The Sexual Revolution – Introduction of the contraceptive pill
The 1960’s, especially in the United States are referred to as an era of revolution in society. One of the most radical changes is perhaps the attitude to sexual behaviour and contraception. Particularly amongst young people, views on gay rights and the use of contraception radically changed, people were becoming more accepting of the use of contraception especially with the licensing of The Pill in 1961, which brought a huge amount of controversy.
The introduction of The Pill saw a huge sexual revolution, women were now in control of their own fertility which brought up controversy as many believed this was not morally right. Many members of the Catholic Church saw the use of such things to deliberately frustrate the normal effects of sexual intercourse was a grave sin against the law of God because its ultimate implication is the destruction of the human race (1). Other people argued against the use of contraceptives as it meant that young women were more open to premarital sex, as this was the first time that people could detach the idea of a sexual relationship from reproduction as the Pill had such a high effective rate. Virginia Ironside wrote an article in the Daily Mail that shows just how much of a revolution the 60’s were when compared to just 10 years earlier ‘’At Woman magazine, where I worked a decade later, the journalists weren’t ever allowed to use the word ‘bottom’ – not even in ‘bottom of the garden’ or ‘bottom of the saucepan’. They couldn’t print the word ‘menstruation’, and if a reader wanted to know anything about sex she had to write in to the agony aunt who might suggest she wrote in again enclosing a stamped addressed plain brown envelope into which, but only if you were married of course, she would insert a leaflet explaining the Facts of Life.’’
However many people believed that the use of contraception amongst young people was a great thing. A study by The National Bureau of Economic Research published by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz in 2002 (2), showed that after the introduction of contraception, attendance rates for women sharply rose as less young women were dropping out of education due to pregnancy. It is also stated here that contraception allowed women to have more control over their own futures, it increased the likelihood of the young woman being able to find a career for herself after professional school. Women no longer had to choose between either having a successful career and a relationship, both could now co-exist.
Time magazine featured the Pill on their front cover on April 7th 1967
It was during the 1960’s that many feminist women hailed the arrival of the Pill as an equalizer, giving women the sexual freedom that previously only men had been able to enjoy. This however changed during the 70’s when reports that the Pill could be result in breast cancer caused feminists to state that the purpose of the Pill was a way of male control over a woman’s fertility without regard for the woman’s health (3).