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Saturday, August 4, 2007All Men Are Liars !...But....
For those of you who didn't see it, All Men Are Liars made it into the hard copy version of the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday for the very first time with a first person piece I wrote about visiting a prostitute.
The reaction was not surprising and I received a tonne of emails from critics and supporters, including two offers from high-class call girls to do the job properly (thinking, thinking) and a mighty spray from Herald cartoonist Cathy Wilcox.
The reason I wrote the piece seemed lost on some readers so to clarify, it was thus: if you're honest in the dating game, i.e. you say to women, "I'm just interested in a sexual relationship", you will have a lot less success than if you lie, or omit the truth, i.e. intimate you may be interested in a relationship.
To my thinking, visiting a sex worker is a lot more honest than pretending you're in to someone so you can lure them to bed.
I'm not ashamed of visiting a prostitute and many of the people who tut-tut about the sex industry are still happy to get their thrills reading about it as evidenced by my piece being the the most-read article on the entire SMH site, Monday.
Anyway, I've decided to post the piece here so you can have a chance to comment on it, and to also include copy that was edited out because of space limits and which addresses some of the criticism leveled at myself, the Herald and the article ...
Sex, lies and prostitution
Earlier this year I visited a prostitute for one obvious, practical reason and another less so: I'm sick of lying to women. Being single and in my 30s, I find it increasingly difficult to justify the lies and manipulation involved in having a sexual relationship with women who I'm not in love with.
Call it a gift, but I can tell within about two hours whether I could fall for a girl. Through weary experience, I estimate she comes along about every two years - and wears cool shoes.
That leaves a lot of time between drinks and 24-month bouts of celibacy don't really appeal to me while I have a full head of hair and abdominals.
The problem I, and I wager many other single men, face nowadays is if you go on more than a couple of dates with a woman, the majority want to know where the relationship is going. If you're blunt enough to say nowhere except the bedroom, feelings get hurt.
If you've had sex before that conversation, it's often like you've reneged on an unspoken emotional IOU guaranteeing continued involvement in the partnership. You're a user. A player. A dog. I can show you the text messages if you don't believe me.
Having used prostitutes in my 20s, it occurred to me recently that the simplicity of a cash exchange would be a more honest, and I dare say, moral alternative to bullshitting women into bed.
Political correctness tells me I should be ashamed of visiting a sex-worker but I'm not.
Despite what some people would have you believe, men do not control the sexual spigot at my local pub.
Women are the guardians of that flow and while they may torture and bankrupt themselves with dieting, beauty regimes and cosmetic surgery to maintain that influence, men exhaust themselves accruing wealth and power with which to purchase their attraction in the marketplace known as matrimony.
Prostitution pares this transaction back to its base elements. An estimated one in six Australian men have at some point in their life visited a sex worker, according to the Australian Study of Health and Relationships conducted by La Trobe University.
But it is something blokes will rarely admit to and this stigma radiates directly from the prostitute, a woman whose career choice is sneered at by most and condescended to by the rest.
Critics of the sex industry, such as the US conservative Hadley Arkes, say that prostitution "inescapably implies that the intimacy of sexual intercourse need not be connected to any authentic sentiment of love and that it need not take place in a setting marked by the presence of commitment.
"In that sense it might be said that prostitution patronises the corruption of physical love: it reduces physical love to the kind of hydraulic action that animals may share, and as it does that it detaches the act of intercourse from the kind of love that is distinctly human."
The obvious reply to this is why does sex have to be so damn serious and why do I have to be in love to indulge in it? That's the rub, I guess, because though meaningless sex can be good fun, it's transcendent when you're in love.
The prostitute whom I visited most recently told me her name was Shannon and as she took her clothes off and I observed her body language, we fell into dismal syncopation; when I saw she didn't want to be there, neither did I.
Being wanted is perhaps the greatest turn-on in the bedroom, and though you can buy a prostitute's body, you cannot purchase her desire.
I'd speculate this is part of the attraction for many men who use sex workers; the knowledge the woman is more than likely doing something she'd prefer not to, and an entire soundtrack of mumbled bedroom cliches couldn't convince me Shannon was excited about our coupling.
It was, in short, the unsexiest experience I've had in about 10 years. But when I woke alone the next day, my conscience was clear.
I knew there'd be no midweek recriminations because I didn't want to see Shannon again.
Shannon didn't want to see me again either; in fact she'd probably forgotten me before I'd even reached the staircase of her Darlinghurst terrace.
