February 16, 2015

Stop Policing Women's Sexual Fantasies

Several years ago, I read a story about an incestuous father-daughter relationship. It was beautifully written: simultaneously disturbing, compelling, and – in parts – erotic. It was supposed to be erotic. It was in a collection of erotic stories. I found myself being strangely aroused by this horrible story of abuse. Such was the skill of the writer.

But obviously that doesn’t mean I want to sleep with my father. It simply meant that a particular piece of writing could have the power to both arouse and disgust . It meant that sometimes, we are turned on by awful fantasies.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve observed the rising outcry over the Fifty Shades movie with interest. The movie is based on an erotic novel that sold millions of copies. In other words, millions of readers – primarily women – found the story of a damaged, violent man to be arousing.

Now that the movie has been released well-meaning critics are up in arms. “This movie condones domestic violence!” “It’s dangerous for women!”

But I disagree. No work of fiction can condone anything. It is simply a fantasy. It is simply a story that is both disturbing and erotic. And it is okay for women to find it arousing. Women are allowed to have their fantasies.

I resent this policing of other women’s erotic thoughts. Women are not stupid. Women know that Christian Grey is not a real person. And they know that the 50 Shades storyline is implausible to the point of ridiculous. They get that. No-one reads the book and takes it as a blueprint for living. They find it arousing, because fantasies of domination are common and completely normal. But the readers no more wish to re-enact the storyline in real life no more than I wish to actually sleep with my father.

Sex, for so many women, is steeped in shame. Sexual thoughts, for so many women, are steeped in embarrassment. Yelling “Fifty Shades is dangerous!” at women who find it erotic is just shaming them further. It is implying that there is something wrong with them for being turned on by a story.

This shaming, to me, is far more ‘dangerous’ than any movie. This shaming, to me, is what truly damages women. Yes, domestic violence is evil. But a fantasy about being dominated by a crazy, handsome man is not domestic violence. It is a fantasy. Many, many women fantasise about being tied down, or smacked, or sexually bullied. Many, many women fantasize about lesbian encounters, or group sex, or even sex without consent. Some women will enact one or more of those scenarios in a safe environment; some will keep them forever lodged in the most private parts of their minds.

But either way, fantasies are not reality. And it is okay to feed fantasies with a bit of visual stimulation. If you get off on Fifty Shades, there is nothing wrong with you. You are okay. And you are not condoning domestic violence. You are just having a little erotic fantasy.

Don’t be ashamed.

February 2, 2015

A Mood Alert Dog? Now THIS is what I need

Yesterday I stumbled across an amazing short film about a 15 year old girl and her Diabetic Alert Dog. Jackie the dog alerts Grace to fluctuations in her blood sugar that Grace cannot feel, and protects her charge from diabetic seizures, coma and, possibly, death.

As a Cat Person, I have never been privvy to animals with special skills. Penny the Feline can recognise the words 'treat', 'food' and, well, 'Penny', but that's about it. She was useless at learning to use the human toilet (Litter Kwitter is bullshit, people, it is bullshit) and has still not quite comprehended that we do not enjoy gifts of lizards, mice and rats.

Furthermore, my late rabbits Spunky, Pretzel and Hot Cross Bun Bun didn't even recognise their own names. If they had special skills we were unaware of them (and they most certainly didn't extend to avoiding foxes). So I was incredibly impressed by the powers of dogs to assist humans with disabilities.

Not only can Diabetic Alert Dogs recognise blood sugar changes, but Seizure Alert Dogs can, astonishingly, predict seizures in their epileptic owners up to 20 minutes ahead of time. And this got me thinking. What other issues could dogs be trained to recognise? Could I have my own Alert Dog to help me in my life?

"You have PMS, Human"

For example:
  • A Mood Alert Dog, who would predict a rapid plummet in mood up to 15 minutes before it occured, then alert my loved ones with special barks so that they can get away from me quickly before becoming a casualty.
  • A Bad Man Alert Dog, who would assess potential suitors via their pheromones and warn me not to get emotionally involved.
  • A Hormone Alert Dog, good for sniffing out PMS, ovulation, early pregnancy, oncoming periods and menopause. No more urine tests or doctors visits required!
  • A Conflict Alert Dog, especially for the family, who would recognise upcoming tensions and arguments and separate warring parties before the trouble began.
  • A Binge Alert Dog, who would bark and nip and attack when I overeat/ drink too much/ attempt to drunk text/ basically do anything wrong at all.

Watch Grace's story here. Jackie the dog first appears at about 3:15. Amazing.

January 19, 2015

Stupid, stupid night

So you're in Bali and you've had a wonderful time, and you feel really blessed that you're able to take an overseas holiday with the kids. But you have to come home, and the only way to come home is a night flight on Garuda, leaving at 10.30pm.

You are not excited.

