Ben Law and his mum Jenny Phang are here to save you from yourself with sage (and not-so-sage) advice to desperate lovers and sexual adventurers alike.
Speakers: Andrea Ho (A), Benjamin Law (B), Jenny Phang (J)
Location: National Library of Australia
Date: 11 May 2018
A: - broadcaster, I know I hired him for a few weeks, the imitable, the one and only Benjamin Law. And with Benjamin, the towering cultural icon, protagonist in such missiles as Shit Asian Mothers Say and the Family Law, producer of the next generation of cultural icon in the form of Benjamin there, the no nonsense go for broke, Jenny Phang. And me, hi, I'm Andrea Ho, ABC former broadcaster and producer and now I help get all of those things to air, which I suppose makes me back room.
A: Well, our text this evening for class is this fabulous tone, law school. Now in this particular case you can judge a book by its cover, the prose is pretty purple at times. Some of the contributions can leave you a bit green around the gills and there's a lot of pink bits. It's a compilation of the six advice columns written by Benjamin and Jenny for a periodical called the Lifted Brow. Did we have any Lifted Brow readers here? Hey in the front row too, fantastic. Anybody else, come on. Okay, there's - we're going to have a bit of audience participation this evening. At times we're going to ask you questions. There is no more room to be shy, there is no shame left in the building, is there?
B: But you won't be let out until you subscribe, so you can do that online.
A: Otherwise there'll never be another one of these columns. So, look, advice columns, right, there's a long persistent tradition of regular advice columns. I have to admit myself, I regularly check in with Dear Prudence on Slate. Back from when Prudie was Emily Yoffe but now to Mallory Ortberg, Daniel Mallory Ortberg as he is now.
I also grew up in a milk bar like all good wog kids do and it's amazing that my mum managed to burn me from Dolly Doctor.
B: Oh yeah.
A: Wasn't that look a cosmo, the mum was pretty terrifying, but I did sneak the occasional peak at the post - letters. I probably shouldn't have done that. Anyway, what did you watch, what did you read, that kinds of advice columns were popular in the audience?
B: Dolly Doctor fans anyone? Yeah.
B: Can I just say, are any of you guys listening - a bit of cross-promotion. Are any of you guys listening to the ABC podcasts, ladies, we need to talk? And did you hear that they interviewed Dolly Doctor for one of the episodes -
A: Did I miss that one?
B: - and Dolly Doctor's Asian.
B: And I'm really happy about it. There was this Asian medical professional talking about discharge throughout my childhood. I was really happy to find that out.
A: And there I was having grown up under the assumption that Asian people didn't talk about sex <laughter>.
B: Yeah <laughter>.
A: Here we are. So anyway, lots of Dolly Doctor fans. Cosmo fans, anybody? Anything that we haven't mentioned?
Audience: My dad <inaudible 3:11>.
A: Oh fantastic. He only bought it for the advice column, right? You're well prepared for this evening. Very good. So it does - on that note, it does strike me that some advice columns, less advice and more vice, right? I think. Ben, what's your advice column history?
B: Oh, so when we were growing up I'm one of five kids and I was the middle of five, so I had two older siblings and two younger. And my eldest sibling is my sister, Candy. And she bought every magazine. So she started the Australian journey from Dolly to Cleo and Cosmo and I would read them voraciously because I grew up pre-internet because I'm a hundred years old, I guess. So magazines were - all were really wanted and later I think it's the reason I worked in magazines was because I was so fascinated by them then. So Dolly Doctor was huge. All the stuff in Cleo and Cosmo, I learnt a lot about the male and female anatomy. I think a lot of fellow gay men sometimes are surprised I know so much about female anatomy but it was like -
A: Dolly Doctor.
B: - I just read a lot of Dolly Doctor. And then later when I went to university, it was all about Savage Love with Dan Savage when he was syndicated in the Stranger and I think on the AV Club and stuff like that. That was something that we would gather around, read together with friends and then later the Savage Love podcasts. And because Dan Savage is a role model and hero of mine, it was pretty exciting when Dan Savage was actually a guest columnist for law school, so we - he's in there with us, we're co-authors with Dan Savage. I'm pretty stoked about that.
A: That's existing isn't it. Jenny, did you read any of these advice columns in these magazines? Did you know what your kids were reading?
J: Ben probably hiding from me.
B: Yeah. You were quite liberal as well, in terms of what we were allowed to read. It's not like you've ever banned anything from the household, right?
J: Yeah, correct. Yes.
A: Were you happy about that? Did they - got up to everything?
A: Yeah, I'm happy. I think sex is so important about life.
B: Well, obviously, she had five kids. But I also think it's - I think people are surprised and find it unusual, not just with magazines, but we watched quite a bit of - this sounds weird, but we did see quite a bit of sex on TV growing up as teenagers and stuff.
