The Myth Of A Sexually Repressed Britain | Ben Thompson
The more sexually liberal members of British society have often remarked that we hold prudish views on what goes on in the bedroom – at least, compared to our continental counterparts. They’ll point to legalised prostitution in the Netherlands or high rates of adultery in France as signs of more liberated nations. They’ll even go as far as to argue that us rigid Brits are harmed by our more conservative views on sex.
This line of reasoning is not only dubious, its central argument is completely nonsensical.
To try and paint Britain as a country that is sexually repressed in laughable. Victorian morals on sex are long gone – data from Durex (Yes…that Durex) found that 36% of British married couples had indulged in adultery, not too far behind the laissez-faire France with a slightly higher 43%.
But it’s not only in adultery that Britain is flexing its permissive muscles. Between 2007 and 2017, the prevalence of syphilis rose from 5.8 cases per 100,000 people to 11.8 cases per 100,000 people – only Iceland and Malta had steeper increases, as far as other European countries go.
Data surrounding sexually transmitted diseases is troubling, not least because it reveals how many people are putting themselves at risk.
An MTV survey in 2008 found that one in three British teenagers had had unprotected sex with over five partners. Startingly, nine out of ten teenagers polled said they wouldn’t tell their partners if they had a STI. It’s no wonder then that 41% of respondents had contracted a STI or knew somebody who had.
And this is from a survey from 2008 – before Tinder. Imagine the stats nowadays.
The effects of such sexual recklessness lay all around us. STIs are not only costly to the NHS (£1 billion a year), they’re detrimental to the individual if left untreated. STIs can cause infertility, lead to increased risk of cancer, brain damage, heart disease and ultimately death. It’s not something to be taken lightly.
What is the solution? How are we, as conservatives, to respond to this problem?
It’s easy to sit in condemnation of the situation, and to preach the virtues of self control and modesty. But these don’t hold water in a society that has flexible ideas about sex (Regardless of how many times we’re told Britain is a sexually conservative country).
So, where does that leave us?
It may be controversial to suggest this, particularly when directed to a conservative reading base, but better sex education may be the way forward.
Why is it that I say that?
Well, I’ll give you another troubling stat – a recent BBC survey found that 55% of men aged 18-25 had gained their sex education through pornography
55%. That’s astounding.
Of those 55% learning about sex through porn are 31% who believe they have an addiction. And this problem is going to get worse – the government’s proposed crackdown on porn is only doomed to fall short.
Sex education needs to be age appropriate of course, but it needs to be preparing Britain’s young people for an increasingly uncertain landscape. Taking revenge porn, rising levels of STIs and increasingly blurred lines surrounding consent into account, it’s clear to me that sex education needs to get with the times, so to speak.
When the schools fail to educate, young people will look elsewhere for information. And if you’ve spent any time on the internet lately, you’ll know that’s a terrifying thought.