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Free love is a social movement that rejects marriage, which is seen as a form of social and financial bondage. The Free Love movement’s initial goal was to separate the state from sexual matters such as marriage, birth control, and adultery. It claimed that such issues were the concern of the people involved, and no one else.
Much of the free-love tradition is an offshoot of anarchism, and reflects a libertarian philosophy that seeks freedom from state regulation and church interference in personal relationships. According to this concept, the free unions of adults are legitimate relations which should be respected by all third parties whether they are emotional or sexual relations. In addition, some free-love writing has argued that both men and women have the right to sexual pleasure. In the Victorian era, this was a radical notion. Later, a new theme developed, linking free love with radical social change, and depicting it as a harbinger of a new anti-authoritarian, anti-repressive sensibility.
Many people in the early 19th century believed that marriage was an important aspect of life to "fulfil earthly human happiness." Middle-class Americans wanted the home to be a place of stability in an uncertain world. This mentality created a vision on strongly defined gender roles, which led to the advancement of the free love movement.
While the phrase free love is often associated with promiscuity in the popular imagination, especially in reference to the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, historically the free-love movement has not advocated multiple sexual partners or short-term sexual relationships. Rather, it has argued that love relations that are freely entered into should not be regulated by law.
The term "sex radical" is also used interchangeably with the term "free lover", and was the preferred term by advocates because of the negative connotations of "free love". By whatever name, advocates had two strong beliefs: opposition to the idea of forceful sexual activity in a relationship and advocacy for a woman to use her body in any way that she pleases.
Laws of particular concern to free love movements have included those that prevent an unmarried couple from living together, and those that regulate adultery and divorce, as well as age of consent, birth control, homosexuality, abortion, and sometimes prostitution; although not all free love advocates agree on these issues. The abrogation of individual rights in marriage is also a concern—for example, some jurisdictions do not recognize spousal rape or treat it less seriously than non-spousal rape. Free-love movements since the 19th century have also defended the right to publicly discuss sexuality and have battled obscenity laws.
In 1857, Francis Barry wrote that "marriage is a system of rape," stating that the woman is a victim where she can do nothing but be oppressed by her husband, as he tortures her in her home, which becomes a house of bondage. In one of his articles, Barry wrote:
'The Object of this [women’s emancipation] Society,’ according to Article 2 of its [free love] constitution, ‘shall be to secure absolute freedom to woman, through the overthrow of the popular system of marriage.’
At the turn of the 20th century, some free-love proponents extended the critique of marriage to argue that marriage as a social institution encourages emotional possessiveness and psychological enslavement.
Free love and the women's movement
The history of free love is entwined with the history of feminism. From the late 18th century, leading feminists, such as Mary Wollstonecraft, have challenged the institution of marriage, and many have advocated its abolition. Wollstonecraft was one of the first women to contribute to the free love movement with her literary works. Her novels criticized the social construction of marriage and its effects on women. In her first novel, Mary: A Fiction written in 1788, the heroine is forced into a loveless marriage for economic reasons. She finds love in relationships with another man and a woman. The novel, Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman, never finished but published in 1798, revolves around the story of a woman imprisoned in an asylum by her husband; Maria finds fulfilment outside of marriage, in an affair with a fellow inmate. Mary makes it clear that "women had strong sexual desires and that it was degrading and immoral to pretend otherwise.”
A married woman was solely a wife and mother, denying her the opportunity to pursue other occupations; sometimes this was legislated, as with bans on married women and mothers in the teaching profession. In 1855, free love advocate Mary Gove Nichols (1810–1884) described marriage as the "annihilation of woman," explaining that women were considered to be men's property in law and public sentiment, making it possible for tyrannical men to deprive their wives of all freedom. For example, the law allowed a husband to physically discipline his wife. Free love advocates like Nichols argued that many children are born into unloving marriages out of compulsion, but should instead be the result of choice and affection—yet children born out of wedlock did not have the same rights as children with married parents.
Sex, to proponents of free love, was not only about reproduction. Access to birth control was considered a means to women's independence, and leading birth-control activists like Margaret Sanger also embraced free love.
In the 1850s, Hannah R. Brown contributed to the journal, the “Una,” made lecture tours, and edited her personal journal, “the Agitator.” In one of her articles, she stated, “the woman is regarded as a sort of appendage to the goods and glories [of a man].” She advocated that true marriages could be formed if only women were allowed to choose freely.
