11 April 1959: An undergraduate asks "is chastity outmoded?"

From our correspondence.

11 April 1959

SIR, - May a 21-year-old student give his reaction to the problem of "outmoded chastity"? For spiritual and psychological reasons which Dr Chesser evidently endorses, my girl-friend and I intend to retain our chastity until marriage. University life is not conducive to this. I, for one, find "integrity", as Dr Chesser calls it, increasingly difficult to maintain.

My own experience and that of many friends emphatically denies that (a) a choice free from the pressure of society would increase chastity; and (b) that the "unconscious fear of frustrating maternal instinct" is an adequate balance. By all means get rid of the guilt and hypocrisy, but if every other social influence is removed Dr Chesser's "homily" leaves the field uncontested to a converse pressure about which he seems to be unaware - the less easily resisted influence which says "Go on, you're young, what does it matter when you're in love - or even if you're not in love".

Dr Chesser thinks that only a minority find it difficult. I question this very strongly indeed. If it is true it can only be because the majority are not subjected to the pressures which exist in university life. I doubt that these are much stronger than elsewhere. Has Dr Chesser any convincing new values to redress the balance which he leaves overweighted with the combined pressures of natural impulses and a provocative social environment?

He leaves me for one in a disturbing physical and emotional turmoil, feeling that it would be so much easier if chastity were outmoded. And this is evidently not the conclusion he intended. Can sexologists have attained so pure a degree of dispassion that they are unable to assess the impact of their articles? But why should he bother? It isn't his problem any longer. He's married.

Signed, "Undergraduate"

University students on spring break in Texas. Photo: Getty Images.

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Benn vs McDonnell: how Brexit has exposed the fight over Labour's party machine

In the wake of Brexit, should Labour MPs listen more closely to voters, or their own party members?

Two Labour MPs on primetime TV. Two prominent politicians ruling themselves out of a Labour leadership contest. But that was as far as the similarity went.

Hilary Benn was speaking hours after he resigned - or was sacked - from the Shadow Cabinet. He described Jeremy Corbyn as a "good and decent man" but not a leader.

Framing his overnight removal as a matter of conscience, Benn told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I no longer have confidence in him [Corbyn] and I think the right thing to do would be for him to take that decision."

In Benn's view, diehard leftie pin ups do not go down well in the real world, or on the ballot papers of middle England. 

But while Benn may be drawing on a New Labour truism, this in turn rests on the assumption that voters matter more than the party members when it comes to winning elections.

That assumption was contested moments later by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Dismissive of the personal appeal of Shadow Cabinet ministers - "we can replace them" - McDonnell's message was that Labour under Corbyn had rejuvenated its electoral machine.

Pointing to success in by-elections and the London mayoral election, McDonnell warned would-be rebels: "Who is sovereign in our party? The people who are soverign are the party members. 

"I'm saying respect the party members. And in that way we can hold together and win the next election."

Indeed, nearly a year on from Corbyn's surprise election to the Labour leadership, it is worth remembering he captured nearly 60% of the 400,000 votes cast. Momentum, the grassroots organisation formed in the wake of his success, now has more than 50 branches around the country.

Come the next election, it will be these grassroots members who will knock on doors, hand out leaflets and perhaps even threaten to deselect MPs.

The question for wavering Labour MPs will be whether what they trust more - their own connection with voters, or this potentially unbiddable party machine.