Whatever happened to the Sexual Revolution?

Who in 1970 would have believed that in the year 2003 Americans would be so repressed about sex that:

  • a US president (Clinton) would come close to being impeached over having had an affair
  • sex education courses would be based on teaching abstinence until marriage.
  • authorities would be so paranoid about child abuse that a mother could be prosecuted for taking nude pictures of her children.
  • Europeans would consider the US a laughing stock for our Puritanian attitudes.

How did this happen? I can think of contributing factors, but nothing that would fully explain it:

  1. Some predictions were overblown (e.g., widespread adoption of communal promiscuity ala’ Sandstone)
  2. Arise of diseases that discouraged promiscuity (herpes, AIDS).
  3. Increased awareness of the genuine issue of child abuse.
    It’s almost as if, having overthrown traditional “repressive” standards in the 1960s, the same standards have been sneaking back in the kitchen door under different names (“protecting children”; “family values”; etc.)

It seems as if America has a split personality: fearing and disapproving of sex, even while it’s constantly used to market things. I’d rather we had less sex in the media and more in our bedrooms.

Of course, it could just be a part of a larger pattern of a conservative backlash. Who would have believed in 1970 that in 2003 the federal government would forbid states to allow marijuana for medical use, or that we would be fighting another anti-insurgent war in a third-world nation :wink:

I think the yuppie years and global competition put the focus back on money… and then AIDS took sex down a peg or two. Conservatism US style then crept back in…

Other parts of the world certainly seem less interested in sex than they were not only the USA. Sad.

Yeah, I seem to recall that the entire ‘woo woo sex!’ thing died a nasty, fast death when it turned out sex killed.

Man the when AIDS first hit the public consciousness it was a weird weird place to be.

Yet porn is mainstream and a multi-billion dollar industry. How do we figure that fact into the discussion?

Well, through no intentional fault of my own, I continue to embrace that late 70’s phenomenon known as The New Celibacy to this very day.

Go, me :wink:

Clinton was impeached for alleged lying under oath, not for having an affair.

This column in Slate is about how the right wing won the culture war (though to admit it is difficult, since it would mean giving up the victim pose that won it for them). I tend to agree. Herpes and AIDS and child molesting were ammunition for them. Fundamentally, they won.

Porn is mainstream only insofar as it’s a supposed taboo that’s been used as a taboo so often by the media (in movies, magazines, and pop culture) that it’s not actually taboo anymore.

Porn won’t be really mainstream until a businessman isn’t embarassed to look at the centrefold of a Playboy on the bus to work.

Revolution is over, microbes won.

we aren’t nearly repressed as we were. you make it sound like america is entirely full of puritins… thats just not so. we don’t have 24 hour a day orgys in the street or anything, but at 25 there is more ‘weirdness’ and stigma about being a virgin than not being one.

The “Sexual Revolution” became an option with women with the introduction of the Pill (circa 1960) and became absorbed into the anti-war and hippie movements circa 1967. By then, it involved a lot of complex assumptions and interactions that few healthy societies would embrace. There was a memoir on Salon a year or two ago about a woman who was raised on a hippie commune as a little girl and was pressured by her mother into having sexual liaisons with some of the men who crashed there. More typically, though, we’re talking about college-age middle class kids from 1964-70 getting their first whiff of rebellion.

Basically, people of a certain generation and political orientation were presumed to be part of “the movement.” Men did revolutionary stuff like deal drugs, firebomb draft offices and stick it to Tha Man. Women were obliged to give these men sex upon request–or they weren’t really committed to The Movement. By the end of the 60s, lots of men who weren’t legitimately part of The Movement were trying to get in on the action, women were realizing that they were getting the short end of the stick, that their own pleasure and well-being were not being given adequate consideration. The rules started changing gradually, and by the time AIDS became a household word circa 1982, people realized that they hadn’t been to a full-blown orgy in years.

The sexual revolution had nothing to do with actually getting more sex. It was entirely over MARKETING more sex.

Indeed, that’s what “revolution” and “rebellion” are always about in the USA–marketing campaigns. We have “rebellious” music published by corporations with larger budgets than countries. We have “rebellious” breakfast cereal and bubble gum with (gasp) FLAVOR CRYSTALS!

“Revolution” is just another marketing ploy.

“The revolution will not be televised!”


He went through the impeachment hearings because he supposedly lied under oath not because he had an affair.


That wasn’t the case with any sex ed course I’ve heard of. In 1986 my sex ed course taught me the mechanics of the whole sex thing along with how diseases are transmitted and how it can be prevented.


How often does this really happen?


Who the hell cares what Europeans think about our attitudes towards sex? Are we to succumb to peer pressure or have we outgrown middle school yet?


Not only has the revolution been televised, the retrospective about the reunion show is in reruns.

What are you talking about the sexual revolution is over and the fuckers won. My parents generation very few couples lived together before marriage. I cannot think of any of my married friends who did not shack up before getting married. Before the sexual revolution things were so uptight you could not imply that married couples shared the same bed on TV.

Pretty much every sex ed course I’ve heard of has been abstience only, including the one I had to take as a freshman. We basically learned that sex is bad and that NO MATTER WHAT if you have sex before you’re married, you will get a disease and die. It was possibly the most offensive class I have ever taken, with our teacher using tons of religious arguements and treating us like 3-year-olds. Messed up, but whatever.

My sex ed courses were much more along the lines of MGibson’s. Use protection, blah, blah.

My health teacher in HS was less worried about the student getting it on than women’s boobs might be in danger from playing contact sports.

The Europeans have thought America a joke since 1620 for their Puritan attitudes. That is nothing new, dude.

As for the demise of the Sexual Revolution? In a word: AIDS.