Why were the early 90s so terrible?

The early 1990s were a low point in the sexual zeitgeist.  A few years back Judith Warner wrote about Thelma and Louise and how things have changed since then.

I’ve sometimes wondered why the early 90s were so awful, sexually speaking.

Part of it, I imagine, has to do with demographics.  In the early 90s, the baby boomers were no longer young, and the “echo” generation (those now in their twenties) were toddlers, so there was a smaller percentage of people at the age of sexual exploration.  This may account for the anti-sexual vibe.  People are less likely to be pro-sex when they aren’t exploring their own sexuality.

And there was AIDS, for which there was no effective treatment.  Very few middle class heterosexuals got AIDS, of course, but the possibility, however remote, cast a pall on sexual relations.  And rape, in theory, could kill.

And there was crime, which didn’t really decrease until the mid 1990s.  I know someone who lived in New York in the 1980s, and recently went back to visit.  He said that people in the street looked a lot more relaxed and less on edge.  The fact that sexual assault was such an issue in the early 1990s was in part a reflection of the larger crime problem.  And there is some evidence that there was in fact more rape twenty years ago.  (I hope this is true, and I hope that, if there has been a decrease in rape, it reflects not only a decrease in the overall crime rate, but also a decrease in the social acceptability of sexual coercion.)

And there was Andrea Dworkin.  I’m not an expert on her life or her philosophy.  I’m sure she did some good things and probably had a few good ideas.  But she also had a problem with men and male sexuality, and that’s putting it in the most charitable way I can.  And an awful lot of prominent feminists back then supported Andrea Dworkin.

And there was homophobia, which lent credence to the notion that male sexuality was inherently predatory.  In a welcome contrast to the early 1990s, the lessening of homophobia in recent years has given straight men an opportunity to “prove themselves,” so to speak.  As gays have become more empowered, this has not been met with a large amount of homophobic bile from straight men.  This speaks well of men’s attitudes toward women, I believe, because if men actually believed their own sexuality vis-à-vis women was predatory, you would expect straight men to react to gay men with an insanely virulent degree of homophobia, as they would project predatory desires onto gay men.  This hasn’t happened.  (Or, more precisely, when it has happened it’s been the exception rather than the rule.)

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3 Responses to Why were the early 90s so terrible?

  1. CaliOak says:

    The children of the babyboomers, the grandkids of WWII vets, were largely born in the 80s. Many of us have children of our own, and the oldest ones are almost 30. What a difference a generation makes, I remember the anti-sex vibe even though I wasn’t a teenager yet.

    “if men actually believed their own sexuality vis-à-vis women was predatory, you would expect straight men to react to gay men with an insanely virulent degree of homophobia”
    This sounds like the early 90s or at least the 80s.

    I wonder what teenagers think of my generation….

  2. voxnewman says:

    I’m 34 and I don’t remember this anti-sex vibe at all. I’m not even sure what you’re talking about. And here I thought the 90’s was one of the best decades ever…

  3. Fuck yeah!

    The early ninties was the shit!

    AIC, Soundgarden, Living Colour, Faith No More…..

    Metallica released the Black album, not so great but they put on amazing shows, MegaDeth released Rust In Piece, Slayer released Seasons In the Abyss…..

    Oh and Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power….

    Yup every walk to the record store yeilded an impressive find.

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