Movies and the
Exploitation of Excess
As the year began, the sexual revolution was in full swing. Legal and moral prohibitions had fallen by the wayside, and millions of American women were using the birth control pill as a matter of course. Gloria Steinem's feminist magazine Ms. premiered in December, featuring articles that satirically explained why women need a wife as much as men do. The sexual freedoms resulting from this cultural shift occurred at a moment that roughly corresponded with the Hollywood Production Code giving way to a new Rating Administration. Films were no longer subject to prior restraint, nor were they all appropriate for the same audience. The new film classification system did not solve the problems Hollywood faced with censorship, but it relaxed preexisting codes forbidding obscenity, sexual slavery, miscegenation, nudity, homosexuality, lustful kissing, and references to sexual “perversion.” The new system was partially indebted to Stanley v. Georgia, a late sixties decision that—in allowing people to privately peruse whatever they desired—substantially increased the availability and purchase of pornography. Attempting to control what many members considered a threat to traditional American values due to the influx of sexual materials, Congress authorized $2 million to fund a presidential commission to study the effects of pornography in the United States. The commission's recommendations included a massive sex education campaign, open discussion on issues relating to pornography, and additional factual information generated through research. These proceedings were just the tip of the cultural iceberg.
Pseudo-scientific discourses on sexuality were also under construction. The controversial work of William Masters and Virginia Johnson was indicative of the zeitgeist. Beginning in the seventies, the Masters and Johnson Institute worked with sixty-seven clients (and their opposite-sex partners) who came to them for the treatment of “homosexual dissatisfaction.” The goal was conversion (or reversion) to heterosexuality. Such