"There is frequent discussion about the morals and behaviour of different times and much disagreement as to which was the better or worse era for men and women to have lived through. As someone born in 1942, as well as having studied the history of Great Britain as a lifetime hobby, I hold views which vary with many contempories about certain aspects of an age in which we grew up. Let me say from the start, that all of my comments in this post refer to the British native and not any other nationality or culture born outside the British Isles.
I would like to look at one aspect of society only; 'that of the prevailing and changing sexual attitudes of men towards women since I was born.'
Back in my time of growing up I recall that game of 'Doctors and Nurses' which was innocently played as children during our primary school days of the 40s and 50s. Then, when one advanced towards the age of nine or ten, the game of 'Fathers and Mothers' was regularly engaged in by the bold and boisterous among us. The learning involved in the playing of this latter game was gradually codified by the Department for Education and emerged on the school curriculum in the 60s and 70s as lessons in 'Biology.'
As we grew older, one's interest in the opposite sex didn't wane; instead it got stronger with the passing of time and the customary party kiss for all kids was the prize of 'Postman's Knock'. Only the most daring of early teenagers engaged in that dare-devil party game of 'I will if you will' and one had usually left school and started work before getting down to a serious snog on the back row of the local cinema.
The mid teens required the obligatory reading of 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' and it was only towards one's twenties when the 'unspoken promise' was understood through the acceptance of obtaining that last dance at the local Mecca!
How times have changed; some might argue for the better with many of my generation proclaiming the worse! I hate to shatter any illusion reflecting back to a nostalgic past where males respected females more than they do today, but I don't believe they did.
Most men who are now aged 70 were brought up in an age where 'No did not always and necessarilly mean no' as far as they were concerned in many instances of their dalliances with a young lady. 'No' was sometimes thought to mean 'Maybe' and 'Maybe' was invariably thought to mean 'Yes'. And as far as 'Yes' was concerned; well that was simply taken as meaning, 'What are you waiting for then?'
This wayward and wrongful male attitude may not have been practised by all young men whatever their beliefs, background or social upbringing, but for most boys brought up in a working class household, I'm afraid it was fostered and came into practice far too often. The common response of a young man who had got a young girl pregnant then was 'to do the right thing by her.' Please note, that his professed intention to 'do the right thing by her' only came into play after he had 'done the wrong thing with her!'
Nobody should condone this male attitude which undoubtedly prevailed in much of society then or seek to excuse it now. Indeed, to refuse to accept it existed at all, is simply to deny the reality of the times one lived in.
I recall during my first year working as a Probation Officer in West Yorkshire during 1971 of going into the communities and homes of hard-working men who continued to treat their wives as second rate citizens and who believed in their right 'as the man of the house and bread winner,' to do so! I recall a time when it was not rape in the eyes of the law if a man made love to his wife against her expressed wishes to the contrary. I remember during my early years as a Probation Officer when the police would not attend so-called 'domestic disputes' if the couple were married, however violent the rows and assaults got; and on those occasions when they did investigate, rarely were the courts called upon to prosecute the man. I recall back in the 70s and 80s when women raped by a stranger were interviewed solely by male police officers and consequently few went on to prosecute their attackers! I remember during the 1980's and early 90s, the social distinction that was made between rape by a stranger and rape by a boyfriend; the latter of which became known as 'date rape'. By society making the distinction, it was generally implied that because the person being raped had dated her rapist, the action was therefore more understandable and of lesser consequence; essentially inferring that if consensual sex had previously taken place between the two parties, the consent was to be taken as an automatic 'carry over' regarding any future meetings between the couple!
There is much that I cannot agree with today concerning the attitudes and behaviour of many young men towards women, but generally I do not believe that we men are much better or worse than the males of my days or even earlier times. On the surface there appears to exist greater equality between the sexes today as the decades have advanced, but be in no doubt that genuine equality between the sexes has never existed. Sexism has simply been swept under the carpet and can still be found in all social classes. It remains present, albeit in more subtle form and is masked under the token umbrella of equality and discrimination law nowadays. And if it isn't openly practised by the males in today's society towards women in general, it is only because of its legal and financial consequences!
Wise women don't doubt or deceive themselves that the world they live in is still very much a man's world, made for men and protected by laws, mostly made by men. Wise women know deep down that the sexist edifice which man took thousands of years to build is most unlikely to have been deconstructed by the men in less than a century, just because women were eventually 'given' the vote or the pill. Indeed, I would argue that it is never likely to be willingly demolished by men. This is why I would advocate that women combine in purpose and push down the rotten structure themselves!
Of course there will be exceptions to what I have described in this post. There can be vast differences between the attitudes, beliefs and practices of one person and another. We all know that all men and all woman aren't the same; never were and never will be!
All that being the case however, I'm still glad that I was born in my year of 1942." William Forde: August 21st, 2015.