“I’ve lived through the greatest revolution in sexual mores in our history. The damage it’s done appals me.”

Great article…

By  A N Wilson

PUBLISHED: 23:24, 4 January  2013 |  UPDATED: 19:03,  7 January 2013

Humorous: In the view of poet Philip Larkin, the Sexual Revolution started 50 years agoHumorous: In the view of poet Philip Larkin, the Sexual  Revolution started 50 years ago

The Sexual Revolution started 50 years ago.  At least, that was the view of the poet Philip Larkin, who wrote:

‘Sexual intercourse began In nineteen sixty-three. Between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles’ first  LP.’

Probably when today’s students read this  poem, they understand the reference to the Beatles first LP, but need a bit of  help with ‘the Chatterley ban’. D.H. Lawrence’s novel, Lady Chatterley’s  Lover, had been banned for obscenity, and all the liberal-minded ‘great and the  good’ — novelists, professors of literature, an Anglican bishop and sociologists  — trooped to the Old Bailey to explain to a learned judge why Penguin Books  should be allowed to publish it. To my mind, Lawrence’s account of how a  sex-starved rich woman romps naked in the woods with her husband’s gamekeeper is  risible. It is hard to read the accounts of them  cavorting in the rain, and sticking wild flowers in one another’s pubic hair,  without laughing.

Yet the great English Literature professors  of the Fifties and Sixties spoke of Lady C in the same breath as the most  wonderful writings of the world, and the Chatterley trial in 1960 marked a major  watershed. The prosecuting counsel, Mr Mervyn  Griffith-Jones, lost the case when he shot himself in the foot by asking the  jury whether they considered Lawrence’s bizarre novel was something they would  wish their wives or servants to read. By putting the question in that way and  referring to ‘servants’, he seemed to suggest that being loyal to one partner  was as outmoded as having a butler and a parlour-maid.

With the ban lifted, Lawrence’s book became  the best-selling novel of the early Sixties. And by the end of the decade,  hippies with flowers in their hair, or would-be hippies, were practising free  love Chatterley-style. Those who could not classify themselves as hippies looked  on a bit wistfully. Of course, Larkin — born in 1922 — was being  ironical and humorous. But the 1960s were a turning-point, and the decade did  undoubtedly herald the Sexual Revolution.

I was born in 1950, 28 years after Larkin.  And far from being ‘rather late for me’, the revolutionary doctrines of the  Sixties were all readily adopted by me and countless  others. From being schoolboys who read Lady  Chatterley under the sheets, to teenagers and young men who had the Rolling  Stones reverberating in our ears, we had no intention of being stuffy like our  parents. The arrival of a contraceptive pill for women  in 1961 appeared to signal the beginning of guilt-free, pregnancy-free sex. We  were saying goodbye to what Larkin (in that poem) called ‘A shame that started  at sixteen / And spread to everything.’
The Sixties: Teenagers and young men who had the Rolling Stones (pictured in 1964) reverberating in their ears had no intention of being stuffy like their parentsThe Sixties: Teenagers and young men who had the Rolling  Stones (pictured in 1964) reverberating in their ears had no intention of being  stuffy like their parents

But if the propagators of the Sexual  Revolution had been able to fast-forward 50 years, what would they have expected  to see? Surely not the shocking statistics about today’s sexual habits in the UK  which are available for all to study. In 2011, there were 189,931 abortions carried  out, a small rise on the previous year, and about seven per cent more than a  decade ago. Ninety-six per cent of these abortions were  funded by the NHS, i.e. by you and me, the taxpayer. One per cent of these were  performed because the would-be parents feared the child would be born  handicapped in some way. Forty-seven per cent were so-called medical abortions,  carried out because the health of mother and child were at  risk. The term ‘medical abortion’ is very widely  applied and covers the psychological ‘health’ of the patient. But even if you concede that a little less  than half the abortions had some medical justification, this still tells us that  more than 90,000 foetuses are aborted every year in this country simply as a  means of lazy ‘birth control’. Ninety thousand human lives are thrown away  because their births are considered too expensive or in some other way  inconvenient.

Lazy: When women neglected to take the Pill, there seemed all the more reason to use abortion as a form of birth controlLazy: When women neglected to take the Pill, there  seemed all the more reason to use abortion as a form of birth control

The Pill, far from reducing the numbers of  unwanted pregnancies, actually led to more. When women neglected to take the Pill, there  seemed all the more reason to use abortion as a form of birth  control. Despite the fact that, in the wake of the  Aids crisis, people were urged to use condoms and to indulge in safe-sex, the  message did not appear to get through. In the past few years, sexually transmitted  diseases among young people have hugely increased, with more and more young  people contracting chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and other diseases, many of  them unaware they were infected until after they had been sexually active with a  number of partners.

