Sexual Revolution through the Decades

Back in the 1900s, there was a very limited knowledge about sex and birth control (Sochen 29).  During this time, doctors do not examine women often because they knew almost nothing about the reproductive system and controlling conception (Sochen 29). According to the Victorian moral code, women should not discuss sex with anyone and it was considered to be a social taboo (Sochen 29). There was double standard regarding morality where manly experiences were admired and feminine chastity was required (Sochen 29).

Over the years, medical technology and research regarding sex and birth control advanced throughout the decades (Sochen 29). Birth control methods are known by the people and they have been used more commonly (Sochen 29). The sexual revolution in the sixties shows how it was reminiscent of the twenties and how it heightened the level of information and perception regarding sexual matters.

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Decades of Sexual Revolution


For most social historians, the sexual revolution was a product of the 1960s (Petigny 63).  Rapid liberalization of sexual liberation rose after the rise of Alfred Kinsey and Hugh Hefner (Petigny 63). Playboy’s circulation grew from 70, 000 to more than a million and it continued to grow through the years (Marty 66). The upswing of premarital sexual behavior came in this decade after the general loosening of sexual attitudes that started a couple of decades before in the forties and the fifties (Petigny 63). During this decade, women abandoned their struggle to remain “categorized” as virgins (Petigny 63).

The traditional practices of courtship rapidly disappeared in the 1960s (Marty 65). The new patterns of interaction took place that was evident of the changes in the understandings of values and presumptions of how the world works and the ideas of the relationship between men and women (Marty 65). In their vision, a good life was constituted by good sex and material comfort (Marty 67).

It was also during this time that the Food and Drug Administration approved the marketing and use of “the pill” or oral contraceptives that loosen the remaining restraints on sexual promiscuity brought about by the fear for unwanted pregnancies (Marty 67). By 1963, more than a million women were taking this pill.

However, even if premarital sexual experience was increasing during the 1960s among young women, they still represented the same girls who chose marriage and a conventional lifestyle after such premarital practices (Sochen 29). It was rare for young people to abandon those traditional modes of behavior when it came to marriage in the 1960s (Sochen 29).


During the 1970s, the hippie lifestyle emerged strongly in the earlier years of the decade (Sochen 29). The feminist arguments have not changed much in hiding behind a utopian scenario over the years since the 1900s (Sochen 29). However, it was also in the beginning of this decade where 32 per cent general population saw marriage to be obsolete (Marty 83). There was also a decline of the young people who said that they were looking forward to marriage (Marty 83).

Homosexuality also gained more prominent and distinctive lifestyles that grew much more than having sexual desires and practices (Marty 85). During this time, they were already more open in engaging in gay and lesbian relationships (Marty 85). Medical perception regarding the nature of homosexuality also changes as in 1973; the American Psychiatric Association had removed the category of homosexuality as a mental disorder (Marty 85). The public perception of homosexuals had also changed, despite the fact that there was still strong antipathy towards them in some areas; the attitudes towards individuals became more tolerant (Marty 85).

When sex had become a topic open for discussion, abortion was also discussed more freely (Marty 85).  It was even given more attention when the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that abortion laws violated rights of privacy (Marty 85). During this time, more vocal and more insistent debates regarding the pro-life and pro-choice movements spurred. Pro-life movements were against abortion and wanted to protect the rights of the unborn child while the pro-choice movement wanted to protect the rights of the women to choose whether they wanted to continue the pregnancy and abort the child.

It was also during this decade wherein divorce law also reflected the changing attitudes of the people about marriage and the values regarding the permanence of matrimony (Marty 183). The “no-fault” divorce was already implemented in the state of California. By 1977, all but three states has already adapted such law that resulted to the increase of divorce rates from irretrievable breakdown of marriage or irreconcilable differences (Marty 183).


A study was conducted regarding the direction of the sexual revolution in the 1980s, whether it has increased the level of premarital sexual behaviors or if the people has gone conservative (Roche and Ramsbey 67). It was also a study that assessed the degree that concerned contracting AIDS in relation to premarital sex (Roche and Ramsbey 67).  There result of the study was mixed; there were some evidence that perceived a more conservative position from the people (Roche and Ramsbey 67). It was evident how both males and females had more conservative attitudes and behavior about learning about AIDS (Roche and Ramsbey 67).

However, there were still a percentage of females that were still sexual active. There was also greater permissiveness found in the results of the survey (Roche and Ramsbey 67). They reported to have experienced intercourse and both males and females reported to have high percentages to have experienced oral-genital stimulation (Roche and Ramsbey 67). It must be noted that the respondents of this study showed an overwhelming response toward conservatism upon hearing information about AIDS (Roche and Ramsbey 67).

A new batch of conservatism has been emerging in the early 1980s. It was perceived that newscasters discussed AIDS similar to the practices of the Victorian model of morality standards (Reiss and Reiss107). For instance, when television or radio announcers would talk about the cause of HIV infection being the transfer of “bodily fluids” the public is not well-informed as to what they were actually referring to (Reiss and Reiss107). It could actually refer to urine, saliva, vaginal secretions, semen and even blood (Reiss and Reiss107). Another thing is that no one spoke of anal intercourse in such a way that the people would be aware that it was much riskier than vaginal intercourse because of the conservatism that enveloped the media (Reiss and Reiss107). When Rock Hudson died, the public wanted to have more information (Reiss and Reiss107). The risk of ignorance shattered the people of power in the media and ceased the conservatism that was present in the 1980s (Reiss and Reiss107).


The perception of the sexual revolution in the 1990s was more intellectual than the compared to the other decades that had passed (Reiss and Reiss 235). The segment of the population that was considered players was mostly from the college-educated segment of the country (Reiss and Reiss 235). Most of them had education beyond high school and the college-educated population upheld strong beliefs in equality and individual rights (Reiss and Reiss 235). The older baby boomers had took the positions of power and led the country into a new sexual revolution similar to that of the 1960s (Reiss and Reiss 235). Given the experiences and understanding of sexuality the people became better equipped to handle a more pluralist sexual revolution compared to the past decade. The 1990s played a role in integrating pluralist attitudes in opening sexual behaviors (Reiss and Reiss 235).Sexual crisis regarding AIDS, rape, teenage pregnancies, child sexual abuse were major pressures the sped up the move towards sexual pluralism (Reiss and Reiss 235). The basic tenets of sexual pluralism involved values of honesty, equality and responsibility (Reiss and Reiss 235).

The sexual revolution of this generation pointed out a mixture of deep emotions of sexuality with a calm direction for reason (Reiss and Reiss 236). This decade replaced force and manipulation with pleasure and empathy (Reiss and Reiss 236).

The New Millennium

The sexual revolution established the increased level of sexual activity even among adolescents and young adults that showed a general positive attitude towards premarital sexual intercourse (Caron and Moskey 515+). The greatest importance of the increased use of condoms among sexually active adolescence was one of the focuses in this decade (Caron and Moskey 515+). In a research that compared the graduating classes of 1950, 1975 to 2000, it showed how the class of 2000 was more likely to have sexual intercourse with more than one sexual partner (Caron and Moskey 515+). As mentioned, they were more likely to use birth control methods; the leading method was the use of condoms (Caron and Moskey 515+). In the classes of the past, there were few students who were having sex while they were in high school, if they did, they would do it with one partner and without protection (Caron and Moskey 515+). This generation also answered that they could openly talk about sex with their parents, their friends or with their partners that was not the case in the decades before (Caron and Moskey 515+). Such findings indicated that the new millennium generation represented a much more responsible group of adolescents who use protection and also feel comfortable about talking about their sexuality with others (Caron and Moskey 515+).