It is well established in medical science that promiscuous sex significantly increases your chances of contracting a variety of diseases. Yet the government, while alerting people to the risks and ways of combating them, would certainly never dream of telling us that confining sex within marriage was the only answer, and if they did so it would rightly be dismissed as puritanical and prescriptive. Yet the advice we are given on other lifestyle matters – eating, drinking and smoking – increasingly falls into that very category. The Victorians were, at least officially, extremely prudish about sex, but were happy to eat, drink and be merry, often to considerable excess. Yet nowadays we have seen a strange inversion, with unprecedented liberty in sexual matters, but an ever-growing Puritanical disapproval of whatever else we choose to put into our bodies. It seems that there is a stratum of people in society who throughout the ages seek to impose control and restriction over the lives of others, but from generation to generation their focus changes.
While it is not strictly making the same point, I was prompted into these thoughts by this review of a book entitled Is Food the New Sex?, which talks of “a curious reversal in moralizing”.