um HOW cute was Weber’s heart jumper tonight??! This lady is my new hero on so many levels
Their eyes met across a crowded room. A crowded television studio, really. It was University Challenge and it was a close contest between SOAS (whose contestants had conveniently remembered that they actually were quite middle-class after all) and That Place You Put As First Choice On UCAS But Pretend You Never Really Wanted To Go To Anyway. It looked like SOAS were about to pull off a famous victory thanks to the “sweetest old lady on University Challenge” (to quote the sexist ageist pricks at the Evening Standard and Daily Mail).
Let’s pause here for a brief rant, shall we? I haven’t been this angry since they made the smoking area non-smoking. Yes, we’ve got a lowest-common-denominator gutter press which preys on the hysterical ignorance of the easily distracted who feed off the populist clickbait shat out by the gutter press in some kind of churnalistic human centipede of ire and kitsch … but even the Daily Mail could have the decency to acknowledge that somebody who happens to be 58 and female is good at a thing - in this case, general knowledge - without reducing her to offensively trite stereotypes, such as “the adorable granny” (she’s not even a fucking granny) and her “empty nest” being the sole driver of her ambition and ability (a point which is both self-contradicting and distasteful), stereotypes which disempower and belittle a highly competent and sharp woman who is there through merit alone. Have some fucking class.
Where were we? Oh yes, she’d pulled off a victory, but little did she know that Paxman was puling off something else. He had been eyeing her up all night. He loved the way she banged her buzzer (how he wished she would bang him in the same way; how he yearned to put something buzzing to better use), he loved the way her precariously-perched spectacles balanced on her hair, always threatening to fall down but never quite reaching the tipping point, a teasing, tantalising almost-orgasmic metaphor.
SOAS had scored another starter for ten. As they mulled over the bonus questions, Paxman mulled over the question of his boner (they didn’t call him “Ron” Jeremy Paxman at the BBC for nothing). They were taking their time, frowning, deliberating.
"Hurry up!", he barked.
(oh that he would!)
"Come on!", he hectored.
(but on what?)
And as the crash from the gong burst forth, so did the splash from his dong. Hastily concealing himself with the question cards, he held it together just long enough to announce SOAS as the winners, and then sighed as the quartet played out. The next round wasn’t for weeks (even though it was probably filmed the next day). It would be ages before he saw her again. He let out a melancholy wheeze, feeling as deflated as most of his Question Time interviewees. Who would take her place now?
There was always Russell Brand, again. He’d do.
Anonymous asked: LAST POST?!?! My life is over, or at least the SOAS experience is.
Yeah, probably. I graduated, left the country, and got a job; continuing this would feel like I was appropriating student culture (but who knows, maybe the three or four draft posts which were never quite good enough to publish might surface sometime…).
For wasting your time on tumblr but pretending it’s educational “because SOAS”, go harass sayitaintsoas. I think they’re still there.
And, by the way, the SOAS experience is never quite over. I made a joke about Orientalism in the office last week; nobody got it, and an American tried to tell me that the non-racist term is “Asian”. Thanks, SOAS.
Their eyes met across … fuck it, this is the last fiftyshadesofsoas post, let’s change it up a bit.
It had been a long three years. Three years of reading impenetrable feminist articles, of confusing essays on confusing ideas, of exams and exam fuck-ups. Three years of social growth, from awkward Dinwiddy interactions, via painful flatshares and deliberate angry solitude, to a superficial but convincing relaxed self-confidence (as a fresher, the final years always seemed so collected, so adult; now, as a final year, one realises that adulthood is simply learning how better to conceal one’s self-doubt). Three years of sex, once or twice indescribably brilliant, but more often only disappointingly fulfilled or frustratingly imaginary (every face was an unfinished story, a potential love affair not embarked upon, an intimate narrative never discovered, and in all likelihood, never to be discovered). Three years of small projects and small victories, of minor setbacks and minor interests, of defined development within a specific space. Three years which couldn’t be condensed into anything so short as a paragraph, let alone a simple response, three years which defied accurate description or emotional categorisation (Oh, you went to SOAS? How was it?/Yeah, it was good, very interesting place./Cool.). Three years, in essence, of SOAS.
