Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Oldest Profession

Advocates of prostitution put forward some weak arguments. The oldest profession in the world argument erroneously suggests that just because the practice exists and has done for a long time, it is automatically justified. Another says that more marriages would break up if not for sex services. A third says that the incidence of rape would increase if men couldn't pay for sex.These are fallacious arguments which are easily dismissed by virtue of simple logic.

The best argument in favour of prostitution is the exercise of free will in a free market economy. If an adult chooses to sell themselves for sex, we may question their motives, be perplexed about how anyone could do that, think it morally outrageous and wrong, but in the end we must allow the choice. If sex is simply another service, and the sale of it is legal, then what is the problem? Is anybody getting hurt? Is anybody being taken advantage of? Deceived? Defrauded? If a person chooses to pay for sex we must allow that choice as well, despite any moral objections we may have.

It could be argued that, like the sex worker, the labourer uses his body to make money, as does the sportsperson and the model. The labourer requires strength to carry out his duties, the sportsperson strength and skill, while the model requires beauty. The sex worker must have all three to execute their role and earn their rightful dues. Having sex with strangers for money is in every way, but one, the same as every other so called respectable job, isn't it?

Many argue that it's not the same because we are talking about the most intimate form of human relations and the most private expression of love, but obviously, sex, for many others, does not fit that description. Sex has other objectives. It can be incredibly selfish, and it can be harmful. It can be a tool which is used to achieve some other purpose besides the expression of love. It can be used as weapon. No matter how it is used, ultimately we are left with the argument that what consenting adults do in their private lives is their own business.

As a Christian I accept the Bible's teaching that the only moral context for sexual relations is marriage, which is defined as being between a man and a woman. In such an exclusive and committed relationship, love can be expressed through sex. Adultery is condemned, as is fornication and homosexual practice. One of the things I really love about the bible is that it not only talks about the way things should be, but also the way things are. The chasm between what is and what should be causes us humans to suffer emotional pain.

The bottom line is we must respect the right of others to make choices about how they live, how they work and how they play. This includes sex workers. The consequences of their choices may be unfortunate and regrettable, or not, but they still have the right to choose. God gave us all free will. People are amazingly complex and the reasons we do, or don't do certain things, are no less complicated.

I finish with a quote from a friend of mine, "Each person needs to consider their actions, beliefs and addictions for themselves. My role is not to judge them, rather to walk beside them as best as I can... To be God's hands and feet to all people. I'll leave judging to God."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The World' First Invisible Book Signing

Everything was in place. Newings book store in Dapto Mall had put posters up around their shop and on the counter, advertising that I was coming to the store in nine days time to meet people and sign copies of my novel, Devolution. Dapto Mall centre management also displayed these posters around the Mall. The local paper printed an article about me and my book on Thursday, and mentioned the fact that I would be appearing at Newings the following Saturday to meet, greet, sell and sign.

Each day of the week leading up to the in-store appearance, I expected a box of books to arrive. I wasn't panicking early in the week, even though the consignment was overdue. I was edging closer to something resembling panic on Wednesday, falling headlong into it on Thursday, and by Friday evening as I contemplated possible outcomes for the following day, I was freaking out. No books for the book signing.

In desperation I made a video titled, 'The World's First Invisible Book Signing", and posted it on Facebook and YouTube. I made an order form and filled most of the first page with the names of people who had already ordered copies, including the fact, in the last column, that they had already paid for their copy. I needed to have something tangible to give to people if I wasn't going to be able to hand them a physical book in exchange for their hard earned cash, so I printed out a little flier with a link to my blog on it, and also links to my 3 most recent short story publications.

Saturday morning, with an entire butterfly farm fluttering in my stomach, I arrived at Newings, met the staff, who were super supportive, positive and encouraging, and set up the podium out the front of the book shop. Opposite Woolworths supermarket. A good location and normally a busy time of day. It was 11am, and I had three hours to stand and smile, and chat and sell.

Friends and family came to offer support and hang out for a bit with me at the podium, in an effort to create some atmosphere of interest. Though they didn't conspire, they arrived at different times spread over the the few hours I was there. They paid for books they had already ordered and they bought copies, and most importantly they encouraged me. God knows I needed that support and encouragement.

I felt very awkward most of the time. Smiling and saying gidday to people, and trying to engage them in conversation. I didn't know whether to allow them to express interest and build on that, or to push hard and generate enthusiasm...hard sell. I don't know if my efforts were too weak, or just right. Newings staff said it went well, and I managed to sell a few copies to complete strangers, but in the end I was disappointed as I often am.

My problem is that I can't help dreaming and thinking big. It makes no difference how hard I try to rein myself in, to keep a lid on my emotions and my hopes. Reality itself often makes no difference. I'm a chronic dreamer. I may fear the worst, but I still hope for the best. Possibilities excite me. They make my head spin. As I write this, I feel excited. I'm already thinking about the next book store appearance, the next newspaper article, about getting into schools and libraries, about being interviewed on radio. I have a number in mind and I still believe that I can sell that many copies of Devolution, so I will persist with my crazy dreams being convinced that God has given me a talent for writing and that I should use that gift.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Pain is entertaining. Other people's pain, I mean. From the gladiators of ancient Rome who maimed or killed each other to amuse the spectators gathered in one of many arenas around the empire, to the modern day exponents of mixed martial arts who do battle inside cages while the UFC fans roar their approval, people have always enjoyed watching other people get injured.

