Speaking Secrets: Sex and Sexuality as Public Property is a confronting yet sensitively written collection of interviews on the broad topic of sexual secrets.
Despite its sometimes challenging content, Speaking Secrets is written with empathy and humour. Joseph’s style places the journalist within the text, revealing not only the subject of the interview, but the subjectivity of the journalist. This literary style enables simultaneous exploration of the valuable role of the media in giving voice to the voiceless, as well as the ethics of journalism and the subject’s right to remain silent. The media is a vehicle by which social norms can be challenged, enabling people silenced by conventional notions of acceptability to be heard and to hear each other.
The subjects of Joseph’s interviews share their varied stories ranging from rights for people with disabilities to access sex workers, the implications of breasts as a symbol of beauty for women who have undergone mastectomy, sexual abuse of children, and in wartime, homosexuality and the church and the challenges of a transgender dad. The stories are diverse yet share a common theme of individual struggles for acceptance and empowerment.
To paraphrase David Cunningham, one of Joseph’s interviewees, Speaking Secrets is not about being “normal” it’s about being equal.
UTS Business School
Sue Joseph is a journalist with more than 30 years’ experience and a Core Member of UTS’s Centre for Creative Practice and Cultural Economy. Speaking Secrets:is her third book.
This review was first published in the UTS U: Magazine September 2012.