“Huge numbers of Brits are losing our virginities before we are ‘ready’,” chirped The Telegraph’s Women’s editor Claire Curran at the weekend. A National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyle poll has found that the average age for this untimely event is 17, but “around 40 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men do not feel like their first sexual experience happened at the ‘right time’.” (‘Trust me, there’s never a good time to lose your virginity’, Telegraph, January 19, 2019).
Despite the best efforts of the sexual revolutionaries to banalise, commodify and compartmentalise the subject, the survey results suggest that there really is something to lose in the realm of sex.
The widespread dissatisfaction among the young and unattached that Curran notes might have something to do with the fact that, as sex has been romanticised, love has been sidelined. Whereas in the past love quite often led to sex (eventually), sex now becomes an end in itself, and the sexual partner is as disposable as the experience, along with what used to be seen as the natural outcome of sex — babies.
Like virginity — and despite the confidence of the sexual evolutionaries who believe that commitment and fidelity are dying out — society remains fascinated with marriage and weddings. But, since most couples are already living together, the wedding itself has come to dominate everything else – except, perhaps, the honeymoon, which has to be a grand, expensive affair because what it used to celebrate and enable has already happened. The Big Day has eclipsed the Big Night.
Yes, widespread “virginity anxiety” may be related to the fact that generations of young people, having been taught in school about sex rather than love and marriage, have already been on a sort of honeymoon, sometimes with a complete stranger, leaving them wondering why the real honeymoon never arrives.
However, instead of refreshing sex education to emphasise self-control and long-term commitment to one partner, moves are afoot to debase it even further by including the study of pornography. The excuse is that young people are going to porn sites to learn about sex, but mainstream porn is sexist, so its anti-woman messages need to be exposed and contrasted with examples of “good sex” – for teenagers, you understand.
Last June Germany’s left-wing Social Democratic Party (SPD), which is part of the government, came up with a scheme to publicly fund “feminist porn” – defined as “diverse and inclusive” and made in “fair” working conditions — and distribute it for free via public broadcasters. If “sex positive” advocates have their way this “ethical porn” will champion “pleasure and personal choice” for straight people, transgender people, gays, lesbians, disabled people, people of different ethnicities and body types… All on public television.
Along similar lines, British Labour MP Jess Phillips has claimed that schoolgirls should be instructed in female sexual fulfilment.
Ironically, all the news lately has been about young people not having sex, but this seems to have been lost on porn advocates. Or perhaps the porn-sex-ed industrial complex will be happy so long as youngsters are watching the stuff; after all, governments are going to be footing the bill for it.
Netflix, however, is doing its bit towards reactivating teenagers with its new series Sex Education. Set is a Welsh high school, it follows the repressed son of a sex therapist as he doles out advice to his anxiety-addled, promiscuous classmates. According to The Telegraph the show “makes Skins, the edgy teen drama that ran on Channel 4 for several years, look tame.”
The show has many “provocative scenes” including “much full-frontal nudity from a cast barely into their twenties,” requiring the involvement of an “intimacy coordinator” – a new addition to the film crew whose job is to better prepare everybody involved in a film sex scene, from the costume designers to the cast, helping to “choreograph” it “to the satisfaction of actor and director alike.” Noting the current “hothouse atmosphere” in which some adults seem obsessed by teenagers’ sex lives, columnist Zoe Strimpel wrotes yesterday that she could not “shrug off the sense that there was something a bit indecent about the whole thing.” (‘Just leave young people to their own sex lives’, Sunday Telegraph, January 20, 2019).
Since adult entertainment centring on teenage sexuality can hardly avoid making its audience feel like an ageing pervert in a grubby mac, in the wake of the #MeToo movement sexual revolutionaries are restyling their product “female empowerment.” So we can expect a lot more “right-on” lesbian portrayals in popular entertainment, like the film Colette. Not that this kind of feminism could have the remotest appeal to male sexual perverts and harassers. Obviously.
If society has lost its reverence for sex, such films are unlikely to help us regain that reverence, However, unlike physical virginity, which can only be lost once, it could be regained if we were to treat sex with the reverence it deserves. Then people could once again look forward to enjoying a real honeymoon rather than pining over losing something they never valued until it was gone.
Ann Farmer lives in the UK. She is the author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign (CUAP, 2008); The Language of Life: Christians Facing the Abortion Challenge (St Pauls, 1995), and Prophets & Priests: the Hidden Face of the Birth Control Movement (St Austin Press, 2002).