Kazakhs have the last laugh

Making their mark ... Kazakhstan is escaping from the shadow of Borat.KAZAKHSTAN came to London wanting to be taken seriously. They probably knew they would not get through this Games without a mention of mankini but what they did not anticipate was the commentary to be so brazen and offensive. While the Kazakhs are flying on the medal tally – winning three gold medals in the first four days of competition – they are less happy about their treatment on the streets of London.
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Their deputy chef de mission Aslan Amanov  said members of the team and delegation had been recipients of abuse outside Olympic Park, stemming from Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, which parodied their country.

‘‘In the village there is absolutely no problem,’’ Amanov  said. ‘‘The sports world knows Kazakhstan, our good side. It is when we go outside it is very disappointing. When you walk around the city sometimes they shout things at you which are not OK. Some were drunk and they were shouting all sorts of words.

‘‘We tried not to pay attention to it but it’s still ... how can I say it, it’s your country. Of course nobody takes it seriously but there are some thing that you cannot tolerate, things about your mother and sister. No matter how democratic you are you will never tolerate the words that Borat was saying about us.’’

It is now the Kazakhs, not just their tormentors, doing the laughing. The central Asian republic was placed sixth on the medal tally a quarter way through the Games. That put them ahead of heavyweights Russia, Great Britain, Germany and Australia, who beat Kazakhstan 7-4 in men’s water polo on Tuesday but ended the day, in the overall count, two golds behind them in 12th with six medals.

The latest national hero is weightlifter Maiya Maneza, whose 245kg total in the women’s 63kg category  elevated her to the top of the dais on Tuesday. ‘‘I have waited my whole life for this,’’ she said.  ‘‘This is for all the people who cheered for me.’’

There is a lot of that happening in Kazakhstan at the moment. On the first day of the Games,  veteran cyclist Alexander Vinokourov was an unexpected winner of the road race. At the weekend, they doubled their haul of gold in extraordinary scenes when the teenager Zulfiya Chinshanlo  broke the clean and jerk and total world record in weightlifting’s 53kg division.

A second weightlifting gold means the team has  already achieved the stated goal of three gold medals in London, set out by its top sports official, Talgat Yermegiyayev.

Given their previous success in boxing and wrestling there could be more to come. ‘‘This is not the end of the story yet,’’ Amanov said.

It is a wonderful tale for the former Soviet state, an ethnically diverse, resource-rich slab of land about the size of western Europe that hugs  Russia and China. And it has not arrived by accident.

Cohen’s hit movie made the country an easy target although, reportedly, their tourist trade grew despite descriptions like this from travel guide Lonely Planet: ‘‘If you’re not a fan of endless semi-arid steppe and decaying industrial cities, Kazakhstan may seem bleak, but those who enjoy remoteness, wide open spaces, lunar landscapes, long hypnotic train rides and horse sausage will definitely be in their element. If it sometimes looks like the landscape has suffered from hundreds of nuclear explosions, well, parts of it have – ever since Russian rocket scientists started using Kazakhstan as a sandpit in the late 1940s.’’

Despite the jokes, long-serving President Nursultan Nazarbayev has set about earning the country international recognition through sport. ‘‘He has poured all his energy into this and that’s why we are getting the results,’’ Amanov  said.

Kazakh authorities were done no favours in overturning perceptions by an incident in Kuwait in March when organisers of a shooting championship mistakenly downloaded Cohen’s comedy version of the Kazakh national anthem instead of the real tune and it was played as the gold medal-winning team stood on the podium. It led Yermegiyayev, the chairman of the Kazakh Sport and Physical Education Agency, to issue instructions to the London delegation to ensure the proper national anthem was played.

If that seems like a trivial matter, the country’s increased commitment to featuring prominently in international sport is not. While the doping scandal that dogged the Kazazh-owned professional cycling team Astana between 2007 and 2010 was a blow, they won the hosting rights to the 2011 Asian Winter Games. They were held in the cities of Almaty and Astana, and coincided with hundreds of billions of tenge, the national currency, being spent on building and upgrading venues, and other sporting infrastructure.

