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A 1950s Woman's View on Women and Sex
November 20, 2007 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Sex and the College Girl, by Norah Johnson A view from an educated woman in the 1950s: "Two criticisms rise above the rest: people in college are promiscuous, for one thing, and, for another, they are getting married and having children too early. These are interesting observations because they contradict each other."
posted by shivohum (24 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Kids those days!
posted by billysumday at 12:32 PM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Something seems to be wrong with the page. None of the pictures are loading...
posted by rooftop secrets at 12:34 PM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't see any contradiction. I sleep with married college girls all the time.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:41 PM on November 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


this is what the post says of the author:
a graduate of Smith College in the class of 1954, Nora Johnson has traveled widely, first through Europe, and after her marriage, through the Middle East. Now living in New York with her husband and small daughter...
let's say she graduated at 22, in the year 1954, and it is now 2007, and she has a small daughter?
posted by Postroad at 12:58 PM on November 20, 2007


let's say she graduated at 22, in the year 1954, and it is now 2007, and she has a small daughter?

SCIENCE!
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:04 PM on November 20, 2007


let's say she graduated at 22, in the year 1954, and it is now 2007, and she has a small daughter?

Heh. I think that's from the article's introduction. The article was published in 1957.
posted by shivohum at 1:07 PM on November 20, 2007


Postroad, that's reprinted from 1957.
posted by koeselitz at 1:07 PM on November 20, 2007


and she has a small daughter?

Small, not young.

INSENSITIVE...
posted by GuyZero at 1:07 PM on November 20, 2007


Postroad: The publication date for the Atlantic article is Nov. 1957, 3 years after she graduated from Smith and prime time to have a small daughter.
posted by doncoyote at 1:08 PM on November 20, 2007


The publication date for the Atlantic article is Nov. 1957

5 years before the discovery of the female orgasm.
posted by BobFrapples at 1:21 PM on November 20, 2007


In 1957, Smith College received special dispensation from the government to set up one of the few "time embassies" in the country, encompassing the entirety of the college campus. Anybody graduating from Smith since then has technically graduated in 1957.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:22 PM on November 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


Did anybody actually RTFA? This is fascinating stuff. Going steady, getting pinned, getting engaged and even married while in college; all the politicking and posturing and conformity...I'm belatedly realizing why my ex-MIL is such an uptight, bitter, appearances-obsessed rhymes-with.
posted by pax digita at 3:26 PM on November 20, 2007


Fascinating. This is the same period as when my mom went to college. It's an interesting generation. It would be kids a decade younger than them who really experience the sexual revolution and everything that that entailed.

Also, her observations that the generation wasn't risk taking seems consistent with what I've observed. This was kids who grew up through the end of the Depression and World War II, and so, in college, what they were looking for was safety and stability. I can understand the impulse after the chaos and uncertainty they saw as kids.

The Baby Boomers, who came after them, saw neither the Depression nor World War II, they *only* saw the economic boom period after the war, and so they took everything for granted, which made them bigger risk takers.

There's really interesting generational sociology embedded in this article.
posted by MythMaker at 4:59 PM on November 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


Yes, this is a nice insight into the years just before the "free love" era. I wonder if it is much different than an article that could have been written forty years before...
posted by kozad at 7:07 PM on November 20, 2007


I particularly like the way she characterizes her parents generation as 'the Jazz Age" generation. This might explain the way so many Boomers (the kids she and her peers were having) understood their grandparents so much better than their parents.

But it's easy to see that this
didn't come out of thin air.
posted by jrochest at 7:30 PM on November 20, 2007


Wow. Much of this article read like my relatively recent experience as a Catholic schoolgirl (I'm now 32 and mighty lapsed). Maybe it was just my family/school/friends? Especially the idea of "I'll do everything but..."

All of my friends were technical virgins.
posted by chihiro at 7:35 PM on November 20, 2007


It's funny, but I can't decide how appropriate for today the article is. As a girl currently at uni, I think that my friends and I are much (much much) more relaxed about being single and spending all our saturday nights together, but we also seem to be 'friends' with guys in a way that isn't even suggested in the article, and she doesn't even mention the random hookups that are so common today. I happen to be a member of a terribly incestuous group, where we have actually drawn a map of who has hooked up with who else - and even though everyone is going out with each other, we manage to remain a group who hangs out together with (in my experience) remarkably few problems. And today marriage is not even on the horizon for most students (the only girl I know who married before graduating was pregnant).

Despite all these differences, however, somehow the attitude she conveys still feels familiar.
posted by jacalata at 8:58 PM on November 20, 2007


It reads like the backstory to Mad Men. Thanks for posting it.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:58 PM on November 20, 2007


Interesting, but it doesn't answer the question: is there some way we can send Caitlin Flanagan back to 1957?
posted by Rangeboy at 10:22 PM on November 20, 2007


This woman was a classmate of Sylvia Plath.
posted by brujita at 11:31 PM on November 20, 2007


Fascinating. Thanks for posting it.
posted by Melinika at 11:58 PM on November 20, 2007


neat!
posted by onepapertiger at 10:51 AM on November 22, 2007


This was really interesting; thanks! As the daughter of baby-boomers, I'm really surprised by this article. I had always assumed that the people of my grandparents' generation weren't having sex before marriage as a regular thing. I had no idea that it was fairly common if they were going steady.

And MythMaker has it. This is a great insight into generational norms.
posted by mosessis at 8:11 PM on November 22, 2007


I thought it was really interesting that she noted that the parents of this generation (the ones going to college in the mid-50s) were "Jazz Age" and had been more sexually promiscuous than their children.

I guess it really is cyclical. It's like the children of the '60s hippies turning into Regan conservatives in the '80s, a la Family Ties.
posted by MythMaker at 12:14 PM on November 24, 2007


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