Dr Dunegan went on to recount how Dr Day made the seemingly natural progression from population control to the subject of sex. ‘He [Dr Day] said sex must be separated from reproduction. Sex is too pleasurable, and the urges are too strong, to expect people to give it up. Chemicals in food and in the water supply to reduce the sex drive are not practical. The strategy then would be not to diminish sex activity, but to increase sex activity, but in such a way that people won’t be having babies.’
The 1960s through to the 1980s saw the start of a significant shift in attitudes to sex. The 1960s are often considered to the start of what was referred to as the ‘sexual revolution’, where young people started to be more open about sex and nudity. Lesbian and gay movements started to be openly discussed, feminist campaigners started to make their voice heard, and hippie and other movements started to be seen as evolving in a more liberal society. Young people sought to break away from the conservative views of their parent’s generation and explore new and alternative theories of live, free love, and sex – including swinging, partner swapping, communal sex, and alternatives to traditional marriage.
The ‘sexual revolution’ may not have been as widespread as the term implies. Even in the more liberal sixties, conservative attitudes to sex, marriage, and families, were still the norm in everyday society. The ‘sexual revolution’ was considered by many at the time to be something that was happening on the fringe of society, rather than being part of society, or something that was happening somewhere else.
In the UK, it was not so much of a revolution as a slow train to the next station. Government did recognise that there was a shift in attitudes, and passed legislation to reflect the times.
The Obscene Publications Act 1959 came into force in August 1959. The legislation was designed to address some of the shortcomings of previous legislation where the common law offence of ‘obscene libel’ was used to seize ‘obscene material’ (including pornography). The Act defined what an ‘obscene article’ was, and created a defence of ‘innocent dissemination’, where a publisher could argue that they did not anticipate the publication would lead to prosecution under the Act on the grounds of it being an ‘obscene article’. The Act also defined another defence of ‘public good’, where an ‘obscene article’ was “in the interests of science, literature, art or learning, or of other objects of general concern”. The 1959 Act was superseded by the Obscene Publications Act 1964, which strengthened the law, preventing the production of an ‘obscene article’ for gain, and the production of ‘things’ intended to produce an ‘obscene article’
The first major test of the legislation was when publisher Penguin Books published D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ in 1960. The book had been previously banned in England and Wales since its first publication in Italy in 1928. Penguin Books used the defence of ‘public good’ stating that the book was of literary merit. During the trial, Penguin Books called academic and expert witnesses to back their defence. On the 2nd November 1960 the jury delivered the verdict that Penguin Books was not guilty, and ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ was published.
In subsequent decades, attitudes towards sexual relationships continued to become more liberal, even though there still remains a considerable conservative resistance in some parts of western society, and in other societies around the world.