I received an interesting and thoughtful comment via email on a sermon titled “Marriage as a Religious Act” which I recently posted on my main Web site. I realized that this sermon relates to some issues you, dear readers, and I have addressed on this blog — most importantly, the sexual revolution within Unitarian Universalism, and the theological basis (if any) for marriage in our tradition. Since this is something we have talked about here, and since I greatly value the comments I get from you, I decided to post this sermon and see what you might have to say about it. The sermon beging below the fold.
The sexual revolution has both direct and indirect effects on Unitarian Universalism. Persons who were part of Unitarian Universalism experienced the sexual revolution in their personal lives, the work place, etc., and these experiences indirectly affected Unitarian Universalism; since experiences are not peculiar to Unitarian Universalists, strictly speaking they do not relate to the history of the sexual revolution within Unitarian Universalism.
When I think about those aspects of the sexual revolution that most directly affected Unitarian Universalism, I think of the following, in no particular order: sexuality education, sexual experimentation, LGBTQ rights, theological stances, feminism and the Women and Religion movement, marriage and divorce. Each of these aspects of the sexual revolution had a direct impact on local congregations and the denomination as a whole, as well as on individual Unitarian Universalists.
For each of these aspects of the sexual revolution, I have tried to brainstorm a list of where we might find relevant documents dating from the era 1965-1985.
For all these topic areas, Unitarian Universalist periodicals from that era that should be reviewed for relevant materials, and the two official denominational periodicals, UU Register-Leader (to 1970) and UU World (1970 on), are of primary importance. Independent publications which may contain relevant material include First Day’s Record, published by and for clergy, and Unitarian Universalist Voice. Congregational newsletters may also have relevant information; since there are probably tens of thousands of such documents, a researcher can only sift through a small portion of them.
Here, then, are some preliminary ideas of where we might find documentation dating from 1965 to 1985 on the general topic of the sexual revolution: Continue reading “Finding documents relating to the sexual revolution within UUism, 1965-1985”
If we’re going to talk about the impact of the sexual revolution on Unitarian Universalism in the 1960s and 1970s, we’re going to have to have some understanding of what it was. David Allyn, in his book Make Love Not War: An Unfettered History of the Sexual Revolution (Boston: Little, Brown, 2000) tells us that the phrase was coined in the 1920s by Austrian psychoanalyst William Reich. As applied to the events of the 1960s and 1970s, Allyn points out that the phrase “sexual revolution” had different meanings at different historical moments for different people:
In the early sixties, the “sexual revolution” was used to describe the suspected impact of the newly invented birth control pill on the behavior of white, middle-class, female college students. A few years later, the term was employed to describe the sweeping repudiation of literary censorship by the U.S. Supreme Court. It was borrowed to characterize developments in the scientific study of sexual behavior, most notably by Masters and Johnson. In the late sixties, the “sexual revolution” was invoked to refer to the new candor in American culture, especially the sudden acceptance of nudity in film and on stage.
By the early seventies, the “sexual revolution” was taking on new meanings with each passing year. It was adopted to describe the showing of hard-core sex films in first-run theaters, not to mention to opening of private clubs for group sex. It was used to capture the new spirit of the swinging singles life, as well as the popularization of open marriage. For those in the counterculture, the “sexual revolution” meant the freedom to have sex where and when one wished.
In the highly politicized climate of the late sixties and early seventies, the “sexual revolution” was given a range of meanings. Some student radicals used the term specifically to refer to the end of the “tyranny of the genital” and the arrival of an eagerly awaited age of polymorphous pansexuality. Young feminists equated the “sexual revolution” with the oppression and “objectification” of women and saw it, therefore, as something to stop at all costs. Gay men considered the “sexual revolution” to mean a whole new era of freedom to identify oneself publicly as gay, to go to gay bars and discotheques, to have sex in clubs and bathhouses.
Events and developments shaped popular perception of the “sexual revolution.” Sex-education courses in schools and colleges were radically redesigned to replace euphemism and scare tactics with explicit visual aids and practical information. New books suggested that women were as eager for one-night stands and other sexual thrills as were men. Many states repealed their sodomy laws and introduced “no-fault” divorce. And in 1973, Roe v. Wade ended a century of criminalized abortion. Once again the “sexual revolution was reinterpreted and redefined. [pp. 4-5]
For some years now, I’ve been looking for documentary evidence about the way the sexual revolution played out in Unitarian Universalism from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. I have lots of anecdotal evidence, stories told to me by people who saw, or in a few cases experienced first-hand, the “open marriages,” the “wife-swapping,” the sex games, etc., that took place in Unitarian Universalist congregations and other Unitarian Universalist organizations such as camps and conference centers. These decades-old memories are of definite historical interest, but documentary evidence is also essential to a fuller historical understanding of this topic.
Recently, I realized I had one such document, which I uncovered a dozen years ago when I was working on a contract with the Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA) Youth Office to write a training manual for youth advisors, and I’ll include it in full here. Continue reading “Historical document on the sexual revolution within UUism”