The bus picks you all up at 7.30pm. You are already tired and anticipating the hideous night ahead, but you try to be brave. You arrive at the airport at 8pm and check-in. Your seats are in the back of the plane near the toilets and you try to be more brave. Toilets are good. You often use toilets.

You kill an hour at the airport looking at shops and buying water, then head to the gate. There is nowhere to sit, so you and the kids sit on the floor. The floor is hard. Your kids start whimpering. You laugh internally as they ain't got nothin' to whimper about yet. Just you wait, kids. Just you wait.

It's all fun and games until the passengers arrive

The plane is half an hour late to board and you feel yourself getting more and more tense and more and more agitated. You don't want to get on the plane. You are tired and you want to go to bed, not sit bolt upright for seven hours in a capsule near the toilets. But you have to get on the plane. You have no choice. Oh shut up kids, stop whimpering, I'm more cranky than you.

You board, hauling your kids along with you. You find your seats fairly easily. (They are near the toilets.) You all sit down. It is cramped and stupid. Your head is hurting. The 7 year old is white with exhaustion. The 13 year old's eyes are hideously bloodshot. The 15 year old takes out his Nintendo.

You put on your seatbelt and turn to buckle the 7 year old's seat belt. She is fast asleep in the chair.

You breathe a sigh of relief. That's one less to worry about. You wait impatiently as the stupid pilot takes hours and hours (okay 30 minutes) to get the stupid idiotic plane in the stupid air. You finally take off. You don't crash, which is good. Everything else is bad.

You get out your neck rest to try to sleep. The 13 year old is almost crying with tiredness. She is uncomfortable and can't find a good position to sit in. But at least the 7 year old is sleeping.

You stroke the 13 year old's leg and put your seat back in the reclining position, which is about 3 centimetre's more 'reclined' than the upright position. It is about as 'reclined' as a ladder. A stupid, stupid ladder. You try to be brave. It is hard, because everything is just so stupid.

You shift in your seat, this way, that way, the other way. You put your legs on your tray table and your legs under your bum. You wish you could cut your bloody legs off so you can fit in that stupid seat. You get delirious with exhaustion, and pray for release.

And finally, finally, it comes. You fall asleep.

And then there is a tiny little jab in your side. A finger. "Mummy, mummy, I'm awake! I'm going to watch movies now!" It is the 7 year old. You have been asleep for 8 minutes.

The rest of the flight passes in a blur, a stupid, horrible, sick, headachy, cramped, backbreaking blur. You drift in and out of consciousness, waking up with a dry mouth and the smell of airplane oozing from every pore. You hate this aeroplane and everything in it more than you've hated anything in your life. And when the flight attendant turns on the lights to give you breakfast... at 3am Bali time... and who eats breakfast at 3am anytime?... you hate her more than everything else put together. Stupid, stupid flight attendant.

You finally arrive at 5am Bali time, which is 8am Sydney time, which is just as bad. You head out, revolting, fetid and blinking in the light. You collect your bags, go through customs, declare that giant wooden python you bought for $5 at the markets. It passes. You're so pleased. Now you can go back and smack the stupid flight attendant over the head with it.

But you don't. You herd the revolting, fetid, blinking kids outside, and wait about a day for a taxi. And then you get in the taxi, and arrive home, and you all collapse on your beds and sleep for about a year.

And then you wake up and do laundry. The holiday is over. Real life, in all its stupid glory, begins anew.

January 4, 2015

When Your Writing Compromises Another

Yesterday I read ‘An Open Letter To My Ex-Wife’ on Huff Post. Apart from the fact that the writing itself was sappy, self-indulgent, and utterly manipulative (Have sympathy for me! My wife left me despite me loving her so, so much I wrote this beautiful love note! How awesome a husband must I have been to be so loving! And so brave, too, to rise from the devastation of the break-up and pen this letter!) it infuriated me that anyone – the man, the editors of Huff Post – could compromise another person’s privacy so fully.

These days, anyone with access to the internet can tell their life story, share every intimate detail of their interpersonal interactions with the entire world. And with such easy access to a readership comes a seeming lack of boundaries, a falling away of the moral codes which prevent us from sharing stories that compromise another person’s privacy and integrity.

I understand why the author of the Open Letter wished to communicate with his ex. I’ve written many emails to my ex partner, and him to me. But why an open letter? The recipient of an open letter is not the purported addressee, but rather the public. D’Ambrosio was not communicating with his ex; he was communicating directly with his readers. He was attempting to convey to the world what a wonderful, loving husband he was, presumably to garner sympathy and/or manipulate his ex into taking him back - or, more likely, to pull sympathy away from her and her decision. And it is not fair on his ex, who presumably did not consent to having his version of their joint narrative shared with the public. There is a line that exists between sharing one’s own stories and exploiting the other people in your life, and he crossed it.

And he’s not the only one. I am so dispirited by the myriad of pieces I read every day that ruthlessly and insensitively appropriate other people’s narratives. Mothers reveal their children’s deeply personal struggles, adult children write of their parents’ private lives, siblings write of old wrongdoings, without permission, without considering the extent to which it would compromise the other person.

