Property boom leads to rise of confident, single, thrill-loving 'contrasexual woman'

By Charles Arthur
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The Independent Online

The decade-long property boom has given rise to a new breed of thrill-seeking, financially confident, single women who do not feel any pressure to settle down with a family.

The decade-long property boom has given rise to a new breed of thrill-seeking, financially confident, single women who do not feel any pressure to settle down with a family.

Known as "contrasexuals" because their aspirations run contrary to old-fashioned expectations that women should only work until they marry, they now number nearly two million and make up almost one third of women in full-time work, according to research by the Centre for Future Studies. Having their own mortgage and property has allowed them both financial freedom and the ability to cash in some of their home's rising value to treat themselves when they want. Such treats could include adventure holidays involving real risk.

These thrill-seeking women are more likely to put off having children, the report suggests. While government statistics show that the average British woman has her first child at the age of 27, "contrasexuals" believe sometime in their 32nd year to be the ideal time.

They are most common in the West Midlands, and hardest to find in the South-west. And given a lump sum and a year off, with a promise of a job to return to, most would like to travel the world - although many would set up their own businesses.

The most important change is in their attitude to forming a family and having children. Jan Walsh, the author of the report prepared for Standard Life Bank, said: "Although some contrasexuals may choose to have a partner and have children, past attitudes, which suggested that they would find life too difficult if they tackled it on their own, no longer apply."

Such financial and emotional independence is typified by women such as the actress Kim Cattrall, 48, who recently separated from her husband. Last month she said: "I think I'd like to find someone and we'd have a good time together, but for now I am enjoying myself as a single woman. I have found you can't wait for things to happen because they never do. I am just getting on with what makes me happy."

Financially independent women are responsible for about a quarter of all new mortgages, a figure that has doubled in the past 20 years, according to separate data released this week.

The 500 women surveyed for the Standard Life Study live across Britain, and were asked to identify themselves according to four categories: "a woman of my times", "fairly modern", "quite traditional" and "very traditional". The largest group, with 43 per cent, were those who identified themselves as "fairly modern", saying that they liked the idea of marriage, family and security, but could cope on their own "if forced to".

The "contrasexuals" identified themselves as "of independent mind, just as happy with my own company and that of friends as a partner". They also said: "Marriage and a family would be fine but I don't need that security to survive."

Indeed, fulfilment is a key way in which the "contrasexual" differs from the less confident "fairly moderns". Ms Walsh noted: "Until recently it was still the overwhelming view of women that the greatest fulfilment came with having a family. Yet 16 per cent of working women now say that their greatest fulfilment will come by achieving something incredible by their own efforts." Those interviewed put that ahead of "forging a lasting relationship" (chosen by 12 per cent) and success in a career (13 per cent).

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