Sexual attitudes over time #3: Extramarital sex

While attitudes to premarital sex and homosexuality have become more liberal over time, by contrast attitudes to extramarital sex seem to have become slightly more conservative.

Over time the question has changed from one which is gender specific to one that is not, but with both asked in the 1993 National Social Science Survey it seems that it does not make much difference. Both questions pick up on the same attitude to adultery.

Continue reading “Sexual attitudes over time #3: Extramarital sex”

Sexual attitudes over time #2: Same-sex relations

While attitudes to premarital sex have been fairly stable since the early 1990s, attitudes to homosexuality have changed a lot. In 1993 more than half of the respondents to that year’s National Social Science Survey – 56% – though that sex between adults of the same sex was ‘always wrong’ and only a quarter thought that it was ‘not wrong at all’.

By 2009 the proportion of adults thinking that same-gender sex was ‘always wrong’ had decreased to 37% and those believing that it was ‘not wrong at all’ had increased to 47%, with another 10% thinking that it was wrong only sometimes. Still, a very large minority retains significant reservations about the morality of homosexuality.


All surveys, with minor variations in the opening: What do you think about sexual relations between two adults of the same sex?
1984 NSSS, 1993 NSSS, 1999-2000 International Social Survey, 2009 AuSSA:
Continue reading “Sexual attitudes over time #2: Same-sex relations”

Sexual attitudes over time #1: Premarital sex

The Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2009 has some questions on sexual attitudes, which lets us track some trends since the 1980s. Today, attitudes to premarital sex.

The figure below shows that when the National Social Science Survey 1986-87 was taken casual sex wasn’t viewed positively by most respondents, but when the couple were in love a small majority thought that it was ok. The 1993 NSSS and the 2009 AuSSA show that attitudes have become more liberal since the 1980s, though it is not clear whether respondents in 1993 and 2009 would have distinguished between casual and relationship sex if asked.

Continue reading “Sexual attitudes over time #1: Premarital sex”

Welfare quarantining for the middle class

The Education Tax Rebate – whether Labor’s version or the more expensive Coalition version announced today – is the march of welfare quarantining beyond the income-support reliant lower classes into the middle class. The eligible group of FTB A recipients includes all but about the top 25% of families.

Parents can get their welfare handout, but only so long as they spend it on a list of things approved by the state.

In practice, this rebate isn’t really going to be a major behaviour changer. Most parents will spend more than maximum rebatable amount anyway, making the rebate just a paperwork intensive form of FTB A for parents of school-age kids.

But it is a bad precedent for the state seeking to monitor more of family life. How long before nanny wants receipts for healthy food, or some other paternalist preoccupation of the day?

Family finances under the ‘new familism’

The IPA Review has published an article by me on what I call the ‘new familism’. The article tracks how since the 1970s the left and right have each developed their own ideologies of the family. Despite significant differences of intellectual justification and policy detail, left and right converge on significantly increased state support for people with children.

The table below from the latest HILDA statistical report highlight just how much those with dependent children improved their financial position in the 2000s.


Continue reading “Family finances under the ‘new familism’”

The start of gay marriage and the end of gay culture?

Commenter Lomlate makes the interesting suggestion that, contrary to what Bill Muehlenberg suggests, gay marriage poses a bigger threat to the current nature of gay life than it does to the nature of straight sexual relationships.

Though some commenters argued that gay sexual culture is what you get when there is no need to persuade sex-shy and relationship-oriented women, and that straight men would behave the same way if they had the chance, Lomlate suggests that gay sexual culture is what you get when gay people are excluded from the relationships that straight people aspire to and mostly attain. The more accepted gays become, and the more gays can imagine themselves having ‘normal’ relationships, the less need there will be for a separate gay culture or community.

Lomlate cites Andrew Sullivan on the ‘end of gay culture’, and this passage sums up what Sullivan thinks is going on:

A gay child born today will grow up knowing that, in many parts of the world and in parts of the United States, gay couples can get married just as their parents did. From the very beginning of their gay lives, in other words, they will have internalized a sense of normality, of human potential, of self-worth–something that my generation never had and that previous generations would have found unimaginable. That shift in consciousness is as profound as it is irreversible.

