Whose sexuality got liberated?


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.

[Extract found via Magic Poppy]

7 responses

  1. Reblogged this on loveangellove.

  2. The so-called ‘sexual liberation’ was mens’ sexual liberation wherein men accorded themselves the right not only of male private sexual ownership of women but now mens’ right of public and private sexual ownership of women and girls.

    Women are still waiting for their sexual liberation from male sexual domination/female submission and that won’t happen soon, because it would mean men being denied their male pseudo right of sexual access to any female of any age, any time, anywhere.

    Men legalised abortion and provided birth control to women because it benefited men and enabled men to continue their right of male sex right to female bodies. Men who impregnated women could then tell women ‘it’s your fault not mine because you can terminate the foetus; you should have taken those pills which prevent a pregnancy, therefore I have no responsibility whatsoever for impregnating you!’

    In other words mens’ pseudo sex right to sexually penetrate a female body, any time, anywhere is sacrosant because men define ‘sex’ as mens’ right to penetrate female bodies. This is what men term ‘sex’ but it is phallocentric sex created by men for the benefit of men. The fact such ‘phallocentric sex’ all too often results in female unwanted pregnancy is irrelevant to men, because ‘phallocentric sex’ gives men sexual pleasure and that is why ‘sex’ continues to be defined by men for mens’ sexual pleasure. Men continue not to recognise women as human but merely as mens’ dehumanised sexual service stations.

  3. Very good post! Thank you for this. I wasn’t around in those days, but I was always very skeptical of people’s claims that it was such a ‘sexually liberated’ time–because what does it mean when most of the people supposedly engaging in all this ‘free love’ aren’t even free themselves? Or were they trying to convince me women had been free at some point and now weren’t anymore? I’m glad I stayed skeptical.

  4. Sexual liberation for women would be the end of rape. Men are unlikely to allow that to happen.

  5. Excellent article! There is also an interesting read on here about pornography creating sexual liberation! That is hilarious to me! Porn actors are actors who are getting paid..they are not an example of “liberation!” Being truly sexually liberated is a private matter that depends on the individual herself-with no pressure from some “guy.” I was born in the 70’s so all I can go by in that time is what I read and hear. YES the hippie and “sexual liberation” time had huge benefits for men! Now, they could get laid all of the time! And if a woman wouldn’t engage in the specific sex act I bet she was told she “wasn’t hip” or something. And condoms weren’t around so I can imagine that unwanted pregnancies and diseases were rampant. Sure some women are sexually liberated but I suspect most are not. I am, because at my age I know what I enjoy and do not deviate from this. Why do something sexual that you do not enjoy? That is basically rape in my opinion…and the war goes on….

  6. The first rubber condom was manufactured in 1855, and condoms that would be recognisable as such to us now have been around since the 1930’s. How much they were actually used in the 70’s, with the introduction of the contraceptive pill, is another matter. There weren’t antibiotic-resistant STIs back then.


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