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 Sex—Then and Now

by Rose Madeline Mula

I'm confused.

I know times have changed-but this much? A reader of a gossip column recently wrote to ask if actress Natasha Henstridge ever married her longtime fianc, actor Liam Waite. Not yet was the response. "Every time Liam and I plan a wedding," says Henstridge, "I seem to get pregnant." Hello?! Didn't pregnancy used to be a good reason to get married—not to postpone it?

A book I am currently reading, In the Deep Midwinter by Robert Clark, published in 1997 but set in the '40s, is a strong reminder of they way things used to be: Anna loves Charles, who is about to propose. She would be deliriously happy—except for one problem. She suspects she is pregnant; and she is certain that when she tells Charles, he will immediately dump her. "He'll think I'm cheap!" she wails to her friend Alice. Am I missing something here? Anna apparently feels that the fact that she has been sleeping with Charles for months has not diminished her in his eyes, but now that she's pregnant because she forgot to use her diaphragm once or twice, he'll think she's a slut. Huh?

I grew up in Anna's era, and I would have written her off as a "bad" girl way before the pregnancy. She would have made it just by making out with Charles the first time. Of course, back then I really didn't know what "making out" meant. First, second and third base? They were just markers on a ball field. To me "sex" simply defined gender. I was beyond naive. I was probably legally able to vote before I was certain that the stork really didn't bring babies. For a while I thought pregnancy resulted from something called "French kissing," whatever that was. I had no clue. I just knew that a boy had to be involved and that any girl who had a baby before she was married was beyond redemption, doomed to hell—and her family disgraced forever.

It happened to only one of my high school classmates, or so the story went. No one ever actually knew for a fact; but she did gain a lot of weight and then suddenly left school to "visit" an aunt 2,000 miles away. She never returned. Rumors flew. Did she have a baby? Did she keep it? Who was the father? Did he marry her? Of course not. Boys did not marry "that kind of girl." He probably admitted his paternity at some point, however. Why? Not because DNA tests precluded a denial but because he was proud of his sexual prowess. His reputation wasn't ruined. On the contrary, it was enhanced. There was definitely something wrong with that picture.

Women's lib changed all that. Nowadays both sexes, young as well as old, are publicly promiscuous without risking disapproval. They're even happy to brag about it in the press and on national television. Single motherhood? Hey, that's now a badge of honor. Leading the trend are celebrities who are praised for their selflessness. On the other hand, anyone over fifteen who is courageous enough to admit to being a virgin is ridiculed. She/he is considered to be either hopelessly unattractive, frigid, or saddled with preposterously outdated hang-ups. Even younger children who may not yet be "going all the way" are certainly well on the way. I heard on a television talk show last week that oral sex is a favorite pastime of middle school kids across America. Really? Whatever happened to taghide & seekhopscotch? Remember when kids used to get their mouths washed out with soap for saying a naughty word? What's the punishment for oral sex? A scouring with industrial-strength Ajax?

I admit that my generation was probably too inhibited. The raciest thing we ever saw on television were Rob and Laura Petrie's twin beds on the Dick Van Dyke show. But I think we were happier than today's youth who are supposedly freer but who are pressured on all sides to engage in so-called "adult" behavior long before they're ready. And when they do reach maturity, having already experienced it all, they're jaded, disillusioned, and depressed. Fidelity? Responsibility? What a drag. It's not surprising that older husbands turn to Viagra and nymphets, while their wives resort to Botox and breast implants in order to seduce boy-toys. Of course, it helps if they can bait their beds with money and gifts because if today's boys and girls just want sex, they don't need older partners. They can get plenty of action in school.

It gives a whole new meaning to the term "playground."


Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.


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