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Let’s talk about s*x

… how is it that in a society like ours, sexuality is not simply a means of reproducing the species, the family and the individual? Not simply a means to obtain pleasure and enjoyment? How has sexuality come to be considered the privileged place where our deepest “truth” is read and expressed? For that is the essential fact: Since Christianity, the Western world has never ceased saying: “To know who you are, know what your sexuality is. Sex has always been the forum where both the future of our species and our “truth” as human subjects is decided (Michel Foucault).

If you cast a quick eye over the events of the last few weeks you will find a common denominator – sex. Whether it’s religious/political controversy and manipulation over the Safe Schools program, speculation over the relationship between failed Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Chief of Staff Peta Credlin, the outrageous proposed plebiscite on same-sex marriage, slurs used by a former NSW Liberal campaign manager against a rival ALP candidate, the attempts by his own party to smear Liberal candidate Tim Wilson’s sexuality, or star footballers shagging their best friends’ wives, sex, how it is performed, by whom it is performed on/with whom, and the perceived legitimacy or otherwise of its performance is at the heart of these superficially disparate events, a small selection from the plethora of examples available.

That this should be so seems to me breathtakingly and incomprehensibly stupid. How, indeed, has sexuality come to be considered the privileged place where our deepest “truth” is read and expressed?

Straight, white, conservative men and women are fighting to retain their privilege to define what is sexually “normal.” Anyone who fails this test of normality is pathologised, demonised, marginalised, ostracised, and othered, and because straight white conservative men and women have such a narrow definition of what constitutes “normality,” swathes of humanity are inevitably excluded.

For people such as Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen to accept programs such as Safe Schools, they must first acknowledge the legitimacy of sexualities other than their own. Christensen, along with the rest of the conservative crowd, claims to attach a profound moral value to traditional sexual expression: anything other than hetero and preferably in a committed relationship is immoral, and so disturbing it must be stamped out. In this world view, any efforts to assist the young among us who are struggling with sexual identity will only encourage them away from the deepest truth of heterosexuality, and worse, will put ideas into the heads of children who were comfortably straight before they heard about the program.

In other words, if we don’t offer any assistance to LGBTQI kids, they’ll just get straight because.

Lyle Shelton, CEO of the Australian Christian Lobby, recently claimed on Twitter that same-sex marriage would deprive him of his primary signifier of normality: if same-sex couples are permitted to marry, went his argument, people wouldn’t know he wasn’t gay. This is a terrifying and likely unwanted insight into the self-obsessed mind of Lyle Shelton, but it does articulate a deep fear of conservatives about their heterosexuality, and how they use sex as a moral marker of privilege, creating a distance between us and them that allows conservatives the illusion of rightness and safety.

What is conspicuously absent from the claim of sex as a privileged place of deepest truth is the question of power. Conservatives currently hold the power to to determine an overall sexual “normalcy” in Australian society, and the repercussions for those who do not comply with their limitations is considerable. Sexual difference is a useful conduit for the exercise of power, and this co-option of sex for the transmission of power is exactly what we are witnessing in the Turnbull government, as the right-wing faction brings the PM to his knees, and forces him to act against his own beliefs on the question of sexual difference in order to save his job.

The relationship between sex and power is complex and fraught, both in intimate relations and politically. The focus on sex and its expression as the dominant concern obscures what is actually going on. If you manage to establish a discourse in which sexuality and its performance are markers of acceptance or rejection then you have power, whether you’re in politics, a cult, a football club, a school or a family. Our sexuality is perhaps our most vulnerable aspect: who controls our sexual expression by whatever means, overt and covert, has immense power over our self-regard and well-being.

It’s not about sex. It’s about power. But don’t expect the straight white moral conservative men and women to admit to that.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.



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  1. mark

    no sex please,we’re australian.mark.

  2. amca01

    In the Oxford Companion to Politics of the World, in the article “Gay and Lesbian Politics”, the Dutch sociologist Sylvia Borren wrote :

    “Within every age, culture, nation, and people in the world, women have loved women and men have loved men. Social contexts and constructs differ, as do interpretations and assumptions. Lifestyles differ, and the question of identity has varied responses. But (some) women emotionally and physically love women and (some) men emotionally and physically love men. In short or prolonged periods of their lives. Secretly or openly. They always have, and they always will.”