In London, Kazakh athletes have an extra incentive to put their nation in lights. It was announced in the lead-up to the Games that gold medallists would receive a $US250,000 ($238,000) bonus, while silver medallists would pick up $US125,000 and bronze medallists $US75,000.

There is also cash for any who finish sixth or better in their events. Coaches, too, were  given a significant pay rise, and  earn between $US500 to $US2000 a month.

Additionally, there was major investment in the athletes’ preparation in an effort to make Kazakhstan’s fifth Olympic campaign since emerging from the behind the iron curtain their most successful. A government fund reportedly allocated 1 billion tenge ($6.35 million) to pay for  ‘‘additional sports equipment and biomedical support’’ and its athletes’  pre-Olympics training. It appears to be paying off.

‘‘Now we are showing the world we can do something good,’’ Amanov said.

Who’s laughing now?

Kazakhstan is the land of Borat and gold medals. Once a part of the USSR, the nation wasn’t often part of general discussion until Sacha Baron Cohen put it on the map. But so far in London the Kazakhs are enjoying a great time of things on the sporting field. Cyclist Alexandre Vinokourov  and weightlifters  Maiya Maneza and Zulfiya Chinshanlo have made great the glorious nation from which they hail. What next? Maybe Cohen  appearing in a mockumentary about Australia’s sporting woes.

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Raw prawn theft accusation costs Coles $52,900

Coles Supermarkets has been ordered to pay $52,900 in damages to a customer wrongly accused of stealing raw prawns from its Lane Cove store.
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Philip Clarke, 49, an artist, sued Coles for defamation, assault, intimidation, harassment and wrongful imprisonment after he was aggressively confronted by the store manager in front of dozens of other customers.

District Court Judge Leonard Levy found Mr Clarke had been defamed because some of the shoppers may have recognised him from the neighbourhood and the accusation that he had been caught stealing may have been spread along the "grapevine".

In September 2009, Mr Clarke ordered about 500 grams of raw prawns from the delicatessen counter. After filling his trolley with more items, he returned to the counter, put the prawns on the top of it and asked for the package to be topped up to 1 kilogram.

Soon after, the store manager, Shant Tatosian, along with some other staff members, confronted Mr Clarke and accused him of eating some of the prawns so he did not have to pay for them.

A heated exchange followed in which Mr Tatosian claimed Mr Clarke had eaten some prawns, dropping the shells on the floor and secreting the wrapper in the freezer section.

About 30 shoppers witnessed the confrontation, which Mr Clarke said left him feeling hurt, upset, humiliated and shocked.

But during the trial, Mr Tatosian admitted he didn't actually see Mr Clarke eat or hide the prawns in his jacket, rather he assumed he had, and publicly made the allegations without giving Mr Clarke a chance to explain.

Judge Levy awarded Mr Clarke $40,000 in compensatory damages and $10,000 aggravated compensatory damages because of the prolonged and repeated nature of the embarrassing and humiliating accusations he was subjected to for at least 10 minutes. Mr Clarke was also awarded interest and costs. Judge Levy dismissed the other causes of action.

Judge Levy said Coles' defence of qualified privilege failed because the other customers had no interest in hearing of the accusations, which could have been made discreetly

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Public companies’ public enemies

Apparently it's becoming nearly unbearably inconvenient to be a public company.
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The spotlight's on management. They're required to disclose things, some of which they really may not want to be exposed. Hey, shareholders might even revolt and - gasp - vote against management and directors, vote against policies, vote against pay.

Some might even demand more disclosure on topics that they find material.

Oh, the humanity. How horrifying that issuing stock to the public might actually include being required to acknowledge the public who bought those shares.

These days, public companies' managements might not necessarily enjoy some of the public shamings going on. They might even feel like they have public enemies.

