When was the last time we heard a politician talk about sex in a positive way, without giggling like a little school boy from the front bench? Fiona Patten from the Australian Sex Party believes that sex is a vital part of our lives, and it’s about time that was a reflected on our political landscape. She speaks to Garrett Bithell.
When I call the office of Fiona Patten, spokesperson for the recently-formed Australian Sex Party, I am met with the engaged tone. When I finally get through, she apologises profusely.
“I’m so sorry – I’ve been trying to get my head around the difference between burlesque and striptease. We’ve decided that probably Fred Nile is the only one that doesn’t see a difference!” she laughs. I like this woman already.
In November of last year, Australia’s national adult industry association announced the launch of a unique new force on our political landscape – the Australian Sex Party. As convenor, Patten asserted that the party was a sign of the times and an acknowledgment of the importance and scope of sexual issues in ordinary people’s lives. Further, the party was a response to our rapidly changing political landscape, and the profound increase in recent years of ‘nanny state’ politics.
“We’ve just seen an incredible rise in socially conservative politicians in parliament,” Patten tells AXN. “Be that from Kevin Rudd through to Steve Fielding. We’re also seeing them have a lot more power. For example, the government needs Fielding’s vote on almost every issue. So that was certainly one of the reasons we felt there was a need for the other voice to be heard in those debates.”
However the precipitating factor of the party’s formation was Senator Conroy’s proposed internet filtering scheme, which is in live trials at the moment.
“The censorship of adult material has been steadily going backwards,” Patten says. “So what was legal in the late 80s is now illegal in 2009. For example what was allowed in the ‘X’ classification of film was far more relaxed in the late 80s than it is now. And I don’t think that is in line with the community. In fact, it’s absolutely the opposite.”
The problem, according to Patten, is the rise of the religious right. “Why is sex always negative?” she opines. “Be it sexuality, or sexual health, or just doing it – it is always given a negative connotation in politics. In that very Judeo-Christian way, it’s always something that needs to be controlled.
“We’ve seen the rise of the religious right in the US, and we’ve seen a similar rise of the religious right in Australia. If we use overseas aid funding as an example, we do not allow funding for health organisations that provide information about abortion or abortion services.”
Fred Nile’s recent proposed ban on topless bathing on Sydney’s beaches is another case in point. “Who would have thought that in 2009 we would be having a debate about whether we should be allowed to sunbathe topless?” Patten laughs. “What really got me was that Nile got the support of members of the Liberal party and the Labor party. Really they should have just told him to go put a hat on and get out of the sun!
“We’re more fearful about children today than we were 100 years ago. We are much more aware of child protection, but I think it’s gone too far. This notion of ‘corporate paedophilia’ last year – which I think was the precursor to the Bill Henson saga – and that the David Jones catalogues featured young girls in ‘provocative’ poses. I looked at those catalogues, and I thought ‘God, you have to have a really sick mind to think that’. It looks like a 12 year old on the beach to me.”
Moreover, the Australian Sex Party is about resisting ‘lowest common denominator’ politics. “For example, those people that say because a serial rapist read Penthouse, we should ban Penthouse,” Patten tells. “The fact that there were a million others who read Penthouse and committed no crime doesn’t seem to get into the equation.”
The Australian Sex Party is also a fierce supporter of gay marriage. “Again, the Australian Christian Lobby’s massive campaign that amending the Marriage Act to allow for gay marriage would be an affront to Christian belief. How?! It has nothing to do with the church – it has to do with us as a society recognising that people have full relationships and love, and we should not be judging people because of the person they love.
“At the Australian Sex Party, we want to take those incredibly conservative and religion-based arguments out of politics. I don’t care what God they believe in, as long as they’re not cramming it down my throat – and as long as that religious view is not blinding them from social good, which is what we’re seeing today.” Source: http://axnational.e-p.net.au