‘McSex’ era is cheap but not cheerful

We live in the age of ''McSex'' - fast, easy, and cheap. Young women need to be helped to ''say no to soul-less sex''. ''They are having a lot of sex with a lot of different men without realising the emotional whack of that. They are feeling it is something they absolutely have to do. We have spoken to hundreds of young women and they hated what they were doing.'' The words of some Bible-bashing right-winger?

No - Cosmopolitan, the free-thinking magazine that discovered the G spot. Editor Lorraine Candy told a debate to mark 100 years of women's suffrage on Radio Four yesterday that it was time to ''pull back'' on sexual liberation because young women were being damaged by it.

In this month’s issue, campaigning against soul-less sex, she wrote: ”Sex is the new black. Snazzy Notting Hill shops are selling sex toys for (pounds) 1000 and super-stylish champagne orgies are being organised in Mayfair apartments.” Sex, she claims, has taken over like the craze for interior decorating or celebrity cooking and – when it comes to
fashion – ”women are incredibly vulnerable”.

One example, in an expose of the club scene, is ”Janine”, who has had sex with ”about 40 men” without ever experiencing an orgasm, and disappears to have sex with a stranger in a toilet cubicle before returning to confess ”It wasn’t that great”.

The alleged rape of a 17-year-old by seven premiership footballers is another sad tale. One of the men who had sex with the school-leaver claimed in a tabloid newspaper she ”didn’t say no, she didn’t push anyone off”, as if this were invitation enough. ”Roasting”, he claimed, was a common activity where numbers of men had sex with the same woman, adding that he had taken part in nine this year.

It is against this background that Scotland’s health professionals are clamouring for the introduction of the morning-after pill into schools. They claim it will reduce the number of teenage pregnancies, one of the highest in Europe.

It may do. But one of the infuriating things about the health police is their unwillingness to question their own assumptions. They cite the Netherlands, where they say the teenage pregnancy rate is low because of a more enlightened attitude. But the Netherlands outside Amsterdam is largely socially conservative and the main reason for the low rate is probably the age at which sexual activity starts.

They are reluctant to endorse programmes supporting young people in postponing sex for fear of making ”value judgments”. But young people are being put under ever more pressure to have sex. Those who refuse are often mocked by their peers in an unpleasant form of sexual bullying. School pupils who are sex-ually active will sometimes need the
morning-after pill – sometimes condoms burst and come off. It is available over the counter from chemists shops. But is giving it out in schools going to add to the sense that those who delay sexual activity are the odd ones out, missing out, the prudes?

Feminist Germaine Greer has hit the headlines recently for an art book celebrating the young male nude. But in a previous incarnation she wrote the mould-breaking Sex and Destiny which attacked the idea she saw implicit in post-sexual revolution society, that women should be permanently available.

She asked whether the expectation that a woman should be always ready for sex is damaging. In her view, even in a relationship, it can take away some of the thrill and make sex boring. For her, habits that involve enforced periods of abstinence may actually enhance the sex life. According to this view, methods of contraception like the computer system, Persona, which enables women to monitor their fertility, might actually lead to a better sex life than the pill.

The male pill is another of this week’s new developments, arriving nearly four decades after its sister, with an Australian project that claims 100% success for 55 men over five years. It is unlikely to take off among the younger generation, but the flipside of the
modern ”roaster” is the caring new man who takes more responsibility than ever for his children.

Ewan McGregor plays a romantic hero transformed into a ”new man” by Renee Zellwegger in 1960s pastiche Down With Love. Unfortunately, the sexual tension of the film is ruined by his transformation – when he utters the line, ”I’m not interested in sex any more, I just want to be married!”, the only other people in the cinema with me walked out. But for the married new man, the male pill might be a less painful alternative, as one commentator pointed out, than the prospect of another set of school fees. Or a vasectomy, which some new men feel pressured into – ”after all, it’s nothing compared to what your wife went though”. Surgery, however, is always a big deal and the vasectomy is not always a
pain-free experience.

More than three decades after the pill, the sexual revolution is continuing to unfold. Sex leers from every billboard, selling everything from soup to nuts, but to the extent that people turn each other into things and fail to recognise each other’s humanity, it is a sexual counter-revolution.

The Herald
8th October 2003