J: You loved the Sex in the City. A big fan.
B: But also there was a lot of SBS going on in our household. We are <inaudible 6:00> SBS was -
A: That was the good stuff.
B: Yeah, and you would often just say, oh watch this, there's something -
J: Yeah when sex is on TV, see come kids, come on, that's how people have sex. You have to go naked and they obviously - so you don't have to have that top. Yeah, in my book, just - that's how people have sex, kids. And then my Michelle , mum, you know, after people have sex they always -
A: Are you okay now, Ben? Is everything all right, have you - you've got past this?
B: Oh I think so. Well -
A: How was it discussed at home? How did you talk about sex, apart from looking at it on SBS?
B: Well we just thought it was the most fascinating and hilarious thing, and I think when you've got so many kids in the household, discipline becomes unenforceable anyway. So the five kids take over and so - there was that period in the '90s where we were growing up where sex with Sophie Lee and sex life were the biggest most scandalous shows in Australia. They were brought up in <inaudible 7:11>, whereas we were watching a lot of it together - as a family, it was just like - it was really interesting. Doctor Cindy Pan was telling us stuff, Doctor Karen -
A: Cindy Pan's pretty cool.
B: Yeah, Dr Karen Phelbs was a really good educator in our household. And then there might be - I don't know, and looking back it wasn't exactly that explicit, there were naked bodies, but everyone's got one anyway, so we didn't really see the big deal.
J: And now the Embarrassing Body.
J: I love that show. Now is the Australian version. They show it until 11 o'clock, usually when kids are asleep.
A: And in our laughter we were having quite a discussion about it backstage.
B: Oh but also there was that penis documentary that you watched with Michelle.
J: They sat with -
A: Michelle is Ben's sister.
J: - that poor man. He had a short penis. His girlfriend dumped him because he have a short penis so he travelled around the world to elongate his penis. In Taiwan they actually bought a weight from Japan. Oh they didn't show the part, they have a cloth so yeah you stand up and then attach to a penis and then you have to -
A: How many people are crossing their legs right now?
J: - swing that weight. Oh the poor man. He's only tiny. Too late, ding - I don't know whether it worked or not or any bleeding.
B: So this is family bonding time in our household.
J: And there's a vagina documentary, very educational and interesting.
A: So if you wonder how this family conversation translated to an advice column - I guess in a way it's hard for us to discuss the book unless you get a bit of a taste of it. So we might have a look at one of the letters that was written in to you and we might ask you -
B: Oh yes.
A: - to read the letter and -
B: So yeah, we can explain the format as well. So The Lifted Brow is a literary journal that -
A: Very literary.
B: - comes out of Melbourne but has gone nationally and internationally. You'll find it in newsagents now and several years ago they asked mum and I if we wanted to start writing an advice column, just as a pallet cleanser to all the poetry and essays and fiction that was going on. And were just yeah, okay, sure, why not, and then it just kept going. And then there was enough for a book, but basically every issue of the Brow has about three or four questions for us and we respond accordingly and sometimes we disagree.
A: All right, so imagine yourself, this is Ben and Jenny opening up this letter. Dear Law School, I recently discovered a dildo in my twin brother's drawer. He doesn't have a girlfriend, that I know of. And the only conclusion I can reach is that he's using it to pleasure himself. We are extremely close and even talk about our sex lives every now and then. I want to ask him about the dildo out of curiosity more than anything, but feel like I'd be crossing a line. We've just never had lines before. What should I say and how should I say it? Signed Sister Knows a Secret.
B: I feel like the National Library is crossing a few lines tonight, which I really enjoy.
A: All right, so Jenny, you first.
J: You'll have to excuse, I got glaucoma so I'm a bit clumsy.
A: Do you need some extra light?
J: Yeah, for reading. Well this is easy, you said you're extremely close, so why not just say it to his face. Just ask him out loud, extremely close means you have no secrets. You're not being a busybody, it's just curiosity. As for a brother, we are only human - oh sorry, as for your brother, we are only human and we were - we have needs. It's quite healthy for your brother to have that. For instance, some people have their things they wear in your pants, so they are walking around with it stuck inside them all day with batteries and all that. Yeah, there's those tiny little vibrator things, especially for women. They're walking around, like mmm. Sorry about the clumsy reading, my vision.
B: Right, but the other thing is, we have - Audible asked us to do an audio book version of this so you can get the clean readings of us doing it, there. So this is one of the moments where I disagreed with mum and I said, for the sweet love of Jesus, fuck, do not listen to my mother and do not bring this up. Of course your brother's using the dildo to pleasure himself, Sherlock, I can't imagine he's using it to paint a self-portrait or make a pavlova. We should also make this clear, using a dildo doesn't necessarily make your brother gay or bisexual any more than driving a manual car makes me heterosexual, although it's my most butch skill.
