Sex and relationship columns turn me off, though editors seem convinced they sell papers. Perhaps that is why I have never heard of Suzi Godson, who has apparently been exploring our sex lives for a decade for The Times.
That was until Monday when she materialised on Woman’s Hour. I’m glad I didn’t know who she was or I’d have turned it off. What sex columnists have to say about what women want, whether it be toy boys, orgasms (quantity versus quality), bad sex, low libido, infidelity, casual sex or knowing your own body, all things that Ms Goddard is apparently sexpert on, leave me cold.
I am no prude but as my co-editor, Laura Perrins said on Wednesday to the feminist bossy boots, just ‘shut up’! We’re ‘up to here’ with such salacious rubbish; it doesn’t help male/ female relationships either.
But I digress. I didn’t turn off. And there I was hearing a measured, sensible and well informed woman talking about men – and their plight – in this modern era of family breakdown, about fatherless families and multiple boyfriends (of mothers) and its catastrophic effects. For once men were not being vilified, treated as misogynists or otherwise disparaged. They were being understood and sympathised with! What is more Ms Godson was relaying the grim realities of our ‘marriage lite’ society one by one.
Had there had been an overnight coup at Broadcasting House? Had, unbeknown to me, the Marriage Foundation taken over Radio Four’s programming?
Emma Barnett, that very same youthful feminist wonder woman prodigy skewered on TCW this week by Belinda Brown as well as by Laura, hosting her first Woman’s Hour, was having to take her medicine. Part One of ‘Men and Relationships, presented by Suzi Godson, was to be about marriage and family – from the man’s point of view.
What delicious irony. Emma finding herself listening to the non-feminist facts of life, on a programme she’d have assumed she’d be making feminist hay on.
Had a subversive researcher been planning this as soon as the programme’s dominating matriarch was off on hols?
“What you don’t hear about today”, (certainly not on WH) Suzi (not sounding at all like a sexpert) was telling the young Emms, “is the fundamental importance of the legacy we are handing on to young people. Marital structure, relationship structures are changing beyond recognition and at such a rapid pace. This is an open experiment and we don’t know what we are doing in terms of what will happen to the next generation.”
Here’s a turn up for the books. It got better. Suzi Godson’s research had left her far from sanguine.
Marriage, she said, was in decline and cohabitation was on the up, but cohabitating relationships were less durable. This, she said, was critical for young men. They needed a strong role model and an identifiable one for paternity and masculinity.
Yes, these banned words were being spoken on the language censoring, PC, Caitlyn Jenner Power List, Woman’s Hour.
Then came an interview with a 23-year-old man that illustrated her thesis. Helping his single mum, who had had a subsequent four children with a different dad in another relationship that broke up, had taken “a chunk out of my childhood”.
He’d had no father to confer a family identity on him: “ I always had a different name to the rest of my family …having a family under one name, having marriage and the family, everyone having that one name brings a unity and becomes a proper family unit”, he had unusually decided, having witnessed enduring marriage in a friend’s family.
Suzi commented on how these small things all added up. Having a different name to your stepfather and not having a dad around to teach you to shave or the facts of life cumulatively negatively affect identity and future relationships.
None of this, of course, is rocket science for readers of TCW. But hearing it on Woman’s Hour, where they bang on about the stigmatisation of the non-traditional family and whose comfort zone is ‘families come in all shapes and sizes’, was revelatory.
Suzi was telling it how it is. The problem with cohabitation is that people fall into it. It is not a decision so no wonder it doesn’t last as long as marriage. This would be fine but for children – that’s when it gets problematic: “…because the chances of a cohabiting couple staying together are far worse than for a married couple. After 10 years 62 per cent of cohabitees have split up compared with 33 per cent of marrieds”.
Gosh, said Emms, I didn’t know it was that bad.
But it is, Suzi concluded with a flourish. What’s more, having a difficult experience as a young person is likely to put you off relationship commitment later – pure cause and effect. Young men who grow up with strong happily married parents have a much better model for relationships and are much less likely to be threatened by commitment.
Watch this space on the series’s survival.