That was written in 2005. The Australian Not So Private Lives survey from last year showed just how strongly the gay generations differ in how they see their relationship possibilities. The youngest respondents are twice as likely to personally aspire to marriage as the oldest respondents. Continue reading “The start of gay marriage and the end of gay culture?”

Could the gay ‘lifestyle’ undermine monogamous marriage?

New publisher Pantera Press’s Why vs Why series gives longtime gay activist Rodney Croome and longtime family conservative activist Bill Muehlenberg equal space to put their arguments for and against gay marriage, and rebut each other (with the debate continuing online). It’s a good summary of common arguments for and against gay marriage.

While I generally preferred Croome’s stance, he struggled a bit with one of Muehlenberg’s arguments. Essentially, Muehlenberg thinks that gay marriages would differ from current marriages in more than just the gender mix. He cites multiple gay sources on how, to put it mildly, long-lasting monogamous relationships are not the norm in the gay community. He doesn’t want the idea of an ‘open’ marriage to get started by extending marriage rights to a community that may be reluctant to give up its old ‘homosexual lifestyle’ ways. Continue reading “Could the gay ‘lifestyle’ undermine monogamous marriage?”

A left-familist misreading of the data?

The left-familists were given free run by the Fairfax papers over the weekend in responding to the ABS’s latest report on working time arrangements.

The SMH article opened with the statement that

THE claim that working hours are becoming more family-friendly is a myth, new figures suggest, with Australian workers having less opportunity to negotiate flexible work arrangements than they did the best part of a decade ago.

Of course there is no such myth; we’ve been endlessly told the opposite by the advocates of more labour market regulation.

The SMH‘s claim that ‘the number of workers who negotiated an agreement for flexible hours with the boss – either formally or informally – fell from 40 per cent to about 30 per cent’ looks like it might be a misreading of the statistics or coming from a change in the question or both. Continue reading “A left-familist misreading of the data?”

Should marriage be disestablished?

One of the many interesting points Tamara Metz makes in her book Untying the Knot: Marriage, the state and the case for their divorce is that liberal thinkers have been surprisingly unconcerned about the relationship between marriage and the state. While many have written about relations between individuals within a marriage – Mill most famously – they have generally accepted that the state has a legitimate role in regulating marriage.

Metz think this is a mistake, from a liberal point of view. Marriage is like religion, something of deep cultural and emotional meaning, but on which there are widely differing and strongly held views. While almost all cultures have marriage as an institution, some insist on monogamy while others allow polygamy, some make divorce difficult and others easy, some allow gays to marry while most see marriage as between a man and a woman.

Liberals have dealt with religious disputes by requiring the state to keep out of them, and Metz believes this provides a model for how the state should treat marriage. It should not be in the business of trying to give particular cultural meanings to people’s relationships. Just as liberals do not supported ‘established’ religion, they should favour disestablishing marriage. Continue reading “Should marriage be disestablished?”

Is Tony Abbott moving towards a coherent ‘modern conservatism’?

John Howard said that he supported ‘modern conservatism in social policy’. I argued several years ago that this seemed to amount to more emphasis on facilitating the social institutions conservatives did like – such as supporting families through generous handouts – and less emphasis on prohibiting or penalising things conservatives did not like.

During the Howard years, however, there were anomalies in this approach, which Tony Abbott seems to be moving towards removing.

Earlier in the month, Abbott announced a paid parental leave scheme. While this didn’t go down very well in his party room, I argued that it fits with a ‘modern conservatism’ that recognises that married women work, and that this is a factor in both deciding to have children and in the care of their children. The social science case for giving women six months off to care for and bond with a newborn child is far stronger than the case for longer term income redistribution in favour of families.

Yesterday, though learning from his previous mistake of making major announcements without consulting colleagues, Abbott indicated support for improved legal recognition of gay relationships. As The Age reported: Continue reading “Is Tony Abbott moving towards a coherent ‘modern conservatism’?”