Hey Tony, the virginity ship has sailed
So Tony Abbott thinks Australian women should quit having pre-marital sex.
We all know he likes a challenge.
But good luck, mate, getting that particular toothpaste back in the tube.
The 60s is often portrayed as the era of sexual liberation – a time when western women cast aside their foundation garments and started living in sin. In fact it wasn’t until the 1980s that pre-marital sex really came out of the closet.
I know because my generation of women was the first to shack up with their boyfriends en masse. We entered our twenties in the decade when formerly bohemian sexual mores went mainstream.
We stopped lying to our parents about who was sleeping where in our share households. Most of them got over it quickly.
Of course we didn’t invent premarital sex. What we did was to refuse to live a lie and pretend that sex was something ‘nice’ girls refused until they had a wedding ring on their finger.
A combination of factors drove this shift. Reliable contraception was available without stigma from Family Planning rather than conservative family doctors.
Feminist campaigns and laws that promoted women’s equality were critical. But perhaps the biggest change of all was that many women of my generation finished high school, went to university and wanted to be financially independent.
My generation no longer saw sexual purity as something you used to buy economic security in the form of a husband who’d support you and your children.
Because when you get behind all the romantic tosh about women ‘saving’ themselves for their husband, there’s an ugly truth: female virginity was valued because it allowed men to claim exclusive sexual ownership of their wife.
Marriage, after all, has its origins in a property transaction.
Fathers needed their daughters to remain virgins because it was difficult to pass ‘damaged’ goods on to a suitably well-heeled husband who could expand the family’s wealth and status. Women were regarded as the legal property of their fathers and later their spouse.
It’s telling that Mr Abbott focuses on the ‘gift’ of female virginity. Men presumably get a tacit free pass to sow their wild oats, providing they do it with someone else’s daughter. It’s a double standard that remains alarmingly common.
I sat next to a well-educated liberal minded man at dinner recently who was openly boasting about his son’s libidinous adventures at university. I asked him politely what his daughter was getting up to in her spare time. He looked at me in dumbstruck horror.
This, of course, is the other great lie that underpins the push for women to stay sexually pure.
It’s the claim that men are naturally sexual and they can’t help themselves. Women, being interested in romance rather than sex, give into sexual demands in exchange for true love.
The double standards might live on in the minds of middle class men with daughters to ‘protect’. But if you look at how most young Australians conduct their sex lives and their relationships it’s pretty clear that the virginity ship has sailed.
Tony Abbott it seems is still clinging forlornly to the mast.
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