It was now Graduation Day, the culmination of those three years. Hundreds of people were milling around outside: parents adjusting mortar boards, smiling proudly despite their children’s protestations that it “wasn’t really a big thing”; students fiddling with neckties, unaccustomed to wearing them; camera flashes, awkward poses, shouts of fuck yeah, graduation! and fuck’s sake why is this starting so late and fuck, where’s the tickets, where’s the fucking tickets.
The doors opened, and everybody slowly poured in. Before they even sat down, they were hot; the combination of itchy polyester gowns over ill-fitting smart clothes, a crowded stuffy room, and apprehension was an uncomfortable one. Time passed, and nothing happened. The old joke about SOAS preparing you for the third world with poor timing and poor air conditioning was brought out. Small talk was attempted, by parents with parents, by students sitting next to their alphabetical neighbours. The occasional mass silence fell, bringing as it always does nervous giggles and well-this-is-awkwards.
Finally, the music started, and overran. Academics in brightly-coloured gowns tiptoed onto the stage like over-educated birds of paradise. Speeches were made, and overran. The first student was called to the stage, to warm and enthusiastic applause; soon enough, the interminable procession sparked applause from parents and friends only. One or two felt the need to put their own individual mark on the walk-shake-walk; one dickhead tried moonwalking, another fist-bumped the man handing out the degrees, and the biggest twat of all pulled the Usain Bolt gesture on stage. It was lost on them that a degree is in itself an individual experience, that everybody in this room had had their own personal account of three years at SOAS, that this was merely a collection of hundreds of individuals who were already individually defined; it was lost on them that, by attempting to stamp their own individuality on the proceedings, it merely suggested that their experience had been anonymously run-of-the-mill.
And then, towards the end of the ceremony, something happened. Perhaps it was the interminable heat, perhaps it was the interminable speeches, perhaps it was the terror of walking away and leaving SOAS forever, but two onlyjustgraduates had begun wildly making out in their seats (no doubt their eyes had met across this crowded room). Oblivious to, or maybe even enjoying, everybody’s attention, they intertwined legs, they ran their hands over and across and under their gowns, they discarded their mortar boards. Somebody whooped; several giggled.
Suddenly, the band had started up again, and the couple’s movements synchronised to the beat of the samba drums, their bodies twisted to the strains of the sitars. And they were no longer the only ones. The room was filled with couples, threes, even fours, fucking and fondling and frigging and fingering and fornicating with reckless abandon and wild delight. On stage, the bright stripy gowns, no doubt emblematic of the dignity and prestige of various serious intellectual institutions, had been discarded; they formed a technicolour carpet on which the lecturers covered themselves in each other. Different faculties, so often at loggerheads over funding, quite literally came together. The scene was wilder still in the audience. Parents, united through pride, rekindled the spirit that saw the graduates’ conceptions; jackets were thrown off, hairstyles meticulously coiffed for the occasion were joyously ruffled, pompous national dress of all varieties lay littered about the floor, quite forgotten. The graduates had formed a heaving mass of limbs and bodies. The showman who had performed the lighting bolt pose was now performing with his own relay baton with equal flamboyance. A hijabi girl, who had refused to shake the hand of the man giving out the degrees, was now shaking somebody else’s sixth pillar of jizz-lam. A Jewish guy had removed his skullcap, and the girl he was going down on was wailing louder than Jerusalem’s famous wall. The students of Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic had finally stopped their stultifying debate over which language was the most difficult to learn, and were happily communicating in a range of non-linguistic grunts, squeals, and moans. The rugby boys, sensing that internal social pressure had gone out of the window, embraced their closet homosexuality and set about a naked scrum, indulging in the kind of firm contact they’d been terrified of for years (they had always loved a good, hard tackle). Everybody was fucking everybody else; anthropologists with economists (who had a wonderful range of bodies, from micro to macro and everything between), economists with politicians (who could finally put to use their expertise in pubic policy), politicians with linguists (who knew exactly how to use their tongues). The law students, ever the clique, only fucked each other.
As the afternoon drew on, the graduation ceremony drew to an exhausted close and people collapsed on top of each other in a massive, contented heap. Lying breathless on the floor, the graduates savoured their last few moments together as SOAS students, putting aside thoughts of jobs and careers and pretentious gap years. Three years at SOAS could never quite be encapsulated; but it felt good to go out with a gang bang.
Their eyes met across a crowded room. It was her final exam of her final year, and everything was riding on this big one. But all she could think about was riding on his big one.
