This article contains sexually explicit content intended for and adult audience.
It's officially the twenties. It's been a hundred years since the 1920s, often referred to as the Roaring Twenties: a period of liberation, gratification, and female empowerment.
The 1920s was a big time of social upheaval in the world. This era, exemplified (in America and Europe at least) by a hedonistic upper-class lifestyle and depicted in The Great Gatsby, gave way to a sexual revolution. It wasn't quite on the scale of the 1960s women's or gay liberation movements, and it was soon hampered by an economic depression and later, World War II. Still, there was much the world gained from this wonderful period of sexual exploration. Here are the top five wins the world received during the 1920s that we're still grateful for in the 2020s.
1. Flapper girls allowed women to enjoy sex
You've seen the outfits: the Bejewelled cocktail dresses with sexy panties underneath. The striking headpieces and fascinators. The sensually-placed décolletage jewellery. The sassy new attitudes, the enjoyment of smoking and alcohol, the willingness to show their bodies in a sexual light for the first time in the 20th Century. After going through a period of loss (owing to WWI), many women felt a newfound sense of freedom and saw an opportunity to reinvent themselves.
Flapper girls went out unaccompanied, loosened old traditions on pre-marital sex and even partook in group sex. They threw away their restrictive corsets and wore smaller, sexier, more comfortable underwear. As they began to drop the Victorian shame around female sexuality, they started to actually enjoy themselves and explore their bodies and desires.
2. Sex parties were popularised
This liberalised attitude to sex and alcohol led to sex parties, which were then known as "petting parties". All of such sex parties in the 1920s had the same goal: physical pleasure for all in attendance. They weren't generally full-blown orgies, per se, but rather, opportunities for single people to engage in intense physical contact (romantic kissing, touching, fingering, oral sex etc.) as a way to explore sexuality without the technical loss of virginity.
Of course, a conservative moral backlash was directed at the women who attended such sex parties, but not the men. Even in this seminal period of female empowerment, sexism still reared its head.
3. The first real LGBT capital was born
During the 1920s, over 100 gay nightclubs and other venues opened up in Berlin. It became the world's first fully-fledged "scene" where the heteronormative rules (and laws) were cast aside as sexual and gender minorities flocked to the areas of Schöneberg and Kreuzberg. Between the world wars, LGBT culture flourished in Berlin while it remained underground in most other major cities in the world. Homoerotic fraternisation in public became more popular as men could be seen touching or even kissing in and around these venues.
Bars, cafes, and gay-friendly accommodation paved the way for what became known as transvestite balls (something we'd now call a drag ball). Anti-sodomy laws weren't policed as much and a sex trade industry thrived, allowing gay male and transgender prostitutes to successfully make a living with less fear. Unfortunately, this entire open and inclusive LGBT scene was eradicated by the oppressive Nazis in the 1930s.
4. Women started douching
Birth control wasn't really around a hundred years ago (it was generally limited to cervical caps and was seen as a medical, not a moral or lifestyle, intervention). However during the 1920s women did begin to take more pride in their sexual hygiene. Douching - the washing out of the vagina for the purpose of cleansing and removing odour - was promoted by disinfectant brand Lysol. While its marketing tactics were undeniably misogynistic (Lysol ostensibly told women that their husbands would appreciate their douching), it brought attention to feminine hygiene overall and allowed women more comfort with their bodies and thus, their sexuality.
5. Vibrators became more attractive to use
Electric vibrators had been around since the 19th Century (check out the 2011 Maggie Gyllenhaal film Hysteria for a full history), but in the 1920s vibrators became more portable and accessible. Rather than Mortimer Granville's famous electric vibrator (which looked more like a large electricity box with multiple auxiliary attachments than a sex toy) or large hand-crank devices made of metal, vibrators got smaller. They started to be made from lightweight materials like aluminium and, eventually, plastic.
They also become colourful and appealing to the eye, rather than appearing as hard-core, sinister-looking medical devices. These vibrators could be easily and more discreetly used, and essentially became a model for the vibrators and dildos we still enjoy today.