There are two models of the universe. One that it expands forever, slowly winding down to a zero energy state. The other is it starts to contract, and as it does, time and events speed up until everything happens at once.
Thus, the universe of Australian conservatives. The hard-right slowly takes over the Liberal Party, just as the party’s social base becomes more socially progressive; Andrew Bolt ties on a bandanna and goes to war against The Australian; Tony Abbott hands out his books to random schoolkids like an Opus Dei Hare Krishna; the most recent high-profile speaker is flushed; the leader of the National Party is on track to lose his seat; the right’s most prominent climate denialist is binned by his constituents; Miranda Devine calls out colleagues as “delusional”, and, as the daughter of a News Corp lifer who writes about entitled elites, she should know. Their economic program in ruins, the right is reduced to guerrilla warfare, hiding in the undergrowth to attack the rear columns, such as Safe Schools — admittedly a dimwitted piece of cultural engineering masquerading as a tolerance program — and other flotsam of the current culture. It’s the strategy of a defeated movement that believe they will eventually emerge from the countries to march into the cities. They won’t. They think they’re Mao’s army, but they’re more like the FARC, squatting in the jungle, living off Rupert’s marching powder.
In that jungle, mutant stinking orchids bloom to great size, and that brings us to Jennifer Oriel, who has become the point person for the most outlandish cultural-political attacks (Maurice Newman appears to have been retired, just as we turned him into a verb; perhaps he now washes his hands so many times a day that he cannot complete an article). Oriel has seized on part of the “Teaching Respectful Relationships”, an admittedly equally dimwitted part of the whole Safe Schools phalanx, whose aim appears to be to make (pre-)adolescent sexuality so scripted, governed, authorised and shaped by authority at the tween stage that no trace of spontaneity or illicit pleasure remains for the poor kids. That should be the shocking thing — that it’s a social care sector power play. Instead, Oriel is shocked that schools might “sexualise” 12-year-olds, to which the obvious response is (excuse technical jargon): “Are you shitting me, lady?”
The Teaching Respectful Relationships program encourages tweens to think about relationships in a reasonably active way. If parts of it are silly, I reckon they’re silly in a consumerist and neoliberal fashion — they invite kids to be self-managing consumers of sexuality, rather than subjects of desire and passion. The idea that they sexualise tweens is so farc-in stupid that only a conservative could believe it. By the age of 12, most tweens have seen hundreds of hours of highly sexualised media, been targeted by fashion chains shamelessly playing to the desire of children to be older than they “are”, and many have seen online porn. School programs respond to that reality, not to the Pollyanna fantasy that the right needs to undergird its politics.
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If Oriel wants to delve into the sexualisation of children, she should take a look at popular culture. Take Fox Network (proprietor: R. Murdoch) for example. Among the wholesome products of this network are: the Teen Choice Awards, which has featured the schoolgirl porn One More Time video of Britney Spears, the Dirty video of Christina Aguilera, Robin Thicke, of Blurred Lines fame, and of course Rihanna. Fox also produces Family Guy, the cartoon that features Stewie, a baby who is also a promiscuous homosexual with a taste for rough trade, and housewife Lois, who is occasionally romantically entangled with the family dog, Brian. Fox also shows Glee, which has done more for queer adolescents than a dozen Safe Schools programs. Why is the market so keen to sexualise tweens? Because it relies on finding new cultural territory to commodify. So it pushes the boundary of sexual identity further and further, without real regard for any havoc it might cause. School programs are one way of helping kids sort out the barrage of supercharged messages that come from the private sector, and of the Murdoch empire, which cross-subsidises loss-making parts of it, like The Australian. Why does Jennifer Oriel need cross-subsidising by Rihanna? Because what she offers has no capacity of finding its own market. Oriel, that is. Rihanna’s right-wing soft porn empowerment makes bank, and any News Corp columnist who questioned its ethics would find herself without an audience very quickly.
But please, Oriel, sing on, little bird! You feed the right’s delusions weekly. Every parent who has seen what a 10-year-old watches, clicks on and uploads, knows you are full of shit. By perpetuating this fantasy conservatism, you contribute to this extraordinary situation where the weakest Labor Party in memory is competitive. You and your ilk hurry the right on to total entropy and decomposition. Or, as Graham Kennedy’s once shocking and sexualising bird call had it, FARC! Faaaaaaarc!