) but they don’t need to be boring; I love Sage, Nell, Mack and Blythe. Gingerich-Donna also wanted a whole new family name suggestion so I recommended Dorich – it’s so exciting to be part of their whole new family tree.

How important is it to consider how initials work together, should contemporary uses in the digital age be something to consider when naming little ones?

We thankfully don’t hear many tales of modern bullying due to names, but lots and lots of parents come to me with initials to avoid as they were BJ or HOE and it haunted them. You should 100% consider it and sometimes we even find people embracing it; one family we heard from all have initials of a theme like CAT and ART. Also, consider your sibling names – you don’t want a necklace with initials of your children Vida & Dylan.

How do you feel about non-traditional spellings – Elle rather than Ellie for example – is it making life harder for your child?

I polled teachers for a fun video on my YouTube channel that turned out to be so popular as it uncovered a lot of mistakes with the number one pet peeve being non-traditional spellings. SJ Strum

I polled teachers for a fun video on my YouTube channel that turned out to be so popular as it uncovered a lot of mistakes with the number one pet peeve being non-traditional spellings. It doesn’t achieve the object of making it a more unique name sadly; teachers say to go for a less traditional name spelt correctly like Winter they are happy with but Emma-Leigh or Jaxsyn was constantly being corrected. I personally love the look of eigh at the end of names but have seen a new trend online for things being called Tackeigh after this unique name trend!!! I’d suggest sticking to the traditional but looking outside the top 50.

Does every baby name have to have a significant meaning, or is it enough to like a name simply because you like how it sounds?

Go with what you love the sound of as you’ll always love it. A meaning can help people going from liking to loving a name; or as a tie-breaker. I loved the name Finn because it meant “little blonde soldier” in Sweden which tipped it to the top for me but I already loved it. Some names have negative meanings; this comes from when having a forename was very rare & words were given due to a characteristic; so Calvin means bald head and the lovely name Mallory means unhappy taken from the French Malheure a nickname for an unlucky, miserable person. So if that would put you off; do a quick check!

Would you recommend using celebrity baby names or will they date pretty quickly?

I absolutely love celebrity names. Harper has boomed after the Beckhams used it and Louis has had a big uplift since Kate & William cleared up confusion of how it was pronounced – the silent S had confused some parents to be! That being said rare names being picked up by a celebrity can have the opposite effect as it’s no longer “hipster enough for the hipsters” so Bear became less cool once Cheryl Cole used it, people were gutted that trendy August got snapped up by traditional Princess.
I look to the celebs as the runway of trends then suggest adapting it to your style. True Kardashian made modern virtue names boom and James Reynolds daughter of Blake lively and Ryan Reynolds rocketed the boy name as girl name trend.

We’re all influenced by trends and baby names are no different. Do you have any top tips for knowing if you really like a popular name or if the current baby name trends are swaying your decision?

While you’re falling for Daphne after miss Bridgerton it’s good to remember lots of other people are too!SJ Strum

We all love to Netflix & Name! While you’re falling for Daphne after miss Bridgerton it’s good to remember lots of other people are too and a name can become “fast fashion” which is a trend we’re seeing more than ever. It might be the character Connel you’ve fallen for in Normal People and when the show ends, your baby name might not really be “you”. So keep going back to your original list but trends are fantastic for discovering new names that feel really special to your birth. Especially names like Iris, goddess of the rainbow, which was used to celebrate the NHS throughout the pandemic and is having its moment. It’s nice to ground yourself in history

Your top 3 baby envy names you’d want to pinch for yourself?

At the moment Jericho (city of the moon for boy or girl) Alma (meaning soul is so vintage and stunning) and I recently heard the name Hamlin meaning “little home lover” which is a gentle boy name but the meaning is so perfect for a lockdown baby.

Do you need to consider how aesthetically pleasing a name is when written and how easy it is to spell?

