The Camp Vamp: Katrina Fox

Commentary on GLBTIQ issues, social justice and some of life's quirks.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Underage sex

Oh, it’s a hot potato, isn’t it? A 26-year-old female teacher from Brisbane is allegedly seen “kissing and cuddling” with a 14-year-old female pupil during a two-year “sexual affair” (pupil is now 17) and the moral campaigners launch their battlecry to “Raise the age of consent to protect the children”.

Some of the more religious fundamentalists will even put their homophobia temporarily to one side to “link arm in arm” with GLBT people to achieve such a goal, as the recent bizarre alliance between gay activist Gary Burns and Christian Democratic Party Parliamentary Leader Reverend Fred Nile showed. Nile is putting forward a Bill to raise the age of consent to 18 in NSW in an attempt to “curb paedophile activity”.

I don’t suppose I’m the only queer person in Sydney that finds this disturbing, just as I’m pretty sure I’m not the only lesbian to have seen the photo in The Daily Telegraph of Amanda Louise Thompson, the young blonde Brisbane teacher with cheekbones to die for and wished I had a teacher as gorgeous as that who would have whisked me off to an empty classroom at lunchtime to introduce me to the pleasures of the female flesh when I was 14. Never mind algebra and trigonometry, that’s what I would have considered a proper education!

Seriously though, raising the age of consent only plays into the hands of child abusers and moralists who refuse to accept that young people under the age of 16 have sexual feelings and want to act on them. Canada, Germany, Italy and eight other European countries already have an equal age of consent of 14, which applies either in all or some circumstances (for example in the Netherlands a young person can have sex at 12 with someone up to 16). Interestingly, according to UK-based gay rights activist Peter Tatchell’s research, most of these countries have fewer teenage pregnancies, abortions and HIV infections as well as a higher average age of first sexual intercourse.

Raising the age of consent won’t stop child sex abuse because perpetrators ignore the law. I’m with those who argue it’s better to equip youngsters from an early age with candid sex education and empowerment, including a requirement for schools to teach pupils how to deal with sex pests, and to offer sexual assertiveness training so they feel confident to say ‘no’ to people who try to pressure them into having sex.

This seems like a more sensible solution than getting into bed with right-wing religious fanatics to promote a futile anti-sex/abstinence agenda. Young people of all sexualities are willingly having sex at earlier ages than before and we have to deal with that in a more constructive manner than simply telling them they have no rights or control over their bodies by raising the age of consent. As for the 14-year-old Queensland girl, what I want to know is … did she get good marks?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Gays v lesbians

It’s all happening in China. After launching the country’s first free hotline for gay men, the Chiheng Foundation in Shanghai will offer a similar service from this Saturday for lesbians and women confused about their sexuality. “In the past, we noticed that lesbians needed extra help compared with gays,” Yang Shanping, a Chiheng Foundation officer, told The China Daily. Another officer at the foundation, Shen Yimu, added that when the gay hotline was launched in May, many lesbians rang for help on the number too. “But all the volunteers for that hotline are gay men. They don’t know much about the detailed issues that most lesbians are facing,” Yimu noted.

It took me back to my teenage years in the heady days of the mid-’80s when there was no internet and no access to queer zines, if there were any, if you lived in a small town outside London where marriage to an opposite-sex partner and breeding were deemed the holy grails of working-class existence. Thank goddess for phone books. For it was inside these tomes of numerical excess that I and my best friend at the time, Wendy Williams, found the numbers for Gay Switchboard and Lesbian Line. Many a teatime was spent ringing these hotlines, each of us taking turns to splutter out the words, ‘I think I might be gay’ – or ‘lesbian’ if we were phoning the latter – before hanging up and dissolving into fits of giggles.

Gradually, though, we (well okay, I) became more adventurous and stayed on the (lesbian) line a bit longer. When a nice, earnest woman asked kindly why I thought I might be a lesbian, I replied, ‘Because I’m in love with Joan Collins.’ Now see, this is where segregation doesn’t work – because there are exceptions to every rule. I didn’t want to then be asked silly questions about why I was in love with Joan. I didn’t know it at the time, but I wouldn’t have needed to use up time, energy and money to explain that to a gay man – he’d just know why.