There are many straight guys out there who love getting a good arse fucking from their female partners and frankly I applaud their efforts. Sex lives are something we can all talk about but masturbation is usually a - is often a private act, so unless you feel comfortable disclosing to him how many fingers and which hand you use, maybe back off. You know what he owns and how he uses it and that should be enough. You won't get anything out of the conversation except having a think about his twin sister the next time he's using that. And what are you, a Lannister?
J: I disagree, Ben, because they're extremely close. So when you're extremely close you -
A: They are Lannisters, really.
B: But what's she going to get out of it, why else would he have the dildo? She already knows what he's using it for.
B: Slow down, she just wants to know everything. She wants to know everything.
J: Yeah, <inaudible 13:22>.
A: When the Lifted Brow approached you, was there a moment and or where you just went, no way am I going to do that column with my mum. Or did you say, no way am I going to do that column with my son.
J: Ben, yeah, we have a special bonding, we're very close, we can talk about anything and sex and things are part of - very important thing in life.
B: But there is a lot in that I won't talk about my sex life with my family, I'm just like that's not so, and sometimes -
J: No, not your sex life.
B: - information gets slipped out into family conversations between siblings or mum will say something and it just - everyone just starts screaming out of horror, just like no, shut up. So that's a line but in terms of sex generally that's something that we're happy to talk about. I think the only reservation was as practical one which was how the advice columns were going to work because mum's fluent in English but it's also her second language. She is fluent in emoji which is -
J: I love the emoji.
B: I've got to show you guys something she wrote yesterday, it was very graphic about - anyway. But yes.
A: It is.
B: Yes, but then I realised the easiest way to do it was to just have a really long chat about the question and I will transcribe everything she said and then I'd condense it and then I'd throw it back to her for approval, she might tweak and stuff and that's the final copy we sent to the editor. So it was more like a practical thing rather than a reservation about whether we were going to do it or whether we'd feel uncomfortable doing it because I think my friends always found her it stunning how much I knew about sex growing up at school, but for us it was just never a taboo subject. I think it's a testament to mum's openness that the five kids were often the kids in our group who were often approached about sexual knowledge, who asked all the questions from our friends that they didn't feel comfortable asking other people. It also meant that we were put off sex for a long time, we were late bloomers.
A: Jenny, where did you get your ideas about how to talk to the kids about sex from?
B: Did you grow up talking about sex with -
J: Oh I grew up with this really straight - with my parents. No, nothing - not a words from my parents.
A: How did you learn about sex then? How did you learn?
J: Oh at school I - my school was a Catholic school but they teach - they show you movie about the right to be born, how a baby was born. So yeah the first time I saw they came out from the vagina, I was like oh. Oh yeah, from school.
A: But they didn't show you how the baby got there.
J: No, definitely not. It was a Catholic school.
B: So how did you find that out?
A: My - actually I think from watching movies, books, yeah like that, never learned from school.
A: And so why did you take such a different attitude with Benjamin and his siblings with the children?
J: Jimmy's like yeah sex is like sex, sleep and food. So three things that yeah, most important in life. And yes, I think when - yeah start very young age so we let them know so they won't get abused.
B: So knowledge was making us aware of ourselves.
J: Yes, if they know - yeah, you have a penis, your sisters have a vagina, there's a right word in the dictionary, even - yeah to me it's very important to let them know what sex - what is sex.
A: And so how does using words like penis and vagina go down in suburban, so to speak, in suburban Brisbane in the '70s and the '80s?
B: It was suburban Sunshine Coast.
A: Sunshine Coast.
J: Sunshine Coast, we were the only Chinese family on the coast.
B: Not quite but it felt that way. It may as well be.
A: And you were exotic in more ways than one, clearly.
J: Especially on the coast, so yeah very important as well, most important.
B: But I think we - so mum went to a Catholic school as a kid and then we went to a Lutheran school as kids and the Lutherans are quite hardcore when it comes to the denominations. And we had robust sex ed but looking back it was pretty warped and intense, it was all about this is what diseased genitals look like and we had - I remember in Grade 4, our sex education was prolife advocates coming in a van and we were all encouraged to buy gold plated brooches of foetuses feet. Like in Grade 4, so I'm really glad that that wasn't my exclusive sex education and that mum - well I don't think mum set out - I don't think you set out on a mission statement, it was just like I'm going to talk about sex constantly but it's because there are five of us, there was no mystery, we were all interested in it. There was that - it wasn't the joy of sex but it was a very similar book in mum and dad's study and we were just sneak a lot of glances at it.
