I’m a member of an organisation which owns a chainsaw. But, to operate it, a person needs to do a two day course and get a licence, which has to be renewed through training every six months. It got me wondering: why do you need a licence to operate a chainsaw when you don’t need a licence to operate a marriage, to be competent at sex or to raise children? (These are linked, but not necessarily in this order.) Surely these are much more important issues for individuals and for operating a society than operating a chainsaw?
Religions do offer courses for those about to get married. So does Relationships Australia and, no doubt, other organisations. But I don’t know anyone – anyone – who has ever taken such a course. More importantly, it isn’t required by society, as it is for operating a chainsaw. Yet 33% of marriages formally dissolve in Australia and many others don’t work well.
Since marriage is regarded as a basic foundation of our society – or at least forming a formal, long-term relationship – wouldn’t it be a good idea if you did have to go through a course before you were allowed to marry or even a de facto relationship which could claim marriage-like social benefits?
Communication is key to a successful relationship they say. What do those entering a marriage know about their partner’s attitudes to financial arrangements, social expectations, holidays, personal v. couple time, ongoing education, house/home management, sex, having children and many other things.
Of course, it’s not just their views. It is the combination of your views and their views. Are they compatible? And, if not, how important is that? By formally discussing these in the presence of a skilled facilitator, many issues can be surfaced early, talked about, thought about and differences resolved or accepted before entering the relationship.
I know you’re laughing now. We all think we are good at sex don’t we? As Garrison Keilor might say, ‘All the performers are above average.’ If so, it would be the only thing that everyone is good at. Usually there’s a vast distribution. For instance, a large scale multi-country study recently found that the time from penis insertion to ejaculation varied from 33 seconds to 80 minutes!
Sex is key at the start of most relationships, but it is also a key for affairs starting and breakups occurring. If you only have a small number of partners, how would you really know if you were ‘good’ at it, particularly for the other person? Do you really tell them/do they really tell you what it is really like/what you want/what you need?
So why not swallow your pride and learn about it, become good at it? Sex is a skill. It is learnt through practice, but its complicated!. Given how important it is to a relationship and how enjoyable it can be, wouldn’t it be good for the society if we were all able to learn good sexual practice without moral guilt? Imagine if you could go to a sex worker (surely the best people to know) or teacher to do a course to learn sex practice, then take that with you into your current and future emotional relationships? Maybe through discussion and experience this would also help overcome the gaps between men’s and women’s expectations of sex, but that’s another topic.
Licensing Raising of Children
Which brings us to the end game: (some) sex creates children – a long term commitment for individuals and the society. Having a child changes your life in many major ways. You really need to be prepared for it much better than we currently offer.
Children are raised now in a very wide variety of ways, mainly based on how their parents were – or were not – brought up (‘I’m definitely not going to bring my children up the way my parents brought me up, because…’), not on evidence of good practice.. Anyone can have a child or two or 10!
But the society knows what good and poor practice is in raising children. There are courses in early childcare for child carers, but parents-to-be don’t have to know this information. Parents-to-be are encouraged to attend birthing classes. They should also be encouraged to attend early childcare classes. Just like immunisations, attending early childcare classes should be regarded by the society as effectively compulsory. Any good parent would want to do it for themselves.
Improving the Practice of Marriage, Sex and Raising Children
These are fundamental foundations for the health of our society. We should be required to be educated and skilled to operate these successfully. Surely, educated, affluent societies such as ours can address these issues. They are much more valuable than virtually any of the certification we currently require for life. There’s so much for the society to gain from these types of courses and skills. They are much more important than getting a licence to operate a chainsaw.