Sexual Liberation Movement in the 1960s-1980s

It is a well-known historical fact that the 1960s were a decade of liberation splash in many spheres of life. Sexuality is an aspect that has always been controversial throughout history. Different epochs and ideologies have imposed certain rules and regulations on sexual thinking and behavior. It has been mentioned not once that the less liberated society is, the more restrained people are about sexuality. So, it is not surprising that sexual liberation was one of the main aspects in the stream of overall liberation in the 1960s.

Otherwise known as sexual revolution, the phenomenon started to develop in mid 1960s, and the trend was becoming increasingly significant for the next decades as well. The new attitude towards sex and relationships broadened the horizons of previously conservative society that had mostly approved sex within a marriage. When sexual revolution began, sex before marriage became more common, partially because it was now socially acceptable, so that it was possible to discuss it openly. On May 14, 1972, New York Times wrote in the article Vanishing Virginity: Sex Revolution that parents had concerns about girls having sex before marriage in a more liberated way: “It turns out to be something less than a virgin spring. Last week many a parent's head was spinning over new evidence of the sexual revolution: a Federal study indicating that nearly half of America's unwed daughters have had sexual intercourse by age 19 — and most of them haven't bothered with contraceptive”( New York Times, 1972).

The reason why this social transformation was so painless and did not cause as much oppression as it might have been is that the decade was in fact the time of universal change. People participated in Civil Rights movements; feminism was also on its way to success. Because all other changes had cleaned the way, sexual revolution began in such a drastic way that the state seemed to be not ready for it. Birth control suddenly became a burning issue, which forced medicine to make a dramatic progress in a short time. The revolutionary step of women controlling their body and preventing pregnancy by means of pills was related to sexual revolution as well.

In 1975, when New York Times claimed that the revolution was over, The Christian Science Monitor wrote with irony that to most magazines and newspapers this was gloomier news than another quantum leap in postal rates. “For almost 20 years, day in, day out, the Sexual Revolution has been the old-reliable subject of journalism. And now, just like that, Old Reliable's been taken away, leaving dieting as journalism's last inexhaustible topic”(Maddocks, 1975).  Although this publication gives a hint that sexual revolution used to be a media phenomenon to a large extent, one cannot argue that it still took place and changed minds of people. Still, some research reveals an idea that it was mythologized greatly. Thus, in 1968, New York Times writes: “A nationwide study to be released next spring by the Institute for Sex Research will indicate that the "sexual revolution" among American college students is largely a myth” (Leo, 1968). Whether 1968 was too early to see the overall trend or, indeed, the scale of revolution was exaggerated, it nevertheless was ardently debated in the media.

Hence, sexual revolution is a unique phenomenon that originated in the 1960s within the general trend of liberation. It gave more sexual liberty to people, especially to women who stopped associating sex exclusively with future marriage and started to control their sexual lives on their own. Sexual revolution had a significant effect on further generations, and, to a certain extent, it is going on right now.