A: Which you knew about, obviously, Jenny. You knew they were looking at it, didn't you?
B: There was a joy of sex-ish kind of book and a human body anatomy book about how babies developed and stuff like that and we just found them really interesting and I just don't think mum was - didn't have a problem with it.
J: I bought those books, pictures and yeah, full page pictures.
B: That's when people still had pubic hair.
A: I was just thinking - the centrefold thing, right. So sex is one thing, but sexuality is another and they're linked but they're not the same thing. How comfortable do you have to be about your sexuality to be able to write an advice column about sex and relationships and sexuality?
B: Well I think for me, being gay and being accepted socially, I came out at 17 which felt - came out as gay at 17 which felt really late, but now I look back and realise that was relatively young compared to a lot of my peers and a lot of people I know. And the fact that this was on the suburban Sunshine Coast, this was the late '90s, homosexuality was de‑criminalised in Queensland in the early '90s, so even though that had happened legally it takes a long time for social change to happen. And mum - we didn't know any openly gay people, we just didn't have - so when I came out as gay I had no idea how mum was going to react, but in retrospect I should have always knew, knowing that she was going to be okay. And just that - I don't know, I've seen how so many of my lesbian, gay, bisexual trans - peers, queer peers generally, if you've had a really long period of the people important in your life resisting who you are or questioning who you are that really does damage to you and it's corrosive, whereas I had support from a really age and mum was there from day one in terms of when I told that to her so that - I've never had to apologise for anything or feel weird about my sexuality as a result.
J: And I love that moment. He got very - something very seriously important to tell me and yes it's like questioning thing, I'm guessing so -
B: Well I couldn't get -
J: - oh Rebecca.
B: Yeah, I couldn't get the words out because I was crying so mum - which mum started playing a game of 20 questions.
J: Did you get Rebecca pregnant. They are very close - he's in Year 12 - 11?
B: Yeah Year 12, it was the end of Year 12.
J: Yeah everybody think that they're an item and so I guess you get Rebecca pregnant. You're on drugs.
B: It's very hard to get on the Sunshine Coast at my age.
J: Yeah, if you're not above the two things you must be gay. And so very gay.
B: So very gay.
J: I guess it.
B: I just want that - those are the synonymous things in terms of like, you've either impregnated someone or you've got a meth addiction or you're gay.
J: And bingo.
A: And so by the time we get to gay it's like oh thank God. So that's you, Ben, but Jenny, in these - in your answers to a lot of these columns, you're actually very open about your own sex life, or lack thereof as well and I find that really fascinating because I think for women, we're not able - well we haven't been as able to talk about our sex lives, and then you maybe get to a certain point in your life, you've split up from your husband or your partner. People don't expect you to be thinking about sex and there you are talking about everybody's sex problems. At the same time you're saying, well I haven't had sex with anybody so maybe I should be looking at Tindr while I'm recommending it to you. So are you - how did you come to a point where you were comfortable to talk that way?
J: I suppose I'm always comfortable - yeah, from the sex - yeah sex is part of life. Why are we here? Your parents had sex.
B: But I also feel like especially as time goes on, what I'm realising about you is how little you're ashamed by, you -
J: No, sex is not a shame, it's pleasure.
B: She's maintaining a really unflinching eye contact here. So just a back story, we just landed back from Hong Kong this morning, so we're a little bit underslept and we've also spent the last 10 days in the same room.
J: And Michelle was in the room too, Michelle.
B: Yeah, my youngest sister was in the room as well. So there's -
J: The bonding.
B: - a bit of cabin fever and when mum - I feel like we've had a lot of eye contact this week. So I just want to give that context.
J: And he was in his undies walking around, he nearly stopped. His partner is really comfortable with me and he's walking around.
A: There you go, I've just learnt something about my colleague, Scott, that I didn't really need to know.
J: When I was there he's very comfortable. Oh they were together when they were 16, they met at school.
B: No, older, I was 19, he was 18.
J: Oh you were older, okay but you met at school.
B: Well we knew each other at school so there's a whole <inaudible 24:50> conversation, but yeah.
A: That leads into the next question, though, which is what kind of qualifications, technical qualifications do you have to have to write a sex and advice column?
B: What qualifications do you have to write this, mum?
J: Oh I was a - I'm the bench shadow.
B: No, oh my God, what are you talking about? I came out of your shadow, as you say.
J: Maybe jetlag - oh mum <inaudible 25:17> why you talk like that, mum, jetlag.
B: But what about your life experience, why do you - what do you think you can offer by writing the column?
J: Oh after having five kids and actually I only have sex with the one man, your dad. And -
A: I get the feeling that there was an appeal in there but I'm not really quite sure what that was. I'm moving around a lot.
