Imagine: World War I is over. The gun smoke clears, and it turns out there is money — and lots of it.
The music scene explodes with jazz clubs, and naughty speakeasies are making a fortune selling illegal booze. Women get paid more and finally can vote, which helps them claim their power.
The sexual revolution of the Roaring 20s begins — and here are 7 spicy ingredients that made this cocktail stronger than any Negroni you ever had.
Fashion itself was as much a character in the Roaring 20s as the bold people that wore it — especially women.
They were ready to show their best moves on the dancefloor, so they ditched the grandma’s pantaloons and corsets for light bras and lingerie. The party dresses became shorter and more playful. The sleeves, waistline, and neckline dropped, and way more skin got revealed.
The knit swimwear and women’s sportswear, like tennis clothes, empowered more women to do sports. And Coco Chanel – who was quite a rascal herself – created a new, more boyish, silhouette with her “little black dress.”
Dance & Music
Let’s be honest — who doesn’t like a bit of a Gatsby-style, sexy dress-up party?
Since bare arms had replaced bearing arms, all this free-form fashion made dance the natural expression of the post-war hedonism.
It was an era of Jazz, and the most popular dances — the Charleston and the Black Bottom — encouraged a loosening of the body and all kinds of cheeky moves.
Part of what made this youthful mingling so naughty and exciting was minimal supervision and — surprise, surprise — alcohol. Before WWI, the majority of the “fun time out” would be with family or at church events, usually segregated by gender. Oh, joy!
“In the 1920s, a new woman was born. She smoked, drank, danced, and voted.
She cut her hair, wore makeup, and went to petting parties.
She was giddy and took risks. She was a flapper.”
– Jennifer Rosenberg
Flappers sported high heels, intense makeup (like rouge, lipstick, and mascara), and short hairstyles like the bob.
People in the Roaring 20s were smoking and swearing. They were cheeky and playful — not only with men but also with each other.
They invented the concept of dating and broke away from the Victorian image of womanhood.
With their sexiness and sass, they were not only scary and offensive to many men, but also to older feminists. Why? They saw their taboo-breaking ways a disregard of all for which the suffragettes had fought for. Beef alert!
But if the “official feminism” seemed less important to the Flappers, this was because these young women were struggling for freedom and identity in their personal lives.
Ideas of duty, sacrifice, and the greater good had been debunked by the WWI — and this generation started to explore how to be true to one’s self, not to a cause.
That’s a big one. Challenging conventions, sex educators like Marie Stopes, Margaret Sanger, or Mary Ware Dennett risked arrest over and over again. As the law prohibited the distribution of information about sex, including birth control devices and other “articles of immoral use.”
They didn’t give up, and over time, their determination, along with their provocative behavior, wore down the public stigma around sex and even sexual experimentation before marriage.
Birth control became more widely available, at least for more privileged ladies.
This helped limit family size and gave women the freedom to explore their sexuality without facing the consequences of unwanted pregnancies.
Cars & Movies
Cinema and cars — thanks, Mr. Ford! — became more popular and accessible in the Roaring 20s than ever before. This provided young people with a new sense of privacy.
Motion pictures and theater capitalized on the public’s growing acceptance of heterosexual flirtation and romance. They spread some daring ideas and cheeky practices from cities to smaller towns.
One of the actresses who shaped and lived the sassy vibe of the 20s was Louise Brooks. Her iconic bob became the must-have hairstyle for modern ladies. It became famous when Louise played a sexually inhibited femme fatale in the silent movie Pandora’s box.
The charming 1920s at its best!
The Great Gatsby
When Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” was published, the vibrant atmosphere of the decade had already rapidly transformed, and our bold women had integrated themselves more into society.
They were dressing differently, smoking, drinking (despite it being illegal).
The knew how to obtain financial aid independently and were competing with men in the business world. You bet all of this threatened the traditional concept of masculinity!
The novel itself was centered around a male main character. However, it also approached femininity in such a way that it challenged all of the previous misconceptions concerning women. One of the most significant cultural taboos was: adultery.
During this time in the U.S., it was kinda acceptable for well-born men to have affairs because of their power and status in society). But not for the ladies!
It was seen very shameful, almost barbaric when women were caught cheating on their husbands. But not the other way around. Hello, double standards!
Ever heard of him? That’s the dude that put sex on the map.
Well, he didn’t get everything right. For example, he didn’t understand female sexuality too well. He thought that the clitoral orgasm was nonessential except as a warm-up for the more important, vaginal orgasm. Oh, dear! How about we send him to the Female Orgasm Online Course?
But he did nail quite a few crucial things:
- Freud brought the topic “out of the closet.” He knew that love, sex, and fantasies are on our minds consciously AND unconsciously. His books and studies helped to free the topic of sex from its taboos.
- He preached that homosexuality is NOT a mental illness or anything to be ashamed of.
- He knew that erogenous zones are not restricted to genitalia. Any part of the body can feel erotic and sexually stimulating.
- Freud was also the one to say that sexual fantasies are not only healthy — they are necessary. In your imagination, you can play out all kinds of quirky or pervy scenarios that add to your sexual excitement and hopefully lead to explosive pleasure. This is normal, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you actually want to engage in such scenarios. Unless… you do.
Let this inspire you to start your own sexual revolution in your bedroom and overall life this decade. Let’s enter the new Roaring 20s!