Hippies were all about sexual liberation.
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.”