Francis Barry was also a prominent advocate for the free love movement in the middle to late 19th century. He agreed that marriage socially bound a woman to a man, and that women should be free. Although this movement largely concerned women, the chief organizers were mostly men, one of them being Francis Barry. This helped foster a male ideology, and proved to women, such as Mary Gove Nichols and Victoria Woodhull that men were just as serious as they were about this issue. Although men were the main contributors to the organized and written part of the free love movement, the movement itself was still associated with loud and flashy women. There were two reasons for why free love was more agreeable to men. The first reason was that women lost more than men did, if marriage were to become “undermined.” The second reason was that free love “rested on the faith in individualism,” a quality that most women were afraid of or unable to accept.
In 1857, Minerva Putnam complained that, “in the discussion of free love, no woman has attempted to give her views on the subject.” There were six books during this time that endorsed the concept of free love. Of the four major free love periodicals following the civil war, only two of them had female editors. Mary Gove Nichols was the leading female advocate, and the woman who most people looked up to, for the free love movement. She wrote her autobiography, which became the first case against marriage written from a woman’s point of view.
Sex radicals remained focused on their attempts to uphold a woman’s right to control her body and to freely discuss issues such as contraception, marital sex abuse (emotional and physical), and sexual education. These people believed that by talking about female sexuality, they would help empower women. To help achieve this goal, sex radicals relied on the written word, books, pamphlets, and periodicals. This method helped these people sustain this movement for over 50 years, and helped spread their message all over the United States.
In recent years, women have created works of art to help keep the free love movement alive, often in ways that even the artist does not realize. Sara Bareilles’ songs, “Fairytale” and “Love Song” are modern examples of how women are participating in the Free Love movement; although, artists such as Bareilles do not write their songs specifically for the Free Love movement.
The famous feminist, Gloria Steinem at one point stated, “you became a semi-nonperson when you got married.” She also famously coined the expression 'A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,' Steinem dismissed marriage in 1987 as not having a 'good name.' Steinem got married in 2000, stating that the symbols that feminists once “rebelled against” now are freely chosen, or society had changed.
History of free love movements
A number of utopian social movements throughout history have shared a vision of free love. The all-male Essenes, who lived in the Middle East from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD apparently shunned sex, marriage, and slavery. They also renounced wealth, lived communally, and were pacifist vegetarians. An early Christian sect known as the Adamites—which flourished in North Africa in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries—also rejected marriage. They practised nudism while engaging in worship and considered themselves free of original sin.
In the 6th century, adherents of Mazdakism in pre-Muslim Persia apparently supported a kind of free love in the place of marriage, and like many other free-love movements, also favored vegetarianism, pacificism, and communalism. Some writers have posited a conceptual link between the rejection of private property and the rejection of marriage as a form of ownership. One folk story from the period that contains a mention of a free-love (and nudist) community under the sea is "The Tale of Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman" from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (c. 8th century).
Karl Kautsky, writing in 1895, noted that a number of "communistic" movements throughout the Middle Ages also rejected marriage. Typical of such movements, the Cathars of 10th to 14th century Western Europe freed followers from all moral prohibition and religious obligation, but respected those who lived simply, avoided the taking of human or animal life, and were celibate. Women had an uncommon equality and autonomy, even as religious leaders. The Cathars and similar groups (the Waldenses, Apostle brothers, Beghards and Beguines, Lollards, and Hussites) were branded as heretics by the Roman Catholic Church and suppressed. Other movements shared their critique of marriage but advocated free sexual relations rather than celibacy, such as the Brethren of the Free Spirit, Taborites, and Picards.
Eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe
In 1789, radical Swedenborgians August Nordenskjöld and C.B. Wadström published the Plan for a Free Community, in which they proposed the establishment of a society of sexual liberty, where slavery was abolished and the "European" and the "Negro" lived together in harmony. In the treatise, marriage is criticised as a form of political repression. The challenges to traditional morality and religion brought by the Age of Enlightenment and the emancipatory politics of the French Revolution created an environment where such ideas could flourish. Though at first an ardent, even dogmatic supporter of such liberating aspects of the Revolution, in his policies as Emperor Napoleon later repudiated them, a move typical of revolutionaries who come to power. A group of radical intellectuals in England (sometimes known as the English Jacobins) supported the French Revolution, abolitionism, feminism, and free love. Among them was William Blake, who explicitly compares the sexual oppression of marriage to slavery in works such as Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793).
Another member of the circle was pioneering English feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Wollstonecraft felt that women should not give up freedom and control of their sexuality, and thus didn't marry her partner, Gilbert Imlay, despite the two conceiving and having a child together in the midst of the Terror of the French Revolution. Though the relationship ended badly, due in part to the discovery of Imlay's infidelity, and not least because Imlay abandoned her for good, Wollstonecraft's belief in free love survived. She developed a relationship with early English anarchist William Godwin, who shared her free love ideals, and published on the subject throughout his life. However, the two did decide to marry, just days before her death due to complications at parturition. In an act understood to support free love, their child, Mary, took up with the then still-married English romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley at a young age. Percy also wrote in defence of free love (and vegetarianism) in the prose notes of Queen Mab (1813), in his essay On Love (c1815) and in the poem Epipsychidion (1821):
I never was attached to that great sect,
Whose doctrine is, that each one should select
Out of the crowd a mistress or a friend,
And all the rest, though fair and wise, commend
To cold oblivion...