Public displays

Reuters' Felix Salmon recently penned a thought-provoking piece on "why going public sucks".

One of the more interesting things Salmon highlighted was a quote by Marc Andreessen, known for his founding of legendary browser company and 1990s IPO Netscape:

"Basically, it was pretty easy to be a public company in the '90s. Then the dot-com crash hits, then Enron and all of a sudden the politicians and corporate regulators started to take a closer look, placing more scrutiny on the management and boards of our public companies. Throw in a greater awareness and interest in shares, via various privatisations and demutualisations and our growing superannuation balances, and public companies moved from the business section to the front pages."

There's plenty of irony in a man talking about "bizarre governance things" when he's currently serving on the board of directors at Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), one of the best-known duds in the annals of current corporate governance.

Of course, many corporate managements and directors fight tooth and nail against "bizarre governance things" of all types since they give shareholders power and voice.

Facebook's (Nasdaq: FB) recent debacle of an IPO was shareholder-unfriendly right out of the gate; its dual-class stock structure gave young CEO Mark Zuckerberg the majority vote, rendering shareholder votes pretty toothless.

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) recently moved to enact a triple-class stock structure.

Just "bizarre" enough to work

Salmon's piece switches emphasis away from governance and to the idea that the very notion of being public means opening the company up to public scrutiny.

He's right to bring up the point that the public market demands and even requires constant information so that it can give "a second-by-second verdict on what it thinks of your performance."

Salmon also points out that upon going public, "people stop thinking of them as companies, and start thinking about them as stocks."

The aforementioned thoughts give us things to think about as investors. Salmon's description of the short-term, speculative, trading mentality is absolutely legitimate.

The way many investors view stocks is the antithesis of taking an ownership interest in an actual company (and my use of the word "interest" has double meaning - we should most certainly be interested in what our companies actually do).

Many investors have gotten so far away from the idea of any long-term ownership sentiment that of course corporate managements have started to automatically view shareholders as unimportant and shareholder-friendly policies as simply "bizarre."

I have a funny feeling that business interests and managements have rejected calls for better policies as long as publicly held corporations have existed. And as long as investors didn't care what went on beyond the share price, I'm sure any kind of change has always seemed weird or even dangerous.

Remember, less than a century ago, investors weren't even necessarily given very reliable information since there were no clear rules about disclosure. I'll bet business leaders back then thought it was the end of the world. Obviously, it wasn't, and any true long-term investor appreciates the information disclosed in ASX announcements.

Foolish take-away

When companies desire access to the capital provided in the public market, their managements should realise what they must sacrifice for that option instead of complaining that shareholders want "bizarre" things that help protect their own interests.

Our companies are facing something of a moment of truth in the 'two-strikes' vote that shareholders have on executive pay – and it seems like boards are listening.

Meanwhile, we investors need to work on acting more like long-term shareholders than gamblers.

It would be nice if we could all make this deal. When it comes to the long-term health of our companies, shareholders, and all parties involved, public companies no longer viewing everyone else as public enemies might be just "bizarre" enough to work.

Are you looking for attractive dividend stock ideas? BusinessDay readers can click here to request a new free report entitled Secure Your Future with 3 Rock-Solid Dividend Stocks.

Alyce Lomax is aMotley Fool in writer. You can follow The Motley Fool on Twitter. The Motley Fool's purpose is to educate, amuse and enrich investors. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691).

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The best Facebook friend of all

Results |Medal table |Schedule
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Haitian triple jumper Samyr Laine is determined to give something back to his ravaged homeland and hopes that his old room mate at Harvard - Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg - can offer him the boost he needs.

Laine is just one of five Haitian athletes at the London Olympics representing the Caribbean nation, devastated two and a half years ago by an earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people and left one million homeless.

Three of Haiti's five very basic running tracks are housing the displaced. Millions live on less than two dollars a day.

Laine's parents moved to the United States in the 1970's, but Haiti is still clearly tugging at his heartstrings.

