Yes my children.
Though some of you might not believe it we had sex in the ‘50s.
Yes we did. Even the Cleaver though on black and white TV no one ever had sex. Or went to a toilet.
Now sex in the ‘50s had rules.
First there were church rules. No sex before marriage. Especially us Catholics.
No sex with your girlfriend. Certainly no sex with another boy. And no sex alone. No “spilling the seed”. In Catechism class all us boys learned about Onan. Besides, it could make you go blind. I wore glasses from when I was six. Girls didn’t have to learn about Onan. They had other sins to worry about.
Getting ready for Confession meant counting up the number of sins – especially the really bad ones. The priest always seemed to ask how many times.
Chaperones at the school and church dances (Confraternity!) made sure you didn’t dance too close. When ever we started “doing the fish” and rubbing crotches together the guilty young man would get a tap on his shoulder from one of the minders and be expected to hold his girl at a respectable distance.
Now the other conditions which had a great effect on the rules of sex were (a) there was no “pill” and (b) getting hold of any contraception wasn’t easy for a teen. In Connecticut before Griswold, condoms were not sold anywhere and were not available, even to married couples – let alone horny teenage boys.
So if you were having hot sex with your high school sweetheart with no “protection” there was a really good chance of “knocking her up” – as the old sayings go – where upon you could expect a visit from her father, brothers and uncles demanding you “do the honorable thing” – marry her.
Obviously since there was no possibility of abortion, even when the mother took Thalidomide, a baby was going to be born.
If you married your sweetheart you dropped out of school and took a job on the docks. She immediately dropped out of school – no pregnant girls allowed. No married girls allowed. High school was over.
If you didn’t marry her the local grandmas immediately painted a red “W” for “Whoo-wa” on her forehead. She went off to some “home” to have the baby and give it up for adoption. If you were Italian she was sent back to Italy to stay with her Aunt Filomena and give the baby up for adoption in the old country. This had the advantage of being able to go back to high school and tell everyone she spent a year studying abroad. If she stayed home and you married her the grandmas immediately started counting off the months to determine whether or not she deserved a “W”.
Or she was the victim of a back alley abortion with a wire coat hanger.
So while engaging in sex in the ‘50s one had to be very very careful. This lead to lots of sex without actual intercourse sex. Sort of Clintonesque sex. Lots of seed spilling anywhere but where it could cause trouble.
When you and your lady were ready to move out of the drive-in and the back seat of your ‘49 Chevy tonguing and dry humping stage and on to real sex, condoms were necessary. Your girl wasn’t buying that coitus interruptus crap you were giving her. If you wanted to get laid you needed to man up and get condoms.
And the church and the state didn’t make it easy. Making it easy would encourage illicit sex. Can’t have that now can we?
It was the man’s job to get condoms. If you lived in Connecticut it meant a trip to New York. If you lived in New York it still wasn’t made easy.
There were no giant super markets or drug store chains 60 years ago. There was a grocery store run by a grocer. He didn’t sell condoms. And there was a drug store, run by a “druggist”. He sold condoms. But he knew your mom.
The dreaded drug store where you had to ask for Trojans!
Which meant buying condoms at a drug store outside of your neighborhood – somewhere you wouldn’t run into anyone who knew you while you were doing the deed.
You scouted the landscape. All clear. You enter trying to look as “adult” and casual as possible.
Condoms are ALWAYS behind the counter and out of sight. You ALWAYS have to ask for them. You make sure there are no women nearby and no woman behind the counter. You approach and as quietly as possible you ask for “a box of Trojans”. Damn if the counter-man doesn’t always ask you to speak up! You might as well go for it now. “TROJANS PLEASE!”. When he asked “what size” you needed to answer whether you wanted a box of three or a box of a dozen. Holding your hands apart made you look like a rookie.
If you’re lucky and the druggist doesn’t roust you for being underage you get your rubbers and skip out dreaming about getting laid on the way home. You hide them so your parents won’t find them. Your girl is so proud of you. Kisses for you.
Checking into a respectable motel with your girl isn’t easy either. You just didn’t walk up to the desk and check in, You two weren’t married. And identification was necessary.
You scouted the motel, made sure she could enter the room without being seen, and the MAN registered. After you got the key you snuck her in. Then you had to get her home before curfew. Since there were no credit cards in the “olden days” you paid cash up front and simply left the key in the room.
The world changed with Griswold, Roe v. Wade and the coming of the pill. Women were put in control of their bodies, a right now under severe attack.
The vast majority of Catholic women, even those sitting in the pews each Sunday, gave up Vatican Roulette, ignored their priests and took up the pill. My grandparents had thirteen children. Most married Catholic women living in a state where condoms were not available were having a kid a year if they didn’t practice some sort of birth control.
Even Vatican Roulette failed quite often – a woman had no right to refuse her husband. The law didn’t recognize that a husband could rape his wife. “No” was not an option.
Millions of couples, including a good friend’s parents separated and lived apart for decades because the church would not permit divorce. Other “stars” in the public eye engaged in “serial marriage” – some with seven or eight spouses, never wanting to appear as “living in sin”.
So when you hear church prelates and “values” pols droning on about birth control, abortion, pre-marital sex etc. just pull out this opus and read it again.
This is what they would send you back to……….(dangling participle!)
An excerpt from “Toritto’s Blog – a Memoir of a Life in Posts”
Also available in Kindle
This is a fantastisc description of ‘good old days’ and of what most clericals and right wings want to sell as humane.
Every young man and woman should HAVE TO read this.
instead of glorifying 50s/60s stories.
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Console yourself with the knowledge that your grandparents only did it 13 times. And there was always confession. From a Jesuit educated teenager of the 50s.
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When I was a teenager in London, condoms were mainly available at the Barber’s shop. The brand leader was ‘Durex’, and we actually called condoms ‘Johnnys’, or ‘Durex’, never condoms. They came in small packets of three, giving them the other common name ‘A packet of three.’
When you went to the barber, (we all went a lot in those days) he would finish your haircut, and always ask, “Anything for the weekend sir?” Everyone knew what he meant, but my biggest fear was saying “No thanks,” as this implied that I wasn’t getting any!
I didn’t have the Catholic problem to add to my woes, but otherwise, it was much the same. Except for the hotels of course. I couldn’t have afforded one.
Best wishes, Pete.
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Just a clarification on the availability of abortion in the 50s and 60s: lots of women I knew obtained illegal abortions, though you were often risking your life. It wasn’t just draftees who sought asylum in Canada during the 1960s. It was also fairly common for illegal abortion providers to cross the border before the law caught up with them.
After 1967, families with money could send their girls to the UK for abortions.