In 1947 the male students were almost all considerably older than the women. The reason is simple. Those men who were ready for university when the war started were allowed to complete their first year before being called up. They had mostly been in The Officers’ Training Corps, so they usually became officers very early. By the time the war was over, they had served anything up to six or seven years with the heavy responsibility of command. With such grave experiences they returned as exceptionally mature, and were naturally given priority for university places. Healthy men who were ready for the next stage of education after the war were obliged to do a two-year stint in The National Service before they could move on to university. Some of the women had also served in the forces and had the chance to go to university with exceptionally good grants.
However the vast majority of women went up straight from school. At that time they still regarded marriage as important and university was clearly the best hunting ground for it because there was no other place where they would have such a good chance to find husbands whose intelligence and education matched their own. Nevertheless, many of us women were anxious to have careers as well. Society was changing. It had to be a daring couple to decide to live together before or without marrying.
It isn’t easy for men and women who are busy working hard to do as well as they can with their chosen studies to manage their boy and girl friendships with ease, especially when the natural inclination for mating begins to impress itself. Most of the women came from girls’ schools and most of the boys from boys’ schools. Therefore they had had little experience of each other. Moreover those men who had fought in the war were much too busy to think about the lack of female colleagues. University then served as a playground for making up for lost time by getting the chance to mix with the opposite sex for pleasure and for work.
Our fellow animals who cannot speak have no problems with mating. They don’t have to get married. All they have to do is follow their instincts when they are old enough. We humans are physically complete when we are in our early ‘teens but we have to wait until we are much older before we can go through the rites of marriage. This has always been a problem for civilised societies who do things differently from all our fellow animals.
We young women students wanted to have our cakes and eat them. Unlike the rest of the female race who left school earlier and usually married earlier at that time, more and more of us were planning lifelong careers. We were born at a time when many of the unwritten rules for man/women relationships were hangovers from Victorian times. We were at the threshold of much more freedom for women when they could choose whether to have children or not.
The result of all this was that we would get together at night with our cups of cocoa, having endless discussions of “How Far Can we Go?”. Meaning, of course, how could we avoid getting pregnant and still enjoy what some people call “making love” and others “having sex”.
Women’s Lib was hovering on the threshold. This is a subject about which I have much to say. I intend to write my own ideas about what has gone wrong with it and how it can be improved for everyone’s benefit. I might start it on this blog soon, or I might wait till I have finished this book about my life.