are bombarded every day with countless thousands of messages informing us that we do not look young enough, slim enough, white enough and willing enough, messages that come to us subtly and not so subtly, through film, television, advertising, print media and casual acquaintance, messages from which there is no reprieve. Corralled into rituals of consumption and self-discipline that sustain a bloated global market in beauty, diet, fashion and grooming products, three quarters of women in countries where food is plentiful go hungry every day in an effort to take up as little space as possible. Even if we do attain something close to the perfect physical control demanded of us, we are aware that our bodies are not our own: we are at constant risk of sexual violence and murder; one in five women in Britain and America is a victim of rape, and the rest of us learn to live in fear of rape. We are required to appear confident and sexually available at all times, but shamed and ostracised if we express arrogance, ambition or any sort of erotic desire. Everywhere, in every part of women’s lives, physical control, self-discipline and sterile sexual display are the watchwords of a new gender conformity that is branded into our very flesh.