The Sexual Revolution

… for want of a better word. I am a child of the sixties which is when it is supposed to have begun, i.e. the sexual revolution. According to Wikipedia: “The Sexual Revolution … was a social movement that challenged traditional codes of behavior related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships throughout the Western world from the 1960s to the 1980s”. Whether for better or for worse – my liberal leaning friends would say for the better (at least overall); my fundamentalist leaning ones would say for worse.

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One of my favourite songs (it is one of my 8 choices if ever asked to appear on “Desert Island Discs”), is “Times they are a Changing”. The wisdom of the words “Come mothers and fathers Throughout the land And don’t criticize What you can’t understand Your sons and your daughters Are beyond your command Your old road is rapidly aging Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand Cause the times they are a-changing” seems so much clearer now than when I came across the song in the late Sixties.

Whether or not the changes Bob Dylan was alluding to was for the better or not is a moot point, particularly those relating to sexual ethics and societal attitudes to all sorts of matters relating to sex. But those changes have been monumental and cannot be ignored. We do well (in my view) to understand something of what those changes are, why they happened and to formulate a response. While not a major theme of my blogging career to date, a number of my past blog postings have been related to this topic.

Attitudes when I was born Attitudes 65 years on (now)
Men were in charge and women were expected to fit in. Men worked and were the money makers and women stayed home and were home makers (sometimes taking part time or lower status jobs). When it came to doing the same job, men earned more than women. Few women “vicars” were around and women made the tea. The Birth Control Pill was not around. Abortion was illegal. Men and women have (in theory) the same chances as each other to do the same job and there is no restriction on jobs available. Men are expected to play a full part in the home and share responsibilities. When it comes to remuneration the equal pay for equal work maxim applies. Many women “vicars” are around; we all help make the tea. Use of the Pill and having abortions is widespread.
Most couples were married; at least when sexual relations were involved; “living in sin” was widely frowned upon; couples were straight. Divorce was exceptional and frowned on. Couples were expected to stay together and maintain fidelity. It should be noted that while pornography was around, it was usually “soft” and hard to come by. Child protection was not seen as an issue. Many couples are not married; sex outside marriage is widely accepted. Single parent families and where partners remarry is common. Same sex marriage is legal; those who oppose it are accused of homophobia. Divorce is common and widely accepted. Pornography is easy to come by, especially because of Internet availability, including by minors and some of it is “hard”, Child protection is now a big issue.
Homosexuality was illegal and same sex relations were frowned on, and only entered into behind closed doors. Gay people were vilified and persecuted and afraid to admit they were gay. Gay was considered to be NOT ok; but it was ok to be anti-gay. Homosexuality is legal and same sex relations are accepted, common and seen as equal to mixed sex ones, including marriage. Those who condemn gay people are scorned and attacked. Gay is now deemed to be ok; but anti-gay isn’t.
Boys will be boys and girls will be girls (sugar and spice, blue for boys, pink for girls etc.). There was a clear distinction between the sexes and peoples’ expectations were gender based. Re. transgender / transsexual – this was almost unknown. Boys and girls are meant to be treated the same and the same opportunities afforded. Anything boys can be and do, so can girls. Increasingly dealings are gender neutral. Transgender / transsexual is more common and widely accepted.

As I reflect on these changes, it seems to me the big spur from changing from a column 1 paradigm to a column 2 one was during the “Swinging Sixties” period, which had a marked influence on people from my generation. It was a time divorce became easier, equal pay for women, abortion and homosexuality were legalized and the permissive society became normalized.  While there is a marked difference between general attitudes now and attitudes 65 years ago, already back then there were the seeds for change, and now while there is general acceptance there is still significant dissent as to the rightness of the changes. Of the issues mentioned, the breakdown of marriage, general permissiveness and gender equality were the first to happen, followed by the increasing acceptance of same sex relationships. Now it is the fight of people who wish to be identified with the sex opposite to the one they were born with and yet be seen as normal and gender neutrality being practiced in public places. While it has taken 65 years to get this far, one might expect that in a lot less time for that change to be completed.

In this post, I have refrained from giving my own opinions on issues raised, although I have addressed many of these in other places. It may be possible to ignore what has been happening but as a Christian minister that would be a cop out. It is true my own conservative leaning theology might make me closer to the attitudes laid out in column 1, while my liberal leaning friends are more likely to be closer to adopting column 2 attitudes, but my experience it is often far from clear cut and society has never had it entirely right. But we do have a duty to speak truth on these matters and a pastoral one to deal with divorcees, the promiscuous, gays, transgender etc. in a loving way. I really cannot (and must not) simply remain in my conservative bubble and I must participate in the real world and go “outside the camp”. While the temptation is to bend to the culture, obeying God has to be my priority. I hope I can deal with those (likely all of us) who have been affected by the “sexual revolution” in the same way as Jesus, who was full of grace and truth.

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One thought on “The Sexual Revolution

  1. Some LGBT folk would feel militant at your thoughts. I am, however of a softer persuasion, that if I am legally allowed to be what I am, I will function better and like you with compassion to others and their issues.
    It is as simple but perhaps as complicated as that.

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