True love has this, different from gold and clay,
That to divide is not to take away.
Sharing the free-love ideals of the earlier social movements—as well as their feminism, pacifism, and simple communal life—were the utopian socialist communities of early-nineteenth-century France and Britain, associated with writers and thinkers such as Henri de Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier in France, Robert Owen in England, and, perhaps most far-reaching, the German composer Richard Wagner. Fourier, who coined the term feminism, argued that true freedom could only occur without masters, without the ethos of work, and without suppressing passions: the suppression of passions is not only destructive to the individual, but to society as a whole. He argued that all sexual expressions should be enjoyed as long as people are not abused, and that "affirming one's difference" can actually enhance social integration. The Saint-Simonian feminist Pauline Roland took a free-love stance against marriage, having four children in the 1830s, all of whom bore her name. Wagner's position seems quite similar; he not only advocated something like free love in several of his works, he practiced what he preached, and began a family with Cosima Liszt, then still married to the conductor Hans von Bülow. Cosima had been one of three children born out of wedlock to the ultra-popular Hungarian composer and pianist Ferenc (Franz) Liszt by Countess Marie d'Agoult. Though apparently scandalous at the time, such liaisons seemed the actions of admired artists who were following the dictates of their own wills, rather than those of social convention, and in this way they were in step with their era's liberal philosophers of the cult of passion, such as Fourier, and their actual or eventual openness can be understood to be a prelude to the freer ways of the twentieth century. Friedrich Nietzsche spoke occasionally in favor of something like free love, but when he proposed marriage to that famous practitioner of it, Lou Andreas-Salome, she berated him for being inconsistent with his philosophy of the free and supramoral Superman, a criticism that Nietzsche seems to have taken seriously, or to have at least been stung by. The relationship between composer Frederic Chopin and writer George Sand can be understood as exemplifying free love in a number of ways. Behavior of this kind by figures in the public eye did much to erode the credibility of conventionalism in relationships, especially when such conventionalism brought actual unhappiness to its practitioners.
That European outpost, Australia, which began its existence as a penal colony, had a much more flexible view of cohabitation and sexual bonding than was known in Europe itself at the time, "Neither the male nor the female convicts thought it was disgraceful, or even wrong, to live together out of wedlock."
Ninteenth century United States
Christian socialist writer John Humphrey Noyes has been credited with coining the term free love in the mid-nineteenth century, although he preferred to use the term 'complex marriage'. Noyes founded the Oneida Society in 1848, a utopian community that "[rejected] conventional marriage both as a form of legalism from which Christians should be free and as a selfish institution in which men exerted rights of ownership over women". He found scriptural justification: "In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven" (Matt. 22:30). Noyes also supported eugenics; and only certain people were allowed to become parents. Another movement was established in Berlin Heights, Ohio.
Free love advocates sometimes traced their roots back to Josiah Warren and to experimental communities, viewed sexual freedom as a clear, direct expression of an individual's self-ownership. Free love particularly stressed women's rights since most sexual laws discriminated against women: for example, marriage laws and anti-birth control measures. The most important American free love journal was Lucifer the Lightbearer (1883–1907) edited by Moses Harman and Lois Waisbrooker but also there existed Ezra Heywood and Angela Heywood's The Word (1872–1890, 1892–1893). Also M. E. Lazarus was an important American individualist anarchist who promoted free love.
Elements of the free-love movement also had links to abolitionist movements, drawing parallels between slavery and "sexual slavery" (marriage), and forming alliances with black activists. They also had many opponents, and Moses Harman spent two years in jail after a court determined that a journal he published was "obscene" under the notorious Comstock Law. In particular, the court objected to three letters to the editor, one of which described the plight of a woman who had been raped by her husband, tearing stitches from a recent operation after a difficult childbirth and causing severe hemorrhaging. The letter lamented the woman's lack of legal recourse. Ezra Heywood, who had already been prosecuted under the Comstock Law for a pamphlet attacking marriage, reprinted the letter in solidarity with Harman and was also arrested and sentenced to two years in prison.
Victorian feminist Victoria Woodhull (1838–1927), the first woman to run for presidency in the U.S. in 1872, was also called "the high priestess of free love". In 1871, Woodhull wrote:
Yes, I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere. And I have the further right to demand a free and unrestricted exercise of that right, and it is your duty not only to accord it, but, as a community, to see that I am protected in it. I trust that I am fully understood, for I mean just that, and nothing less!
