The last sexually repressed, in the main, female generation was born in a period of time between the end of the 1930s and the earlier 1950s. What makes these women a little more special than the eons of generations before them was that they came so close to making it to the sexual revolution. In fact the basis for the sexual revolution was already being laid down during some of this generation’s teen years.
It remains, however, through the formative years of this generation’s sexual maturity that what might be termed the Virgin Mary complex still held sway. The unwritten law of society was that like the Virgin Mary good girls were expected to remain pure. Good, God-fearing girls did not engage in sex for pleasure, but rather for procreation within marriage. Only whores and fallen women saw sex in terms of pleasure.
Men, also, were drawn into this trap. The expectation was that women who engaged in sex prior to marriage could not be trust to stay true to their vows. Thus men became obsessed with marrying a virgin. At the same time, prior to marriage, men were eager to exercise their sexuality. As you can see the math didn’t add up. If men required a supply of willing sex partners before marriage, where were all the virgins going to come from when it was time to settle down and start a family as society expected? Moreover, when they did settle at long last down with the virgin of their dreams, she often turned out to be emotionally and physically remote.
Though sexual repression was beginning to falter with the initial wave of sex, drugs and rock and roll, our generation of focus was waiting, unknowingly, for the emergence of the most significant factor for sexual liberation — the pill.
Finally in 1960 the first female birth control pill was introduced and within two years was being widely embraced.
This meant that the last barrier to hundreds, if not thousands, of years of religious control of women’s sexuality was pushed aside in the Western world. In large measure religion by limiting pleasure in this world had been able to keep their flock focused on a better life in the after world, a world that they and their doctrine claimed to hold the key. And thus it has been said by those of insight that for a religion to be most effective it must be against common sense, logic and pleasure, and therefore sex was sanctioned only within the narrow confines of the holy institution of marriage, an institution that the church strived to dominate.
In 1950 movie terms sex was a Doris Day romantic comedy — I’m here, I’m cute and you can’t touch me. It was a real dick tease model for middle class and lower middle class young ladies of that period to emulate. In fact the rather disgusting reward for a women remaining pure was that it gave her license to look down her nose and denounce those that dared exercise there sexuality as low class whores, giving the harassers a false sense of superiority. It was, indeed, a small reward for repressed sexuality and reminds me of an old saying that romance is a poor substitute for rich sex.
On the other hand the girl next-door type did have upper middleclass and wealthy sisters, more sophisticated and worldly than they, that if beautiful and smart such women managed to float above the collective sexual limitations of the day. They would waltz off to finishing school or college, have a wonderful sex life and still nab a husband of potential means and importance. And if the ultimate mistake of pregnancy did occur, they held the resources and finesses to come out of the situation just fine.
When I was in high school I had both the good fortune and curse to fall in love with one of those upper middle class women. She was exceptionally sophisticated and poised for her rather young age. One would not argue against her beauty, standing pleasantly thin and tall, she featured a Mona Lisa smile and flowed across a room as smoothly as doe navigates through knee high grass.
As a young boy my mother used to play romantic show tunes of the fifties like Oklahoma and Carousel as she dressed for work. This musical routine I have always blamed for my quite over blown romantic nature. Thus when I look back on my relationship with, let’s call her Rachael, it sound classy, I see her in melodic terms of the musical South Pacific. On this basis one could say that our affair began with the longing love song Some Enchanted Evening and ended eight months later with the haunting refrain This Nearly Was Mine, only unlike in South Pacific the girl never returns. I won’t bore you with our complex relationship that finally concluded with me attending her wedding ten years later, but it was all a grand ride for me as well as being painful. The bottom line is that we both ended up where we were supposed be.
But as usual I digress. So getting back to the last generation of sexually repressed women, a few eventually recovered or discovered an enjoyment of sex, but for most it was too late. Their outlook became frozen in time. It was a time when women were expected to use sex as a tool to get from men the things they wanted and needed — a home, family (children), security, a new kitchen appliance or fancy dress. Outside side of that sex for the sake of sex was hardly on their radar.
Today, I see these sexually repressed women of that era as being both angry and guilty for those few occasions where they did slip and allow themselves pleasures of their bodies, and, yet, at the same time, furious that they were intimidated into sexual repression to any degree. On the other hand I see women old and dried up that get provoked by the slightest reference to sex on TV, as if the entire subject discussed them — some complex form of denial I suppose. You tell me. It was a strange generation.