Google “sexual revolution” and spend a few moments drifting into the 1960s. You will find images of young men and women fully nude, hugging, kissing and sharing in the “free love” that might disgust some conservatives but evoke the desire to dive in from others.
Somewhere between 20,000-30,000 hippies of the Haight-Ashbury scene in San Francisco flocked to Polo Field for what was publicized as “The Gathering of Tribes for Peace.” Communing on blades of green grass with daisies in their hair and the pungent aroma of pot in the air, hippies enjoyed chants, readings and music from Bay Area musicians such as The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll were all within reach in 1967, the summer of love.
Not everyone was a hippie, though, particularly in the Midwest. “The so-called “sexual revolution” of the 1960s is a misconception, largely because whenever anyone refers to the period, they are almost always referring to the end of the 60s, the period 1967-1970, a consequence of the widely publicized “Human Be-In” at the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on January 14, 1967, which introduced hippie culture to middle-class America,” said Dr. Sam Umland, English professor.
“When we look back on the 60s, we are really reflecting on the way we never were,” said Dr. Tami Moore, family studies and interior design professor.
The Midwest 60s Swing
Umland celebrated his 14th birthday in June 1968 when he visited his older brother who was attending college at the University of Southern California-Berkeley.
“I’ll always remember that birthday because he drove me over to the Haight- Ashbury district of San Francisco to see hippie culture firsthand,” Umland said. “Fascinating and strange, but not in a negative way, just ‘different.’ In some respects it was rather like a medieval town square: lots of things for sale: tie-dyed T-shirts, sandals, jewelry, bong pipes, books.”
Umland recalls Berkeley being far different than his small hometown in Kansas, the heart of the so-called Bible belt. “The hippies were what was then called ‘sexually liberated,’ but actually were a very small percentage of the American population,” Umland said.
There is this misconception that everyone young was a hippie, when comparing with the rest of the U.S. population, there were few. “The era is romanticized almost to the point of being mythical,” Moore said.
Moore was attending junior high in Wolbach, Neb., a rural town of about 300, during the 60s. The sexual climate of rural Nebraska was still very traditional. Moore’s two older sisters were both married within a year and a half of graduating high school.
“It was always interesting to do the math of when a couple’s wedding was and when their first child was born. There were a lot of premature babies,” Moore said.
During this time period, responsibility for contraception changed. “Condoms were available to men, but the availability of birth control pills shifted the responsibility of contraception to women,” Moore said. Although women were now empowered with the option of birth control, oral contraception wasn’t made widely available to unmarried women in all 50 states until 1972.
Umland remembers his school district completely disregarding sexual behavior in adolescents. “I guess they weren’t that interested in our sexual lives, thinking we were all God-fearing young people,” Umland said. He said the gym teacher also taught health, but urged the young men to avoid sex because of possible venereal disease, “VD,” or as it is now called sexually transmitted disease “STD” or an “STI,” sexually transmitted infection.
“Tonight I’m F**king You”
“Did you smush?” In the 50 years since the 1960s, sex is still king. MTV has aided 7,608,000 Americans a week in understanding the innuendo behind the popular “Jersey Shore” phrase. According to the Nielsen Television Ratings for Cable, “Jersey Shore” is No. 1 yet again. For those of you that live under a rock, “smushing” means having sex. Basically the “Jersey Shore” crew drinks all day and night, and then when “cabs are here,” they go home with a new Guidette/Guido to “smush.”
Get in, get out, go high-five your buddies about the latest conquest. Long gone is Jefferson Airplane’s romantic question, “Don’t you want somebody to love?” In it’s replacement is Enrique Iglesias’s cocky attitude: “You know my motivation, given my reputation…tonight I’m f**king you.” Whether people like to admit it or not, that song is a true reflection of the sexual climate in 2011.
Not all the change has been positive, Moore said. “Back in the 60s a lot of the free love was partially a result from women’s liberation and the excitement of having some control over their own bodies. Now, the attitude toward women and women’s empowerment has regressed. Women are dehumanized.”
Attitudes toward sex aren’t the only thing that 50 years has altered. Birth control has expanded beyond just condoms and the pill to Plan B, “morning after,” a method used as emergency contraception. The drugs are available over-the-counter in drug stores and pharmacies to women and men 17 and older— and available with a prescription to those younger than 17. Plan B is effective up to 120 hours, or five days after unprotected sex.
Despite society’s attitudinal changes, one thing remains the same; people are having premarital sex. “I think it’s ridiculous that our society looks at adolescents and expects them not to experiment with their new found sexuality,” Moore said. “It has always happened, and we need to tell our kids about ways to protect themselves.”
Even though MTV is the network provider of the sex-packed “Jersey Shore,” some of their biggest advertisers are condom companies. MTV sponsors a website devoted to sexual health and pregnancy prevention. Visit www.itsyoursexlife.com to check it out— and yes there is a ton of information on “Teen Mom.”
In the last five decades, Americans gained options for contraception, more knowledge of positions, and the acceptance of mostly consensual drunken sex between men and women. The summer of love, 1967, brought naked men and women just “be-ing” in the park, exploring their sexuality. Fifty years later, people’s sex lives are shown on reality television. Another 50 years down the road, 2067, and who knows what the sexual climate will be.
Some things never change. “Sex without love is a meaningless experience, but as meaningless experiences go, it’s pretty damned good,” said Woody Allen.