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Market value

Sometimes I find myself thinking how much my employment value on the jobs market has fallen since I dropped out of the IT industry. So I console myself by considering how much my salvage value on the organ transplant market has risen since I cleared my hepatitis C.

I’m asset rich!


Consent for sale

I must be insecure about my opinions or something. There’s some things I don’t feel comfortable talking about unless my position and what I imagine to be my qualifications are on the table from the outset. This is one of those things. No, this is two of those things.

In the early 80s I shared an inner Sydney flat with a steadily changing group of sex workers. Sex work was still illegal in NSW and all the brothels in and around Kings Cross were run by Abe Saffron, Big Jim Anderson and Abe’s daughter, Melissa, while street work was controlled by corrupt police. ‘Corrupt police’ was a tautology, partly because of their lucrative oversight of the sex trade. Since then I’ve been a supporter of sex workers’ rights and the decriminalisation of sex work, a stance I think has been amply vindicated by the outstanding success of two decades of decriminalisation in this state.

In the late 90s and early 2000s I was part of a group trying to find community based responses to sexual assault that didn’t involve the legal system. While we respected the rights of those affected to turn to police, courts and prisons we knew from our criminal justice work they often made things worse for victims, offenders and the community as a whole. So we tried to apply our theoretical knowledge of restorative justice programs in Australia and overseas to the all-too-frequent sex offences committed within the Sydney progressive activist community.

At the time I was acting as an advocate for convicted sex offenders in the NSW prison system and as a consultant in sex offence trials and sentencing submissions. I was delivering conference presentations on the unimpressive and disturbing outcomes of prison based sex offender rehabilitation programs and giving guest lectures on sex offending at Sydney universities. I sure knew how to talk about it and thought I was ready to start listening. It didn’t go so well. Outcomes were mixed, though probably better than could have been expected from the justice system, but the emotional toll on participants was high. It soon collapsed in a pyre of burn-outs. What I brought away from it – apart from a load of vicarious trauma – was a far more nuanced notion of what constituted sexual consent and perhaps more understanding than I was ready for of the impact breaching it can have on both victims and offenders.

So to get to the point. About consent. And sex work.

A Brisbane sex worker has recently rethought her insistence that a client who cheated her had also raped her by fraudulently obtaining consent in exchange for a payment that didn’t eventuate. As is so often the case with women in general and sex workers in particular, her views and experiences are being largely ignored in a barrage of responses from various entrenched ideological positions. In what some may see as an example of strange bedfellows, feminist academics and sex worker advocates have aligned in furious agreement that fraudulently obtained consent is no consent at all and any resultant sexual activity is therefore rape.

I think she’s right and they’re wrong.

Some may see this as similar to the case in Israel in which a Jewish woman brought rape charges against an Arab man who had obtained consent while supposedly pretending to be a fellow Jew. Even setting the racism aside, I’d disagree. If misrepresenting yourself to potential sexual partners is a criminal offence a lot of us are in trouble. Wouldn’t that make false breasts probable cause?

I think it arises from a transactional view of sex not so different from the old ‘break it and you’ve bought it’ notion of female chastity that once drove so many into loveless marriages; that women only agree to sex in exchange for something else. I know there’s plenty of people of all political persuasions who tacitly or explicitly endorse that outlook but I’m enough of a romantic to believe they’re in a minority. And though I can appreciate that being cheated out of a quid pro quo might be rape to them and should be treated as such on a personal level, I don’t think public policy or criminal law should be enforcing it as a social norm. When sex is a commodity rape becomes property crime.

But what’s the point really? There’s never been much sign of rationality or humanity in the way society deals with breaches of accepted sexual behaviour and nothing I can blog is gonna change that. Or was it open, informed public debate that finally ended sex work criminalisation in NSW?

Whys and wherefores

Questions don’t have answers. Not really. They remain unresolved or collapse into themselves or expand to take in everything there is.

Maybe that is the answer.

we are the world

“storms, dissolution, chaos, insanity”
said the world to my mind
it responded in kind

Reckoning with risk

I lifted the title from Gerd Gigerenzer’s excellent 2003 layman’s and professional’s guide to understanding probability and statistics. If you want to get your head around whether an expert witness is boggling a court with misleading figures or what the numbers say about your chances of getting cancer or winning big in a game show this book is the go-to guide. I found it particularly revealing that with a world full of examples Gigerenzer chose Australia’s breast screening ‘education’ leaflets to illustrate how medical authorities present data deceptively in order to justify large expenditure on public health programs of no proven benefit. Naturally drug companies are the masters of such statistical sleight of hand and Gigerenzer exposes some of their favourite tricks too – though not as comprehensively as Ben Goldacre does in Bad Pharma.

But this post isn’t about anything as important as drugs or DNA or winning at cards. It’s about lawn mowing. Well, OK, I’m talking about the most religiously adhered to ritual in Australian suburbia so I guess it is pretty important. But as the preferred tool for the job is a wheeled, bladed, two-stroke torture device designed for maximum noise and fumes so that your grass disciplining virtue can be signalled to all your suffering neighbours there’s nothing here for the majority of my fellow Australians. Because I use a Chinese mower. An electric one. It’s quiet and doesn’t stink and it’s possible to mow the back yard without the family three doors down even knowing. Stealth mowers are just one of the technologies we Chinese agents and Russian bots are using to undermine sacred Western values. Except that right now I can’t use it.

Next week the rental agents will carry out one of the periodic property inspections which ignore the chronic maintenance issues the owner is meant to attend to and focus instead on whether tenants are keeping windows clean and lawns neat. Although the landlord doesn’t care, the grass is now long enough to upset the agent even if I don’t hide rubber snakes in it before she arrives. But I don’t want to cut it.

For the past week it’s rained every day for most of the day. According to the weather bureau that’s not set to change soon. There’s nothing in my mower manual warning against using it in the rain and I’ve heard no reports of people found dead beside their electric mower. But even with rubber soled sand-shoes I just can’t bring myself to stand on wet ground while pushing a 1500W electric engine through soggy grass.

Do you think Gerd Gigerenzer would understand?

The hoodoo scoob


This pic comes from a Guardian article about Canadian cannabis law reform. It’s credited ‘Arindam Banerjee/Rex/Shutterstock’ and there’s no indication it’s been altered.

Now, have I been smoking too much or is that guy blowing a smoke skull?
And is that a poppy head drifting past his hood?

Caveat emptor

Of course no-one reads the EULA.
Would we have been born if we read EULAs?

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