Journeying the Sixties: A Counterculture Tarot     index     <prev     next>


"What we must do is redefine our sexuality. We must discard the 'normal' concepts of sex and create new guidelines which take into account mutual sexual enjoyment."

---Anne Koedt, The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm

The Lovers card is more about choice than love. But it addresses perhaps our most significant choice: that of the partner. For most of the Tarot's 500-year history few have had the luxury to choose. For women especially, a partner, or rather the partner, was nearly always chosen for her.

The roots of a revolution - what author Hera Cook calls "the long sexual revolution" in her groundbreaking history of English women, sex and contraception . . . grew below many preceding centuries. They were as deep as a woman's desire to limit her fertility for, as Cook writes, "population growth results first and foremost from the physical labor that only the biological female can perform." This labor includes the processes of menstruation, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding that, while considered "natural," Cook says "require energy and drain physical resources."

In 1955 a researcher named Goody Pincus reported to Margaret Sanger's Planned Parenthood organization that he had successfully used artifical hormones to suppress ovulation in a trial involving 50 women subjects. For twenty years, Pincus had been exploring fertility and, with the support of Sanger and wealthy New York philanthropist Katharine McCormick, had found a way to use progesterone to suppress fertility in women by mimicking the condition of pregnancy. In 1960, the birth control pill was made available. Within a decade, more than half of American women in their prime years of fertility were swallowing it.

What could be more revolutionary in the history of human culture and biology than a woman's suddenly acquired capacity to invisibly - and without forethought - maintain complete control of her reproductive life? To have sex with any man she chose and not risk that he might father her child? To experience intercourse without having to pay its traditional price? Quite suddenly sex no longer existed as a limbic bond between a woman and a dominant male, an "owner" of her reproductive resource by virtue of her "gift" of virginity with its hyped cultural and economic valuation. Her gift now was her own developing sexual choice that could be made many times without fear of a distressing commitment.

Central to the emerging sexual revolution experienced by both men and women, was the growing acceptance of sex between and among unmarried people. And this meant that young men and women had much more time to acquire their own sexual experience with partners before choosing to marry. Divorce (by 1960 half the nation's marriages ended in divorce) also amplified the opportunities for sexual activity with new partners. Certainly those born after World War II grew up to have sexual experiences with many more partners than men and women born anytime earlier. It is impossible to overestimate the impact of this wide yet personal sexual exploration on the feelings, thoughts, attitudes, and choices of the Counterculture generation.