B: But what else, you've had five kids, that's a big qualification because you've had the talk - you've talked us through a lot of stuff over the years.
J: Qualification, oh senior, I turned 64 so yeah life experience, including - I don't know, this sex part. Yeah, I don't know, you just have sex with just the one man, but wild imaginations.
A: That is a great qualification. If you've got no imagination you couldn't possibly read those letters, could you? How did you feel when you started reading those first letters, because they're quite explicit. The example that we read you was pretty typical of the letters in the series of columns, if you like, so what was reading and answering the first one like, can you remember? How was your first time?
J: Our first time.
B: You go. Were you surprised by the questions that came up or were you horrified by any - oh some of them you have been horrified by.
J: Yeah and I thought I spent - someone's question, people make out and see what we're going to answer or what.
B: But then other times you were - look, because we have a big chat and I transcribe everything she says, a lot of the time she'll be like is this person serious or do they have a brain. And a lot of answer - because she's like, the answer is so obviously, la, she'll just say, you need to dump him, get some self-respect, buy a brain and just - she's just like bang, bang.
J: Yeah I'm so frank and honest and know - I always used to say no hate male, I scare people that people get offended from my answer.
B: Do you care about -
J: And I say, Ben don't type this out. Ben say oh I have to type this down, someone's <inaudible 27:58> I think.
B: Yeah and then I send it back to you and you're like, actually it's pretty funny.
A: You're reading there and it says please don't send me any letters about this.
J: Hate mail, no hate mail, please. I used to say that.
B: Look, because I know a lot of the Brow crew I get a sense of the readership as well, so this is a readership that tends to skew young but there is big age diversity in who writes to us too, so we - but at the same time we're dealing with - I think things about the next generation are considering now that we're a generation of millennials and beyond that are just wondering, do relationships need to be this way. I want to explore non-monogamous relationships, what are the politics of that, the interpersonal politics of that. And I think very early on because I read and listened to so much to Dan Savage and people like Michelle <inaudible 28:54> and stuff like that, you do realise that whatever your own sexual standards are you can't impose them on other people and it's really about, are you hurting anyone, are you hurting yourself and if not then what's the best practical way to navigate this question that you're given. So I - even though we swear and we're a bit cheeky sometimes I do take it seriously that a lot of the questions do have an undercurrent or sometimes a big current of pain driving them and people want to know.
There've been times when I was growing up where I was really tempted to write to different sex and relationships advice columnists and so when people write to us I take that responsibility really seriously.
A: If you have no-one else to talk to, if you need to talk to someone.
B: Yeah and especially anonymously as well. There's a great safety in the ability to just say, look, this is something I'm just sending out and I'm really hoping that you'll respond and so I think often I tend to gravitate towards the questions. Because we get about four or five questions, we print - answer about three per issue and I tend to gravitate towards the ones where I'm like wow, that actually is a pickle and I want to explore that properly. And sometimes mum and I will have a really long chat and come - arrive to a different place than where we started.
I think a really interesting one was there's a question in the book about a guy who had his mum staying.
J: The mum was very religious, and so the son is only a teenager that's moved out from home. So mum wanted to come and stay and he asked us - he was - can't stand not having sex for so long while mum's staying here with him. So what am I going to do, what is your advice? Ask mum not to come. I said, no, you have to respect your mother. You can always have sex - he's so young, what happened if your mum have an accident of what, you'll feel so guilty, you have to let mum come and visit you.
B: And then we started -
J: And get mum some - get out of the house by - have a tour and this and that then there'll be sex - definitely not night-time sex, daytime sex or with - yeah.
B: And then you got really offended when I started offering my answer because I was just well -
J: Yeah, Ben disagreed.
B: - does she need to stay for three weeks, because it's a long time.
J: They're still only a teenager.
A: <Inaudible 31:39> they moved all the Perth to get away.
J: That's why we disagreed.
B: And then you got genuinely mad at me.
J: Yeah Chinese culture, you always respect your parents, yeah, especially your mother that push you out.
B: And so when I said I don’t know, does she need to stay that long, does she need to stay with you at all, you were just like, I'll kill you. You are not my son.
A: You can have as much sex as you like with anybody that you like but you don't say no to your mother. What's interesting about reading the book is that after a while you get a sense of the two different styles. You each very much have your own voice. To me, I read those voices and I think, wow, Jenny's so out there, you are so accepting of people and you are just so - it's okay, do what feels good as long as you're not hurting anyone, do what feels good. Ben is the judgy one, what I really didn't expect. So have they actually <inaudible 32:39>.
B: Yeah, there's Tony Abbott lives inside me.
A: That is wrong in so many ways.
