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Oct 12, 2012

Those Slipper texts and a life of decision in women's mags

Crikey's publisher (and former women's magazine editor) wasn't personally affronted by the Peter Slipper text message -- but it is entirely understandable many people were.

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I was asked if I was offended by the Peter Slipper private text that likened a v-gina to an unshelled mussel.

The very idea of it took me back to the days of the Cleo and Cosmo sealed sections, with entire 16 pages jammed full of images of female g-nitalia or p-nises of all sizes and shapes. They had to be sealed, not because the images were offensive to the readership but because they may have caused offence to anyone casually flicking through at the newsagent.

I wasn’t personally affronted by that particular text message in the context of all the alleged indiscretions of the former speaker. But it is entirely understandable that many people were.

The point of it for me is this: he is a man who doesn’t admire the female body and that’s OK with me. There are many women who similarly are not fans of the male form. We like what we like. Is it damaging to the reputation of his office to have this particular detail revealed about him? No. Is it an issue that he describe a v-gina in those graphic terms with what was clearly a negative sentiment? Well, yes if it becomes accessible to the public, for the same reasons described in the sealed section example above.

I was once asked if I would be comfortable allowing a magazine to run a cover photo of a man with an obviously erect p-nis. It was about seven years ago when I was being interviewed for the board of the Office of Literature and Film Classification. Part of the rigorous process in sorting the reasonable from the unhinged was to attend an experiential day. We were shown movies, videos, photographs and video games and asked to rate them with an accompanying explanation. The items were mostly borderline p-rnographic (with some horrific exceptions that — I thought — were beyond p-rnography) and they were keen to see which side of the socially acceptable line we were on.

I don’t mind admitting the day’s events traumatised me, even though I had been desensitised to all manner of g-nitalia of both genders via my previous women’s magazine experience. It wasn’t what things looked like that troubled me, it was the messages that the scenes were conveying. We were treated to the likes of misogyny, r-pe, p-dophilia and bondage. I rated and reported with a mixture of anger, horror and sadness.

With regard to the erect p-nis cover try, my decision was that it wasn’t a goer unless it was sold in a brown paper bag (defeating the purpose of the cover). I didn’t decide that because I’m a prude. My concern was with the consequences of the accidental viewer. Children, for example, do not need to see that.

And young girls who are already body conscious do not need to see Peter Slipper’s thoughts on their body either. The issue, of course, is that the text messages were private. But he is a public figure and at the time had a key Parliamentary role so should have behaved better. Perhaps we could put our politicians through the experiential day that I went through before we elect them, just to be sure.

In case you were wondering, I must be on the acceptable side of socially acceptable because I was deemed suitable to join the board.

*This article was originally published at Women’s Agenda

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