THE ‘F’ WORD
Robbie Low on a flawed philosophy
It was a strange and unexpected conversation. Sara and I were being driven from the airport to our hotel in Istanbul. The young man was keen to practise his English which, I need hardly add, was considerably better and more comprehensible than that of many young Englishmen. Having discovered that I was a priest he suddenly asked, ‘Why don't English women, Christian women, want to be married?’ (By law a Turk is not allowed to book himself into a hotel room with any woman but his wife. If this law was applied to Western visitors, the tourist trade would collapse.) But, my young friend continued, he had noticed especially how few young and not so young English women were married. They routinely slept with the boyfriend – not infrequently changing the male companion during the course of the holiday! Their promiscuity and, no doubt, the opportunities they afforded, were legendary among young Turks. There was no triumphalism in this, just a genuine surprise. He found it difficult to comprehend how a woman could have so little self-respect and demean herself in the eyes of men to the point where she was no more than a disposable sexual object.
It was not a conversation I had anticipated as a prelude to Topkapi and Hagia Sophia but to anyone with cable TV or access to tabloid newspapers it would scarcely be a revelation. While the English male abroad routinely employs alcohol to achieve anything from mindless violence to total insensibility, his female counterpart seems to be intent on shaming her grandmother. It is unlikely to shame her mother as her mother's generation is all too often complicit or, indeed, participatory. It was also a conversation I had endured before. A second world friend had once vouchsafed to me that the only difference between young English women, when they came to his country, and prostitutes was that prostitutes had the sense to charge. Tragically such widespread reputation besmirches the virtuous and endangers them too. Foreign men, perhaps understandably, make ready stereotypical assumptions about English women based on overwhelming experience.
To anyone with a daughter – or sons that might one day want to marry someone else's daughter – these reflections seem pretty bleak. Nor are these simply the fantasies of ‘untrustworthy foreigners’ or the creative journalism that panders to any outrageous debauchee seeking their Warholesque ‘15 minutes of fame’. Those of us who have regular personal contact and friendship with those in their teens and twenties will recognize that regular, casual, promiscuous and, often, aberrant sex is not the exclusive domain of a foreign holiday but is, in fact, increasingly normative. If one added the adjective ‘uncommitted’, you would be well into majority territory.
How have we got into this situation? How has the very heart of womanhood, the cradle of our being, and the sacred intimacy where two become one flesh degenerated into a one stop comfort station for passing strangers and uncommitted acquaintances triggered by anything from alcohol to loneliness, from peer pressure to identity crisis?
All societies with any self-knowledge or maturity recognize the power of women's sexuality. As with the man's sexuality, if it does not have codes of behaviour, a discipline of affection, a language of intimacy and trust and a security of relationship, it tends to self destruction. This is all the more serious in a woman as her sexual relationships are consequential psychologically and may very well be profoundly so physically. For a man, unless he has made a commitment, such activity would, by contrast, generally be incidental rather than consequential.
Different societies, philosophies and faiths have advertised different methodologies to cope with, distort or maximize the gift of God in the created order of human beings. While the West is currently entertaining itself with a re-run of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, a very different approach to female sexuality is being played out in its midst and on its borders. While Western secular women compete to see how little they can wear, Islamic women increasingly can be seen in those mobile tents that leave everything to the imagination. These are opposite and extreme reactions to the power of female sexuality. The puritan reaction is to cover even the piano legs lest they lead to troublesome thoughts. As the ultimate puritanical and iconoclastic response to the human condition, it is, perhaps, not surprising that Islam should, in practice, respond in this way to the power of female sexuality. It may have been a huge step forward for the Bedouin tribes but it is still heavily weighted towards male advantage, rights and control. Islamic apologists, like the Prince of Wales, pretend otherwise but it is difficult to explain away the proprietorial approach that permeates the Koran and finds even harsher expression in Sharia law. Of a wife, we read
‘Woman is thy tilth. Plow her as thou wilt. Approach thy tilth when or how ye will'
(Sura II 223)
This is all long way from the gracious recognition of creation ordinances defined in Ephesians 5.21–22. Of course, Christian societies have gone through phases and fashions that have obscured or ignored the equality of value of male and female. But, unlike today’s society, they have not confused their biological and spiritual vocations or their essential complementarity.
The centrality and importance of the Jewish woman to the practice of a home-based faith and the defence of her integrity and honour scarcely needs a Christian commentator to magnify it.
