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Mr Sheehan Goes A-Wooing

There are two possible explanations for Paul Sheehan’s op-ed in today’s Fairfax press. The first is that there has been some kind of mix up, that two of Paul’s pieces have gotten switched and that somewhere on an erotic fan-fiction website there is a mundane neo-conservative analysis of the U.S election. The other option is that someone at Fairfax, very possibly Sheehan himself, is trying to get fired.

First up, you need to read it. All of it. Even when the nausea kicks in, you have to read all of it. Think of yourself as Dumbledore drinking that potion in the Half Blood Prince, but instead of an agony-inducing poison, you’re trying to imbibe the undiluted masturbatory sweat of a crazy person. It is Fifty Shades of Oh God Why Are You Still Doing This.
 
Paul, you need to take a long, cold shower and then also never do journalism again.
 
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what the most terrifying aspect of this piece is. It might be that creeping feeling you get as you read it, ultimately vindicated, that the article is actually going nowhere beyond an old man’s clammy love letter to a 29-year-old. It might be that the phrase ‘I can only imagine the force of being on a frothing stallion with its ears back’, not only appears in the article, but also is one of the least creepy things in it. Or it might just be that, insofar as you can detect a boner in someone’s writing, you can detect a boner in this piece.
 
Mr Sheehan, I think you might’ve blown your chances with Francesca Cumani this time round, but I know you’re too resilient to let that or the impending restraining order put you off. So, if you’ll allow me to play Cyrano to your Christian, the nurse to your Juliet, I’d like to give you some pointers for any of your future attempts at wooing. So here we go.
 
“The thoroughbred was the only woman on the anchor panel, an English import, Francesca Cumani’
 
So, we’ve already run into a problem, Paul. In my experience, and I’ll admit that I am possibly just young and naïve in the mysterious arts of courtship, but I have found that, as a general rule, women do not like being called a horse. I learned this the hard way when, in my university days, I would trawl the nightclubs with a bag of oats and a handful of sugar cubes, only to find that the ladies rebuffed my advances, no matter how much I complimented their shiny coats or shapely fetlocks. So this wasn’t a great way to begin your charm offensive, even if, and no one is disputing this, your horse-comparison was intended to be a favourable one.
 
The next problematic phrase comes literally right after the first one.
 

‘…and English import, Francesca Cumani, who floated elegantly above the fray, intimately involved and yet apart.’

This is probably where anyone reading your op-ed starts to get the sinking feeling that something is not quite right here, and it’s about to get much worse.
 
And it’s a minor point, Paul, but you can’t call her a horse and then say she floats above anything, elegantly or otherwise. Horses do not do that. You’re thinking of zeppelins. You’ve mixed up horses and zeppelins again. (In fairness to you, a Pegasus is a horse that floats, but as you didn’t say Pegasus, we have to assume you didn’t mean Pegasus.)
 
You then go on to outline her many positive qualities. This is, in other circumstances, is a good thing to do. It’s sort of the nuts and bolts of romantic overtures. And for the most part, the qualities you single out are good. Your discussion of her beauty, intelligence, lucidity, courage and loyalty would be, were it not published in a nationally syndicated column, more or less fine. But it’s when you get to this bit that the crazy-zeppelin crashes into a field.
 
“She wants to have children. Here we reach a point of divergence, the point of discrimination, where the apex of the pyramid of admirable qualities is occupied by women, not men.”
 
There are a few problems here, Paul, all of which stem from the larger, all encompassing problem that you are an absolute lunatic. First of all, while I think we all appreciate your attempt to praise the sisterhood, the way you’ve gone about it kind of makes you sound like a gender studies undergraduate trying to trick a girl into sleeping with you. Secondly, the phrase ‘apex of the pyramid of admirable qualities’ sounds an awful lot like you cribbed it from Dianetics. But I get the essence of what you’re trying to say through the bluster and the sweat – the fact that women can have children is pretty swell – and I don’t think anyone would disagree with you, so you could probably have just left it at that. Instead you wrote the following:
 
“Women have a greater physical capacity for pleasure. This is nature’s scheme. Because in nature, procreation is paramount.”
 
This is not prose you expect to find in an opinion column, this is prose you expect to find in a perfumed love letter strapped to a brick and thrown through the window of a celebrity.
 
If you’re going to argue that I took that quote out of context, I want to you to try and dream up as single context in which that is not a demonstrably creepy thing to write. You continue:
 
“Women live in a more dangerous world than men. Men usually have much greater physical strength than women. In domestic disorder, or crime or social conflict, when push comes to shove, women are usually at a disadvantage.”
 
Again, I think we all appreciate the sentiment. Violence against women is a very real problem. It’s just that because you drop this truth bomb after a lengthy ode to a woman half your age, it comes off as, at best, another fevered attempt to be down with the gals, and at worst, vaguely threatening. 
 

So when you next go a-wooing, Mr Sheehan, I’d dial back almost every single aspect of your approach. I would dial it so far back that you do a reverse-spinal-tap, turning the knob past the point of zero. On the one hand, I’m glad that you’re not spewing bile about the Prime Minister or brown people for now, this is a welcome development. But on the other, I’m slightly annoyed that your op-ed today has meant that I will never again achieve an erection.

Ben Jenkins blogs at abafflingordeal.com and you can follow him on twitter @bencjenkins

Image: Shutterstock.

5 comments so far..

  • maxlavergne's avatar
    Commenter
    maxlavergne
    Date and time
    Thursday 08 Nov 2012 - 2:42 PM
    this is outstanding
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  • AndrewPStreet's avatar
    Commenter
    AndrewPStreet
    Date and time
    Thursday 08 Nov 2012 - 3:27 PM
    Say what you will about Sheehan's prose, but I can't wait until he publishes his anthology of erotic verse, which I'm guessing is currently a collection of stained A4 pages in a shoebox.
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  • Wrecked's avatar
    Commenter
    Wrecked
    Date and time
    Thursday 08 Nov 2012 - 4:56 PM
    I couldn't get beyond the fact that the editors had let 'women' instead of 'woman' get through. It says a lot when this is what is published. Not just comments.
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  • NiteShok's avatar
    Commenter
    NiteShok
    Date and time
    Thursday 08 Nov 2012 - 4:58 PM
    Great work Ben
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  • Gaz of Sydney's avatar
    Commenter
    Gaz of Sydney
    Date and time
    Monday 12 Nov 2012 - 10:04 AM
    At least it wasn't another public love letter to Ian Plimer.
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