Tag Archives: sexual revolution

What Makes a Revolution?

With this week’s reading we were asked to think about a few questions including, “How revolutionary do you think the sexual revolution of the 1960s was?” and “What makes change revolutionary?” Naturally I went straight to the dictionary to see just what exactly revolution meant. According to Merriam-Webster, revolutionary means “causing or relating to a great or complete change,” and revolution means “a sudden, extreme, or complete change in the way people live, work, etc.” So was the sexual revolution of the 1960s really a revolution? I am going to say yes going off of the key word in those definitions: change. Now if those changes were accepted by everyone is a completely different story, but things in Lawrence, Kansas definitely changed.

In the entirety of the United States there were many strands of the sexual revolution causing uproar at the time, but Lawrence was dealing mainly with drugs, race, homosexuality, and sex. The 1960s were an awkward time for Lawrence, as it had a large youth population, as well as a large non-white population. This caused some tension, for starters with hippies. Hippies were involved with a pretty large drug scene in the mid-60s. As the book states, drugs were now everywhere and cheap. Weed, acid, speed, cocaine and more were floating through Lawrence, which obviously made the local citizens unhappy. Citizens did not approve of the hippies, they thought they “looked dangerous,” and didn’t like them taking over their spaces and the community they “worked hard to build.” So though the citizens didn’t approve of this change, it happened and came off as very different to them.

Before – 1950s girls

After – 1970s girl


















Though it was a free state, there was a still a racism issue in Kansas. Even with efforts being made, there was still segregation and discrimination in Lawrence. In April 1970 were the “days of rage,” which dealt with a lot of violence between blacks and whites. Places were torched and broken into. Police and students fought. By July violence was erupting everywhere. Black men, white women, even police were getting shot at by people participating in vigilante action. Unfortunately this rage was what got Lawrence to recognize the sexual revolution, and understand the struggles that needed to be dealt with.


The change with the gay community was probably the most successful of the revolution in Lawrence. In June 1970 just seven men and women started their own Gay Liberation Front. They had no places to hang out and needed to get the word out. Their first order of business was to get more gays and lesbians to come out and join the effort. While this helped, a lot of people still wanted privacy. The GLF requested to be a recognized student organization by KU, but were denied. In 1971 the GLF went into a legal suit against KU. Though the GLF was refused official status, they got lots of support from faculty and administrators. They became more established and had group meetings and counseling. Eventually they were able to organize dances for the men and women coming out in this community. The GLF had some rough times, but ultimately had the most positive change of the issues being dealt with in Lawrence at the time.

Today when we look back at the year 2000 it may look very different, but it’s really not. To the people of Lawrence in 1970 looking back at 1955 it was extremely different. Drugs were in the open, different races were gaining more equality, Gay Liberation Fronts were being created, and for a small college town like Lawrence this was completely new and different. I think the fact that they might have not even recognized society is what makes this a revolution.




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The Beginning of the Sexual Revolution

When I read “those who see the sexual revolution as the triumph of irresponsible and exploitative sexuality over decent, morally grounded, and responsible sexual behavior may discover new and useful perspectives in this history,” I knew I’d enjoy this book. (Bailey, 3) Reading the first part of Sex in the Heartland was a lot different than our last reading, Gay New York. Like Bailey states, “different parts of the revolution flourished in different places,” so it was really interesting to read about a small college town like Blacksburg versus New York City. (Bailey, 5) In this first half of the book I was fascinated by a lot of things I read like homosexuality being considered mental illness, the fact that this wasn’t just a two sided revolution, as well as something quite familiar which was the continual double standard for women.

I’ve known for a while through various outlets that homosexuality was considered a mental illness in the 1950s and 60s. One pop culture outlet that comes to mind is the television show American Horror Story: Asylum. The show depicted an asylum in 1964, one character was admitted for being homosexual, and another character was admitted for sleeping with many men. It really conveyed how in that time period that anything was sexually abnormal was automatically dealt with as a mental illness. In the reading, young men at KU were referred for a psychiatric evaluation if suspected as a homosexual or were monitored by the University. The dean also allowed the school psychiatrist to decide if students were safe enough to attend school and not a danger to others, which gave them a lot of authority. It was really crazy to read that in this small college town, if you were gay, you were at risk for questioning or being classified as mentally ill.

American Horror Story: Asylum (deals with an asylum in the 1960s)

I was also fascinated to learn that this wasn’t a two-sided revolution. It wasn’t yes or no, there were actually varying degrees or “strands”. On page 10 Bailey talks about how people who were active in the revolution didn’t necessarily want to accomplish the same things. Some were for gaining birth control, some for gay rights, some for more than one thing, but everyone “did not share a single vision.” (Bailey, 9) I’m looking forward to the second part of the book, which I think will talk a little bit more about the varying desires of the revolutionaries, but it was definitely something I found interesting. The images below display protests for many different issues.

A teacher I once had told my class about going to college in the 1960s. She told us that when guys were in the dorm the door always had to be open, and their feet had to be on the ground. I thought it was funny at the time, but now reading this book it doesn’t seem that odd anymore. There were a lot of regulations for young women in college, there were even handbooks called “Campus Cues,” that listed etiquette and rules that mainly, or only, applied to the women like curfew. One freshman girl expressed her frustration about how senior guys flunking out could stay out all night, when she, a straight-A student had to be by eleven each night. When women tried to change some of the rules given to them the response was that women “need more protection and security…Men can take care of themselves.” (Bailey, 95) Fortunately the women didn’t give up and the rules were altered, which didn’t settle very well with everyone. This ruling started paving the way for a sexual revolution.

Campus Cues – California State

The first section of the book brought back some familiar ideas, as well as raised a few questions I hope to discover the answers to in the next half.

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