All of the great faiths have understood the issue. In a society based until historically recently on Judeo-Christian values, we have recognized that marriage is the proper place for the fulfilment of the gifts of human sexuality. That in security, stability and affection, commitment enables trust and intimacy to deepen. That chastity and faithfulness are essential to that growing into one flesh. That the protection and headship of the male is not a domineering dictatorship but rather a gift to wife and children of that proper care, protection and sustenance that enables their gifts to grow and blossom in peace and security of body, mind, heart and soul.
It has been the misfortune of my generation to see that vision brought to ruin by decades of secularizing and heretical government policies but, above all, by our own disobedience and the wholesale imbibing of a poisonous sectarian creed.
The materialist philosophies of Marxism and its related fungal growths have long entranced the lazy minds of many Western intellectuals. Its enthusiastic atheism was enough to commend it to many. Its claims for justice, equality, full employment, comradeship, economic redistribution etc, etc, appealed to the naive utopian in many pre- and post-war babies. They did not care to look too closely at a secular heresy whose claims bore no relation to reality and had, in place of God, erected a merciless suppression and a killing machine, more thorough and widespread than Hitler's, whilst bent on the very world imperialism that its founder so vehemently despised.
Before its inevitable implosion, though not before it had ruined its own people and exported poverty, brutality and squalor to its satellites, it had planted a seed deep in the Western mind. Materialism and repressive egalitarianism invaded the very heartland of our society in the bastard daughter of Marxism – Feminism. It is no accident that the baby Marxists of 30 years ago, who now hold power, are so wedded to the one remaining serious bridgehead into a society that has rejected the rest of their lethal claptrap.
Feminism did not begin in the 1960s but that decade provided, as with many other nonsenses, the perfect seedbed for such a plausible deceit. It marched initially under the banner of ‘women's liberation’. Liberation movements were popular then before they came to be more realistically viewed as a nom de plume for unrepresentative terrorism. Initial triumphs included the faintly risible bra-burning escapades. Then came Germaine Greer's book The Female Eunuch – the manifesto of a generation. Feminism came out as itself – hijacking the central term of womanhood for its own particular highly politicized slant on society.
Thirty years on Miss Greer is a pillar of the new establishment, major office holder at two great Universities and a regular columnist on country matters (no pun intended) at The Daily Telegraph. The measure of her triumph is the regularity with which otherwise sensible people begin their remarks with 'I'm not a feminist but…' before repeating what Miss Greer has so painstakingly taught them.
The manifesto accompanied girls going into drab peasant costume, like their repressed Eastern European cousins, to reduce the danger of being mistaken for a sex object. They ruminated on the wickedness of patriarchy against the cultural background of pan-European political anarchy on the streets, drug-fuelled universities, a musical revolution that advocated ‘Free Love’ and sudden and massive availability of contraception.
While politically conscious women knew that men were the problem, they also knew that, in order to be equal, to be liberated, their sexual activity should be as free as men's. I need hardly add that most young men were only too happy to assist in this wonderful liberation, freed now as it was from the need for commitment or the likelihood of biological consequences. In a few short years chastity and virtue, previously a badge of honour among young women, were reduced to the status of some anti-social disease that must be eradicated for the health of the whole. So rapid and immediate a part of male–female relationships has sexual intercourse become that the rituals of courtship are ancient history and relationships more superficial, brutal and brief as a consequence.
It is scarcely surprising then that many of my generation, as parents, quietly acquiesce in their children's premature and dangerous sexual activity, feeling that to do so would be hypocritical on their part. They prefer, on the whole, to feebly absent themselves from all-night parties at their own house and cheerfully wave their daughters goodbye as they set off on holiday with the homme du moment. The mother is complicit in her guilt, the father equally so and impotent in his own household. As the much-vaunted ‘new man’ he has renounced his vocation of care and love and protection in favour of a doomed bid for equality and friendship. That is, of course, if he is still there.
In order to accommodate the sexual licence required by feminists and demands for equality a major revision of divorce law was required. It can now be entertained for entirely frivolous reasons and usually at the expense of the father's rights to his children. It was, of course, the inevitable consequence of a political–social nostrum that encouraged the devaluation of men and the pursuit of promiscuity as an assertion of independence. Promiscuity is a very difficult habit to break.
