One of the greatest triumphs for a historian is to convincingly argue that a conventionally accepted account of a time period or event is incorrect or at the very least, simplistic. To realize that a common conception of the past is flawed or shallow is jolting and transformational. It revises how we analyze current problems and what we identify as their root causes.
Over the course of the last several years, I came to understand that my view of the 1960s and 1970s was formed by an overbroad paradigm: that during that short period of time, society and culture as a whole progressed. While I think certain events during the time period represented progress--women gaining admittance to college and pre-professional programs at greater rates, the end of state-enforced segregation--I realize that, as in so many eras, these are specific achievements that do not necessarily endorse other accomplishments of the time even if they lie within the same realm of "women's issues," achievements like the so-called sexual revolution. Nonetheless, people often conflate every achievement in the realm of women's issues into one great big movement towards Progress and Enlightenment. Others wholly vilify the entire era as the end of institutions' moral authority. I think that this recent era, like so many others, brought changes that should be examined free of these two opposing dialectics that so often hijack our conversation about them.
Take the women's movement and its legacies today. There is good and bad. The bad, in my opinion, is embodied by the "hook-up culture." I recently got into a pretty intense argument with some co-workers about whether such a culture exists and whether it is problematic. I think there have been some recent developments, the confluence of which make a hook-up culture more practicable than it would have been in the past. Here are a few: (relatively) easy and legal availability of birth control, a view that dating and going steady are the chaste activities of a bygone era, the equating of men's needs and women's needs, the trend of disassociating sex from emotion (and the idea that emotions are burdensome), to name a few. I'm not saying I find all of these developments problematic, but I think they are valid explanations for today's hook-up culture, a term which, when searched in google, yields a plethora of interesting articles and conversation; world like "perils" and "misery" immediately catch one's attention.
Of course, the bad always comes with the good, which means the sexual revolution should not be treated as a bogeyman, but it should not be treated as a natural outgrowth of feminism either. On the contrary, it can be vigorously debated without jeopardizing the achievements of women in other areas.