(From the appendix to Two Paths. The sensual societies are also a central issue in The Ten Weeks.)
In her first meeting with Cy Drummond, Julia mentioned not being a member of a “sensual society.” This was a shorthand term for groups which were officially called “life identification organisations,” but Julia’s term came closer to being descriptive.
Sexual freedom was the leitmotif of Kendall’s Verecundan revolution, as Richard Marlowe expressed in his final speech in The Wetland Way. Kendall originally abolished the age of sexual consent as part of his programme. The problem with any focus on sexual freedom is what to do with those who cannot or will not exercise it, as their abstinence casts aspersions on the rest of society. This is especially true in a small country like Verecunda. The sensual societies were Verecunda’s answer to this problem.
First started in the early 1970’s, these were organised at the secondary school level throughout the country. Their purpose was to dispense sex education (which nearly relieved the schools of the task) and to create a forum by which young people could become sexually experienced. This experience—a sort of government sponsored “rite of passage”—could be with other young people or adults, and could be either heterosexual or homosexual. Societies were organised for each, and also within the context of religious “traditions” (the Druids were the main beneficiaries of this.) The societies received government funding. Some of them were also organised to pull people into the political process (both to screen malcontents and mentor supporters.) They also largely circumvented Victoria Langley’s successful campaign to reinstate the age of sexual consent, as young people engaging in sex sanctioned by the society they were in were exempt from the reinstated restrictions.
Opting out of a sensual society usually marked a young person as an outcast and invited legal trouble, although how severe the impact depended upon which part of the country one lived in. It was less severe in Uranus and Collina, where there was a good deal of passive resistance to these. Both of these entities abolished the sensual societies when they were freed from Verecundan rule. Prince Desmond was able to cut off government funding, but by then the practices promoted by the sensual societies were so pervasive in Verecundan society that the main impact was to force the government to make other provisions for the high rate of STD’s in Verecunda.
Under Princess Julia, Uranus instituted an abstinence-based sex education programme in its public schools; this was picked up eventually by Collina and the Aloxans incorporated it into their curriculum. Coupled with the quicker economic recovery of these nations, this posed a long term challenge to wide-open Verecunda on this, a central issue of human existence.