After the recent death of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, a discussion has begun about his legacy, as many deemed him to be the leader of the sexual revolution. Regardless of your opinion of Hefner, it is impossible to deny that he played a role in changing how media deals with female sexuality. Whether was it for the better or worse is another discussion. However, he was certainly not alone in changing the perceptions of the public about sex. Below, we celebrate activists who led the sexual revolution side by side.
Masters and Johnson
William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson were pioneers in research of human sexual response, sexual disorders and dysfunctions. Before their scientific research, this field was mostly untouched because it was not seen as of interest to science. Later on, William H. Masters were criticized because he has ran treatment programs for homosexuals regardless of Virginia E. Johnson’s and psychiatrist Robert C. Kolodny’s reservations. But their work still led the way for scientific discussions about sexuality.
Marsha P. Johnson
Johnson was African American trans-woman who co-founded Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) in New York. She not only provided support and shelter for LGBTQ people but she also played a central role in the Stonewall Riots in 1969.
Publication of novels with erotic content was restricted in many countries during the 60’s, with only a few publications seeing the light of day. John Cleland’s novel “Fanny Hill” was one of these books that became restrained before lawyer Charles Rembar appealed the restriction and won. The court ruled that sex was “a great and mysterious motive force in human life”, and that its expression in literature was protected by the First Amendment. This was a turning point for all future publications.
Helen Gurley Brown
Today, it is almost expected for women’s magazines to have articles about sex and sex advice. However, in the 60’s even to acknowledge that a women may want to have sex was seen as a taboo. That was until Helen Gurley Brown started a sex advice column in Cosmopolitan magazine which she was the editor-in-chief for 32 years. Under her leadership, the magazine was to first to serve career women who were sexually active.
One of those publications were “The Way to Become a Sensuous Women” by Joan Garrity who wrote under the pseudonym “J”. The book contained information on many subjects that were deemed taboo earlier such as anal sex.
In 1965, Ravarour alongside Billy Garrison founded Vanguard, an LGBT gay liberation youth organization in San Francisco, California. After seeing the conditions of LGBT youth who suffered discrimination, Ravarour asked asked the LGBT youth if they were willing to demonstrate for equal rights to end discrimination. He followed the philosophy of men like Gandhi and Martin Luther King and played a central role in the Compton’s Riot which marked a turning point for LGBT movement.
Sanger was an American birth control activist, sex educator, and nurse. She has opened the first birth control clinic in the United Stated that later evolved into Planned Parenthood as it is known today. One of the following clinics was in Haarlem in New York City with an all African-American advisory council. She also played a central role in several judicial cases that helped legalize contraception and abortion.
Pat Maginnis was one of the earliest abortion rights activists. After struggling to find a safe abortionist when she went to Mexico to have an abortion, she founded Citizens Committee for Humane Abortion Laws to educate people about abortions, contraception and the dangers of self-induced abortions. Later she also Association to Repeal Abortion Laws who connected pregnant women with illegal abortion providers, allowing women access to safe abortions.
The Swedish filmmaker was one of the first to depict sexual themes in his films. The Summer with Monika (1951) and The Silence (1963) challenged the idea that films cannot deal with sexual matters and caused international uproar for violating standards of decency. The film helped progress public attitude towards sex, especially in Northern European countries.