15 August 2022

Coming of age and the sexual revolution

The death of Olivia Newton-John was announced earlier this week, I was sad to hear it. She was a cultural icon when I was growing up and it is salutary to realise that she was 73.

Olivia Newton-John was a hugely successful singer but will best be remembered for her portrayal of Sandy in the film Grease. Released in 1978 and set 20 years earlier, Grease became an international phenomenon and the highest-grossing musical movie of the 20th Century.

The transformation from the supposedly dull, immature Sandy, with her twinsets and calf-length skirts, into an electrifying glamorous woman in black skin-tight trousers, was the defining moment of the film and is still celebrated for the portrayal of the empowerment of women and the shaking off of the outdated morality of the post-war generation.

Becoming the epitome of men’s sexual desires

Whether it does portray the empowerment of women is debated – what Sandy demonstrates, and what carries on today, is women seeking to take control by, essentially, becoming the epitome of men’s sexual desires. I would argue that this seems more enslaving and exhausting than liberating. Are the abandonment of morals and the remodelling of an innocent woman into someone who is promiscuous really something to be celebrated?

The film draws you into thinking Sandy is better by the end but is she? Recently a relative of mine went to see the musical and she mockingly remarked ‘aww Sandy’s lost all her morals and become a hoe, what a sweet ending’. This film, like many of the coming-of-age movies that followed, does not depict something good or to be celebrated. The devaluing of sex brought about by the sexual revolution has placed pornography into our pockets, desensitising young men and devaluing women. This is illustrated by the staggering statistic that 60% of Viagra users are between 25 and 54 years old – overstimulation and unnatural sexual expectations are causing young men to experience ‘performance anxiety’. Women, meanwhile, are left blaming themselves for their lovers’ difficulties, facing overwhelming insecurities as they attempt to emulate the actresses they see posturing on screen.

A far better coming of age story

All that said, it is possible to enjoy performances like Grease but we mustn’t unplug our brains and suspend our Christian moral compass. Otherwise, subtly over time we risk becoming over-sympathetic with the person finding fulfilment through sexual conquest and personal realisation and less confident that God’s ways are best. But everything we use as a substitute for God will not satisfy us and will ultimately let us down.

Christian, we have a far better story of empowerment and coming of age, and a better story of how the joy of romance and intimacy is part of that. Go out and tell your transformation story.


Related articles

Stay connected with our monthly update

Sign up to receive the latest news from Affinity and our members, delivered straight to your inbox once a month.