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The Sexual Revolution Assignment

• Advice manuals/etiquette books of the 50's that taught prescribed gender roles and proper etiquette now change to sex manuals Popular

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The Sexual Revolution Assignment

1960’s: The Sexual Revolution and things start to change.

Things that are going on:

  • Advice manuals/etiquette books of the 50’s that taught prescribed gender roles and proper etiquette now change to sex manuals Popular magazines- talking or assuming women are in school or working Women living with partners and having careers
  • But most importantly this movement is due largely to the Pill- the pill really fuels this movement for women

1961: The pill becomes available. This really created an uproar.

  • On one hand, popular magazines had articles about the birth control controversy and there were many religious/moral implications associated with the pill and it’s use. On the other, there were concerns about population growth and lots of women with more children then they had planned.

Other things going on in the 1960’s:

  • Advice manuals/etiquette books of the 50’s that taught prescribed gender roles and proper etiquette now change to sex manuals
  • 1965- number of college women doubled
  • 1969- studies showed they had tripled
  • During the sexual revolution the real revolution is changes in women’s sexual behavior.

What happens during the sexual revolution?

  • Sex becomes more public and mainstream
  • No barriers for men
  • For women this becomes more problematic. Women are no longer expected to be virgins until marriage but are expected to be in long term relationships and having sexual relations only with partners they know very well and were fully committed to(fiances, etc.)
  • Now we see a lessening of the sexual double standard but it still exists. For men it is already acceptable; now okay for women but with restrictions.

As Milhausen and Herald stated in their article ‘Does the Sexual Double Standard Still Exist? Perceptions of University Women:’ “The sexual double standard has been the focus of considerable research since the 1960s. Ira Reiss (1960), the pioneer researcher, defined the orthodox double standard as prohibiting premarital sexual intercourse for women but allowing it for men. This standard evolved into the conditional double standard in which women were permitted to engage in sexual relations only within a committed love relationship, whereas men were permitted to have as many sexual partners as they wanted without condition.”

We also see more women, during this time, living with men pre-maritally. 

Now also suddenly after the revolution women, if refusing sex on a first date, are seen as frigid- this is a huge contradiction – society is saying it is acceptable to have pre-marital sex with partners but now also women are seen as frigid if refusing sex on the first date(very mixed messages). Also, feminists argue women are not fully liberated by sex- can still be raped or get pregnant and still mainly bear the responsibility for birth control. 

On TV during the 60’s we also, along with societal changes, start to see changes with the representations of women. As Susan Douglas argues, programs such as Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie start to challenge traditional images of women. However, on these shows, wherever women used their power (for these shows magical power) men’s world turned completely upside down. So these shows portray women with more power but are also critiquing what happens to women who have power. 

Also more and more in the popular culture at this time sexual images become much more common. Marketers and advertisers realize sex sells magazines. Also, due to the movie industry loosing a huge audience in the 50’s mainly because of the invention of the TV set and how popular it becomes (this is now were people are spending most of their recreational time)in the 60’s films start portraying more sexually risqué themes in hopes of luring an audience back. There was a new sexual frankness in films and the film industry leads in breaking down these sexual taboos long before television (again partly due to more leeway in terms of censorship)

Sex and the Single Girl – Film

Sex and the Single Girl

As Betsy Israel states in her novel Bachelor Girl: “If a film (in the 60’s) had a single woman at the center then the central question concerned sex and specifically whether or not she had any before marriage.” And in 1962 Helen Gurley Browns very famous Sex and the Single Girl says that America should get over it already and talks about premarital sex for women. However, some critics have argued her message inevitably is also about pleasing a man though she does serve as an agent of change while still conforming to certain stereotypes- tells girls not to marry to early or that women can still have babies into their forties; but also said to take voice lessons to make their voice sexier… 

 

A Change from the 50’s: The MRS Degree/PBS info on the Pill

A Change from the 50’s: The MRS Degree/PBS info on the Pill

American society in the 1950s was geared toward the family. Marriage and children were part of the national agenda. And the Cold War was in part a culture war, with the American family at the center of the struggle. A Propaganda War Embedded in the propaganda of the time was the idea that the nuclear family was what made Americans superior to the Communists. American propaganda showed the horrors of Communism in the lives of Russian women. They were shown dressed in gunnysacks, as they toiled in drab factories while their children were placed in cold, anonymous day care centers.