Oh yes!! It needs to be perfect on paper! I’m very aesthetic with names and names even have fonts and pictures in my mind’s eye. If you don’t want to give away your name but want to check it – pop to Starbucks and see how the barista writes and spells your baby name. It’s a good litmus test of how it fares in the real world.

Finding one name is hard enough finding twin or triplet names… send help. Would you recommend sticking to a theme for all babies, sticking to alliteration or going off-piste and just going with whatever you like?

I always gravitate towards individual names but the tough bit is making them equally special. Emily may not pair with Phoenix but Emily and Amelia could feel less of their own identity. I love a theme link that’s special but not obvious like friendship; Winnie, Auden and Dakota all mean friend which is a lovely symbol for siblings.

Is it wise to keep baby names a secret, even from family and close friends, to avoid influencing your decision?

Friends, colleagues and even family members asking your name then shamelessly announcing it. Keep it close or risk losing it!SJ Strum

I’m a total name secret squirrel while my podcast Baby Name Envy cohost my sister Naomi wanted lots of input and was glad to get it! People all have strong associations and therefore opinions on Names and we get so many dilemmas where parents are devastated by a negative reaction – one mother in law got a dog and named it Beau to show her pregnant daughter who planned to use it that it was in fact “a name only for a dog”! Then there are the baby name stealers!!! This is off the scale and the number one dilemma we get at Baby Name Envy the podcast. Friends, colleagues and even family members asking your name then shamelessly announcing it. Keep it close or risk losing it!

How many names do you think every expectant parent needs to have on their shortlist?

I’d aim to go into labour with a top 3-5 maximum. We hope they will look like a name or something will seem right – it did for me which was amazing; Freddie was going to be called Oskar but when I held him I called him Freddie out loud for no reason – and that was it!! But sometimes with babe in arms and so many things to take in and absorb; indecision sets in so I would encourage parents to shortlist before and pick quick. I also find throwing in a brave name right after labour means zero chance of a veto – ha ha – Blossom was agreed after a back to back natural labour on gas and air. I could have thrown anything at her dad then!

Any advice for partners who can’t agree on a baby name they both like?

Write to us! We do daily name ideas on Baby Name Envy the Instagram or personalised name lists on the podcast. Also, you can write a top ten list each, swap lists and tick your top two on each other’s lists…it brings about compromise which we all need to do as parents!

What do you think will be the next big trend for baby names?

Sanskrit Names are popular due to our love of yoga and soul searching during the pandemic, Bodhi is the poster name for this trend and Fierce Animal names; we’re seeing Falcon, Lynx and Griffin take over from Wren & Fox. We want our little ones to take on the world with a kind spirit but who won’t let anyone get in their way!

Follow SJ on Instagram, YouTube, find her website here, and listen to her podcast Baby Name Envy here!

TEAM ZOELLA JUNE 22, 2021

13 Questions With Stacie Swift

If you love positive affirmations and inspiring sayings to help your mental health on Instagram, then you probably follow Stacie Swift! Find out how she got started...

First off, how are you and how is your 2021 going?

I am good, thank you! I think busy is the best word to describe my state of mind and year so far!

I have three young children so there has been lots of juggling through the changing restrictions this year. Work-wise I’m lucky to have been working on some really fab projects and loads of really fun promotion and products for my soon-to-be-published second book, The Positively Awesome Journal.

Can you tell us about the work you do as an illustrator?

I create bright, positive, colourful designs often with a self-care or mental well-being theme. My illustrations serve as a reminder that we are never alone in our struggles – drawing is a really cathartic process for me and illustrating my thoughts and feelings allows me space to work through my ups and downs.

What steps did you take in your education and career to get you where you are today?

Initially I wanted to be a lingerie designer so after my A Levels I went on to study for an Art Foundation at London College of Fashion… and then I didn’t get a place on the degree course I’d hoped to join and so I took some time out.
While I was working in non-creative jobs (but always finding time for drawing!) I fell in love with the idea of illustration. I enrolled on an Illustration short course at Central St Martins and used the projects to build up my portfolio and then successfully applied to study BA Illustration at Middlesex Uni. It wasn’t the most straightforward route but the journey was invaluable!