"I have to give. That is a necessity for me," the 28-year-old lawyer told Reuters as he prepared for his London challenge.

He is planning to set up a Jump For Haiti Foundation which would try, through training camps and clinics, to build a new generation of home-grown athletes to compete at future Olympics.

Competing with the world's best is a struggle for Haiti.

"The total budget for the Olympics is $400,000. In the United States it is $170 million," Laine said. "You have to be self-motivated. It does not have the resources and the bureaucracy hinders the athletes."

Talking of Haiti's five-strong team for London, he said: "We are really here on our own and got here on our own. It is very emotional. We are a tight group, we are very close."


For his foundation, Laine hopes his friends will help out.

At Harvard he shared a room with Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder of Facebook. Laine was the 14th person to sign up to the social media site.

"I will talk to him and I will talk to all of my friends," Laine said. "I am not going to ask him for any more than my other friends. But I hope his heart will move him. Having him behind the foundation would be a great, great help," he said.

Laine's family suffered agonies of uncertainty when the earthquake struck, not knowing what had happened to relatives.

"It took a full week to find out if everyone was safe," he said. "It felt like the longest week of my life. All you heard on CNN was about death tolls. You held your breath the whole time."

The family called on an aunt working for the Canadian government to help track down their loved ones.

"It was nerve-wracking. We had no contact with my grandparents. Their house was destroyed," he said.

But for now it is time to concentrate on the triple jump -- and Laine is very upbeat.

"I am 100 percent healthy. I am a viable medal hopeful," he said, after a promising pre-Olympic warm up at London's Crystal Palace. "My performances are peaking at the right time."

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Japan seeking revenge: Paul Watson

Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson has accused Japan of hunting him down in revenge for his attacks on its whaling operations, in his first comments since he jumped bail and fled Germany.
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The militant environmentalist who is in hiding, says he felt betrayed by Germany, where he was under house arrest for 70 days, because it had negotiated with Japan to extradite him to Tokyo.

"I am very disappointed with the German government. For me it is obvious that the German government conspired with Japan and Costa Rica to detain me so that I could be handed over to the Japanese," he said on Tuesday in a message to his supporters.

Mr Watson, who for years has harassed Japan's annual whale hunt off Antarctica, was arrested in Germany in May for extradition to Costa Rica on charges stemming from a high-seas confrontation over shark finning in 2002.

He was detained for a week before being released on bail. He was ordered to appear before police twice a day. But the 61-year-old skipped bail on July 22.

Mr Watson said Costa Rica and Germany had been "pawns in the Japanese quest to silence Sea Shepherd", which has for close to a decade clashed with harpoon ships in the Southern Ocean.

"This was never really about Costa Rica. It has been about Japan all along," he said.

"We have confronted the Japanese whalers for eight seasons and we have humiliated them at sea and more importantly we have frustrated their illegal profiteering from the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

"This is not about justice; it is about revenge."

Mr Watson, a white-haired Canadian national known as "Captain" to supporters, refused to reveal his location and said that if he was extradited to Japan he would "never be released".

"I am presently in a place on this planet where I feel comfortable, a safe place far away from the scheming nations who have turned a blind eye to the exploitation of our oceans," he wrote.

But he indicated that he would continue to harass Japanese harpoonists.

"I can serve my clients better at sea than in a Japanese prison cell and I intend to do just that," he wrote, saying that Sea Shepherd would sail on its ninth campaign against Japanese whalers in December.

Australia is the launch site for Sea Shepherd boats each year as they chase the Japanese whalers.


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When is an affair, not an affair?

Cheating is not always easy to define - though it is always centred upon a breakdown of trust, say experts. Infidelity, cheating, adultery, threesome, love triangle.
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We've seen the steamy clinch, we've watched the fall-out.

Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were both in committed relationships - one has a long-term boyfriend, the other is married - when they had a so-called "momentary indiscretion."

