Saturday, July 28, 2012

Time to get down and sordid in sexually sinful debauched Sydney, with the help of Sydney Anglicans...

(Above: photograph by a friend of Dorothy).

The pond happened to notice this bit of art work in Newtown square, a vibrant hub, always full of dynamic looking people going about their slacker hipster business ... as you can see.

The art's gone now, wrenched from its super glue moorings, perhaps by some passing Moore College student, outraged that a work of fiction should be labelled a work of fiction ...

That's the bad news, as once again Newtown artists and art suffer a kind of Beeldenstorm or iconcoclastic fury.

Or maybe an evil secularist prised it free, and it now lives in a loving new home.

Who knows, but the good news is that, after a lengthy pre-coital tease, Michael Jensen has broken his silence, and resumed his series on the Sins of Sydney with an epic part five, Smutty Little Secrets.

Jensen cheats a little by starting off his piece with the complete lyrics of Richard Clapton's Girls on the Avenue, a paean of praise about the joy of shopping for girls in big store windows.

What a pity he couldn't also find room to acknowledge Clapton's commitment to atheism, and his lyrics for Head Full of Rain:

In my youth I was an activist
Infant terrible and an atheist
But nowadays I've got my wife and kids
I've got to feed them everyday.

Bummer dude, should have stuck to shopping for girls on the avenue, but never mind, the real news is that Michael has discovered Sydney has brothels, and some of them are big, astonishing really, and setting Sydney apart from most big cities around the world (you know, like Amsterdam, which is just so elegant, with shop window boutiques).

How this is news we'll leave to Michael - since you simply have to read the advertisements in the back of the Daily Terror and the local free rags thrown over the fence to find a brothel - because the really exciting news is that the pond and he are kissing cousins.

Well not so much kissing, as Camperdown neighbours:

In May last year it was announced that Camperdown, less than a kilometre from where I live, was about to get Australia’s largest brothel ...

Less than a kilometre. Howdy doody neighbour, how's it hanging, as we once used to say in Tamworth.

The scale of the proposal shocked locals, but perhaps they should not have been so surprised: after all, there are a number of legal brothels operating not very discreetly in the same area, as they are all over inner western Sydney.

Well actually it might have shocked a few locals, apparently unaware that prostitution has a long and honourable history, since the days of Judah in Genesis 38, who mistakenly thought it was okay to do the double backed routine with his daughter in law - not knowing who she was -and got her pregnant.

Back then, as you can read here, the asking price for a harlot was a kid from the flock, but a surety of a signet, bracelets and a staff was enough to get things going. Once the whoredom was discovered, it was time to burn the harlot, while the man could just moan about the perfidy of women, in the approved Sydney Anglican style.

As befits this track record, Jensen is firmly in the 'no' camp, without wanting to actually say so:

Herein the problem: legalization ends up becoming endorsement. In the end the government becomes the pimps. No-one wants to go back to making prostitution a dangerous business for women. However, so successful has the campaign against wowserism and in favour of permissiveness been, that Sydney has lost the ability to say ‘no’.

No one wants to go back, but the Sydney Anglicans certainly don't want to go forward. Not that we want to send the harlots back onto the street, we just want the harlots to stop, because men don't know how to say no.

Well, tell that to Judah. He should have just said no, and lo, and so and thus and behold, the bible came to ruin Sydney by revealing that men and their dicks simply don't know how to say no, at least when they've got a signet and a staff, and a woman's willing to do the deal.

Moving along, Jensen zones in on one of the pond's favourite Sydney stories, the persecution and ruined career and social assassination of Sir Eugene Goosens, as performed by the smug, parochial, narrow-minded, bigoted inmates of the small town of Sydney in the nineteen fifties.

Goosens' wiki has more about the scandal here, and you can read more about Rosaleen Norton, the witch of the Cross, in her wiki here.

In other times it would have been a storm in a teacup, especially these days when suburban mums are given an approving tick by right wing ranting Janet "Dame Slap" Albrechtsen for racing off to read the truly awfully written Fifty Shades of Grey.

Norton wasn't much of an artist either ...

