Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


The New Sexual Revolution

The pendulum is swinging back. (27-Feb-04)
Summary Sexual freedom increases during generational "awakening" periods, and decreases during generational "crisis" periods. Clark Gable signaled a decrease in sexual freedom, Elvis Presley signaled in increase, and now Janet Jackson has signaled another decrease.

The public tolerance for explicit language and open sexuality is cyclic in nature. In the 1920s and again in the 1990s, almost anything was OK to the point where society appeared to be completely unraveling. In the 1940s and 1950s, the pendulum had swung to the opposite extreme, with explicit language and open sexuality almost universally condemned.

Today we're reentering a generational crisis period, and the sexual freedom pendulum is swinging back in the direction of less tolerance.

There are always certain cultural events that signal a change. Consider:

1939    The movie "Gone with the Wind" was criticized for the line, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." That controversy signaled the change from more to less tolerance of explicit language.
1956    Elvis Presley appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, and the show was condemned for showing his hip-swiveling on nationwide television. Despite the criticism, this was actually a signal of a change from less to more tolerance of open sexuality.
2004    Janet Jackson bares her breast at the SuperBowl, and is widely criticized. This time, the cultural event signals a change from more to less open sexuality.

The sudden, startling suspension of Howard Stern's radio program in several markets indicates that the cultural change is running at full speed. Howard Stern has been airing grossly indecent material for years, with few objections. Howard Stern is not doing anything different today, but his audience is changing.

From a Generational Dynamics point of view, this makes sense.

During awakening periods (like the 1910s and 1960s), society demands greater individual rights. These demands increase to the point where the nation has no direction and every citizen is out for him or herself.

During a crisis period (like World War II and today), that trend reverses. The nation becomes unified, with everyone working toward common goals, and there's generally less tolerance of demands for individual rights that don't achieve the common goals.

You can expect explicit language and open sexuality to become less and less tolerated for the next 15-20 years, after which the pendulum will swing back again.

Copyright © 2002-2016 by John J. Xenakis.