Swingers in the Sixties

By Michelle Collums

In the later 1960s “Make Love Not War,” was at the center of anti-war slogans used by Vietnam War protesters. The public’s disapproval of America’s war efforts caused a multitude of protests and culture shifts. Among these shifts was the “free love” movement adopted by the youth culture that pbs.org describes as, “the ultimate rejection of capitalist culture,” on their American Experience documentary page.

What’s a swinger?

I asked Kelly Collums what exactly a swinger is, she replied that, “They were people who had open relationships… some swingers would even be bisexual in their swing. But it’s basically a person who’s very free with their sexuality which is a part of the free love mentality… they believed it was natural to have these sexual desires, and it was an expression of your primal self.”

“They” were a part of the younger generation in the late ‘60s, tending to coincide with the hippie culture. In The New York Times they were talked about as if they were just another subculture of America. “Swingers Act Like Squares,” was just one of the nonchalant headlines where it seemed that they were a fact of life.

“Even when I was growing up, having casual sex was not as big of a deal, because there were no indications of any diseases that could threaten your life like there are today,” Collums said.

The Swinger Reputation

“Free Love” was the freedom for men and women alike to be able to act upon the sexual desires that humans had repressed for generations.

In The New York Times Aug. 2 1967 one of the headlines read, “For Swingers and Their Grandmothers, Body Paint Is In,” The way the writers address the hippies and swingers seems to be almost nonchalant, as if they are truly trying to keep an objective viewpoint.

“Body painting is a free service for patrons of the Electric Circus, a psychedelic discotheque at 23 St. Mark’s Place in East Village… When Miss Phillips is painted however, she usually has the designs put on the top of her feet so they’re visible through her leather sandals. ‘What chic, terrific, ankle ornaments!’” wrote Judy Klemesrud.

Here, Judy Smith participates in “The Summer of Love” where thousands gathered at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on June 21, 1967.

Here, Judy Smith participates in “The Summer of Love” where thousands gathered at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on June 21, 1967.

(AP Photo by Robert W. Klein)


Writing Isn’t So Different After All

The difference between writing styles now and 50 years ago is not that different, aside from the trendy words like “psychedelic,” the newspaper seemed a little jumbled in general and didn’t flow well. Ads took up the majority of the pages while the tiny font squeezed into the extra spaces left behind in The New York Times.

Some suggestions for other publications would be for them to interview some people who participated in the free love movement and how they feel about their decisions now. Did they contract any lifelong diseases? Were there any long-term effects from having a lot of casual sex, especially for women? How were their lives changed from the Free Love movement?

Possible headlines could read, “Free Love: Was it Worth the Cost?”, or “Sixties Swingers Speak Out”.



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