    This seems to be to be an astonishly simple fact, and indeed one of the many delights of humankind, so it seems to me, is the many and varied expressions of gender and sexuality. So why do conservatives find it so difficult? I also note that said conservatives confuse sexuality with “having sex”. And they seem obsessed – unhealthily so – with genitalia. You can’t help but conflate conservatism with pig-ignorant stupidity, and certainly the ravings of Bernardi and Christensen do nothing to dispel that notion. It is to the LNP’s eternal shame that they have caved in to these fools.

  3. Andreas

    Wankers, the lot of them!

  4. kerri

    Given the politics is not about sex but about power, wouldn’t it be better likened to rape?

  5. Colin

    The thought of Christensen having sex with anyone (or anything) turns my stomach

  6. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I think kerri might have a point. Abuse of power.

    If it usually is straight, economically-secure, white men and women, who espouse the the virtues of mainstream sex alone, it lends itself to the presumption that it is based on power and position in society.

  7. Michael

    Is it power over sex? or Power using sex?
    Time to dust off my copy of the Playboy Philosophy.

  8. keerti

    suppressing sex causes perversion! Christianity from it’s inception has had a problem with sex…first we had the outrageously funny immaculate conception. Mary was so apparently unable to admit to running conga line at the local stables that she produced the first and so far as we know, only , monozygous birth in the human species. The addition of a holy ghost to do the deed was inspiring! Although to any sane, rational observer quite ridiculous! Then we have JC hanging out with a bunch of blokes…a bit sus especially when it seems he kept rejecting the advances of the sexually experienced Mary Magdellane. Any other young man’s dream. Next we had christians descending into the catacooms at night to fornicate, that is until they got the idea to raise celibacy as an ideal. Had great sales potential as a Roman emporer sufferring great remorse after fornicating with young boys, girls and anything at all really,thought it might be a way to redeem himself and at the same time save his empire from crumbling. The rest of Rome was openly having orgies above ground. A few centuries on and with the first gay popes (yes, despite christianities posturing about the evils of it, there have been a number of gay popes) it becomes the norm for the holy roman church to have as it’s head a public crossdresser who is attended by more crossdressers (just not as fancily dressed). These latter have names like pell and have very short memories when it comes to their knowledge of their colleages forcibly fornicating with young boys. Next in along line of (bi)kers comes a prime minister who repeatedly appeared displaying himself on TV and in the papers in a pair of budgiesmugglers. Maybe it was becuase he’d been in the water, but there appeared to be an issue of size! Little wonder that christiansen who might experience difficulty finding it, let alone using it, also feels a need to involve himself in other peoples sex lives! Strange that it is this religion that produces such a long line of unsatisfied people who can’t keep their collective nose out of other peoples business. Or is it?

  9. Sen Nearly Ile

    was christ, gay? is mrs brown really a bloke? did bruce cut off his dick for the dollars? did the priests condone abbottian gangs poofter bashing 10 years after don dunston?
    what sold savva’s pages of drivel? just one juicy unanswerable question.
    did abbott bang peta?
    sex sells papers and lifts ratings with innuendo or outright lies to follow. ie it is number two just after oxygen.

  10. mark

    sorry,no sex please,we’re british,mark.

  11. Lee

    I’m not a very feminine female. I don’t own a dress, nor makeup. I’ve been asked a few times if I’m a lesbian. It has neither confused nor offended me. Nor do I spend hours thinking about everyone else’s sex life. I’m too busy enjoying my own. I’m not ashamed of being a sexual being either. It’s completely normal. What miserable lives Bernardi, Shelton and co must have. No wonder they spend so much time dedicated to making everyone else miserable too.

  12. Allan

    Historically when a society looses it’s “moral compass” social decay follows leading to the collapse of that society. The question that “should” be answered here is “Why are we having this conversation in the first place”.
    Answer: United Nations Agenda 21

  13. Michael

    I would have thought that a broad mind is an asset to be admired and fostered.

  14. townsvilleblog

    In the 21st century most progressive people do not waste time or energy thinking about the sex life of others. I don’t have a sex life, and I don’t waste time thinking about what cannot be either. We have many subjects to concern ourselves with, not the least of which is that we pay tax every week/fortnight, while huge companies who make in excess of $100 million per annum have not paid a cent in taxes since at least when the LNP were elected in 2013. This is grossly unfair to the everyday Australian workforce, and the nation as a whole.

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