Some lesbians simply have more in common with gay male culture. On Saturday night I had the opportunity to hire a lesbian butch-femme romantic comedy, Mango Kiss, from my local DVD rental store. I chose Sunset Boulevard instead. And after my girlfriend and I watched it for the third or fourth time, we squealed with delight about how fabulous Gloria Swanson was for a good five minutes, and then promptly amused ourselves for another 10 by seeing who could do the best impression of old Glo delivering her famous final line, ‘All right, Mr DeMille, I’m ready for my close-ups.’ Will the Chinese lesbian hotline cater to our sort of lesbian? I certainly hope so.

Meanwhile, let’s hope Bali follows China’s lead. The Sydney Morning Herald reported at the weekend that Schapelle Corby has vowed not to have sex until she is released from jail in 20 years time. Quick. Someone give her a phone…

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Good news

News. It’s such a loaded word, especially for a journalist. Unlike other people who can decide to opt out of reading, listening to or watching the news because it’s all just too bloody depressing, we are obliged at the very least to trawl through the headlines of the daily newspapers online to keep abreast of what’s going on in the world.

Most of the time the news induces feelings of irritation, sadness, anger or despair – murders, rapes, wars, moronic world leaders doing nothing about global warming, multi-national corporations getting away with all kinds of hideous abuses of human and non-human rights, blah blah blah. Last week, however, it was a pleasure to hear some really good news – not just one piece either, but two: Bush and his fascist … sorry, Republican party took a major thrashing in the US midterm elections, and a contestant on America’s Next Model announced she wasn’t sure if she was straight, thereby giving me licence as a lesbian journo to watch the rest of the series under the guise of ‘research’.

Come Monday morning, though, and the news is back to bordering on the sublime to the ridiculous. Take the piece in The Sydney Morning Herald, about a Thai zoo, which has hosted a couple of pandas for four years. According to the report, the male and female pair who have been living together platonically will now be separated but remain close enough for occasional glimpses of each other. The six-year-old male panda, Chuang Chuang, will then be played … wait for it … porn videos on a large screen in an attempt to encourage the animals to breed in captivity. “They don’t know how to mate so we need to show the male how, through videos,” the zoo’s panda project chief Prasertsak Buntrakoonpoontawee told Reuters on Saturday. “We’ll play the video at the most comfortable and intimate time for him, perhaps after dinner,” he added, hoping Chuang Chuang would then use the techniques on Lin Hui, a five-year-old female.

It obviously hasn’t occurred to Mr Buntrakoonpoontawee that the pandas probably know exactly how to mate, but just don’t fancy each other. Or that one or both of them might be gay. If he thinks showing them human porn films will change things, he’s seriously mistaken. For one thing, no panda in her right mind is going to don six-inch stilettos, a fake tan and long blonde hair just to please her man. And if Mr Buntrakoonpoontawee believes that humans and pandas are really so similar, he surely won’t mind being taken out of his natural habitat where he’s perfectly happy, free to roam and mix with others of his own kind at will, to be locked up in a tiny prison close enough to catch glimpses of another male zoo worker, and shown XXX-rated gay male porn, in an attempt to get the two men to fuck themselves silly. Now that’s what I call good news.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Crazy old dykes

I really like The L Word. It’s never claimed to represent the lives of anything other than a group of white, middle-class lesbians in Los Angeles, and with a bunch of reasonably pretty women, acceptable storylines and plenty of hot sex scenes, the word ‘groundbreaking’ is a fair and accurate description of the series that’s about to go into its fourth season. Careers, motherhood, a bit of confusion over sexuality and gender identity – all staples of your average lesbian life, in a glamorous West Hollywood setting. What more could lesbian viewers ask for?

