Friday, 24 July 2009

As You Sow, So Shall You Reap : Part Two.

Philip Jones 1st May 2009.

Infertility and Loneliness: The price we are now paying for treating sex as a recreational sport.

It is a modern article of faith that sexual freedom spells greater happiness. Repression is bad for your health. Modesty is for dinosaurs. Anyone who dares suggest a downside to sexual incontinence is more or less accused of wanting to introduce Taliban-style morals police into the bedrooms of Britain.

Instead, as the British Government gears up to produce yet more initiatives to combat teenage pregnancy, we are told that there’s nothing wrong with the sexual free-for-all. Promiscuity soaring upwards? Welcome evidence of greater openness, tolerance and honesty, says a Lancet study.

More and more people who don’t think marriage is a necessary prelude to having children? Proof that cohabitants should get the same rights as married couples, say researchers for the British Social Attitudes survey. An increase in under-age sex? No problem, say government advisers on teenage pregnancy. Just dish out the condoms.

Sex is now Britain’s major recreational sport. The message is, have fun but be careful - a bit like telling people to avoid going off-piste on the ski slopes. The Labour government insists that every relationship is just another lifestyle choice. Sex is approved of as long as it happens within the context of a ‘loving relationship’, a concept as elastic as it is fragile.

The trouble is that this sexual freedom is being bought at severe cost to individuals and to society. Far from the Brave New World heralded by the Lancet’s authors, their study suggests a rather more troubled landscape.

‘Openness’ and ‘Honesty’? On the contrary: the new promiscuity has meant more two-timing and betrayals. The Lancet says one in seven men and one in eleven women had overlapping or concurrent relationships in the past year.

‘Tolerance’ - but what are we all tolerating? One in ten adults now has a sexually transmitted disease, risking their lives and their fertility. New cases of gonorrhoea, syphilis and chlamydia more than doubled between 1995 and 2008. Last year there were more than 3,600 cases of HIV, the highest ever annual figure.

To the official mind, though, the main danger from the sexual free-for-all is teenage pregnancy — which is, of course, nothing to do with sexual freedom, perish the thought. The reason we have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe, apparently, is the unavailability of contraception and the lack of sex education.
So the great and the good who advise the government’s Teenage Pregnancy Unit are suggesting that children below the legal age of consent should get the Pill and condoms at school, and that sex lessons should become a compulsory part of the national curriculum.

So much for respect for the law; so much for the idealism that invented the age of consent to protect children from sexual harm. There’s an unshakable belief that more contraception and sex education mean less pregnancy. But they don’t. The British Medical Journal reported last year that most pregnant teenagers had previously obtained contraceptive advice; they even visited their GP more frequently than other young people to get it.

Young people hardly lack sex education or access to contraception. The more these have been made available, the more sexual activity has increased among the young. Government advisers serve up the old chestnut that the Netherlands has an open attitude to sex and few teenage pregnancies. But the Dutch are in fact highly responsible about family life, and many of their Calvinist schools put across the very opposite of a free-wheeling approach to sex.

Sex education and contraception are beside the point. It’s our culture which produces young women who, inadequately parented - often in broken families — and left in huge emotional need, think a baby is a passport to a life of independence and emotional fulfilment.

The terrible irony is that the people who kidded themselves they had most to gain from sexual freedom, women, are the ones who have lost out the most. It’s not just the wretched teenage mums trapped in their council flat with a couple of toddlers and a packet of Prozac.

As the Lancet study revealed, the vast majority of women who have had early sexual experiences regret it. Even among those who lost their virginity between the ages of 18 and 24, as many as one in five regretted it. Is it any wonder? For they have thrown away their trump card.

Women, including those who are promiscuous, overwhelmingly look for faithfulness, commitment and marriage. But men increasingly fail to see what’s in it for them. Women used to hook men into permanent commitment by their sexual unavailability. Now they behave sexually in the same way as men and then they wonder why men aren’t interested in sticking around.

Instead, more men look for sex with no commitment. Twice as many men now pay for sex as they did ten years ago. This may seem odd, since so many women are now sexually available. But paying a prostitute frees men from the commitment which women crave and which is now so lacking in our society. The result is a huge increase in solitariness and loneliness and the progressive destruction of our social ecology.

Our governing class assumes that nothing can be done to turn this tide. But that’s not true. Young people often want to be helped to resist the enormous pressure for early sexual activity. In the United States, abstinence education programmes have had extraordinary success in bringing down teenage pregnancy rates.

These are far from joyless, finger-jabbing schemes. The Washington-based Best Friends programme, for example, creates a club that girls love to join because they do fun activities around the notion of respect for their bodies. In that context, they learn three things: no sex till the end of high school, no alcohol till the lawful age for drinking and no drugs ever. And they are taught ways of resisting the peer pressure. The result is not only minimal rates of teenage pregnancy and alcohol or drug use, but their educational achievements soar.

Mention abstinence programmes to British government advisers, however, and they run screaming from the room. Instead, our local authorities are dreaming up more goodies to bestow upon unmarried mothers, thus giving girls every encouragement to join their ranks.

Of course, sexual license is a huge cultural shift. There can scarcely be a family in the land that isn’t touched by its ramifications. But as America shows, it is possible to change the national conversation. People there are slowly coming to realise that the sexual free-for-all may not be in their best interests.

Politicians shouldn’t preach or hector. But they can educate people to realise that their own best interests lie in behaving differently. Signals from the top are crucial. At the moment, these are all pointing in precisely the wrong direction. It would take courage and leadership to turn them round - qualities which, when it comes to our governing class, somehow don’t quite spring to mind.

1 comment:

  1. Kathleen Beatty28 July 2009 at 22:37

    Hi Philip -- i just read Part 2 of 'As You Sow...' -- spot on as usual!

    i also agree of course with teaching abstinence to young people -- tho i think it is most effective when both family and church teach it together -- in the early part of this decade i worked for a few months as receptionist for the Catholic Charities of my county -- both the head of the abstinence program, and a born-again preacher who also worked there, in part with the abstinence program, were caught watching porn on the internet. i suppose this just means that satan never sleeps, but it has made me cautious about agencies teaching abstinence rather than churches and families. I don't think this Catholic Charities was typical of most, at least i hope not -- i was standing outside smoking a cig one day (a Very Bad Habit i am determined to quit!) when a clean and tidy apparently homeless man walking down the street asked me if he could use the kitchen there to cook his food -- i asked the Director and she said No -- i had to go tell him that, tho i did offer him the use of my kitchen during my lunch break -- he said no thanks, shook my hand and looked into my eyes -- i felt BLESSED! as he was walking down the street i saw him disappear! -- so that agency turned away an Angel walking amongst us, as i see

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