Contrary to popular belief, the schools of Eton and St Paul’s, where members of our current Tory cabinet acquired their top-notch educations, were not rife with fagging, or even shagging. In fact, the whole Conservative lot, Nadine Dorries and Anne Milton included, abstained from sex entirely until they were well settled within the confines of marriage. Once there, they performed the ritual act a mere two or three times, to ensure children were conceived and contraceptives (which they were happy to learn nothing about) were not used. But how, you’re almost certainly asking yourselves, do they manage to practice such serene and joyful restraint?
Luckily it is not only our blessed ruling class that might have opportunity to hone the skill/state of being without a sex drive unless death-do-us-part. If Dorries and Milton get their way, it could mean the whole country are deprived of their lesson in unfurling a condom over an erect vegetable, for fear it might disrupt the path to a virtuous Britain: where family is first, husbands, their wives and 2.4 children foremost. This is the message apparent in the current Conservative agenda on both abortion and sex education. Well, not specifically the bit about the cucumber.
The most recent attack on a woman’s right to choose and a young person’s right to a sexual education comes manifold. Firstly, Anne Milton, the public Health Minister, invited the organization Life to take a place at the table on a new sexual health forum, set up to replace the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV. Life was also party to the parliamentary launch of the Sex and Relationships Council, which was endorsed by the education secretary, Michael Gove. Life is an anti-abortion charity, which stands firmly in opposition to what is the present law regarding abortion rights, as well as being critical of current sex-education surrounding the use of condoms. They have an ‘absolutist’ position, stating that "The most important and influential part of LIFE's ethos is our opposition to all abortion on principle” and advocate abstinence education instead. The founders of LIFE are Catholic although the organisation claims to have no religious affiliations.
Secondly, the inclusion of Life has meant the exclusion of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) from the new forum, despite its long-term membership of the previous advisory group. Clare Murphy, who works for BPAS described the changes as replicating the softly, softly approach of the American pro-life lobbyists. “MPs, including Nadine Dorries and Frank Field, argue that, women considering abortion should receive counselling from an organization not itself involved in terminations. The BPAS, they say, has a vested interest in withholding information from women and pushing them into procedures they do not really want… The MPs' intention is pernicious, deliberately seeking to undermine women's confidence in their own decision-making and their trust in the organizations that offer support and services.”
The third tier to this escalation of the pro-life campaign is the call for abstinence education itself. But don’t worry, unless you fall into the very specific category of women aged 13-16, you won’t need it. If you are suddenly worried, it’s because you are taking on the responsibility of just saying no… to sex, initially, but that will set you up nicely for the choice that will inevitably follow because you haven’t been given access to education that includes contraception. MPs voted 67 to 61, a majority of six, to let Dorries bring forward her Bill. It will receive its second reading in January.
Lastly, Dorries has also tabled amendments to the Health and Social Care bill to tighten the rules on terminations. Murphy suggests that “The beneficiaries of their proposed amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill are likely to be the crisis pregnancy centres to which we know some GPs are already diverting women who are considering abortion… CareConfidential is supported by Care, a Christian organisation committed to the preservation of life from fertilization.”
Sex in the Big Society is clearly going to mean this kind of fractured provision, where Christian organisations deliver and advise on what should be free and easily accessible services, hard won despite the church. Fundamentally, women must of course consent to what happens to their own bodies, whether that is engaging in sexual intercourse or carrying out a pregnancy to term. It is not for the government to insidiously teach a sex negative view, while advocating archaic family values that are out of touch with how many men and women can or want to live. And come on, 13-16 year olds being told not to fuck? We were ALL doing it by then: badly, with all sorts of spotty bed fellows and at all kinds of terrible house parties when our parents were away, but nothing, not nobody would’ve stopped us. So, let’s keep teaching how to correctly unroll a rubber over a turgid carrot, please.