jQuery Slider

You are here

Looking Back at The Sexual Revolution

Looking Back at The Sexual Revolution

by David Kyle Foster
April 3, 2021

Since I am one who "came of age" in the 1960s, someone recently asked me if I thought that the "Sexual Revolution" was the result of a sexually repressed generation overcompensating for the ultra-conservative sexuality of their parent's generation.

It's a bit more complicated than that, however. Teenagers in the 1960s were normal kids but were being hit with wave after wave of powerful new forces that moved them in directions that they didn't necessarily want to go, much the way that people get swept up in the movement of a crowd that carries them places they never intended to go.

The sudden, multi-faceted onslaught of cultural pressures in the 1960s made it seem to some (subliminally at least) as if the "End Time" prophecy of Satan being let loose to wreak havoc on the earth had begun. It was the decade of "throwing off all restraint" egged on by the anomie of a generation forced to bear witness to wars, racial prejudice at its worst, assassinations of beloved leaders (JFK, MLK, RFK) and wholesale hypocrisy and a gutting of the faith by mainline religious denominations.

The seeds of the rebellious 60s may actually have been sown in World War II, (then Korean & Vietnam), when so many about-to-be dads were "fathered" by the military and saw and did things that were not at all pleasing to God. Imagine the struggle in the minds of these young men to believe in God when horrible atrocities were going on all around them. Imagine the demonic strongholds that accrued from immoral behavior, whether it was sexual or the killing of unarmed civilians or even unarmed enemy troops. Imagine the flashbacks, nightmares and consequent substance abuse of even the best soldiers that prevented them from being the godly examples that their children needed. (The 1946 film, The Best Years of Our Lives, provides an honest reflection on some of these issues emanating from WWII.) Imagine the dark secrets that had to be kept under public veneers of acceptability once stateside, and how the difference between the "public self" and "real self" of their war-damaged fathers wore on the natural need for balance, consistency, truth and justice in their children. And for those whose fathers never came home? It was a recipe for the rise of a new spirit of rebellion in such children of war. And so, it may have been that hypocrisy forged from the trauma and sin of war during the 40s and 50s gave rise to the sexual revolution - or at least, laid a foundation for it.

During the 1950s, the seeds started to become seedlings in the emerging hedonism and nonconformity of the "beat generation", led by pedophiles such as Allen Ginsberg. At the same time, popular sanction was being given to all manner of sexual experimentation through the fraudulent "studies" of Alfred Kinsey (Read Kinsey, Sex & Fraud by Dr. Judith Reisman). And of course, one of the most powerful influencers of the culture in the 1950s and 60s was Hugh Hefner, who persuaded a generation that Christian morality was repressive of normal, healthy sexuality - a myth that continues to this day.

Admittedly, there were shame-based, legalistic religious systems at work during that time that used biblical moral standards to manipulate and control people, but that was the fault of those systems - not the moral standards.

Film stars like Marlon Brando and James Dean (who we now know was molested by his pastor as a teenager) became anti-hero role-models that gave young people permission to mistrust and question authority. With the "coming of age" of television as a fixture in American homes, a Pandora's box of influences (both good and bad) opened that began to secretly program the minds and hearts of a generation. Ever so slowly, by showing the intimate, private moments of people's lives on the screen, the media programmed us to be voyeurs. The anticipation of the next thrill on the screen and the vicarious satisfaction that it gave us drove us back to the trough again and again.

In the 1960s, the Vietnam War became a factor in the growing rebellion among youth that played itself out, in part, through the sexual revolution. Young men were being killed with no clear moral purpose or commitment to win by authorities, which fueled a strident rebellion against the generation that was forcing them to risk their lives. Questioning authority became a badge of honor. Slogans for the "Woodstock" generation most famously included "If it feels good, do it", "Turn on, tune in, drop out" and "Don't trust anyone over thirty".

Drugs became the new refuge to relieve the psychological pressure of facing death for no good reason and for living in a world that had seemingly gone mad, even at home where riots in the streets for one cause or another became the norm. With feminism and the birth control pill opening up an entire generation of women to levels of sexual experimentation unseen until that time, promiscuous sex became a sweet solace as well.

Then, of course, there was Elvis, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals and a host of young, exciting, sensuous purveyors of sexual dreams and fantasies who openly modeled sexual excess as a badge of normalcy and sang of its glories. The "Me Generation" made media companies very wealthy so they began to encourage it rather than mock and muse upon it. In 1949, William Randolph Hearst had instructed his editors to "puff Graham", but by 1969 there was a profit-induced frenzy to "puff immorality".

At the start of the 60s, most teens held to a strong Judeo-Christian morality that persuaded them to save sexual relations until marriage. Some didn't follow that ethic, but most did. And those who did have sex didn't proudly trumpet the fact to everyone. The killing of unborn babies wasn't legal yet, so the consequences of pregnancy were more far reaching, which alone persuaded many not to have sex until marriage. At the time, everyone knew that the idea that premarital sexual celibates were neurotic and repressed was a fantasy spun by Hugh Hefner in order to sell magazines but they wanted to believe it anyway because he made it look so glamorous and fulfilling. Besides, with the dissolution of faith in the midst of cultural chaos, it became increasingly difficult to maintain sexual sobriety in the face of the fierce waves pounding against it.

