70’s: Sexology Uprising

By Jo Phillips


In this day and age that three letter word is a common occurrence; in advertising, on billboards, magazine covers, erotic novels and television shows (the list is endless). But this wasn’t always the case; the 1970’s Sexual Revolution paved the way for our current state of sexual liberation, a social movement that challenged the Western world’s traditional behavioural codes. Acceptance of sex outside monogamous and traditional heterosexual relationships increased, public nudity and contraception was normalised and a new hippy culture of ‘free love’ followed this change in views.

In 1971 American men’s lifestyle and entertainment magazine, Playboy, stopped airbrushing pubic hair out of its centrefold picture spreads, promoting women’s natural state.  The day of masking the male and female sexuality abruptly ended, making room for the normalisation of greater sexual freedom and experimentation. In doing this Hugh Hefner, the magazines founder, was influential in representing a thriving change in America’s stance on sex and in turn Playboy’s new addition caused the magazines popularity to sky-rocket, hitting its all- time peak circulation of more than 7 million copies in 1972.

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Although the shackles of confinement were lifted, the rise of sexual encounters between unmarried adults meant the significant decrease of marriage rates and the dramatic increase in the numbers of divorce. Married couples began to reshape the very institution of marriage, instilling concepts of open marriage, swinging and mate swapping.

The Sexual Revolution was initiated by individuals with the shared belief sexual repression was detrimental. Through this belief they moulded their own morals, and thus began the uprising; celebrating the erotic as a normal part of life, without repression from religion, state or family.


[By Bronislaw Malinowski , from The Institute of Sexology, Copyright Gestalten 2014]

This view had previously been argued by Sigmund Freud, a key sexologist who has been featured in The Wellcome Collection’s, The Institute of Sexology; a refreshingly frank and honest investigation into sexual acts and individuals who have devoted their lives to studying it.


[By Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, from The Institute of Sexology, Copyright Gestalten 2014]

The book explores, through sex research how our current attitudes towards sexual behaviour and identity have been shaped. Spanning several centuries, it presents ancient sex toys and machines, to questionnaires, rare documents and photographs- a firm reminder kink has been around far longer than is commonly believed.


[By John Alexander Scott Coutts, from The Institute of Sexology, Copyright Gestalten 2014]

The Institute of Sexology stands to highlight the importance of analysing information, and its profound effect in altering attitudes and abolishing taboos.

The Institute of Sexology can be purchased here


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