Background: A Brief History of the West
A thumbnail and only a tad simplistic sketch of Western ‘civilisation’ records men in the driving seat and women denied the right to drive, to voice objections to the destination and the quality of driving. Land and loot-grabbing wars, hierarchical rule, bloodline succession, uprisings, and rioting were frequent. Appalling brutality and revenge was visited on the rebellious, conquered, contenders, traitors. Civilisations rose and fell as new invaders swept in from the east. Various gods were worshipped, replaced, hybridised. Prophets and philosophers (some were women but were habitually written out of history) philosophised and advised. Narcissistic heroes (psychopathic killers – sulking sacrilegious Achilles springs to mind) were the subject of epics, myths and latterly Hollywood blockbusters. Plagues, famine and general pestilence dealt to all and sundry.
Women were held to be lesser mortals. In Western culture Jehovah/God gave women a bad rap and hard labour as punishment for Eve’s misconduct. Pathetic Adam got to rule. Some Christian disciples, saints, Popes, prelates also got hung up on women. Ironically Ireland was almost a place of enlightenment under the Brehon Laws (a Druid legacy) which allowed women to serve as magistrates and own property. Christianity co-existed with that set-up until Cromwell and Puritanism laid waste to the lot. Seventeenth-century religious wars decimated Europe. Religious freedom increased slowly, as did democracy, driven along by more frequent rioting and revolution. Old regimes were stripped of lawmaking functions, killed off. Atheists, agnostics, humanists are not quite pukkah even now.
Men postured about their superiority and made life difficult for women. In English law until the late nineteenth century, sexual double standards were endorsed by law, adulterous wives could be chucked out of the home, lose their kids and any matrimonial property . Not so men. Women’s suffrage was eventually won. New technologies offered better contraception, antibiotics improved birth and illegal abortion outcomes. Women’s liberation marched joyously and angrily in at the end of the 1960s and the social order changed. Many men got grumpy.
At much the same time as the ‘second wave’ of women’s advances, a psychopathic killer, James Bond, 007, became the swashbuckling, lawless, womanising, narcissist hero who saves the day, sometimes the world, on our cinema screens. ‘One night with you’ warbled his women and promptly got topped by psychopathic villains. What on earth does all this have to do with sex education? Quite a lot I think.
Women’s Liberation and Sexual Freedom
The central women’s liberation battle was around fertility control, abortion and sexual freedom. Here in New Zealand, conservatives won hands down. Censorship of contraception continued! Abortion was effectively outlawed. Doctors, bless them, wouldn’t work under the new law. It was grumpily amended. Abortion numbers slowly rose, clinics were set up. But abortion remains stigmatised and hard to access in many areas. Today the abortion pill is only available in licenced clinics i.e. not doctors’ surgeries. The certification procedures insult and humiliate women. Contraceptive censorship inhibited sex education and was repealed in 1990. Unfortunately nobody told teachers, Boards of Trustees, or chemists of the change!