“The Revolution Will Be Feminist or It Will Be Nothing”: Consciousness Raising and Sexual Liberation in the Sixties and Seventies

    • Cover Venice
    • Presentation speakers
      • Virginia Niri, University of Genoa, Italy


    “Making love and making the revolution could not be clearly separated,” writes Eric Hobsbawm [1994] about the protest in the 1960s. In a growing “eroticization of social life” [Jeffrey Weeks, 1981] women discover they are once again the object and not the subject of revolution. “Girls say yes to boys who say no”, the slogan of the campaign for US failure to report for duty, is the new paradigm of a sexuality that suddenly wants to be free and emancipated, in contrast to the myth of virginity prevailing until then, but always at the service of male desire. The feminist movement plays a fundamental role in “feminizing” the sexual revolution, suddenly bringing pleasure to the center of the scene: the criticism of the concept of (re)productive sex, the rejection or reduction of the role of coitus, the discovery of auto-eroticism, of love between women, of alternative sexuality are all conquests that move the axis from a sexual “revolution” to a “liberation”. The main instrument of this liberation is consciousness raising, a practice of active and proactive resistance in contrast with the Marxist-workerist dialectic: a meeting between women, a reconquest of physical and intellectual spaces that opens the possibility of a political comparison – even intimate. The focus of many small groups of consciousness raising on sexuality, with sometimes even physical investigation of female pleasure, leads women to a form of proactive resistance to the sexual revolution: not the refusal nor the passive acceptance of male desires, but a liberation of feelings, a claim of the sexual gender specificity.