Tag Archives: sex

Sex After the Sexual Revolution by Helen Colton

5 May

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Helen Colton is 95 going on 60. Although she never earned a college degree, she considers herself a polymath—a self-taught person who has no formal education but is very well-educated because they love to learn. She received a California teaching credential in Family Relations and taught at Beverly Hills Adult School and the Los Angeles Board of Education Adult School. All her working life she was a sex educator and teacher of family relations .

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Helen recollects with fondness raising her two children “not to bear grudges” and to have a “high sense of ethics.” She has three grandchildren. Her home is in Los Angeles. She enjoys Netflix, checks her email daily, and still does her own housework and yard work.

I was born in 1918 into a lower middle-class Jewish family, the third of six children. My parents had to get married—my mother was 16, my father 15. I believe that was what motivated me to become a sex educator, and I’ve written several books and dozens of articles on that subject.

The west end of Hollywood has been my home for many years. I divorced my first husband in 1965 when I was almost 50. He had been a Communist Party member but was expelled because he wouldn’t stand on street corners selling The People’s World1. During that time I attended protests and meetings; for example, around the defense of the Hollywood 102. Much of my political activity had to do with Hollywood. My long-time companion of 25 years (I no longer believed in marriage—marriage is confining world-wide) was Robert Lees, who was murdered nine years ago3 .

On May 1st, 1963 I marched in downtown Los Angeles with the Women’s Strike for Peace. Upton Sinclair had written that public protesters must be well-dressed, not grungy, so most of us wore nice clothes. Men on the sidelines jeered: Why aren’t you ladies home fixing dinner for your husbands?

I wrote hundreds of articles and several books over my career. The Gift of Touch and Sex after the Sexual Revolution were two of them. They are out of print but still relevant today. A pamphlet I wrote—What’s On Woman’s Future Agenda?—was used for years as required reading in college classes. I wrote for many magazines including McCall’s, Redbook, Coronet, Pageant, Self, Mademoiselle, and others, many of which are no longer in print.

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In an article in McCall’s which I edited, entitled “I Am a Selfish Mother,” the writer dared espouse the revolutionary idea that children shouldn’t come first all the time.

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I worked out of my home as a sex educator and also as a free-lance writer and consultant. I was on the faculty of an institute on sex education, which held weekend programs for doctors around New Orleans, Dallas, San Francisco, and San Diego areas, etc.

A neighbor, Doris Fleishman, urged me to attend a conference at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco in 1964. Betty Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique had just been published. There were feminist conferences at UCLA and Lake Arrowhead. We were involved in changing unfair laws such as the one that women could collect social security from their former husbands only if they’d been married 20 or more years. We got it dropped to ten years. My preferred activities were those that attempted to change laws.

Among my articles was ”Is Marriage Here to Stay?” in which I argued that marriage was for the benefit of society, not for the benefit of the individual. People are very often miserable in marriage, but society pressures us for many reasons to be married.

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Despite personal difficulties, I found time to be active in the ACLU and other meetings and anti-war protests, and to give lectures. On January 20, 1974 I was on the Dinah Shore Show, where I was discussing my book Sex After the Sexual Revolution. A panel of women asked questions. One woman asked something like, “I’m a widow who still gets sexual urges but I have no male companion. What can I do?” I answered: “Masturbation.” Little to my knowledge, the program had cut away during her question for an important news update on Henry Kissinger’s visit to the Paris peace talks with Le Duc Tho. When the show returned, all that the TV audience heard was the word “masturbation.” No context. Coffee cups dropped, people were horrified, NBC and the station were flooded with complaints from women. The rest of the program was cut and never shown in its entirety.

As you can see, language about sexuality was censored to a great extent. Years later when Dinah Shore was interviewed, she said that out of all her shows, the event of which she was the proudest was the program “on sex education.”

I felt wonderful about that.

Notes:

  1. The People’s World was the Communist Party’s newspaper.
  2. The Hollywood 10 were the following ten people, cited for contempt of Congress and blacklisted after refusing to answer HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) questions about their alleged involvement with the Communist Party: Alvah Bessie, screenwriter, Herbert Biberman, screenwriter and director, Lester Cole, screenwriter, Edward Dmytryk, director, Ring Lardner Jr., screenwriter, John Howard Lawson, screenwriter, Albert Maltz, screenwriter, Samuel Ornitz, screenwriter, Adrian Scott, producer and screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, screenwriter.
  3. Robert Lees (July 10, 1912 – June 13, 2004) was an American television and film screenwriter. Lees was best known for writing comedy, including several Abbott and Costello films. In the early 1950s, Lees’ career was virtually destroyed when he was put on the Hollywood blacklist by movie studio bosses during the McCarthy Era for alleged Communist activities. As a result of his blacklisting, he had associates submit manuscripts to the studios under the pseudonym “J. E. Selby.” He was killed when he was 91 by a homeless man who broke into Lees’ house.
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