In God’s gift to double entendre-loving sub-editors throughout the nation, earlier this week, at a dinner in Canberra to mark the climax of the Australia New Zealand Climate Change Forum, a female burlesque troupe was asked to withdraw after only ten minutes of their planned 45 minute routine met with audience disapproval. Thus The Age ran with the headline Big Bang Theory while The Daily Telegraph reported that the aptly named Rebecca Gale, the dancer at the centre of the storm, had defended her act, saying that the balloon-popping incident had been blown out of proportion. So many puns, so little column space.

Heavens only knows how the sub-editors missed the comment from performer Jane Kealy, who plaintively asked, “Why is it any different to hiring a ventriloquist?” Good question, Jane. Let’s see – a ventriloquist projects their voice with one hand stuck up the bottom of a puppet. I don’t know whether orifices and hands were involved in your act but as it featured Ms Gale, attired in fishnet stockings and a corset, inviting audience members to pop the outer layer of red balloons that she was wearing, I’m not entirely sure that I want the details.

For a psychology graduate from ANU, Gale showed an alarming lack of perspicacity, as she continued on, “It’s not like we were doing full nudity etc and simulating sexual acts … I find the reactions really bizarre…”

There’s no doubt that the primary difference between a cabaret-style burlesque performance and a regular strip show is that in the former sexuality takes a back seat to humour. But when it comes to public displays of sexuality, context is paramount. A Government-sponsored function for an industry that struggles to recruit females is not an appropriate venue. Neither is the boardroom of Melbourne law firm Madgwick’s, where a week ago, a partner’s 40th birthday was reportedly celebrated by having a stripper perform.

I know that it’s a difficult concept so repeat after me: sexual performances in workplace, bad. Indulging in consensual, non-exploitative adult forms of entertainment in your own private time and space is fine. Dress up as Dr Karl and perform obscene experiments with your Bunsen burner for all I care. Just don’t do it at work and expect everyone to be entertained.

Peter Fray

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