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Our society is in a complete muddle about sex

And this confusion is rooted in the arrival of the Pill in the early 1960s

By on Thursday, 12 June 2014

'The pill seems to be the medically miraculous answer to the fear of an unwanted baby' (PA)

'The pill seems to be the medically miraculous answer to the fear of an unwanted baby' (PA)

A friend has just visited me and related the following story, told to her by her 13-year old daughter. It seems that her daughter has a friend of the same age, whose mother, happily married and in her early 40s with two children, found she was pregnant again by accident. She was very upset, her husband was appalled and the whole family agreed she would have to have an abortion. She had actually booked herself in to a clinic and was going for her appointment when she saw a group of people praying outside. She left in tears, went home, cancelled the abortion, had the baby – a little boy – and the family changed its attitude overnight, from fear and rejection to acceptance and happiness.

I mention this story because it reflects the whole culture of abortion today; stable married women in early middle age are as likely to resort to it as teenage girls. Listening to it, I was also taken aback at the way a 13-year-old girl thought abortion the best, indeed the only option for her mother. It struck me that this all stems from a contraceptive outlook, brought about by the advent of the Pill in the early 1960s; it seemed to be the medically miraculous answer to the fear of an unwanted baby. If there were accidents, abortion became the obvious solution.

An article in the Sunday Telegraph magazine last week further emphasised this culture, but also showed that the miracle has now become a little threadbare. Written by Sirin Kale, “a 24-year-old Oxbridge-educated student, with bookshelves full of feminist literature and a fair amount of sexual activity behind me”, the article focused on the anxiety some women now feel about the many negative side effects of the Pill, and thus how to have pregnancy-free sex by other methods. It discussed the morning-after pill, the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, safe sex, how “the availability of abortion has transformed women’s attitudes towards the risk of unwanted pregnancies”, sexual health and so on.

As Madeleine Teahan’s blog about an article in the Guardian on celibacy shows, our society is in a complete muddle about sexual behaviour. On the one hand it is assumed that everyone has the right, almost a duty, to have a sexual relationship (so that you can’t admit openly to being celibate) and on the other there is deep unease about the consequences. The Sunday Telegraph article concludes “The Pill was certainly a game-changer, transforming women’s sex lives forever, yet it has become clear that it raises as many questions as it answers. Today it seems that women feel more confused than ever by the choices they face. What does the future hold for women and contraception? Only time will tell…”

I feel sad for the younger generation, sold a chimera of sexual fulfilment outside the context of marriage, children and the worthwhile self-sacrifices these entail. Georges Bernanos, who I blogged about on Monday, saw friendship with God, the hallmark of sanctity, as the source of true happiness – “this wonderful adventure” he called it. This is the same adventure to which Pope Francis, quoted in the Herald of June 6, calls married men and women: he said married couples should look to how Jesus loves his Church to learn how to be faithful, steadfast and fruitful in their vocation and warned against the alternative: choosing pets and a comfortable lifestyle.

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