Well, how about a British version? Just for diversity’s sake. A lesbian soap opera that’s anathema to stylised US portrayals of our lives. Titled Crazy Old Dykes, here’s a would-be scenario: 73-year-old Yvonne goes crazy when her partner, Helga, 64, says she wants to end their relationship of more than 20 years. Forget a few heated words and an object or two flying around the room – old Yvonne goes into another room, comes back with an air rifle screaming ‘I’m going to kill you’. Helga grabs the barrel of the gun; it goes off but misses her (a pellet is later recovered from a wall in the couple’s home). Yvonne, obviously still pissed, snatches a walking stick and proceeds to whack Helga over the head and shoulders. Helga somehow manages to get out of the house to call the police, who arrive to find Yvonne lying in bed (tired out?) surrounded by (Helga’s) blood, and cart her off to the loony bin.

Another storyline goes as follows: Two lesbian junkies/petty thieves, Sharon, 48 and her long-term lover Mandy, 44, are having problems. Mandy wants to come off heroin, Sharon doesn’t. One night at a lesbian bar, Mandy meets Angela, a transwoman who is keen to help her get clean and, as is wont to happen in the Sapphic world, they start dating. Sharon doesn’t want to lose Mandy, so she slips sedatives into Mandy’s tea each day without the latter’s knowledge to prevent her leaving the house to see Angela. Mandy finds out, is not best pleased and runs off to her new relationship. Sharon doesn’t have an air rifle or a walking stick to hand, so she steals a disability mobile from outside Sainsbury’s supermarket and attempts to mow Angela down in the street in broad daylight. The story is reported in the national gutter press, causing Angela to have a nervous breakdown and refusing to press charges against Sharon. Sharon and Mandy get back together and resume their shoplifting and drug habits, more in love than ever.

Too over the top? Well, they say truth is stranger than fiction. The first scenario was reported in the British press this week; the second happened two years ago and I had the pleasure of meeting Sharon and Mandy via my friend Michael on a trip back to my hometown, London – although Mandy was, now I come to think of it, very sleepy at the time.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Dating disasters

There are so many ways to get your 15 minutes of fame nowadays and gay people have jumped on most of the bandwagons – reality TV, Youtube, blogs – but we've yet to break into that hotbed of iniquity known as the office email that spirals (or virals) out of control. Take the most recent fiasco of law clerk Craig Dale, who sent a 'salacious' email to fellow female lawyer Azadeh Bashari in New Zealand asking if she were interested in casual sex. "I thought you were hot and was sure you'd be a rocket in the sack," Dale proffered. Ms Bashari, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, was "disgusted" and proceeded to forward the email to her 'single friends', titling it 'Loser Alert' and recounting it as her latest 'dating disaster'. The said email then spread throughout New Zealand's legal community and eventually overseas.

I obviously don't understand the intimate workings of the heterosexual mind, because it seemed to me that a brief 'thanks but no thanks' reply would have been more appropriate on Ms Bashari's part, but I guess she must work for a corporate legal firm and therefore have no life, so the decision to create a drama out of a non-event in her unexciting existence must have seemed attractive. Or maybe there's just something in the water at legal firms. Last year in Sydney two legal secretaries were sacked after a nasty email exchange that also found its way into the inboxes of hundreds of unsuspecting office workers, sparked by a missing ham and cheese sandwich – which is as good an argument for veganism as it gets (sorry, couldn't resist!).

I suppose we should be pleased that this seems to be one area of mainstream culture that GLBTI people haven't yet become embroiled in, but on the other hand, like most things, we can probably do it so much better. If Ms Bashari thinks a tame email like the one from Dale is "disgusting", she should thank her lucky stars she's not a lesbian or else she'd have been more likely to have received the following: "Wanna be my fuck buddy, darlin'? I've got 10 strap-ons of all shapes and sizes with your name on them, and my exes Sarah, Louise, Sandra, Alana, Roxy, Sue and Marianne all said you were a brilliant shag and a total screamer so I reckon we should get it on."

And turning down the Sapphic author of such an email would put things into perspective for Ms Bashari: "What do you mean you don't want to shag me, you uptight bitch? You fucking smiled at me the other night. If I were any other dyke, the removal van would have been waiting outside your apartment. But I'm not the possessive sort – I just want to fuck you occasionally. But you can't even give me that. No wonder my exes all said they dumped you 'cos you're a manipulative cunt." Now that's a 'dating disaster'. Got that, Ms Bashari?