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Some call it progress

In this era of supposed gender equality it sometimes seems as if there’s been little progress in human relationships and ‘the battle of the sexes’.

Here’s a link to an article by Barbara Ellen that appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN

Sometimes we like to kid ourselves that modern women have achieved a state of liberation – for example, I read a media report a week or so ago that men are losing a certain confidence when dating because of the fear that, if they end up in the sack, their performance may not come up to scratch if the lady in question turns out to be sexually sophisticated and/or have a serious number of past ‘notches’ on their bedpost.

At first I regarded this news as a good thing (“What’s sauce for the goose …” etc.) but upon further reflection I came to the view that  perhaps it was all rather sad.

Back in the second half of the 20th Century – I’m referring here to period hosting the advent of the Pill and the de-mystification of contraception generally, Cosmo, bra-burning feminism and ‘free love’ – it felt like the sisterhood was finally breaking out of the social straight-jacket in which men had placed women for thousands of years.

But maybe it wasn’t quite like that. There’s always a gap between what is actually going on and how people perceive it at the time, whatever generation they belong to. It was under the Labour Government of the late Sixties (most famously whilst Roy Jenkins was at the helm in the Home Office, though he was not alone in initiating reforms) that the laws on homosexuality, abortion and divorce were liberalised – and, of course once the genie, or rather genies, are out of the bag they never go back in.

Some viewed these developments as the equivalent of hurling society to the dogs, whilst others welcomed them as the dawning of a new age of equality and freedom for all.

Neither were quite correct.

fashionMen have always had a problem dealing with female sexuality. Whilst those of us who were enjoying our youth between 1970 and 1990 believed the preaching of the media and innumerable feminist gurus that we were being set free and entering a brave new world of equality, the truth was somewhat different.

In the world of popular music, supposed female ‘liberation’ co-existed uneasily with outrageous indulgence of sexual opportunities by male rock artists, not least the groupie phenomenon; with the sleazy exploitation of young female fans by industry ‘hangers on’ such as disc jockeys, record pluggers and PR operators.

In the film and television industries the ‘casting couch’ never went away, it simply became more overt and – against the background of the new female sexual freedom – perhaps deceived more women than ever before.

What possible kind of female liberation was the advent of ‘Page Three’ girls when it happened? Four or five decades later – though with a great fanfare The Sun may have ditched the feature from its pages – its modern manifestations, e.g. the celebrity ‘kiss and tell’ and the ‘reality’ TV stars who detail every boob job and post half-naked (or more extreme) selfies of themselves on Twitter and their own websites every week, having hired publicity agents to make themselves highly-lucrative careers out of every development in their own rather tacky personal lives, fill the newsstands and GP waiting rooms across the nation.

Do such things ever actually truly change, or is it the case that the fundamental baseness of human society remains constant forever but kids us (by appearing to evolve) because we want it to so much?

I began considering these issues one day last week when the ITV Morning Show covered a general story of vulnerable or lonely women being exploited by ‘con-artist’ men – I use that term loosely to describe men whose motives range from casual sex to straightforward fraud – which they achieve by the expedient of lying and/or representing themselves as something they’re not.

Woman after woman came on the line to tell of how they hooked up (whether via dating websites or chance meetings in a bar) with chaps who erroneously claimed to be millionaire property developers, former SAS veterans, ‘something’ in the film or music industry … whatever … and then – after promising them undying devotion, marriage, a jet-set lifestyle and a life happy ever after – said gents were discovered only a few weeks later to have disappeared with said women’s life savings and belongings; or to have had a wife and three children living on the other side of town; or to have been seeing four other similarly lonely or vulnerable women at the same time.

datingHow, in this day and age, could such women be so naïve, trusting and stupid?

I’ll tell you why: because some people – of all genders – just are. Everyone is looking for something. In relationships – if we don’t have one – most often (but not always) we’re classically searching for a long-term partner to share our lives with. That’s why, when we meet someone new, we naturally assume that they are ‘on the same page’ when in fact the actuality might be very different.

Plus, of course, everyone tells little white lies about themselves. Where is the line drawn between ‘making the best of ourselves’ and deception?

Take getting ready for a date, for example: when we’re dyeing – or pulling out – grey hairs from our heads (or even our chins), or piling on the slap to disguise skin blemishes, or wearing that cute clothes combination that best disguises our perceived ‘bad’ bits and/or accentuates the positive ones, that’s ‘making the best of ourselves’, right?

Or perhaps – when we’re shopaholics, or suckers for Gucci bags and generally living the ‘high’ life – when we carefully conceal these traits behind an “Oh, I’m not into that sort of thing at all, I’d marry a supermarket checkout guy if it was true love …” line when dating some gorgeous hunk in whom we’re currently interested who plainly doesn’t possess a bean –  that’s just a little white lie, isn’t it?

Or is it?

That’s the problem with human relationships these days. Irrespective of gender, some people are out there, living life ‘for the day’ in a hedonistic style – whilst others are sad, lonely and just looking for love. It might be so much easier (in the cause of time-saving and general satisfaction) if we all walked around with flashing neon signs stuck to our foreheads indicating which.

As it is, we’re all on different wavelengths and bouncing around trying to find someone who will treat us as we would treat them and be 100% compatible – from sex drive, to tastes in music and food, to interests in art, books or leisure interests.

Let’s face it, ladies – sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince.

 

About Jane Shillingford

Jane spent the bulk of her career working on women’s magazines. Now retired and living on the south coast, she has no regrets and 'would do it all again'. More Posts