I think of this chapter of Andrea Dworkin’s Heartbreak whenever anyone mentions ‘sexual liberation’ in the 60’s and 70’s.
Women may have got the pill, greater access to contraception, and (limited and constantly under threat) access to abortion in the west, but we only got these things because they benefited men too; compare reproductive rights to the status of the sex industry in relation to women’s human rights, and you can see the difference – curbs on the sex industry do not benefit men, and there have never been any real substantive changes to the law to keep the sex industry in check (Nordic Model countries being the rare and recent exception), and all older laws were disproportionately punitive towards the prostitute woman herself, rather than those exploiting her.
The only sexuality that was liberated was men’s: “All sex was good, including forced sex” [emphasis mine]. Dworkin’s was not an isolated experience with one outlier male; women like Marge Piercy and Robin Morgan have also written about the massive amount of sexism they experience in that time period – we can see the Second Wave feminism of the 70’s and 80’s as a reaction to the misogyny of ‘sexual liberation’.
Germaine Greer said it well: “We won the right to say yes, but lost the right to say no.” Sheila Jeffreys’ Backlash (unfortunately I do not have my copy to hand) documents how in the 60’s and 70’s rapists and child abusers were celebrated as ‘sexual outlaws’.
And now, we have ‘slut walks’, we have the normalising of BDSM, we have ‘feminist’ pornographers selling us pornography as ‘sex education’ and self-labelled ‘sexperts’ pressuring us to be up for anything and everything, all in the name of ‘liberation’.
Genuine sexual liberation for women has not happened yet.