It's the skill, the athleticism, the strength that we admire and love to watch, isn't it? Only partially. The truth is we like seeing other people get hurt. How else can the popularity of the Ultimate Fighting Championship be explained? Beginning quite recently in 1993, the UFC is the fastest growing sporting organization in the world, being broadcast to half a billion homes in 149 countries. 31 specific acts are considered foul play in UFC bouts,including headbutting and eye gouging, and the combatants don't use weapons,so it's relatively civilized conflict. Clearly not as barbaric as what the ancient gladiators engaged in, but it's still a bloodsport, isn't it? Two modern warriors trying to hurt each other to win money, and please the crowd.

We like other people's pain. How else can the popularity of arguably the worst show in the history of the television be explained? Funniest Home Videos serves up footage of people falling,crashing into things, being knocked over and suffering various mishaps which undoubtedly cause them some degree of pain and injury, and we laugh at them: have been laughing at them for decades. What's so funny about other people getting hurt? It's amusing because it's not us. It's not our suffering. We may feel empathy, or shock or disgust but we don't get hurt. We aren't the ones suffering so we laugh and cheer. It's sick, isn't it?

Maybe our obsession with the suffering of others is merely another one of our coping mechanisms. Another escape from our lives of misery and drudgery. Another anesthetic for our emotional and spiritual wounds which bleed continuously. Maybe we are all defined by suffering, both our own and that of other people. Maybe we are all broken, and as twisted as it may sound, we need pain, we may even want it. Maybe we are addicted to pain.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Keeping a Lid On It

It's not easy. I began my writing career in 1998 when I was gifted my first computer,(thanks again Darren)and I became familiar, very quickly, with the cycle of submit and be rejected. Editors say things like "we appreciate your interest in the magazine but your story is not quite right for us", "we appreciate the chance to read your story, unfortunately the piece is not for us", "after careful consideration we've decided we won't be able to use your story", and "we read your work but it wasn't a good fit for us at this time." Not all rejections are flat out rejections. Although adding fuel to the fire of frustration, some editors provide encouragement by praising what they liked about the story. They say things like, "Good idea", "well paced", "well written", "I loved the character", "I enjoyed it" etc, and then apologize that they won't be publishing it.I've written 71 short stories and had 11 of them published. That's 11 acceptances out of 252 submissions.

I've also written two novels. The first, Devolution was published as an e-book in 2009. I paid for that to happen and I did not recover my costs through sales. Nevertheless, it was an achievement. I had a product to sell and some supportive friends and family bought copies. Now Devolution is available in paperback and it cost me nothing to produce. It's called "print on demand" and I set it up with CreateSpace. When the proof copy arrived on my doorstep, I was stoked. The book was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. In a couple of weeks, I'll be appearing at the local bookstore to sell and sign copies of Devolution on the back of some publicity, including a feature article in the local newspaper. Like I said, it's not easy to keep on lid on my excitement. These small steps mean everything and nothing much at the same time. You can imagine my anxiety as I think of the in store appearance.

Will complete strangers buy my book? Why should they? Because they like the cover? The blurb? Because they want to support a local author? Will the appearance be a flop, leaving me to walk way with a box of unsold books? All writers have experienced rejection. All writers have had the fear that they are writing for themselves when what they desperately want is readers. Some writers become hugely successful, rich and famous...most writers have to keep their day jobs.I have to keep my day job which is okay because I actually love my day job...but I want to write and want people to read what I write. All I can do therefore, is try, struggle to contain my enthusiasm, keep writing and keep dreaming of eventual success.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Thing for Firemen

Former Australian Idol contestant, Paulini has released a new single called Fireman. I saw the video for it for the first time this morning on Rage while I was running on the cross-trainer. The song is about Paulini being hot and needing a fireman to cool her down. Very original. The clip features gym toned topless male dancers dancing and displaying their abs while wearing fireman pants. Paulini pouts, and touches herself and gyrates, as you do, while mouthing the very profound lyrics to the duff duff beat. I watched the whole video because, although I don't have a thing for firemen, Paulini looked good and she sounded good, and as far as dance pop songs go, it was pretty good.

I was thus inspired to write a philosophical treatise on fire; a discussion of the amorality of fire, and the various uses and misuses of it by humans and nature. I felt like waxing lyrical about the fearful and destructive power of fire, and how it both fascinates us and sometimes frightens us...but then I decided that I just wanted to mock women (and men) who have a thing for firemen.

"He's a fireman"...titter titter. "Ooh, look at his abs." "He can put his boots under my bed." "I hope he has a licence for those guns." "Wow, he's so handsome." "Come and rescue me big boy"...tee hee. Sorry, I have to run away and throw up now. Aren't you women embarrassed to talk like that? To gush and drool and giggle like school girls over some ridiculous fantasy of a hot fireman? If you've ever made one of the above statements about this allegedly sexy species known as firemen, or even if you've ever laughed along and blushed with your girls as you ogled the models in the firemen calendar, you should be ashamed of yourself. As Derryn Hinch used to say, "shame, shame, shame!"