What Was The Sexual Revolution?

Widespread use of contraceptives and changes in cultural norms have drastically changed relationship dynamics in the Western world.
Widespread use of contraceptives and changes in cultural norms have drastically changed relationship dynamics in the Western world.

Sexual activities, when carried out in conventionally acceptable contexts, are considered sacred in many cultural communities around the world. In some instances, it is a taboo to mention anything related to sexuality in public places. Discussions bordering sex are carried out in hush tones while children kept away from such subjects. However, sexual activities have courted a lot of controversies and drew the attention of the masses world over. Sexual revolution or sexual liberation is one such movement that is hailed for changing people’s perception about sex and sexual behavior in most contemporary societies today. Sexual revolution aimed at challenging the codes of behaviors that related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships in the Western world. The revolution that started in the 1960s and ended in the 1980s lead to the acceptance of other sexual behaviors outside of traditional heterosexual relationships or marriage.

Origins and the Role of Mass Media

The roots of the sexual liberation or sexual revolution can be traced back to the Victorian Era English author Algernon Charles Swinburne’s scandalous collection titled Poems and Ballads of 1866. In the collection, his published works openly discussed a wide range of sexual taboos. However, the modern world robbed Christianity of its values of morality and traditions leading to a rise of permissive societies that accepted greater sexual freedom. Sexual revolution aimed at exploring both the body and the mind and free one from moral and legal sexual confines. The sexual liberation was anchored on the conviction that erotic should be considered normal and not repressed by family, religion or state. Playboy, a magazine which featured half naked females and targeted males between 21 and 45 years, was founded by Hugh Hefner in 1953. He later opened Playboy Clubs in Chicago that offered relaxation for the members. The 1960s witnessed the highest number of divorce while the marriage rate decreased significantly. The mass media including television and radio was enabled to broadcast information in a matter of seconds to a large number of people. The media helped to spread the new ideas which were against the traditional sexuality concept.

Contraception and Abortion Laws

The development of birth control pills in the 1960s was one of the major causes of the sexual revolution given that women could more easily access contraception. More people were engaging in casual sex as a result. Men and women had more options on in matters of having children due to the availability of contraceptives. Contraceptives such as latex condom led to affordable condoms for men. Women had greater access to contraceptives “girls world” in 1965. The birth control movement advocated for the legalization of abortion in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1967, the UK repealed the law prohibiting abortion and male homosexuality.

STDs and Unwanted Pregnancy Rates

While contraceptives such as birth control pills helped avoid unwanted pregnancies and illegitimate childbirths, sexual partners exposed themselves to the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The number of people contracting syphilis and gonorrhea among other STDS significantly shot up due to the mate swapping, multiple sex partners, and other forms of sexual activities. Unwanted pregnancy rate among the women in their 20s also increased significantly. This has led to young women temporarily dropping out or delaying schooling to take care of their babies.

Legal Changes and Changes in Religious Views

The Sexual Revolution led to some significant legal changes, including the repealing of the abortion laws to allow for safe abortions through consent. Birth control was first endorsed by the Lyndon Johnson who was the acting president of the US. The US Supreme Court also ruled that the government had no rights in dictating the usage of contraception by married people. While the Church and other religious bodies opposed the revolution, some slowly accepted it as a normal culture. The religious groups have adopted the live-and-let-live approach to sexual revolution with some of the practices accommodated within the religious confines.

Acceptance and Legal Rights of the LGBT Community

Homosexuality for a long time was considered a mental illness and viewed as revile in Western society. Doctors widely labeled members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community as having a psychological condition in the 1950s and 1960s. Homosexuals were viewed as dangerous and were persecuted. However, the Stonewall riots by the LGBT community in 1969 led to the gay liberation movement and fought for LGBT rights. With the awareness of gay rights and societal acceptance, more people in the US are joining the LGBT group today.

Legacy of the Sexual Revolution

Before the sexual revolution, married men generally determined the sexual activities for women, as their sexual desires were contained within the context of marriage and the notion of loyalty and obedience to their husbands. However, with the revolution women can enjoy pleasure within their marriages or outside of their marriages. The sexual revolution has also been blamed for the destruction of the traditional American family. Women can now delay marriage and childbearing through birth control pills while remaining sexually active. Chastity is no longer a sense of pride in the society today. In fact, those who delay sexual activities are considered abnormal and naive in the society today.


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