Some say the affair was many months in the making, others that the assignations involved "no sex of any kind" - at least according to Stewart's friend and former producer, Giovanni Agnelli.

That there was a relationship beyond the platonic is a given - or at least so public apologies suggest. But there are clearly differing views as to the extent of the affair.

Which begs the question: what counts as cheating?

We posed the question to friends and family - and who knew there were so many shades of infidelity... a kiss, sex, emotional cheating, sexting, sex with the same sex, plain old animal attraction. With such a minefield out there, no wonder so many of us have had to face the reality at some stage or other: how do you define infidelity in your relationship?

Well, as much as many may have attempted to argue otherwise, it's a pretty straightforward delineation, says Fairfax's RSVP resident relationship expert and psychologist, John Aiken.

There are no degrees of infidelity, he says. "All infidelity is bad on relationships. It's breach of trust, which sees you engage in behaviour that is secretive, dishonest, sexually charged and hurts your partner.

"It might be an emotional affair - sexualised texts, coffee dates, talking down about your partner, being flirtatious, having pet names and fantasising about them. Or a physical affair - kissing, touching, having sex. Any way you look at it - it's not going to help your partner's level of trust in you."

Alarm bells! Did Aiken include fantasising in that list? Guilty, guilty, guilty. But while we all let our imaginations run riot, the relationship expert is keen to point out that to qualify as cheating, fantasising must be in combination with those other, let's say, symptoms.

Whether it's the case of a friend's brother-in-law who emailed naked photos of himself to another woman, or an acquaintance who found that his girlfriend was 'emotionally cheating' by sharing intimacies with an ex-boyfriend, the core motive is the same: they are manifestations of the moment that someone chooses to withhold an element of themselves from their primary partner - and, by doing so, to step over a boundary.

There is no reason to treat kissing differently to sex, Aiken says, as these are things that you only do with your partner. "It's intimate and personal. Doing this with someone else is cheating."

Not all couples will agree with his diagnosis of relationship disaster. Everybody knows the boundaries of their own relationships and what works for some will be beyond the pale for others.

Bill Hewlett, a counsellor with Relationships Australia, is sanguine when it comes to the scale of cheatdom. "It depends to a large extent on the rules in each relaltionship. You need to negotiate your own understanding of what's infidelity and what's not."

He says that the early exploratory stages of coupling will largely determine boundaries - and that much of the conversation about the positioning of a line will be a result of trial and error.

"A kiss is just a kiss" is the line one married couple in their 30s, very close friends, take. Alcohol, great company and being away from each other has seen that couple forced into some very frank admissions - but the strong marriage has not faltered. The relationship is worth more than diverted and momentary affection, they say.

But while definitions of infidelity may be black and white within a relationhip - "It's the same breakdown of trust and the same recovery process to rebuild" - how a couple deals with the pain can vary vastly, says Aiken.

"Some will want to talk it out, some will want to punish their partner, while others will look to avoid the event and try to downplay the hurt and pain. There are those that are prepared to do whatever it takes to repair the damage, while others don't see the big deal in all of it."

To move forwards from there, a "safe and useful conversation", says Hewlett, is the first step - and that often needs third party help.

"It's hard to survive a knock. Both partners will have to go through a stage of renegotiating. You have to re-establish trust and that won't happen quickly."

On the plus side, he has seen couples whose relationships have been rejuvenated by an affair. The trick, he says, is to "talk about feelings, not behaviour."

Either way, when it comes to shades of flings - and there is a vast range of sexually-charged pantones out there - you need to set some rules at the start of a committed union.

"What's important is that you must have a conversation about infidelity and your position on this before it occurs so you know where you both stand," says Aiken.

Hard as that particular dialogue may be, he says it is crucial because of the ramifications infidelity can have. "For many, this is a deal-breaker and it needs to be out on the table early on in your relationship."

Where this leaves Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders - and their betrayed partners - is not pretty, sadly.