The women's movement, free love and Spiritualism were three strongly linked movements at the time, and Woodhull was also a spiritualist leader. Like Noyes, she also supported eugenics. Fellow social reformer and educator Mary Gove Nichols was happily married (to her second husband), and together they published a newspaper and wrote medical books and articles, a novel, and a treatise on marriage, in which they argued the case for free love. Both Woodhull and Nichols eventually repudiated free love.
Publications of the movement in the second half of the 19th century included Nichols' Monthly, The Social Revolutionist, Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly (ed. Victoria Woodhull and her sister Tennessee Clafin), The Word (ed. Ezra Heywood), Lucifer, the Light-Bearer (ed. Moses Harman) and the German-language Detroit newspaper Der Arme Teufel (ed. Robert Reitzel). Organisations included the New England Free Love League, founded with the assistance of American libertarian Benjamin Tucker as a spin off from the New England Labor Reform League (NELRL). A minority of freethinkers also supported free love.
The most radical free love journal was The Social Revolutionist, published in the 1856-1857, by John Patterson. The first volume consisted of twenty writers, of which only one was a woman.
In an edition of Lucifer, the Light-Bearer, there is a blurb about women and marriage:
in order to live the purest life, must be free, must enjoy the full privilege of soliciting the love of any man, or of none, if she so desires. She must be free and independent socially, industrially," -- Page 265. This is only one specimen of the many radical and vitally important truths contained in "A CITYLESS AND COUNTRYLESS WORLD," by Henry Olerich. Bound in red silk, with gold lettering on side and back; nearly 400 pages. Read it and you will see the defects of paternalism as set forth by Bellamy. Price $1. For sale at this office.
This quote demonstrated the journal's fight to get women to see the light of how marriage truly was in the early twentieth century.
In 1852, a writer named Marx Edgeworth Lazarus published a tract entitled "Love vs. Marriage pt. 1," in which he portrayed marriage as "incompatible with social harmony and the root cause of mental and physical impairments." Lazarus intertwined his writings with his religious teachings, a factor that made the Christian community more tolerable to the free love idea.
Sex radicals were not alone in their fight against marriage ideals. Other nineteenth century Americans saw this social institution as flawed, but hesitated to abolish it. Groups such as the Shakers, the Oneida Community, and the Latter-day Saints were wary of the social notion of marriage. These organizations and sex radicals believed that true equality would never exist between the sexes as long as the church and the state continued to work together, worsening the problem of subordination of wives to their husbands.
The free love movement evolved through four stages between 1853 and 1910. The first stage was a collective stage, where sex radicals put out print materials. The second stage was when the sex radicals encountered strong opposition; editors risked being arrested for writing about sexual topics. During the third stage, sex radicals challenged the government’s power to control women’s bodies and their private lives. The fourth and final stage was when the movement started to lose its drive. A new type of women’s movement was born, thus making it impossible to keep the free love movement alive.
Turn of the twentieth century
Toward the end of the nineteenth century in the United Kingdom, free love was a topic of discussion among a minority of freethinkers, socialists, and feminists. Many of them were associated with The Fellowship of the New Life, such as Olive Schreiner and Edward Carpenter. Carpenter was one of the first writers to defend homosexuality in the English language. Like many of the movements before them who were associated with free love, the group also favored a simple communal life, pacifism, and vegetarianism. The best-known modern British advocate of free love was the philosopher Bertrand Russell, later Third Earl Russell, who said that he did not believe he really knew a woman until he had made love with her. Russell consistently addressed aspects of free love throughout his voluminous writings, and was not personally content with conventional monogamy until extreme old age.
There was also an interest in free love among the late 19th-century Left in Australia. In 1886, the Melbourne Anarchist Club led a debate on the topic, and a couple of years later released an anonymous pamphlet on the subject: 'Free Love—Explained and Defended' (possibly written by David Andrade or Chummy Fleming). The view of the Anarchist Club was formed in part as a reaction to the infamous Whitechapel murders by the notorious Jack the Ripper; his atrocities were at the time popularly understood by some - at least, by anarchists - to be a violation of the freedom of certain extreme classes of "working women," but by extension of all women.
Newcastle libertarian Alice Winspear, the wife of pioneer socialist William Robert Winspear, wrote: "Let us have freedom — freedom for both man and woman—freedom to earn our bread in whatever vocation is best suited to us, and freedom to love where we like, and to live only with those whom we love, and by whom we are loved in return." A couple of decades later, the Melbourne anarchist feminist poet Lesbia Harford also championed free love.