B: Yeah, absolutely, but I'll rephrase that. That's going to come up in senate estimates, the National Library of Australia.
A: They probably just wanted to <inaudible 32:55>, it's not true. So are they characters that you've developed? Are they just aspects of yourselves, or is it your true real self that you put on the page?
J: Yes, true self.
B: You're very like earth mother. When people - when you've given advice, you're very gentle, take care of yourself, right.
B: I don't know, I - depending on the friend I can be a bit tough love with them because there have been times in my life whether it's sex, relationships or otherwise where I really - what has jolted me out of a stupor has been a friend saying well actually, la, and it's really blunt and it's hurtful at the time but it's what was necessary to break me out of a situation where I was either feeling sorry for myself or actually knew the solution to my problem but just didn't want to do anything about it and wanted to whine instead. And so when it - sometimes when it's just like you need to dump the motherfucker or you sometimes - someone needs to say that to you. Sometimes someone needs to say you know what, you're not treating yourself well and you're not putting yourself first and that's detrimental to you and it's not fair on the other person as well because you're just extending this really toxic dynamic.
Actually I met up with a friend in Hong Kong while I was over there and they were going through a really tough time and I'm hey, you know what, what - you need to give yourself a pep talk, you need to stop telling yourself these really damaging things about yourself and you need to treat yourself like you would your best friend. What have your friends been telling you about this, and her friends have been telling her awful shit. I was just like, okay don't listen to your friends, in fact you might need new friends.
A: Useless friends.
B: But what would you - but it was just like you know what, you've been through a really tough time, you do not need - and sometimes tough love is about tough love to ensure that they are good to themselves as well, self-preservation and care because I don't know, I just hate seeing people beat themselves up about a situation that can be avoided or got out of.
J: They're being judgy.
J: Hong Kong is really hard, they see more a traditional, there's no sex before marriage and all that.
B: I'm really glad you migrated, because it is really hard.
J: Yeah, so even the friends around her are still giving her the traditional - <inaudible 35:27> wise about sex.
A: We are like here in Australia, I think, aren't we. Now I'm wondering, and you have to take into account that they are jetlagged. I knew you'd just come back from Hong Kong and I didn't realise it was only this morning. I just cannot believe how much <inaudible 35:41> you've shown today. But that - in lieu of questions perhaps, maybe it might be fun to try out a question or two on you, if any of you have got -
B: Oh sure.
A: If any of you have got a burning question that you think falls under the -
B: Oh there are questions.
A: Fantastic, anonymous questions, we love them.
Audience: This is the fishbowl of filth.
B: Oh, the fishbowl of filth from Stuart. These are all Stuart's questions.
A: I'd heard things - I said things about you Stuart, that'd be it, you know. That's it. Jenny, please choose a question.
J: And then Stuart said, pick my question.
B: What is with fireman fantasies?
J: Firemen, the emoji, fire, everything that talks about sex thing, hot sex of fire. Firemen.
B: Do you - have you -
J: I think lots of women have that, firemen, hot.
B: Do you have a theory as to why?
J: You start with their body. Yeah, I think the body.
B: They're also attached to a very long hose. That relieves people from stress.
J: Oh because I didn't have that hose.
A: That's what you find attractive.
B: Have you guys been watching that new series of Queer Eye on Netflix at all? It's - and for those of you are sceptical because it why reboot these '90s franchise about gay servitude. It's - but it's really good and it's emotionally nourishing but anyway there's a really great fireman episode in it and there's just - it's so delicious just watching these straight dudes just get completely smothered by gay affection and love. I think it's obviously, it's rescuing things - rescuing people's <inaudible 37:41>, you need to hold up that hose. That hose is long. After a while it gets hot and when it gets hot you need to take off your clothes. This is like, there's nothing like a hot fireman.
A: Nothing to do with the gym in the bottom of the station.
B: No, that's right.
A: No, nothing at all. All right, Jenny, question number two. Here we go.
J: Right at the bottom.
A: Dig deep.
B: Okay, we are not answering this because we do not answer questions about our sex lives unless you want to -
B: Where is the craziest place you have had sex?
A: Are you serious, people talk about that at dinner parties, Ben, you prude.
B: No, well actually I've had a beer, I could probably tell you but.
J: There's a few. Lots. My sex life is so boring, you'll die. Just baby breeder, that's it. Missionary position.
A: Now you've got a bucket list.
J: Okay, my imagination. Oh, sex. Okay.
B: Why don't you sit on that.
J: But you have to have some answer.
B: I am trying to think.
J: Yeah, too many. Like, which one I can tell the public.
B: Everyone fantasises about the beach, or that's always used in cinema. And for those of use who've had sex at a beach, it's not practical.
J: Not my cup of tea, too much sand is getting to my vagina. No.