Although innumerable surveys have demonstrated that marriage is still the best place to bring up children – and the children will tell you that themselves – governments continue to talk about ‘other patterns of family’ and penalize the God-given order of human relationships from taxation to education. Marriage inexorably declines weakened by the many partnerships that preceded it and scorned by feminism as a male weapon.
The effect of an absent father on children has been intensely studied. In boys the loss of a role model, discipline, authority and profound affection has unleashed a feral and directionless horde onto the street and into petty crime.
For girls the effect is as serious though less immediately obvious. The father is the first male relationship of their lives and is foundational. His reliability, presence, affection, affirmation, care and authority are intrinsic to how she will become a woman and how she will relate to other men. It will determine her confidence in her relationships with the man who will, she hopes, one day supersede her father in her affections and to whom she will give the joy of fathering her children. Where that fatherhood is absent or has abdicated its patriarchal gift to the family we all too often see desperate, ill-judged and usually doomed efforts to make that connection with men. Rejected, apparently, by one man, she longs for acceptance in the only currency that a materialist society understands, sexual intimacy. The rejection of men for political reasons will not overcome the biological imperative nor the physical and spiritual complimentarity but feminism continues to pretend this can be an equal and interchangeable relationship. This is a lie on every level. For a man the sexual act, outside a committed relationship, will have no physical consequences and little emotional impact. The reckless availability of women is no incentive to male commitment.
For a woman the very act of intercourse, whatever her conscious mind dictates, sets in train the desire to conceive. In order to negate this self-evident truth feminism depends, therefore, on extravagant measures to control fertility. Even with the massive availability of contraception however, unpartnered girls continue to get pregnant in alarming numbers. This is a terrible shock to the liberals and feminists who insist, as they have done for 40 years, that ‘more education’ would solve it. It will not. A female body is designed to conceive. Stuff it with pills, pierce it with coils, dam it with rubber, nature will out. The natural consequence of sexual intercourse for a woman's body is conception. The longer that process of contraceptive teasing and frequent intercourse goes on, the more desperate the body and inner heart becomes. It is scarcely surprising that unfulfilled female sexuality is often a recipe for reckless promiscuity, and sex as a toy is little preparation for motherhood. My Turkish friend is merely witnessing the long end of 40 years of false teaching.
Faced with the exposure of the first lie, feminism retreated to its most pernicious and deadly weapon, abortion. Sold variously under the banners of ‘a fight back against male oppression’, ‘a woman's right to choose’, ‘every child a wanted child’ and ‘it's just a bunch of cells – a foetus, not a baby’, millions of my generation went to the abortion clinics, perversely designated as charities, to sacrifice the future to the false idols of godless materialism. Most have lived to regret it deeply. Nowhere did feminism show its Marxist origin more clearly than in its persistent and vicious pursuit of the unborn.
Modern girls know little of this background. They do not read Germaine Greer or Betty Freidan. They respond emotionally to ‘Girl Power’, the trivial pink candyfloss re-packaging of the old lies. Its spokesperson is Gerry Halliwell who has gone from porn star to pop star to Unicef ambassador for safe sex and fertility control. Another desperate effort by the sterile and under-breeding First World to get a grip on those dreadful fecund Third Worlders.
When our girls go to university they will find a feminist section in almost every arts department reinforcing the lies they have been taught since birth. To the current generation marital failure, divorce, absent fathers, irresponsible uncommitted boyfriends, promiscuity, contraception from an earlier age and abortion on demand will all be self-evident truths. This is all a strange triumph for a philosophy that claims to free women and stop them being sex objects. Rampant eating disorders, body mutilation and plastic surgery show how obsessed and insecure modern women are about their sexual image and value.
They will emerge into the workplace not knowing that, because of the economic changes wrought by feminism, all values from housing downward are predicated on two incomes. The freedom of their working-class grandma not to work and bring up her children at home will not be theirs. The glorious Stakhanovite worker of this mini-Marxism will have to juggle work and home and children and community. Is she really a richer freer person?
Our daughters will go into the world looking for love and fulfilment. Every day this noxious heresy hold sway makes it more difficult for our children. If the great faiths can do nothing else together, they might coalesce to use their political muscle to restore to women and men the real freedom to be the people God meant us to be.
Robbie Low is Vicar of St Peter’s. Bushey Heath in the Diocese of St Alban’s.
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