...but who can blame Goosens for wanting an alternative way of fucking in Sydney in the dull, tepid, flavourless, tea with lots of milk and three sugars please nineteen fifties ... by importing a few masks, a few sex toys, and some porn snaps as a guide to a little bondage?

That's only about five shades of grey, with a little witchcraft for sauce. (There's plenty more Norton out there, just google her name).

Anyhoo, Jensen notes how Goosens' career was ruined by the disgrace, without noting that the real disgrace, the crying shame, was the sanctimonious cluck clucking and tut tutting by closed-mind prudes and wowsers.

Goosens was a better conductor than composer (you can listen to his Oboe Concerto on YouTube here and maybe disagree) but he was a breath of musical fresh air in a staid, stolid, dull town, and what was done to him was criminal.

These days most people understand Goosens' was treated contemptibly, and scattered around the Opera House - which he proposed and initiated - are little tributes to a man way better than the dullard, clucking town in which he found himself. To label what happened to Goosens as a smutty little secret is surely a way too smart smutty little put down.

Next Jensen takes us on to the Bogle-Chandle affair, and that too he treats as a smutty little secret, when killing two people - no matter if they were consenting adults having a fling - is hardly smutty, so much as grotesque, though whether it was the natural result of swamp gas or by a killer's hand will probably never be sorted.

Sad and unhappy, perhaps, but a smutty little secret? Well it isn't much of a secret, since it's been trawled over for decades, as outlined in its wiki here, and in 2006 it was given yet another going over in the Film Australia documentary Who Killed Dr Bogle & Mrs Chandler (featuring the swamp gas solution).

The case shocked the narrow-minded petty bourgeoisie of Sydney, which no doubt included more than its fair share of Sydney Anglicans, because it offered the nineteen sixties a chance to do a re-run of the persecution and crucifixion of Goosens in the fifties.

This time it was arty crafty, smarty pants intellectuals and leftists - and who knows, perhaps even perverted commies - in the firing line.

For a start, entrance to the party where things started to go wrong involved providing some kind of art work. Here's what Bogle provided:

(found at this detailed site on the Bogle-Chandler case which will tell you possibly more than you want to know).

Say no more. Weird modern art! Smutty debauchery.

Throw in pretty girls, Chandler and Bogle going off for a sexual adventure - and she a married mother - and Geoff Chandler heading off with his own fling and being associated with the Sydney Push, and you can see why the small minds set to tut tutting. The lad even wrote a cheeky defiant book:

And Michael Jensen is still tut tutting today, as if people involved in a casual, intellectual lifestyle deserve to be murdered, and the murderer(s) get off scot-free.

Even if it was the swamp gas wot did it, it's hardly a fair punishment for a house-bound mother wanting a little adventure, with her husband's approval. By golly, by old testament standards, they were totally tame - think of King David scoring seven wives for starters ...

And if they were murdered, is it okay to to kill fornicators and adulterers? Real people, who died before their time?

What's the bet that, on this criteria, the Sydney Anglican congregation would be reduced by a significant number of people? Even then, the pond would flinch from slotting them into a smutty little secrets file (especially if they'd spent weeks on the front page selling tabloids).

And so we come to an even more bizarre notion, that somehow the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras should also be included in Jensen's examples of smutty little secrets.

Calling what's become a vast tourist exercise (to the chagrin of some of the originals) a secret makes no sense, apart from the opportunity it provides for some befuddled musing about Sydney being a gay city:

... perhaps the most interesting thing about the Mardi Gras is not that it is gay, but that it is about open sexual freedom. In contrast to the stories of Goossens and Bogle/Chandler, which are tales about Sydney’s surprise at the debauchery in its own midst, there is nothing secretive in the least about Mardi Gras. It is out, and proud.

Open sexual freedom? Shocking, shameful ...

But another example of of debauchery? Oh wash out your mouth with soap Michael Jensen. There's nothing debauched about Goosens, or poor Margaret Chandler, or clever Gil Bogle.

By all accounts, Ms Chandler was a charmer, and a serious loss to her family and friends.

