Sexual Revolution: Myth or Reality

April 1, 1970

Report Outline
New Permissiveness in Sexual Behavior
Changes in Sexual Mores Through History
Persistence of Anxiety About Sexuality

New Permissiveness in Sexual Behavior

Americans, the mass media proclaim, are front-line troops in a sexual revolution. Evidence of the upheaval is everywhere to be seen—in displays of nudity and simulated intercourse on stage and screen, in the reported increase of pre- and extra-marital relations abetted by oral contraceptives, in sex education classes in public schools, in the increasing visibility and militance of homosexuals. The end product of the sexual revolution, its supporters say, will be n “new morality” freed of hypocrisy and fear and grounded in tolerance.

Some psychologists and sexual behaviorists take quite a different view. Rollo May, a professor of psychology at New York University, believes that the chaotic state of current sexual mores is indicative of “a new form of puritanism.” It differs from the old form in that “the Victorian person sought to have love without falling into sex; the modern person seeks to have sex without falling into love.” Whether it be called revolution or puritanism, the new sexual freedom is embraced mainly by the young. Many older people are deeply disturbed and offended by it. They seem to fear that greater sexual freedom inevitably means promiscuity. The sexual revolution, numerous adults feel, is part and parcel of wider social unrest and they resist it for that reason.

Homosexuals, male and female, have begun openly to clamor for repeal of restrictive laws. And the champions of women's rights in employment and society have become more assertive. To women militants, the new sexual freedom seems a mixed blessing. On the one hand they feel free to assert their right to choose mates and to become “bachelor mothers” if they desire. At the same time they complain that now, more than ever before, women are becoming sexual “objects,” to be regarded perhaps as house pets rather than as individual persons.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Sexual Behavior
Feb. 22, 2019  Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Apr. 28, 2017  Sports and Sexual Assault
Oct. 21, 2016  Pornography
Apr. 15, 2016  Decriminalizing Prostitution
Oct. 31, 2014  Campus Sexual Assault
Apr. 27, 2012  Sexual Harassment
Jan. 22, 2010  Sex Scandals
May 23, 2008  Prostitution Debate
Nov. 04, 1994  Sex on Campus
Jun. 11, 1993  Prostitution
Jul. 13, 1984  Sexual Revolution Reconsidered
Aug. 25, 1971  Legalization of Prostitution
Apr. 01, 1970  Sexual Revolution: Myth or Reality
Dec. 30, 1963  Sex on the Campus