In contrast to the “evils” of Communism, an image was promoted of American women, with their feminine hairdos and delicate dresses, tending to the hearth and home as they enjoyed the fruits of capitalism, democracy, and freedom. The “M.R.S.” Degree In the 1950s, women felt tremendous societal pressure to focus their aspirations on a wedding ring. The U.S. marriage rate was at an all-time high and couples were tying the knot, on average, younger than ever before. Getting married right out of high school or while in college was considered the norm. A common stereotype was that women went to college to get a “Mrs.” (pronounced M.R.S.) degree, meaning a husband.

Although women had other aspirations in life, the dominant theme promoted in the culture and media at the time was that a husband was far more important for a young woman than a college degree. Despite the fact that employment rates also rose for women during this period, the media tended to focus on a woman’s role in the home. If a woman wasn’t engaged or married by her early twenties, she was in danger of becoming an “old maid.”

Single and Pregnant If remaining single in American society was considered undesirable, being single and pregnant was totally unacceptable, especially for white women. Girls who “got in trouble” were forced to drop out of school, and often sent away to distant relatives or homes for wayward girls. Shunned by society for the duration of their pregnancy, unwed mothers paid a huge price for premarital sex. In reality young women were engaging in premarital sex in spite of the societal pressure to remain virgins.

There was a growing need for easy, safe, effective, reliable and female-controlled contraceptives. Large Families not only did most married women walk down the aisle by age 19; they also tended to start families right away. A majority of brides were pregnant within seven months of their wedding, and they didn’t just stop at one child. Large families were typical. From 1940 to 1960, the number of families with three children doubled and the number of families having a fourth child quadrupled. Stay-at-Home Moms This was also the era of the “happy homemaker.” For young mothers in the 1950s, domesticity was idealized in the media, and women were encouraged to stay at home if the family could afford it.

Women who chose to work when they didn’t need the paycheck were often considered selfish, putting themselves before the needs of their family. Decades of Childbearing But even for happy homemakers, pressures were mounting. In a departure from previous generations, it was no longer acceptable for a wife to shut her husband out of the bedroom. Starting in the 1950s sex was viewed as a key component of a healthy and loving marriage. Without an effective female-controlled contraceptive, young wives faced three decades of childbearing before they reached menopause. The Pill Welcomed By the late 1950s, both single and married American women were ready and waiting for a new and improved form of birth control. When the Pill was introduced, the social factors affecting women’s reproductive lives contributed significantly to the warm reception women across the country gave the Pill.

As the feminist movement evolved in the late 1960s, women started challenging their exclusion from politics and the workplace. They also began to question traditional sexual roles. Immorality — or Empowerment? At the core of the sexual revolution was the concept — radical at the time — that women, just like men, enjoyed sex and had sexual needs.

Feminists asserted that single women had the same sexual desires and should have the same sexual freedoms as everyone else in society. For feminists, the sexual revolution was about female sexual empowerment. For social conservatives, the sexual revolution was an invitation for promiscuity and an attack on the very foundation of American society — the family. Feminists and social conservatives quickly clashed over morality of the “sexual revolution,” and the Pill was drawn into the debate.

The Pill as Scapegoat As female sexuality and premarital sex moved out of the shadows, the Pill became a convenient scapegoat for the sexual revolution among social conservatives. Many argued that the Pill was, in fact, responsible for the sexual revolution. The Pill’s revolutionary breakthrough, that it allowed women to separate sex from procreation, was what conservatives feared most. The theory was that the risk of pregnancy and the stigma that went along with it prevented single women from having sex and married women from having affairs. Since women on the Pill could control their fertility, single and married women could have sex anytime, anyplace and with anyone without the risk of pregnancy.

