Sexual burdens

Sexual burdens

Speaking Secrets: Sex and Sexuality as Public Property

by Sue Joseph

Alto Books, $24.95 pb, 229 pp, 9781921526183

In Speaking Secrets, academic and journalist Sue Joseph looks at what happens when sex becomes ‘public property’, and interviews a range of Australians who have had often traumatic sex and sexuality-related experiences aired to a wide audience through the media. Some of her interviewees are well known, others are not. Several discuss their experience of sexual abuse, either as a victim or as the relative of a victim. There is an interview with David Cunningham, the Greens candidate who has argued that ‘disabled people need sex lives’. Cunningham (who has cerebral palsy) has stated that people with disabilities should have access to sex workers. There are interviews with the transgender lawyer Rachael Wallbank and the Reverend Dorothy McRae-McMahon, a Uniting Church minister who came out as a lesbian in 1997. In one amusing moment, McRae-McMahon finds herself discussing anal sex during her conversation with Joseph in a Sydney café.Speaking Secrets is situated in the field of literary journalism. Reading Joseph’s evocative prose, the reader almost feels as if he is eavesdropping on the interviews. Still, the author leaves much to the imagination (I will discuss one instance of this). There is not a cliché or a superfluous word in the book.

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Published in March 2013 no. 349
Jay Daniel Thompson

Jay Daniel Thompson

Jay Daniel Thompson lectures in the Media and Communications program at the University of Melbourne. For information on his research achievements, see his website:

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