The Sexual Revolution in a Nutshell

Gay marriage was inevitable, because straights had already queered sex and marriage via the Sexual Revolution.

Just as its loudest opponents feared, granting same-sex couples access to marriage has further aligned the hoary institution with sexual choice, helping sever the link between sex and diapers—at just the moment when abortion rights face their greatest test in a generation.

 

If you want to understand the sexual revolution in a nutshell, read Nathaniel Frank’s Washington Post column from a few days ago. He argues that the gay rights movement has been at the forefront of decoupling sex from procreation and of establishing sexual liberation as a driving norm. Frank writes:

The LGBT movement, including the push for marriage equality, has also helped upend repressive attitudes about sex, establishing nonmarital sex — and sexual behavior once thought perverse — as largely uncontroversial. (Last year, for instance, Teen Vogue posted a guide to anal sex.) Inherent in queer desire is the belief that sexual pleasure is a good in itself and need not be justified by reproductive ends, a principle enshrined in law by gay rights court decisions affirming that sex and marriage are not instruments for reproduction but expressions of individual liberty and dignity. Just as its loudest opponents feared, granting same-sex couples access to marriage has further aligned the hoary institution with sexual choice, helping sever the link between sex and diapers — at just the moment when abortion rights face their greatest test in a generation.

Stonewall’s legacy isn’t just about making queer people look more like everyone else. It’s also, perhaps more mutinously, about making everyone else look a bit more queer. The movement’s enduring celebration of difference, personal authenticity and norm-questioning has allowed straight people to recognize the closet that confines them, too — the outdated pressure to perform prescribed gender roles, inhibit certain emotions, conceal their true selves in a thousand ways — and to envision a way to step outside its walls. This is what Joe Biden was referring to when, as vice president, he thanked LGBT advocates for “freeing the soul of the American people.” It’s what Barack Obama meant when, on the day the high court handed down its marriage ruling, he said, “When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free.”

Read More