Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 27, No. 12. 1964.
Sir—It is unfortunate that the Hutt Valley branch of the Federation of University Women, in joining the debate in your columns on sexual morality, should lose track of the consequences of their idea as their article progresses.
Their article raises questions of obedience and discipline that have implications outside the sexual context.
"We urge your students to recognise this feeling of 'wanting to kick over the traces' as one which is frequently concomitant with stress and to assure them it passes, especially if recognised as such."
This outlook is. I believe, potentially a very dangerous one for, instead of encouraging people to look critically at customs and authorities (temporal, spiritual and intellectual) it suggests that bucking the norm is wrong and should be avoided. I believe that too many university students accept the norms anyway, whether they concern politics, religion, good taste or sex. The improvement of social organisation is not promoted by encouraging people to repress any rebellious tendencies but by encouraging them to translate them into positive ideas—not thou shalt not but I will do this because . . .
To return to the more restricted subject of sex, the article resorts to the familiar tale . . . "We thought the same way when we were your age, but we know better now." The article puts it this way: "Those of our generation capable of mature judgment who succumbed to this specious reasoning would deny it now . . . Premarital sex experience did not enrich experience for them and make them capable of fuller life." (Notice the words "mature judgment"—they automatically exclude anyone who does not suit the writer's purpose, so the argument becomes tautologous.)
It does not take a trained psychologist to realise that the broad term "pre-marital sex experience" can cover a multitude of situations, from a single evening's encounter to de-facto marriage. Equally it can cover a multitude of states of happiness, from bliss to misery.
The article takes its use of broad generalisation a stage further with a quote from an article by C. S. Lewis (incidentally with an extremely masochistic title) which confuses conjugal infidelity with social irresponsibility.
"A society in which conjugal infidelity is tolerated must always be in the long run a society adverse to women. Women . . . are more naturally monogamous than men; it is a biological necessity."
I cannot see how 'conjugal infidelity' can work to the disadvantage of women unless it is taken to mean that men do not recognise their responsibilities. I cannot imagine anyone seriously upholding such a situation.
What "sexual anarchists" (or libertarian thinkers) propose is, broadly, that the individuals should determine their own conduct with reference to their desires and happiness, and also to those of other people involved directly or indirectly. This means that responsibility must play a part in shaping decisions.
I think that this approach is just as valid inside or outside marriage—I do not see that some mum bo jumbo murmured in a church and a few signatures on a mouldy bit of paper really make that much difference, unless people kid themselves that they do. Social customs seem little use if you realise that they are only customs and thus only arbitrary.