the Women's Movement: The Foundation
If there is going to be a breakthrough in human sexuality—and I think
that such a breakthrough might be in the wind—it is going to occur be-
cause women will start taking charge of their own sex lives. It is going to
occur because women will stop believing that sex is for men and that men
(their fathers, their doctors, their lovers and husbands, their popes and
kings and scientists) should call the shots.
—Barbara Seaman, Free and Female, 1972
I am not a pretty girl.
That is not what I do.
I ain't no damsel in distress
And I don't need to be rescued.
—Ani DiFranco, title song from Not a Pretty Girl, 1995
Until relatively recently, women in the mainstream society did not always conduct their sex or family lives on their own terms. Rather, because they lacked power, they were dependent on male authorities such as husbands, clergy, psychologists, and doctors, who prescribed and proscribed their proper places, often within a submissive and self-sacrificing female framework. These men, previously as women's only sources of official knowledge, enforced their own sexual agendas, telling women only what they thought they needed to know. But for the past four decades, various interconnected social forces have converged to give more women more authority over their own lives and to create and propel the sexual evolution. This effect has followed a greater pattern that sociologists have documented: the people possessing the most power in society also enjoy the greatest sexual permissiveness(Reiss 1986, 97, 126–27).