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Britain now more liberal about sex: Survey

Britain now more liberal about sex: Survey

British views on sex & marriage have grown liberal in recent years.

London: Britain is becoming socially more liberal, according to one of the country's most comprehensive surveys, with seven in 10 seeing nothing wrong with pre-marital sex and views on homosexuality also relaxing.

The annual British Social Attitudes report, which polls more than 3,000 people, found views on sex, marriage, the family and gender had all grown less conservative in recent years.

In the latest poll, 70 per cent of people say there is nothing wrong with sex before marriage, a large increase since the first survey was taken in 1984, when only 48 per cent agreed.

Two-thirds of respondents now say there is little difference socially between being a couple being married and a couple living together, a view that may in part explain why Britain's marriage rate is near its lowest since 1986.

Views on gay couples and their ability to bring up children are also softening, although four in 10 say gay male couples are not as capable of being good parents as a man and a woman.

''The heterosexual couple is no longer central as a social norm,'' said Simon Duncan, a co-author of the report, which is published by the National Centre for Social Research, the country's largest independent social research group.

''But views are more traditional when it comes to bringing up children... when they are involved, alternative family arrangements are seen as less acceptable.''

When it comes to race, attitudes have changed much less over the past two decades than they have towards sexuality.

In 1985, 34 per cent of people described themselves as 'very or a little prejudiced' against other races, a figure that has declined to 30 per cent in the lastest survey.

When it comes to homosexuality, a third of those surveyed now regard the lifestyle as 'always or mostly wrong', down from 75 per cent of those polled in 1987.

More than a third of people (36 per cent) think policies to improve opportunities for black and Asian people have ''gone too far.''

In broad terms, the survey found that women are more liberal than men, especially when it comes to views on gender roles and family. While most attitudes might be described as becoming more progressive over time, some views and roles don't change.

When it comes to household chores, nearly eight in 10 of those in partnerships say the woman usually or always does the laundry, little changed since 1994, even if men tend to think they do more housework these days than they used to.
first published:January 23, 2008, 10:40 IST