Since the Second World War, the post-Christian West has tried to solve the old sexual ‘double standard’ by erasing all the bad vibes surrounding it. The answer, where men got their kicks and women got hurt, was to teach women to have sex like men – without conscience. All that mattered was to avoid pregnancy, and practise appropriate ‘protection’. Children were taught – apparently – not to have sex until they felt ready for it, which being children, sounds like ‘Whatever’. Despite some slender research from the US to the contrary, the old Christian categories of chastity before marriage, and children within it, and of course the consensus about what marriage actually is, broke down. Religion was responsible for shame, went the thinking, so religion must go. ‘Civilisation, built on religious self-discipline, demands sacrifices in sexual behaviour that are harmful, especially to women,’ wrote the father of that pseudoscience, psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud – and all the people said ‘Amen’.
Now all that’s left is sex. Sexualisation without hedges. The glorious open uplands of ‘confluent love’– a phrase Anthony Giddens, the intellectual father of Tony Blair’s ‘third way’, coined to describe the ‘transformation of intimacy’ into self-autonomous-relations-of-equally-negotiable-satisfactions – have been ours for the roaming. ‘Until death do us part’ was replaced with ‘until further notice’. But now sexualisation and globalisation have met above a kebab shop in Oxford – and the weather’s closing in.