The Double Standard Although it was acceptable for single men to have sex, the idea of young women behaving in the same way disturbed many in America. In a 1966 feature on the Pill and morality, the magazine U.S. News and World Report asked, “Is the Pill regarded as a license for promiscuity? Can its availability to all women of childbearing age lead to sexual anarchy?” The author Pearl Buck took an even more dire doomsday approach to the Pill when she warned in a 1968 Reader’s Digest article: “Everyone knows what The Pill is. It is a small object — yet its potential effect upon our society many be even more devastating than the nuclear bomb.” Technology and Behavior In response to conservative attacks on the Pill, the developers of the Pill, John Rock and Gregory Pincus, argued that technology does not determine behavior.

Despite the veneer of a chaste society and socially conservative morality, there was clinical research to back up their views. Studies have shown that unmarried women were having sex prior to the advent of the Pill. They were just using different and less effective forms of contraception. With the Pill, women were able to engage in the same behavior — but with a dramatically reduced risk of pregnancy. The Rise of a Singles Culture Despite the social conservatives’ agenda, as the decade progressed, societal emphases on virginity and marriage were slowly replaced by a celebration of single life and sexual exploration. Hugh Hefner put out a racy new magazine called Playboy that promoted bachelorhood and the swinging single life style. Helen Gurley Brown’s book Sex and the Single Girl championed career women and open sexuality, effectively destroying the notion of the “old maid.” Changes in Values In the midst of the civil rights and anti-war movements, the young generation of the 1960s questioned authority and rejected their parents’ values. For many who came of age in this era, the traditional notion that a woman wouldn’t be able to find a husband if she weren’t a virgin was absurd. Though social conservatives blamed these sweeping changes in American values on the oral contraceptive, most historians now believe that in reality the Pill did not cause the sexual revolution in America. Rather, the two collided.

1. Cautionary Tales

During the sexual revolution women start to make some progress in terms of sexual freedom. In films, during this time, we start to see more and more cautionary tales. These films warned women of these new sexual freedoms offered in the city and their consequences. In order to survive a woman must meet certain standards. If a woman is not a virgin in the city and becomes to sexually promiscuous her ultimate fate is death unless she conforms.

 

This is a story of young love and it’s consequences. Please read this plot from wikipedia:

Deanie Loomis (played by Natalie Wood), a teen-aged girl living in a small town in Kansas in 1928, follows her mother’s advice to resist her desire for sex with her boyfriend, Bud Stamper (Warren Beatty), the scion of the most prosperous family in town. In his turn, Bud reluctantly follows the advice of his father (Pat Hingle), who suggests that he find another kind of girl with whom to satisfy his sexual desires. Bud’s parents are disappointed by, and ashamed of, his older sister—she is sexually promiscuous, smokes, drinks, and has had an abortion—and accordingly ‘pin all their hopes’ on Bud.

As the story progresses, Deanie is driven close to madness and institutionalized. Bud’s family loses its fortune in the Great Depression, which leads to the father’s suicide; and Bud takes up farming, which he had postponed because of his father’s aspirations for him. In the final scene, Deanie, home from the sanitorium after two and a half years, goes to meet Bud. He is now married to the daughter of Italian immigrants; he and his wife, whom he met while complying with his father’s desire that he attend Yale University, have an infant child. After their brief reunion, Deanie and Bud see that they must continue their lives separately.

The different mindsets motivating Deanie’s mother, who is relatively poor, and Bud’s father, who has made a great deal of money in the oil industry, to hold back their children’s sexuality are evident in two adjacent scenes early in the story. In the first, Deanie’s mother encourages her not to give up her virginity to Bud, telling her “Boys don’t respect a girl they can go all the way with; boys want a nice girl for a wife”. Having bid her daughter a good night, Mrs. Loomis then talks with her husband, enthusiastically informing him that their daughter and the son of the richest family in town are in love and that Bud would “be the catch of a lifetime”.

In the next scene, Bud’s father encourages him to abstain from sex with Deanie, because, if the two of them were to conceive a child, they would have to marry. Deanie’s mother believes that sex would ruin her daughter’s chances of marrying Bud. Bud’s father believes that sex, especially pregnancy, would force his son to marry Deanie. One parent wishes for such a marriage, while the other seems to warn against it. In their discussion of what kind of girl a boy wants as a wife, Mrs. Loomis also tells Deanie that “No nice girl” has sexual desires for a boy.

