Re-opening the prostitution debate: it’s time to make women safer

France is the latest European country to aim for a “society without prostitution”. The proposal to make it a crime to purchase any sexual service (alongside Sweden, Norway and Iceland) has stimulated public debate regarding the most appropriate legal framework for responding to prostitution.

In Australia, laws governing prostitution vary across the states and territories. From complete decriminalisation (New South Wales), to licensing and regulation of legal brothels (Victoria, Queensland, Australian Capital Territory), to allowing private and escort services but not brothels or street work (Northern Territory and Tasmania), to a primarily criminal approach (South Australia and Western Australia). Given this range of legal experiments affecting the lives of (primarily) women in the sex industry in Australia, it is also time to re-open the prostitution debate here.

Read more on The Conversation…

Book Release- ‘Domestic Violence: Australian Public Policy’

Thirty years ago, the New South Wales Task Force on Domestic Violence identified domestic violence as ‘a deep-seated national problem’. Advertising campaigns in the intervening years have advised us to say ‘no’ to violence and explained where, if we experienced domestic violence, we could get assistance. However, we know that domestic violence has not been eliminated.

Today, around a third of women experience violence from their partner, but has violence been reduced? What policies and programs have been put in place to tackle the problem? This book provides some answers to these questions. Suellen Murray and Anastasia Powell review public policy responses to domestic violence in Australia. They consider how domestic violence has been understood and the policy approaches that have been taken.

This book is a foundational text which illuminates and questions our responses to domestic violence in Australia. It will be a ‘must read’ for all those working in the domestic violence field internationally.
– Professor Cathy Humphreys, University of Melbourne 

An important and timely contribution to the field ofdomestic violence policy.
– Heather Nancarrow, Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research

Read more at Australian Scholarly Publishing…

Sex, power, and the real problem with ‘raunch’

It has been called the ‘Age of Raunch’, ‘Generation Sex’, the age of the S.L.U.T (Sexually Liberated Urban Teen); so-called ‘raunch culture’ is a recurring theme of recent media and public debate.

Raunch culture, or the sexualisation of culture, is of course one part of a whole range of social changes that we’ve seen post the 1970s ‘sexual revolution’, and certainly many of those changes have been positive.

They’ve been associated with greater access to information about sexual health for example, and a somewhat greater acceptance of diverse sexualities. We can certainly talk more openly about sexual issues now than perhaps we could several decades ago.

Indeed, many claim raunch culture is itself representative of women’s newfound sexual freedom; evidence that the equality feminism fought for has been achieved.

In our current culture, everything about raunch – we’re told – is empowering for women. Stripping is empowering for women; pornography is empowering; exposing one’s naked body in public à la Lady Gaga is empowering; female elite athletes’ posing nude for FHM and Sports Illustrated magazine is, again, empowering.  All of these examples, we’re told, show women that they can be comfortable in their bodies and with their sexuality.

Engaging in raunch is taken to prove that you are liberated. After all, isn’t enjoying this new sexual freedom what women’s equality has been all about?

There is however another interpretation of raunch culture as a kind of ‘faux empowerment’ or ‘the new sexism’, and the emphasis on so-called liberation, on ‘free choice’, is part of its allure.

Read more at The Scavenger…

Book Release- ‘Sex Power and Consent’

Sex Power and Consent

Sex, Power and Consent

Youth Culture and the Unwritten Rules



1. Introduction: rewriting the rules?
2. Generation y: problematic representations of ‘youth’ and ‘sex’
3. Sex: the ‘new’ rules of engagement
4. Power: framing sexual violence in young people’s everyday encounters
5. Consent: negotiating consensual sex
6. Technology: unauthorised sexual images and sexual violence
7. Education: sex, power and consent in schools
8. Prevention: policy, programs and practical strategies
9. Conclusion: rewriting the rules, preventing sexual violence

Reviews of ‘Sex Power and Consent’

‘ … this is a terrific book: really well-written and very engaging, full of useful, cogently expressed ideas about what is going on with young people and sex right now and how things might be improved. It has the capacity to make an important intervention and a strong impact, in part because it moves so well across fields and therefore has a wide readership, and in part because it addresses so many pressing current issues … The strongest aspects of the book are its topic and the freshness, openness and interdisciplinarity in its approach, its fantastic readability, and its careful attention to the discursive regimes within which young people operate as sexual actors.’

-Anita Harris, Associate Professor and Deputy Director, Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies, University of Queensland

‘Post-Feminist’ or ‘Pro-Rape’ Culture?

We have been described as living in a post-feminist age: a time of “girl power” where young women are empowered to negotiate sex on their own terms. Today’s young women (like many young men) are free to actively embrace their sexuality, and to put their bodies on display without fear of sullying their reputation or experiencing sexual taunts and violence. They aim to determine their own reality and reject constructs imposed by society’s expectations.

The F-word has long been described as irrelevant to today’s young woman, who avidly exclaims “I’m not a feminist, but …”

“But …” is right. In last Monday’s edition of The Age (November 9, 2009) it was reported that a group of past and present students of the University of Sydney had set up a “pro-rape” page on Facebook describing themselves as “anti-consent”. Yet the public Facebook site (which has since been closed down) is apparently just one part of a larger counter-culture that is associated with the sexual assaults of several young women.

Read more at Online Opinion…

We’re Just Not That Into It

Within 10 minutes of watching the newly released film He’s Just Not That Into You, we had given out our names and telephone numbers to a hot looking man and been checked-out by several others. Of course, the telephone numbers were to secure a table in a busy Melbourne restaurant and the men checking us out were old enough to be our fathers. Reality? Check.

Of course women everywhere are not lining up in the cinemas or cramming into plush velvet seats for a dose of reality – they are lining up in the cinemas and cramming into plush velvet seats to escape from the reality of dating, millennium-style. What they get is an hour and a half of Hollywood gloss smeared over the all too real and highly gendered stereotypes and “unwritten rules” about love, sex and relationships that cause both men and women everywhere daily confusion – sometimes with tragic results.

Read more at Online Opinion…