The divorce statistics tell another miserable  story. About one third of marriages in Britain end in divorce. And because many  couples do not marry at all before splitting up, the number of broken homes is  even greater. This time of year is when the painfulness of  family break-up is felt most acutely. January 3 has been nicknamed ‘divorce day’  by lawyers. In a moving article in the Mail recently, Lowri Turner, a  twice-divorced mother of three children, wrote about the pain of waking up on  Christmas morning without her children. She looks at the presents under the  tree, with no children to open them, and thinks: ‘This isn’t the way things are  supposed to be.’

Every parent who has been through the often  self-inflicted hell of divorce will know what she means. So will the thousands of children this  Christmas who spent the day with only one parent — and often with that parent’s  new ‘partner’ whom they hate. I hold up my hands. I have been divorced.  Although I was labelled a Young Fogey in my youth, I imbibed all the  liberationist sexual mores of the Sixties as far as sexual morality was  concerned.

I made myself and dozens of people extremely  unhappy — including, of course, my children and other people’s children. I am  absolutely certain that my parents, by contrast, who married in 1939 and stayed  together for more than 40 years until my father died, never strayed from the  marriage bed. There were long periods when they found  marriage extremely tough, but having lived through years of aching  irritation  and frustration, they grew to be Darby and Joan, deeply  dependent upon one  another in old age, and in an imperfect but  recognisable way, an object lesson  in the meaning of the word ‘love’.

Happiness: The GfK's most recent poll shows most of us feel that what will make us very happy is having a long-lasting, stable relationship, having children, and maintaining, if possible, lifelong marriageHappiness: The GfK’s most recent poll shows most of us  feel that what will make us very happy is having a long-lasting, stable  relationship, having children, and maintaining, if possible, lifelong  marriage.

Back in the Fifties, GfK National Opinon Poll  conducted a survey asking how happy people felt on a sliding scale — from very  happy to very unhappy. In 1957, 52 per cent said they were ‘very  happy’. By 2005, the same set of questions found only 36 per cent were ‘very  happy’, and the figures are falling. More than half of those questioned in the  GfK’s most recent survey said that it was a stable relationship which made them  happy. Half those who were married said they were ‘very happy’, compared with  only a quarter of singles.

The truth is that the Sexual Revolution had  the power to alter our way of life, but it could not alter our essential nature;  it could not alter the reality of who and what we are as human  beings. It made nearly everyone feel that they were  free, or free-er, than their parents had been — free to smoke pot, free to sleep  around, free to pursue the passing dream of what felt, at the time, like  overwhelming love — an emotion which very seldom lasts, and a word which is  meaningless unless its definition includes commitment.  How easy it was to dismiss old-fashioned  sexual morality as ‘suburban’, as a prison for the human soul. How easy it was  to laugh at the ‘prudes’ who questioned the wisdom of what was happening in the  Sexual Revolution.

About one-third of marriages in Britain end in divorceAbout one-third of marriages in Britain end in  divorce

Yet, as the opinion poll shows, most of us  feel at a very deep level that what will make us very happy is not romping with  a succession of lovers. In fact, it is having a long-lasting, stable  relationship, having children, and maintaining, if possible, lifelong  marriage.

An amusing Victorian historian, John Seeley,  said the British Empire had been acquired in ‘a fit of absence of mind’. He  meant that no one sat down and planned for the British to take over large parts  of Asia and Africa: it was more a case of one thing leading to another. In many  ways, the Sexual Revolution of the Sixties and Seventies in Britain was a bit  like this. People became more prosperous. People were  living longer. The old-fashioned concept of staying in the same marriage and the  same job all your life suddenly seemed so, so boring. But in the Forties and Fifties, divorce had  not been an option for most people because it was so very expensive, in terms of  economic as well as emotional cost. So people slogged through their unhappy  phases and came out at the other end.

It is easy to see, then, if the tempting  option of escaping a boring marriage was presented, that so many people were  prone to take the adventurous chance of a new partner, a new way of  life. But the Sexual Revolution was not, of course,  all accidental. Not a bit of it. Many of the most influential opinion-formers of  the age were doing their best to undermine all traditional morality, and  especially the traditional morality of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, which has  always taught that marriage is for life.

