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13 - The Sexual Revolution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 April 2024

Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Mathew Kuefler
San Diego State University
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This chapter explores those transformations in intimate lives that have been collectively shorthanded with the term “sexual revolution.” Whether thought of as a gradually evolving process spanning the 1950s to the 1990s or rather understood as referring to the briefer era of heightened incitement and excitement around sex that reached its heyday in the 1960s-1970s, the story of sexual developments in the second half of the twentieth century has long been written in a linear, teleological fashion. Scholars emphasize the rise of reproductive freedom, women”s equality, rights for sexual minorities, and a more general attitude of sex-positivism. However, by reconceiving the story of the sexual revolution as a global one, inextricable from tectonic geopolitical shifts in both East-West and North-South relations – from the Cold War to decolonization and development projects and obsession with the purported dangers of “overpopulation” in the global South, and from the eventual collapse of Communism to the rise of a neoliberal economic order – this chapter challenges the “liberalization paradigm” and instead explores the sexual revolution as a multi-form, multi-sited, but also profoundly ambivalent process, met with recurrent backlashes as well as marred by its own intrinsic complexities.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

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