‘Empowerment’ is defined as the process of becoming stronger or more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and rights, and a healthy attitude to sex is, arguably, a fundamental human right. 

Nowadays, we are experiencing a boom in sexual empowerment. Body positivity, self-love, and radical sexual acceptance are all leading the way when it comes to modern sexual empowerment…but how has this been addressed by those over history?

In this article we’re going to share some of the many wild and wonderful ways that people practiced sexual empowerment over human history. 

Communal Confidence
Research has shown that Native Americans (who could live in homes of up to 20 in long family houses) would feel fully empowered in their sexual wants and needs. According to anthropologists, they practiced open sex, in which they did not mind who was around, with absolute privacy not being a prerequisite of sexual enjoyment. 

Royal Empowerment 
There’s a myth that exists that Britain’s Queen Victoria hated sex. “Lie back and think of England” is a phrase commonly attributed to her. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

In reality Queen Victoria is a perfect instance of sexual empowerment through the ages. 

In an age of virtually no contraception, good old Queen Vic had nine children, which should make it pretty clear how much she embraced her sexual needs.

This sex loving monarch kept her own sexual writings too – expressing her love of the act in her diary and to friends, family, and even government officials in letters! 

Lie back and think of England?

More like, “Lie back and enjoy the ride”.

The Greatest Sex Symbol…
…Of all time. 

This was the term used for Marilyn Monroe, who is a modern icon when it comes to sexual empowerment. 

Norma Jean Baker is very well known for her acting roles and her sexual escapades who, as the story goes, was discovered during the second World War by an army photographer. 

While many people are aware of the iconic Monroe, what’s less known is that Marilyn did not always look nor act like the sex icon she became.

Originally described as a wallflower, with brown hair and an unassuming look, Marilyn worked hard to embrace sexual empowerment and step into a more confident, sexually assured self.

Her iconic status goes to show just how strong the pursuit of sexual empowerment can be.

Control and Choice
Perhaps the most important aspect of sexual empowerment was the widespread accessibility of the pill – made in the 1960’s and seen very much in hand with the sexual revolution of that decade. 

The pill was a significant move for sexual empowerment because it gave women much more choice and freedom over their bodies, and what they wished to do with it from a sexual perspective.

Finally able to take an active role in their own safer sex practice, those who embraced the pill were also able to embrace sexual empowerment – exploring aspects of sexual exploration and liberation that were otherwise high risk.

While the contraceptive pill offered little in terms of protection from STIs, it still acted as a conduit for confidence when it came to many individuals, but we should be careful to think of its users as reckless.

While the 60’s are remembered as wild and raunchy, news reports and historical research on the period has ascertained that the sexual empowerment of the period was much more tentative, cautious, and muted than is now embellished. 

Yes, people were stepping in to their empowerment, but they were also learning new ways of existing in a shifting sexual landscape. Such a shift took time, and the empowerment pursued was typically measured and done with wise consideration of the risks and social implications. 

In this way, the contraceptive pill was not just a medical breakthrough, but an intimate and cultural one; getting people to consider what their sex lives meant to them, and how they wished to pursue it. 

As mentioned at the start of this article, we are currently in a state of evolution when it comes to sexual empowerment ourselves. Sex toys, Fifty Shades of Grey, a Pandemic; all of these things are changing and informing the way that we address our sex lives and what being sexually confident means to us.

Time will tell how our own choices in sexual empowerment are remembered. One things for sure – we are standing on the shoulders of giants. Perhaps there is some benefit to looking back at the past of sexual confidence when striding forward with our own approaches to empowerment.