A: Going up on the Sunshine Coast for these guys really wasn't any fun, wasn't it. All right, Ben, you choose one.
J: You choose.
B: Oh, when is it appropriate to give your partner a hickey? Do you know what a hickey is, mum?
J: I know, yes.
B: Yeah, is it appropriate to give your partner a hickey?
J: Yeah, of course.
B: Would you have - did you ever have a hickey or give someone a hickey?
J: I never had one, I never, no. So boring.
B: Is it okay to give it? Because it's basically bruised - it's like you're bruising them with your lips.
J: Yeah, so everybody will know, hey. Yeah, I definitely give, yeah, the one that I - yeah.
B: And whoever brought the second ticket tonight.
J: But I only practice on a few people to start with.
A: That's tickets number three and four.
B: I don't know, when my boyfriend and I started going out, we were basically branded and bruised and I was into it because it was like there's a bit of a foulplay there.
J: How often?
B: I was constantly when we were first dating, maybe that first year and there was just - I don't know, it was very teenage, very 20s as well, so it's like you've got something to talk about in the media studies 101 the next day. I'm interesting, I've got a life. But I think as you get older as well, there's just that constant - I love giving someone a good necking and there's always just that constant temptation just to go a little bit too far into it.
A: He's going to draw blood one of these days and then we'll have Ben forever.
B: It's true. I can't give blood, I may as well try and suck it out of you.
Andrea Yes, there's that too.
B: It's very graphic, sorry.
A: That's what you're here for.
B: Oh, is it true that if they will cheat with you they will cheat on you. I think you've got answers to this, because if you're the other woman won't they just cheat on you anyway?
J: Cheating, yeah.
B: If they would cheat with you, they'll cheat on you in the end?
J: Yeah, I think definitely.
A: Have you seen it happen?
J: Mmm -
B: Well you know people in your life who've had that dynamic. Do you think that it's inevitable - I think - I don't know, I think it's really interesting at the moment that there is an opening up of a conversation about cheating and what it represents and whether it's necessarily the final frontier that makes or breaks a relationship. I think for a lot of the relationships amongst my peers it would be a far greater transgression to watch an episode of RuPaul's drag race ahead of your partner rather than cheat, or it's like and also what constitutes cheating is different for each relationship as well.
For some people it's simply emotional cheating which I don't think I'd be able to handle in my relationship personally because I know my boyfriend's a big flirt and I'm a bit flirt and I'm just - that's just fun, whereas I think for other people it's really off limits. And then for other people they draw the line at this sex act or this kissing act or blah, blah, what is your definition of cheating first of all, have you had that conversation with your partner. I'm always really interested that - no generalisations but I'm always really interested in how a lot of straight couples often don't have that conversation about what do we define as cheating in our relationship because the narrative of cheating in a heterosexual relationship is quite cemented. It is to do this with someone else at this stage of your relationship. Because I think with a lot of same sex relationships that conversation is much more nuanced and specific, if you're going to have it, because with same sex relationships generally there are fewer templates to go off, so we often frame what constitutes X, Y and Z or what - even domestic stuff, what constitutes fair labour between us. So cheating is a whole other different -
A: You can't be arguing about who's going to put the garbage out.
B: Yeah, constant negotiation. But is it true that if they will cheat with you they will cheat on you?
A: Does a dog change its spots?
B: Look, nothing's completely a hundred percent, but the thrill is there because it's elicit in the first place, that's what you're chasing, that's what you're into. And if you're into that dynamic you can't dismiss the idea outright that they're not going to pursue that dynamic with someone else and that you might not - that you might want to pursue that dynamic down the line as well.
A: That's true too. I - oh here we go, there's one last one, I think. Let's do this. Here's another -
B: Amyl, yes or no. Mum, do you know what amyl is?
J: It's a new word to me.
B: Okay, have you heard of poppers? Okay, so this is - there are - it's okay because there are people in the crowd who don't know what amyl nitrate and poppers are. All right, so we're going to learn together. So amyl nitrate is a chemical that you can inhale and it -
A: You might think about it as a drug.
B: - dilates everything. It gives you a rush, it gives you a high and you feel things more acutely and it's especially popular amongst gay men. You should not take amyl nitrate alongside erection enhancing drugs like Viagra or Cialis because that can cause a medical connection. Did you guys know that? Please don't do both of the things at the same time, just choose one
B: Choose your own adventure. And if you go into sex shops they'll often - because I think it's technically illegal to sell at sex shops, right, so they often sell it as video cleaner or is it different rules in ACT? Yeah.
A: Can anybody help Ben out here?
Audience: They sell it as leather cleaning.
B: Leather cleaner. And it comes up under a lot of <inaudible 46:12> brands, there's rush and jungle. I know a bit too much, don't I.