In many ways she was the female mirror of a man who tells beautiful lies to bed a woman, then disappears before dawn. At least with Shannon, we both understood the deception.
Scientists at the heart of one of the greatest scandals in modern science made a dramatic leap forward in stem cell research without realising it, an investigation into their work revealed yesterday. Hwang Woo-suk, a leading stem cell scientist, from South Korea, fell from grace last year when an official inquest found he had faked data on human cloning. The fraud severely dented hopes for treatments based on embryonic stem cells, which in principle can grow into any tissue in the body. But it appears he has inadvertently achieved a world first, according to researchers who studied his work.
Dr Hwang's team had succeeded in extracting stem cells from human eggs forced to undergo parthenogenesis, where eggs develop into early-stage embryos despite not being fertilised by sperm. The feat has been a much sought goal for stem cell scientists, since it paves the way for the creation of human tissues that are genetically identical to those of the egg donor. Replacement organ tissues or nerve fibres grown from a woman's stem cells could be used to treat serious diseases or injuries without fear of rejection from the immunity system of the recipient.
A team of experts, including researchers at Harvard and Cambridge universities, analysed stem cells created by Dr Hwang's group, and found that some stem cells must have come from an unfertilised human egg alone, and not from a cloned embryo as Dr Hwang originally claimed. Some animals, such as Komodo dragons and hammerhead sharks, can deliver healthy offspring via virgin births, the outcome of unfertilised eggs becoming embryos. Very rarely human eggs divide without being fertilised, but the embryos are flawed so rejected in the womb.
The latest study, led by George Daley at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, clears up the mystery of how Dr Hwang's stem cells were created. Details of the study appear in the journal Cell Stem Cell. Dr Daley noted: "They might represent a favourable source for tissue replacement therapies."
Last month, a team of US and Russian researchers said they had derived embryonic stem cells from unfertilised eggs.
Miodrag Stojkovic, the professor who, in 2005, created Britain's first cloned human embryo, said stem cells from eggs could make a substantial impact on medicine. "They offer hope for patient-specific stem cells because they contain only the woman's DNA so are genetically identical to [her]," he said.
Scientists have made a significant step forward in understanding the dynamics of Saturn's magnificent and mysterious system of rings.
The behaviour of one ring in particular - the G ring - has baffled experts.
Its dust particles should ebb away because there are no nearby moons to hold them in place or replenish them.
But the Cassini probe has shed new light on the faint, narrow ring; showing that it interacts with a much more distant Saturnian satellite.
The work, published in Science, also unveiled the ring's odd structure.
The G ring is one of Saturn's outermost rings: it is more than 168,000km from the centre of the planet and more than 15,000km from the nearest moon.
"It's a dusty ring," explained Matthew Hedman, a research associate at Cornell University and lead author of the study. "Like the E ring and F ring, it is primarily composed of tiny grains of ice just a few microns across."
However, these minute specks can be easily dispersed or eroded as they whizz around the planet. For the rings to remain in place, they either need something to serve them with a constant supply of new dust and ice, or for a large object such as a moon to confine the particles in the band through its gravitational interactions.
The moon Enceladus directly supplies new material to the nearby E ring. While for the F ring, satellites Prometheus and Pandora may help to keep the particles within this narrow region.
"But the G ring is not near a moon, and that's the thing that makes it odd," explained Dr Hedman.
Arc of debris
Data from the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, a collaboration between the US space agency (Nasa), the European Space Agency (Esa) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), has enabled scientists to examine the G ring in more detail than ever before.
Instruments from the Cassini probe revealed that the G ring's structure was unusual.
In addition to the tiny grains of dust spread evenly around the ring, there was also a bright arc across one sixth of the band, that contained larger icy solids. These ranged in size from a few centimetres to a few metres.
Dr Hedman explained: "You would expect this material to shear out, but it was clumped together. So the question was 'how did that work?'"
The team discovered that the ring's orbit was linked to that of the major moon Mimas. For every seven times the arc orbited Saturn, Mimas, which is about 15,000km away, completed six orbits.
"When you get this kind of whole number ratio, there can be some strange things called resonances that occur. These can have interesting influences and can actually confine material within the ring," said Dr Hedman.
The scientists believe the bright arc of material is being held in place through an interaction with Mimas.
Micrometeorites, which litter space, are constantly colliding into the bodies within the arc, generating dust that subsequently spreads out to populate the rest of the G ring.
"The entire G ring could be derived from an arc of debris held in resonance with Mimas," the scientists write in the journal Science.