Dr. Jenni Skyler explains how social, religious & technological trends have influenced sex in America over the last 50 years in Chapter 1 of her eBook.

Chapter 1: Shifting Sexual Attitudes

Chapter 1: Shifting Sexual Attitudes

Sex in America has evolved enormously in the last 50 years—from how we think about it to how we have it. Primetime television used to only show heterosexual married couples sleeping in separate beds, whereas today all kinds of couples have all kinds of sex (albeit under the sheets). We’ve broken down the closet door to shatter sexual taboos involving interracial relationships, same gendered relationships, sexual orientation, gender orientation, anal sex, kinky sex, open relationships, and more. The topic of sex has transformed from a subject you don’t talk about into the main headliner of countless social media posts. And Adam & Eve has been around the past 50 years to see it all.

The Sexual Revolution of the ‘70s

hippie girl in field at sunset

Adam & Eve was founded in 1971, right at the beginning of the sexual revolution that radically transformed American society. But the groundwork for that revolution was laid much earlier with the invention of the birth control pill in the 1960s.

The pill gave women the freedom and ability to explore their sexuality without worrying about becoming pregnant. As increasing numbers of women began taking the pill, this led to an explosion of sex.

With more people than ever having sex outside of marriage or committed relationships, they naturally began to experiment with different sexual activities and behaviors. The Joy of Sex, published in 1972, helped educate people about the different aspects of sex. Adam & Eve was right there providing the American public with a much-needed resource for adult products, including condoms and sex toys.

Long-standing taboos surrounding interracial relationships and homosexuality started to shift in the 1960s and continued to fade throughout the ‘70s. The Supreme Court struck down laws forbidding interracial marriages in 1967. The Stonewall riots in 1969 jumpstarted the modern LGBTQ movement after police raided gay bars and meeting places.

Closing Down Free Love in the ‘80s

us supreme court picture

After the sexual proliferation of the 1970s, the cultural climate did a pendulum swing in the opposite direction. A more religious movement became popular. In an effort to recalibrate from the ‘70s, the religious movement emphasized the sacredness of sex only after marriage. Although regarding sex as sacred was (and still is) an important value to many people, encouraging abstinence until marriage required teaching sex as dangerous. “Sex” soon became a dirty three-letter word.

This situation was complicated by inaccuracies and myths about HIV/AIDs. At first, the social narrative described HIV/AIDs as a gay disease only spread by anal sex. When this was eventually debunked, many people still believed sex to be dangerous because of the possibility of spreading the virus through sexual fluids. The net effect was a strong decrease in sexual activity and partners.

The federal government started cracking down on adult businesses nationwide, including Adam & Eve. The company was raided by police in 1986, and Phil was charged with disseminating obscenity. He was found innocent in a jury trial, but the government continued targeting the adult industry. The Justice Department coordinated the launch of dozens of investigations and court cases nationwide to drown adult businesses in red tape and legal bills. It was a rocky time for the adult industry and sex toy lovers everywhere, but a brighter future was just on the horizon.

Reigniting Passion in the ‘90s

back view of woman in lingerie straddling man

The early ‘90s continued to experience a number of social movements extolling the virtues of abstinence and waiting until marriage. Millions of young people were encouraged to sign abstinence pledges, proudly wearing purity rings to show they were saving their virginity for their wedding night. While the desire may have been to help young people perceive sex as sacred, the consequence to society resulted in severe restrictions around sexual education curriculum. This made it harder, if not impossible, for young people to learn about sex.

Then the 1992 presidential election ushered in Bill Clinton. Though he will forever be remembered for cigars and blowjobs, the election also recalibrated sex yet again, triggering another cultural shift. The federal government stopped their expensive crusade against adult businesses, including Adam & Eve. Without the legal threat, business at Adam & Eve started booming more than ever. It was so good, they had to build a new warehouse and office in Hillsborough, NC to meet the growing demand.

As America rediscovered its love affair with sex, attention quickly turned to ways to spice things up. Couples started researching new sex positions and trying new things in the bedroom. This new passion was captured perfectly by the beloved HBO show Sex and the City, which introduced women worldwide to the magical orgasmic possibilities of the rabbit vibrator. Sex toy sales exploded overnight!

