By CLAIRE AND JIM CASTAGNERA
A wit once said, "If you remember the sixties, you weren't there." I was there and I do remember. The decade is characterized as a revolutionary period: the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War protests, and the Sexual Revolution. Concerning the latter, a joke circulating at the time made fun of the older generation (as I write this column, MY generation now):
An old man said, "I'm against the so-called Sexual Revolution for three reasons. First, I think it's illegal. Second, I know it's immoral. And third, I'm not getting any."
Despite the stereotypes - "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with" - most of the guys I ran with looked and acted a whole lot like their dads. We drank a lot of beer in our frat houses. (My fraternity actually voted to outlaw drugs, resulting in half a dozen brothers quitting and renting their own place.) We pinned our best girls by the time we were juniors or seniors. We got haircuts… not as often as our moms would have liked, but we weren't "hippies."
The "typical college man" of my generation was exemplified by Dustin Hoffman in 1969's big hit, "The Graduate." Benjamin Braddock was clean cut, athletic, confused about his future (plastics… really?)… and a virgin. Anyone not knowing that the film came out at the end of the sixties could be forgiven for thinking the year was 1959.
In short, the Sexual Revolution was a lot less revolutionary than is often made out. I note that the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s was exasperated by the callous indifference of much of straight America. Only in 2011 were gays finally allowed to serve openly in our armed forces, when "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was abolished. The Religious Right's unending campaign against Planned Parenthood (as pointed out by Claire last week) and the Catholic Church's unremitting resistance to marriage for priests, notwithstanding the relentless child-abuse scandals, together suggest that not so much has changed as remains the same.
On the bright side, love still abides. A lyric from a 2011 tune by four young artists, who call themselves Dawes, confirms this for me. The song is called "A Little Bit of Everything."
Somewhere a pretty girl is writing invitations,
To a wedding she has scheduled for the fall,
Her man says, "Baby, can I make an observation?
You don't seem to be having any fun at all."
She said, "You just worry about your groomsmen and your shirt-size,
And rest assured that this is making me feel good,
I think that love is so much easier than you realize,
If you can give yourself to someone,
Then you should."
All about Dawes: http://www.musictory.com/music/Dawes]
If you've seen a single comedy in the last 15 years, you know that the Sexual Revolution is old news. American Pie, Old School, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Superbad - in these movies sex isn't shocking, let alone revolutionary; it's a given. Sex has long since changed from something taboo and strictly between a married man and woman, to something used casually as comedy routine fodder. As for non-heterosexual sex, well, let's see. In 1992, the sexuality of a main character in The Crying Game was a shocking revelation; more than 10 years later, Transamerica approached the same topic with straightforwardness and humor, and Felicity Huffman received an Oscar nomination for her performance.
I'm not saying that prejudice doesn't still exist - it does, in spades - but I like to think that much of that prejudice is the product of fear and ignorance. If so, more open and realistic portrayals of sex, all kinds of sex, can only have a positive effect. Sure, we're still afraid to hand out contraceptives or teach sex education in schools, but the fact is that most Americans, regardless of orientation, are having sex, and an increasing number of people are coming to terms with that reality.
Is it any wonder, then, that our idea of what constitutes a "moral" or socially acceptable marriage is changing? Studies show that each generation is more socially liberal than the last, a trend that doesn't show any signs of slowing down. My generation (the millennial generation, consisting of those born after 1980) is disproportionately liberal, with 59 percent in favor of gay marriage. Last year, for the first time, a survey showed that a majority of Americans - 53 percent - supported gay marriage. It's already clear how the fight for gay marriage is going to end, though it may take longer than some of us would like.
Maybe Dawes is right: love is so much easier than some of us realize.