Our friends at Subterranean Books are hosting Dr. Lauren Rosewarne on her cross country book tour. A Lecturer with the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne and author of Part-Time Perverts: Sex, Pop Culture, & Kink Management, we’re excited to welcome Lauren and give her a warm Midwestern welcome!
Kendra Holliday: What does the word “pervert” mean to you?
Dr. Lauren Rosewarne: Such a difficult question! After writing a book on the topic, the word really doesn’t have a single meaning for me anymore – the word changes its meaning entirely depending on context.
If forced for a succinct answer, I’d say a pervert is someone whose sexual behavior differs from what society generally considers as normal or vanilla. This can encompass everything from homosexual behavior to a fondness for reading incest-themed pornography through to dabbling in dress-ups and everything in between.
KH:Here in the Midwest, we are pretty conservative. What are some of the differences when it comes to sex in St. Louis vs Sydney?
LR: I’m actually from Melbourne which is Sydney’s foodier, artsier sister 😉 Sydney though – largely because of the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras – has a very gay-friendly reputation. That said, like in Melbourne and like presumably in St. Louis, there are pockets where everything is fine and fun and fantastic in an all-inclusive way and there are awful pockets which are ultra-conservative and avoided.
One thing Australia doesn’t have that the US does however, is the very strong, very vocal, very right-wing Christian conservative lobby. We do have right-wing Christian conservatives in Australia but their political clout is much weaker than in the US. Something we can be very, very thankful for!
KH: When do you think children should be taught about sex? I saw an Australian report that suggested 2 yrs was a good time to start. In St Louis sex ed starts in schools at 9 yrs of age, in the form of a falsely cheery video about puberty.
LR: I would argue that age-appropriate sex education needs to start as soon as possible. By age-appropriate I simply mean information that is digestible for little kids and progresses in detail as they go through their school years. I am doing research on menstruation at the moment and it is thoroughly inconceivable for me to read accounts of girls getting their first period in the US in the 21st century and who have had no prior knowledge of it beforehand. How does this happen? No, it’s not entirely the problem of the education system, but I would argue that informative, accurate sex education is every bit as fundamental to the curriculum than maths or geography. Something that should also be supplemented with sex education through parenting.
KH: Why are people so scared yet captivated with sex?
LR: More so than anything else, sex has a lot of baggage. It’s the perfect storm of pleasure and stigma and taboo and guilt and cultural mythology. Add to this the media and religion and popular culture and it’s no wonder that we’re all obsessed and frightened and fascinated!
KH: Why are so many people scared of the female nipple? Or, why do so many find it to be 1000 times sexier than a male nipple?
LR: The cultural fascination with breasts is complicated, but an important distinction between women’s nipples and men’s is their role in lactation. The sexual connotations of breasts and their role in breastfeeding makes for one very complicated source of arousal. People are often most aroused by the things that have strong elements of paradox.
KH: That androgynous model in Australia who was topless on a magazine cover and it was deemed obscene – why? Because his body was a little too feminine? Is that conveying a message that a masculine body is ok, but a feminine body is obscene?
LR: I think the controversy about the Andrej Pejic magazine cover was more so a pre-emptive strike made by the bookstore for fear that some audience members might make the mistake that the magazine featured a very young naked woman rather than an adult man. The interest, as well as the furore, about Andrej Pejic rests upon very fixed ideas about what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman and how they should respectively look.
Pejic muddies these ideas thus making him a fantastic marketing tool for the fashion industry but also a figure of scorn for conservatives. For those interested, I wrote an article about Andrej Pejic recently, as well as made some comments in two newspaper interviews here and here.
KH: I wish sex could be demystified more, as it would lead to a healthier attitude. Here in the states, all the sex portrayed on television is so raunchy and dangerous. How can we change the focus on sexuality to be more respectful?
LR: Television and cinema doesn’t really exist to provide a window on reality. This means that we tend to see exaggerated portrayals – sex that is more dangerous and raunchier than most of us have on a regular basis, or ridiculously conservative that makes a lot of us gag. My first book, Sex in Public, was on advertising and explored the very stereotyped way women are portrayed in advertising in Australia; generally as young, thin, white and idle.
The fact that most women don’t fit this narrow aesthetic leaves a lot of women feeling that they are unattractive. In the book I called for a more diverse range of models in advertising to present women in the full spectrum of their appearances. We really need the same thing to happen with sex: presentations that show sex in all its diversity, rather than white-washed or sensationalist portrayals.
KH: We just had a SlutWalk here in St Louis July 16. What’s your stance on the worldwide movement that originated in Toronto this past Spring?
LR: I’m not huge fan of the word “slut”, I am however, very enthusiastic for people to be knowledgeable about the reality that people – men and women – should be able to dress however they like without fear that they will be seen to contribute to their own sexual assault. For those interested, I did some media about the slutwalks held in Australia: an article I wrote about it can be found here, a radio interview I did can be listened to online here, and some of my print media comments can be found here.
KH: Every Australian I meet is very good looking. What do you have to say about that?
LR: Evidently you’ve been very lucky 😉 There’s 22 million of us, and we pretty well cover the spectrum of tall and short and fat and thin and symmetrical and not so.
Meet Lauren August 18 at 7pm at Subterranean Books as she discusses and signs her book, Part-Time Perverts: Sex, Pop Culture, & Kink Management.