Anarchist free-love movements continued into early 20th century in bohemian circles in New York's Greenwich Village. A group of Villagers lived free-love ideals and promoted them in the political journal The Masses and its sister publication The Little Review, a literary journal. Incorporating influences from the writings of English homosexual socialist Edward Carpenter and international sexologist Havelock Ellis, women such as Emma Goldman campaigned for a range of sexual freedoms, including homosexuality and access to contraception. Other notable figures among the Greenwich-Village scene who have been associated with free love include Edna St. Vincent Millay, Max Eastman, Crystal Eastman, Floyd Dell, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Ida Rauh, Hutchins Hapgood, Neith Boyce; a certain extreme was reached by self-proclaimed Satanist Anton LaVey. Dorothy Day also wrote passionately in defense of free love, women's rights, and contraception – but later, after converting to Catholicism, she criticized the sexual revolution of the sixties.
The development of the idea of free love in the United States was also significantly impacted by the publisher of Playboy magazine, Hugh Hefner, whose activities and persona over more than a half century popularized the idea of free love to the general public.
The anarchist feminist, social critic, novelist, and Emma Goldman translator Noe Ito (1895–1923) and her lover, fellow anarchist Sakae Osugi (1885–1923), promoted free love in Japan. The entire nation was shocked by their extrajudicial execution by a squad of military police in what became known as the Amakasu Incident, after the name of its perpetrator, who was imprisoned for his crime. Their story is told in the 1969 movie Erosu purasu Gyakusatsu (Eros Plus Massacre).
After the October Revolution in Russia, Alexandra Kollontai became the most prominent woman in the Soviet administration. Kollontai was also a champion of free love. Clara Zetkin recorded that Lenin opposed free love as "completely un-Marxist, and moreover, anti-social". Zetkin also recounted Lenin's denunciation of plans to organise Hamburg’s women prostitutes into a “special revolutionary militant section”: he saw this as “corrupt and degenerate.”
Despite the traditional marital lives of Lenin and most Bolsheviks, they believed that sexual relations were outside the jurisdiction of the state. The Soviet government abolished centuries-old Czarist regulations on personal life, which had prohibited homosexuality and made it difficult for women to obtain divorce permits or to live singly. However, by the end of the 1920s, Stalin had taken over the Communist Party and begun to implement socially conservative policies. Homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder, and free love was further demonized.
In the bohemian districts of Montmartre and Montparnasse, many were determined to shock the "bourgeois" sensibilities of the society they grew up in; many, such as the anarchist Benoît Broutchoux, favored free love. At the same time, the cross-dressing radical activist Madeleine Pelletier practised celibacy, distributed birth-control devices and information, and performed abortions.
An important propagandist of free love was individualist anarchist Emile Armand. He advocated naturism and polyamory in what he termed la camaraderie amoureuse. He wrote many propagandist articles on this subject such as "De la liberté sexuelle" (1907) where he advocated not only a vague free love but also multiple partners, which he called "plural love". In the individualist anarchist journal L'en dehors he and others continued in this way. Armand seized this opportunity to outline his theses supporting revolutionary sexualism and camaraderie amoureuse that differed from the traditional views of the partisans of free love in several respects. Later Armand submitted that from an individualist perspective nothing was reprehensible about making "love", even if one did not have very strong feelings for one's partner. "The camaraderie amoureuse thesis", he explained, "entails a free contract of association (that may be annulled without notice, following prior agreement) reached between anarchist individualists of different genders, adhering to the necessary standards of sexual hygiene, with a view toward protecting the other parties to the contract from certain risks of the amorous experience, such as rejection, rupture, exclusivism, possessiveness, unicity, coquetry, whims, indifference, flirtatiousness, disregard for others, and prostitution." He also published Le Combat contre la jalousie et le sexualisme révolutionnaire (1926), followed over the years by Ce que nous entendons par liberté de l'amour (1928), La Camaraderie amoureuse ou “chiennerie sexuelle” (1930), and, finally, La Révolution sexuelle et la camaraderie amoureuse (1934), a book of nearly 350 pages comprising most of his writings on sexuality. In a text from 1937, he mentioned among the individualist objectives the practice of forming voluntary associations for purely sexual purposes of heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual nature or of a combination thereof. He also supported the right of individuals to change sex and stated his willingness to rehabilitate forbidden pleasures, non-conformist caresses (he was personally inclined toward voyeurism), as well as sodomy. This led him to allocate more and more space to what he called "the sexual non-conformists", while excluding physical violence. His militancy also included translating texts from people such as Alexandra Kollontai and Wilhelm Reich and establishments of free love associations which tried to put into practice la camaraderie amoureuse through actual sexual experiences.