What inspired you to start your Instagram account and was it always illustrations?

When I first started using Instagram I was running a much more product-based business, selling greeting cards and prints online and wholesaling to retailers. I used my account to promote my products but also shared a lot of photos of my cats! I already knew a lot of other creative small business owners so it was a brilliant way to stay connected and inspired with the creative community – I’m glad that aspect of IG hasn’t changed for me.

A lot of your infamous IG quotes revolve around mental health, why do you think social media is such a great outlet for this content?

I think the accessibility of social media makes it a great resource for conversations around mental health and wellness. I also think feel-good and thought provoking content can be a great antidote to some of the less inspiring and comparison-inducing posts we see in our feeds.

There’s also something really reassuring about people you are familiar with online discussing topics that can be hard to navigate in real life – so it’s a great way to normalise and de-stigmatise mental health. It makes me so happy that the posts I share are able to offer people validation and comfort.

What has been your biggest ‘pinch me’ moment during your career?

I think the first time I held my books – and then seeing them in actual bookshops  – was so surreal. Such dream come true moments!

Can you tell us about your book “You are Positively Awesome” and the journal that sits alongside it?

 Of course!

My first book You Are Positively Awesome published in July 2020, at the height of the pandemic – that was a steep learning curve!
The book is very much an extension of my Instagram posts; I wanted it to be as bright and colourful as my feed but with prompts and reminders that make it a really useful self-care resource that you can keep going back to through all of life’s ups and downs. It has chapters covering everything from self-love to saying ‘no’, imposter syndrome and the importance of kindness.

My next book, The Positively Awesome Journal, is publishing in a few weeks (July 8th 2021). It is just as bold and rainbow-filled but is super interactive and full of activities, inspiration and self-care prompts. It’s a book that will help you work through your own experiences and support your well-being – it has lots of space for writing, drawing and reflection so you can really make it your own.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve been working on some fun freelance projects, including a collaboration with Great Ormond Street Hospital Arts that I’m super excited about. And then the plan is to finalise some ideas for my next book(s)!

Who are some of your current favourite follows?

@simplepolitics have been my go-to for making sense of the news this year

@nina_tame is fun, stylish and shares so many informative posts

@munyachawawa – his reels are genius (and hilarious)

@mollyjforbes her body-positive anti-diet culture messages are always spot on

What does your perfect weekend look like?

In a dream world, it’d involve lie-ins, brunch and a market or exhibition.

In reality, I have three children (my eldest is only 6) so a weekend that includes pancakes, a trip to the park, an afternoon film and plenty of hot coffee would be fab!

What do you always carry with you?

My phone and a Diet Pepsi – I’m probably a little bit more addicted to both than I’d care to admit.

What would your last ever meal be?

I am so indecisive when it comes to choosing what to eat! It’d probably have to be Macaroni Cheese or my mum’s roast dinner, followed by lots of mini desserts – I’ve got a really sweet tooth.

What is one positive piece of advice you could give to our audience?

Make time to prioritise your mental health. Nothing is more important that your well-being.

TEAM ZOELLA JUNE 21, 2021

What To Read This Summer – The Ultimate Books To Throw In Your Beach Bag

From new publications to perennial feel-good fiction, these beach-side companions will punctuate your ocean dips and sunbathing sessions rather nicely.

Picture this. Your out of office is on (aggressively on. You may as well have written please hesitate to reach out to me), you’ve got a few days off and the forecast is a full house of fat yellow suns, so you decide to take yourself off down the beach to read your book. Instant mental health boner, right?

The gentle lapping of the waves, the sand in between your toes, the vitamin D, the uninterrupted sunshine and plot twists, the obligatory Calippo vs Magnum vs overpriced Mr Whippy conundrum. Gah, there is no escapism so pure, so ingeniously simple as unfurling a new buzzy book whilst lounging by the seaside like a sun-kissed siren on the rocks.

