Sexual Revolution: Causes and Consequences

Views on marriage, family values, and sexuality changed throughout history. However, during the 1960s, this change gained much attention, and eventually, became synonymous with the movement popularly known as the sexual revolution. 

The revolution disrupted established values and challenged the present gender norms. It confronted the notion of the nuclear family, the stigmatization of premarital sex, and the belief that women should restrain from expressing their sexuality openly. But what exactly started this revolution, and how did it change our perceptions of sexuality?  

Causes

The feminist movement gained significant momentum during the 1960s. The women became louder in advocating for equal opportunities, rights, and personal freedom. They questioned not only their role within the society but also the traditional sexual roles. 

The driving force behind the revolution was the idea that women had a right to express their sexuality in the same way as men. Feminists were arguing that women have been denied the right to sexual freedom and that single women have sexual desires and needs just like everybody else. 

In 1960, the first birth control pill was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the US. Alongside the second wave of feminism, many deem the breakthrough of the Pill to be the principal cause of the sexual revolution. 

The new mode of contraception was revolutionary because it put women in control of their fertility, therefore extending their sexual freedom. It also challenged the attitudes about women and sex because now, women could have sex, casual or not, without worrying about an unwanted pregnancy.

Consequences

Of course, some people did not share such a positive standpoint. The critics of the revolution condemned the Pill, claiming it will encourage and advance the promiscuous behavior among women. By making such claims, they inadvertently exposed the sexual double standard in society. 

Nevertheless, the outbreak of conservative criticism was soon shut down as much research revealed the actual impact of the Pill on women’s sexual behavior. The conclusion was that despite being unmarried, single women were having sex even before the Pill – the methods of contraception were just different.

Despite the conservative efforts, the societal expectations of women to remain chaste until married were slowly starting to perish. Moreover, they were gradually replaced by healthier attitudes toward exploring one’s sexuality and being single. 

Newfound changes also collided with the anti-war sentiment that was spreading among the younger population in the 60s. Therefore, the generation that was coming of age in that era started rejecting traditional values they inherited from their parents and adopting more open attitudes toward sexuality. 

The reasons for the sexual revolution are diverse, but there is not a single event that set the ball rolling. Rather, the change was bubbling beneath the surface for many years prior, and eventually, it brought about a shift in the way society perceives women’s sexuality.

[1] “The Pill and the Sexual Revolution.” PBS [online] Available at: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/pill-and-sexual-revolution/ [Accessed on 17 Mar. 2020]