A Shift and a Political Movement
The term sexual revolution is used to refer to the dramatic transformation in attitudes to sex, sexual activity, and sexual identity that has taken place in the West since the 1960s. It has culminated most recently and most dramatically in the remarkable political successes of the LGBTQ+ movement—particularly transgenderism, which is the most remarkable accomplishment, in some ways, of the sexual revolution.
The origins, the causes, and the facilitating factors of the sexual revolution are manifold. Obviously, human beings have engaged in a range of sexual activities for centuries. Sexual immorality has gone on and boundaries have always been transgressed.
What makes the sexual revolution remarkable is that the transgression of those boundaries has now become not simply very common, but effectively normative within society. So, one of the origins of the sexual revolution has been the philosophical understanding of the self as an autonomous individual—the understanding of human beings as those who can construct and create their own sexual values. That has been a significant part in the background of the sexual revolution.
There have also been technological factors as well. The advent of the pill, for example, and antibiotics meant that many of the risks of aberrant sexual behavior—sexual behavior outside of the bounds of a monogamous marriage—many of those risks have now been attenuated, if not entirely annihilated.
Then there’s been a very self-conscious political movement. The LGBTQ+ movement has placed the “victims” of a heteronormative society (a society that sees monogamous heterosexual marriage as normative) to the center of the political narrative.
All of these things have shaped and fueled the nature of the sexual revolution.
Carl R. Trueman is the author of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution.
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