There is no escapism so pure, so ingeniously simple as unfurling a new buzzy book whilst lounging by the seaside

As for the reading material, anything goes when it comes to easy breezy beach reads but there are certain balmy novels we gravitate towards at this time of year. Light-hearted (for the most part), unputdownable, fast-paced thrillers, true-to-life memoirs and juicy contemporary romances – those are the kind of stories we are all too glad to share with our SPF 50.

From new publications to perennial feel-good fiction, these beach-side companions will punctuate your ocean dips and sunbathing sessions rather nicely.

The Summer Job – Lizzy Dent

Want to escape real life for a while? Run away with Birdy Finch, a messy heroine who blagged her best friend’s identity to land her dream job. A hot new voice in contemporary fiction, Lizzy Dent’s heartwarming debut will have you honking with laughter. Fans of Fleabag, Bridget Jones and Bridesmaids will gobble up this highland (mis)adventure in no time at all. Purchase through Bookshop.org here.

Ruthless Women – Melanie Blake

Glitz, glamour, drama, humour and suspense, Melanie Blake’s Ruthless Women has it all in spades. Hailed the hottest book of 2021, it’s sure to be the addictive page-turner you need in your life after a long and horny lockdown. If you like your beach reads on the raunchy side, dive headfirst into this bonkbuster. Purchase through Bookshop.org here.

You Have A Match – Emma Lord

A modern take on the Parent Trap trope, You Have A Match follows the story of Abby Day, who discovers she has a secret Instagram influencer sister. The pair hatch a plan to meet up at a summer camp to get to know each other and unravel this big juicy family secret. If you’re hankering for some feel-good fiction, this coming-of-age story will make for the perfect deckchair sidekick. Purchase here.

The Road Trip – Beth O’Leary

From the queen of beach bag reads herself, Beth O’Leary’s latest novel is the bookish summer staple you can’t miss. With echoes of Normal People, you’ll have no problem inhaling it in one sunny sitting. Just make sure you’ve secured a spot close to the sea to cool off after the sexy south of France scenes dabs forehead. Purchase through Bookshop.org here.

Open Water – Caleb Azumah Nelson

A tender and ambitious debut novel about the relationship between two young black artists. At once an intimate love song to black artistry and a powerful exploration of race, masculinity, loss and trauma, Open Water is dripping with an elegant rhythm all of its own. If you loved Normal People, you’ll adore this delicately crafted masterpiece about love and all its nuances. Purchase through Bookshop.org here.

Seven Days in June – Tia Williams

If you like your romances on the raw and gritty side, send your heartfelt thanks to Tia Williams. In Seven Days in June, we’re introduced to two writers who reunite at a literary event 15 years after they shared a whirlwind romance, only they’re pretending they don’t know each other. Cue the undeniable sexual tension. Not only is SDIJ sexy as hell, Williams’ writing manages to shift effortlessly between light-hearted interactions and sensitive subject matter with effortless tact. A sappy and predictable romance this is not. Its deliciously witty dialogue, fully realised characters and deft handling of love, race and second-chances will stay with you long after summer. Purchase through Bookshop.org here.

Miss Benson’s Beetle – Rachel Joyce

Margery Benson, a socially awkward forty-something teacher, and Enid Pretty, a yellow-haired bombshell in a hot pink suit, form an unlikely duo in this intoxicating tale of female friendship, rebellion and self-discovery. The two women leave 1950s Britain on an expedition to New Caledonia to find the elusive golden beetle Margery’s father taught her about in her childhood. Enid Pretty is everything Margery hates and the last person she’d want assisting her on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure but as the two share the setbacks and successes of this hilarious jaunt, it turns out they make quite the team. Purchase through Bookshop.org here.