When Deanie asks her mother whether she was ever sexually attracted to Mr. Loomis, the answer is “Your father never laid a hand on me until we were married. And, then, I—I just gave in because a wife has to. A woman doesn’t enjoy those things the way a man does. She just lets her husband come near her in order to have children.” This enhances Deanie’s inner struggle—about whether to give Bud what she and he both seem to want, or whether to behave in a more socially acceptable way, avoid the risk of pregnancy, and follow her mother’s advice about how to retain Bud’s respect, which eventually drives her to madness.

2. Butterfield 8

Here is a synopsis from Wikipedia:

Gloria Wandrous wakes up in wealthy executive Weston Liggett’s apartment and finds Liggett has left her $250 dollars. Insulted by the money which she never takes from men, Gloria, whose dress is torn, takes Liggett’s wife Emily’s mink coat to cover herself and scrawls “No Sale” in lipstick on the mirror, but then orders her telephone exchange, Butterfield 8, to put Liggett through if he should call.

Later, Gloria visits her childhood friend, pianist Steve Carpenter, in his Greenwich Village apartment, where he chastises Gloria for wasting her life on one-night stands, but agrees to ask his girlfriend Norma to lend her a dress. After Gloria leaves, Norma jealously gives Steve an ultimatum: He must choose between her and Gloria.

Later that day, while Liggett takes the train to the countryside where his wife Emily is caring for her mother, he speaks with his friend, Bingham Smith, who tells him to end his adulterous relationships and return to Bing’s law firm instead of working for Emily’s father’s chemical business. Later that day, when Gloria lies to her doting mother Annie, claiming to have spent the night at Norma’s, neighbor Fanny Thurber insinuates that Gloria spends her nights in less than virtuous circumstances.

That evening, Liggett returns home and, finding the lipstick and money, places a call to Gloria, explaining the money was for her dress, which he had torn, and which needed replacing. Later that night during a date with Gloria, Liggett advises her to ask a high price for her lovemaking talents, prompting Gloria to jam her stiletto heel into his shoe. She explains that she does not take payment for her dates, but prefers to make her living modeling, claiming that she has been hired to advertise the dress she is wearing at three bistros that evening. Drawn by her fierce personality, Liggett follows Gloria to the bistros. After watching Gloria flirt with dozens of men at several clubs, he drives her to Happy’s, a run-down motel owned by middle-aged female ex-vaudevillian called Happy. After sleeping together, Liggett and Gloria decide to explore the relationship further.

Days later, Norma finds the mink coat in musician Steve’s closet and complains about Gloria. Steve tries to explain that after Gloria’s father died, Steve looked after her like a brother, but Norma asserts that she does not want to continue their relationship with Gloria in their lives. While Wes and Gloria disappear together for five days, Emily’s mother suggests that her daughter divorce Liggett, but Emily thinks he is frustrated by the life her family has handed him and insists she will wait until he develops a life of his own.

After Liggett and Gloria return to the city, Ligget admits that he is married. Gloria, far from being surprised, thanks Liggett for the respect he showed her during their trip by calling her by her real name instead of “honey” or “dollface.” Later that night, when Gloria tells her mother the truth about being a “slut,” Annie slaps her. Gloria, grateful that her mother has finally heard the truth, tells her that she is in love with only one man. Gloria visits her psychiatrist Dr. Tredman and insists that her relationship with Liggett has cured her of her need for promiscuity, but Tredman suggests it might not be the complete solution. She then rushes to Liggett’s apartment building with the mink coat to return it, but seeing his elegant wife Emily in the entryway, leaves in shame.

Meanwhile, Liggett asks Bing for a job at the law firm and returns home to find Emily has noticed that the mink is gone. Liggett nervously makes excuses and rushes out to search for Gloria at her regular clubs, but finds instead that he is just one in the “fraternity” of Gloria’s ex-lovers. Gloria visits Happy, who relates that her own wild and promiscuous life in her youth has brought her nothing but pain and has led her to a depressing dead end.

