After the war ended, life returned to normal. Dating was once more good, clean fun - and no more. Love bloomed in the bowling alleys that were springing up across America.

Americans got their thrills vicariously. On January 31, 1949, NBC-TV broadcast the world's first soap opera, televising tales of passion, romance and backstabbing. Today, the airwaves are clogged with dozens of such sob stories.

But help was at hand for the hidebound Fifties. Hugh Hefner broke morality wide open when he published the first edition of Playboy in 1953. The magazine trounced marriage and encouraged readers to "enjoy the pleasures the female has to offer without becoming emotionally involved." It was better to live the life of the swinging bachelor than to become one of the "sorry, regimented husbands trudging down every woman-dominated street in this woman-dominated land." Thirty years later, Hefner trudged down the path of emotional involvement, married a bunny, kicked all of the fun people out of his mansion, and snuggled happily into woman-dominated domesticity.

Women took longer to smash the barriers of sexual stereotypes. Girls were told they could grow up to be mommies - and in the meantime, they could practice playing with their dolls. In 1961 the biggest doll of them all, Barbie, met her love slave, Ken. Here's Barbie - Stories About the Fabulous Barbie and Her Boyfriend Ken was published a year later. Young girls everywhere began acting out their fantasies with the amply endowed Barbie and genitalia-less Ken. Confirmation about their rumored marriage was never forthcoming. Ken took a hike from 1962 to 1967 and reappeared with a better, buffed (if still bulgeless) body and hipper Nehru attire. He still was reluctant to make a commitment, however.

But that was all right, because by the late Sixties, the sexual revolution was going great guns - both in communes and along Madison Avenue. Advertisers were glamorizing the lifestyle of singles. Designer Mary Quant invented the miniskirt and asked, "Am I the only woman who has ever wanted to go to bed with a man in the afternoon?" She used this question as the basis for her advertising, claiming miniskirts were symbolic of women who don't want to wait.

Flower children practiced free love everywhere. In 1969 Woodstock set the stage for love on a very large scale. With the invention of birth control pills, love meant never having to tell your partner what your name was. Broadway produced loads of naked bodies in Hair and O! Calcutta!

The advent of feminism and the legalization of abortion gave love a new look in the early Seventies. Within a few years, the battle of the sexes was in full - and very public - swing.

In 1976 South Carolina congressman John Jenrette married Rita. They consummated their marriage several days after the ceremony, when hubby invited his new bride to a late-night session of Congress. Rita showed up at the Members' Portico wearing nothing but a full-length mink, heels and a smile. Their vows were sealed as the two made love standing up between the columns. Rita got a reputation as the hottest spouse on the Hill; John was stung in ABSCAM after accepting a $50,000 bribe from a fake shiek. John went to jail, Rita posed for Playboy. The marriage didn't survive.

The moral majority got into the act. In 1981 Republican senators Jeremiah Denton (Alabama) and Orrin Hatch (Utah) pushed through the Adolescent Family Life Act, more commonly known as the "Chastity Bill," designed to curb the lascivious leanings of teens. By the end of its first term, the Reagan administration had spent $30 million to keep the nation's teens pure, but statistics showed the program's success was flaccid. A rival chastity program was launched out of the Office of Population Affairs, staffed by right-to-life-type women including Marjory Mecklenburg, who was later ousted from the band of moral marauders after tales of her alleged affair with another staffer hit the streets.

In 1985, after hearing the lyrics to Prince's "Darling Nikki," a song about a woman who knows how to love herself, Tipper Gore launched her crusade against unwholesome, un-Debbie Gibsonish rock music. She formed the Parents Music Resource Center, convinced the record industry to put warning labels on albums, and took potshots at such love-and-lust aficionados as Madonna and the Beastie Boys. Jimmy Swaggart jumped in, devoting all of his spare time not used cruising for prostitutes to denouncing rock as "degenerative filth which denigrates all the values we hold sacred." Frank Zappa told Tipper - and Congress - that masturbation wasn't illegal and singing about it shouldn't be, either.

Senator Gary Hart, in the running for the Democratic nomination in the 1988 presidental election, monkeyed around with semi-model Donna Rice and got caught. Unfortunately, he had earlier proclaimed his reputation to be pure and dared reporters to follow him. They did. Pictures showed Rice astride Hart's lap during a cruise on the yacht "Monkey Business," and the voters decided to dump him overboard. The rest of the world scoffed at the hypocrisy of purity-espousing Americans.

Hart was out, and George Bush was in. Soon after the 1988 election, vice-presidential wife Marilyn Quayle, seeking to discourage unbridled lust, forbid unmarried staffers to bring dates to a Quayle picnic.

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