I am embarrassed to admit that when I was an impressionable teenager in the 70’s, desperately searching for a hero, I had a poster of Germaine Greer on my bedroom wall.
While feminism succeeded in challenging political and workplace inequities, in the personal sphere of sexual morality, the movement led astray a whole generation of women.
By promoting free sex, feminism opened up a world of heartache in confused relationships and exacerbated social problems such as unwanted pregnancy, abortion and adoption and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and later an explosion in the divorce rate and the multitude of traumas and complications that broken marriages unleashed.
If the freedom-loving Hippies and self-centred Baby Boomers didn’t suffer enough for their misguided choices, they also failed to pass on moral guidance to their children.
In the first decade of the 21st century, we have seen a whole generation which has grown up lacking a solid moral framework, becoming sexually active at a ridiculously young age, while still clutching their teddy bears.
Many teenage girls view going all the way with random boys as just another way of having fun, along with getting trashed on booze and texting their friends about their exploits. In fact, they boast about the porn tricks they willingly perform.
So where did the breakdown of sexual morality start? In the post-war 1950’s, traditional values of courtship, engagement and white weddings were all the go. Then the 60’s Sexual Revolution changed all that as the Flower Children celebrating free love as a means of protest against war. It was a seemingly naïve and innocent sentiment however mixing up sex and politics proved to be a bad mistake.
In the catalytic 60’s, the Pill freed women from fear of unwanted pregnancy and feminism further legitimised casual sex. Liberated young women set out to prove they were equal to men in sharing the cavalier male attitude to one-night stands. Once again, politics got mixed up with the personal and women sacrificed their standards and their role as moral guardians.
Poor bitter and lonely Germaine. Having studied personality types in-depth, I now sadly realise that the feminist icon was expressing her own peculiar desire for power, fear of intimacy and disdain for her mother. Her eloquent and persuasive polemics are based on personal issues rather than life-enhancing universal truths.
What a flop of a role model she turned out to be for this young girl. Now in reflective middle age, I have grown to deeply regret my defiant rejection of traditional values. My life would have been so much easier with far less inner conflict if I had embraced an old-fashioned devotion to marriage and family from the outset, instead of fighting it.
I’m not the only intelligent woman who is kicking herself over feminism. In her book, What Women Want Next, columnist for The Australian newspaper, Susan Maushart writes: “Maybe it was never feminism’s aim to make us happy. But was it really supposed to make us anxious and confused and plagued with self-doubt? Was it supposed to send divorce rates through the roof and fertility down the gurgler? Was it supposed to turn parenting into a battlefield, or to strip the dignity from unpaid labour? “
While feminism performed a great service in highlighting a multitude of social ills, it failed to offer a healthy model for relationships and robbed us of the ideals that guided our grandparents.
Christian sexual morality of ‘saving yourself’ for marriage, that is, abstaining from pre-marital sex and committing to a life-long monogamous marriage might seem anachronistic, boring and restrictive in our sex-drenched contemporary culture, with its bombardment of casual sex in movies, music, magazines and easy access to internet pornography.
Some young people think they would ‘miss out’ if they don’t experiment widely with sex before marriage. And yet, if we Baby Boomers are honest, misuse of sexuality has led to immense suffering. It’s at the pivotal core of relationship misery.
The teenager who blunders into sex before he or she is emotionally mature enough to handle this level of intimacy ends up heart broken, ashamed and damaged. They use their bodies to meet the cravings for connection, affection and attention, often the emotional needs they missed out on growing up in broken families.
The 20-something single notching up one-night stands invites loneliness and despair and moves further and further away from a genuine, lasting relationship with someone who is willing to invest the time to get to know them at a deeper level and commit for the long haul.
The divorcee, desperately searching for a new partner, who uses instant sex as leverage, gets used and discarded. They end up more damaged; blaming their bitterness on ‘all men’ or ‘all women’ without taking responsibility for their destructive opportunism.
Discontented married men and women who stray suffer the pain of violating a sacred trust. Affairs, promoted by our popular culture as harmless flings, either smash and destroy families or do so much damage, it takes years for a couple to recover.
Long before feminism and the Sexual Revolution of the 60s, another radical polemicist, Jesus of Nazareth advocated monogamous marriage.
I don’t believe that Christianity is out to spoil our fun by restricting sexual freedom. On the contrary, restricting sex to marriage protects us from pain and fosters the fulfilment that comes from enjoying intimacy within the safety and sanctity of a committed union.
Young people are wise to resist popular culture’s pressure to embrace sexual permissiveness. Old-fashioned Christian morality might just be the radicalism this lost generation desperately needs.