Pure cynicism

Horrors! The next prime minister of Australia might be a man who advocates virginity for young people.
Carolyn Moynihan | Jan 29 2010 | comment  



Cartoon by Kudelka, The AustralianHere is this week’s shock-horror story from Australia: the country’s next prime minister might be a man who advises his daughters not to throw their virginity away on just anyone. Fair go, that’s what he dared to say during an interview with a women’s magazine. You probably heard the resulting outcry in America, above the President’s State of the Union address, above the iPad hysteria: ‘What a chauvinist! What a pontificator! What a hypocrite!’ -- to recite only the more flattering epithets.

The nicest thing any pundit had to say about Tony Abbott, newly elected leader of the opposition (conservative) Liberal Party, was that he was too honest for his own good.

And all because, when asked during an interview with the Women’s Weekly what advice he would give his three daughters on sex before marriage, he said: “I would say to my daughters, if they were to ask me this question… it is the greatest gift you can give someone, the ultimate gift of giving, and don’t give it to someone lightly.”

Okay. Every politician knows that it is death by media frenzy to voice an opinion on a moral issue. Especially if the politico is a man; especially if the issue is sex; especially if, as Abbott freely acknowledges, he has not always lived up to his own standard; and most especially if he happens, like Abbott, to be a practising Catholic. Because we all know, don’t we, that Catholics are the most benighted as well as the most pontificating and hypocritical of people on the subject of sex, if nothing else.

But this is an old script for Abbott, and his opponents. So he probably was not the least bit surprised to hear the current Prime Minister’s Deputy, Julia Gillard, warning darkly that his carefully chosen words confirmed “the worst fears of Australian women” about the would-be PM as some kind of dictator who would impose his own values on them. Nor to hear feminists preaching about double standards (because he spoke only of his daughters, though he has no sons) and “commodifying” women (something to do with speaking of virginity as a “gift” for a future spouse); nor sex education panjandrums insisting that his views on pre-marital sex were hopelessly out of date.

What is surprising is the vehemence with which Abbott’s critics reject sexual purity, not only as a practical goal in today’s circumstances but as an ideal. Their cynicism is born of minds not only closed against the idea that it is good for young people to refrain from sexual relationships and activity, but locked and bolted.

The Age (which knew exactly who to ask) got this from Latrobe University “sex education expert” Associate Professor Anne Mitchell:

She said he was 40 years out of date because at least 50 per cent of Australian students had experienced sexual intercourse before leaving school and 30 per cent before 16.

''People are waiting much longer before they marry and have children, does this mean they have to abstain from sex for 15 or 20 years after puberty? I don't think the public subscribe to such rules any more. On this issue, the gate is well and truly shut.''

Professor Mitchell said that while 20 per cent of school leavers reported having no sexual experience before leaving school, only a proportion of these would be doing so for moral reasons. ''Most of them would be virgins because they had not been able to form a relationship with anybody.''

Oh. So if you leave high school a virgin you are probably a failure at “relationships”, socially inept rather than morally competent. Isn’t that nice, non-judgemental message to convey to teenagers who have managed to get through at least high school without falling into one of those disorienting and often miserable experiments that the big girls call relationships?

Pro-porn feminist Catherine Lumby dismissed sexual purity as “something you used to buy economic security in the form of a husband who’d support you and your children.” This learned one informs us: “Marriage, after all, has its origins in a property transaction,” and, “Fathers needed their daughters to remain virgins because it was difficult to pass ‘damaged’ goods on to a suitably well-heeled husband…”

Goodness, where would you come across a more refined analysis of an institution as old as history than that? In the boys’ locker room?

Ideology like this, fed to kids from at least high school onwards, is clearly having its effect. And yet, as popular columnist David Penberthy points out, “many Australians will agree with [Abbott], and not just those of a certain generation.”

Katharine Murphy of the Sydney Morning Herald made the same point in a more colourful way: “He's saying don't bang the first randy, pimple-faced adolescent you smooch at the school disco just because he insists he loves you. He's saying think about it. Isn't this what many parents would advise their growing kids?”

What reasonable people are up against, however, is much more than a bunch of Australians. In a new report, aggressively titled “Stand and Deliver”, the International Planned Parenthood Federation has issued yet another demand for “comprehensive sexuality education” for children as young as ten years old.

When the pope, like Tony Abbott, so much as expresses his thoughts on sexuality in answer to a question, he is torn to shreds. But IPPF these days speaks with all the authority the church used to have and has much more pull with the majority of governments. So when it pontificates on young people as “sexual beings” entitled to “developing satisfying and pleasurable sexual lives” with the help of “services” and “unconstrained by psychological, attitudinal, cultural or social factors” (the family, the church…) the international bureaucracy jumps. And it takes a pretty determined effort by those with contrasting views to get a fair hearing.

It can be done, though. When UNESCO launched draft guidelines on sex education last year, so many people found them offensive that the organisation had to take the document down from its website.

The question remains: why do these people hate purity so much? Is it all down to a secularist, ultimately materialist world view, in which human beings are only more evolved animals? Or to an anti-marriage, population control agenda? Or to money, since people brought up to seek sex only for pleasure provide many customers for brothels and porn shops, not to mention the pill and condom magnates?

For the ringleaders, probably. But for the rank and file it could be something much simpler. After all, if teenagers can be chaste, what excuse does that leave the adults?

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.



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