If she was debauched, what are we to make of real debauchery, like pissing $160 million of church funds against the wall in a capitalist gambling spree? Or Bob Askin with his brown paper bags? Or Abe Saffron, aka Mr. Sin? Or James Packer flooding the town with casinos?

And really, do gay people need this sort of ambivalent condescension, which somehow automatically associates their sexuality with debauchery?

At least there is an honesty to it.

Yes, according to Jensen, gays are out and proud debauchees. Quick, bring a bucketload of soapy water, we might be needing it.

Why on earth would anyone - even a Sydney Anglican - contend that to be gay is be honestly debauched?

And Sydney Anglicans sometimes wonder why gays go into a frenzy when they're forced to endure this sort of caricatured stereotyping (it felt like it needed a double emphasis).

Not content with this level of abuse, Jensen ups the stakes:

Is it the hedonism of Sydney? With the waves lapping the coast line and the sun glinting off the waves it is pretty hard to stay too buttoned-up. It breeds an easy-going attitude that means that Sydney-siders, however conservative and suburban they are, are easy to convince with live-and-let-live arguments. And the argument that it generates a lot of cash – which it does – was always going to be decisive.

Cash and hedonism and easy going debauchery, and easy going Sydney siders living with the debauchery, as if gay old Sydney is somehow different, as if no other city has mardi gras or gays, and as if somehow gays aren't found inland, they're bred on (or migrate to) the coast, like flies to the debauched honeypot?

It's pure tosh and humbug. For all Jensen knows, the average gay, after a couple of days of partying, might head off to resume work as a bank clerk or a public servant, leading a dull suburban existence, with a faithful companion, occasionally casting a yearning eye at the trannies on the avenue (well we all like to stretch the concept of gender every now and then).

The upside?

After all this, the pond still thinks Michael Jensen might be for turning to the dark side. He loves to quote the music of known atheists - not just Clapton, but the likes of The Whitlams and Paul Kelly (not that bore at The Australian, the engaging singer-songwriter who celebrates the great aunts of Adelaide).

And Jensen certainly knows how to give out handy tips to Sydney Anglicans, like how to spot a brothel on Enmore or Parramatta road:

A clue: any shop that has a prominent street number but no other signage is probably one.

That's probably handy for NSW Labor right wingers too.

And he's happy to get down and dirty with the rest of sexually sordid Sydney:

Christians have got to learn a way of speaking about sexual behaviour that both a) condemns sexual sin and b) locates us among the sexually sinful, not above them.

Ah yes, scratch a Sydney Anglican, and you'll find plenty located amongst the sexually sinful, but how do they repent? Have they thought about adopting the art of wearing a cilice and indulging in some corporal mortification?

You get to repent and you get a nice little dash of BDSM in approved Janet "Dame Albrechtsen" style.

Anyhoo, Jensen ends the piece with a fine flourish of paranoia:

What can a Christian, who is also a sexual being, do in such a town? It is a city which by turns parades its sex addiction and keeps it a secret.

A secret? Like the way David Campbell kept it a secret?

This town loves its sex, always has done, since the first Irish bride ship, the Red Rover, landed in Sydney in 1832 with a load of Irish women fit to be married. And when you think about it, how brave and bold those Irish lasses were.

It can’t find a way to articulate a thoughtful response to the world of legal brothels. The total victory of sexual permissiveness and the pervasive doctrine of freedom means that any discussion of sexuality has morality already framed out of it. It is only with the rigorous application of statistical data that any ground can be gained against the sleaze of the city. It only talks in numbers.

Dear sweet absent lord, he's proposing to use statistics to battle sex.

Good luck with that. In the pond's experience, statisticians are amongst the most perverted groups doing the rounds, right up there with tax collectors, mathematicians, IT geeks and other number crunchers.

Look at Kinsey, he spent his time perfecting the art of sexual statistics (there's a bunch of them here at the Kinsey Institute). But was he content to collect the data and brood about gall wasps? No way, he was rumoured to be up to all sort of mischief, as you can read here.

It's quite possible that the one group to exceed the sinfulness of Sydney Anglicans is statisticians.

