Emergence of Disco and Sexuality

Category: Culture
Date added
2021/06/17
Pages:  4
Words:  1203
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“Although disco originated in Europe in the 1960s, it did not become a subculture in the United States until the 1970s. The disco subculture was influenced by second wave feminism and evolved and emerged into mainstream media in the late 1970s. Disco became a place for women to explicitly show their sexuality and place for homosexual people to express themselves. The emergence of disco into mainstream culture gave sexuality more visibility than in the 1960s and before. The 1960s were a time of nuclear families and disco broke those hegemonic societal expectations. Disco would not have been as widely accepted were it not for the sexual revolution, and, more specifically, the newfound availability of birth control pills in the United States.

The 1970s were a time of sexual revolution within the United States. The sexual revolution explored “alternative eroticism, experimentation, and promiscuity” like never before seen (Lowbrow). This could in part be due to the 1972 Baird v. Eisenstadt case where supreme court ruled that everyone should be able to have access to birth control, despite marital status. This repealed the Comstock Laws that prevented single women from gaining access to birth control. Comstock Laws were enforced in the victorian era and were “aimed at banning ‘obscenity’ [but] had a chilling effect on sexual discourse” (DeFoster). They prevented doctors from talking about medical conditions and prevented women from gaining access to birth control. Therefore, with them repealed, women were allowed to more explicitly express their sexuality. Sexual taboos were broken, including “Interracial dating, open homosexuality, communal living, casual nudity, and dirty language […] indicating a profound change in sexual behavior” in the general public (Lowbrow). In addition, the “1970s were truly the golden age of the porno” (Lowbrow). Adult films such as Deep Throat entered the mainstream public eye and were shown throughout the United States, gaining box-office success. This would not have been possible, were it not for the sexual revolution and the accessibility of birth control.

Women were more open sexually during feminism’s second wave and after the “Stonewall” uprising disco allowed for more sensual dancing between people of the same sex. This sexual liberation influenced disco, and made disco music the “perfect conduit to foster this sense of togetherness through diversity” (Haider). Disco allowed “female, gay, black and Latin artists to define their identities in increasingly fluid ways” that contradicted the past heteronormative, male dominated societal roles (Haider). Therefore, “in the beginning, all the songs were about spreading love, getting together, making the world a better place” (Haider). Disco spread love and allowed people to be themselves with less judgement from the outside world.

Studio 54 was a major disco club in the 1970s that many celebrities attended after disco went mainstream. Studio 54’s exclusive basement area for the “disco-era’s ‘beautiful people’” allowed for even more debauchery than the main floor (Lowbrow). The public may never truly know what happened in that basement, but on the main floor cocaine ran rapid. The “tons of glitter dumped from the ceiling helped conceal the thin layer of wall-to-wall powder” that disco became known for (Lowbrow). In addition to the extraordinary amounts of cocaine consumed at discotheques, quaaludes became known as “disco biscuits” because of their association with the disco culture. They enhanced the experience of dancing to the bright, flashing lights and had a euphoric effect when combined with alcohol. In addition, they became “known for their capacity to increase sexual arousal” and people “used to call these pills thigh openers” (Rogers). Although people used these drugs recreationally and in conjunction with consensual sex, others came to use them with sexual assault. Quaaludes had previously been prescribed for insomnia but became abused and outlawed in the early 1980s. They are no longer produced or prescribed in the United States yet some people attempt to smuggle them in from other countries where they are still prescribed. Cocaine and Quaaludes are just two of the more popular disco club drugs from the 1970s but others were Poppers, whippets and Special K. Drugs were popular in the 1970s disco culture and enhanced promiscuity and the general disco experience for many people.

Disco began as a subculture in the United States in the early 1970s, but after the film Saturday Night Fever came out in 1977, disco emerged in as a hegemonic culture. Hegemonic culture is what is in the mainstream media, whereas subcultures are “groups with habits some may consider odd […] but are not directly threatening to the more general way of life” (20 Turow). Saturday Night Fever (1977) made the Bee Gees exceptionally popular and that popularity opened the door for more disco artists. When disco was still a subculture, before the release of Saturday Night Fever, was the first time discotheques and “clubs rather than mainstream radio were breaking hit records” (Haider). This type of release was never done before the rise of disco. In addition, the emergence of disco into United States culture gave people of different sexualities more visibility or “social and political recognition” (DeFoster). Disco let people dance more promiscuously and “the dancefloor was no longer restricted to (straight) couples” (Haider). Disco gave homosexual people more visibility, although nowhere near today, especially within disco culture.

I think that this cultural phenomenon worked for the time because women were formerly restricted to the home and sexually repressed and the LGBT community was unable to show any sexuality in public. Disco allowed for women to be more promiscuous and sexual outside of marriage and LGBT people were able to dance together without as much judgement. They were rejecting traditional, hegemonic gender roles and disco gave them a place to do so. However, I feel that disco would not be as popular today because women can be more sexual in their every day lives and the LGBT community has more visibility now than they did in the 1970s. LGBT people are now able to legally get married and adopt children in the United States and are no longer living in the shadows like before. I think there are more opportunities to meet people, such as Tinder and Grindr, and do not need to meet people in the dark of night. Women and the LGBT community can be more open about their sexualities than before and have more spaces to do so without the scrutiny of the mid 1900s. However, disco has influenced “almost everything that we now take for granted in electronic dance music” (Haider). Electronic dance music blossomed in the 1990s and has become more prevalent in recent years. Although I believe disco itself would not be as popular today as before but it has impacted certain aspects of culture today.

Sexuality is an important aspect of disco culture and the lack of visibility contributed to disco’s prominence within the LGBT community. Disco helped gain minimal visibility for the LGBT community and promiscuous sexuality in general. Previously women had been repressed sexually, although not as discriminately as LGBT people, and needed a place to express that sexuality as well. The combination of the music and drugs allowed for people to express their sexuality without fear of repercussions, almost to a fault. Although the lifestyle was unhealthy and destructive, it liberated people through promiscuity and dancing.

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Emergence of Disco and Sexuality. (2021, Jun 17). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/emergence-of-disco-and-sexuality/

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