Hip­pies were all about sex­ual lib­er­a­tion.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

To many ob­servers (and quite a few crit­ics), hip­pies were syn­ony­mous with free love. In one in­ci­dent dur­ing the 1968 Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion, a Chicago po­lice of­fi­cer at­tacked a young woman who was protest­ing, say­ing: “You hip­pies are all alike. All you want is free love. Free love? I can give you some free love.” In­deed, in au­thor Micah Lee Is­sit’s guide to the coun­ter­cul­ture, “free love” is de­scribed “as the hip­pie sex­ual ideal.”

While hip­pies were more sex­u­ally ad­ven­tur­ous than main­stream Amer­i­cans (one as­pect of the coun­ter­cul­ture that has had a last­ing im­pact), they mostly stuck to het­ero­sex­ual monogamy. As one ag­ing hip­pie re­counted decades later, “free love” was more leg­end than fact. “We had par­ties where peo­ple would smoke too much or drink too much and sleep with their friends, but there were emo­tional reper­cus­sions the next day. Free love is like a free lunch — there’s no such thing . . . . Even nu­dity was rare.”

Even within open re­la­tion­ships, hip­pie men often seized the free­dom to sleep with mul­ti­ple women but dis­cour­aged their girl­friends and wives from do­ing the same. Sadly, sex­ual re­la­tions in the coun­ter­cul­ture weren’t al­ways con­sen­sual. Women in hip­pie neigh­bor­hoods — es­pe­cially teenage girls who had run away from their par­ents — were often vul­ner­a­ble to sex­ual as­sault as they faced peer pres­sure to em­brace drugs and aban­don sex­ual re­straint. Ch­ester An­der­son, a writer associated with San Fran­cisco’s leg­endary Dig­gers col­lec­tive, painted a dev­as­tat­ing pic­ture of sex­ual re­la­tions in the Sum­mer of Love: “Rape is as com­mon as bulls--- on Haight Street.”

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