Free love advocacy groups active during this time included the Association d'Études sexologiques and the Ligue mondiale pour la Réforme sexuelle sur une base scientifique.
In Germany, from 1891 to 1919, the Verband Fortschrittlicher Frauenvereine (League of Progressive Women's Associations) called for a boycott of marriage and for the enjoyment of sexuality. Founded by Lily Braun and Minna Cauer, the league also aimed to organise prostitutes into labor unions, taught contraception, and supported the right to abortion and the abolition of criminal penalties against homosexuality, as well as running child-care programs for single mothers. In 1897, teacher and writer Emma Trosse published a brochure titled Ist freie Liebe Sittenlosigkeit? ("Is free love immoral?"). The worldwide homosexual emancipation movement also began in Germany in the late 19th century, and many of the thinkers whose work inspired sexual liberation in the 20th century were also from the German-speaking world, such as Sigmund Freud, Otto Gross, Herbert Marcuse, Wilhelm Reich, and Max Stirner's follower and biographer, John Henry MacKay.
1940s - 1960s
From the late 1940s to the 1960s, the bohemian free-love tradition of Greenwich Village was carried on by the beat generation, although differing with their predecessors by being an apparently male-dominated movement. The Beats also produced the first appearance of male homosexual champions of free love in the U.S., with writers such as Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. Like some of those before, the beats challenged a range of social conventions, and they found inspiration in such aspects of black culture as jazz music. The Beat movement led on the West Coast to the activities of such groups as the Merry Pranksters (led, according to Grateful Dead historian Dennis McNally, not by novelist Ken Kesey, but by hipster and driver Neal Cassady) and the entire San Francisco pop music scene, in which the implications of sexual bohemianism were advanced in a variety of ways by the hippies. With the Summer of Love in 1967, the eccentricities of this group became a nationally recognized movement. The study of sexology continued to gain prominence throughout the era, with the works of researchers like Alfred Kinsey lending a new legitimacy to challenges to traditional values regarding sex and marriage.
The sexual revolution and beyond
Free love became a prominent phrase used by and about the new social movements and counterculture of the 1960s and early 1970s, typified by the Summer of Love in 1967 and the slogan "Make love, not war". Unrestrained sexuality became a new norm in some of these youth movements, leading certain feminists to critique the late 1960s/early 1970s "free love" as a way for men to pressure women into sex; women who said "no" could be characterized as prudish and uptight.
The hippie movement embraced the old slogan of free love of radical social reformers of other eras and so "Free love made the whole love, marriage, sex, baby package obsolete. Love was no longer limited to one person, you could love anyone you chose. In fact love was something you shared with everyone, not just your sex partners. Love exists to be shared freely. We also discovered the more you share, the more you get! So why reserve your love for a select few? This profound truth was one of the great hippie revelations." Experimentation of sex alongside psychedelics also occurred due to the perception of them being un-inhibitors while others explored the spiritual aspects of sex.
In the 1980s, concerns over AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases tempered the promiscuity of the 1970s, but many of the sexual reforms advocated by earlier free-love movements had become mainstream: legalisation of abortion, birth control, and homosexuality; freedom in choosing love, sex, or both; and women's rights in general. Chastity, virginity, and subservience in marriage had much less power as social ideals for women.
Modern descendants of free love could be seen to include the contemporary sex-positive, polyamory, and queer movements and figures such as Susie Bright, Patrick Califia, and Annie Sprinkle. Though they don't often identify as free lovers, modern movements around the world against arranged marriage and forced marriage in South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe share many of the same goals as the free-love movement.
In popular culture
- H. C. M. Watson, Erchomenon; or the Republic of Materialism (1879): A free love utopia.
- Robert A. Heinlein explored the concept of free love throughout his writing career, starting with his first novel For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs in 1939. In Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), Valentine Michael Smith founds his own church preaching free love. Lazarus Long's family, in multiple books including Time Enough for Love, believe in free love.
- Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series, some of the cultures and individuals of Darkover reject marriage. A freely chosen partner is known as a freemate.
- "Free Love", a 1930 film starring Conrad Nagel, directed by Hobart Henley, written by Winifred Dunn, Sidney Howard and Edwin Knopf
- The Harrad Experiment, a 1973 film directed by Ted Post, based on a novel by Robert H. Rimmer, starring James Whitmore and Tippi Hedren
- "Amor libre", a 1978 film directed by Jaime Humberto Hermosillo and written by Francisco Sánchez[disambiguation needed]
- "Freelove Freeway", written and sung by Ricky Gervais, who starred as David Brent in the British television comedy series The Office
- "Freelove", written by Martin Gore; from Depeche Mode's 2001 album Exciter
- "Unsheathed" from Live's 1997 album Secret Samadhi contains the chorus "Free love is a world I can't linger too long in/Free love was just another party for the hippies to ruin", although any specific objections are very unclear.
