Author Row Murray grew up as a teenager in the Ballarat of the 1980s. She remembers clearly hanging out in the Bridge Mall, going to see bands at the Inn – all creative fodder for her later career as a writer.
Her book, For Foxes’ Sake: everything a fox needs to know about sex, is a absolutely frank, no-holds-barred investigation of sex in the modern age, from the perspective of what a young woman (and everyone else) needs to know.
“I was very much about wearing the old Ballarat College school uniform with the Sportsgirl sunglasses; really rocking that 80s look down in the mall. I’m definitely guilty of that. But Ballarat was where I learned to skateboard, broke a few bones, discovered a love of music. I absolutely loved the Dead Salesmen. I couldn't tell you how many time I saw those guys live.”
Murray says the premise for her book came from several directions.
“I used to own an online sex toy store, and I very much designed that to be a safe shopping space for women. All of the products were body-safe, they were organic where possible,” she says.
“We had a live chat customer line, and I would sit up all night answering customer’s questions, and it really brought home to me how poor sex education has been across the board. It didn’t matter if I was on live chat with an 18-year-old or a 65-year-old, it came back to really inconsistent and quite poor sex education, particularly when it came to the pleasure side of sex.”
For Foxes’ Sake explores everything from safety in internet dating to how our bodies conspire with porn to make us think we’re participating; why gender is not biology; the difference between love and lust and why BDSM’s appeal has grown.
“There’s so much information available online, but also so much completely incorrect and poor information online,” says Murray.
“Today’s digital world puts so much information at our fingertips - but only up to a point. There were things like religious websites masquerading as medical websites, preaching abstinence. I was appalled by the amount of hard-to-find information out there and felt it all needed to be in one place.”
Row Murray has spoken to various medical associations in her assiduous search to make sure her information was correct. She says reaching out to industry associations and seeking peer-reviewed texts was an arduous journey, taking over two-thirds of the 18 months it took to write For Foxes’ Sake.
But it ensured her research was completely vetted, and led top some fascinating discoveries.
For example, the existence of mirror neurons in our brain’s makeup. These ensure when we view pornography, we can’t help but put ourselves inside it.
“There have been several studies that track this specific topic,” says Murray.
“Your brain recognises something and the neuron mirrors the behaviour of what it’s seeing. Primates do a similar thing. It’s how we go about everyday life. With watching porn, what the neurons tend to do is – obviously we’re aware that we’re not inside a TV, although virtual reality may change that – the brain can trigger that similar state as if we were having sex. It triggers arousal and pleasure centres. It increases arousal in the moment, which is why it works so well with couples.”
Similarly, the difference between lust and love is not often well understood, she says.
“They’re two separate brain functions. They work best when they're working well together. To pull it back to the evolutionary stage, the process is about getting out there and making babies, but when the love component kicks in, that tends to make a longer-lasting facet, to bring in commitment and loyalty.
“We’re quite capable of falling in-and-out of love and in-and-out of lust with the same person over and over.”
For Foxes’ Sake covers almost every imaginable aspect of sexual activity. It covers everything from the most vanilla of topics to those which are among our deepest taboos. But it’s also a vital repository of information about sexual health, sexual mindfulness, sexual safety and above all – pleasure.
Row Murray will be on stage at The Lost Ones Basement Bar in Camp Street from 6.30pm to 8.30pm October 4 to talk all things sex. Co-host and advertising creative Liz Doherty will facilitate a live question stream. Tickets are $16 through www.thelostones.com.au; post your (anonymous) questions at https://row6.typeform.com/to/VomblK
You can purchase the book at https://forfoxessake.com.au/