If you look at it historically, Judeo-Christian moral values have guided young people's behavior for millennia for those living within them. As long as they have led lives empowered by God's Spirit, He has always supplied the power to resist temptation. A problem arises, however, when a generation that does not know God becomes subject to moral laws that can only be obeyed with the help of God's Spirit. Such a generation does not have the aid of the Holy Spirit and must resort to repression in order to remain sexually pure before marriage. Even if they do know Him, they may not know how to appropriate His power to resist sin (or may not love Him enough to bother). True believers, however, are not tempted beyond what God enables them to resist (1 Cor 10:13) and possess everything they need for godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). So the problem is never sexual urges that cannot be controlled, but a population that doesn't know God, love Him, or know how to appropriate His power.

As for the sexual revolution, it was the product of a godless generation growing up in the wake of Freud, Kinsey, Hefner, Brando, Dean, Marilyn Monroe and others who provided them with a license to experiment with forbidden fruit. Accompanied by a dramatic increase in the use and availability of drugs, (which removed normal inhibitions), a multi-headed media beast rose up from the imagination of man that repeatedly glamorized young people throwing off all constraint. The good-looking role models of this new moral order sang about sex and did it on the screen before impressionable teen voyeurs, culminating in an explosive growth in the availability of graphic pornography. We didn't care that the young people in the pornography were victims of emotional, physical and emotional abuse. We didn't want to know. It was a "perfect storm" of darkness.

The power of media to increase sexual desire and to persuade people to throw off all restraint is enormous. We had all these influences, didn't really know God, didn't trust authority and consequently saw no reason to stay pure. And so we rebelled against a culture that had given us rules but no way to keep them (as well as role models who couldn't keep them either who lived lives of hypocrisy, providing ample justification for our immoral choices).

With all of this increase in rebellion and immorality, there was a concomitant increase in the power of demonic forces that tempt and bind those who fall for their schemes. People were grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit and were being given over to the idols that they had chosen over God. As described in Romans 1, an increase in homosexuality became the inevitable judgment of God on our generation - one that has continued spiraling ever since. Today, we are at the point of sacrificing our own children, not only to the abortionist, but to the indescribable horrors of sex trafficking, and we are exporting our immorality to every nation by our example and through the formative power of the media.

Though by no means the primary cause, a reaction to sexual repression in the 50s and 60s was a factor for some people. Sex was never mentioned in my house, for example. The conclusion that I drew as a young boy was that sex was therefore shameful. In some households, shame was used as a control mechanism by parents who did not know any other way to channel and control their children's emerging sexuality. It worked in the short run to keep kids from having children out of wedlock or getting an STD (and thereby bringing shame on the family), but ultimately it backfired because of the spirit of rebellion that was loose.

Finally, part of our rebellion was that we perceived our parent's use of shame to control us as emanating from an attempt to maintain a respectable public image rather than due to a genuine concern for us. It was even worse when the "family image" was a fraud that covered up immorality, alcoholism, abuse or other dysfunctions. We absolutely hated the fact that our parents were pretending to be something they weren't and were using us to help them maintain that lie. In our anger at being used in that way, prodded on by Satan and a culture headed down the highway to Hell, we "acted out" in ways we knew would hurt them.

My sexual rebellion was very much tied in with my perception that my father did not love me, yet used me to maintain a front of respectability in front of the people of the church despite the massive psychic damaged that his harshness and emotional distance was causing me. The smile on my face at church was a big fat lie and it hurt me deeply that the one who was supposed to love me, was using me for his own career purposes - or so I perceived it. (And I didn't have it nearly as bad as many other kids). So when I became old enough and bold enough, I deliberately acted out in ways that would embarrass him the most. In truth, my rebellion was aimed more specifically against the God of my father, who I associated with harshness and who I could not believe loved me either. In that sense, my sexual rebellion was not so much an over-reaction to conservative moral values as it was a reaction to the hypocrisy that I believed I saw in the lives of the people who didn't appear to love me.

Then, of course, there was the matter of my own selfish, sin nature, but we needn't dwell there, as it is the source and primary fuel for the evil that is in the heart of every man. How fortunate we are that Jesus Christ came to offer us pardon for our sins and the power to live free from its power. I am the luckiest man in the world - that through the fog and stupor of my own sin, He allowed me to recognize His offer of mercy and grace, given freely to everyone who will turn from their sins to follow Him.

It doesn't take a brain scientist to realize that the sexual revolution has been an unmitigated disaster. We know this by its fruits. Therefore, let's turn to the purity and the simplicity of the gospel once again and renounce the evil deeds of darkness. For Christ came to rescue us from this present darkness and to restore all the years taken by the locust.
* * * * *

Dr. David Kyle Foster is the host of the Pure Passion Podcast and author of Transformed Into His Image and Love Hunger. He is also the founder and director of Mastering Life Ministries. Read more of his take on sin and brokenness in his newest book, The Sexual Healing Reference Edition.

Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top