18/07/2013 11:03 BST | Updated 17/09/2013 06:12 BST

Women's Personal Lives Are Just That - Personal


Over the past few weeks two related debates have emerged (or re-emerged, to be precise). The first was sparked by Jean Twenge's article about fertility. Writing in The Atlantic, Twenge highlighted how studies claiming older women will find it harder to conceive have been exaggerated. Following on the back of her book The Impatient Woman's Guide to Getting Pregnant, Twenge's was a tonic to the typical scare-mongering.

Then, coming in at the other end of the spectrum but still dealing with women's sexual choices, the New York Times article "Sex on Campus: She Can Play That Game, Too" interviewed a series of girls at a top US college about having casual sex (as if casual college sex was news). Sorry NYT, I actually enjoyed reading the article, I just didn't realise it was a big deal.

As outlined near the start, the NYT article was in part a response to two clashing views on the issue: Hanna Rosin in her book The End of Men, who believes casual sex can help a woman achieve her goals; and Susan Patton's infamous letter to The Daily Princeton, which argues instead that it can work against women in the marriage and baby market.

As is the nature of any story about women and our bodies, both articles spurred an explosion of separate articles and comments. None came close to a conclusion, all reading instead more like a pack of dogs chasing their tails.

Take the article in this week's Grazia, for example, which addresses Twenge. It's your classic point and counterpoint. Kathryn Knight, 41, had her first child nine weeks ago and is on team 'Have Children Late.' Self-aware in the article, she acknowledges that "the positives about older motherhood have been so well-rehearsed they have descended into cliché." She articulates them nonetheless.

But for Sophie Heawood, 37, who had her first child at 35, she regrets not having Echo earlier "because having kids younger changes the way you look at your life."

Both their points are valid. However, they are also very personal. Ask any woman when is the right time to have a baby and you won't get the same answer because - and here comes the exposé - we are not all the same. What works for one person does not work for another.

The same is true of casual sex in college versus a relationship. You don't need an article to highlight this. You just need to look (and ask) around. For every girl who met her future husband at college, there are plenty who met them later, earlier or not at all. There is no 'right time'. It's up to the individual and it's very personal.

I welcome scientific studies that help women make more educated choices about their bodies. There cannot be enough of these. What I do not welcome is the same tired debate, which only serves to make women feel more anxious about what they are currently doing and, in turn, question what they have already done.

In fact, the most pertinent point was raised in the Grazia article, one that has been said before but should really be shouted through an amplifier: "When did you last hear a man worrying about his aging sperm?" It does, after all, take two to tango, be it down the aisle or into parenthood.

Men can (largely) make the personal decision about when is the best time to get into a relationship and to have children free from a media frenzy. It's about time we granted the same right to women.