The sexual revolution is most often associated with the free-loving era of the 1960s, but according to historical findings the sexual revolution actually began as early as the 1940s and 50s. U.S. Census Bureau statistics provide evidence showing that the frequency of premarital pregnancies and single motherhood was on a rapid incline between the 1940s and 1960s; increasing from 7.1 to 21.6 newborns to every 1,000 unwed women during that time. This generation of people was deemed the ‘silent generation’, because sexual activity was on a rapid incline, but no one was talking about it. No one was talking about much of anything substantial taking place in society, actually. Americans were falling into a moral gray area with regards to many of the predominant issues of the era.
University of Florida historian, Alan Petigny, put it best:
“After 15 years of Depression and war, there was also a desire on the part of Americans to live in the moment and enjoy life, and they were accordingly less likely to defer to traditional restraints on their behavior.”
The idea of silence and secrecy that had begun with the construction of the a-bomb during the Manhattan Project developed further into a State of National Security, which in turn, had an effect on American Culture to the extent that individuals were displaying the magnitude of moral changes in their personal lives. With regards to the Manhattan Project and the State of National Security, in its entirety, the level of silence and secrecy can be explained by the moral ambiguity of the a-bomb project. This same logic can be applied to the rapid increase in unwed and single mothers, during the same time frame. American citizens were falling victim to the corruption of the country as a whole, resulting in a mass moral digression. American ideals appeared to be ones of hope, optimism, and unity in the face of atomic warfare during the 1940s and 50s, but realistically the public was becoming consumed by ideas of fatalism, silence, secrecy, ambiguity, and moral downfall. The sexual revolution had begun in the 1940s and 50s during the, properly termed, ‘silent generation’, but it is more often attributed to the 1960s because this is the time when the pressure of decades of silence finally erupted into a steadfast, vocal, and active revolutionary movement.