But then there's a sign of hope, of possible redemption of Jensen:

One of the pathologies of the discussion of a society sexual behaviour is how easily it becomes framed as an us-and-them discussion. It is too easy to point to the Mardi Gras and say ‘ooo, there’s a man in a g-string walking down Oxford St and I don’t like it’ than it is to say, ‘you know, the way I as a male treat women as sexual objects is the problem here’.

Indeed. And it is too easy, the way Sydney Anglicans are inclined to treat hapless Eugene Goosens, and dead Gil Bogle and poor Margaret Chandler and the entire gay population having a party as smutty little secrets, scandalous indulgers in debauchery.

But please, enough of the easy regret about the way Sydney Anglicans treat women as sexual objects and home bodies, and refuse to give them equal status in the church.

There's a simple solution - give them equal status - but here it's used as a way of not finishing that sentence about the man in a g-string properly.

Can the pond help out? How's this for a go?

It is too easy to point to the Mardi Gras and say ‘ooo, there’s a man in a g-string walking down Oxford St and I don’t like it’ than it is to say, ‘you know, I deeply regret the way I and other Sydney Anglicans continue to crusade against homosexuals and continue to argue for withholding from them the dignity of shared human companionship and marriage, preferring to caricature them as Sydney beach-side debauchee hedonists, and that's the problem here, because I look at the g-string too closely rather than see the human being wearing it. I'm not sure why I look at the g-string too closely, but I should remember that there's a human being wearing it, and if they want to get married and settle down to dull suburbia, heck, why not.

Oh and Sydney Anglicans treat women as sexual objects as well, rather than allowing them equal status in the church, and I do so hope that the next Anglican Archbishop of Sydney will be a woman.

Or some such thing. Easy peasy.

All the same, what a corker of a column it was, well worth the wait, and so now the pond looks forward, with bated (and perhaps baited) breath to the next instalment.

With less of a teasing delay please! The pond can only stand so much neighbourly, sexually charged anticipation and teasing, instead of getting stuck right into it, with a thrust here, and a pulsating counter-point there ...

(Below: so here's how they decided to illustrate the sex in Sydney story at the Sydney Anglican site. With a soft, out of focus shot of the Harbour Bridge! They even left "smutty" and "sex" out of the title, refusing to admit that sex and the Lara Bingle bump sells!

Forget it Jake, it's smutty dirty old Sydney town, with men kissing women, or men, or women kissing women or men by the gas works wall near the old canal. So let the pond wrap it up with another Rosaleen Norton work, because this is the sort of thing you won't find on the Sydney Anglican site ...


  1. "If she was debauched, what are we to make of real debauchery, like pissing $160 million of church funds against the wall in a capitalist gambling spree? Or Bob Askin with his brown paper bags? Or Abe Saffron, aka Mr. Sin? Or James Packer flooding the town with casinos?"
    Dorothy everyone knows that any behaviour that involves money is not a sin for Sydney Anglicans. Sin for them is restricted to sexual activity... oh and breaking traditional 1950 gender stereotypes.

    1. I have addressed the city's greed already in other pieces. So I don't think this is fair at all.

  2. Well said Dorothy!

    Jensen says: “Christians have got to learn a way of speaking about sexual behaviour that both a) condemns sexual sin and b) locates us among the sexually sinful”, he does the condemning alright, but oddly neglects the locating. Can we help him on that one too? Here’s two incidents of which Jensen is only to well aware - one tragic, the other just plain weird.

    There was the sordid tale of the once Anglican Church League president and Papa Jensen patron Victor Cole. Not satisfied with a nasty campaign to deny women equal treatment in the church, he turned his misogyny to destroying the life of a 14 year old girl in his care. You can read the sad tale here:

    In 2008 John Woodhouse the head of Moore College wrote “there is a responsibility on a community like ours to do all that is reasonable to create a safe living environment for all who live and work among us. I see internet pornography as something in our environment that has become a serious problem”.

