06.01.1991

Barminess about bonking

Barminess about bonking
 
Lynette Burrows wonders why progressives are suddenly so shocked by under-age sex
 
A REVIEW published recently by the Family Policy Studies Centre tells us that 50 per cent of all girls have had sexual intercourse before they reach 16. One must assume the authors hope to provide food for thought in the coming year for those in responsible authority, but it is difficult to see just what they want people to do.
 
The facts about the increase in pregnan­cies and abortion are already well- rehearsed, as is the perennial solution: that there should be yet more information about sex and contraception. However, since these two features have been prominent in the cultural climate in which the increases have occurred, it is difficult to see how they are supposed to help now.
 
On the face of it, the most astonishing thing is that the review should have caused as much public discussion as it has. Sex for young people is promoted, particularly by the media, as remorse­lessly as fresh vegetables and green issues, so it is not surprising that the constant propaganda has worked particu­larly well on at least half its recipients; isn't that what advertising is for?
 
It is a feature of our morally neutral mass culture that one can find the same respected medium of opinion supporting mutually exclusive points of view. The BBC, for example, while deploring all cen­sorship, will not permit racialism or ho­mophobia in its programmes; the caring professions agonise about the plight of neglected children while at the same time doing everything they can to encourage mothers to go out to work; and we are all besought to take the threat of heterosex­ual Aids very seriously and to alter our behaviour accordingly, but none of the media which carry these dire warnings think it their duty, therefore, to moderate their promotion of the sexual licence that causes it.
 
The prevailing viewpoint of our culture, while portraying itself as young and vital, is in fact very middle-aged and even tired. Accordingly, it assumes there is nothing simpler than to make sure young people always have their contraceptives about their person when taken short by a fit of passion at a party or in a pub.
 
Progressives everywhere scratch their heads in sad surprise and disappointment when they read that nearly 50 per cent of young people embarking on a meaningful overnight relationship do not use even their designer condoms. They continue to believe, against all reason, that passion and prudence are natural bedfellows and that it is just a question of spending more money on sex education in order to defuse their impulses.
 
Surely it is a fundamental mistake to assume that, for the young, any amount of propaganda will succeed in totally divorc­ing the sexual drive from procreation. It is a function of the young to feel the need to reproduce themselves and they do it, as they have always done, regardless of cir­cumstances of poverty, war, famine, dis­ease and dispossession. It is by nature a reckless impulse that doesn't care or count the cost and it is very precious for the continuation of any society.
 
However, in the interests of all — not least of the young people themselves — society has always arranged for good order and personal responsibility in procreation. It has never been easy to control the sexual urges of youth, as we can see from the past when, even though a girl faced economic and social disaster if she became pregnant, it still happened. Because of that, the young have never been expected to cope alone but have had laws, customs and families to help and protect them from the consequences of pursuing their instincts into disorder and misery.
Then suddenly this support and guid­ance was dispensed with by our culture because of the advent of reliable contra­ception and the philosophy that went with it, and we have sought, instead, to turn a strong and blind instinct into a harmless leisure activity. So total has been the capitulation to this idea that we are fast approaching a time when the incitement to sexual activity on all sides, educational, philosophical, recreational and commer­cial, is too strong for almost any young person to resist unless he or she has a personal belief stronger than the combi­nation of all these.
 
The clothes the young wear are designed to make them think of them­selves as sexual performers; so are the books they read and the sex-education they receive. Films on general release invariably erupt into graphic sexual encounters, and even the daily news­papers play upon a sexual instinct that is volatile at that age and has a specific pur­pose. Somewhere along the line it is not surprising if something akin to self-pres­ervation gives way and passions, so con­stantly heated, boil over into action. The wonder is that they don't all do it, not just 50 percent.
 
This would be all very well if the basic premise were right and if sex really were the pleasant, aimless activity that is so accurately described by the wonderfully banal word "bonking". Unfortunately for our society, the sexual act has not changed its nature to accommodate what we should like it to be. Meaningless and trite as it has often become through cultural mismanagement, bonking can still pro­duce babies, make a girl permanently infertile and give both sexes a fatal and infectious disease that even science can do nothing about.
 
Hence the cluckings of alarm from indi­viduals and organisations who should really be basking in the success of their campaign to liberalise us all in sexual matters. They, at least, have got 50 per cent of what they wanted and at a price they did not have to pay; but what a price it is likely to be. One wonders whether we shall be able to afford it in the coming years when we have to foot the bill.