When Gloria finds Liggett at a bistro the following evening, he launches into a series of drunken insults and taunts her, saying “honey, baby, dollface, kid.” Gloria then drives Liggett to his apartment building where Emily, spotting them from a window above, watches as her husband throws the coat at Gloria, saying that he would never give the tainted object back to his wife. Gloria goes to her friend Steve’s apartment, and laments that she feels she has earned the mink coat she is wearing, every thread and fur pelt, with all her years of reckless and rampant promiscuity, and she feels that having it makes her a prostitute. She then recounts that when she was 13 years old, Major Hartley, a friend of her widowed mother, had repeatedly raped her while her mother was away for a week. Even though Gloria felt intense shame for having enjoyed the attention, she subsequently made a life out of repeating the incident.

The next day, when a defeated Liggett asks Emily for a divorce, she inquires if he is going to Gloria, reminding him that he left her the previous evening. He explains that he loves Gloria so much that the thought of her deserting him drove him into furious rage. When Norma arrives at Steve’s apartment the next morning and finds Gloria asleep on Steve’s couch, Steve calmly asks Norma to marry him. When she gets back home, Gloria tells her mother she is starting a new life in Boston, gives the mink to Fanny and leaves in her sports car. Finding out that Gloria is on the road to Boston, Liggett drives until he spots her car at a café along the highway. Liggett tries to apologize to Gloria by asking her to marry him, but Gloria insists that she is “branded” by his insults. He convinces her to go to Happy’s to talk in private, but when Happy greets her sarcastically, Gloria speeds away. Liggett drives after her, trying to catch up to her increasingly fast pace. While turning to see him follow her, Gloria misses the sign for road construction and hurtles over an embankment to her death. When Liggett returns to the city, he tells Emily about Gloria’s death and announces that he is leaving to “find his pride” and will someday return to see if it has any value to either of them.

3. Valley of the Dolls

From IMBD:

The film tells the story of three young women who meet when all are embarking on the beginning of their careers. Neely O’Hara is a plucky kid with undeniable talent who is working in a Broadway play which stars the legendary actress Helen Lawson. Jennifer North, a beautiful blonde with limited talent is appearing in the chorus. Anne Welles has recently arrived from New England with hopes of success in New York City and she is working for an agency that represents Helen Lawson.

The three women become fast friends, and share a bond of ambition and the tendency to be involved with the wrong men. O’Hara becomes a major success and goes to Hollywood where a lucrative film career follows, but almost immediately falls victim to the “dolls” of the title – prescription drugs, particularly Seconal, Nembutal and various stimulants. Her career is shattered by her erratic behaviour and she finds herself in a sanitarium.

Meanwhile Jennifer has followed her to Hollywood and married nightclub singer Tony Polar, who is mentally retarded. His condition is Huntington’s chorea and his care results in mounting medical expenses. Jennifer finds herself working in “art movies” to pay Polar’s medical bills; Jennifer decides to do French art house films, since she is only highly regarded for her body and is desperate for money. Jennifer’s real ambition is to have children on whom she will lavish the approval and affection she was denied by her family. Stress and smoking make her insomniac, and she uses the “dolls” sparingly as sleep aids.

Anne has fared the best of all three, having become a highly successful model. She too falls under the allure of the “dolls” and uses them to escape the reality of her relationship with her lover, who continues to have affairs after their marriage, including with Neely. Jennifer tries to turn her back on her “art movie” career and forms a relationship with a young Senator, but when diagnosed with breast cancer and told she must have a mastectomy, she finds that even this man cares only for her body and is horrified at the thought of her losing her breasts. Rather than face mutilation alone, she commits suicide with an overdose of “dolls”. Neely is given one more chance to straighten up and resume her career, but the attraction of the “dolls” is too strong and she seems to spiral into a final decline.

In Conclusion

These films say that if a woman becomes to sexually promiscious she puts herself in danger. It inevitably will become to much for her to handle and unless she can confirm and return to a patriarchal life her life will ultimately be ruined. That is the ending and the message we see in all of these films. Deanie, in Splendor in the Grass, goes insane and is put in a mental institution only to get out and never be with the man she desired. Gloria,in the final scenes of Butterfield 8, dies in a car crash. And only Anne, one of the three characters in Valley of Dolls, is able to save herself when she moves back to New England and returns to a more traditional lifestyle.

 

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