A decade on from the Chatterley trial, in  1971, an ‘alternative’ magazine called Oz, written by the Australian Richard  Neville and his mates, was had up, not for obscenity, but for ‘conspiracy to  debauch and corrupt the morals of children’. What brought the authors into trouble was  ‘The School Kids’ Issue’, which depicted Rupert Bear in a state of arousal, and  which carried many obscene adverts. The three perpetrators of the filth were sent  to prison, but the sentence was quashed on appeal.

The 'alternative' magazine called Oz, written by the Australian Richard Neville (pictured) and his mates, was had up for 'conspiracy to debauch and corrupt the morals of children'The ‘alternative’ magazine called Oz, written by the  Australian Richard Neville (pictured) and his mates, was had up for ‘conspiracy  to debauch and corrupt the morals of children. Their defender was none other than dear old  Mr Rumpole of the Bailey, John Mortimer QC — warming to the role of the nation’s  teddy bear. He said that if you were a ‘writer’, you  should be allowed to describe any activity, however depraved. Obscenity could not be defined or  identified. And it was positively good for us to be outraged from time to  time.  Even the Left-leaning liberal Noel Annan,  provost of King’s College, Cambridge, suggested this was nonsense. He remarked  that it was impossible to think of any civilisation in history that fitted  Mortimer’s propositions.  But when the Oz Three were released from  prison, the Chattering Classes all rejoiced.

Of course, this was the era when the BBC was  turning a blind eye to the predatory activities of Jimmy Savile, and when the  entire artistic and academic establishment was swayed by the ideas which John  Mortimer presented to the Court of Appeal: namely that old-fashioned ideas of  sexual morality were dead. Moribund. Over. From now on, anything goes — and it was  ‘repressive’ to teach children otherwise.

The wackier clerics of the Church of England,  the pundits of the BBC, the groovier representatives of the educational  establishment, the liberal Press, have all, since the Sexual Revolution began,  gone along with the notion that a relaxation of sexual morality will lead to a  more enlightened and happy society. This was despite the fact that all the  evidence around us demonstrates that the exact opposite is the  case.

In the Fifties, the era when people were  supposedly ‘repressed’, we were actually much happier than we have been more  recently — in an era when confused young people have been invited to make up  their own sexual morals as they went along. The old American cliché is that you can’t put  the toothpaste back in the tube; and it is usually a metaphor used to suggest  that it is impossible to turn the clock back in matters of public behaviour and  morality. Actually, you know, I think that is wrong.

One of the brilliantly funny things  about  the TV sitcom Absolutely Fabulous was that the drunken,  chain-smoking, sexually  promiscuous old harridans Edina Monsoon (played  by Jennifer Saunders) and her  friend Patsy (Joanna Lumley) are despised  by the puritanical Saffy — Eddie’s  daughter.

The TV sitcom Absolutely Fabulous featured the drunken, chain-smoking, sexually promiscuous old harridans Edina Monsoon (played by Jennifer Saunders, left) and her friend Patsy (Joanna Lumley)The TV sitcom Absolutely Fabulous featured the drunken,  chain-smoking, sexually promiscuous old harridans Edina Monsoon (played by  Jennifer Saunders, left) and her friend Patsy (Joanna Lumley)

A small backlash has already definitely  occurred against that generation. I have not conducted a scientific survey, but  my impression, based on anecdotal evidence and the lives of the children of my  contemporaries, is that they are far less badly behaved, and far more sensible,  than we were.My guess is that the backlash will be even  greater in the wake of the whole Jimmy Savile affair, and in reaction against  the miserable world which my generation has handed on to our children — with our  confused sexual morality, and our broken homes.

Our generation, who started to grow up  ‘between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles first LP’ got it all so  horribly wrong.We ignored the obvious fact that moral  conventions develop in human societies for a reason.We may have thought it was ‘hypocritical’ to  condemn any form of sexual behaviour, and we may have dismissed the undoubted  happiness felt by married people as stuffy, repressed and old  hat.

But we were wrong, wrong,  wrong. Two generations have grown up — comprising  children of selfish grown-ups who put their own momentary emotional needs and  impulses before family stability and the needs of their  children. However, I don’t think this behaviour can  last much longer. The price we all pay for the fragmentation of society, caused  by the break-up of so many homes, will surely lead to a massive  rethink.  At least, let’s hope so.

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