AUSTRALIAN SOCIETY: by Dr Kerrie AllenNews Weekly
Whatever has gone wrong with sex?
, February 4, 2006
Sexual integrity is little valued today, thanks to the triumph of moral relativism, says Dr Kerrie Allen, research officer for the Australian Family Association.The past 20 years have seen a massive shifting of attitudes about sex in Australia. Some trace these changes to the 1960s cultural revolution which swept the West. This era saw sex move from being the privilege of married couples for the purpose of procreation and as a statement of total giving, to the realm of swinging singles with multiple partners, owing to the fact that widely-available contraception had at last enabled sex to be separated from childbearing.
These changes in turn reflected the triumph of humanism and subjectivism. Some 2,500 years ago the ancient Greek philosopher and father of humanism, Protagoras, declared: "Man is the measure of all things."
The poet A.C. Swinburne (1873-1909) reflected the post-Enlightenment West's repudiation of Christian values with his lines:Glory to man in the highest
For man is the master of things.
In its train came the triumph of secular values, such as subjectivism and materialism.Repudiates truth
In recent decades has come the moral-relativist philosophy of postmodernism which repudiates the idea that there are such things as objective universal truths.
Postmodern secular society declares that there is no such thing as objective right or wrong, and that truth and goodness or right and wrong are whatever one believes or feels them to be.
A look at contemporary society shows us what happens when Man's ego becomes the sole measure of truth. The result is a redefining of moral codes of conduct, sources of meaning and rituals of practice.
Most specifically, it is in the area of human sexuality that the triumph of moral relativism is most evident. "Sex" has been redefined almost out of recognition during the past 20 years. It has evolved from the supposed "freedoms" established during the 1960s cultural revolution - such as sexual freedom, easy divorce and abortion on demand - to today's Western society in which even youngsters are exposed to sexually explicit images through the mass media.
A human person, of course, is a sexual being by virtue of biology. However, the sexualising of the human person, which is increasingly evident today, is not something that recognises the value and procreative potential of the person, but instead proclaims that it is sex which defines the person and is the person. Sex becomes something without which one supposedly cannot live and, moreover, something which cannot be restrained.
Here is how sex and love have been redefined:
- Sex is often no longer held as sacred and to be saved for one special person within the bounds of lifelong marriage, but rather is treated as a mere "recreation" - a form of instant gratification of passing desire without any thought for the long-term.
- The body not so much presents or expresses the person that dwells within, but rather becomes all for which the person is seen. This is what one might call objectification, whereby people - and especially women - are seen as mere objects or body parts (especially the sex organs), rather than as subjects.
- Sex is seen not as something to be controlled and safeguarded, but rather something to be unleashed and used - a mere fulfilment of an animal instinct.
- Quality of relationships is devalued. Instead, contemporary society values quantity not quality of sexual expressions, so that the one-night stand and a multitude of sexual partners become life's norm. Under these circumstances, experience is essential and performance is the measure of worth.
- Through the distorting perspective of pornography, a woman in particular loses what was once secret and sacred, and now becomes exposed and available for all. She is no longer looked upon with love and awe, but with lust and desire. She is reduced to being a sexual being, made for sex, and with a multitude of orifices to be had.
- The adult gaze which often falls upon a child is no longer one of simple delight and innocence, but one that is a sexualised gaze. Increasingly, the child too, whether boy or girl, becomes an object of sexual longing.
- Children for their part are prematurely dragged into an adult world and presented with sexual ways of thinking and acting, adults often believing it to be their duty to educate children early about such "choices".
- Sex is no longer confined to heterosexual relationships, but is seen also as normal and rightful for homosexuals.
How then did this all happen - this sexualising of personhood, and the normalising of permissive and promiscuous sexual behaviours and attitudes?
The authors of a study, Doing it Downunder
, based on a telephone survey last year of almost 20,000 Australians, conclude that with regard to teenagers and sex: "real life experience is essential".
