There was a Female Sexual Revolution? When?

To understand what a sexual revolution is the question that must be initially examined is, “What is a revolution?” A revolution by definition is “a sudden, extreme, or complete change in the way people live, work, etc,“.  For example the American Revolution, which was a complete overthrow of the traditional government and way of life in America, started in 1775 and ended in 1783. The clear intention of the revolution was becoming free from their mother country, Great Britain. After many years and battles, freedom was finally obtained. Furthermore, in order to call the Female Sexual Revolution an actual accomplished revolution, wouldn’t the breakdown of it be similar to most other resolutions like, The American Revolution? Wouldn’t sexual freedom have to be obtained in order to call it a revolution? Was sexual freedom ever truly obtained for women?

The phrase, “women’s sexual revolution” seems to be used a lot in news interviews, college discussions, textbooks, books in general, etc. The term is also usually spoke of as an event that happened that consisted with the popularization of The Birth Control Pill in the 1960’s (Cohen). Women were said to be sexually liberated at last. In regards to this sexual revolution of the sixties a man by the name of Allan David Bloom, an American professor, philosopher and author, once wrote,

The sexual revolution’s celebration of physical gratification and rejection of cultural inhibitions led young people, girls especially, to engage in sexual activity outside the context of familial relations. The feminist movement championed a woman’s right to choose her sexual partners freely and to put career ahead of family as an affirmation of equality between the sexes.

A substantially decent amount scholars and historians would probably agree with Bloom’s statement about the sexual “liberation” women became a part of. The problem with this type of view about the so called “sexual liberation” women experienced then and still have is the liberation part and the “woman’s right to choose her sexual partners freely”(Bloom) part. On the surface, this view seems legitimate because The Pill does make it possible for women to have some control over their own bodies and in theory would allow woman to have more sex because of the lower risk of pregnancy. But that doesn’t mean women were completely liberated or didn’t have other things holding them back from truly becoming sexually liberated beings.

In most societies, cultural norms and social judgements, shape the type of behaviors that the majority of the society follow, so when it comes to female expression of sexuality and sexual desire this same concept applies. The word for the cultural and social bias placed on the sexual expression of woman is the “double standard”. Most women and men would probably agree that a double standard does still exist and controls how women behave and excuse the way men do. But in support of the common presumption, there is some concrete evidence of an existing double standard found in an experiment entitled, “Has the Double Standard Disappeared?” The subjects of the study were given information about the first sexual experience a given male or female person, from the ages sixteen or twenty one, the experience was either casual or steady relationship. Then each individual was asked to give feedback and answer questions about each subject he or she was told about. The results of the study showed, “More negative evaluations were made of the female if the first time she had sexual intercourse was in a casual rather than in a steady relationship or as a teenager (16) rather than as a young adult (21). On the other hand, stage of the relationship and age at first coitus did not affect, to the same degree, the evaluations made about a male” (Sprecher). The study proves there is a clear cultural double standard that frowns upon women engaging in sexual acts that would be okay if they were males.  That is the basis for the idea that women have been sexually freed doesn’t hold up because just like this study says society has an obvious standard that if a woman acts out on her sexuality there will be subject to judgement. The double standard puts moral chastity belts on women but yet society seems to think that women aren’t still repressed when it comes the ability to express their sexuality, or sexual thoughts or desires.

Social judgement isn’t the only limitation the freedom to express oneself sexually or have total control of her body sexuality a woman has, there’s also rape. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Website, one of most sexual degrading things that could happen to any individual, rape, happens to one in every five women at some point in their life and one in every twenty when it comes to sexual assault. For men when it comes to rape it is one in every seventy one men are raped and for sexual assault it is about the same as the woman’s ratio. Therefore, when it comes to rape and sexual assault, as a woman, an individual would be more at risk. The fact that at any given time an individual sits in a normal size classroom of people at least one to six women in that room have been raped illuminates how big of an issue this is. Rape and sexual assault are another reason why the notation that women are sexually free isn’t completely valid. If women were free to be sexual beings and in control of their own body when it comes to sex there wouldn’t be an exasperating amount of women that are being forced to perform sexual acts or forced down to be raped against their will.

Along with rape and sexual assault comes the fear of these things happening. Therefore, society comes up with ways to limit the sexuality and expression of it by women to make sense of rape and sexual assault and to try and put an end to it. From a young age we are all taught, men and women alike, the “buddy system”. The only difference between the buddy system for males is that after elementary school, it goes away. For females, the buddy system is taught to follow them into adulthood. As a society we teach our daughters to never go anywhere without a friend, or to never leave a girlfriend at the bar, or to never set a drink down. We also teach our daughters to dress appropriately and not to be too provocative because “putting on the wrong impression to a guy” isn’t what young women should be doing.  All of the things we teach the women of this country are taught to lower their chances of being raped or sexually assaulted. But in end, it limits women in their sexual expressiveness. Ayres Boswell and Joan Spade’s excerpt from Gender and Society, entitled “Fraternities and Collegiate Rape Culture: Why Are Some Fraternities More Dangerous Places for Women,” gives an explanation of this phenomenon. The excerpt states, “ Because men’s sexuality is seen as more natural, acceptable, and uncontrollable than women’s sexuality, many men and women excuse acquaintance rape by affirming that men cannot control their natural urges”(134) so instead we blame the female of being too sexually expressive or willing. This rape culture our country, and basically every other country in the world has, is and will continue to be the glass ceiling on the sexual equality of women.

In terms of historical events, a revolution is period of time where usually some type of freedom was accomplished whether it be political, social, or economical. Therefore, to refer to what happened in the 1960’s a sexual revolution for women is hardly accurate. If sexual freedom did occur women wouldn’t be so limited in the acceptability of full sexual expression and society would perceive women as equal sexual beings as men. There also wouldn’t such a problem with society understanding that root of the rape and sexual assault issue isn’t women’s misuse of their sexuality. The real cause of sexual violence is the rapists and the culture that excuses the behavior of men who rape but blame women who are raped. If societies, domestic and foreign, could show greater strides in possibly getting to a mindset like the description of a true sexual revolution for women, full gender equality wouldn’t be very far off.


Cohen, Nancy “How the Sexual Revolution Changed America Forever.” Alternet. Counterpoint Press, 5 Feb. 2012. pg. 1-8.Web.1 Dec.2014

“Sexual Violence: Data Sources.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 Jan. 2014. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. 



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