Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tony Abbott, Virginity and Hypocrisy

In an interview for Australian Women’s Weekly, when Australian Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, was asked what advice he would give to his daughters, he said that women should treat their virginity as a gift and not give it away lightly.

He has received a lot of criticism for that comment. Julia Gillard said it would confirm Australian women’s worst fears about him. She also said that Australian women want to make their own choices and don’t want to be lectured to. He has also received criticism for being hypocritical, as he did have sex before marriage – and for many years thought he was the father of a son by a former girlfriend.

The first thing that should be noted here is it was advice given to his daughters. He was not preaching to the whole of Australia. And if Australian women don’t want Australian politicians telling them what to do, I don’t think Australian parents want politicians telling them what advice they should give their children either.

Why is not okay for Tony Abbott to give his daughters advice regarding virginity? But it’s quite okay for Julia Gillard to tell Tony Abbott that his parenting advice is wrong? It doesn’t make sense to me.

And I wonder what the reaction would have been if Tony Abbott’s advice had been to go on the pill and use contraceptives?

Furthermore, it seems to me that it is very good advice. I remember when I was in high school and all my friends were at that stage when they had either lost their virginity or considering losing it. Some gave it away lightly. Some waited for a while. And I can’t remember one single person saying to me, gee, I’m glad that I lost my virginity with the first bloke that came along. I heard a lot of my friends say that they wish they had waited. I wish I had waited.

Virginity is a precious gift. And I think when we treat it as something of no value, something that can simply be tossed away as soon as the opportunity presents itself, we do women a huge disservice. Because no matter how society tells us we should think about sex, most women – at least the ones I know – feel that their virginity is precious. And when they lose it, they feel as though they have lost something valuable.

To deny this is not to liberate women. It is to hold them captive. For instead of being urged to value that which is precious, they are told the ‘safe’ ways they can give it away for free. This promotes the view that what they have does not have value. And so the expectation becomes that they will have premarital sex, and have it young. And then when they give into that expectation, they realise that it was not really what they wanted to do.

If someone convinces you that the diamond necklace you were wearing was worthless and you gave it away for free, wouldn’t you feel a bit cheated? I think many women feel cheated too.

In all this talk about liberating female sexuality, we seem to have forgotten that sex is different for men and women. I have had many people disagree with me on this point. But I truly believe that is the case. Sex for women is usually more emotional. It is not just a physical act. And most women feel that when they have sex with someone, they are giving away something precious – whether it’s the first time or the 21st time. And when there is sex, with no love, with no attachment whatsoever, it often leaves a woman feeling empty. Not all the time. I will say that. There are some women who have many one night stands and are perfectly happy with that. And there are some men who also need love and attachment for sex to be a meaningful act. But the emotional aspect of sex is far more likely in females than in males.

Is that so wrong? Why do we want to pretend that doesn’t exist? So that we can convince a whole new generation of females that having sex whenever and with whoever they want to is natural? And then we leave them wondering why they don’t feel liberated at all?

Anyway, back to Tony Abbott. And hypocrisy.

Because according to some commentators, Tony Abbott’s advice was also out of line because he had sex before marriage.

If being a hypocrite means giving advice that you didn’t actually follow yourself, I would suggest that most parents are hypocrites. At least the responsible ones.

I smoke. Am I then going to tell my children that they should start smoking because I do? Of course not. That would be incredibly irresponsible. Instead, I will urge them not to smoke and tell them of the dangers. I also wasted my year 12 through wagging practically everyday. Does that mean, when my boys reach year 12, that I can’t tell them to go to school? It’s because I know how much I regret wasting that final year of high school that I will give them advice to pay attention to their studies.

And that’s the thing about parenting. Most parents don’t tell the children to do the things they actually did. We want our children to make better choices than we did. Not the same ones. If my children do exactly the same things I did through my life, then they will be making exactly the same mistakes. And yes, children often do need to make mistakes and make their own choices. But you don’t just sit back and let them do something you know they will regret.

That applies for many types of advice, not just parenting advice. I really hope we never see the day when people can only give advice that they follow themselves. People need to be given advice that helps them make better choices. We don’t want to be a situation where each generation keeps repeating the same mistakes, over and over again, because nobody is telling them to do any better.

And this whole concept that everyone is free to do what they want to do and nobody should tell other people how to live is really, really stupid. Part of being human, living in society, in community, is learning from the experience of others. Yes, we may reject their advice. And each generation that comes up will reject at least some of the advice of their parents. But we should at least give it. They should at least have the chance to learn from our experience, if they choose to. Not to simply find their own way, because everyone is too afraid to tell them what to do.

As for Tony Abbott, I think his advice was very sensible. I’m not generally a Liberal voter, but I do like Tony Abbott. I don’t always agree with him. But I like the fact that he speaks his mind, instead of saying what he thinks the Australian public wants to hear. And I think his daughters are lucky to have him for their father.


  1. Hi Liz,

    If they can invent a concraceptive that prevents Julia Gillard from talking, and me ever hearing her voice again, I'll change my whole mind on the issue of contraception.

    David ...

  2. Hi David,

    I don't mind Julia Gillard most of the time. But there are times when I completely disagree with her. And this is one of those times.


  3. Hi Liz
    I have read a number of your posts. And I have commented previously but had problems posting my comments.
    I thought that what Julia Gillard said was pretty stupid. Linking the advice of a parent who is concerned for his children's moral and personal well-being to the suppression of women by by men is just ... well, i thought that we'd moved beyond the 'us' and 'them' mentality.

    And, while i know (well, i am told, anyway) that sex is not exactly the same for males as it is for females - i don't believe it is that different either. It is as easy for a female as it is for a male to have sex without emotional attachment by simply choosing sexual partners to whom she is not emotionally attached. Maybe doesn't even like.

  4. Hi Teresa,

    Good to hear from you. Sorry to hear you've been having problems commenting. I don't know why that would be the case.

    For some women, having sex with men they don't like can be even worse than having casual sex with a man they're emotionally attached to. Even writing that brought back memories of a sexual relationship I had over 15 years ago that still makes me feel horrible when I think of it.

    Because many women see the emotional attachment as a really essential part. And without it, it feels like something really important is missing.




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