Now, obviously our own narratives are shaped by our experiences in relation to the other people in our lives. Without sharing details of the way their lives impacted ours, we would have no stories. I am reading Dear Sugar’s brilliant book at the moment, and she writes of her husband’s infidelity (presumably with his consent) and her father’s abuse (presumably without). And in both cases, these stories are vital to the message she is conveying to the reader. In the first case, she is writing of the complexities of marriage, and how infidelity does not necessarily have to be a deal breaker. In the second, she is advising a girl who needs to cut off contact with her father, for reasons similar to her own.

Stories in contexts like these have meaning and purpose. They are not exploitive because they are fundamental to the story, and withhold the most personal of details. But when a story is there purely to titillate or garner hits, and it could compromise or embarrass the subject, then it is exploitation in its purest form.

Fiction writers often claim to write fiction to ‘tell the truth’, and that resonates strongly with me. If your writing could compromise other people in your life, then write it as fiction. Write it anonymously and change the names. Write it under your own name and change identifying details. And if you can’t do any of that, show some damn restraint. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Writers need a moral code too. And readers don’t like to be party to someone else’s impropriety.

December 10, 2014

Real Single Mothers of Sydney

From the makes of The Biggest Bully and Embarrassing Doctors comes a brand new reality TV series: The Real Single Mothers of Sydney.

Follow single mothers Kerri Duckbill, Nicki McDonkadonk, Sassy Bonercrusher and Lucy 'One Date' Levi as they navigate parenthood, dating, sex, careers and the 5/2 diet whilst warding off existential angst and the advances of that sleazy old guy down at the cafe.

Watch as they struggle with weight, go on bad dates, drink too much coffee, drink too much wine, drink too little water, and tend to their ailing parents. See them argue with their ex spouses, fight for child support, attend family court, and have sex with emotionally unavailable men who are excellent in bed.

Cry as their self esteem plummets and they question their ability to ever connect with anyone on an intimate level ever again. Laugh as they swipe left on Tinder and notice married men who are fathers at their children's school. Cheer them on as they squeeze into a mini and push up bra to go see a man they met on the internet. Nod as the man they met on the internet turns out to have the personality of a lightly seared chicken fillet, which, incidentally, is their son's favourite meal though their daughter won't eat anything 'juicy'.

Synopsis: Episode One

Nicki McDonkadonk is told by her doctor to lose five kilos and consoles herself with high calorie hi-jinx, and a surprising method of self-pleasure. Sassy Bonercrusher rejects an intriguing proposal from a younger man, and argues with her son about vegetables. Lucy 'One Date' Levi flirts with her family lawyer, who has a shocking revelation about Nicki McDonkadonk's sexual performance. Kerri Duckbill spends hours wandering around Westfield, goes to therapy, and sobs in a variety of locations around Sydney.

To interview the stars of Real Single Mothers of Sydney, leave a comment below, or go to the school gates this afternoon where they will all be congregating after 3.30pm.

November 26, 2014

An Open Letter to Westfield about a Thrilling Proposal

Anyone who knows me will be aware that Westfield Bondi Junction is my spiritual home. I spend hours there, either doing the grocery shopping, grabbing a coffee, getting my acrylic nails repaired after I bite them off, or just wandering aimlessly, absorbing the seething humanity.

But there is something missing from Westfield. It's got the shops and the cafes and the movie theatre and the supermarkets and the high end boutiques and the people who stop you and try to rub hand cream on you even though you're carrying bags in both hands and walking quickly towards the exit.... But it doesn't have a cultural centre.

It doesn't have Culture.

And this is where I come in.  I can be Westfield's Writer in Residence. I can bring Culture to the mall. I could be set up at a desk on a little platform in the middle of the centre - perhaps surrounded by a small picket fence - and write away on my laptop. People can stop and watch as I write, marvel at the creative process, breathe in my literary energy. They can ask questions and I will answer them, inspiring and supporting other writers to stretch their wings and let the words fly. And I, in turn, can be energised and nourished by their presence (and get free Wifi and coffee, and the occasional chocolate snowball from the cafe on Level 2).

Of course, it's not just Westfield Bondi Juntion that needs Culture. Every Westfield could have its own Resident Cultural Person. Other Writers in Residence, or perhaps Artists in Residence, Musicians in Residence, even Interpretive Dancers in Residence (in fact, I could probably double as an Interpretive Dancer in Residence when the writer's block kicks in).

Westfield would benefit from the injection of art (and from the hoards of people flocking to see us in action), and we would benefit from being around those who inspire us - The People. (Also, there are much better sandwiches at the Food Hall than there are at home.)

If you agree, or are interested in applying for your own position at Westfield, please comment below, or hit Westfield up at @westfieldau. Support the cause! Bring art to your local mall! And make sure I get my egg mayo sandwiches every day!

Like it? Share it!