The Victorian era force fed us all kinds of hokum. One of the lingering dictums is that good girls don’t. Good girls, “classy” girls, well-bred and refined girls keep their knees together.
While the God-botherers, conservatives and some of those faux-feminist wowsers are still advocating such dreck, today the sane amongst us dismiss such notions as laughably repressive and egregiously controlling.
One Victorian era tenet that has stood the test of time, however, is the burden about being “ladylike” about sex. Apparently in 2014 we womenfolk can bonk with great and enthusiastic vigour but we shouldn’t talk about it. We can do it, sure, but we shouldn’t offer up too much detail, shouldn’t harbour yearnings, shouldn’t unapologetically divulge our cravings.
To dare speak frankly about sex, to articulate desire is still – over a hundred years on – widely considered uncouth.
Not only did Jacqui Lambie break the unspoken rules of failing to shut up, but she did so on the wrong side of 30 and without sufficient levels of mainstream attractiveness needed to grant her a pass.
We apparently want to know every single detail about Miranda Kerr’s sex life, but Kerr is paid to be sexual, assumed to be desirable, and is cut slack for breaking the rules.
Jacqui Lambie on the other hand – in all her unwaxed, 43-year-old glory – dared speak publicly about her own sexual interests and got punished accordingly.
Rather than focusing on the appalling “journalism” offered up by that Hobart radio station, instead, the ensuing conversation has focused on class. About how much of a supposed “bogan” Lambie is for speaking frankly about the big wang/big wallet qualities she so prizes.
Lambie’s apparently just not pretty enough or young enough for her words to be construed as happily titillating and instead, she’s painted as some foul-mouthed hick.
One of the most interesting things to emerge from last week’s Thorpe outing was the endless repetition of the “we don’t really care” argument. Sure, undoubtedly there are some people who truly do see sexuality as diverse, as fluid and who think maybe Thorpe’s gay and maybe he’s not but that it’s no biggie either way.
There are, however, others who continuously play that “we don’t really care” card simply because it’s safer – in our climate of political correctness – than saying “I really don’t want to hear about this” and “please keep your sex life to yourself”. It’s a way of suppressing, of denying and of marginalising the kind of sexual behaviour that still has the power to embarrass.
By accusing Jacqui Lambie of being a bogan, or recoiling at the idea of a woman admitting – on air! – to being all crude and carnal, we’re implying that she’s not entitled to own her sex life and denying her erotic agency. In doing so, once again we’re subtly repeating the line that it is men who have the sex drive and it’s women who lie back and think of England.
I appreciate the double-standards argument here – oh, oh, imagine how much of an outcry there’d be if Clive Palmer had offered up similar remarks about a woman – and sure, there’s an article to be written on that. But the key difference here is that in our culture we “expect” men to be sexual, to be shallow about it, to consistently convey the air of rampant virility. Women contrarily – particularly women in power – are expected to be sexless. To dare step out of this mould is tantamount to treason.
No, this is not a call to hear more about the private lives of our politicians. God forbid. It is, however, a call to question where our cringing comes from. And a request for an answer as to why in 2014 we’re still connecting a woman’s unapologetic interest in sex with being low-class.
July 23, 2014
© Lauren Rosewarne