Sexually liberal feminism grew from sex education

November 8, 2018 By Jaime Marie Charlotte

Sexually liberal feminism grew from sex education

The roots of Sexually liberal feminism in Sex education and contraception reform.

Sex-positive feminism and sexually liberal feminism grew from sex reformers, sex education, access to contraception workers.

Authors such as Gayle Rubin and Wendy McElroy see the roots of sex-positive feminism stemming from the work of sex reformers and workers for sex education and access to contraception, such as Havelock Ellis, Margaret Sanger, Mary Dennett and, later, Alfred Kinsey and Shere Hite.

However, the contemporary incarnation of Sexually liberal feminism and sex-positive feminism appeared more recently, following an increasing feminist focus on pornography as a source of women’s oppression in the 1970s.

The rise of second-wave feminism was concurrent with the sexual revolution and rulings that loosened legal restrictions on access to pornography. In the 1970s, radical feminists became increasingly focused on issues around sexuality in a patriarchal society. Some feminist groups began to concern themselves with prescribing what proper feminist sexuality should look like. This was especially characteristic of lesbian separatist groups, but some heterosexual women’s groups, such as Redstockings, became engaged with this issue as well.

On the other hand, there were also feminists, such as Betty Dodson, who saw women’s sexual pleasure and masturbation as central to women’s liberation.

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Pornography was not a major issue during this era; radical feminists were generally opposed to pornography, but the issue was not treated as especially important until the mid-1970s. There were, however, feminist prostitutes-rights advocates, such as COYOTE, which campaigned for the decriminalization of prostitution.

The late 1970s found American culture becoming increasingly concerned about the aftermath of a decade of greater sexual freedom. These concerns were reflected in the feminist movement, with radical feminist groups claiming that pornography was a central underpinning of patriarchy and a direct cause of violence against women.

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As anti-porn feminists broadened their criticism and activism to include not only pornography, but prostitution and sadomasochism, other feminists became concerned about the direction the movement was taking and grew more critical of anti-porn feminism. This included feminist BDSM practitioners (notably Samois), prostitutes-rights advocates, and many liberal and anti-authoritarian feminists for whom free speech, sexual freedom, and advocacy of women’s agency were central concerns.

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