    As the cold spoon hadn’t worked he requested that all staff and students install a program creepily called ‘Covenant Eyes’. It logs all internet activity on your computer and sends it to be analysed by the Covenant Eyes company. They then send a monthly report which details the sites you visited, highlighting those which are ‘mature’ or ‘questionable’, to two people you nominate as your ’Accountability Partners’ whose job it is to ‘keep you accountable’.

    While there was quite some grumbling from the staff and students at the college, I did hear that Bob Gould, whose bookshop across from Moore College residences had long served the erotic needs of the college, was very pleased to have a return to pre-internet sales of gentlemen’s magazines.

  3. Interesting stuff Brian. While the link to the story of abuse is simply disturbing and depressing, the link to the Covenant Eyes pdf is a hoot, pure comedy gold. That such a thing should be.

    And it's an ill wind, to think that Sydney Anglicans would comfort Bob in his declining years. It's just not the same going into Goulds without Bob glowering from behind the counter. I was reminded of him while looking up the Sydney Push, where there's a photo of him in his anarchist prime, and it's good to see his wiki has now expanded:

    His efforts in bringing Australia up to date with the work of nineteenth century Aubrey Beardsley ... in 1969 ... is exactly the sort of thing a vigilant Covenant Eyes would guard against.

    And Anon's link to Phillip Jensen on Shame and Shamelessness is also a hoot. So many hoots, so little time.

    1. Gould had an interesting ambivalence to the Sydney Anglicans, which says something admirable about his personal and intellectual qualities. There are some of his thoughts in this article:

      Here’s the gist: he was contemptuous of Sydney Anglicanism in general. He said if asked to locate himself anywhere in the intellectual universe, he’d "usually have located himself as far opposite as you can get from Moore College evangelicalism”. He objected to their arrogant reactionary politics, ‘ferocious wowserism’, sexual bigotry, dogmatic biblical literalism and ‘blood curdling’ Calvinism.

      Despite this he had a personal fondness for many staff and students of the college he met in his shop and around Newtown. He found them amiable and thoughtful and had the impression that many of them quietly voted Labor. He liked that the college was not overtly divisive in the diversity of Newtown culture. He was particularly taken by the proportion of Asian students and anti-Asian racism at the college. He thought this a pleasing turn from the "fiercely British racist outlook of their immediate religious ancestors."

      I think these favourable experiences led Gould to hope that engagement with pluralist cultures such as found in Newtown could temper some of the conservatism, bigotry and homophobia of Sydney Anglicanism. It would be nice to share his optimism, but there is little to give confidence in such a hope. While many of the younger ones are careful to avoid overt bigotry in their public talk, misogyny and homophobia run deep in their Biblicism and theology and find uncontested expression in their anti-gay ministries and policies, their conservative political alliances and the profound sexism of their so-called ‘complementarianism’.

    2. Perhaps the human reality proved that the caricatures weren't true? But you'd never believe that.

    3. It seems, Brian and Anon, that you've brought Michael on to the pond. Let's hope he follows that link to Bob Gould, for which I thank you:

      (The Sydney Anglicans are also are located in a reasonably compatible way in Newtown, cheek by jowl with one of the largest gay communities in the southern hemisphere, and in a typical Sydney way all of these discrete Newtown communities seem to get on fine at a day-to-day level, despite all the overt differences between them. Three cheers for Sydney!

      Michael unfortunately entirely misses your point, which is surely that Bob Gould understood that Sydney Anglicans were people, and eating people is wrong. A pity the same doesn't apply to Sydney Anglicans when discussing the rights of women and gays ...

    4. Indeed Dorothy. It’s not individuals and ‘caricatures’ that are being differentiated here. It’s individuals and the institutionalised bigotry of their church. While the individuals may socialise day-to-day in a harmonious manner, their church maintains discriminatory policies against women, gays and lesbians. Until those individuals condemn those policies or leave their church they are complicit and accountable for the hurt and injustice that their church causes.

    5. You should be writing for the pond Brian. Logic and style at one.

  4. another great secret revealed around the time of the bogle/chandler tragedy was the relevation that the anglican church was exposed as sydney's leading slum lord, (how the lord must have approved of that back then).


Comments older than two days are moderated and there will be a delay in publishing them.