Discussion of The Origins of Sex by Faramerz Dabhoiwala

It was generally thought a very good book, which stimulated debate, Wendy noting that if you are looking to be titillated, this wasn’t the book for you.

Ruth highlighted the lack of chronology and timeline. She and Peter both thought Dabhhiwola in writing on the 18th Century media revolution, went beyond his subject of attitudes to sex. She and Wendy highlighted the socialisation of actions, including the complicity of women in female genital mutilation and honour killings. Peter noted socialisation was similar to habitus of the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu.

Both Wendy and Yvonne commented on changing attitudes to sex even in their lifetimes. Yvonne came from Thurso. Frowning on contraceptives being used by underage girls in a Presbyterian community resulted in The Daily Record reporting it as having the largest number of “gym slip mums” in Scotland. When going to University she felt stigmatised in having come from Thurso.

Yvonne noted that young people could now separate love and sex in “friendships with benefits”, Peter that the statistics indicated only a minority had a multiple sexual partners. Sexually Transmitted Diseases were therefore easier to control than Covid. He also thought the importance of friendship in society was underappreciated.

Wendy observed that in many of the US States, particularly those where the religious right remains influential, girls can marry under 18 with parental consent. In half the States there is no legal minimum age of marriage. This is clearly open to abuse and has been abused.

Christopher noted that until recently breach of promise actions were possible in Jersey, only ending with the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Jersey) Law 2003, when Wendy was President of Home Affairs

Yvonne thought it incredible that prisons and later houses of correction were built to house sexual offenders. Peter said this was part of a process of emptying the streets of vagabonds and the poor, including by establishment of workhouses and barracks.

There was concern (and confusion) about gender realignment. An NHS trust is being sued for having facilitated gender change. The Origins of Sex details a complex changing pattern of attitudes, certainly not a single direction of travel towards permissiveness. Leonard wondered if/as we move into an era of reduced stability and economic insecurity whether society’s attitudes to sexual activity will become more restrictive.

Generally more on the history of attitudes to sex would be welcome, beyond 17th and 18th Century England

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