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Drug in workout drinks to be illegal

A number of popular workout supplements will become illegal from next week, following a decision by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
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DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine) - ound in popular pre-workout drinks like Jack3d - was recently banned in Canada and New Zealand after reports of adverse health effects.

The drinks, which are usually bought as powder and mixed with water, are said to heighten energy and alertness.

The TGA was initially considering classing the stimulant in the same category with drugs such as heroin. But today's decision puts it in a slightly different banned substances category. While it has been identified as a public health risk, it will not incur the serious criminal penalties of hard illicit drugs.

The decision follows public consultation and advice from an advisory committee. Of the six public submissions received, one supported the proposed ban, noting DMAA is addictive, while the other five argued it is safe, effective and has no negative health effects.

"If up to me you couldn't ban DMAA quick enough. Tomorrow is too late," the supporting submission said.

The TGA's decision was based on "reports of adverse events including high blood pressure, psychiatric disorders, cerebral haemorrhage and stroke". It also found there are no approved therapeutic uses for the stimulant, it presents a high risk of abuse and little is known about its long-term effects.

DMAA was found in ''party pills'' in New Zealand, leading to its ban in April.

The chair of toxicology at the Australasian Society for Pharmacology and Toxicology, Ian Musgrave, thinks the increasing recreational use was the tipping point for the TGA.

"They probably felt the harms from its use as a party drug outweighed any benefits in its use as a supplement in bodybuilding and weight loss," he said.

He was "baffled" last month when he learnt it was being considered in a similar category to drugs such as heroin, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine and thinks this is a more appropriate classification.

"It's more harmful than not," he said "But it's not so harmful it's like heroine."

Food Standards Australia New Zealand advised anyone who has consumed products containing DMAA and is concerned about health risks to consult their doctor.

The decision will be implemented from August 8. It is then up to state and territory governments to implement any changes to legislation.

The NSW Health Department said the ban would automatically be implemented across the state. DMAA will be listed as a Schedule 7 "highly dangerous substance" on the NSW Poisons List. The maximum penalty is a $1000 fine for each instance of supply.

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How we fantasise about sex

We all fantasise about sex, but men tend to indulge in "exploratory" and "negative" imaginings of sex more than women.We've all heard it before: Our brains are our most powerful sexual organs.
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But what goes on inside those well-used organs is largely down to gender.

According to new research, while both men and women will have "intimate and romantic" fantasies about their partners, they go about their lusty imaginings in very different ways.

While men tend to fantasise about "exploratory" sex, women migrate towards "pleasant" encounters, say a team of scientists from the University of Granada.

But many respondents, regardless of gender, had fantasised about "negative" sexual experiences, too. The new study of Spanish 18 to 73 year olds has lifted the lid on our wildest sexual dreams, with a vast 80 per cent of respondents admitting to fantasising about "unpleasant" scenarios.

Almost 100 per cent of the 2,250 respondents said they had imagined "pleasant" encounters.

Exploratory encounters - more frequently indulged in by men - include group sex, swinging parties, promiscuity and orgies.

And definitions of "unpleasant" and "pleasant" shifted. For men, the most common "unpleasant" fantasy was a homosexual encounter, for women one of the most common was "being forced to have sex."

Women fantasised about being submissive on average just once in a lifetime, but men had negative sexual fantasies "sometimes" or "once a year."

The respondents, who had all been in heterosexual relationships for at least six months, confirmed the long-held belief that men think about sex more than women.

More research is needed into attitudes towards the encounters, but it's no secret that, as the researchers put it, sexual fantasy "favors some aspects as sexual desire and arousal".

In fact, as Dr. Logan Levkoff told the Huffington Post: "We are supposed to have an active fantasy life. Sexual fantasies do not make us sluts. Nor do they suggest that we have trouble in our current relationship. Fantasies make us healthy sexual beings."