A: And in knowing a bit too much, you haven't answered the question.
B: It's like rush and jungle, it's like if you haven't experienced it, it smells like the smell of a permanent marker so that's what you're introducing into your system. It's not bad. Yeah it just gives you a temporary rush. Mum is looking at me with this inscrutable expression. What do you think now that you know about it, what do you think about the idea?
J: Have you ever experienced that?
B: Yes I have.
J: How do you feel at this moment?
B: But it's not - and I think it's a pretty safe thing to use unless you've got a blood pressure or heart condition.
J: Oh but I always know that, because we love mummy, always have. That's a line you do not cross.
B: I also think it's a pretty good value thing as well, it really lasts just in your undies drawer for a long time. Aromatherapy.
A: I guess, or pavlovian or something.
B: Yeah, exactly.
A: We're coming towards the end of our evening and you do have an opportunity to meet with Ben and Jenny downstairs and you can ask them to sign a copy of the book, have a bit of a chat. But it was just interesting to see that moment where Jenny, you just learnt something about Ben that you didn't know and I did not think that that was actually possible given some of the conversations in here.
When I was looking at this book I thought to myself, I wonder if there's a point at which one of them just completely shocks the other and they just - that thing where you just completely <inaudible 47:44> out, you just can't go there. This was the question. Hi Ben, hi Jenny, can you please provide the definitive answer. Does sex get better with age? Hopefully not yet wrinkled. Pretty straight forward question. So, Jenny, this is the long read but take your time.
B: So question again, can you please provide a definitive answer, does sex get better with age?
J: I wish not to do this. Okay, I need to ask a few more questions, like are you a man or woman? And how old are you? You are very sunbathed, in <inaudible 48:31> men are very secretive. It's a very short questions but it's also the million dollar question and quite a complex one too. I'll be honest, I'm turning 60 next May and I haven't had sex for the last 20 years but I'm still very interested. There's definitely no age limit. Sex can get better with age, but it depends on the individual and on whether or not you are not suffering from any medical conditions. Most importantly you find a partner compatible with your sexuality, someone who is on the same page. From my view it does get better with age. When I had my first orgasm I was 28 and I discovered I had to be on top. I'm a firm believer that if you're with someone with a good sex drive no matter what age you are sex can be good and when you don't have children interrupting, if you're a retiree and sex can be on top of the list of all your priorities again.
Sex, all the time, if you can do it you can get erectile dysfunction then you have a problem. You have to go to the doctor to get the blue pill. But the hole, the vagina hole is just there on standby, just make sure it's moist enough after menopause it can go a bit dry. True.
I recommend extra virgin oil down there, can lick it, lick, it's very good for you. Michael Mosley, he experimented on himself olive oil every day a tablespoonful. He said that's his best assignment to try on something on himself. Michael Mosley, I'm a doctor, trust me, I'm a doctor, the show. Yeah, always use olive oil, nothing else.
A: So that was Jenny's answer. Ben?
J: What - you answer your - Ben just got one line.
B: My answer was just staring into space forever. It was just -
J: Most of the time Ben got lots in the eye -
B: Because you can tell that's - with a lot of it we're answering the question but not necessarily talking about our own -
J: I didn't expect Ben just got one line.
B: Yeah, but -
J: Normally he's got lots to say.
B: But she got a lot to say about that. That was the abridged version of the phone call that happened in a flurry of English and Cantonese over the phone that I was just transcribing diligently as my soul left my body.
A: You know you want to spend more time with these people. On that note, thank you for attending Law school this evening. Would you please thank our teachers, Benjamin and Jenny.
B: Thank you.
J: Thank you.
B: One request, can we get a selfie with you guys?
B: Okay, we're just going to stand here and then -
A: Because it's such a crowd.
B: No, you're going to get in it as well, Andrea.
A: Am I? All right, okay.
A: Stuart, would you help, please?
B: No, that's good, you're going to get in.
B: You're going to get in. Okay. Okay, we're going to get a video first. Everyone wave.
J: Sex, sex, sex.
B: Okay, and a photo. Thanks everyone. Thanks for coming tonight. Thank you, Andrea.
Host: For those of you who don't know, Ben is an ambassador for the library and a fine ambassador. Tonight we have gone beyond <inaudible 52:41> which was interesting that I'm totally fired on but anyway. So can we just thank everybody, once again, including Andrea for tonight. A quick clap for George's freeloading friend and to everybody who asked a question and none of those were mine, just FYI. So there is more entertainment so if you go upstairs very quickly you'll see Sparrow Folk and of course you need to go upstairs and buy some books so we can pay for tonight, that will be fantastic. Thank you.
A: Thank you.
End of recording