Speaking of the Silent Generation, a 2004 study by Alan Petigny referenced in the Journal of Social History states that the Sexual Revolution did not start in the free-loving ’60s, as is commonly thought. “It began with the ‘silent generation’ of the 1940s and ’50s, which as its moniker implies, didn't talk much about sex.”27 [Speak softly and carry a big “stick”!]
''After 15 years of Depression and war, there was a desire on the part of Americans to live in the moment and enjoy life, and they were accordingly less likely to defer to traditional restraints on their behavior,” says Petigny. “Between the beginning of World War II in 1941 and the inaugural issue of Playboy in 1953, the overall rate of single motherhood more than doubled. The silent generation may have been silent about what they were doing, but they weren't all that complacent.”
In the '60s, contends Petigny, Americans were simply more willing to acknowledge the sexual activities of the young than they had been during previous decades. What was publicly respectable changed dramatically as social conventions came in line with personal conduct.
Hippies. Bellbottoms. Rock and Roll. Pot. Ah, the ’60s.
Who can forget burning their first bra, their first rock concert, their first march on Washington against the Vietnam War? Even if you weren’t there in body, many of us were there in our minds — as we revolted against our parents and their pursuit of the almighty dollar, and as we faced down The Man.
But while the ’60s did indeed usher in many wonderful changes, not the least of which was the Women’s Movement, our obsession at the time with all things “youth” also came at a cost . . . as we’ve seen with our ongoing fixation with androgynous skinniness, and the media’s preoccupation with teens and twenty-somethings.
Let’s face it — despite current cultural barriers, older women are having sex. They’re just being “silent” about it — well, hopefully, not that silent. Yet the stigma surrounding older women being sexually active still lingers.
But, the fact of the matter is, with the rise of IVF and surrogacy and adoption, women can now have children well into their “senior” years too. Times have changed. We think this old-fashioned notion of tying sexual activity to fertility should have gone the way of the dodo after the Sexual Revolution became mainstream, once the birth control Pill decoupled sex from procreation for millions of women.
That’s what we mean when we say The Gramma Sutra is about a new Sexual Evolution. And, hopefully — just as the Sexual Revolution actually began in the ’40s and ’50s before reaching cultural acceptance in the 1960s — the Baby Boomer explosion, that bulge in the demographic snake, will soon result in a new cultural mindset that replaces the notion that you have to look like you’re twenty-something, or be skinny as a boy to be beautiful. The Gramma Sutra is counting on it.
The cultural pendulum which links beauty and sex-appeal to youth and skinniness (and, as we’ve seen, wealth) has already started to swing in the opposite direction. There’s been a backlash against models who, in some cases, literally starve themselves to death in order to try to keep working. Movies featuring “older” actresses, like the recent releases of It’s Complicated (with Meryl Streep - 61) and The Blind Side (with Sandra Bullock - 46), are once again drawing large audiences — and making googobs of money! It’s 2010, people! It’s not just a new year. It’s a new century! Time for a cultural makeover.
The maxim you’re as old as you feel needs new partners. As more and more of us move past our fifties, I’m confident new slogans will crop up in the cultural mindscape: you’re as beautiful — and as sexy — as you feel; age before duty; sex before wine; when older women walk, men stiffen. Sing it with me now: Old love, old fart, let’s get together and feel alright!
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