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Red China? Not quite

CityKat. Chinese women are in no hurry to adopt lipstick.
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Wear red lipstick. If you do, men will want to have sex with you, possibly even propose marriage, and definitely rate you hotter than your pink or brown-lipped girlfriends.

Really? Well someone should, like, tell China.

Yes dear readers, I am back from the PRC. And boy did I learn a few things about love and sex and dating while in the world’s most populous country, including why some young women maintain hairy armpits: they symbolise virginal purity.

But perhaps what I found more striking – especially when compared to my journeys through Japan, Korea, and even Thailand – is just how poorly Western beauty culture has managed to penetrate the place. Life without lipstick is, for example, still overwhelmingly the status quo.

And there’s nothing especially wrong with this from where I’m sitting. How refreshing, I thought, to be a woman and not worry whether your makeup really was making you more attractive - attractive to men, and other women.

Though if the massive shopping ‘mansions’ of consumerist pleasure bedecked in posters of a very red-lipped Emma Watson are anything to go by, it could well be Beijing verges on vanity’s seductive, addictive edge. Seemingly time, not the Great Cultural Wall, is the only barrier before the multi-billion dollar industry and the very lucrative (read: big) Sino market.

And why is this good? Or, more specifically, why should Chinese women learn to love lipstick?

Well, there’s a new psychological study doing the rounds which basically confirms (again) men pay more attention to women who wear it. But not just any shade – it has to be red, bright, bold, flushed-labia memory-inducing red.

Because, according to the literature, “red lips are associated with an indication of oestrogen levels, sexual arousal and health which in turn led to increase the positive perception of the women's faces”. Or, as the authors of the study put it, “makeup increases women's attractiveness”.

Which is, y’know, totally important and stuff for women everywhere, especially women in China.

But pause, I hear you say. Don’t women in China have the odds in their favour? Hasn’t sex-selectivity has helped bred a men-heavy generation presumably desperate for wives? Why would these ladies need the same sort of ‘help’ offered to those poor, hopelessly competitive, single white females in the West?

Well, life for a lovelorn, single sister in the nation’s capital and other major centres is not really that simple.

Witness the rise of “Sheng nu” – China’s so-called ‘unwanted’ or ‘leftover ladies’. The term made the official dictionary while I was there, and I met more than a few definitive types in downtown Beijing. They are educated, financially independent women over the age of 27 who are unmarried, but want to be wed.

Tough love indeed. And clearly the problem runs deep below the surface. Probably even beyond the superficial remedy of any barbarian lip-schmear.

But it got me thinking about what makes women attractive to men, and whether, despite a vast array of profound cultural differences, there are commonalities between Aussie Bridget Joneses and the Chinese Sheng nus. Are educated, financially independent women really so undesirable for example? Do women here struggle with the same (totally offensive) ‘use-by date’ as women in China? And why are men not afflicted with the similar problems (or are they?).

On one hand, it may be a good story about liberation from the marriage ideal, which constrains human relationships to quite a narrow field. For surely while a Sheng nu technically desires marriage, some educated, financially independent women are the ones doing the rejecting – of matrimony specifically, or men in general.

On the other, however, it’s a sad story about gender stereotypes and the pervasive ideal of a submissive bride. Something I accept should exist to counter-balance aggressive Iron Wives, but perhaps not a role I’m interested in playing. And shouldn’t we all be free to decide for ourselves, independent of social expectation?

Of course we should. Of course I like to think I do. But then, I possess a full, feminine palette of lipsticks. And sometimes I wear red, so I can catch me a man and take him in, or under, my bed...

What do you think about make-up and success when it comes to love, sex and dating? Are you a man who is more attracted to painted ladies? Or do you prefer a natural face? Are you a woman who spends $45 on a lippie, because ‘you’re worth it', but can’t help but wonder which shade will make you most sexy?

And do you think women in the dating pool are advantaged by money and education? Or, was Gloria Steinem right: Women have become “the men we wanted to marry”?

