Getting in the pants of the sexual revolution

In Features /

By Nicole Cohen

I stood in the hazy basement, watching him play guitar and wondering how I could possibly seduce him. I frantically flipped through the mental notes of my informal sexual education, but before I figured out how to make the first move he sauntered over and whispered “Wanna fool around?”

Not once during the ensuing events did I think I was participating in something revolutionary.

According to the unwritten rules of casual sex, I should be able to bring home a string of handsome lovers for nights of endless pleasure without feeling like a slut. So why are there almost four times as many words for a promiscuous female than for a promiscuous male? And why do I have to worry if the condom broke or if I forgot to take the pill?

Because the sexual revolution isn’t finished baby. We’ve still got a long way to go.

When our feminist predecessors threw off the shackles of patriarchy, they won the first step in a bottle against sexual inhibitions and taboos, including homosexuality and premarital sex. The negative stigmas attached to female sexuality began to disappear and people began having sex whenever, and with whomever they wanted.

What made the sexual revolution truly revolutionary was the systematic breakdown of male dominance over women’s bodies. Birth control was made available (to those who could afford it) and the crusade for abortion began.

But in a society that defines women by their ability to reproduce, it should come as no surprise that patriarcal systems still regulate our access to contraception and abortion, access that’s on shaky ground these days.

Soon after George W. Bush moved into the White House, he stopped funding abortion clinics and abortion counselling groups abroad, filled his administration with blatantly anti-abortion judges and has made two proposals to give fetuses full rights.

Abortion has been made legal in Canada since 1988, but since the first question our government asks is “what will the Americans think?” Bush’s anti-abortion attitude may soon prevail in Canada.

And what about the furar surrounding an ad campaign in women’s magazines for the abortion pill RU-486, the alternative to surgical abortion?

More than a decade after the pill was developed in France and approved in the U.S., many women still don’t know the alternative exists.

If pressure from anti-choice movements managed to keep the drug out of Canada for this long, pressure from people who feel uncomfortable seeing it while flipping through ads for lipstick and shaving cream may keep important information from women who need it most.

While casual sex has become a freedom men and women exercise regularly, not much has changed in the way women’s bodies are objectified on a daily basis.

From the Toronto Sun‘s Sunshine Girl to a bikini-clad Mojo Radio model sprawled across a billboard clutching an electric drill, it’s clear who has the upper hand when it comes to sexual politics.

At least 200 women have entered an Edmonton radio station’s contest to showcase their bare breasts on the Internet. A Winnipeg nighclub is giving away $3,000 for breast implants to one lucky contest winner. Even the Toronto Argonauts were planning tailgate parties featuring strippers in wet T-shirts and bikinis until the league commissioner decided it was inappropriate.

And they tell me the revolution’s been won.

I’ll tell you what sexual revolution means. It means pin-up boys and girls have something to say. It means George W. Bush has no control over our right to choose. It means being able to walk at night without looking over our shoulders. It means “What were you wearing?” is no longer asked at rape trials.

Sexual revolution means our partners offer to wear a condom before being asked. It means same-sex couples can hold hands on any streets they want, not just Church and Wellesley. It means women in every socio-economic class have access to federally funded birth control and abortions. Sexual revolution means free morning after pills for everyone. It means TV with more Gilmour Girls and less Pamela Anderson. Show me all of that, and I’ll give yousexual revolution.

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