"Turn over your papers," he declared in that deep, grainy voice that had enchanted her through lectures all year. "You may begin."
She sighed as she looked down at the questions. How was she supposed to concentrate on anthropology when all she could think of was man-throb-ology?
She had always had a soft spot for the arrogant nerdy boys. There was some kind of irresistible sexual dissonance about them, with the way their skinny chests and patchy neckbeards belied a cocksure swagger which accentuated their intellectual muscle, their academic brawn. Sure, they’d never lift a girl off her feet (which she’d always thought was a little bit rapey anyway), but they’d give her a thorough cognitive fucking.
Her lecturer was an arrogant nerdy boy all grown up; he had the floppy hair and the “nice guy” veneer, but he was worldly-wise and experienced enough to teach her more than the anthropology curriculum which she was struggling to remember during the exam.
She knew what she wanted. Fuck the exam, she thought, let’s fuck him instead. She put her hand up, and he paced over.
"I need the toilet," she smiled apologetically, "I know we’ve only been in here half an hour, but…"
He looked at her, hard, and she looked at him, hard, and everything just seemed to be hard. She got up, and he escorted her out of the exam hall. She was aware of his eyes directly behind her, and made sure to accentuate the way her hips moved.
He paused outside the toilet, but she pulled him in, first into the cubicle, and then into her. His narcissistic streak became especially pronounced during sex. She felt that he took pleasure not from her, but from the reflected glory of his own sexual proficiency. True, he was one of the better ones, technically speaking, but sex was about fulfilling desire, not criteria (she could almost hear him thinking “five minutes here, then two minutes there, then back again at twice the speed, then simultaneous touching, then …”), and his total self-absorption meant that her earth and heavens remained steadfastly unmoved. He finished with a flourish, which put her in mind of an artist flamboyantly signing a piece of work, and that climax represented in microcosm what both attracted and repelled her about him; she felt exactly like a piece of work, designed and used only to allow him to shine with greater, hollow lustre.
Back in the exam hall, she sat at her desk and quietly finished her exam before leaving. She had been massively disappointed by fucking her lecturer, but then again, that was always going to be the way; no sexual experience could have lived up to the turmoil of desire and guilt that she had felt about him all year. Still, there were plenty more arrogant nerdy boys around, young enough and naive enough for her to mould exactly the way she wanted them to be … if only she could work out what that was.
Anonymous asked: this is just what I needed hahahhaha keep up the great works of fiction <3
Their eyes met across a crowded room. They were both caught up in an angry mob in the library, where a massive debate seemed to centre around two photographs on display. Some people were screaming obscenities about consent, others were deploring the othering of African children, and some were even prudishly objecting to body parts; most people, however, were there for the entertainment. Somebody had even brought popcorn.
She saw the confusion in his eyes, and sidled over to explain.
"What’s going on?", he whispered out of the corner of his mouth, "I don’t understand what the fuss is about, but I’m too ashamed to admit it in front of people shouting anthropological discourse."
"Well," she replied, taking a deep breath, "there’s this exhibition of photos and one of the photos is a photo of three naked black kids standing in the sea."
"Oh, so it’s just about the nudity?" he said. "That seems a little bit sanctimonious."
"No no," she replied, "people at SOAS are absolutely fine with seeing foreigners naked. That’s generally the main reason people choose to do Chinese, Japanese, or Swahili. The problem here is about consent."
"Oh, you mean that the library didn’t consent to hosting this display?"
"No, the library is fine with it. But two of the kids in the photo are unaware that the photo is being taken."
"Well, didn’t the photographer ask them afterwards?"
"Maybe, we don’t know."
"That seems like a fairly small issue to get so worked up about."
"It’s not just that," she sighed. "A lot of people believe that this photo portrays Africa as exotic and Africans as primitive savages who are in aberration to a western, civilized norm."
"Oh," he said, furrowing his brow with the effort of working out whether it was semantically possible for Africa to be orientalised. "But this could just as easily be a western image. I’ve got family holiday photos of me and my brothers paddling naked in Cornwall. Isn’t that the same thing?"
"Nope," she said, "Your parents took those photos. Could you imagine how upset they would be if a complete stranger, let’s say a photographer from China, took a photo of you, naked, as a child, and presented it back in China as a portrayal of how people live in the West?"
"I guess they’d want him to ask permission first," he mused, "but the thing is, that is how people live in the West. Kids go paddling naked in the sea. It’s pretty much the same thing.”