This is the relativist's idea of sex - that you must have lots of it with lots of people. However, the value of such experience is questionable when considering survey findings about young people who first had sexual intercourse before the age of sixteen. The findings indicate that they were more likely to have had: (a) sex with more people in their lifetime, (b) anal sex, (c) a same-sex partner, and (d) an STD.
The latest figures about teen sexual activity indicate that young people born in 1986 are sexually active at a younger age - 40 per cent of boys and 25 per cent of girls before age 16 - than any other time in Australian history.
Non-authoritarian parenting has been found to be associated with non-virginity in youth, as is parental permissiveness and lack of parental support. Other factors include: parental divorce, re-marriage and behaviours toward the opposite sex.Peer pressure
Peer pressure is probably the strongest predictor of teen sexual activity, this pressure coming in the form of unwritten "sexual timetables", which indicate what sexual activities one is expected to have engaged in by different ages.
Other research has identified factors associated with delayed first intercourse. These include: high self-esteem and self-control, good performance and motivation in education, having a father at home, and receiving sex education from one's parents.
While an absence of attentive parents has been linked to early sexual activity, a stable family environment is associated with later sexual initiation. Factors such as religious affiliation and social class also are reported to have a marked influence on age of sexual debut.
Boys in Year 10 are likely to report three or more sexual partners in the past year. This accords with previous research that found casual sex was more accepted by boys than girls, with girls valuing sex within a committed or "steady" relationship.
Many academics and social commentators link the post-modern media and cinema with pressuring teens into early sex. Headlines such as "I think about sex every three minutes" and "Steamy sex text" make it clear that delaying sexual relationships should not rate high on the agenda.
A double-standard still exists where sexual activity in teen boys is an esteemed activity of "manhood", whereas among girls it is frowned upon.
(Incredibly, many young men who have had multiple sexual partners still expect their would-be wives to be virgins).
There is an ever-increasing "pornifica-tion" of girls. It is becoming increasingly common to see schoolgirls wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Playboy symbol, Playboy bikinis advertised in shop windows, and playboy symbol stickers on the rear windows of girls' cars.
Somehow, girls have been conned into thinking that it is sexy or desirable to be looked upon as a "sex-bomb" waiting to go off. The disappointment of the young topless models, when a female lobby group succeeded in shutting down Ten Network's Blokesworld Live
event in Brisbane last September, is another example of young women allowing themselves to be pornified and sexualised further.
An anonymous young man in the True Love Waits
movement - which promotes premarital sexual abstinence in youth and highlights its benefits - gives another perspective on boys and sex. He says:
"Many people think a guy has to have sex to prove he's a man. I don't think so. The truth is, it takes a lot more strength to keep your passions under control than to give in to them."
This is not something that is heard very often today, and indeed it is not a message that any teenager is likely to hear from sex education at school, television, dance clips or magazines.
The truth is: sex saved for marriage, and faithfulness in marriage, are not valued by very many people in today's relativist culture.
Teen magazines, such as Dolly
and the newly released boy's magazine Explode
, are replete with articles about sex: how to give oral sex, bizarre sex habits, shaping pubic hair, how to get your best friend's older sister, desirable breast shapes, etc, etc.
Perhaps one of the most visible consequences of the liberalisation of sex to include multiple partners and casual sex has been the massive growth in sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).Sexually-transmitted diseases
The most commonly treated STD in sexually-active Australian adolescents is Chlamydia, followed by gonorrhoea, herpes simplex virus (HSV) and genital warts - and their increasing incidence indicates that there is a lot of re-partnering going on.
The total number of national notifications for Chlamydia trebled between 1994 and 2001. Seventy-five per cent of these notifications were in women under 25 years.
This is particularly worrying as Chlamydia, which is asymptomatic, can cause infertility if untreated.
Herein lies a problem for the "re-definers" of our culture. According to them, having multiple relationships is fine, but getting STDs is not. Moreover, how can they ensure teenagers always use contraception and, at the same time, not interfere with their supposed freedom?
- This is the first extract from a longer paper by Dr Kerrie Allen. References are available on request.