**While I’ve got your attention, I’d just like to say a whopping Yippeecayaye to the wonderful blogging that went on in my absence. I hope you enjoyed reading the entries as much as I did. Certainly some excellent discussion ensued. A particular shout-out to our reader-entry winner – Mr Michael Durrand. I doff my cap to you, and your views, sir. 

Cheers all,





[email protected]南京夜网.au

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Why can’t we be friends?

Sexual attraction.Oh boy. Here we go again.
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“Men and women can’t be friends because sex always gets in the way”.

Nothing new there, except now, apparently, there’s definitive science to back it up. Hear that? Definitive. Science. So definitive in fact, the story has made it from the Daily Mail, to the Telegraph, theHindustan Times, and now – ta-da – Orstrayra’s own Fairfax digital network (you’re welcome).

So clearly, it must be true.

And hey, I’m not denying it. But I am completely disagreeing with the conclusion subsequently raised: Men and women can’t be friends, because sex always gets in the way, so don’t bother.

I say do bother.

Because who says friends can’t be sexually attracted to each other? Who says there’s anything wrong with that? And who says that sexual attraction is the only kind of attraction we should ‘worry’ about anyway?

Here’s what I do know:

All friends are attracted to each other; they would not be friends otherwise.

Also, attraction is a beautiful thing. As with all things of great beauty, attraction is complex, not one-dimensional. Consider, for example, your friends. Then consider your lovers. And consider, if you have found them, the person you’ve chosen as The One.

Note how each relationship is compelling for different reasons?

And notice how sexual chemistry is just one aspect of the grander alchemy?

Now consider this: sexual attraction is just one of three key prisms through which we might observe how we are attracted to others.

Sexual attraction, or physical attraction, is complemented by emotional attraction and intellectual attraction.

We social creatures need to recognise at least one, preferably two, ideally three of these elements in another fellow before we may consider them special to us. The more tallies under each sub-head, the more attractive that character is, and the more likely we are to want to have them in our lives.

‘The One’ is demonstrative of this. They are our ultimate, our forever, our only, and they are meant to hold our affection in myriad ways: Sexually, obviously and usually at first; intellectually, which can sometimes be more stimulating; and emotionally, wonderfully and enduringly and often long after bodies and mind begin to fade.

So, why is it a problem that friends may be sexually attracted to each other?

Crudely, because we think sexual attraction should be contained. Contained to The One.

For many of us, raised with a pair of Western-heteronormative goggles nose-plonked, have been taught to see relationships beyond family (read: beyond our incest taboo) as potential life partners – as someone we can mate with, engage with and adore, monogamously, ad infinitum.

Outside the fact this narrow view renders homosexual attraction somehow less valid, it’s important to recognise ‘friendship’ exists as some sort of paltry fallback relationship. In this context, friends play second fiddle to the primary social instrument.

And, to ensure friendship doesn’t steal The One’s limelight, they must be of the same-sex variety.  Because we all know, one man wanting to shag another is an outstandingly ridiculous notion... And shagging, which can lead to babies, so-called miracles of life, is a connection oh-so much more profound than one built on ideas or feelings... Which is why ‘cheating’ is a sexual thing. Right?


There is validity to the above perspective. Indeed, it is the norm. But that doesn’t make it right.

What would be more right is to acknowledge more regularly what I wrote at the start. Attraction is a beautiful thing, and beautiful things are complex.

To say that friends may only be people with whom we share either an emotional connection or an intellectual one – definitely not a sexual one – is to say that these elements are not as important. And as anyone in a long-term relationship knows, so much is utter malarkey.

For, as anyone who’s ever known their partner to share a deep emotional intimacy or profound intellectual affinity with someone outside their couple, love truly is a many splendored thing.

Therefore, if two people are sexually attracted to each other, but perhaps lack the intellectual or emotional bond that could see the relationship transition from a nice one to The One, the only thing ‘getting in the way’ of their friendship is society’s great expectations about what it means to be friend.

Don’t you agree?




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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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