- "The Concept Of Love" by Hideki Naganuma (as featured in both the Jet Set Radio Future and Ollie King original soundtracks) contains a strong theme of free love, including a number of recurring sampled audio clips concerning the topic.
- "The Blind House" by Porcupine Tree on the 2009 album The Incident, contains, in the chorus, "Free love, free love, feel love in all my sisters" and has a strong theme of free love.
- "Free Love" by American rock band Cage the Elephant on their 2009 self-titled album, depicts a girl who personifies free love.
- Elfquest, by Wendy and Richard Pini, follows the adventures of a tribe of elves who, among other things, consider free love completely natural. The tribe in question freely lets its members decide their number of sexual partners, even allowing them to choose none or establish a monogamous relationship if that is what the elf/elves in question desire.
- McElroy, Wendy. "The Free Love Movement and Radical Individualism." Libertarian Enterprise .19 (1996): 1.
- Dan Jakopovich, Chains of Marriage, Peace News
- Spurlock, John C. Free Love Marriage and Middle-Class Radicalism in America. New York, NY: New York UP, 1988.
- Passet, Joanne E. Sex Radicals and the Quest for Women's Equality. Chicago,IL: U of Illinois P, 2003.
- e. Spurlock, John. "A Masculine View of Women's Freedom: Free Love in the Nineteenth Century." International Social Science Review 69.3/4 (1994): 34-45. Print.
- Spurlock, John. "A Masculine View of Women's Freedom: Free Love in the Nineteenth Century." International Social Science Review 69.3/4 (1994): 34-45. Print.
- Kreis, Steven. "Mary Wollstonecraft, 1759-1797". The History Guide. 11/23/09 <http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/wollstonecraft.html>.
- Gove Nichols, Mary S. (1855). Mary Lyndon, or Revelations of a Life. An Autobiography. New York: Stringer & Townsend. p. 166. Retrieved 14 January 2009. Full text at Internet Archive (archive.org).
- Nichols, Mary Gove, 1855. Mary Lyndon: Revelations of a Life. New York: Stringer and Townsend; p. 166. Quoted in Feminism and Free Love
- Silver-Isenstadt, Jean L (2002). Shameless: The Visionary Life of Mary Gove Nichols. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-6848-3. Retrieved 14 December 2009.
- Passet, Joanne E. Sex Radicals and the Quest for Women's Equality. Chicago,IL: U of Illinois P, 2003.
- Bareilles, Sara. "Sara Bareilles". Sara Bareilles . 11/20/09 <http://www.sarabmusic.com/site.html?section=music>.
- Frey, Jennifer Gender Equity: A Woman Needs a Man like a Fish Needs a Bicycle. Signs of the Times, 7 09. 2000. Web. 21 Nov. 2009 <http://george.loper.org/trends/2000/Sep/91.html>.
- See Essenes#Contemporary ancient sources
- Although they appear to have been involved in a revolt against the Roman occupiers
- Crone, Patricia, Kavad’s Heresy and Mazdak’s Revolt, in: Iran 29 (1991), S. 21-40
- Irwin, Robert, Political Thought in The Thousand and One Nights, in: Marvels & Tales - Volume 18, Number 2, 2004, pp. 246-257. Wayne State University Press
- Kautsky, Karl (1895), Die Vorläufer des neuen Sozialismus, vol. I: Kommunistische Bewegungen in Mittelalter, Stuttgart: J.W. Dietz.
- Plan for a Free Community upon the Coast of Africa under the Protection of Great Britain; but Intirely Independent of All European Laws and Governments. London: R. Hindmarsh, 1789.
- Robert Hughes, "The Fatal Shore, The Epic History of Australia's Founding," page 258. (New York, 1986, ISBN 0-394-75366-6.
- William Blake before him had made the same connection: "In Eternity they neither marry nor are given in marriage." (Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion, 30.15; E176)
- The Free Love Movement and Radical Individualism By Wendy McElroy
- Joanne E. Passet, "Power through Print: Lois Waisbrooker and Grassroots Feminism," in: Women in Print: Essays on the Print Culture of American Women from the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, James Philip Danky and Wayne A. Wiegand, eds., Madison, WI, University of Wisconsin Press, 2006; pp. 229-50.
- "And the Truth Shall Make You Free" (November 20, 1871)
- Gove, Mary S. (1842). Lectures to Ladies on Anatomy and Physiology. Boston: Saxton & Peirce. Retrieved 13 January 2009. Full text at Internet Archive (archive.org).
