Dating with the sexual revolution
It is after they decide to have sex that they go get the pill.” For young women, the decision of whether to take the pill usually came once they were regularly having sex, not before.
Given that the trend toward sexual freedom occurred so gradually, and given that most women did not use the pill for their first sexual encounter, May argues that it makes little sense to say that the pill “caused” a sexual revolution.
The birth control pill arrived on the market in 1960.
Within two years, 1.2 million American women were “on the pill.” By 1964, it was the most popular contraceptive in the country.
But, according to historian Elaine Tyler May, this idea is largely a myth.
As May explained to a Stanford audience, the pill’s impact on the sexual revolution is unclear.
By the early 1950s, half of all American women had engaged in sex before marriage, and the arrival of the pill in 1960 did not have any immediate impact on the trend.
A major change occurred in the 1920s, when new dating customs provided unmarried couples with greater privacy and greater opportunity for physical intimacy.
Besides, many sexually-active single women used other forms of contraception, or no contraception at all.
What is clear is that the drug had a far greater impact within marriage itself.
The trend toward greater sexual freedom for unmarried women actually pre-dated the arrival of the pill.
Looking back, Americans credit—or blame—the pill with unleashing the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.
The pill is widely believed to have loosened sexual mores, including the double standard that sanctioned premarital sex for men but not for women.