Up until the 1960s sex was viewed as an act to produce children and please one’s husband; it was to be monogamous and kept private. The terms of exchange regarding sex and marriage were,
“…For the price of a movie or dinner, a young man might legitimately hope to hold his date’s hand or kiss her chastely on the cheek. For a lifetime of financial support, he got her virginity and ongoing sexual access.” (55)
However, these terms were overruled with the dawn of the sexual revolution of the mid- 1960s. Enovid, more commonly known as “the pill”, hit the market in 1957 and by 1960 was approved as a contraceptive. In 1963 1.75 million American women reported using the pill. 10 million were using the pill by 1973. It was the safe and accessible option that placed reproductive power in the woman’s control.
Women’s magazines began offering advice about sexual techniques and personal accounts of intercourse. The Roe v. Wade ruling gave women the right to choose abortion. Playboy fought for legal approval of pornography on account of the first amendment right to free speech. Helen Gurley Browns famous publication Sex and the Single Girl encouraged women to partake in sex frequently and prior to marriage; she suggested women were not wonderful or exquisite but bad and wicked. Young children were also enrolled in sex education as young as the fourth grade.
Needless to say the sexual revolution infiltrated multiple avenues of society.
By the early 1980’s sex was wholly transformed,
“…Sex had escaped, in nearly all cases, from the confines of marriage. It didn’t come with a prescribed list of commitments anymore. It did not lead inevitably to pregnancy. And it wasn’t something to be enjoyed only by men.” (65)
Spar deems our society’s contemporary “hook up” culture as a return to the 1970s sexual revolution in which women were liberated and focused on self- seeking pleasure and free love. She defines a “hook up” as
“anything from a kiss on the lips to full- on sex.” (67)
21st century courting often takes this form: boy meets girl at a bar or fraternity party, they may share a few drinks, and then he gets her to his place for sex.
In accordance with Spar’s idea of modern day women seeking to “have it all”, she suggest that “hook ups” allow young women to enjoy sexual pleasure without comprising other aspects of their lives including education or career aspirations.
According to Laura Sessions Stepp author of Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love, and Lose Both,
“Hooking up enables a young woman to practice a piece of a relationship, the physical, while devoting most of her energy to staying on the honor roll, being accepted into a well-known university and then keeping up her academic scholarship while working ten to fifteen hours a week in the cafeteria, playing lacrosse, working out everyday in the gym and applying to graduate programs in engineering.” (69)
After a hookup, men hope that another is soon to occur and if not, that the woman does not expect a relationship to come out of the contact. On the other hand, females are hopeful of a relationship, often regret the hook up, and feel ashamed by their behavior. Spar comments that these differing reactions should prompt us to question,
“…Whether women truly get equal value from a relationship based on “free” sex. Are they equally content to give- and get- sex for nothing, or have they perhaps given men what they want (easy, cheap sex) without getting much in return?” (72)
She concludes with her opinion of the sexual revolution,
“… It allowed women, for the first time in history, to have sex without consequence. But it didn’t change men’s underlying views of women’s sexuality, or the biological reality that sex, for women, will always be more immediately connected to procreation. As a result, women- and particularly young women- are caught again in a double whammy of expectations: to be sexually adventurous but not promiscuous, skilled in the bedroom but ultimately committed to their children, husbands, and home. In other words, to be simultaneously madonna and whore.” (77)
1) What sources or influences were formative in the development of your ideas about sex? What personal standards do you hold yourself accountable to?
2) What effect, if any, has the “hook up culture” had on your relationships with men?
3) How can we as conservative women seek to re-establish a healthy dating culture?