- Gove Nichols, Mary S. (1846). "Lectures to Women on Anatomy and Physiology". with an Appendix on Water Cure. New York: Harper & Brothers. Retrieved 13 January 2009. Full text at Internet Archive (archive.org).
- Gove Nichols, Mary S. (1855). "Experience in the Water Cure: A familiar exposition of the Principles and Results of Water Treatment, in the Cure of Acute and Chronic Diseases". in Fowlers and Wells' Water-Cure Library: Embracing all the most popular works on the subject. Vol. 2 of 7. New York: Fowlers and Wells. Retrieved 2009-10-29. Full text at Internet Archive (archive.org).
- Kirkley, Evelyn A. 2000. Rational Mothers and Infidel Gentlemen: Gender and American Atheism, 1865–1915. (Women and Gender in North American Religions.) Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press. 2000. Pp. xviii, 198
- Ward, Dana Anarchy Archives. Anarchy Archives, 25 September 2001. Web. 21 November 2009 <http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/anarchist_Archives/coldoffthepresses/luciferv2.html>.
- Zetkin, Clara, 1934, Lenin on the Woman Question, New York: International , p.7. Published in Reminiscences of Lenin.
A more extensive quote from Lenin follows: "It seems to me that this superabundance of sex theories [...] springs from the desire to justify one’s own abnormal or excessive sex life before bourgeois morality and to plead for tolerance towards oneself. This veiled respect for bourgeois morality is as repugnant to me as rooting about in all that bears on sex. No matter how rebellious and revolutionary it may be made to appear, it is in the final analysis thoroughly bourgeois. It is, mainly, a hobby of the intellectuals and of the sections nearest to them. There is no place for it in the party, in the class-conscious, fighting proletariat.”
- "Emile Armand and la camaraderie amourouse – Revolutionary sexualism and the struggle against jealousy." by Francis Rousin Retrieved 2010-06-10
- Stone 1994, "Sex, Love and Hippies".
- "But the biggest release of inhibitions came about through the use of drugs, particularly marijuana and the psychedelics. Marijuana is one of the best aphrodisiacs known to man. It enhances the senses, unlike alcohol, which dulls them. As any hippie can tell you, sex is a great high, but sex on pot is fuckin' far out!...More importantly, the use of psychedelic drugs, especially LSD was directly responsible for liberating hippies from their sexual hang-ups. The LSD trip is an intimate soul wrenching experience that shatters the ego's defenses, leaving the tripper in a very poignant and sensitive state. At this point, a sexual encounter is quite possible if conditions are right. After an LSD trip, one is much more likely to explore one's own sexual nature without inhibitions. Stone 1994, "Sex, Love and Hippies"
- "Many hippies on the spiritual path found enlightenment through sex. The Kama Sutra, the Tantric sexual manual from ancient India is a way to cosmic union through sex. Some gurus like Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho) formed cults that focused on liberation through the release of sexual inhibitions"Stone 1994, "Sex, Love and Hippies"
- Further reading
- "The recurring movements of free love" by Saskia Poldervaart
- Victoria Woodhull, Free Lover: Sex, Marriage And Eugenics in the Early Speeches of Victoria Woodhull (Seattle: Inkling, 2005) ISBN 1-58742-050-3
- Stoehr, Taylor, ed. Free Love in America: A Documentary History (New York: AMS Press, 1977).
- Sears, Hal, The Sex Radicals: Free Love in High Victorian America (Lawrence, KS: The Regents Press of Kansas, 1977
- Spurlock, John Free Love: Marriage and Middle Class Radicalism, 1825-1860 (New York: New York University Press, 1987
- Joanne E. Passet, Sex Radicals and the Quest for Women’s Equality. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2003. ISBN 0-252-02804-X.
- Martin Blatt, Free Love and Anarchism: The Biography of Ezra Heywood (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989)
- "Emile Armand and la camaraderie amourouse".Revolutionary sexualism and the struggle against jealousy." by Francis Rousin
- Barbara Goldsmith, Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull, 1999, ISBN 0-06-095332-2
- Goldman, Emma, Marriage and Love (New York, Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1911)
- Françoise Basch, Rebelles américaines au XIXe siècle : marriage, amour libre et politique (Paris : Méridiens Klincksieck, 1990).
- Curt von Westernhagen, Wagner (Cambridge, 1978), ISBN 0 521 28254.
- Dennis McNally, A Long Strange Trip, the Inside History of the Grateful Dead (New York, 2002), ISBN 0-7679-1186-5
- Hugh M. Hefner, The Playboy Philosophy, Playboy Magazine, December 1962 through May 1965 issues.
- Open History, A Japanese History Website (This reference needs confirmation).