Taking Sex Online in the ‘00s

couple shopping online from a computer in bed

The explosive growth of the Internet created a digital sexual revolution. Thousands of websites began popping up all over the world – all dedicated to sex. Adult content, starting with pictures and quickly shifting into movies, became widely available. Much of it was even free. Adam & Eve’s new website let you buy sex toys online, making it even more discreet than ever before. This allowed people to explore their fantasies and desires, especially for niche interests that didn’t have a lot of mainstream interest.

More importantly, the Internet made it much easier for people to communicate and learn about all aspects of sex. Someone in Ohio could ask a dom in London questions about bondage. A woman in Africa could learn more about sexual health. Young people around the world could read about masturbation and everything else that wasn’t mentioned in their sex ed classes. You could use a forum to anonymously post questions about sex that you were too embarrassed to ask in person.

The Internet made it much easier to connect in real life as well. Sites matched people based on compatible interests and sexual preferences to make dating faster and easier than ever. If you were looking to make a specific sexual fantasy come true, you could find someone who shared it – no matter how unconventional it might be. The Internet became the expedient venue for meeting one-night stands and hook-ups.

LGBTQ Rights & Acceptance in the ‘10s

fists raised in the air with rainbow wristbands

The Internet’s ability to bring people together made promoting social causes and organizing protests simpler than ever. And the LGBTQ community, as well as their allies, made the most of the opportunity.

They flooded the Internet with examples of discrimination and inequality, targeting businesses that wouldn’t serve LGBTQ individuals, seeking public apologies from celebrities over sexist comments, and fighting negative stereotypes. They organized court battles for equal civil rights, resulting in the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case legalizing gay marriage. Adam & Eve branched out from its mainstream roots with Adam Male as well as Eve’s Toys to better focus on the special needs of the LGBTQ community.

Caitlyn Jenner famously came out as a transwoman in 2015. Jenner underwent full sex reassignment surgery in 2017, putting the topic of trans on the map. Laws unfairly targeting transgendered individuals met public derision, economic boycotts, and protests. Trans-rights became a hot button topic for the first time ever.

Looking Ahead to the ‘20s & Beyond

man and woman in vr goggles

It’s always difficult to be a fortune teller and predict what the future might hold. We have seen the pendulum swing back and forth through the decades. But what I hope to happen in the world of sex over the next decade is a stabilizing of the pendulum so we can continue forward in a manner that allows all people to feel safe, empowered, knowledgeable, and respected around their sexuality.

I hope that discussing sex can continue to be more commonplace and easeful—on an individual level between couples, between parents and their children, and between political parties. Rather than tear each other apart, it's important to recognize and respect why each person or party holds a particular value. Even if we respectfully disagree, it is still in the spirit of respect.

I hope that our society can continue to offer access to accurate sex education at appropriate developmental ages, while also respecting the varied values that different cultures and religions hold regarding sexual behavior. As a sex educator and therapist, my bias is that accurate sex education demystifies sex and actually delays sexual behaviors. If nothing else, it empowers young people to understand sexuality and make fully informed decisions for themselves. And all cultures and religions have different value systems. The messages from each culture and religion will inevitably lack agreement, but this does not make the other side “wrong” or “bad.” Some messages are more traditional. Some messages are more progressive. Again, understanding why we hold particular values and why we want to pass on particular messages allows for respectful dialogue and respectful disagreement.

I hope that mainstream and social media can offer unbiased information regarding sexuality or own the bias that is held. I hope that all platforms can allow a fully open discourse.

I hope for the continued equality of rights for all people to have access and safety to love and partner with whom they choose. I hope for all populations to feel empowered to have a voice and be seen as sexual beings.

It is my belief that all people should feel safe to acknowledge their sexuality.

In summary, our sexuality is a confluence of our actions, activities, experiences (positive, negative or neutral), feelings, fears, fantasies, values, beliefs, boundaries, body image, messages and narratives, erotic orientation, emotional orientation, relationship construction (monogamous or openly versatile), gender identity, gender expression, gender roles, DNA, chromosomal sex, hormonal make-up, internal and external genital construction, and turn-ons (be they traditional or unconventional). There is so much that makes up our sexuality. And there's no better place to get that info than Adam & Eve. Buckle up with us on the learning rollercoaster. You'll even find some new toys and adult products to make the ride all the more exhilarating!