Are attitudes towards sex and sexual enhancement products such as SizeGenetics changing? Is the modern woman becoming more demanding in sexual matters than the passive creatures of past generations? The answer seems to be that, in certain circumstances, she is often the one who makes the first move.
A recent poll asked women over the age of 18: “If you feel like having sex with your partner, how often do you take the initiative?
Twenty percent said “never”, 34 percent said “sometimes”, 13 percent said “rarely”, 9 percent said “often” and 3 percent said “always”.
With those figures in mind, and the recent National Marriage Guidance Council report that more and more men are asking for help with marital problems, it would be all too easy to assume that many men are being reduced to impotent, shivering specters of their former selves in the face of this sexual revolution.
But it is a revolution that needs careful examination. In the married women’s discussion groups organized by The Research Business, there was at first almost complete agreement that it was the man who took the initiative.
The MORI poll suggestion that more women might be taking the initiative in sexual matters also needs to be set alongside the continued readiness of many women to be “treated” by men on social occasions.
When Gallup asked: “Do you agree that when a man takes a woman out he should pay for them” 65 percent of the men agreed and 50 percent of the women.
Only 14 percent of the women believed that they should share the cost if they earned a similar amount to the man.
But although the man may take the initiative when it comes to sexual activity, he will often assume that the woman has already taken the contraceptive initiative.
Despite the “men too” campaign by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service there is little evidence that men are prepared to reassume any part of the responsibility which the widespread reliance upon the oral contraceptive placed on women.
There was a slight decline in the popularity of the pill after 1976, but in recent years the number of users has remained relatively constant at 1.7 million (58 percent of those using any method of contraception).
The pill is favored by 16 percent, the cap by 7 percent, and the sheath, the only male-initiated contraceptive, by 10 percent. Women seem none too pleased with this situation.
The women in the discussion group were mostly hostile to abortion, as were those questioned by recent opinion polls. Although the annual number of abortions in England and Wales is now about 127,000, there was no sign in the Gallup poll that abortions had become taken for granted.
Only 29 percent of men and 20 percent of women questioned by Gallup approved of abortions when the child was unwanted.
The figure was lower for abortion on demand (15 percent both men and women). Even when the mother was “under age” there was only a minority approval for termination (40 percent).
The only headings under which abortion was favored by a clear majority were “mother’s health” (78 percent), “child handicapped” (67 percent) and “result of rape” (74 percent).
Whatever decision is made, the consequences are probably far more significant for the woman than the man.
Indeed, the young women we spoke to, married and unmarried, were united by their sense that most matters concerning sex, were more a problem to them than to their male sex partners.
Neither did it seem that these concerns about sex could be shared. Even though sexual behavior might now be more “liberated”, conversation was still remarkably repressed.
Men would talk all night about sex itself but not about the practical problems surrounding it. And they certainly didn’t like talking about penis size and how that might affect their partner’s sexual pleasure.
It was only when the women were asked about their attitudes to male enhancement products that the conversational barrier between the sexes showed any sign of crumbling.
Gallup shows 57 percent of the 30 to 39 age group approving of sex before marriage; nearly 70 percent of the 16-year-olds say that they would have sex before marriage.
And while half of the 30 to 39-year-olds believe that girls under 16 should get contraception without parental consent, among the girls themselves the figure is 67 percent.
A permissive attitude to early sex among young people does not mean that promiscuity is tolerated. The idea is still one sexual partner, and “sleeping around” is looked upon with favor only by a small number of young men.
This group must have their work cut out to find accessible women. They are also most likely to use male enhancement devices such as SizeGenetics in order enlarge their penis.
In the MORI poll, nearly 6 out of 10 of the women had never had sex with anyone but their present partner, 27 percent had had only one other partner, and 30 percent two others; 7 percent had 10 or more partners and 2 percent could not remember.
Even among those young males where the average can be higher, it is dangerous, as Michael Schofield has pointed out in the book “Promiscuity”, to equate this with licentiousness or an insatiable sexual demand:
“Sometimes it is the sexually unsuccessful who are promiscuous. Some are so inept that no one wants to have intercourse with them more than once; others profess to so little interest in sex that they only seek out a partner two or three times a year .. A few promiscuous people are very active, but most of them have less sex than the married couple who remain faithful to each other.”
One other indication of the complex nature of “sexual permissiveness” among the young is to be found in their attitudes to “blue” films, pornography, and penis extenders such as SizeGenetics and Male Edge.
Although many young men have seen such material and are often prepared to admit that they enjoyed the experience, young women objected most strongly to it. But their concern about pornography is not primarily about its intrinsic quality but about its capacity to become a substitute, not a stimulus or accompaniment to normal sex.
The strongest denunciation came from Marian: “I told him one night he was pathetic. He was living in a fantasy world. The only girls he really liked were twelve inches tall, completely silent, and had a staple through their navel.”
Such critical attitudes to promiscuity and pornography among young women do not suggest that the dramatic swing away from marriage among those under the age of 30 has much to do with sexual permissiveness.
Whatever men might want – and there is certainly a great deal of talk among them about sexual experimentation, blue films, and “sleeping around” – it looks as though they must be having some difficulty in finding women who share their tastes.