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What goes around, comes around – or does it?

No wonder all these ‘Snowflake’ Millennials get confused about life and how it works.

A few years back [what am I saying? 10? 15? 20? – when you’re as old as I am time slips by so fast it’s hard to tell when was what …] all kids were encouraged to go to university. It was practically compulsory.

Then it was discovered that half of them were studying rubbish degrees that did nothing to prepare them for a career, let alone life. They had a subsidised higher education, drank loads of beer, had a good time and expected to come out the other end and walk straight into a job earning them well on the way to six figures, a spouse, family, nice City terraced house (plus one in the country for going to on their weekends) and a new executive car every three years.

Only it didn’t happen. They realised their crap degrees didn’t guaranteed them a job, let alone a high-flying one.

A lot of the time they realised that if they hadn’t wasted three years at uni they could have started the career they really wanted, albeit right at the bottom, and gone far further in three years at the metaphorical coalface – e.g. in the world of the media – than they’d ever get with a worthless ‘meedja studies’ degree.

And then a year or so further down the line, along with all their fellow graduates with ‘meedja studies’ degrees, they ended up having to get jobs working in bars, or as hospital porters – and spent their time bemoaning the fact they were supposedly horrendously ‘over-qualified’ for their working lot in life, even though that was the only job they could find.

Overnight – well, I happened to wake up and come to my master control room shortly before 1.00am – I alighted on a passage on Radio Five Live that got me thinking.

It was about sex. That got me thinking, of course, because it’s something I don’t spend a lot of time these day doing.

Back in my grandparents’ youth – and probably the generation’s before theirs too – human society was permanently scarred by two World Wars. It goes with the territory that, when such awful things as a nation going to war happens, young men sign up for the military to go and fight and – in the 20th Century – in a very real sense, ‘total war’ (hostilities affecting everyone, both those who fought and those left behind at home who didn’t) became a reality.

The result, because in those days the norm was that people had to get married to have sex, a lot of young people got married very early because (when you’re being sent away, potentially to get killed in a far-off land) you wanted to ‘live a little’ whilst you still could.

Never mind that. In addition, to an extent in the First World War, and probably more so in the Second, the norm (in terms of morals) rather went by the board. Again, people just wanted to experience life whilst they could.

After all, whether you were a young woman recruited to work in a primitive munitions factory in 1915 – or a FANY or Wren who was in uniform but confined working at establishments in the UK – you might get blown to smithereens by bombs being dropped from the air as you might, if a man, you were fighting on active service abroad.

A sense of ‘get it while you can’ comes to apply to all aspects of life.

After all, if you don’t know whether you’re going to return from the mission you go on after your current leave ends, there’s a natural inclination to live for the moment.

Who wants to die a virgin, whether they be a man or a woman?

And, for many an attractive married lady whose husband might be away for six months or a year at a time, the attractions of young officers home on leave (or even older ones) might be such that an affair in the heady atmosphere of wartime Britain doesn’t seem quite such an awful thing.

On one level, sex and romance work for everyone when the future is so uncertain. Plus, some of these young fighting men might soon be going off to die anyway.

And don’t get me started on the hundreds of thousands of Yanks who were ‘overpaid, oversexed and over here’ during the Second World War.

At some point – I think it was in the 1970s – as a young man I remember having a ‘being slapped in the chops with a wet fish’ moment when watching an edition of the Michael Parkinson chat show.

The Canadian husband and wife television personalities Bernard Braden and Barbara Kelly were guests. As I remember it, they were discussing how they met, got together – and married – in double-quick time during WW2.

“Why?” asked Parky.

“Because we wanted to have sex” was the honest and blunt reply of the sassy Ms Kelly.

(I suspect part of my stunned reaction at the time was my realisation that people of my parents’ age and older could actually think about – let alone have – sex at all).

When I was a teenager and a young single man, inevitably, life outside academia or work was about enjoying myself with my pals and circle of friends. And hopefully, with a bit of luck, meeting girls. Okay, okay – it was ever thus with young people.

Wherever it was on the spectrum from being an out-and-out lady-killer, swordsman or ‘player’ (at one end) to a poor, angst-ridden, stamp collecting, trainspotting loner (at the other) I ended up finding my rightful place, as my own father used to say – to both his own and others’ amusement – “All I know is, I didn’t get my fair share!”

But then I come back to the present day and – as ever with the media these days – one keeps getting fed reports and stories which are completely contradictory.

Only two or three days ago I heard a lady on the radio discussing the fact that, statistically, young men and women born in 1990 and beyond have far less sex than the generation before them did. Though basking a quiet sense of pride in the thought that my peers and I were up to more hanky-panky than the youngsters of today, at the same time I found this statement somewhat hard to believe.

Then about an hour ago – in a section of ‘best radio extracts of the past week’ on Radio Five Live – I heard a piece about how modern twenty-somethings (the Tinder Generation) were coping with sexual relationships in the 2010s.

One young man interviewed said that he and his peers were getting more sex than they could handle.

Whenever they felt like it, he and his mates could just get on their smartphones, swipe (is it left or right?) a few times, meet up with a girl and – virtually without going for a drink, or chatting her up – ‘get straight down to it’ effectively without any ceremony or preliminaries at all.

Sex was now simply a commodity, or everyday modern social exchange, of which these days everyone (male or female) partook whenever they felt like it.

And he and his pals were getting fed up with it. What they wanted, more than anything, was to meet some young lady in a bar, have eye contact, walk over, buy her a drink, chat her up … get to know her … not bonk her until the third or fourth date … and (you know …) have a old-fashioned relationship with her, ‘have a girlfriend’ even, maybe one day (with a special one) get engaged … marry … and settle down.

All this rampant – permanently on tap – sex was getting him, and people of both sexes like him, down … was the message.

I’m still trying to work out whether I’m lucky to be out of it all, or just envious.


About J S Bird

A retired academic, Jeremy will contribute article on subjects that attract his interest. More Posts