The Making of a Market  5
the very moment when many women had retreated to the home in pursuit of
domestic bliss?13
While even Friedan—who would go on to help found the National Organi-
zation for Women in 1966—could not point the way forward to the types of
discussions women wanted to have about their sex lives, by the time her book
was published, a sea change in sexual attitudes had already begun. In 1960,
the Food and Drug Administration approved the birth control pill. By 1964,
it was the most popular form of contraception in the country, becoming “an
important tool in women’s efforts to achieve control over their lives.”14 The
pill, so tiny and yet so groundbreaking, was not only a symbol of women’s
growing sexual autonomy but also a powerful indicator of the increasing
commercialization of sexual freedom. Author David Allyn has argued that
the sexual revolution would never have “gotten off the ground without the
free market.”15 Pharmaceutical companies invested in the pill because they
saw dollar signs; the Supreme Court handed down decisions in the 1950s and
1960s that redefined obscenity in large part, according to Allyn, because the
“market demand for sexual materials was so high.”16 By the end of the 1960s,
there was ample evidence to suggest that American society, aided by the values
of consumer culture and shifts in sexual attitudes, had become more visibly ­
sexualized.17
Women’s forays into the sexual marketplace in the early 1970s, as both
entrepreneurs and consumers, took place against this backdrop. Their in-
creasing economic independence from men facilitated a growing sexual in-
dependence, producing what authors Barbara Ehrenreich, Elizabeth Hess,
and Gloria Jacobs have described as a “new consumer class for the sex indus-
try.”18 A new kind of female sexuality was being produced through market-
place culture: “In this consumer arena female sexuality functioned differently
than it had previously in mainstream society: it was unattached to reproduc-
tion, motherhood, monogamy—even heterosexuality.”19 But more than this,
they argued, the sexual marketplace had a democratizing effect, helping to
spread the sexual revolution to women who “would never have attended a
feminist conference on sexuality or perhaps even have read one of the new sex ­
manuals.”20
Meanwhile, second-­wave feminists, aided by the growing visibility of the
gay and lesbian liberation movement, were dramatically reshaping cultural
understandings of gender and sexuality. They challenged the patriarchal status
quo that had taught women to see sex as an obligation rather than something
they were entitled to pursue for the sake of their own pleasure. They wrote
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