During the 20's, a group of American women decided to reinvent the female role in society. With the survival of America from World War I and after gaining the right to vote, women started to stage a cultural revolution, focused on fashion as challenging the conventional norms of conduct. Customs that today may be considered banal played significantly role in the history of sexuality
being still present in our lives. Those women were known as Flappers.
Sometimes pointed as the cornerstone of feminism in the last century, the Flappers
dared to break all the rules about what it meant to be a
girl at such time marked by many Victorian standards, becoming the very first
sign of a real counterculture in America. Society had never presented
such yawning gap of ideas between two consecutive generations.
It all started with the economy boom and the rise of the mass culture. Through
television, cinema, magazines and radio, women began to realize that they were
able to be more than just little girls bounded to marry some guy and then become
a housewife. Saying goodbye to all the glamour, the Flappers wanted to achieve
a more boyish, androgynously slim look. Instead of wearing corsets and long
dresses, they wore hanging chemise dresses leaving the sexy curvy look behind,
and raised hemlines below their knees (remember that was a time when showing
your ankles would be indecorous), and started to shave, since they were finally
exposing shoulders and legs, previously hidden by drapes. They also tapped their
breasts down to look even thinner. The long hair was replaced by a short, plain
and simple haircut (the "bob" style became practically a symbol of
such culture). Those women didn't want to spend hours in front of mirrors
styling their hair any longer, since they had other issues on mind. Make-up
on the other hand, which was something restricted to actresses and prostitutes,
started to make part of every woman's
accessories. Rouge, red lipstick (and the so-called kiss-proof lipstick), eye
curling and eyebrow plucking were common ground among the Flappers.
Flappers really knew how to party, and back then, it was
absolutely outrageous. They went to Jazz Clubs (when Jazz
was considered "the Devil's music") to dance provocatively
(the garter belt dates from the 20's, and it was created
to keep stockings from falling while the Flappers were dancing),
to drink and smoke heavily and dating guys. These customs
along with the Flappers' desire to simply enjoy life at
its best, brought significant changes in the sexual behavior
Flappers flaunted their sexuality, since now they were free
to date whoever they wanted. With cars becoming popular, a
woman had the opportunity
to go out by herself, and it was also the perfect place for
young couples make out. Although the number of girls having
sex before marriage and
divorces were booming at the time, the majority of girls still
virgins until marriage, for no one wanted to be labeled
as promiscuous. However, it doesn't mean that they didn't
have a ball. Petting parties for kids were common practice.
A petting party was simply a gathering of youth couples necking
in a dark room, obviously combined with music and alcohol.
At this time, movie theaters were very popular, not just because
watching movies was fun, but a public dark room where most
of the stares were pointing to the screen sounded very inviting
for kids interested in petting party.
the 20's silver line was more than just an excuse for making
out. Such movies as "It" (1927) by director Clarence
C. Badger portrayed
the role model of the Flappers, inspiring young girls to
follow their style and behavior. Every girl wanted to be
like Clara Bow, who played main character Betty Lou Spence,
which maybe was the most classical model of a Flapper both
on and off the screen (the "it" of the movie
title referred to her strong sex
appeal). Nevertheless, there were restrictions to the Flappers
even on movies. They had to be depicted always as "the
bad girls" of the story and as negative role models,
and nudity or scenes of a flapper who was evidently drunk
were forbidden. Even a kiss between a flapper and some male
character was censured if lasting more than 10 seconds.
Also in literature, the Flapper way of life was beautifully
portrayed in books such The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald,
or Ernest Hemingway's works
with movies, some new magazines such as Vogue, Life or Harper's
Bazaar contributed to the Flapper way of life becoming a mass
culture. For the first time, women started to be really concerned
about their weight and body image under influence of role
models taken from pop culture. The sentence "I look to
fat", so familiar for us today, was considered a vulgarity
until then, and so started to encourage girls in |
their search for a slim and non-curvy figure. French stylist
Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel filled the young women's
aspirations with the comfort and casual elegance of simple
suits and dresses, costume jewelry, textiles and perfumes.
Flapper era has finally ended during the Great Depression,
not finding its place among the economical rigorousnesses
of the 30's. However, their straight-forward spirit, fashion
influence and importance left its influence stamped on
the history of sexuality and the history of women as the
first sign of feminism, and the rise of an actual youth
It - Clarence C. Badger (1927)
Parisian Love - Louis J. Gasnier (1925)
The Plastic Age - Wesley Ruggles (1925)
of the 20's most common slang terms:
Cake-eater - a sweet talking ladies man.
The Cat's meow - something wonderful, desirable for everyone.
Sheba - A beautiful women.
Struggle buggy - a car used to seduce women.
Applesauce - lies, nonsense.
Baby vamp - An attractive young girl.
Bathtub gin - some alcoholic drink mixed with additives, literally,
inside a bathtub.
Daddy - a young girl's older boyfriend, especially if he was rich.
Bamey-mugging - sex.
Snugglepup - a guy who frequented petting parties.
Jack In.- Masturbate, Masturbation.