Since becoming single after a 20 year gap, I have been fascinated at the change in people’s attitudes towards sex.
It seems that women (whether or not they choose behave this way), regard it as being perfectly acceptable to have casual sexual encounters. Having sex is a ‘right’ and no longer something to be ‘frowned upon’. In addition, I have been taken aback by people’s attitudes towards affairs.
When I was a child, the discovery that any of my parents’ friends had had affairs was a major social incident. It rarely happened, but when it did, if the woman was the adulterous one, she could expect to be socially ostracised FOREVER….! However, if a man was discovered to have had an affair, he was far less harshly treated.
Nowadays, it seems that whilst some will still judge people harshly, many more take the attitude that an affair is the sign of a bad marriage, and the apportionment of blame has to be shared by both parties.
Bearing all this in mind, I have been fascinated to see what changes in attitude there have been amongst teenagers, and their parents.
When I was a child, teenage pregnancies were rare and caused great shock. I remember as a teenager discussing the subject with friends. The hot topic was whether we would have the baby or not. Amongst my friends, it was a moot point, because none of us were sexually active. We are also the generation that was bombarded by the anti-AIDS campaign of the 80’s. It had a major impact on us.
So as a product of that generation, I find it equally fascinating and alarming to see the issues being faced by the friends of mine who have teenage daughters. Over the last few months, I have found myself discussing ‘teenage issues’ with a number of them. By chance, these friends all happen to have daughters varying in age from 13 to 17.
From what they have said, promiscuity is at a level I find horrifying. Underage girls are prescribed the pill without their parents’ consent, which may deal with the issue of pregnancy, but does not protect them from STDs. And as teenage girls are not known for their reliability, they may not even be properly protected from that.
This freedom to take the pill also leaves boys without a sense of responsibility. I believe that boys need to be more aware of the ramifications if their ‘girlfriend’, gets pregnant. And the fact that they will have no control over whether she decides to proceed with the pregnancy.
One friend’s daughter came home from school with a leaflet about sex and relationships. It covered a variety of topics: the importance of contraception; being ‘bullied’ into a sexual relationship; the ramifications of having compromising photos taken; and being pressurised into sex by your peer group.
But what I find so sadly missing in all of this, is the emotional element. Sex as part of a loving, trusting relationship. And if a girl has had sex with half a dozen boys by the time she’s 18, how will this affect her attitude towards relationships as she gets older? Will she end up regretting it, or just continuing down the same path?
Is our society so broken down, that the idea of fidelity and lasting relationships is seen as archaic? I really hope not.
One mother discovered that her daughter had had several sexual partners, but couldn’t understand why her mother thought it was a big deal. I admire her for her ability to stay calm, not scream the house down, accept that she is getting good grades at school, and that frankly, there is nothing she can do to stop her.
And so the other day, when a friend told me she is worrying herself over her daughter’s weight and her refusal to wear clothes that aren’t grungy, I had to smile to myself. She’s the type of teenager that I was. Rebellious, not wanting to do what her mother says, and frankly, just not that ‘into boys’.
Whilst I have no doubt that my friend is driven round the bend by her daughter’s attitude, I can’t help thinking that she’s the luckiest mother of them all.