Dating with the sexual revolution

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'Seize the day,' we shouted, and threw old notions like fidelity out of the window.

But beneath all those naive and high-sounding ideals, the sexism of supposedly radical and free-thinking men on the left could be summed up with: 'A woman's place is underneath.' As the writer and feminist pioneer Rosie Boycott has said: 'What was insidious about the underground was that it pretended to be alternative. It was providing an alternative for men in that there were no problems about screwing around.' The artist Nicola Lane, another young woman of the age, adds: 'It was paradise for men - all these willing girls.

Of course any individual is a unique, complex, multi-faceted creation - shaped by family, by personal reactions to events, and by the random nature of sex and love.

To suggest any individual was immune from that tidal wave of change, or from the pressures that came with it, for women in particular, is frankly wrong.

Yet Amis has hit a nerve, with liberals in particular, who rightly read his comments as a criticism of everything they believed in and fought for through the massive social upheavals of those decades.

One cultural historian of the Seventies, Howard Sounes, writes: 'The after-effects of the great social and cultural changes of the Sixties, like waves created by rocks tossed in water, rippled out through society.' Today, those of us who express doubts about the long-term effects of such cultural changes are dismissed as prudes suffering from a permanent moral panic-attack.

The denial of the liberals is ongoing: a blinkered refusal to admit the causes and effects of history.

But this is what the distinguished historian Eric Hobsbawm writes about the shift in standards in his authoritative book, Age Of Extremes: 'The crisis of the family was linked with quite dramatic changes in public standards governing sexual behaviour, partnership and procreation...

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