The House on Fripp Island – Rebecca Kauffman

Slap on a fresh layer of SPF and have your cocktail of choice within reach because once you start reading this, you’re not moving until you finish it. For 336 glorious pages, Kauffman treats us to a family saga of epic proportions. This is the ultimate tell-a-friend book you’ll be waxing lyrical about all summer long. Purchase through Bookshop.org here.

Malibu Rising – Taylor Jenkins Reid

From the best-selling author of Daisy Jones & The Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo comes Malibu Rising – a juicy riptide of a book about four famous siblings and their epic annual end of summer house party. What could possibly go wrong? By midnight the party will descend into drug-fuelled chaos, by morning, the family mansion will be engulfed in flames. A fast-paced, unputdownable family drama, destined to be read with a beachy backdrop. Purchase through Bookshop.org here.

Beach Read – Emily Henry

One look at the cover and you’d have every reason to believe this is a fun and flirty summer read with absolutely zero chance of making you weep into your Mr Whippy. Is there another name for that? Yes: wildly led astray in the best possible way and texting your friends at 1am with a message that simply reads: “I will never read again. F*cking sobbing”, just about covers it. It’s not A Little Life howling bad but it’s raw and it’s honest and the lump in your throat will have to come out somehow.

Two authors, who also happen to be frenemies and beach house neighbours, are struggling with writer’s block. January is a happy-ever-after romance author, Gus is a serious literary fiction author. So, they decide to take on the challenge of writing their respective genres to see who gets published first which requires hanging out (a lot) and learning to be vulnerable with one another. With whip-smart dialogue, unforgettable main characters and all the tongue-in-cheek hilarity, it has everything the title promises and more. Purchase through Bookshop.org here.

Girl A – Abigail Dean

TW: child abuse, childhood trauma

A gripping psychological thriller and a searing portrait of survival, Girl A is a haunting pitch black novel, punctuated with moments of life-affirming humanity. It tells the story of an eight-year-old girl named Lex, one of eight Gracie siblings, who escaped from her parents’ House of Horrors after years of abuse. When her mother dies in prison, naming Lex as the executor of the will, she must contact her surviving siblings and work out what to do with the house they in which they all suffered. Lex’s resilience in the face of such harrowing devastation will stay with you for a lifetime. Purchase through Bookshop.org here.

Animal – Lisa Taddeo

The debut novel from the author of the bestselling phenomenon Three Women is written with the same signature intensity and truth. The stories that Taddeo couldn’t tell in Three Women find a place here in this cleverly constructed thriller, albeit through a fictive filter. Sure, lend to a friend to discuss in-between mouthfuls of chips and glugs of house white but ask for it back. Purchase through Bookshop.org here.

That Summer – Jennifer Weiner

A novel about the transformative power of female friendship? We’re in there like swimwear. From the boss of beach reads, Jessica Weiner, That Summer is a story about surviving our pasts, confronting our futures and the sustaining bonds of friendship. Purchase through Bookshop.org here.

Threadneedle – Cari Thomas

Anna’s Aunt has always warned her of the dangers of magic. Its twists. Its knots. Its deadly consequences. Now Anna counts down the days to the ceremony that will bind her magic forever. Until she meets Effie and Attis. They open her eyes to a London she never knew existed. A shop that sells memories. A secret library where the librarian feeds off words. A club where revellers lose themselves in a haze of spells. But as she is swept deeper into this world, Anna begins to wonder if her Aunt was right all along. Is her magic a gift … or a curse? Thread Needle is the perfect YA fantasy for anyone hankering for a summer of magic. Purchase through Bookshop.org here.

The Other Black Girl – Zakiya Dalila Harris

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella is tired – tired of being the only black employee at Wagner Books, tired of the micro-aggressions and tired of the marginalisation. So, when newcomer Hazel joins the company, Nella is thrilled to have another black woman on the team until she becomes the rising star and undermines her role. Then the menacing notes start appearing on Nella’s desk advising her to leave her job unless she wants bad things to happen…

The twists and turns will blow your mind. Expect the unexpected. Purchase through Bookshop.org here.

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