Think back to brief, but memorable time between elementary and middle school where kids are still kids for the most part. It’s the time before you develop concerns about things like acne and hiding awkward boners during gym class. It’s a time before the girls start wearing thongs or hiding bra straps. For some, those times have fond memories.
Often, during these times, you’ll encounter one of those annoying little shits who likes to think of him or herself as the class clown. You know how they operate. They’re loud, annoying, obnoxious, arrogant, and will set their own hair on fire if it gets attention. They might have been funny the first few times, but it doesn’t take long for them to be a walking source of frustration.
Teachers, parents, and counselors do anything and everything they can to get the kid to shut up, but nothing works. Every time they push him, he just pushes back harder. Every time they react to his antics, he reacts even more. Since he’s a kid, he can sort of get away with it.
What I just described is a testament to how kids can be annoying little shits and what happens when our efforts to fix a situation ends up causing a backlash. It’s one of those things that happens almost as much in real life as it does in bad sitcoms. For every time Peter Griffin’s antics in “Family Guy” backfires horribly, there’s a real-life class clown in a public school ensuring everything around him backfires just as badly.
We don’t just see it in elementary school classrooms and Seth MacFarlane shows either. Throughout history, backlashes have shaped the course of events, from the ancient world to modern presidents who think randomly invading a Middle Eastern country won’t cause any geopolitical problems.
It’s not unreasonable to say that many events and cultural movements are very much a backlash at those that preceded it. It’s how dynasties rise and fall. It’s how religious and cultural movements morph into cults and denominations. It’s even how some successful TV shows inspire spin-offs. Not all of these backlashes result in improvements, but they are very much a part of how people, cultures, and nations evolve.
This brings me back to the prospect of a second sexual revolution. Admit it, you knew I was going to get to this. It was only a matter of time before I tied the concept of a backlash into something sexy. I would’ve gotten to it sooner, but I wanted to establish a context. It’s necessary because in every cultural upheaval, it’s easy to lose perspective.
The problem is that we don’t know just how much perspective we’ve lost until we have the benefit of hindsight. It’s like getting blackout drunk and waking up in another city with a donkey, a dildo, and a dead gerbil in your bed. You remember starting the night with good intentions and having a great time. Somewhere along the way, though, something went horribly wrong.
When we look at the context of the sexual revolution in the 60s, we can see how backlash shaped its promising beginnings and how it got blackout drunk towards the end. I’ve mentioned how technology like antibiotics and contraception reshaped sexuality by effectively removing some of the consequences and barriers to sexual expression. There are other, less tangible factors in play as well.
We know from 50s sitcoms that the period before the sexual revolution was a tough time to be really horny. The 1950s was a time of rigid sexual conformity. Anything outside of marriage, procreation, and the missionary position was considered a deviant social ill. Things like masturbation, the female orgasm, and Elvis’ hips were all taboo.
This kind of sexual restraint went so far that an emerging generation of horny youth decided to spit all over that prudish culture. Armed with modern antibiotics, contraception, and mind-altering drugs that made orgasms easier to enjoy, they really went for broke. They didn’t just push the envelope. They bombed it with napalm and buried it in horse shit.
Ironically, they went so far that they incurred a backlash just as strong as the one they led. That led to the rise of people like Jerry Fawell, Pat Robertson, and the Moral Majority, people and organizations who went full fire and brimstone after seeing one too many mud-soaked hippie orgies. Add this on top of the emergence of issues like abortion and diseases like AIDS and it’s easy to see why everyone’s panties got a little tighter.
In both cases, one backlash incurred another. One extreme led to another. Even today, we may be seeing another backlash from a general loosening of sexual freedom again, but it’s just taking the form of political correctness and reactionary outrage over issues as trivial as a swimsuit ad.
These days, you won’t be shunned if you have premarital sex or watch porn in your spare time. However, you’re in big trouble if you don’t understand the increasingly esoteric concept of consent, directly or indirectly body shame women, or want to draw a female character wearing sexy clothes.
Every trend, especially the sexy kinds, seem unstoppable at first. That’s why it’s become popular to urge others to be “on the right side of history.” That’s an exceedingly vague excuse, as is often the case with excuses in general, but it lays the foundation for a future backlash.
I’d say any second sexual revolution should take that into account, but I know that would just be empty rhetoric. Backlash is something that no revolution, movement, or reformation can truly take into account. Being flawed humans with flawed brains, we tend to overestimate the staying power of any trend. Just ask anyone who was ever part of a boy band not named Justin Timberlake.
A second sexual revolution, like the one that occurred in the 60s, will likely shock, horrify, and excite. Those are the key ingredients of every revolution or movement. They’re so different. They get peoples’ attention because it doesn’t fit with their idea of normal and, much like our annual failure to keep our New Years Resolution, people cling desperately to their sense of normal and resist change at every turn.
A second sexual revolution may involve anything from group marriages to sex robots to gender-bending orgies in public parks. It’s impossible to predict where our collective libidos will take us. It is possible, if not inevitable, that there will be some kind of backlash along the way. When change happens that fast, people get really stressed out and people do crazy things when they’re stressed.
There are all sorts of ways that a second sexual revolution can manifest. I don’t want to make too many predictions. I’d rather save those sexy contemplations for one of my future novels. I will, however, throw in one last complications that may make the next revolution unique from every other revolution in human history.
No matter how extreme or kinky a revolution was in the past, including Victorian England, there was one common theme. They were all driven by the crude and horny whims of our caveman brains, whose wiring hasn’t been upgraded in over 100,000 years. It’s like constantly changing the rules of the game, but never changing the equipment.
Advances in biotechnology and brain enhancement, such as that being planned by Neuralink, may completely change the dynamics of human thought and society. The same forces that incurred backlashes in the past might not be a factor anymore. People may very well be an entirely new way of dealing with a new sexual revolution.
Again, it’s impossible to predict. As soon as we start tweaking our brains and upgrading our biology, all bets are off. History and hindsight are no longer accurate guides with which to understand the course of society. The potential of another sexual revolution is vast, but the potential for backlash is every bit as big.