A course on intercourse
By Janis McMath, Editor-in-Chief
Within five years of the pill being available in America, nearly six million women were already using it.
All forms of sex have likely existed since the beginning of human civilization, but the popular opinion has only somewhat recently shifted to accept a diverse collection of sexual lifestyles. It’s not like recreational sex is a new concept though; in the 1800s prostitution was found primarily at brothels in Canada, ancient Greece and Rome both were practicing BDSM before the term was coined, and open sexual relationships were common for kings, queens, and ottomans alike. While having sex for pleasure is no new concept, its integration into the mainstream was guided along by the sexual revolution of the 1960s for Canada and America.
This is by no means a comprehensive look at the sexual revolution—which impacted many cultural norms aside from intercourse—but instead, this is a focus on how Canada gradually changed their views on getting down and dirty.
UNSEXY SEX HISTORY
Before the 1960s, mainstream culture believed sex had the single purpose of procreation. The laws reflected this collective perspective; sanctions on actions like pre-martial sex and the sale of sexual protective devices were prevalent in Western culture. Similarly, tools like abortion were not legal or easily available—though some places operated illegally. Resources to simplify recreational sex were hard to come by, but not impossible. Places like barber shops were known to sell condoms on the down low.
Feminists famously criticized culture’s view of sex exclusively as a tool for procreation and deemed this oppressive. The institution of marriage was also met with criticism from a portion of feminists. The idea that heterosexual marriage diminished women to their reproductive capabilities was brought forth at this time. During that social climate, the argument was a logical counter to how women were viewed solely as mothers by many. In today’s society, married couples are now enjoying the most recreational sex in contrast.
Aversion to sexual liberation was fueled in part by fears
of a falling fertility rate and sexually transmitted diseases.
But, once fertility rates were on the rise (thanks to the clearly named baby boomers), one of the stronghold arguments against the “free love” movement was destroyed. The concept of a “teenager” and all the struggles of that newly named life stage came about in the 1940s, and that set the stage for a desire for forms of sexual protection. These shifts allowed room for the radical change in thinking about sexual freedom.
Alongside the slow creeping evolution of recreational sex were the tools for it; while there were many developed forms of sexual protection previously (e.g., the condom), the pill hit all the right notes and took a big step in revolutionizing Western sex culture. The pill did not start the sexual revolution, but it equipped the revolution in progressing rapidly. Women were offered agency in their sexual encounters for the first time. Previous methods like the condom awarded the responsibility of protection solely to men—and now with the pill, women could prevent pregnancy on their own.
As it is with any contrarian ideal, the pill and the new free sexuality borne out of this time was met with much criticism. An apt example of the distaste for the movement comes from a 1964 article from TIME; “Greeks who have grown up with the memory of Aphrodite can only gape at the American goddess, silken and seminude, in a million advertisements.” Regardless of this vehement disgust from some, within five years of the pill being available in America, nearly six million women were already using it. The pill was finally legal for common sale in Canada in 1969, however it was already available in 1957 with a doctor’s prescription for unrelated medical disorders. It was not officially sold as a way to prevent pregnancy until 1969, but as earlier mentioned Canada had abortion clinics operating before abortion was legalized—so it is likely the pill was already being sold regardless of its illegal status.
NO REVOLUTION CAN BE PERFECT
Today, examples like the song “WAP” by Cardi B speak to the comprehensive integration of sexual liberation into media. Clearly the sexual revolution brought society many benefits: increased personal agency, improved mental and physical health, and a more accepted and nuanced view of recreational sex—but there are still a host of issues brought forth by activists on all sides. Some highlight that the family unit faced a lot of destruction in the face of the 1960s sexual revolution. As the idea that sex for procreation had been pushed aside, it is argued that this revolution broke families, created fatherless homes, and forced an increase in abortions.
A Daily Mail UK article written by a woman that was in her 20s during the sexual revolution of the 1960s emphasizes on the problems that come with having sex for the express purpose of proving your freedom. In her article she writes of her own experience being filled with dangerous and unpleasant encounters because of how ill-equipped her generation was to explore their sexuality. Without an understanding of her personal needs or a sexual education to guide her, she (and her peers) were “exploited mercilessly” during the pill’s sex revolution. These concerns mirror many of today’s culture; what will encouraging youth to sexual liberation—in what some call a haphazard fashion—result in for this generation?
WHAT IS IMPACTING SEX TODAY?
This period in history has not been a simple one to navigate sexually. Technology brings forth issues like revenge porn—which only became illegal in 2014 for Canada. In 2019, there were 5,000 complaints—and some cases sadly involved some of the victims of this crime taking their own lives (such as Amanda Todd).
Physiological changes have been observed in the population as well; girls are experiencing puberty a year earlier than they did in the 1970s, and this can have serious implications for their health and their experience of sex. The people sexualized in media and culture are getting younger and younger—and many are concerned about the lasting impacts of this on sexually immature youth.
Current trends suggest the new generation is having less
sex than their predecessors as well. A US study named “Trends in Frequency of Sexual
Activity and Number of Sexual Partners” which looked at adults between the ages
of 18 and 44 from the years of 2000 to 2018 found that one in three men
reported having no sexual experiences that year.
Men were at 33 percent for sexual inactivity in 2018 and women were at 19 percent during the same time period. Some propose that pornography is having an impact on levels of sex, and others focus the idea that adulthood is facing delays in this day and age.
Nearly everyone contributes to the revolution of sex in one way or another—even those bumping uglies on Valentine’s Day.