"But that one photo is mis-applied to an entire culture!", she fumed.
"I don’t think the photographer is explicitly saying that all Africans live like this," he replied, "it’s just a photo from a trip he was on, isn’t it?"
"Yes, and that photo represents all of Africa as savage and primitive!"
"I’m not sure I agree," he said, "because there is more than one photo of all of Africa. And, there’s this other photo of some white guys in the same poses. Doesn’t that misrepresent all white guys?"
"That’s exactly the point of that protest photo!" she exclaimed, exasperated. "Just because there’s one photo of white SOAS students reading too much into things, that doesn’t mean that all white SOAS students read too much into things."
He wasn’t convinced. They generally do.
"I’m not entirely sure that this makes sense, or that the people protesting about this have thought things through properly," he opined. "Isn’t this a bit of a non-issue?"
As an anthropologist, she was appalled. However, she had to concede that he had seen through the anthropologists’ technique of using long words inaccurately as a smokescreen for unsubstantiated rage. Also, she found his
post-anthropological metalogical dialogue discussion quite impressive and engaging.
"Come on," she suggested, "let’s go have a beer in the JCR."
"Don’t you mean the Malcolm X JCR?", he asked.
"Don’t fucking start on that one."
Their eyes met across a crowded room. It was nearly four o’clock and the faculty office was absolutely heaving with a panicked mess of human flesh and the heady air of resigned regret. He alone was confident. He’d been avoiding the cliché SOAS ideasplurge of unsolicited opinion by writing his dissertation in UCL, and in the last week alone, he’d had at least four people notice his ballin’ post-colonial ethno-swag on Spotted: UCL library. Like every shallow superficial monstrosity at UCL, he firmly believed that body image self-esteem was a direct correlate of academic achievement, and so he was thoroughly unruffled as he hustled through the scrum in the faculty office.
He reached the desk, and was confronted by the gorgeous sight of the faculty office lady. Everybody wanted the faculty office lady; she could certainly teach you a thing or two. Korean politics, Uighur soundscapes, Kenyan coming of age rituals, Zulu kinship terms, the semantics of the Other, Japanese economic analysis, post-feminist discourses on the self-identifying trans-other community … she had seen it all over the years. You just knew that nothing would shock her, however outlandish.
He’d been watching her work that stapler for weeks, and relished the way she stuck the tip of her tongue out in concentration as she firmly pressed her pen on the paper hard enough to create forms in triplicate. Fuck Turnitin, he was happy to put it in in person. He’d give it to her. He’d give it to her good. ISP? Incredible Sexual Prowess. Instant Satisfaction Power. Intermittent Softness Problems.
He whipped it out with a flourish, and her jaw dropped. In anticipation, he hoped.
"Oh my god," she gasped, clutching her RECEIVED stamp to her chest, "that’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen."
"You’re fucking right it is," he said, nodding smugly. "And I bet you’d love to take it right here, right now."
"Yeah, because that’s my job. But I can’t. It’s too big for me to take." She sighed, regretfully. "This is way over the word limit."
"Well, you know what they say," he winked, "once you go …"
"… over the word limit, you lose five percentage points of your grade, and that increases until you are automatically assigned zero if it reaches 13000 words."
His face fell. His dissertation was well over that number, and there was no time for serious editing. So, he did what any SOAS student would do - he angrily quoted Marx at her.
" ‘From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs’. I was able to write far more, and you need to read them."
"Yeah, well, ‘the production of too many useful words,’ " she retorted in kind, "results in too many useless people. You are one of those."
Defeated, he submitted his work, knowing that a big fat zero was coming his way. He felt bereft of purpose now that his dissertation was submitted, and no amount of Marx, ponchos, or police kettling would fill that void again. No matter what he did now, whatever job he took or however far he went from London, a little piece of SOAS that he’d never be able to shake off would forever be with him. A bit like chlamydia, really.
(just kidding! he knew he’d never get a job in this economic climate)
Anonymous asked: The story about the lesbian hijabi in the gym sounds a liiiittle bit like what I did after my finals at soas. Thanks for bringing back that memory on a Sunday night :)
fiftyshadesofsoas, reminding you that you’re awesome since 2012.
Anonymous asked: Just fundamentally awesome.
Thanks! Good to know I didn’t waste my degree.