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Don’t dismiss making sex a political issue

5 February 2009 1,349 views One Comment

‘Sex is still the leading cause of pregnancy,’ quipped Frederica Mathewes-Green on the ‘Wild Words from Wild Women’ desk calendar the other day. It was a timely reminder that for all the moral panic over cybersex and modern reproductive technologies, your basic garden-variety sexual encounters are still like shares in BHP. They’re blue-chip human behaviours that can always be relied upon to produce the goods and consistently engage people.

It’s also a reminder of the fact that sex underlies all religions and cultures, because without it there is no civilisation. And as the great philosopher and psychologist Havelock Ellis opined, ‘Sex lies at the root of life, and we can never learn to reverence life until we know how to understand sex.’

These notions have not been lost on those behind Australia’s newest political group, the Australian Sex party. At the end of this month it will apply for registration with the Australian Electoral Commission, having enrolled a couple of thousand members in just a few months.

When the AEC places ads in the major daily newspapers, asking for objections as to why the party should not be given official status, it will no doubt receive a flood of mail from morals groups and a few Liberal and Labor stooges. They will claim that a single-issue political party with ‘sex’ in its name could not possibly be serious about political issues and should therefore be considered, at best, an affront to the body politic and, at worst, ‘offensive’ to the community at large.

They will all miss the point by a country mile. A sex and gender party is a welcome addition to the political mix, and if a black man bearing the middle name ‘Hussein’ can become President of the US, a party based on procreation and gender politics can succeed in Australia. A sex party is a logical platform to discuss gender roles, censorship, population, education, pleasure, hypocrisy, sexual health and other issues that so often compromise Labor and the coalition.

How can any political party truthfully examine sex and morality issues when half its parliamentary members are themselves compromised by their own standards through illicit affairs, being in a closeted gay relationship, secretly visiting sex workers and strip clubs, or enjoying erotic films? None of these activities are proscribed by the Sex party, so its members cannot be compromised by them.

The electorate is fed up with moral hypocrisy, yet it continues. Why is it OK for Kevin Rudd to visit a New York strip club, but not for you or I to visit its web site, under his internet filtering proposals? Why is it OK for communications minister Stephen Conroy to hire a surrogate mother so he and his wife can have the planned parenthood they want, but not OK for a gay woman in Victoria to qualify for IVF so she can have her planned parenthood as well? Or for a woman in NSW to have a legal abortion so she can have the family she wants? Or for a gay couple to adopt a child?

The coalition wouldn’t dare play the hypocrisy card, for fear of drowning in its own sexual fluids. It still needs to explain Malcolm Fraser’s unexplained pants- down moment in Memphis, and the real circumstances around Billy Snedden’s untimely demise.

The Sex party could fundamentally change the way that sex and morality are debated in the Australian parliament and those of the territories and states. It will certainly test the government’s new internet filtering proposals on a number of levels. Foremost will be the fact that access to the party’s non- sexual internet site will be widely blocked, as it already is, by a range of institutions such as banks, state parliaments, schools, libraries and so on. Try sending an email to a few of the above institutions with the Sex party’s name prominent and see what happens. I am reliably informed that more than half of the party’s first emailed newsletters did not get through to its members because corporate and government filtering systems interpreted them as invitations to a giant orgy. This raises serious questions about political free speech — some of which the High Court has already ruled on — but others which the party and its backers will continue to take up with that institution.

But it’s the Sex party’s policy platform, with its broad-based and personalised appeal, that could surprise the major parties. The party has strongly aligned itself with the progressive winds blowing in from the US. Launching just before Obama’s victory, it called for an end to the Harradine amendments to Australian foreign aid policy which stopped us from helping countries which adopted abortion or even condom use in their population control plans. Obama has just announced he’s ditching these policies. The US Supreme Court has just hammered the final nail into the coffin of internet filtering by ruling that it is unconstitutional. The Sex party has been a leading opponent of internet filtering here. A ‘freedom of choice’ bill in the US that mandates legal abortions is looking likely get through. The Sex party’s policy for Australia is identical.

The party’s call for a compulsory national sex education curriculum in Australian high schools, to deal with sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy, will be strongly supported by the public. However, the increasing number of Catholics on the coalition front bench, and Labor’s links to the Catholic bishops, mean this policy will be opposed by both major parties.

The Sex party has signalled its intention to further exploit these relationships by proposing a Royal Commission into child sex abuse in religious institutions and an end to charitable status for religions. Both policies would be extremely popular with ten per cent of the electorate. But it’s the Sex party’s call to mandate equal numbers of women in the senate via a referendum that will test all parties in the parliament. None will agree with it initially. But I’m betting it won’t be too long before one of the major parties starts to look seriously at it.

One Comment »

  • Richard L said:

    This is a very well argued piece Ross. It should be read very widely, and especially by the numerous hypocrites you point to who will otherwise succeed in taking us back to the cyber-age equivalent of Victorian era table-leg draping, lest everyone gets erotic ideas.